Abdullah Verachia reveals the makings of a future-fit HR function

CHROs at the Cape Town Summit hear how people-priorities have shifted, and organisations have to adapt.

On 23 June, 50 leading HR professionals gathered at the 180 Lounger in Cape Town to discuss how they could disrupt the HR function. During the summit, author and strategist Abdullah Verachia told the CHROs how they could equip themselves and their organisations to be future-ready.

He started by presenting some daunting statistics about the reality of South Africa’s population, and explained how crisis events affect how they show up to work. “South Africa’s working population spends 40 percent of their disposable income on transport to get to work. So when the fuel price rises by more than 20 percent as a result of the war in Eastern Europe, it has a dramatic impact on the livelihoods and the future sustainability of the people in our society.”

Additionally, Abdullah explained that during the Covid-19 lockdowns, children in rural communities didn’t have any education, while his own daughter had schooling for the full two years. “My daughter will apply to the same universities and for the same jobs these children will, but unfortunately she is 40 metres ahead in a 100-metre race.”

He added that Covid-19 has increased inequality, which will result in an increase of uncertainty. “Seven billion people have been dramatically impacted by Covid-19, and when something like this happens, it has an effect on the way you show up to work, how you innovate and the culture you are looking for.”

As a result, there has been a cognitive rewiring of human behaviour. People are yearning for workspaces that provide deeper elements of purpose and alignment in terms of what they do and how they do it. “This means we have to think about the workplace ecosystem and how we can create spaces that give people the opportunity to bring their best selves to work,” Abdullah said.

“The only way to do that is to deepen the observation in the organisation, to use that observation to have a better understanding, to use that understanding to increase awareness, and to then transform what we do.”

Abdullah explained that at the heart of all of this are the organisation’s people: “And while we sometimes think the role of people belongs to the CHRO or the human capital function of the business, it doesn’t. It belongs to everyone.”

He then posed a provocation to the attendees, asking them how they could create this awareness and understanding across the entire organisation. “To get the rest of the C-suite to appreciate the ways in which attracting, retaining and developing talent is important for the organisation, you have to speak in the strategy of the business, he said. “Speak in terms of how the role you play is important to the very essence of how an organisation creates and captures value.”

Abdullah concluded that, in order to disrupt the HR function, CHROs have to create a future mindset within their entire organisation, where people are the real superheroes.