Distell equips their employees to Stay Strong in the face of change

With change comes opportunity. Following significant change in the organisation, Distell embraced the opportunity to strengthen the mental and emotional resilience of their Bargaining Unit employees.

The need

Following two tough pandemic years – marred by lockdowns and workplace restrictions – it was evident that Distell’s Bargaining Unit employees were struggling emotionally. On the front lines of the business, these employees carry a huge amount of stress in every facet of their lives. The significance of which is highlighted by Distell’s Head of HR Supply Chain, Reggie Greyer:

“Our Bargaining Unit employees make-up most of our staff compliment and form the core of the manufacturing supply chain. We realised that they were never given the tools to manage stress and emotional wellbeing and simply had no frame ofreference to these topics. We wanted to do more for them as most were going through difficult times. They needed the tools to navigate change and hard times and they needed a voice to express themselves.”

Despite the organisation being hard-hit by the pandemic, Distell were committed to showing a caring hand by investing in the wellbeing of their people.

As specialists in the field of employee wellbeing, growth and engagement, Free To Grow was selected to partner with Distell to support employees through the change journey. Designed to build the resilience, change agility and emotional fitness required to deal with stress and constant change, Free To Grow’s Staying Strong programme was ideally suited to meet Distell’s needs.

The journey

Designed to cultivate a mindset of ownership, optimism and resilience, Staying Strong provided employees with a valuable framework that builds, supports and maintains employee wellbeing.
During May to November of 2022, 137 Staying Strong workshops were presented face-to-face to 1459 Bargaining Unit employees, in six sites, across the country.

Through this, Distell have provided all their Bargaining Unit employees with a much-valued opportunity to strengthen their ‘emotional muscle’.

Supply Chain employees celebrating the valuable insight gained into how to cope with change,
build resilience and persevere through tough times.
Supply Chain employees celebrating the valuable insight gained into how to cope with change,
build resilience and persevere through tough times.

The impact

Distell’s HR Team is impressed by the change in attitude that Staying Strong inspired and believe that both employees and the organisation will reap the benefits. Reggie speaks to the impact of the rogramme:

“Staying Strong spoke to employees’ hearts. The content was relevant to their reality and practical. The programme took our workers on a journey of self-discovery and helped them move forward by teaching them how to deal with change. Staying Strong afforded us the opportunity to give back to our people, who have dedicated their lives to the service of Distell. It was a great initiative for our people and our organisation. It was worthwhile, fully met our needs and exceeded our expectations!”

Commenting on the freshness of the content and the impactful way it is carried across, Distell’s Head of HR Southern Africa, Ruby Motloheloa, shared the following:

“The Staying Strong intervention continues to have a profound impact on the lives of our Bargaining Unit teams. The content is relatable and the language used is simple and easy.
It is experiential and therefore leaves people with learned experiences that they can apply with ease by themselves after the classroom engagement. It is a transformational encounter.”

The participants also reported significant benefits, calling it ‘useful’, ‘life-changing’ and ‘empowering’.


“I am not afraid of the changes that are coming, because I feel equipped to deal with them in a positive way,” said one participant. Another explained how Staying Strong has inspired her to “show more care for the people in my team”.

Here’s how participants rated their experience of Staying Strong and the value they derived from attending:

Reflecting on the quality of the facilitation, Reggie explained that the facilitators were a huge
part of the programme’s success.

“They connected with our people by speaking their language and interacted with them in a way that showed care and respect. They saw them and listened to them.”

In conclusion, Alinda Nortje, Founder and CEO of Free To Grow, speaks to Distell’s investment in their people:

“Employees at these levels are often the most neglected as far as emotional wellbeing, resilience and EQ are concerned. We are inspired by the care and support Distell has shown to equip their people with the skills and tools to break through challenges instead of break down.”