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By Lauren Hansen, Marketing Manager Africa, Top Employers Institute
By Lauren Hansen, Marketing Manager Africa, Top Employers Institute

Africa’s Top Employers share best practices for current crisis management

With the outbreak of Corona Virus (COVID-19), companies have had to be agile and flexible in dealing with this global crisis. Top Employers have implemented measures to ensure the well-being of their employees and communities.

We reached out to a few of Africa’s Top Employers for 2020 to find out what strategies and practices they have put in place to help their employees, customers and society, and to ensure business continuity.

We hope you find these best practices as a source of inspiration and support.

Discovery

Discovery has put a COVID-19 Response Team which includes senior leadership and a senior clinical team. A core role of the Response Team is to keep employees informed of new developments and sending out COVID-19 related communications. Communication has been set up using multiple platforms including email, SMS, their SAP Jam Site (employee and manager zones) as well as on a Medical Portal including a Risk Matrix decision guide.

To reduce the anxiety among their employees, Discovery has implemented education through communication and access to the in-house “Healthy Company” offering with counsellors and psychologists to deal with higher ranked individual challenges.

Discovery are not only supporting employees but their clients and the public with full service and clinical guidance as well as increased offering and relaxation on certain incentive programme requirements. They also have ongoing R&D investment to develop tools for the public and government.

Nestlé

Measures to ensure the safety and wellness of the workplace at Nestlé were put in place well before the virus was confirmed in Africa. The leadership team established an active Crisis Committee earlier this year with the Head of HR as the convenor and driver of the committee. They are responsible for monitoring global developments and response.

A communication strategy specifically around COVID-19 was put in place to share information daily through Workplace, emails and live sessions with leadership via online platforms.

Aside from the communications strategy and virtual meetings with leadership teams locally and internationally, they have regular communication from their Market Head to reassure employees. The Market Head conducted a livestream session which helped employees understand what measures are being adopted and employees had an opportunity to ask questions through the Q&A session.  

Nestlé’s main challenge around dealing with the outbreak is the geographical spread – their business is being impacted at varying degrees at varying times due to their footprint across 23 countries where they operate. However, they can manage this with the oversight of the Crisis Committee.

It has been imperative to ensure that their products are accessible to their customers for instance their infant formula. This has been possible through implementing a robust business plan to ensure continuity of supply during the crisis, communication with suppliers and ensuring compliance and good governance over all their operations.

Clicks

Clicks have reflected deeply on what their individual and collective responsibilities are to align themselves to the global objectives of flattening the COVID-19 curve and reduce the burden on the constrained healthcare sector.

As the leading pharmacy chain and largest pharmaceutical wholesaler, they have an immense responsibility to deliver life-saving medicines and healthcare services to millions of customers in challenging times.

The measures they have put in place have been essential to the wellbeing of their employees and ensuring business continuity. These include:

  • Heeding WHO, governmental and CDC advice
  • Engaging with their stakeholders to ensure business continuity plans are effectively implemented
  • Extension of rotational and flexible work arrangements to manage the number of people travelling and limiting single location workspaces
  • Preparing the workforce with the expected work and behavioural shifts required due to several changes
  • Attempting to prevent further seasonal impairments to the workforce (including temporary workers and labour brokers) by rolling out flu vaccines
  • Partnerships with government and other sector partnerships to mitigate the risks of inadequate access to healthcare and related products by limiting quantities and implementing a policy of no price increases that may constitute profiteering
  • Providing employees with a 24-hour helpline for all staff including a protocol that deals with PUI (persons under investigations) that is aligned to the CDC methodology
  • Providing free sanitizers to employees and the deep cleaning of workspaces

Clicks have also launched a portal on their website where the public can access information on COVID-19 like basic protective measures, FAQs and supplements to boost your immune system.

Unilever

Unilever’s approach has been one of abundant caution. Measures were announced for all their people, including contractors, globally. Some of the strict measures include:

  • Cancellation of all air travel
  • A restriction on meeting conferences and events
  • A restriction on visitor access to sites
  • All to apply hand sanitiser and undergo thermal testing upon arrival at any Unilever site as legislation and equipment allows
  • Self-isolate for 14 days for those experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms or if someone has returned to their country from another location for either business or personal reasons
  • The use of non-physical greetings (i.e. avoid shaking hands) and maintain appropriate "social distance"
  • All field sales employees are to connect with customers virtually wherever possible and to minimise the use of public transport if a customer visit is necessary
  • All office-based employees globally will work from home where possible except for those in China, where people are beginning to return to work per national controls.

For the avoidance of doubt, these measures were made applicable to all employees, irrespective of role or geography.

Unilever have continued to support global and local authorities by donating hygiene products to support the fight against COVID-19.

Vodacom

With the Vodacom employees central to everything they do, they have continued to make their health and safety a priority. They have well developed business continuity plans in place for dealing with events of this nature, including co-ordinated regional and international incident management, response plans and the increased ability for Vodacom employees to work remotely without disruption. They have given extensive advice to staff and contractors to help minimise the spread of COVID-19 and hygiene protocols have been put in place at work. All employees also have full access to their employee well-being services during these challenging times.

Helping to address societal challenges, such as that posed by COVID-19, is part of the Vodacom Group’s broader commitment to create a Social Contract with its stakeholders in the markets where it operates. Vodacom’s priority is the health and safety of its employees while continuing to connect, deliver services and support our customers, and in this the company is guided by the Presidency, the Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

With President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 21-day national lockdown declared, South African citizens need a trusted, up-to-date, accurate source of information about the COVID-19 pandemic during this uncertain time. The National Department of Health's COVID-19 Connect WhatsApp line has provided this information to nearly 2 million people within the last week. Vodacom customers can get free vital information about the COVID-19 pandemic by visiting the website. In partnership with the Department of Health, Vodacom are also providing SMS awareness messaging to over 44 million subscribers on hygiene etiquette.

In these trying times, companies are working to provide safe and healthy workplaces for employees and their loved ones. All organisations are having to adapt to a situation of enormous complexity without the time and guidance needed to do so. Top Employers are doing this successfully.