Tiger Brands CHRO S'ne Magagula on finding new ways to unlock potential

In her two years at the FMCG giant, S'ne and her team have transformed Tiger's people agenda and talent development approach.

When S’ne Magagula joined Tiger Brands as CHRO in 2018, the group was recovering from a reputational crisis as one of its factories had been linked to the listeriosis outbreak in that same year. Surprisingly, S’ne says being part of the team leading the organisation’s recovery from the crisis was one of the things that attracted her to the role. That and the Tiger Brands purpose, which is “to nourish and nurture more lives every day”. Fast-forward two years and it is evident how far the pendulum has swung.

When S’ne joined Tiger Brands, she worked with the leadership team, her team and the organisation to shape a simple people strategy anchored on three pillars of ‘Talent’, ‘Leadership’ and ‘Great place to work’ with the aim of improving business performance exponentially and bringing Tiger’s purpose of “we nourish and nurture more lives every day” to life.

To enable the company’s growth strategy, she and her team put in place rigorous talent management aimed at ensuring that Tiger Brands started to “grow its own timber” by moving key talent across its very diverse businesses so that succession to leadership roles came from within the company. This resulted in the company exceeding its target of filling 40 percent of leadership positions internally, reaching 79 percent internal placements in 2020. This, of course, was balanced with targeted sourcing of key strategic capabilities from the external market when these could not be accessed internally.

S’ne and her team worked with selected partners to design fit-for-future core capability and bespoke leadership development programmes that could be delivered virtually and digitally, to further enhance Tiger’s execution of its strategy as well as to ensure that Tiger people were at the leading edge of the industry.

“When I joined, our reputation was at a low point and there was a lot of reflection happening within the organisation around the strategy that was going to take us into the future and ensure that we remained the leading FMCG company in Africa. It was around the same time that we began exploring the value set and behaviours that we wanted to drive within the organisation to attract, develop and retain consumer-obsessed, innovative and agile people who were excellent at execution” says S'ne, adding that Tiger turns 100 years old this year and that the strategy and culture review began with this milestone in mind.

She and the executive leadership team have since led the refresh of Tiger’s values and winning behaviours which were co-created with over 80 enterprise-wide leaders and people across Tiger’s over 40 sites in 2018. This formed a firm foundation for the culture transformation journey that Tiger is currently on and also informed a sharpened employee value proposition and employer brand giving life to the company’s three-pronged employer brand slogan: “Igniting your tomorrow; Igniting our tomorrow; Igniting Africa’s tomorrow”.

Based on the strategy and values, S’ne and her team worked with leaders across the organisation to define a leadership brand and competencies that would define the “Tiger leader of the future”

Tiger Leader of the Future

This led to the creation of Tiger’s leadership capabilities set that would shape the ‘Tiger Leader of The Future’. These focused all leaders on: leading people, leading performance, leading innovation, leading partnerships and leading self.

“We asked the question: ‘What kind of leader do we need to lead the transformation of Tiger into an African FMCG giant that owned its stripes over the next 100 years ?’ We defined the transition that we wanted to see in leadership. This included moving from command and control leaders, leaders that wanted to be ‘bosses’ to leaders who are true multipliers and whose passion is to inspire winning performance, consumer obsession, agility and innovation. We also wanted leaders who could look beyond their business unit and think about Tiger as a whole enterprise.”

S’ne and her team worked with leaders across Tiger to develop programmes to build the leadership capabilities and mindsets that were needed to create a future-fit Tiger. We have developed these in partnership with fit-for-purpose external partners.

The L&D programmes and curriculums across the group catered to frontline leaders, high-potential leaders, mid-level leaders and senior executives. This included an enterprise-wide programme geared to specifically shift the mindset of leaders across Tiger Brands to align it with the desired winning culture, leadership style and unconscious bias – Game Changer. Most leadership teams, including the executive leadership team, have already experienced the programme and it has been well received.

Anybody can run a leadership programme

Beyond the formal programmes, a key focus was to start driving leadership mobility around in the organisation. S’ne says it was this differentiated approach that really changed the game at Tiger Brands.

Says S’ne: “Any organisation can run leadership development programmes, but the challenge with those is that people attend them, and they momentarily feel ready to change the world. But when the rubber hits the road, the reality is that people will maybe implement one or two of the learnings from a programme that they have attended and forget the rest or at worst revert to the behaviour or mindset that the programme was designed to shift in the first place .”

The Tiger approach to developing leaders and talent in general, now, is to actually give people different, hands-on experience, which really stretches them and develops new capabilities and mindset in real-time. So, moving people around every three to four years so that they do not stay in one job for too long is a practice that we are working very hard to embed across the organisation. The group has the advantage of having multiple brands and business categories, which means there is always a different challenge for talent to be deployed towards. And every category or market comes with its own opportunities and challenges from a leadership and intellectual perspective.

“When I got to Tiger, we conducted focus group conversations with our people across sites and one of the biggest areas of improvement our people spoke about was the need to have more opportunity to move around the business and develop their capabilities so that they were ready for challenging leadership roles when they became available.”

Since changing its approach to succession, Tiger has started a journey to create a more robust talent pipeline through targeted career moves and placements. The group has reduced the number of external appointments from 80 percent to 20 percent, with the rest of the roles being filled internally.

“It’s given us the advantage of really growing our own timber and nurturing our own talent within Tiger. Even if an individual is not 100 percent ready for a role, we take a chance on them instead of bringing someone from the outside and that alone has created a lot of really good energy within the organisation.”

In the last year and whilst navigating the Covid 19 pandemic, S’ne and her team have partnered with the leadership team to deliver a review of the Tiger Brands operating model and structure to achieve efficiencies and improve focus on the consumer, innovation, agility and speed of execution.

In her two years at the FMCG giant, S'ne and her team have transformed the people agenda and talent development approach from something that was quite basic to comprehensive and transparent growth and talent development machine that enables the delivery of the business strategic agenda. This was recognised at the CHRO Awards when she was awarded the Learning and Development Award.

Says S’ne: “It was a real honour for the team to be recognised. I don't do this work on my own. As a leader, you are more like the conductor of an orchestra. The real work is done by the team, who develop the practices and bring passion, blood, sweat and tears to the execution of the plans and engaging with teams across our sites. That's why I took my team with me to the awards. It made for a fantastic end to a very challenging year and they all had a great experience despite the pandemic and, I have to say, CHRO SA did a great job of ensuring that Covid-19 protocols were observed.”

Reflecting on what her legacy will be, S’ne says she hopes to have been part of an executive leadership team that redefined how Tiger achieved its purpose of “nourishing and nurturing more lives every day” and set up Tiger Brands for sustainable success and contribution to the unleashing of the potential of Africa into the next 100 years “and that I really inspired all Tigers to ignite and develop their own potential in a great place to work that lit up a fire in them to fulfil their own purpose at the same time as they fulfil our purpose as a company”.

Ultimately, S’ne says the CHRO Award is a testament to the amazing talent at Tiger Brands. It is a recognition of all the Tiger Brands people who have passionately ‘seized the day” and the opportunities that have been offered to them to grow, thrive, innovate and roar into the future.