Danone’s Hercules Duvenage speaks transformation and inclusivity

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Transparency and open communication are key for corporate transformation, says Danone HR director Hercules Duvenage.

Transformation in corporations has become a pivotal focus in South Africa, driven by the imperative to rectify historical inequalities stemming from the apartheid era.

This transformation includes various dimensions, such as racial and gender diversity, economic inclusion, and cultural sensitivity.

Earlier this year, the national government amended the Employment Equity Amendment Bill of 2020 in an effort to mandate that businesses create transformation plans in order to progress the transformation of the country’s workforce.

With all these plans in place, the question arises: Is transformation in corporations truly all-inclusive?

Hercules Duvenage, HR Director at Danone Southern Africa says organisations need to be intentional with their transformation journeys and have to ensure that through the journey no one is left behind.

He explains that as a food business, they have carefully curated multiple people interventions to achieve seamless transformation.

“Inclusion is creating the environment where people feel accepted, a sense of belonging, recognised and free to express their uniqueness. This is key to any transformation journey and is an everyday lived experience!”

Hercules notes that HR leaders need to understand that transformation is not a project but an ongoing valued part of the value chain that enables organisations to ensure fairness and creates opportunities for sustainable change. “Processes are integral to ensure that the employee lifecycle is regarded as fair and enabling. Transformation KPIs enable companies to move forward and build our business and people for our future. For instance, we have accelerated our female representation in the factory through these KPIs and similarly we have accelerated the participation of black people in the economy through preferential procurement, enterprise and socio-economic development.”

Obsessed with transformation

Hercules has been at the helm of the HR division at Danone since 2021. He joined the food business in 2019 as a senior HR Business Partner for commercial and marketing. Before joining Danone, he held the position of HR business partner at multinational alcoholic beverage company Diageo and before then he held a number of positions at Brandhouse Beverages.

He holds a Master’s degree in human resources management and services from Tshwane University of Technology. Hercules describes himself as an impact-oriented, energetic team player with a strategic mind, creative spirit, who doesn’t mind disrupting the status quo.

“In everything that I do, I create, plan and implement HR solutions that are fit for purpose and outcomes-based – [I’m] obsessed with driving HR innovation to shape the future, accelerating talent, optimising technology, cultivating the right type of culture and embracing inclusiveness and diversity!”

Embracing diversity

No business can be successful without collaboration, as each individual plays a role in contributing towards the success of a business, says Hercules. “We embrace diversity because different thoughts and beliefs make us stronger.”

He adds that the food producer has created forums that encourage continuous feedback sessions and in so doing are able to create a safe space for employees. "One needs to encourage employees to have open conversations with line managers or HR
business partners who are intensively part of the development of the teams they serve. Fairness, transparency, and accountability need to be the cornerstone of recognition. These  regular and unbiased performance reviews consider both quantitative and qualitative
aspects of an employees contributions."

Transparency and open communication, he concludes, are further key requirements required to understand the objectives to be achieved. “When operating in such an environment, they enable difficult conversations and allow for challenges and resistance to be addressed in a constructive way. These sessions occur twice a year and includes feedback or progress of key performance indicators and also evaluate that goals that are aligned with our values and goals.”

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