A mindset shift for HR practitioners from order takers to business partners


Tswelo Kodisang shares how HR can be an effective business partner at the HR Indaba

Unfortunately, many human resource departments have fallen into the trap of being process junkies, trend chasers and order takers instead of focusing on executing strategies that support the business, said Tswelo Kodisang, chief people officer at FirstRand, at the HR Indaba.

Take, for example, the department’s naming convention, he said. “How many times as a function, do we give ourselves different names? We’ve gone from Personnel, to Human Resources, to Human Capital to People and Culture. But do these name changes change our function? What is it that we do?

“We also don’t always apply ourselves when it comes to trends like, for example, the Great Resignation. Does it apply to South Africa? How often do we listen to concepts from other markets without understanding our landscape? Business wants our input, and they want an HR strategy that provides solutions,” he explained..
In order to address this misalignment, he advised that HR departments focus on their purpose, personal impact and addressed the needs of the business. “Understand what’s the job that needs to be done,” he said.

Tswelo believes that there is a lot that can be learned from Bob Johansen, author and distinguished fellow with the Institute for the Future, who says: “The future will reward clarity and punish certainty.”
He advised that to avoid falling into this trap, HR practitioners should focus on their call to action, align to their purpose, be credible and know their stuff. The business is interested in your expertise, he said, so HR practitioners need to go deep and avoid looking for silver bullet solutions and instead allow for iterations of strategies and systems. Most importantly he said, “Measure what you do. The numbers must speak for you. HR is a science.”

The function of HR, he said, is to have an impact on the business. He therefore advised the following: “Solve the problems that matter and that are tangible. Get beyond being busy. Don’t create work for the sake of it. Ask yourself: ‘What difference does what I am doing make? What impact does it have on the business? Focus on solving problems for the business. Make sure there is a starting point and end point. Measure it. Technology now allows us to measure people’s sentiment.”

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