Big changes coming for Eskom employees

Eskom’s board is taking steps to fix the utility’s dysfunctional organizational culture, including implementing performance incentives that it hopes will improve the performance of its power stations. 

This is feedback from Eskom chairperson Mteto Nyati, who told CNBC Africa that the utility’s board has spent the past 18 months understanding the systemic issues facing Eskom. 

One of these systemic issues is the organisational culture, which Nyati described as an “unhelpful and dysfunctional culture”.

Other issues included the utility’s over R400 billion debt, criminality within Eskom, its unreliable operations, and leadership instability. 

Nyati paid particular attention to the problems with Eskom’s culture and employee morale as this issue bleeds into the ongoing struggles with the utility’s erratic performance and the rise in criminality. 

The chairperson’s comments came after a report by the German consultancy group VGBE Energy outlining Eskom’s staff problems. 

The VGBE team said Eskom’s staff are frustrated and unmotivated and work in an environment characterised by indifference, ignorance, and blame-shifting. 

Another major issue they pointed out was the low morale of the Eskom staff, which was created by a poor work environment and broken corporate culture. 

The report said that Eskom does not have a reward system for good performance, which discourages staff from working harder and producing better results. 

“As a result of the continuous crisis mode, many employees are frustrated and demotivated,” the experts said. 

“In many areas, a working atmosphere characterised by indifference, ignorance and blame-shifting has been fostered.” 

They called on Eskom to change its corporate culture and recommended it implement an incentive scheme to encourage good performance at an individual level. 

For example, power plants should receive a bonus if they can reduce their losses by a defined percentage. Another incentive could be to provide accommodation for Eskom staff – free of charge – near the power plant.

Nyati said Eskom’s board has outlined a strategy to tackle these issues and will implement some of the recommendations made by the VGBE team. 

“We found certain cases where leaders were not leading, and managers were not managing. That means we have the wrong people in those positions,” he said. 

He said the utility has to get people into key positions who understand Eskom, understand coal-fired power stations and can lead. “We want people who have lived in this space,” Nyati said. 

The utility will seek to improve employee morale by implementing incentive structures that encourage the right behaviour. 

“Now we have a team that is going to build the culture you are looking for – a culture of accountability and discipline.”

Nyati did not say whether this would include bonuses, which Eskom has not paid out since 2017. 


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