Tirelo can't stress enough the importance of making a meaningful impact
Tirelo Sibisi, the Executive Vice President of Group HR at AngloGold Ashanti, is an MBA graduate with over 20 years' experience in HR, both locally and internationally, who started her career as a social worker and is still one at heart. She strongly believes that one’s life, both professionally and otherwise, must have a meaningful and positive impact on others. For her, everything she does must have some modicum of social relevance in terms of making a difference in the world.
“I always try to make it a point, in my engagements that as leaders t we have to make a meaningful contribution, not only to the bottom line but also to the communities in which we operate," says Tirelo.
“I honestly believe that improving education would go a long way to reducing the levels of social inequality within our country. At every company I've worked in, I've done mentorship programs and socially relevant initiatives that address some of the macro challenges that we face as a country. I've tried to focus on opportunities that enable me to contribute to addressing socio-economic challenges and being a change agent as much as possible."
Tirelo, who will be a speaker at the HR Indaba Africa, spent her formative years in the information technology sector having spent 10 years with IBM (South Africa and Paris) and thereafter six years with Telkom. She joined AngloGold after being the Group HR and Sustainable Development Executive at PPC Cement, with responsibility across South Africa, Rwanda, Ethiopia, DRC, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
She has particularly enjoyed her role in the acquisition of the new mining licenses and played an integral role in the development of sustainable community projects and social labour plans. During her tenure, she has played an integral role in the change management program as well as the implementation of a new remuneration strategy aligned to industry best practice.
She also developed and launched a mentorship program for young talent within PPC, a company where she enjoyed her time particularly because the CEO at the time, Ketso Gordhan, was so committed to improving the lives of others that he sacrificed his own salary so that the lowest-earning employees could get reasonable increases in wages.
The company also built houses for many employees at PPC Cement, which is something that Tirelo says she will always be proud to have been a part of because, no matter what happens, those people will now always have a decent house to call their home.
Says Tirelo: “One of the workers once stood up in a meeting and said that he still lived in a mud house, despite having made it his life's work to manufacture cement and the CEO empathised with the employee and initiated the employee housing initiative. It drove home the idea that this was somebody that I wanted to work with.
It was the same inspiration of having such a leader that similarly led her to join AngloGold Ashanti whose CEO, Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan (affectionately known as Venkat), undertook similar processes, refusing a salary increase for a few years and establishing his own bursary fund to educate a few underprivileged students.
“That's why, for me, any role I go into has a lot to do with the quality and values of the leadership.”
Mining has even bigger reach
In her current role, she oversees the HR capability of an international gold-mining company with 20 operations across South America, Africa and Australia d which employs more than 40 000 people. Tirelo says the mining space gives one an opportunity to make a difference and contribute on a large scale, and you can make a difference across levels of the organisation and society at large. Because you get exposure to all the communities where the mines are situated which, more often than not, are impoverished, particularly in Africa.
“One can make a difference through education programmes, local employment and through internal talent development but, ultimately, I think I wanted something much more impactful. For me, the mining industry operates on a much bigger scale. Even Talent management, from an HR perspective, is not only about internal succession but also about the talent in the areas in which we operate.”
The importance of mentorship
Soft-spoken yet strong-willed, Tirelo has often come to be referred to as one that provides counsel wherever she worked because of her values and belief in ethical leadership. She says that, with the current macro socio-economic challenges in SA today, including high unemployment rates, HR Executives can play a pivotal role in coming up with lasting solutions to help alleviate some of the social challenges while contributing to organisational and success.
Tirelo says she was fortunate to have been mentored by successful black females, who saw something in her and gave her an opportunity to become the person that she is today. This is why she is a strong believer in mentorship and up-skilling young talent to enable them to climb the corporate ladder and meaningfully contribute to their respective organisations.
“Companies often want people who are ready to jump into a new role and hit the ground running but sometimes it’s about reminding leaders that they are successful because someone also gave them an opportunity – they were not born CEO’s. They were also given a chance by people who believed in them. We therefore have to offer young hard working people opportunities,” she says