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Massmart focuses on development of black career retailers

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Twenty-two graduate managers-in-waiting gathered recently at Massmart to start a two year programme that is intended to increase the number of professional black career retailers in the Group. The aim of this initiative is to prepare black graduates for permanent roles of greater influence within the Massmart Group and to expose them to as many areas of the company’s activities as possible.

“The whole industry is faced with the challenge of a lack of equity at senior management level,” says Nivy Moodley, Massmart’s group training services executive. “Part of our objective is to position ourselves as a career retailer of first choice, placing particular emphasis on black professionals who are interested in a career in retail. We believe that our employees will benefit from our culture of continuous learning and we want to see them move up the career ladder.”

By the end of the two-year training the recruits will have a thorough understanding of how the group operates its retail businesses, from procuring products from suppliers to selling them on to the stores’ customers.

Having an appropriate university degree or a technikon diploma, well developed interpersonal communication and presentation skills, good leadership qualities, sound business acumen and commercial flair are some of the criteria that are used to select those who qualify.

All in all, there were 900 candidates who applied to join the programme, so the selection process had to be thorough. “We didn’t rely solely on interviews. Cognitive assessments were undertaken and each candidate’s skills were assessed and questions were asked as to how they would resolve a variety of typical challenging scenarios. The retail business depends on delivery so strategic thinkers, the ability to plan ahead, meet customer expectation and motivate and inspire fellow colleagues were all taken into consideration,” she says.

Clearly the success is dependent on ongoing feedback to all stakeholders including line managers, mentors, delegates and Massmart’s group training executive. Every four months assessments are conducted with the trainee and with a mentor, monthly.

After 14 month’s training embracing many aspects of the company, candidates will determine where their interests lie and from there on they begin ten month’s intensive instruction focusing on that particular area.

Thando Sithungu (23) started working for Massmart in January and was immediately taken on to programme. “It was a wonderful opportunity to be chosen to participate as it has given me the chance to see the bigger picture of how the company as a whole, works. I really enjoyed the on-the-job training. My progress was assessed throughout so I always had a perspective of how I was doing.” He has recently been appointed to the HIV/Aids Makro committee in Germiston.

“The empowerment of our employees is an on-going priority and commitment,” says Brian Leroni, group corporate affairs executive. “In May last year we implemented a black economic empowerment transaction, known as Thuthukani, that enabled 14 500 permanent employees to become shareholders owning R900-million, or approximately 8% of the group which trades through 222 stores in 11 countries in southern Africa. Today the total value of these shares is more than R 1.4 billion” he says. A significant growth in value for employees who were issued shares at R49.98 per share.

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