CHRO Latisha Naidu is breaking boundaries in the automotive sector


The HR leader honed her craft by breaking boundaries and getting involved in every aspect of the business.

Latisha Naidu, HR executive at Kia South Africa, first became interested in HR when she worked in the family business over the holidays.

“It started out as vacation work in our family business conducting the HR and payroll function at our yacht building factory in Durban, which is when I decided to study industrial psychology,” she says.

Her formal career in human resources started in the recruitment space, and from there Latisha moved to HR officer to generalist to business partner before taking on her first executive role at Motus head office.

Throughout this 15-year span, the passionate mentor has taken advantage of opportunities to grow, and break boundaries in her career.

“The only way to learn about your business and add immense value is to get involved in every aspect of the business,” she says.

That’s exactly what she has done at Kia, as during her first year at the automotive importer, she has already managed to achieve great results including the launching of a financial wellness and coaching programme to help employees struggling with financial problems learn to deal with them.

Employee support

Latisha, who is also passionate about coaching, understands that although HR can’t solve all employees’ financial stressors, they have been able to assist employees to be more-savvy with their money.

The financial wellness programme gave birth to other mental wellness programmes which assisted in “encouraging employees to bring their full selves into the workplace”.

“As much as the automotive industry is one that is fast-paced and often seen as ‘sink or swim’, we acknowledge that our employees need support if they are going to be able to perform to the best of their abilities,” she explains.

Latisha’s bold character has enabled her to acknowledge that Kia’s employees are not exempt from the problems highlighted by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, which reported that one in six South Africans suffer from anxiety, depression or substance abuse problems.

“We need to be brave enough to create the spaces to have these discussions,” she says.

Latisha is driven by creating a healthy environment for employees to fully express themselves and grow. At Kia, she does this through shared experiences and assisting in creating safe spaces where people can learn and grow.

Empowerment and transformation

She added that the mission for 2023, is to accelerate the inclusion and empowerment of women in the automotive industry by actively promoting and recruiting women into various positions across Kia South Africa’s operations.

The company has already made great strides towards empowerment and transformation, "and we’re proud that our head office operations include 66 percent women overall, and 63 percent at head of department level".

Kia provides a supportive environment where HR does not have to fight for initiatives to be accepted and is fully supported by CEO Gary Scott, with implementation being driven through the entire exco team and filtered down, according to Latisha.

“HR truly has a seat at the table at Kia South Africa and I am so excited about the difference I can make. It is rare to find an organisation where employees are genuinely happy to come to work, and I feel like I have found one of those rare gems,” she says.

Latisha’s focus for 2023 is on the continuous creation and alignment of the HR strategy to ensure that all initiatives support business operations, with the aim being to maximise business results by leveraging the potential realised in each employee.

"I believe that the employee experience informs the customer experience. If our employees are happy, they will serve our customers better. If our customers are happy, they will keep returning. Aligned with Kia’s vision of being loved by all South Africans, we aim to first be loved by our employees," she says.


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