Being a great place to work

We aim to be a great place to work | Infographic

Providing the right employee experience and being a great place to work are critical to differentiating us from other employers in a competitive market and enables us to attract and retain talent.

Great rewards

Our compensation programmes are designed to achieve our goals of attracting, motivating and retaining employees who can drive the achievement of our 2020Vision.

The primary components of pay include base salary, benefits eg medical and retirement, annual incentive awards and long-term incentives. Compensation levels are set to reflect competitive market practices and internal equity as well as company and individual performance.

Great culture

We have a strong talent management culture and mindset. One aspect of this is our recognition programmes which play and important role in motivating employees and establishing a high level of connection to the business.

At a global level, we present two annual awards:

  • The Technical Innovation Awards, and
  • The CEO Award for Excellence which recognises outstanding leadership behaviour and contributions to our business.

Regionally, we present the following awards:

  • SEU: The annual Coryphaena Award which recognises truly exceptional achievements
  • SNA: The quarterly Risk Taking and Ingenuity Awards
  • SSA: The Excellence in Achievement Awards, and
  • Sappi Trading: The SMART Awards.

SPE&1 Logo

The Sappi Performance Engine & i (SPE&i) initiative in SEU is aimed at putting our people right at the centre of our ongoing migration towards becoming a leader in continuous improvement. It is about the participation of all employees every day, working as teams to see how to best reach safety, quality, delivery and efficiency standards on the shop floor. Our SPE&i vision brings our ambition to the point: “Empowered by the Sappi Performance Engine, all of us together will be inspired to learn, trust, respect, deliver and win. We are driven by truth. One Sappi!”

Great company

A great company begins with a set of ethical values and a way of doing business to which all employees can relate. Employee engagement is another important foundation.


In 2016, we launched a revised Code of Ethics (Code) which incorporates the new Sappi values―At Sappi we do business with integrity and courage; making smart decisions which we execute with speed. Our values are underpinned by an unrelenting focus on and commitment to safety. The Code includes specific policies that guide employee behaviour and incorporates practical examples of possible scenarios which employees might encounter. Awareness and training programmes are ongoing in each region (see Key material issues – Ethical behaviour and corruption).

We take action against employees who do not abide by the spirit and provisions of the Code. Hotlines in each region facilitate reporting of breaches and we report on hotlines and ethics reports by category and outcomes in our Annual Integrated Report.

Butterfly | Image

Employee engagement

Clear evidence continues to link employee engagement to an organisation’s bottom line. We recognise that ascertaining levels of employee engagement is important in achieving our goal of building a workforce that is engaged, enabled and energised. Accordingly, we continue to measure levels of employee engagement every second year. In September 2017, we conducted an Employee Engagement Survey, aimed at measuring the following:

  • Changes in employee opinions and perceptions of Sappi as a place to work since the baseline survey in 2015
  • The evolution of Sustainable engagement at Sappi globally in order to understand what drives this important aspect of employee engagement among our employees, and
  • Our Employee Value Proposition to understand what motivates and drives our employees to work within Sappi―the first time metrics for this measurement were included. Because of its strong correlation to company performance, Sustainable engagement is used to focus analysis of the results on the most strategic areas to drive future success. We focused on Sustainable engagement, which measures employee commitment and motivation, but also enablement and wellbeing

While we included other categories for SEU, SSA and Sappi Trading, the 10 core categories contained in the survey were:

  • Development and empowerment
  • Ethics and values
  • Image and customer focus
  • Leadership and direction
  • Operational efficiency
  • Safety and wellbeing
  • Supervision
  • Sustainable engagement
  • Talent and recognition, and
  • Teamwork and communication.

We compared the results to the following:

  • Industry benchmarks―global manufacturing norm
  • Best in class benchmarks―high performing companies’ norm, and
  • Cultural benchmarks―regional norm for all supplemental categories.

In terms of the participation rate, the global participation rate was 85% – 15% up from 73% in 2015. The global manufacturing norm participation rate is 83% with Sappi exceeding this and the response rate for high performing companies is 87%.

There was an overall improvement in all categories that were measured in the survey when compared to the 2015 results. In addition, Sappi globally outperformed the global manufacturing norm in all but four categories measured in the survey. The most improvements were seen in SEU and SNA.

Globally the most improved scores were for:

  • Leadership and direction: 7% improvement on 2015 and 5% above the global manufacturing norm
  • Operational efficiency: 9% improvement on 2015 and 5% above the global manufacturing norm, and
  • Talent and recognition: 7% improvement but the global manufacturing norm indicates that we still need to do some work in this area.

We will continue to focus on Talent and recognition going forward. Other areas that have been identified as requiring focus are:

  • Image and customer focus: 1% overall improvement but still 2% below the global manufacturing norm, and
  • Safety and wellbeing: 1% improvement but still 1% below the global manufacturing norm.

The importance of ‘Sustainable engagement’

The most important dimension that is measured in the survey is Sustainable engagement because it gives us an indication as to how happy people are at Sappi, whether they intend to stay, if they are motivated and if they are energised and enable to do the work that they do.

Sustainable-engagement | Infographic

The results in terms of Sustainable engagement indicate the following:

  • Even stronger ‘traditional’ engagement than in 2015: 88% are willing to go the extra mile; strong rational buy-in and emotional attachment
  • Enablement: 80% say they have the tools and resources to do their jobs but only 46% say they are not confronted with obstacles―more than half either agree they are confronted with obstacles or are neutral, and
  • Energy: Strong results, and significant improvements since 2015.
Employee engagement

is one of our global 2020 sustainability goals.

See Targets.


Great jobs and great leaders

A key aspect of great jobs is creating opportunities and make resources available to enable our people to grow intellectually and bring new ideas to fruition. Training and development programmes are reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure they remain relevant to the changing needs of our people, the business environment and Sappi.

Our approach to training is decentralised, with each mill, function, business unit and region taking responsibility for training.

In our ongoing drive to build a learning culture, training is split between mandatory and skills training. On average for the group, the split between mandatory or compliance training and skills training is as follows (in terms of time spent) is 69% on skills development and 31% on compliance training. (Respective split in 2016: 76% and 24%; 2017: 62% and 38%).

While we invest in formal training and development programmes, we realise that potential is not only developed through training courses which develop competencies and skills. We provide our employees with opportunities to gain new experiences and through individual development plans which are based on creating the right conditions and circumstances which allow people to develop their careers.

Training initiatives

The focus of training and development at Sappi is to invest in current and future talent in order to encourage learning and growth, establishing a strong succession pipeline, increase change capacity and continuously improv business performance. We achieve this by growing the competencies of our people in three areas of competency: leadership, behavioural and technical. Training initiatives in each region aligned with this goal were as follows:

Sappi Europe

The focus in 2018 was on driving the learning strategy through the following pillars:

  • Implementing the 70:20:10 holistic development approach to support effective and continuous learning and ensuring personal growth. (70% of learning takes place on the job, 20% of learning is based on interaction with others and 10% is classroom learning.)
  • Leveraging the performance management process to facilitate the definition and creation of individual development plans.
  • Using line managers as coaches for people’s growth and success, and
  • Helping leaders succeed using the global leadership framework as a basis.

In addition, SEU continues to implement a number of key development initiatives, including:

  • Incorporating employees from Rockwell Solutions and the newly acquired mills in Italy into the Sappi Leadership Academy for 2019
  • Establishing a Sappi Business Academy in 2019 which will update employees from the new acquisitions on Sappi’s businesses, key people and leadership processes, and
  • Train and develop approximately 200 young apprentices mainly at the four German-speaking mills on a three- to four-year vocational training programme. This is done to build a technical talent pool that will replace staff going on retirement.

The Sappi Leadership Academy develops leadership skills and capabilities throughout the Sappi group.

Stacked wood log image

Sappi North America

In this region:

  • All salaried employees were required to complete an online intellectual property compliance training module by the end of 2018.
  • All sales, marketing and sales employees from all four business units completed comprehensive live legal compliance and Code of Ethics training, which included topics such as anti-trust, corruption, fraud, intellectual property protection, insider trading and governance.
  • We hired over 58 co-ops and interns during 2018 in functions including manufacturing, research and development, marketing, finance and human resources.
  • Somerset Mill significantly enhanced its use of the Convergence learning management system (designed specifically for the needs of industrial and manufacturing facilities) beyond the training for the new PM1 rebuild.
  • Cloquet Mill introduced a new supervisor training programme with modules including self-awareness and leadership.

Sappi Southern Africa

The key focus in 2018 was on:

  • Deployment of further online training resources with a focus on sourcing more specialised training. During 2018 the first engineering training was sourced from the world leader in plant reliability training, Mobius Institute. The full suite of plant reliability online courses is available to engineering teams across SSA. Employees have so far completed 166 modules and a further 85 are in progress.
  • The utilisation of the online video-based training through the Udemy platform continues to be high. The overall use of this category of training was 9,647 hours of online content, equating to 1,205 people days; 1,774 employees used this channel to learn.
  • The Sappi Manager in Training programme (MiT) is in its second year. The programme has received formal accreditation as a Level 4 Diploma in Leadership and Management from the London-based Institute of Leadership and Management, part of the City and Guilds group. From the 2017 intake, 24 participants are due to submit their portfolios of evidence in order to receive the qualification. The 2018 group has 86 participants.
  • The priority for young talent development programmes for 2018 - 2019 is the year-long Process Trainees and Production Interns Programme. It is designed to strengthen the pipeline of production-ready colleagues. There are 47 trainees in these two programmes at present.
  • The two technical training facilities, branded Sappi Skills Centres at Ngodwana and Saiccor Mills are fully operational. Basic handyman training is underway and the first intake for an apprentice bridging programme started in September 2018. The first trade tests for the mechanical fitter trade were successfully undertaken at the Ngodwana Skills Centre. Further work is underway at the Saiccor Skills Centre to expand the artisan training offering and the construction of a process plan simulator has commenced.

Sappi Skills Centres at Ngodwana and Saiccor Mills

We established two technical training facilities using our existing infrastructure at Ngodwana and Saiccor Mills in May 2017. The centres cater for basic handyman training for local unemployed youth with a view of enabling them to create micro enterprises. In addition, the centres are providing high-quality specialised technical training to mill employees. The first handyman trainees joined in October as a pilot and the centres became fully operational in January 2018.

Sappi Trading

The following training courses and workshops were arranged for and attended by employees in different regions:

  • Mastery and advanced mastery sales training were attended by employees in Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore and Latin American countries.
  • Employees in Hong Kong, Australia, and Shanghai participated in a global board collaboration workshop.
  • Employees from Hong Kong, México and Australia attended legal and paper training, and a mill tour at Somerset Mill.

The new Learning Management System will be rolled out across all Sappi Trading regional offices in 2019.

We track spend per category to ensure that training is directed where most appropriate and where skills gaps have been identified. We also monitor training in terms of gender to ensure that female employees are being provided with the same development opportunities as their male colleagues.

Average training hours by job category and gender

Training Hours Male averages | Graph

Training hours woman average | Graph

Total employees average | Graph

Employees with individual development plans

Employees indicidual development | Graph

Average training spend per employee

Employees indicidual development | Graph

Workers | Image

Eligible employees with completed or in progress performance appraisals

Female employees

Female employees Sappi Europe | Graph

Female employees Sappi North America | Graph

Female employees Sappi Southern Africa | Graph

Female employees Sappi group | Graph


Male employees

Male employees Sappi Europe | Graph

Male employees Sappi North America | Graph

Male employees Sappi Southern Africa | Graph

Male employees Sappi group | Graph


All employees

All employees Sappi Europe | Graph

All employees Sappi North America | Graph

All employees Sappi Southern Africa | Graph

All employees Sappi group | Graph