Sea-rious about transformation

5 September 2017

CAPTION: Some of Sea Harvest’s young talent – (L-R) Sthoko Nyawo; Matthew Balie; Palesa Molelle; Lucinda Krige; Jared Patel and Idolene Moses.

"It’s not enough to talk about transformation, businesses need to show shareholders, customers and especially government stakeholders that they are transformed," says Sea Harvest Human Resources (HR) Director Mary-Lou Harry. With 50% of Sea Harvest’s top management and 70% of its senior management being black, the vertically integrated deep-sea fishing operation is serious about transformation.

Sea Harvest, which has a level 2 BBBEE score of 97.8 points, listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in March this year. Currently 79.13% of their shares are black owned. "If you compare our score to the industry average, which is a Level 3, we are way above that," says the HR Director. "However, we are not resting on our laurels when it comes to transformation. We are constantly striving to create an even more transformed business for the future, which is why eight years ago we implemented the Transformation Fast Track Plan and the Graduate Development Programme." She explains that the Fast Track Plan involves mentoring and preparing young black talent for key positions within the business. Career training provided through the Graduate Development Programme helps equip staff for these new responsibilities. Harry admits that these plans are undertaken with a long-term view, but is already proud of the quick progress employees have made.

One of Sea Harvest’s graduates who has risen within the business through the Fast Track Plan is Jared Patel. He is now Head of Department for Cape Harvest Foods, a new business within the Sea Harvest Group, and is responsible for all the Fish Shop outlets, as well as the Quorn and Findus range of products. While growing in responsibility within the business, the company also provided the funding to enable him to complete his MBA last year.

Meanwhile, another success story is Madoda Khumalo who graduated from the University of Cape Town with a Master of Science in Physical and Biological Oceanography degree and joined Sea Harvest in 2013 as the Executive Assistant to the now CEO, Felix Ratheb. As a result of a mentorship programme to fast-track his development, two years later Khumalo was promoted to the position of Strategic Services Executive. "At the age of 30, Madoda is a member of the Executive and serves on some of the industry bodies on behalf of Sea Harvest," says Harry.

Palesa Mollele is another employee with promise who has been promoted three times at Sea Harvest. Seven years ago, she started as a Quality Control Manager in the cold storage and distribution factory. Having completed a management course, she is now heading up the New Product Development Unit. "I am driven to be the best at what I do. Sea Harvest provides me with the growth and development opportunities to achieve this goal," she says.

Matthew Bailie started out as a Sales and Marketing intern and was offered a permanent position as a Field Sales Manager after just eight months. "I was given more autonomy to carry out my tasks, playing a role in the introduction of new brands into the market and given more responsibility in terms of my role," says Bailie who adds that he is still learning a lot. He is mentored by the National Customer Manager and this month became Key Account Manager, responsible for six key accounts in the Western and Eastern Cape. With his interest in statistics, he is now also responsible for national forecasting and demand planning.

Fifteen black interns are currently working in various departments at Sea Harvest where equity statistics are an important factor in the recruitment process. "Every year we take on new interns who have recently qualified as mechanical and industrial engineers or perhaps have a marketing qualification, across all the divisions we hire new graduates. Permanent positions are offered where we see potential and we follow a very clear learning and career growth plan with them," says the HR Director.

International travel is an on-the-job learning opportunity for Sea Harvest staff. "We send our promising young black employees to the big trade shows overseas with their managers who are mentoring them. There they are exposed to the global industry and best practice. They come back with new ways of thinking about their work, making for meaningful career development."

Regarding gender equity, Sea Harvest lead by example: more than half of all employees are women. "In Saldanha Bay, where poverty and unemployment levels are unacceptably high, it is wonderful to know that women working at Sea Harvest are primary breadwinners in their home meaning that they can provide for their family," says Harry.

She adds that pushing the boundary on where women are employed is also a priority: "We have a coloured woman heading up the learning and development division within trawling which is historically a male domain. Lucinda Krige started out as a cadet with just a matric." After completing an engineering degree funded by Sea Harvest and working her way up the ranks, Krige is now qualified to sail as a Chief Engineer at sea and is being mentored by the HR Director as part of the succession programme.

"On land, our wet fish factory in Saldanha Bay is managed by two coloured women, Idolene Moses and Gillian Felaar. They have been promoted from Quality Control positions to each managing a shift of 400 staff, which is a huge responsibility that they excel at," says Harry.

The secret to a successful transformation plan is mentoring and coaching, says Harry. "We follow a specific talent management programme where we identify young talent for future positions, they are mentored by Senior Management members and encouraged to pursue stretch targets. This means high-quality replacements for positions that are key to continuous stability, growth and success of the business," concludes Harry.

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