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Our people
are at the centre of everything we do
2019: 47,577
TO 37,533
2019: 40,001
2019: 17.0%
2019: 45.4%
2019: R8,042.1M
2019: R200.4 MILLION
2019: 84.6%
2019: 42.5%


Protecting the human rights of our associates

To meet our commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen we uphold the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

Our Social and Ethics Committee meets its responsibilities for ensuring Massmart is a responsible corporate citizen and our Boardapproved employment policies ensure that we provide a workplace based on:

  • Mutual respect
  • Fairness
  • Integrity
  • Non-discrimination
  • Equal opportunities at all levels
  • Open and two-way engagement with our associates

Our people strategy

Our people strategy is driven by our Chief People Officer, together with a diverse team of talented senior people leaders. The vision of our people strategy is to enable Massmart to be a leading retailer in Africa and the best place to work for, through building a diverse, future-fit and engaged workforce.

Our businesses are obsessed with putting customers first. Our people leadership team has the same obsession when it comes to our leaders and associates who are at the centre of everything we do.

Our leaders are people leaders first, who through their leadership provide coaching, support and tools that enable associates to build their skills and competence. Through this focus we have associates who not only put our customers first but are delighted to serve them because their own needs are met by the organisation.

The drivers of the value proposition supporting our people strategy

During 2020 Massmart replaced its federated model with a Group operating model, which is the first pillar of our Turnaround plan. Our leaders spent time working through what the new operating model should look like for each of the functions and the resultant structures, paying attention to implications for ways of working and how we would set ourselves up to be a sustainable retailer in the future. We also needed to review our people structures to ensure they support our new operating model, and Massmart’s overall business strategy. The shift from a federated to group operating model has implications for people policies and practices, which will require alignment to reflect one Massmart. This is foundational work that will commence.

Our leaders

Retail is a people business, which means that in addition to their own technical expertise our leaders are required to be competent in leading teams. Being a leader in Massmart comes with many responsibilities, which our leaders take seriously. Our associates experience the organisation and its culture through their leaders, without whom we would not be able to create a conducive environment in which our associates can operate optimally.

Any people programmes designed at the centre, require the understanding of and support from our leaders, if they are to have the desired impact on business outcomes and associate engagement. It is for this reason that there are regular engagement sessions across all levels of leadership to drive the relevance of programmes/initiatives and broader support for them. One of the focus areas for 2021 will be to continue to improve the people leadership capabilities of our leaders.

Our talent

We continue to refine our approach to talent management, which included strategic talent reviews at managerial levels. Through these reviews we have ensured that each business has identified its talent and put development plans in place for these individuals. Our focus is to fast track our talent to achieve Massmart’s goal of being a leader in diversity, equity and inclusion.

The individuals we have identified through our talent reviews are also participating in a sponsorship programme designed to help fast track their careers. All our leaders are expected to become sponsors starting with members of our Exco. All our sponsors have been trained in their roles, which are to assist those they sponsor with choosing a career path, opening doors, advocating for them, and being available to them.

To support talent management and succession planning we plan to put in place standard performance management practices across the Group.

Our development

Talent Learning is a key strategic pillar in our People Strategy through which we ensure that associates and leaders receive the necessary experience, exposure and training that empowers them.

To ensure we are able to continue with learning and development, despite restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, we tasked our suppliers and Learning and Development teams with developing technology-supported programmes that equip our associates with critical skills. As a result, despite the Covid-19 restrictions, over 40,000 associates completed training in 2020.

Training related to building leadership bench strength, retail, technical development and compliance training was offered based on a blended learning delivery model. These included Leading Virtually, Leading through Change, personal and family care during Covid-19 and Covid-19 crisis management. In addition, all pipeline programmes such as Learnerships, Internships and Graduate Development continued, with learners able to complete their academic requirements online.

Massmart offers a range of leadership programmes aimed at building mastery through the leadership pipeline. Programmes start at New Leader to Executive Development through partnerships with local providers and Walmart. Core to all our leadership development is an operational understanding, leading self and others, as well as business-driven modular strategic projects. Key programmes we ran in 2020 included:

  • Operations Leadership Journey – building operational leadership excellence
  • Leadership and the Future of Retail – developing future-fit retail leaders who are able to navigate the complexities of the future world of retail
  • Integrated Leader – focused on empowering leaders with the essential skills, competencies and qualities necessary for coaching strong organisational cultures and ensuring sustainable growth
  • Personal Mastery – building connecting and collaboration skills, which enhance personal and professional relationships
  • Next Generation Grow, Empower, Move and Soar (GEMS) – a programme that provides middle management women with a springboard for succession, progression and mobility with the aim of accelerating our transformation agenda

Key Functional and Technical training that remained our focus during 2020 included:

  • The Merchant Development Programme
  • Fulfilment Skills Programme
  • Management Skills Programme
  • Retail Management Programme

Digital learning in Massmart is a major focus in the upskilling of associates. The Massmart digital learning platform was successfully launched in November 2020. LinkedIn Learning and BookBoon licenses have been distributed to foster self directed e-learning. These digital learning platforms provide users with a wide variety of short courses in video, audio and e-book format, which make it possible for associates to learn remotely and at their own pace. It also facilitates the scalability of learning.


Our culture

We take pride in driving a culture that creates an environment where all our associates feel that they belong and appreciate the commitment that both our leaders and associates have shown to continually improving our culture. We conduct a BUA survey annually through which associates give us feedback on how we are doing as a business. BUA is a South Sotho word that means speak freely. Through this annual survey process we encourage our associates to do just that. We were pleased with the results received during the recent survey, considering that in 2020 we continued implementing our Turnaround plan. This meant tough decisions were taken across the business to position us for future success. These decisions led to a series of changes across different parts of the organisation, which were likely to unsettle our associates and leaders. Despite this, our response rate to the survey increased from 71% (2019) to 90% (2020), indicating that our associates were willing to give us feedback. The overall associate engagement score also increased from 69% (2019) to 71% (2020), in an environment where it would have been expected that engagement with our associates would show a decline.

The overall results of the survey reflect a level of confidence from our associates that the organisation is on the right track and that we are making the required changes to make our business successful and sustainable. The survey results indicated that there is an opportunity for us to improve career development for associates and to ensure that their ideas and suggestions count.

Our leaders focused on providing survey results to their respective teams and ensuring that there are action plans in place that focus on areas identified for improvement. As these action plans are implemented, we will be able to see how they have addressed the areas our associates are most concerned about.

The survey results with regard to diversity and inclusion were pleasing overall and we have a strong base on which to launch diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Massmart has embarked on a more strategic journey that will support a substantial improvement in Massmart’s performance in this regard.


Our transformation agenda

Transformation is an important priority for us. This is evidenced by the bold steps we have taken to ensure that our Executive team is diverse. Fifty percent of our Executive team is made up of historically disadvantaged candidates, of which 30% are female. We will maintain the same focus on transformation as we work through the different levels of leadership in the organisation.

Being a business that operates on the African continent, we are keenly aware of our responsibility to lead a business that firmly commits to transforming at all levels of the organisation in order to represent the demographics of the markets in which we operate. We see this as a business imperative, not just the right thing to do, as this diversity is also reflected in the profile of customers we serve.

Building on gains made in this area in 2019 and in an attempt to focus the business, in 2020 we established the Massmart Transformation Committee, the membership consists of Exco members and diverse representatives from different parts of the business. The Committee engaged in a facilitated conversation around what transformation means in South Africa and to us, as a way of establishing a foundation and promoting a common understanding around key transformation issues. This enabled us to move toward having deep and honest conversations about what we really wanted to achieve. It was through this process that our transformation vision was born and areas of focus were agreed on that will drive the achievement of this vision. Our vision for transformation is bold, and provides us a sense of purpose and excitement. In 2021 we will focus on taking deliberate actions to get us closer to this vision.


The Women in Leadership Council forms part of Massmart’s Diversity and Inclusion efforts. The Council is committed to advocating for and advancing gender equity, women’s leadership and career development in Massmart.

With a 47.3% female workforce, we have phenomenal talent at different levels of the organisation. The council’s mandate is to drive specific programmes and initiatives that support this talent.

Our response to youth

We are in an industry that has low barriers to entry, which means we are able to contribute positively to reducing youth unemployment, which continues to increase at alarming rates. To this end, our programmes for unemployed graduates and learners provide a pipeline to critical roles and forms part of our talent strategy. In 2020 we had over 1,000 unemployed graduates on learnership and graduate programmes with the aim of continuing with these programmes in 2021. Research conducted by Harambee Youth Accelerator revealed that unemployed youth who were given a 12-month internship or graduate programme had an 80% chance of remaining in full- time employment. This is the gap we are closing and we looking forward to stepping up our efforts on this front.

Our labour partners

South Africa is known for having the most progressive labour legislation, which is designed to protect the rights of associates. As a result we have a number of labour unions whose role is to facilitate this, with the majority union being the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU). Massmart has a long history with SACCAWU and 2020 saw a closer partnership beginning to form between the parties. This was driven by our recognition that the union is an important stakeholder with a role to play, and with the common goal of ensuring that their members’ rights are protected and that they work in an environment that is nurturing and progressive.

We may approach things differently, however, that does not take away from the fact that we share a common stakeholder: our associates and their members. We look forward to strengthening this partnership for the benefit of all involved.

Digitally empowering our people

In order to empower our leaders with the information and insights they need to manage their people teams effectively, our digital journey continues. Our priority is having a single people system to support our new group operating model. To this end we have partnered with SAP/Success Factors. This will lead to a central repository of all our people data and automated processes. SuccessFactors will be supported by a digital platform that will provide our leaders and associates with access to self-service facilities on their phones, laptops and desktops, providing them with flexibility in accessing data. The implementation will be concluded at the end of 2021.

Our associates’ health and wellness

As already detailed on page 94 of Responsible Business to protect our associates and our customers we implemented strict health and safety protocols across all our operations, and ensured our associates had the personal protective equipment they needed. It is with great sadness however that we report the loss of 11 of our associates during 2020 as a result of contracting Covid-19. We extend our sincere condolences to the families for their loss.

Despite the devastating impact that Covid-19 had on people, the economy and people’s earnings, we are proud that we were able to pay our associates their full salaries, regardless of whether their stores were trading under the different lockdown levels. We would also like to acknowledge the approximate R186.0 million benefit paid to our associates as part of the Government supported Temporary Employment Relief Scheme (TERS) in South Africa.