“A tiny seed can grow into a big tree.”
African proverb

Alinda Nortje



Alinda Nortje is the founder and Executive Chairperson of Free To Grow, a company that aims to be a credible business partner in the field of Employee Engagement, meaningfully and sustainably improving climate, culture and contribution, to the benefit of organisations and their people.


The roots of Free To Grow lie on farms in the Boland where Alinda was employed as community worker, experiencing firsthand the challenge of meeting, and balancing, the needs of employees and employers. It was here that Alinda became aware of the dire need for a personal empowerment programme for employees with low self-esteem and an external locus of control – one that would be accessible to people with an education backlog. Over a period of four years, during which the input of hundreds of employees was incorporated, Alinda successfully designed the Free To Grow Lifeskills programme, which proved to significantly impact not only self-confidence and ownership, but also behavior and relationships in the workplace. A few years later the impact of this programme was validated through an independent PhD by Dr. Ruth Albertyn of the University of Stellenbosch.


Because of the excellent results achieved through Free To Grow Lifeskills, Alinda developed the vision to bring healing, hope and capacity building to as many people as possible and in 1995 Free To Grow was established as a vehicle for this purpose. In response to existing clients request for similar high quality programmes that would address their other training needs, Alinda soon expanded the company’s product range to cater for lower, middle and senior job levels.


In 2012, under the leadership of Alinda, Free To Grow’s focus shifted to Employee Engagement. Today the company is known for their innovative approach to building engagement capacity across job levels and industries in organisations throughout Africa.


Over the years Alinda’s ability to develop context specific, accelerated learning programmes has been recognised by organisations such as  Sanlam, Eskom, I&J and First National Bank, where she has consulted and presented training programmes on this topic.


In Free To Grow, Alinda heads the programme development team and is responsible for the actual design of all Employee Engagement programmes and processes offered internationally. Alinda’s passion for people, empathy and authenticity enable her to easily connect and build rapport with people across cultures and job levels, making her an excellent facilitator, a role she relishes. Her in-depth knowledge and experience of Employee Engagement theory and practice contribute to her adding value in various roles as Engagement partner. Examples are as follows:


  • The conceptualization, customisation and implementation of Employee Engagement programmes for organisations such as Coca-Cola, Premier Foods, Mercantile Bank, Imperial Logistics and SABMiller across South Africa and in Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and Sudan
  • The development and facilitation of programmes to align the staff of the Unicef Country Offices in Vietnam, Iran, Jordan, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Zambia to the vision and values of the organisation, enhance dialogue and build relationships across functions and levels
  • The facilitation of engagement workshops to the Executive teams of MultiChoice Africa in Dubai and for Botswana Post in Gaborone
  • The presentation of a Future Search workshop involving representatives of all job levels of SABMiller’s South Sudan Beverages
  • Fulfilling the role of lead adviser to the Free To Grow consulting team regarding the implementation of programmes to clients in various industries ranging from the public to corporate sector
  • Formal and informal coaching of Executives in client organisations regarding Employee Engagement
  • The development of HRengage!, a programme aimed at equipping HR Managers with the skills and tools to significantly contribute to enhancing the drivers of engagement in their organisation. Alinda presented this programme in Mauritius in 2015, and received glowing feedback from the HR Managers from ENL who attended.
  • Setting up and presenting a series of interactive educational sessions on Employee Engagement in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban to build awareness and share knowledge around the topic (2013-2017)
  • Establishing the EECoP (Employee Engagement Community of Practice, a vehicle for organisations to share best practices in Employee Engagement) in Cape Town early in 2016. The EECoP will be expanded to Gauteng in 2017


Other experience and contributions


  • Published articles for HR Future, People Dynamics, Management Today and HR Highway
  • Serving for several years as chairperson of the Western Cape Branch of the IPM (formerly known as the Institute of People Management), leading the branch to being, for the first time, selected as the top branch of the year
  • Serving as a Regional IPM Chairperson of the Western Cape for three years
  • Serving as the Vice President of the South African IPM for three years
  • Being a member of the Lifeskills Standard Generating Body of South Africa


Revered as a leader in the field of Employee Engagement in South Africa, Alinda frequently presents on the topic at HR conferences, where she is continually rated as one of the top presenters.


Honours & awards


2010 – One of the five finalists for the SA Woman Entrepreneur of the year award

1999 – Recipient of the prestigious national IPM People Driven Growth award for the ‘achievement of excellence in sustained commitment to investment in human potential’

1996 – Runner up of the Cape Woman Business Owner Award




“I have learned more from Alinda in 3 mornings than from all my years of attending local and international training and conferences put together. Alinda has completely transformed the way my team and I look at learning.”

Jill Mills, FNB Learning and Development Manager


Outstanding! Brilliant! Marvelous! It is seldom that one gets such in-depth theoretical understanding combined with such wide and deep practical experience delivered with such energy and passion.”

Wilhelm Crouse, MD of Knowledge Resources


“Alinda is a brilliant and inspiring presenter. I have never seen my Exco and senior managers being influenced so much by anybody in such a short space of time.”

Allan Cunniah, HR Director, ENL Group