Human capital

Our people are the heart of who we are and are a strategic pillar within Blue Label. We enhance our corporate culture and leadership skill by nurturing a growth mindset that allows our employees, #teamblu, to be part of the Blue Label dream: creating an inclusive business with and for the communities we serve. Our adapted human capital activities allow everyone to thrive and advance their individual careers while excelling and succeeding together as an organisation.

This year was especially challenging. We navigated COVID-19 together with our line managers and employees, while remaining customer focused and keeping in touch with the challenges our communities are facing. Our preparation for and transition to working from home took place speedily. While we noticed an increase in productivity, we are aware that our employees had to continue to juggle home life and work simultaneously. Our people-first approach, combined with our strong all-in culture, enabled us to meet the need of our employees, consumers and customers.

Objectives for the year

We had several primary focus areas during 2021 financial year:

  1. Enhance every step of the employee journey to attract, retain, develop and reward high-calibre employees.
  2. Implement a standard succession management process that allows all employees to grow and advance that ensures leadership continuity.
  3. Cultivate a healthy and high-performance culture where employees engage in meaningful work while working in a remote office and ever‑changing environment.
  4. Equip inspirational leaders who will guide the execution of market demand and strategies.

It is important that we retain talent and ensure our employees feel safe, empowered to overcome their vulnerabilities, and confident to engage with us.

Leading through a strong value driven corporate culture

A values-based culture is powerful, as it drives employee engagement, organisational performance, customer satisfaction and loyalty. At Blue Label, our values inform every aspect of our operations and corporate identity. We lead our people and communities by continuously strengthening our culture with values and rituals.

During this challenging year, we worked with Blue Label’s management teams to bolster accountability and innovation. We implemented processes that reinforce values-based behaviours and decision-making:

  • Our leadership development programme focused on developing the leader within.
  • Our success management programme helps us follow a basic pattern of beliefs that can be measured.
  • Our engagement strategy creates job security for our teams and limits the impact of COVID-19.
  • Our people planning process identified individual needs and gave focus to individual development plans.

Efforts to maintain a strong, healthy culture will fail without leaders’ support and alignment. Our human capital division assisted Blue Label’s leaders, managers, and employees practically by:

  • Etching Blue Label’s values into the Group’s corporate culture. The launch of the WeLead programme supports this cause while building leadership competency. We also reward the right behaviour through our rewards and recognition programme.
  • Igniting an innovative mindset across the Group by engaging employees in the What’s The Bright Idea (WTBI) competition.
  • Staying connected and informed by communicating with the right audience at the right time.
  • Inspiring employees with the CEO’s message and drawing attention to this through social media.
  • Driving employee engagement through hangout opportunities.
  • Combining the efforts of the Transformation and Human Capital teams to create an ecosystem that benefits the community, youth, and the unemployed, with commercial benefit as an added value.
  • Building a future-fit organisation that drives an accountable culture, productivity, and results. In collaboration with the leadership of Transaction Junction and Africa Distribution, we built processes to accelerate delivery and structured the business to drive and comply with these processes.

Attracting, retaining, developing and rewarding talent to build future succession

We prioritised keeping our employees engaged and safe, and building programmes that allowed us to maintain high retention levels:

  • Upskill internal staff to recruit employees directly instead of relying on talent agencies, thereby driving productivity and reducing cost.
  • Build an employee value proposition and actively promote Blue Label Telecoms and Careers on social media to attract top talent.
  • Offer employees new benefits that support stress management and work life balance.
  • Design a full communication and engagement strategy and programme that allows employees to fraternise while working apart, encouraging a happier and more empowered workforce.
  • Implement a formal quarterly reward and recognition programme that recognises good performance as well as behaviours to encourage inclusivity.
  • Implement an innovation programme to promote new initiatives and suggestions that can increase efficiencies or revenue.
  • Identify skills gaps during people planning sessions including fast tracking of high potential individuals and building leaders for the future.
  • Source leadership programmes for accelerated development that will transform high potential individuals into future leaders
  • Adapt processes to be scalable and fit for purpose in an agile and entrepreneurial environment.

Employee engagement

FY2021 was a challenging year for us, as Blue Label is a high-touch organisation where employees thrive on seeing each other and face-to-face meetings drive our human capital approach.

However, our robust communication and engagement plan provided employees access to all necessary and important information while allowing them to stay connected with management and colleagues. Virtual hangout sessions connected leaders with their teams while people are working from home and kept employees engaged. We fully understood the strain some of our employees were under and we gave extra focus and attention to financial, physical, mental, and nutritional wellbeing in our interactions and workshops.

Employee engagement survey

The Blue Label Telecoms engagement survey, in which more than 70% of our workforce participated, indicated that we achieved an above-average weighted score. It showed that our employees are resilient and over 70% are content at work.

There is always room for improvement as the lowerscoring elements assist in informing our FY2022 planning. We will keep enhancing the employee growth path and having meaningful career conversations, while ensuring that performance is managed effectively.

Employee retention

We maintained an employee retention rate of 91%, higher than the 81% market average, despite the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and the decision to not implement salary increases last year. We attribute this achievement to higher engagement, following our Employee Value Proposition (EVP) campaign, #teamblu, and our improved talent management and people planning practices.

Labour turnover (LTO) for the Group, calculated based on the number of new staff members and terminations relative to total employee headcount, was 27.03% for the year, higher than the 11.5% market norm after COVID-19. Our turnover consisted of voluntary LTO at 22.48%, largely due to the difficult market conditions’ impacting on the call centre environment and employees subsequently absconding. Involuntary LTO was 4.8% as a result of restructuring, management of poor performance and the end of fixed term contracts (including learnerships) for the period.

As we face increasing competition for the best talent from local and international organisations, a core part of our strategy is to maintain a high level of employee engagement and ensure that employees resonate with our culture. This shifts us beyond mere compensation-based competition.

Valuing our talent

Positioning BLT as an employer of choice

We used social media to attract and retain talent within the organisation by positioning BLT as an employer of choice. Our initiatives included:

  • implementing a #Happinessisblu campaign, encouraging our employees to tag #Teamblu in posts that show who we are as an organisation.
  • identifying and training influencers inside the organisation to post about who we are, our products and how we impact the communities around us.
  • creating a LinkedIn life page directly linked to our BLT LinkedIn page, increasing engagement on this platform. The page focuses on celebrating our talent and showcasing BLT’s innovative and entrepreneurial culture.

Employee benefits

The Group offers several employee benefits, including an employee assistance programme, group life insurance (including a life policy and severe illness, disability and funeral cover), medical aid through Discovery Health, and a provident fund through Destiny Retirement Fund. The costs of medical aid and the provident fund are included in the total cost to company of employees, while the cost of the Group life benefit and the employee assistance programme is borne by the respective Blue Label operating company. We also introduced further benefits outside of fixed remuneration to increase our competitiveness in the marketplace.

Transformation and compliance

Transformation and compliance are important to us. Our Transformation and Human Capital teams joined forces to secure top equity talent and evolve our business models further. The goal is to create alignment to our objectives while building a shared values mindset. We intend to deliver sustainable practices to enhance and grow our social and economic footprint as we improve financial performance by aligning to the following UN SDGs:

Transformation and compliance
Transformation and compliance
Transformation and compliance
Transformation and compliance
Transformation and compliance
Transformation and compliance
Transformation and compliance

Equity representation

We saw an improvement in equity representation at a Group level following the success management process and people planning engagements. We will continue to develop female and black talent.

Year-on-year change in representation

196%African male representation*

433%African female representation*

48%Coloured male representation*

82%Coloured female representation*

38%Indian male representation*

17%Indian female representation*

* Largest contributor to growth in African male and African female categories were due to appointment at semiskilled and unskilled level.

Talent development remains an effective enhancer of diversity and inclusion

74% Promotions were awarded to Economic Active Population (EAP) employees

45% Promotions awarded to African employees

39% Promotions awarded to females

6% Promotions were awarded to EAP candidates at Senior Management level

We focused on improving our diversity when recruiting new skills and capabilities. This resulted in an overall 11% increase in new appointments of equity talent over the prior year, excluding new appointments for learnerships.

Diversity and inclusion (gender and race) remains a key focus area.
Diversity has increased in new appointments as seen in the graph below.

EAP recruitment FY2020 versus FY2021 (%)

We also saw an increase in female appointments year-on-year.

Gender recruitment FY2020 versus FY2021 (%)

Our current EAP performance is reflected in the table below. The table excludes our international operations.

Employment equity demographics: FY2021

Group overview

African male  Coloured male     Indian male
Occupational level  FY2020   FY2021   VAR   %VAR   FY2020   FY2021  VAR  %VAR  FY2020  FY2021  VAR  VAR % 
Top management  1   2   1   100   1   –  –  100 
Senior management  2   –   (2) (100) 3   (1) (33) –  – 
Middle management  10   12   2   20   2   50  75 
Junior management  100   149   49   49   32   28  (4) (13) 26  35  35 
Semi-skilled  106   559   453   427   6   34  28  467  17 
Unskilled  27   5   (22) (81) 2   (2) (100) –  – 
Total  246   727   481   196   46   68  22  48  40  55  15  38 
Actual (%) 27   29   5  
NEAP target (%) 43   43   5  
Variance against NEAP (%) (16) (14) –   (2) – 
White male      Foreign national male      Total male 
Occupational level  FY2020  FY2021  VAR  %VAR  FY2020  FY2021  VAR  %VAR  FY2020  FY2021  VAR  %VAR 
Top management  22  25  14  –  –  –  –  26  32  23 
Senior management  20  16  (4) (20) –  –  –  –  26  19  (7) (27)
Middle management  36  48  12  33  200  53  73  20  38 
Junior management  89  83  (6) (7) 15  20  33  262  315  53  20 
Semi-skilled  10  67  18  11  157  131  628  497  379 
Unskilled  –  (1) (100) (2) (67) 34  (27) (79)
Total  174  182  26  42  16  62  532  1 074  542  102 
Actual (%) 19  (62)
NEAP target (%) –  – 
Variance against NEAP (%) 14 
African female Coloured female   Indian female
Occupational level FY2020  FY2021 VAR  %VAR  FY2020  FY2021  VAR %VAR FY2020 FY2021 VAR  %VAR 
Top management –  1 –  –  – 
Senior management 2 –  –  –  –  2 – 
Middle management 10 43  2 5 150 
Junior management 55  81 26  47  12  16  4 33 15 13 (2) (13)
Semi-skilled 139  1 114 975  701  20  44  24 120 12 14 17 
Unskilled 26  12 (14) (54) –  –  –  – 
Total 229  1 220 991  433  34  62  28 82 29 34 17 
Actual (%) 25  49 3 1
NEAP target (%) 35  35 1 1
Variance against NEAP (%) (10) 14 (1) (3) 2
White female Foreign national female Total female
Occupational level FY2020 FY2021 VAR  %VAR  FY2020 FY2021 VAR  %VAR  FY2020  FY2021 VAR  %VAR 
Top management 5 5 –  –  –  –  7 17 
Senior management 5 3 (2) (40) –  –  7 –  – 
Middle management 15 20 33  1 (1) (100) 26  36 10  38 
Junior management 50 52 7 6 (1) (14) 139  168 29  21 
Semi-skilled 12 16 33  2 13 11  550  185  1 201 1 016  549 
Unskilled 1 (1) (100) –  –  27  12 (15) (56)
Total 88 96 10 19 90  390  1 431 1 041  267 
Actual (%) 10 4 1 1
NEAP target (%) 4 4
Variance against NEAP (%) 6 1 1

Our focus on achieving a diverse and inclusive organisation resulted in positive movement in the equity representation at Group level. While we are proud of the improvement, we will continue to hone in on and build equity talent, particularly African employees (both male and female) and specifically in Middle to Senior Management occupational level. Our newly implemented success management process is also a chance for us to review our talent and development opportunities across the Group. People planning sessions were completed. This will allow leaders to identify high potential talent with critical skill and earmark these employees for future promotion opportunities, while developing the right skill for future roles in the meantime.

Training and development

We understand that, as people drive our performance, our long-term success depends on talent sustainability. We are committed to supporting our employees in their career development through our growth model and drive accountability through our success management programme. The Group is continuously looking for opportunities to develop training content that aligns to business needs and strengthens the corporate culture.

Succession planning

Leadership continuity, whether over time or during crisis, is critical for an organisation’s long-term survival. Succession planning was a major focus area in FY2021.

To start, we built competency models for job families to support our people planning process and identify the right skills required at Middle and Senior Management level. This process enabled us to:

  • understand our current talent pool, and critical skill gaps
  • build fit for purpose learning interventions
  • build individual comparison reports between current skill sets and future skill sets required.

We also implemented a new, adaptable and scalable fit-for-future leadership approach. Together with all our managers, we created succession plans for both emergencies and long-term succession, ensuring the continuity of leadership. This approach is strengthened by a new growth model and succession management process that enables each employee to own their own career and development plans for Top, Senior and Middle Management levels.

The development of leadership capabilities were implemented through the following initiatives:

  • Leadership development programmes that are aligned to the core competencies of the blue label leader
  • People planning sessions with CEOs to identify HiPos within their structure and how they can be developed
  • The purchase of Udemy licences for technology employees, ensuring that Blue Label employees stay up to date with technology skills
  • Launch of the WeLead campaign that puts BLT leadership behaviours at the forefront of everything we do, holding each leader accountable for how they show up and lead their teams
  • Career conversations informing individual development plans.


Whether an employee holds a management role or is self-leading, it is important for everyone to show up with leadership qualities. This philosophy builds the resilience and winning mindset of our staff members.

The following WeLead principles underpin our corporate culture initiatives:

  • attracting the right talent through our employee value proposition #teamblu programme
  • recruiting the right talent for the organisation, while also saving costs
  • developing and rewarding talent management through our success management process and quarterly awards
  • clearly articulating our business strategies, ensuring that employees see the value of what they do and the impact it has
  • keeping employees engaged and productive by maintaining a culture of ongoing learning and development
  • hosting leadership development programmes
  • building an innovation mindset through What’s The Bright Idea
  • leading from the front and respecting each other.

Skills development

The impact of COVID-19 has had a positive impact on our learning and development strategy. To keep our employees safe, we migrated all our classroom sessions to virtual facilitated sessions and e-learning content on an online learning platform. The acceleration of the digital learning journey enabled us to offer learning on the go for the technology team through Udemy online courses. We continue to offer employees opportunities to study at tertiary institutions in support of talent requirements , thereby fostering a culture of continuous learning. In line with our strategic intent, 87.5% of bursary recipients are BLT employees and 12.5% are unemployed bursars.

Type of bursaries

Internal bursary

1 White female

3 Indian female

1 Coloured female

22 African female

External bursary

1 White female

0 Indian female

0 Coloured female

2 African female


12African male

0 Coloured male

1 Indian male

2 White male

42 Total internal bursary


2 African male

0 Coloured male

1 Indian male

0 White male

6 Total external bursary

Our unemployed learnerships build the talent pipeline for BLT’s entry level roles. We identified the entry level positions that will leverage unemployed learnerships, and during FY2021 we absorbed over 57% of unemployed learners at the end of the learnership. While the number of unemployed learners in FY2021 decreased, the total spend incurred for unemployed learners increased from R5.2 million to R7.4 million; 93% of which was invested in African learners (2020: 85%).

Learnerships statistics

Learnerships statistics

COVID-19 impact

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic our organisation had to solve multiple, competing priorities. Our leaders have navigated a broad range of issues that span from keeping our employees and customers safe to maintaining operations. The pandemic changed the employee experience for many of our employees and we were pleased by the resilience across the organisation, for both managers and employees alike. Our employees have been motivated and productive while working remotely as well as when returning to office work, which is evidence of our healthy culture. Our employees’ emotional wellbeing and mental health was a critical focus area during this time.

We managed to limit and control the infection rates from March 2020 to May 2021 by implementing COVID-19 protocols and workforce planning. Only 3% of our total workforce were infected. We introduced a COVID-19 manager, COVID-19 captains, and quarantine marshalls to support infected employees and assist with reintegration into the business.

With the onset of lower levels in the National State of Disaster, and in preparation of returning to the office, we maintained stringent protocols in place, including:

  • Temperature screening and logging on a mobile application.
  • COVID-19 testing support for employees who display symptoms
  • Purchasing and deployment of hand sanitisers and masks throughout the year.
  • Reorganising of office space to allow for adequate social distancing.

When employees returned to the office, our leaders focused on re-onboarding our employees, with emphasis on safety and awareness in the workplace. An employee ‘New Ways of Working Guide’ was made available for all managers to assist in phasing the return to work.

Multiple wellness initiatives were conducted, including an increase in communications, reminders of employee safety practices, and Zoom Hangout Sessions dedicated to new ways of work with a panel of experts.

Our focus was the safety of our people and the environment they operate in. We have opted to maintain a work from home strategy and only returned to work in a hybrid model in the last three months of 2021 financial year. We are currently navigating the new normal and our journey to create a safe and productive environment will continue in FY2022.

Employee health and safety

While COVID-19 was the buzzword during the year, all health and safety policies and procedures continue to be well managed and co-ordinated via the Health and Safety Committee and all issues brought before the Health and Safety Committee were resolved.

  • injuries reportedTotal number of injuries reported 5 (2020: 14)

  • injury on dutyTotal number of claims submitted to Workmen’s Compensation 5 (2020: 14)

  • injury on dutyTotal number of fatalities recorded on duty 0 (2020: 0)

  • injury on dutyTotal days absent as a result of injury on duty 24 (2020: 119)

All Group companies have obtained their certificates of good standing for the year under review. In FY2021 we trained 79 staff members in health and safety protocols across our subsidiaries and branches. Furthermore, our Health and Safety Representatives have been leveraged in our COVID-19 plans as Quarantine Marshalls on each site, supporting our COVID-19 Officer and our COVID-19 Captains.

Human capital plans for FY2022

In FY2022 we plan to:

  • embed success management so that it becomes our way of doing things
  • implement our revised capability plan to enable the organisational transformation and our digitisation programme
  • implement a new leadership development journey for management
  • implement a mentoring programme for top talent with a focus on black and female talent
  • implement a Board programme for our subsidiaries, with a view to developing a pipeline for future appointments onto their boards
  • revise the environmental, social and governance scorecard to enable accelerated delivery of B-BBEE and Employment Equity goals
  • launch our #TeamBlu Employer of Choice campaign in support of our talent attraction requirements.