Vodacom joins Corporate Challenge
in a big way with 433-member team
JOHANNESBURG, Feb. 28, 2012 — One of the largest teams entered in the 2012 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Johannesburg showed up late on the radar screen for this year's sold-out event at the famed Wanderers Club.
"We decided to only start marketing the J.P. Morgan (Corporate Challenge) once our employees got back from leave in January," said Vodacom company captain Rene Witten. "Communication around the event began on the 23rd January 2012 — even the coordinators at J.P. Morgan were afraid that we had waited too long and that we wouldn't have much of a team."
When a capacity crowd starts the 9th annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Johannsburg on 8 March, Vodacom will have a large presence due in part to the support of Managing Director Sipho Maseko (below).
Not to worry. When a capacity crowd of more than 12,000 gathers on 8 March for the 9th annual Corporate Challenge in Johannesburg, Vodacom will be on hand with a team of 433 participants. What is even more remarkable is that this will be the first time Vodacom will be participating in this annual corporate fitness and social gathering of South Africa's leading companies.
So, how do you go from not having a team to having one of the largest teams in a year?
Several factors stand out, said Witten, who directs the company's Sports Initiatives programme that is part of Vodacom Wellness. Its mission is to help employees make the most of their health and productivity. Witten also is coordinator of Team RED, so, she said, it made sense for her to serve as Vodacom's Corporate Challenge company captain.
"Last year, Vodacom initiated the i-Care Ambassador Programme," she said. The programme enlists every line-manager in the company as an i-Care ambassador, Witten explained. They get information about company initiatives that include wellness efforts, and are encouraged to pass the information along to their staff to promote team participation, unity and to "optimise engagement."
"The i-Care Ambassador initiative is still in its infancy and proof of its success is very encouraging," said Witten, pointing to the first-year turnout for the Corporate Challenge by Vodacom as an example. "The success of having 433 participants is due to a culmination of effective strategic planning and excellent communications. Passion and awesome team work have also been a big influence."
The other vital factor behind the large turnout, she said, was the support of management.
"We involved our MD (Managing Director), Sipho Maseko, who agreed to champion Team RED," said Witten.
Maseko, a 43-year-old veteran at Vodacom who became its managing director for South Africa last September, not only supported the efforts, he will be on hand on 8 March as part of the company's first Corporate Challenge team. Impressively, he will be joined by 23 other Vodacom executives on the team.
The company Maseko and his executives help direct is an African mobile communications giant that provides voice, messaging, data and converged services to more than 43 million customers. It is a large and expanding communications powerhouse, branching out from its roots in South Africa to include networks in Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Lesotho. It also provides carrier and business services to customers in over 70 countries.
The Corporate Challenge serves Vodacom well for many reasons, one of which is team building within a spread out company.
"Having a team of 433 participants from not only many different divisions but also different buildings and different levels will definitely help in breaking down silos," said Witten. "These form very quickly when you work in a task driven environment. It's important to get to know each other on a social level."
"Staff morale also increases when you have executives leading by example," Witten added. "That is why it was important for us that our MD champion our team. It allows for a feeling of unity. Vodacom employees are very proud of their brand. We will be wearing red capes displaying our logo and will be proudly flying the Vodacom RED!"
The benefits for Vodacom and its employees go beyond even that, however, Witten believes.
"Vodacom's vision is to make every customer smile. We can only do that if we ourselves are smiling!" she said. "The Corporate Challenge is an opportunity for our staff to engage with each other and feel part of a bigger team, not only the direct teams that they work with on a daily basis."
"By encouraging staff to participate in these sports initiatives, we are encouraging staff to be active," Witten added. "It is proven that exercise decreases the risk of chronic disease. Add a healthy eating plan, and you're well on your way to a healthier body and mind. As mentioned before, healthy employees are productive employees. This invariably will also positively affect our current absenteeism rates."
And Witten is hopeful Vodacom's impressive debut at the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Johannesburg is just the start of big things for the company and its employees.
"They will be engaging with each other and also hopefully taste the positivity that goes along with being active," she said. "It's an experience that will hopefully whet their appetites enough to continue."