Diversifying traditionally male roles means fresh approach
As Sun International’s only female security manager she joins hands with an all-male cast at our other 12 properties. It is therefore unsurprising that Joanne van der Schyff places so much importance on the value of relationships as she goes about her workday at Sandton’s top rated Maslow Hotel.
Van der Schyff started out “wet behind the ears” with the hotel group, left 15 years later, and earlier this year came full circle to re-join Sun International, bringing another 15 years of experience garnered around the country across multiple hotel groups and properties.
Her role is “so much more than managing the traditional guard at the front gate” – and encompasses developing and implementing security policies, protocols and procedures, controlling budgets for security operations and monitoring expenses. Part of her daily duties include overseeing the privately contracted security officers and guards, currently a team of 18 who work in three shifts spanning 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“Security has evolved into risk management and the portfolio now includes reviewing compliance aspects to legislative requirements.”
Van der Schyff says she enjoys her “jack of all trades” work at The Maslow, an intimate property where she is also responsible for health and safety compliance issues for both staff and guests.
“We tackle these issues from a holistic point of view – from ensuring the basic ‘slip n trip’ preventions are in place to staff wearing the correct personal protection gear, but also going as far as looking at the hotel’s environmental footprint as the hotel has implemented changes to its operations to reduce its carbon footprint and environmental impact. These efforts have been formally acknowledged, with The Maslow Sandton being presented with a Green Hotel Award at the Meetings Africa 2020 Expo.
Van der Schyff supports wellness days for staff, making sure they understand the correct avenues to seek help if they have a problem at work or in their personal lives. “If your staff is unhappy or ill, it impacts on your business. Especially in a customer-facing business, we need our staff to be smiling and at their best,” she says.
Health and safety can often be a grudge purchase until something goes wrong. “Our emphasis is on ensuring that our guests stay healthy and nothing has reminded us of this fact quite like the Covid-19 pandemic.”
A typical day at work for van der Schyff is very staff focused. “I try not to spend too much time in the office as I believe you need to physically interact with your staff to build the team. I have few absenteeism issues and I believe this is due to the relationships I have built up from knowing my team personally.”
Depending on whether the hotel has a wedding or a large conference on, van der Schyff will remain at work long after traditional office hours are over. “I have great family support from my husband at home, who looks after our eight-year-old son when I am working late,” she says.
“I am on standby even when I am not at work, and encourage the teams to contact me if they are unsure of how to deal with a situation. I believe that you have to lead from the front. Security is vital in protecting the reputation of the hotel.”
An attractive blonde, van der Schyff is not afraid to get her hands dirty. “I carry a bunch of keys and if something needs to be done, I do it. Last week as we prepared to re-open the hotel after being closed for lockdown, I was in knee-deep in the foliage hoisting the Sun International and Maslow flags.”
It is this can-do attitude which has seen van der Schyff progress from her first position as a cashier with Venda Sun, when it was owned by Sun International, to working at the Carousel in online gaming investigations and onto Carnival City and then GrandWest in Cape Town.
“Working in fraud investigations on the gaming system was really where my analytical brain found its slot. Card counting syndicates used to keep us busy, and of course all the information we gleaned, we shared across the properties.”
Sun International holds a special place in van der Schyff’s heart. “I’ve had wonderful development and support over the years and wouldn’t be where I am today without people like Johan Van Wyk, retired Grand West Surveillance Manager and Shaun Rennie, retired Time Square Surveillance and Security Manager, as well as The Maslow General Manager Herman Swart, who have supported my career 100%.”
Van der Schyff draw inspiration from the women around her on a daily basis, from a housekeeper, who is a grandmother looking after her extended family, to executives.
“When I applied for my role earlier this year, I was asked how a woman features in a male dominant environment. My answer was that given the right training, support and equipment, any person can do any job. The Maslow gives wonderful support and training, so I believe I can move mountains.”