FOCUS ON EXCELLENCE | Titans
by Lisa-Anna Kolwa
Lafarge ensures that talent is retained by providing access to continuous learning, to development programmes and to mentorship. Robust succession-planning processes are also important to the company. Further, it strongly believes in on-the-job learning and coaching. According to Gwamanda, Lafarge has made a notable impact on the industry through contributing to the construction of better cities. To do this, however, it needs to have competent teams in place. She is proud of the fact that the company has remarkable talent that can drive the ambitions and goals of the organisation. It has nurtured young talent, exposing it to many opportunities. For Gwamanda, being a part of the organisation’s success is truly fulfilling, and it has been both exciting and rewarding for her to see Lafarge making great strides in the industry and making a difference within the country as a whole.
She believes that mentorship is a key aspect of business development, for mentors give talent the extra edge in their careers, motivate and encourage them, and, above all, share important experiences from their own careers. She has seen the difference mentorship makes in people’s lives. Personally, she is a strong supporter of mentorship programmes, earnestly believing that, by having a mentor, she has learnt many valuable lessons. It’s always helpful, she says, to have a sounding board and to obtain a different opinion on things. Some insightful lessons she has learnt along the way? “Always think broadly and outside the box; challenge the status quo; and be prepared to be challenged yourself.” Gwamanda maintains that every career-driven woman who wants to make an impact on her industry must start off by believing in herself and by meeting every challenge as it comes. “Anything is possible,” she says. “It’s all up to you. Keep learning, have relevant networks, read widely, and stretch yourself to the maximum!”
At Lafarge, Gwamanda believes that she has grown personally as a result of having learnt to juggle the various roles women play in society, such as those of mother, wife and executive. Being part of the executive team has grown Gwamanda professionally and has challenged her in many ways. For her, her experiences at Lafarge have been remarkable. She enjoys being stretched and challenged, and learning from colleagues abroad has also been an enriching experience. As Country HR Director, she and her team are involved in most programmes in the business. Besides career-enhancement programmes, they also drive a comprehensive employee-wellness initiative, which is of particular importance to their value-driven organisation. As a caring, people-driven company, employee engagement is fundamental. Moreover, Lafarge, as a global company, values diversity and inclusion as part of its culture.
Gwamanda believes she has been blessed with many remarkable opportunities in her career and, most notably at Lafarge. Grasping these has made her realise that personal progress and forging a path forward depend on oneself. She encourages others to do the same: “The opportunities are out there. Take them! Believe in yourself, and continue to learn and explore uncharted territories. It’s all up to you!”
Located in 64 countries with 65 000 employees, Lafarge is the world-leader in building materials, with top-ranking positions in its cement, aggregates and concrete businesses. In 2012, the Group posted sales of 15,8 billion Euros. Lafarge places innovation at the heart of its priorities, working for sustainable construction and architectural creativity to help build better cities around the world: more beautiful cities that are better connected, have more housing, and are more compact and durable. Since 2010, the Lafarge Group has been part of the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, the first global sustainability benchmark, in recognition of its sustainable development actions.
In South Africa, the company manufactures and supplies cement, aggregates, ready mixed concrete, gypsum plasterboard and interior building fittings. It focuses on providing solutions to help the sustainable development of better cities that benefit the country’s people. Through having a strong presence in all of its business lines, it is in a unique position to contribute to urban construction, while also helping to build better rural towns and villages. Lafarge South Africa also demonstrates active concern for the conservation of the country’s wildlife heritage and is a major supporter of the world’s first dedicated baby rhino orphanage in Limpopo Province. The Group has for many years been a leader in sustainable development and was the first industrial group to enter into a worldwide ‘Conservation Partnership’ with the environmental protection organisation, WWF International.
Veli Gwamanda, Human Resources Director for Lafarge South Africa, is a seasoned human resources (HR) professional with a heart for people and their careers. She has worked with various multinational companies over the years and has brought her considerable experience gained there to Lafarge. She joined the South African component of the world leader in building materials in 2009, initially as the Cement HR Director. Subsequently, she was promoted to Country HR Director.
Gwamanda ensures that talent is maintained and developed within the organisation. She stresses that people are Lafarge’s greatest asset, and that it is a people-driven company which invests hugely in developing talent. It hosts career fairs at universities, and offers graduate training programmes to ensure that its people grow and prosper. Since Lafarge has a presence in 64 countries, it has access to both global and local development centres of excellence, which provide training and career enrichment.