BOX 5, Westhoven, 2142
Renowned as an industry innovator, Bridgestone Southern Africa (BSAF) has always recognised that its people are the key to its ability to compete in a constantly evolving sector. The company has a deliberate policy of developing its systems and processes not only to support its people to do their jobs better, but also to help them reach their full potential both in personal and career terms.
“A successful company has a mutually beneficial relationship with its employees—that’s why it was so significant to us to be certified a Top Employer,” says Jacques Fourie, CEO of Bridgestone Southern Africa. “Workers’ Day presents a great opportunity to highlight the journeys of several of our long-time employees with Bridgestone who have seized the opportunities our company offers via the policies we have put in place to realise their potential. Such efforts have made it possible that to attain the Top Employer recognition”
The Top Employer award recognises excellence in people practices and is awarded by the Top Employers Institute. Bridgestone received this coveted certification at the end of 2021. The company has recently been certified Level 1 B-BBEE contributor, testimony to its strong and sustained focus on investing in its own people and the community in which it operates.
In the last year, for example, Bridgestone has reviewed its maternity policies to ensure its female employees receive adequate benefits. New talent management guidelines create a framework allowing employees to move between departments, regions and countries to advance their careers. The Smart Working policy introduced new ways of working in line with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
“All of these policies enable our employees are supported and perform at their best in both their professional and personal lives,” he adds.
To highlight exemplars of how working at Bridgestone can provide motivated individuals with great opportunities for self-realisation, backed by guiding policies to ensure employees are supported in their career path, we share reflections from three employees.
Lydia Mpinda joined Bridgestone 26 years ago as a Storekeeper and has risen up the ladder over the intervening years. She’s currently a Salesperson. Of course, she’s learned a lot about tyres, but so much more too—for example, how to use sophisticated software like Systems Applications and Products (SAP). Because the company is so innovative on all sorts of levels, employees are constantly able to upgrade their skills.
In the process, she says she has acquired great knowledge of customer satisfaction, decision-making, negotiating and good communication skills.
“The company has given its employees a stable life through providing secure jobs, even through tough economic recessions,” she says. This has enabled her to bring up her children well and to build a house—accomplishments of which she is rightly proud.
Lydia highlights the safety culture which makes this a safe working environment despite all the machinery.
Her colleague, Chantel Baxter, started out at Bridgestone as an Export Assistant in 2004, and subsequently took on a number of jobs in the broad sales area. She loves dealing with people. She’s currently Operations Manager – Consumer, where she enjoys the varied challenges that each day brings.
In her second month at Bridgestone, Chantel says she made a huge mistake and never forgot what her line manager said: “OK, so how are you going to fix it?”
“I learned early in my career that mistakes happen but how you deal with them is what differentiates you,” she observes.
For such a people- and team-oriented person, one of her best memories is how she was able to play a part in creating the people-first culture that now prevails at Bridgestone. That said, she’s also clear that employees must put up their hands if they want to learn—if they do, she says, the company offers many opportunities to improve one’s skills, from the Women’s Circle and mentorship to formal learning at institutions like the Gordon Institute for Business Science (GIBS) and on-the-job coaching.
“Bridgestone is like a family that looks after each other, locally and internationally,” she says. “In 2021 when KwaZulu-Natal was faced with riots, all other local Bridgestone branches banded together to support our staff in KwaZulu Natal, and I could not have been any prouder of who we are. Today with what is happening between Russia and Ukraine, all Bridgestone offices globally have banded together to ensure that the Bridgestone employees in all affected regions are being looked after. We stand with and for each other, and the one thing that unites us is the Bridgestone culture.”
A nature and family lover, Yvonne Rootman has worked at Bridgestone for 34 years, starting out as a Clerk and is now Personal Assistant to the manager of the Brits tyre manufacturing plant. She also looks after the payroll and acts as the Travel Coordinator, among various other duties.
“I enjoy the variety of tasks and responsibilities that come with my job,” she says. A great contributor to her personal success is the fact that there are so many opportunities for those who want to develop their skills and talents. One has to keep on learning new skills and try to keep up with the new technology—they are the keys to future success, she adds.
“It’s the people I have worked with during the years who have inspired me the most,” she says. “They made life at work interesting, fun and rewarding.”
Three very different people, with varied life and work experiences, bound together by the journey they have made with Bridgestone, carrying each other and the company to new heights.
As we evolve as a business, investing in cutting-edge machinery and digital platforms, we seek to also adopt a more sophisticated system of engaging with our people as more than just employees, but as partners in finding solutions on the journey,” concludes Fourie.