Brigitte da Gama, Chief People’s Officer, McDonald’s South Africa in reflecting on what has surprised her over the last few months
- If you could go back one year into the past, what advice would you give yourself?
Under the current context, one year ago feels like a distant age of innocence. My advice to myself would have been to prepare for the unexpected in a volatile and uncertain world. My plans a year ago included the implementation of technological transformations in an orderly, planned and carefully controlled way. There would be no such luxury. As we have learned this year, the hard lockdowns forced us all to embrace greater levels of technology almost overnight without the luxury of a planned, gradual transition. It speaks to what is possible when we set our minds to it.
- What surprised you over the last couple of months?
Well for one thing I don’t think any of us expected to experience a pandemic on the scale last seen a century ago. I can’t say I was surprised but I was certainly delighted to experience the resilience of the human spirit. In our company we saw most people pulling together, exhibiting heightened levels of compassion, generosity, understanding, commitment and patience.
- What learnings are you taking with you into the future?
I anticipate that we will have to continue to run our organizations in a context of volatility, uncertainty and complexity created by the challenges such as low economic growth, increased income inequality, unpredictable climate change, and in an integrated world a health threat in one part of the world could easily spread to other parts. We need to be prepared and above all, we need to be resilient. During the Covid-19 pandemic we learned the importance of being razor sharp in our focus and our decisions; with a sense of urgency around execution. During a health or any other crises, it is of paramount importance to prioritize the well-being of employees which in turn will enhance the employee brand and will create greater loyalty from employees in the future. It is also important to take bold decisions in a time of crisis and in our case, we made a decision to take temporary salary cuts across the whole organisation. In a country with a high level of unemployment, it is important to look for creative solutions to problems.
Brigitte Da Gama, Chief People’s Officer at McDonald’s South Africa
Brigitte Da Gama has over two and a half decades of experience in the Human Capital field and has worked in the higher education, IT, investment management, banking and hospitality sectors. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Industrial and Organisational Psychology from the University of Cape Town as well as an MBA from the University of Stellenbosch. She previously served on the Council of the University of Cape Town and was the Chairperson of the Board of Directors for a non-profit training and development company for seven years that serves impoverished farming and rural communities.