She believes she has been able to learn and do so much about, and for, the organisation because the team at KZN Ezemvelo is unlike any other that she has worked with. “The CEO is an accessible individual, always on hand to give direction. The team that works under me have been of immense help because, notwithstanding my seniority, they have ensured that I know the ‘ins and outs’ of KZN Ezemvelo, in order to propel it forward,” shares Nkosi.
Personnel Development Programmes
As the general manager of human resources, Nkosi is responsible for about 2 400 permanent employees and more than 4 500 seasonal and contract workers. She reveals that, while it is a challenging role, Nkosi’s secret ingredient is developing a working culture where one, as a leader, involves people in decision making. “By getting different perspectives through consultation, interaction and communication, we are able to make decisions where the end product belongs to all of us.”
KZN Ezemvelo is actively involved in various programmes to develop and improve its human assets. Chief among these is the Human Resources Development and Management Programme that is responsible for training, development and learnerships. “With the talent management programme we deal with recruitment issues. The employee benefits, on the other hand, entails benefits and payrolls,” Nkosi reveals. Working in a critical industry such as conservation, employee wellness and health are especially crucial, says Nkosi. “Before engaging anyone, we have to make sure they are physically and mentally suited to deal with such issues as fires for example,” she explains.
Other departments that Nkosi are involved with are the Employee Relations, Organisational Development and Employee Performance and Remuneration, which is the latest addition to HR. “The latest addition is driven by the notion that motivated employees are productive personnel. If employees are performance driven such that we reward performance, there needs to be the proper tools to recognise this,” she elaborates. It is only natural that, such a large, unique and diverse organisation has its own equally unique challenges. Nkosi singles out that, her major headache in executing her role is communication. “How do we maintain consistency in the messages in such a large organisation in a manner that they filter to employees across all levels?” she asks. KZN Ezemvelo employs its intranet and station managers with whom the human resources department corresponds on a regular basis, to keep everyone on the same level. “Given the large numbers to which messages have to be disseminated to such a mission is not easy, but we are getting there,” she notes positively.
“I am a firm believer in the concept of transformational leadership. In a short time, there has been a shift in how the human resources department meets and deals with the challenges of propelling the organisation forward, as well as the needs of its employees,” says Nkosi. She elaborates that the department’s daily mode of operation has been transformed into one that is service-centric. Upon joining KZN Ezemvelo, Nkosi proposed a total structure overhaul after assessing the then current strengths and weaknesses of the organisation. Emphasis was placed on service delivery and quality control. Key resources were allocated to deal with management and skills’ retention, in addition to mechanisms to curb fraud within and external to the organisation.
In the near future, major systems upgrades employing the latest technologies will be introduced for employee self-service and improved workflow, reveals Nkosi. Employees’ wellness is being taken a notch up where KZN Ezemvelo is taking care, not only of current employees, but is looking after the wellbeing of deceased members’ families. The introduction of dedicated social workers and nurses, shares Nkosi, will extend to employees’ immediate families to help tackle any social and health issues. Incorporated into all these programmes is a Disease Management Programme which, Nkosi notes, “makes employees feel valued by their employer”. Nkosi declares that she joined a “learning organisation that takes training and development seriously.” She reveals that there is a dedicated training centre at the Midmar Dam where, on a normal session, 10 people from all levels in each department are selected to attend professional development programmes. “Already, these programmes are proving to be seeds for innovation and creativity within the organisation!” While conservation and wildlife related occupations are outdoor based it does not detract from the fact that systems and processes from a human resources perspective needs to be accurate and well controlled. This is one of the Nkosi’s key focus areas.
“We are relooking at our documentation because accuracy is critical when you have to deal with high value transactions such as the provident fund, pensions, claims, leave, gratuity payments and creation of trust accounts for deceased employees,” says Nkosi. She adds that in the pursuit of accuracy, KZN Ezemvelo “cannot afford to lose the focus of being accessible to employees and dependants.” It is a tricky balancing act, but it can be done, concludes Nkosi. All it takes is the right attitude, a willingness to learn and keep learning to be developed within the organisation. Above all, it is all about doing things right, the first time- every time, all the time.
To Be the Best
KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife seeks to ensure effective conservation and the sustainable use of KwaZulu Natal’s biodiversity in collaboration with stakeholders for the benefit of present and future generations.
Planting Seeds for Innovation
When Thandiwe Nkosi joined KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife as the General Manager: Human Resources in July 2012, little did she know that she was to be one of the vital cogs for transformation in the more 6 000 employee-strong organisation. Nkosi has proved her mettle in an entity that aims ‘to be a world renowned leader in the field of biodiversity conservation’.
Nkosi brought to KZN Ezemvelo a wealth of experience from the public sector where she has served in local and provincial government across departments from agriculture and environmental affairs to education, the legislature and health. “I was particularly attracted by the biodiversity issues that the organisation deals with. Personally I have always been fascinated by conservation and this was an opportunity for me to live my dream. My passion for environment and my people skills bring out the best in me,” shares Nkosi.
CASE IN POINT | KZN Wildlife
by Andrew Ngozo