Sustainability/ Talent acquisition and management

Talent acquisition and management

As an international organisation, AECI actively seeks to attract and retain talent at all levels in all its countries of operation. The Group’s key policies, programmes and initiatives in support of its Employer Value Proposition are presented here.


In the higher education and training pillar of the World Economic Forum Competitiveness Report 2016-2017, South Africa was ranked last of 140 countries in “Quality of math and science education” and 138th in “Quality of the educational system”. These educational challenges underscore the importance of skills retention and development in pursuit of the delivery of business growth. Attracting and retaining scarce and critical skills in a highly competitive markets remains a challenge and an area of strategic focus.

To safeguard its future growth, the Group continues to foster a pipeline of talent via its internal Learning and Development programmes and through its partnerships with secondary and tertiary educational institutions. In South Africa, the emphasis is on designated candidates and women.

Recruitment campaigns have been held in outlying regions to build strong local talent pipelines. Wherever possible, preference in employment is given to people from communities which are close to Group operations.


In 2017, existing projects and programmes to enable and facilitate employee growth continued and others were initiated to enhance the workplace engagement and experience.

Improved leadership capability and a pipeline of future leaders are achieved through the Group’s partnership with the Gordon Institute of Business Science (“GIBS”). GIBS provides customised and accredited management interventions in the context of the AECI Leadership and Management Development Programmes. The GIBS programmes cater for leaders from junior to senior management levels and offer participants the most up-to-date knowledge.

At senior and middle management levels participants are exposed to stretch assignments, from individual and syndicate perspectives, that encompass action learning and business improvements. Growth and improvement opportunities that have real application in the Group are identified. The outcomes over the last two years are demonstrated by good results in Group-wide collaboration and innovation initiatives.

The fifth intake of employees, across all levels, participated in 2017. The sustained success of this programme was illustrated by the need to present the Foundation and Middle Management level course for two groups of employees. Over five years, more than 540 employees have benefited in total, with 80% of them being from designated groups. Approximately 80% of all graduates remain employed across the Group.

Three Senior Managers were enrolled on the GIBS Global Executive Development Programme. Enrolment will continue until all Senior Managers have had an opportunity to attend.

At individual Group business level, significant time was invested in workforce planning through the development of succession plans to address the short- and long-term employment needs.


The execution of performance management in AECI has evolved considerably in recent years. An automated performance management system, named Khula Nathi (“Grow With Us” in Zulu), was implemented across the Group’s South African operations in March 2017 and made available to employees in other countries of operation two months later.

Employees embraced the system and contributed to its successful implementation by participating in engagement sessions and by setting their KPIs for 2017 in Khula Nathi. The mid-year and year-end performance reviews were conducted on the system. The process was automated further through a “review to payment” process whereby employees’ final performance ratings are exported and provided as input into the compensation process without requiring manual intervention.

Automation has resulted in the standardisation of annual activities, minimisation of administration and improved reporting capabilities.

While the focus in 2017 was primarily on enabling employees to use the on-line system for setting KPIs and reviewing their performance, conversations remain the most important aspect of performance management. Moving forward, therefore, embedding performance management in the Group will emphasise the quality of performance conversations between Managers and employees.


Learning and training are key components of AECI’s Employee Value Proposition. Skills and behaviours that promote a culture of continuous learning, leadership and diversity are fundamental to the achievement of the Group’s strategic goals and objectives, including its EE targets.

Training programmes ensure the timely availability of the Group’s human capital requirements and learning interventions aim to deliver well-rounded, competent employees who make contributions that provide them with personal growth and facilitate increased productivity and hence improved shareholder value.

The Learning and Development function remains committed to allowing employees to grow and advance their careers in the Group. The employment level “banded” approach in place gives employees opportunities to participate in programmes appropriate to their levels of work, but also to attend interventions at more advanced levels.


  African Coloured Indian White Total by
  Total Total investment
Year M F M F M F M F M F   beneficiaries (R millions)
2014 82 63 8 5 16 7 8 94 95   189 1,9
2015 46 33 3 4 8 10 11 9 68 56   124 2,3
2016 89 59 5 11 11 15 12 14 117 99   216 2,9
2017 116 76 8 17 15 18 15 18 154 129   283 4,1
Total 333 231 16 40 39 59 45 49 433 379   812 11,2


Scheme No. of
  Designated group
beneficiaries (%)
beneficiaries (%)
  Investment in 2017
(R millions)
External 35   94   42   4,4
Employee dependent 34   100   64   0,7
Total beneficiaries 69   97   53   5,1


Type of grant (R millions) 2017   2016  
Mandatory 4,8   4,3  
Discretionary 6,0   3,3  
Total grants 10,8   7,6  

Training initiatives concentrate particularly on accelerating the development of employees from designated groups.

In 2017 the Group increased its financial assistance for employees by 41% through the AECI Employee Study Assistance Scheme (26% increase in 2016). Investment over the last four years is illustrated in the table above.

Courses of study pursued included Masters in Business Administration, Bachelor of Arts Psychology in Human Resources, Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Accounting Science degrees as well as National Diplomas in Electrical Engineering, Analytical Chemistry, Safety Management and Operations Management.

Skills Development (“SD”) is a priority element in the amended Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Codes of Good Practice and it is vital that Group businesses in South Africa achieve the 40% threshold. Workshops were held during 2017 to up-skill employees on data capture requirements for the newly deployed SAGE BEE123 System so as to maximise scores.

Investment in the External Bursary Scheme and the Employee Dependent Bursary Scheme assists in achieving this threshold as these investments are measured as part of SD.


AECI sponsored full-time students, primarily from designated groups, who were studying towards qualifications identified as critical and scarce skills, through the External Bursary Scheme. Fields of study pursued included chemistry, agriculture, and chemical, mechanical and mining engineering.

Graduates are employed in the Group for a minimum of 12 months as part of the bursary work-back requirement and to gain industry experience. This development programme is dependent on positions available and it was pleasing that all seven students who graduated at the end of 2016 or during 2017 were placed in the business. A further six students completed the theoretical component of their diplomas and commenced their internships. R4,4 million was invested to support 35 students in 2017 compared to R1,7 million for 26 students in the prior year. The significant increase in financing was due mainly to the Group offering extended vacation work opportunities to students. This has built stronger relationships between them and the business and should benefit the retention rate of graduates who are the leaders and technical experts of the future.

Group representatives attended various student days at universities as AECI brand ambassadors and to advise students on bursary opportunities and career prospects in the Company.

Further financial support was provided through the Employee Dependent Bursary Scheme to dependents of employees in lower income brackets. The bursary recipient must register with an accredited educational institution for a tertiary qualification, irrespective of the course of study. The number of bursary holders increased to 34 from 27 in 2016.


AECI’s learning and development strategies are aligned to the Employment Equity Act and the Skills Development Act No. 97 of 1998. Accordingly, the Workplace Skills Plans and Annual Training Reports of Group businesses in South Africa were submitted timeously to the Chemical Industries Education & Training Authority structures (“CHIETA”), as required by legislation.

Collaboration between the Group and the CHIETA stakeholders continued and the criteria required for funding applications have been implemented, as demonstrated by the increase in funding received (see table above). The figure for 2017 includes payments received to end-September. The total amount will increase when the CHIETA makes further payments in lieu and when Discretionary Grant interventions are completed.

Only three manufacturing sites in the Group are yet to be accredited as approved workplaces for learnership and apprenticeship learning. The Group remains well represented in legislative forums of the CHIETA. Subject matter experts represent AECI at employer organisations such as the National Association of Speciality Chemicals Employers Association (“NASCEA”), the National Institute of Explosives Technology and the National Artisan Training Committee. These relationships optimise the Group’s ability to make contributions suitable and beneficial to the sectors in which it operates. NASCEA has also requested that AECI nominate a representative to serve on the CHIETA Board for 2018. This nomination will be finalised in 2018.