Nando's CHRO Bridget Murphy strengthens the peri-peri thread

The HR leader has moved from the nuts and bolts to leading the people agenda.

Bridget Murphy, chief people officer at Nando’s South Africa, always knew she would pursue a career in HR.

“I chose HR. I think I knew when I was in Grade 11, which is normally when you start making decisions on what to study after high school. I have an innate passion for people and wanted to make a difference in people’s lives,” she says.

The born-and-bred Capetonian started her career in HR as a personnel officer at Bonnievale (now Parmalat), getting involved in the “real nuts and bolts administrative aspects”, which involved payment of wages, wage queries, system changes, garnishee orders and capturing leave. “It was an important part of my journey to learn the foundations and build on that,” she says.

She then moved to the Edcon group where she honed her HR skills for nine years.

Bridget then moved to Massmart, initially as a regional people practitioner before transitioning into the head of talent for Builders Warehouse. Here, her business partner approach was exemplified.

“The operations so valued me as an HR practitioner. I went to every meeting and was consulted on decisions whether they related to HR or not. It was about finding HR solutions to business problems and speaking the business language,” she explains.

After the Walmart acquisition of Massmart, Bridget was appointed to the integration team, to the role of director of change.

“There was a need to have someone who understood the business and the culture of the organisation to manage the cultural integration to merge the two companies. Walmart is the biggest retailer in the world and I was exposed to best practices. It was also a crazy, fun time for me and I enjoyed it. I spent time in the US, the UK, Nigeria and Kenya and went through an executive development programme through Gibs. Going into the African continent and understanding the market was amazing,” she says.

Now, 20 years into her career, Bridget is still nurturing her passion for people, this time by weaving the peri-peri thread into her journey.

“There is a common thread that binds us all at Nando’s – the peri-peri thread. It’s literally a thread, like a heart made out of the dye of our red chillies – our chillies are exported to all markets across the world,” Bridget says.

A good example of the peri-peri thread in action is the quarterly global HR director forum, which Bridget is part of. “Although each market is different and has its own challenges, the global community of HR leaders collectively works on matters like a universal leadership framework and values,” she explains.

Bridget took these to heart from the time she took on the role in October 2021.

“My first priority has been to understand the business as a whole, to gain an understanding of the work of our Nandocas and to work in a casa (the Portuguese term for restaurant). I wanted to understand what the staff do and what they deal with on a daily basis. I spent a week in the casa and by the end of that week, I was finished. My feet were sore and it was hard work!” she says.

Bridget adds, “The experience was very meaningful and important for me. It’s all about the staff at the restaurant, our Nandocas.”

She has always believed Nando’s has a strong consumer facing brand. “Externally, people see the marketing and the adverts. This fun is replicated internally. There’s a strong focus on employee experience. It’s not just lip service,” she says.

She adds, “We want to be seen as a youth and first-time employer. So, employees should have a positive experience preparing them for better opportunities in the future. There is an amazing culture at Nando’s and I am proud to be here, leading the people agenda for Nando’s.”