Dr Rozett Phillips urges HR executives to embrace remote work


Leaders need to change their thinking around remote work to bring out the best in their people.

Speaking to future leaders in attendance at the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) open day on 25 May, Dr Rozett (Roze) Phillips said the future of work needs leaders to think outside the box.

Roze, who was on the 2022 CHRO Awards judging panel, also holds the role of director and adjunct faculty at GIBS.

“The biggest challenge is not so much that employees don't have the skills to work remotely, but rather that leaders don't have the skill to allow employees to work remotely,” she said. “For me, the challenge is leadership during the time of remote work – it is a leadership skill that is needed to really understand people at a human level as opposed to a worker level, and that is where the investment needs to be.”

She said leaders, specifically managers, are accustomed to seeing people in person, and make performance decisions based on the people that they see. Unfortunately this is to the detriment of those that they don’t see.

“So one can imagine the challenge for people who choose to work remotely who are indeed performing, but don’t get noticed, as they are not seen.”

She adds that remote and hybrid work in itself is a positive move forward for organisations, mainly because there are many people who are marginalised inside a work environment because of other responsibilities that they need to take care of.

“So for them, focusing only on work has never been an option. They have never really been able to show up in the way that they need to. Now that we are able to work remotely, it almost democratises work a bit more, because we can then show up as ourselves,” she noted.

With increasing remote work, local talent is also being poached by international companies. Roze says this a feather in the cap for Africa.
“We really should be celebrating that Africa is now providing this wonderful pool of talent, because in essence that means that our young people are able to look after their families and be productive members of society, and in fact it is supposed to be an economic advantage for the continent.”

Local organisations that fear losing talent need to up their game, she said: “Be a talent attracter. Do not think of your people as if you own them, because you don't. As an organisation, you are enabling them, and they are supporting your business. Be purpose-led so there is more than just money that attracts the right talent.”

A winning partnership

GIBS and CHRO SA have a long-standing partnership, including the institution’s sponsorship of last year’s Learning & Development Award at the CHRO Awards.

On the day, CHRO SA hosted an exclusive HCD Lounge for HR professionals where leaders shared knowledge, exchanged interests, and opened up business opportunities.

“GIBS has over the years maintained strong relations with the HR community in South Africa, so we think it’s fitting to partner with CHRO SA, which helps HR leaders.

“We (and CHRO SA) have a shared vision to inspire organisations and contribute to a better South Africa. GIBS is proudly South African business school and we are committed to collaborations with this community to improve individual and organisational performance across South Africa and the continent,” said Clea Dias, head of marketing at GIBS.

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