Unlocking the human resource

The role of the HR practitioner in crafting a vibrant culture cannot be underestimated

ICON is a network of oncologists across South Africa, each one committed to quality cancer care. ICON accredits state of the art radiotherapy facilities to ensure that patients receive excellent service from dedicated staff who take patient care to the next level. These staff members, who work in ICON facilities, need to feel cared for, respected and supported as they provide care to cancer patients. This is where the freshly revitalised Human Resources (HR) team steps in.

“Our role is to ensure that our employees feel cared for and that they get meaningful careers,” says Hubert January, Head of HR. “Their roles are not just about transacting with patients, they have to receive support from us. To deliver on this mandate, we have started to visit these units to get a sense of where people are and what happens in their units. When you’re not close to the work they do, it is hard to understand how emotional it becomes and how hard it can be.”

Employees are dealing with patients across a variety of stages of cancer, from advanced to early onset. Many are helping people for whom their unit could be their last hope of a cure, others are working with patients who are about to walk out the door free from cancer. It is an incredibly emotional space that subjects employees to plenty of ups and downs, and it can be exhausting.

“Our staff are so committed to their patients that they often sit and wait with them when machines break down, refusing to go home until that person received their treatment,” says January. “They end up sitting for hours while the engineers do repairs and we are looking to implement mechanisms that support our staff and show how we go the extra mile for them too.”

To this end, the HR team has prioritised a benchmark exercise to ensure that what the company offers its staff is competitive. The goal is to create a space that makes ICON units a preferred place to work. The study is currently being completed in conjunction with an external service provider to ensure that the information is an accurate reflection of the South African market.

“In addition to the report, we are working on developing a richer organisational culture,” says January. “We are focused on creating a culture that makes everyone feel that ICON units are a great place to work. To reinforce this, we have done an engagement survey and are currently working on action plans to address the issues that the survey has brought to light.”

The team is also crafting an overarching vision for the company, one that creates consistency across all branches, silos and departments. This will ensure that there is a consistent employee experience for all members of the ICON community, regardless of company or location.

“We want to create a performance driven culture so we are embarking on a strategy that defines this through robust measurements, performance contracts and employee reward schemes,” concludes January.