RCL Chicken Accelerate the Development of their Women

In spite of an increased focus on diversity and inclusion, many women still face gender-based barriers in their leadership development journey. These barriers keep them stuck in junior leadership positions instead of progressing and contributing according to their potential.

Aware of this reality in RCL Food’s Chicken Division, Ansa Du Toit, Learning and Development Manager, partnered with Free To Grow to deliver a robust accelerated development programme for women on the A, B and C Bands of the Chicken business. Basadi Bereka (Women at Work), also known in its generic form as EmpowHER, was born. This programme comprises a blended learning journey that equips women to successfully transition from leading self to leading others.

Though COVID-19 stalled the roll-out to an extent, the programme is now in its third year of implementation and RCL Chicken are experiencing the benefits they hoped for. Ansa says:

“This programme is a real gem and has tremendous impact. Year one was so successful that we are continuing the journey with these women for a further year and have started the journey with a second cohort of three new groups geographically spread across SA. We are extremely impressed with how the programme is put together and presented. It is innovative, comprehensive, fresh, deep and meaningful. It can deliver a step change in diversity management to ensure that RCL Foods has the right number of talented women available at all times.”

A blended learning journey

Basadi Bereka offers a step-by-step development journey over time, with each step building on the previous. RCL Chicken chose to have the journey extended over two years to accommodate operational pressure, with year one focusing on ‘Knowing and Growing myself’ and year two on ‘Stepping up my performance and contribution’.

Due to the profile of the participants, the modules were presented face-to-face over nine days. Free To Grow’s inspirational female facilitators quickly built rapport with the participants. In true Free To Grow style, the learning approach was highly engaging, combining fun experiential activities with deep reflection and sharing.

Growth projects between modules encouraged participants to apply the learnings to their specific roles and work environments. This helped to bridge the gap that often exists between the classroom and workplace.

RCL Foods 1
RCL Foods partaking in Basadi Bereka
RCL Foods 2

The first three groups, from Hammersdale, Rustenburg and Worcester taking part in activities in module 3 (Promote yourself) and module 4 (Assert yourself)

Active involvement of direct leaders

Research agrees that support from a woman’s direct manager is the most critical organisational factor to enhance their career advancement. This year the development journey of the participating women was therefore enhanced by bringing on board line managers and other mentors who volunteered for this role.

As part of this programme, these leaders received an opportunity to develop their coaching skills so that they are better equipped to support and guide the Basadis. The modules ranged from becoming aware of and addressing unconscious bias to creating a thinking environment and challenging with care.

Being a mentor offers leaders the opportunity to ‘pay it forward.’ Sonja Fourie, Technical Manager, retail describes the value this has to her as follows:

“I feel so blessed to have been granted the opportunity to be a mentor, where I can use my journey and experiences to make a meaningful difference in women’s lives. I am hoping to serve them to discover their beautiful uniqueness, giving them tools to overcome internal hurdles and in doing that, become the best version of themselves.”

Involving Female Role Models

Studies show that Female Role Models can significantly influence the motivation and goals of women on more junior levels by representing what is possible and acting as behavioural models.

At each of the participating sites, women successfully climbing the career ladder were therefore asked to share their stories with the Basadi in the programme. Involving them more actively in a way that will be meaningful to both the mentors and the Basadi is currently one of the focus areas.

Women Career Enabler Survey

Underpinning Basadi Bereka is Free To Grow’s Women’s Career Enabler Survey. Based on extensive research, this tool was designed to provide organisations with a reflection of the career aspirations and challenges facing the Basadi. At the start of the process this survey was used to identify career aspirations and factors that either hinder or enable their career growth: personal, interpersonal, organisational, cultural and family and household factors. The organisation took great care in analysing the findings of the status quo at the various sites and taking corrective action where needed.

The follow up survey administered recently showed significant progress in some of these areas. This is richly rewarding for HR and L&D who contributed significantly to creating a more supportive environment.

RCL Foods with FTG
Left to right: Ansa Du Toit (RCL), Alinda Nortje (Free To Grow), Sithembile Ngcobo (RCL) . Nontabiso Mthembu (Free To Grow), Robyn Campbell (RCL)

“Thank you Free To Grow for your big contribution in designing this programme, facilitating it with such skill and love and supporting us throughout the journey. I was so fortunate to attend a session recently and be reminded again of how powerful this programme is. We see our female employees come alive and work hard at their development,” concludes Ansa.

In 2019 RCL Foods won third place at the Gender Mainstreaming Awards in the Investing in Young Women Category. Having made significant strides since then, RCL Foods will be entering again this year and this time hoping for gold!

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