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Constructing millennial growth on old-school family values

As companies grow from small, often family-owned enterprises to larger operations, with management eventually changing hands, it's easy to lose the original company values upon which the business was founded. GVK-Siya Zama, however, has sought to hold onto these values, instilling them in their staff as they assist in their development, with the vision to help them reach their full potential.
Eben Meyburgh
Here, GVK-Siya Zama CEO, Eben Meyburgh tells us about the current challenges in the construction industry, how it’s positioning itself as employer of choice and what it’s doing to attract millennials into the sector.

BizcommunityWhat employment issues is the construction industry currently facing, and what are you doing to overcome them?
  1. Employment issues

    • Shortage of skilled and experienced labour.
    • Aging profile of skilled artisans and very few coming into the industry within the younger generations.
    • Shortage of staff skilled at the first level of supervision. This has an impact on quality control, standard operating procedures and staff morale.
    • Not enough financial resources to address skills issued in training initiatives.
    • Generational differences create conflict. More and more millennials enter with different work ethics and sets of skills than other generations in their field. This results in conflict and less willingness to mentor and transfer skills.

  2. What are we doing to overcome this

    • Big drive to implement, manage and measure our employees around company values and the associated behavioural competencies.
    • Increased focus on targeted training interventions to upskill youngsters in construction related qualifications whilst providing them with the opportunity for practical exposure.
    • Developing an integrated talent management strategy that drives the company’s vision to become an employer of choice.
    • Strong understanding and drive to “grow our own wood” in order to ensure bench strength and solid succession planning strategies.

BizcommunityTell us about the company culture established by original founders, Gordon Verhoef and Earl Krause?


GVK-Siya Zama has a long-standing reputation for its family feel - valuing its employees, treating them as partners, engaging and motivating them as well as encouraging an owner-management style. I believe that this unique culture arose due to the original owners being involved in the business for so long. The personal atmosphere that they created has filtered down and through the organisation.

BizcommunityHow is the company positioning itself as an employer of choice?


At GVK-Siya Zama, we have developed an HR programme for our people, by our people. The programme is in line with our business objectives along with our vision of providing staff with the opportunities to reach their full potential in an environment of respect and care, learning and sharing. Key elements of our people practices include providing training, skills development and mentorship in addition to facilitating their advancement.

BizcommunityWhat are you doing to attract millennials to the construction sector?


Millennials are mainly interested in two important factors before they decide to join an organisation:
  1. “what it is like” / “feels like “to work for a company
  2. the potential for a career path / structured growth within an organisation

To attract millennials based on these two needs we have:
  • Relaunched the company values through a series of countrywide workshops where we involved employees in defining key and desirable behaviours that support these values.

  • Incorporated discussion on these key behaviours into our Career Conversations programme, which are scheduled performance discussions between managers and subordinates to determine performance, growth and culture fit. Values appropriate behaviour is a key pillar determining future potential and growth opportunities. Our Talent Management programme is the heart of our HR model and is key to the success of defining and managing the career paths of talented employees who show potential for growth and advancement.

  • On the tech front, the company has initiated several technology initiatives to improve communication, workflow and the sharing of information, creating an appealing, progressive environment for millennials.

BizcommunityWhat are the values you look for in prospective employees?


Attributes desired by the organisation include energy, ambition, tenacity, courage, self-belief, initiative, proactivity, optimism, excellent communication skills and integrity.

BizcommunityIn an age where it has become commonplace for workers to change jobs every few years, what are you doing to retain employees?


With effective on-boarding being instrumental to the retention of staff, we have designed a system that ensures that new employees quickly and easily acquire the necessary knowledge and behaviours to become effective team members. This is implemented even before their first day on the job, with them being furnished with all of the necessary paperwork and engagement documents ahead of time as well as undergoing their medical assessments. On the day that they join the company, they are equipped with everything they need, from safety boots to laptops, to help set them up for success.

In addition, we have developed an online game, called Pathways to GVK-Siya Zama Citizenship, which new staff play to learn more about the firm in a fun, interactive way. One of the most important and enjoyed elements of the game is the quest employees need to undertake to meet one of the organisation’s ‘legends’ – a senior member of staff who has been part of the business for a significant period of time. The newbie’s task is to then find out their stories, what they have learnt, the challenges they have overcome, the lessons they can impart and the organisation’s do’s and don’ts. Not only does this give the new addition to the team valuable insight into the company, but also enables them to experience GVK-Siya Zama’s familial environment and open-door policy first-hand.

After the employee’s first 10 days with the company, a meeting is held with the HR Business Partner who will check to see if they’ve settled in, have everything they need and find out how things are progressing. Plans are in place to introduce another employee satisfaction discussion at the 60-day mark.

The Career Conversations take place three times a year and include a performance monitoring element. They enable employees to engage with their managers to gain clarity on their role profiles, discuss their performance and share what is happening in their lives that could be affecting this, together with their ambitions for the future. From this, management can gain insight into the person as an individual, determine how they can assist the staff member to achieve their aims and identify any learning and development gaps.

As a result of the Career Conversations, we have been able to put together a framework for the provision of customised training, mentorship and skills transfer. This includes teaching the behaviours synonymous with the brand to ensure consistency going forward.

In addition, the performance measurement and monitoring aspects enable management to appropriately reward staff members in terms of salaries, bonuses and incentives as well as to recognise their accomplishments in other meaningful ways, including promotion.

By being attuned to our staff members’ aspirations for growth, the company is better equipped to assist them in managing their careers through the formulation of development plans. Not only are these guided by how the employees perform, but also by how they live the organisation’s values.
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