Devandre Lawrence: Pernod Ricard’s star addition to the HR leadership team

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Devandre Lawrence, recently appointed as head of HR at Pernod Ricard South Africa & Inverroche, explores his remarkable career voyage, riding the waves of triumphs and tribulations and his vision for the future of HR.

Devandre Lawrence, the newly appointed head of HR at Pernod Ricard SA & Inverroche, says he has a few immediate go-to tasks as he joins the world’s second-largest wine and spirits seller this month. His commitment is twofold: elevating Pernod Ricard’s market position globally and fostering an environment of equal opportunities to contribute to a more inclusive economy.

“I am dedicated to taking the brand to new levels, aiming to secure the top position in all markets and promoting equal opportunities, thereby contributing to a more inclusive economy.”

He adds that his overall aim is not to just enhance Pernod Ricard by leveraging the organisation’s current strengths and making significant contributions to its overall success, but also to foster growth among individuals and cultivate strong partnerships with stakeholders.

“I was drawn to this position by the organisation’s vibrant people and culture The allure of being part of a company that embodies the #Convivialist spirit, bringing good times from a good place, was irresistible to me. The firm’s brand is steeped in a rich and captivating narrative, shaped by the contributions of many over the years. It’s the genuine care for people and the shared ambition to make a global impact that motivated me to join this family and contribute to something greater.”

A decade of HR excellence

Devandre joins the wine and spirits maker from YUM! Brands where he was a people capability partner, a position he held between April and December 2023.

“In this capacity, I collaborated with over 30 franchisees, guiding them in optimising their restaurants by building organisational capability and adapting to evolving business models. I focused on fostering a culture that is both heart-led and high-performing.”

Prior to that, he spent eight years at Nando’s SA, where his role evolved from an HR business partner to general manager: people operations, HR shared service and business intelligence.

“These positions are what transitioned me into the quick service restaurant industry, and also cultivated my strategic partnership capabilities, enhanced my business acumen and honed my leadership skills. I was also part of the leadership team that established strategic capabilities within the people function and instituted the HR shared services and business intelligence model to future-proof the organisation and serve people through efficient and effective systemic ways by elevating the end-to-end people experience.”

Other positions he has held since entering the world of HR in 2013 include being an HR officer at Pick n Pay Supply Chain.

Devandre earmarks winning the Rising Star Award within the tourism, retail, and hospitality industry. He attributes much of his success to exceptional mentors and coaches who fostered an environment of learning from failures and embracing calculated risks.

“While personal victory was not my primary goal, I aimed to extend the opportunity to others. To achieve this, I introduced the programme at Nando’s, facilitating an internal nomination process and supporting individuals on their journey. Through these initiatives, I sought to make a positive impact on the lives of my colleagues, providing them with opportunities for professional growth.”

However, his journey was not without challenges. Navigating through the unprecedented disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic presented a significant hurdle. “As HR leaders, we had to prioritise the wellbeing of our employees while simultaneously ensuring the business’s financial stability to safeguard their employment. We were entrusted with the responsibility of guiding businesses through the dynamic changes brought about by the crisis.”

During this period, he adds that their roles evolved, demanding HR practitioners to provide strategic counsel on both short-term and long-term processes, policies, and goals.

“We played a crucial role in devising effective measures to safeguard our people and the organisation as a whole. Despite the difficulties, these challenges presented opportunities for us to rethink traditional methods and embrace innovative approaches, setting a benchmark for the future of HR.”

Looking ahead

Looking ahead, Devandre envisions the facilitation of the digital age as a paramount trend in HR. This, he says, involves establishing an ecosystem that fosters strategic partnerships from the ground up, ensuring consistency across all disciplines.

“The focus is on exploring opportunities to enhance access to digital platforms, with an emphasis on cultivating future capabilities and global talent pipelines. This approach provides a comprehensive organisational perspective by encouraging cross-collaboration and amplifying skills. By ingraining these practices, we can reshape work methodologies, advocate for hybrid systems that accommodate flexible working conditions, meet business imperatives, and attract a diverse range of talent aligned with both business and individual needs.”

Contributing to creating a greater world as well as driven by his passion for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), Devandre also predicts that these principles will be a prominent trend in HR for 2024.

“DEIB is gaining increased significance as new generations join the workforce. Organisations that create an environment of belonging, where authenticity is valued, uniqueness is embraced, and a sense of pride and purpose is fostered, are becoming more appealing. During challenging times, fostering a culture of high performance remains crucial; however, true productivity emerges when individuals feel empowered, have an equitable seat at the table, and embrace inclusion at every organisational level.”

As Devandre takes on the role at Pernod Ricard SA & Inverroche, he hopes to bring some of these insights and expertise to fruition. “I am committed to being part of the evolving landscape of human resources,” he notes.

 

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