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Our strategic priorities in this focus area are:

Create a high performance driven culture
Drive learning and development, talent management
and leadership development
Achieve transformation goals
Improve union relationships
Our people are the key enabler of the Group's ability to achieve its strategic objectives. Given the highly competitive serviceoriented industry we operate in, our people's motivation and competence to perform and provide a memorable guest experience are key determinants of the Group's ongoing success and sustainability. Whereas every industry needs their employees to come to work, we need ours to come to work with a smile – because that's what our guests expect. It's a point that I think is often missed in the union conflict that is becoming a feature of our business – we, more than anyone, want our employees to be happy.

Sun International's recent culture survey identified specific areas to support our people's ability to perform. Our efforts in the year ahead will focus on improving communication, talent and performance management, succession planning and learning and development, which are all critical components to ensuring we have a motivated and engaged workforce who can lead the organisation into the future.

Performance Management

The Group has revised its performance management process to align it more directly to its strategic priorities, the deliverables of which have been cascaded down into the business and linked to specific roles. This has served to create greater clarity for our people as to what the business expects of them and what their performance will be measured against. The transparency with which this process has been undertaken is also supporting greater collaboration within teams.

We have also now aligned variable remuneration (short-term and long-term) with the delivery of agreed performance measures. Achievement of EBITDA (both unit and Group) remains the key driver of performance measurement but we have also introduced a component directly linked to achieving individual objectives.

Talent Management

Talent management in the Group is actively informed by the performance management process, as it allows us to identify and address difficulties our people may be having in their roles. It also enables us to identify top performers for career development within the Group and to create and target appropriate learning and development interventions.

We have dedicated a significant amount of executive time to identifying talent in the organisation and have introduced career discussions across the Group, providing us with insight into our people's ambitions and giving them more control of their careers in the Group. This year we conducted career discussions with our top 200 employees, who in turn were individually evaluated by the executive team. We will be extending this intervention down through the business. Line managers have been trained to have these discussions with their employees.

Leadership Development and Succession Planning

The career discussions we have held with our top 200 employees, followed by the individual evaluation by the executive team, have allowed us to identify the top tier of people for leadership development. Our target is to have a successor in place for at least 70% of the top key roles in the Group. Our learning and development initiatives have been refocused to create a talent pool from which we can fill key management positions from within, with a particular focus on transformation imperatives.

Learning and Development

Learning and development interventions are a core component of our talent management programme, as it provides opportunities for career and skills development in the Group. Within our properties, these interventions also support an improved guest experience.

An important part of learning and development in the Group is mandatory or compliance-related training, which ensures that our people remain up to date with the latest regulatory and legislative developments.

Number of training interventions in the year:

Training beneficiaries:
In addition to the more formal training programmes, we are also implementing initiatives that will see some of our top young performers go on "exchange" programmes with other international casino operators, who in turn can send their trainees to us.


The Group's recruitment, talent and succession management strategies have been reviewed in line with our transformation objectives. Current roles and career plans consider the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) codes and our internal targets to ensure they help the organisation become more representative.

While Sun International is making good progress and has retained its Level 2 B-BBEE contributor status, we acknowledge that more needs to be done to transform our organisation. Currently we do not have enough depth of black talent in key positions that we can transit to management and leadership roles. As developing internal talent alone will take too long from a transformation perspective, the Group is also on a drive to recruit talent into the organisation. We are looking at talent that is suitable to groom and transit into key positions to deliver on our transformation agenda.

We value and actively promote diversity, and our Group values form the basis for guiding positive interactions between our employees.

Union Relationships

We have a recognition agreement with the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU) in our South African operations. All non-managerial employees are included in the bargaining unit, which currently constitutes 60.1% of our total employee base – an increase of 0.1% on last year. In terms of the agreement with SACCAWU, all organisational changes are referred for consultation and Sun International strictly conforms to the requirements of the Labour Relations Act.

The core objective of our employee relations is to create values-driven partnerships with organised labour organisations, improve employee engagement and embed a democratic employee relations culture. Working with the union, we resolve as many issues as possible at the central level. At unit level, we encourage our general managers and human resources (HR) managers to build solid relationships and deal with matters as and when they arise, to ensure continuity in business. Line managers have also received specific training in engaging with unions and dealing with union matters.

We invest considerable time and effort in engaging with unions, keeping them up to date on developments and consulting on changes that have an impact on employees. With over 60% of our South African workforce unionised, the union is a key stakeholder in supporting new initiatives and helping us drive communication to employees, increasingly in the area of change management.

Our union relationships are usually stable and positive but we are currently experiencing some difficulties with wage negotiations and unlawful strike action. We continue to comply with all requirements of the law governing the rules of engagement and expect the same from the unions. Where unlawful action is undertaken we will protect our rights on a non-discriminatory basis. In the year ahead we will continue fair, open and constructive relations with all our unions in all countries we operate in.

We have a group of highly dedicated people in our HR department, headed by Kele Mazwai. Given the importance and media profile of any labour-related action, as well as the efforts we are putting into ensuring that our organisational structures are relevant and efficient, I spend a lot of time with Kele. She is generally unflappable, tough, fair and knowledgeable. We are lucky to have her navigate us through these times and she has been quick to answer my queries on some of the key issues we are dealing with.
Director: Group Human Resources
Q: I know you have been keen to implement performance management for some time – are you now happy with the changes we have implemented and what benefits can we expect? 
imgI am delighted that the focus areas and objectives for the Company have been made clear upfront – our people can now see a direct link between the initiatives being driven across the Group and the deliverables to board. Also, as the management team is now aware of the objectives, there is greater collaboration across the organisation on achieving them. People are accountable not only to their manager, but also to their colleagues.

It has been a welcome change, as our people now understand what the other areas are doing and why – and our executives have collectively had input into determining what we wish to achieve.

I am excited that the organisation now has a transparent performance management process which ensures that the whole organisation is driving the same deliverables. We are also involving the unions and getting their buy-in by discussing the deliverables with them and getting their input and cooperation in helping members understand them. They have responded very well to the strong focus on our people as part of the strategic priorities of the Group.  
Q: It's disappointing that we don't have more qualified black management waiting to take advantage of the opportunities that are opening up. Are you satisfied that we are doing everything possible to address this?
imgPerformance is a key driver in business. In actively managing performance you can identify where an employee is struggling, and put in place directed talent management initiatives to support them. The performance management process we have recently implemented also helps us identify the top performers and provide specific interventions to encourage their ongoing development, particularly that of our black employees.

Now that we have completed career discussions with the top 200 employees, we are looking at the next tier to see how we can help them progress and develop a pipeline of talent that provides the requisite depth in leadership. I am confident that we are well on track to develop an appropriate succession plan.
Q: A culture survey performed last year indicated that we have some unhappiness relating to certain issues. I think we have taken many steps to address these – what else can be done?
imgThe survey highlighted a sense that communication is not clear, with resultant confusion, a lack of accountability, and no clear career planning. On a positive note, it also showed that teamwork and guest focus were common in the organisation. The ideal values that employees wanted to see included accountability, strong communication and career development.

Going forward we have to communicate more clearly, be more transparent, and ensure accountability is felt throughout the Group. Some of our initiatives include a weekly finger lunch for our top 50 managers so we can keep in touch with each other. We also now have a regular call-in with the top 200 managers for an update and discussion on how the business is doing. Written communication with all staff via e-mail is also helping. We looked at blogs and twitter but have decided that they are not appropriate forms of communication for staff – we will continue to monitor these and other social media.

Basically, culture is set at the top and with all the changes that are being made we can expect a positive shift in attitude going forward.

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