AECI's Candice Watson feels a heightened sense of responsibility as an HR leader


With many moving parts and misinformation floating around, Candice says staying informed about Covid-19 is a challenge in itself.

AECI group human capital executive Candice Watson says one of the biggest challenges with managing Covid-19 is keeping track of all the moving parts and trying to make decisions that are not only in the best interests of the business but also for the benefit of society at large. For her, it's been exceptionally challenging because one has to understand that every decision they make has a multiplier effect on the families and communities that impacted employees come from. 

"When I think about what the core competencies of an HR leader are, it's usually around our understanding of how to manage people, what processes are in place, what the legislative requirements are, and so forth. But when you are operating in different geographies as we are, it becomes more frustrating to keep abreast of how the pandemic is affecting people across different jurisdictions," says Candice, adding that there is also a sense of added pressure for HR leaders. 

"Even though we are not making the decisions on our own as HR leaders, our role is to influence and guide the business so, ultimately, we can't help but feel a heightened sense of responsibility, because this is our domain - people." 

This, she says, has been challenging in a world that is completely uncertain with the science behind how the pandemic is evolving changing on a daily basis. That is more so the case in South Africa because of the prevalence of diseases like Tuberculosis, diabetes and HIV/AIDS. 

"The sheer number of people that already have suppressed immune systems means there will be severe social consequences if the virus begins to spread as rapidly as seen in other countries."

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Candice says she has found it quite draining to keep abreast of all the information that is available, which in and of itself is not easy because one has to constantly be mindful of fake news, especially in this age of social media. 

That means following everything that is happening with the other governments, getting updates from the World Health Organisation, and watching all the televised ministerial debriefings to actually hear what is being said after the president's addresses and trying to make sense out of all that when adjusting the organisation's people strategy.

"Spending all this time sourcing information comes at a cost, because, at the end of the day, we all still have day jobs. People still need to get paid and there are parts of the business that are still running. Getting lost in the rabbit hole that is Covid-19 online research can drain your energy and limit your ability to show up in other areas of your work so you have to be careful of that," she says. 

"From a personal point of view, it takes up a lot of energy and time. It's exhausting and has been a mental strain to try and navigate all this uncertainty while also maintaining a level of confidence so that the leadership team can trust the advice you're giving them." 


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