Q & A with Grand Parade Investments Limited's Ebrahim Hendricks
After 33 years working in HR, Ebrahim still relishes being able to change people's lives
Ebrahim Hendricks is the new HR Executive at Grand Parade Investments (GPI) Limited, the investment company responsible for bringing Burger King, Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins to South Africa. CHRO SA sat down with him to find out more about his 33-year journey as an HR professional and his plans for GPI.
Not many people grow up wanting to work in HR. How did you end up in the profession?
I did not have a planned career direction when I started working. My first job was in the HR department at an insurance company called Southern Life Association Limited and I have never turned back. I started in a junior position on the recruitment side, but I have always been the kind of person that wants to learn as much as possible so, over the 12 years that I was there, I worked in various departments within HR, from training and development, industrial relations to remuneration. My time there was very fruitful in that it gave me a great overview of and experience in HR as a whole.
Fast food is a tough industry. What prompted you to take on this challenge?
It's a tough industry but GPI is growing very quickly. GPI's focus on the food market started in 2011 at a time when South Africa really started feeling the effects of the global financial crisis. To have had such phenomenal growth since that period is very exciting. The energy here is just infectious and I feel quite fortunate to be part of what is happening here. Hopefully, I can make a contribution that accelerates that growth trend.
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What kind of HR issues do you grapple with the most?
As someone that is new in the business, my role is to understand the existing culture and assess whether it is one that is best suited to our strategy. Our current attrition rate is quite high but this is more indicative of the nature of the business we're in. Lower income earners in the fast-food sector tend to move around quite freely and I'm sure that many other companies experience the same thing. That said, I still want to establish GPI as an employer of choice. I have already begun working on various people investment initiatives because I believe people will be loyal organisations that look after them holistically. They are not only interested in benefits and bonuses, at least not in the long term. When it comes to employee loyalty, money is more of a secondary issue. People want to grow and progress in life so as long we make them a part of a succession planning and career pathing initiative, I think we will hold onto our best performers.
You say that high attrition rates are typical in the food industry. What does GPI do that gives them an edge over its competitors when it comes to talent management?
We have partnered up with a number of SETAs to develop programs for our employees. We also make them available externally to people who are just looking to upskill themselves. This has been quite positive for us because it serves as a talent pipeline. Individuals who complete the program get listed in our database, which has grown quite large. It is an important asset because, if ever we want to open a new Burger King store, for example, the people that are already trained can be accommodated at the new store.
What is the one thing you want to achieve in your first year at GPI?
I want our communication channels to run a lot effectively and efficiently. We are a national business and our 3200 or so employees are spread out across South Africa that makes communication a little bit difficult. I am working very closely with the IT Department to devise more efficient ways of keeping everybody in the loop with what's happening in the company.
After 33 years working in HR, how would you say the profession has evolved?
It has evolved immensely. When I think back to my days as a junior, and even as a manager, HR was very much seen as a back-office function. HR was just there to pay salaries, process leave and do paperwork. HR is now a strategic business partner that is valued and recognised as being key to the success of the business. HR went from being perceived as the part of the business that just uses money and offers no value to a pivotal function in the organisation.