Find the right team, says Neridha Moodley, head of People and Culture at SNG Grant Thornton

Neridha believes that good mentors show leadership, and the skills you don’t have can be learnt.

When Neridha Moodley joined a firm called Gobodo Inc. as a manager in the assurance department, when she was just about to write her final board exam, little did she realise that 20 years later she would be an executive director at SNG Grant Thornton, one of the world's leading independent assurance, tax and advisory firms, with responsibility for the people and culture function.

“I have been with the firm through a number of mergers and progressed with them along the way. I have been a director for about 10 years,” she explains.

Neridha credits Gobodo Inc. founding partner Nonkululeko Gobodo, South Africa’s first black woman chartered accountant, and Victor Sekese, chief executive of SNG Grant Thornton, for much of her career progression.

Nonkululeko and Victor were also instrumental in leading the 2011 merger of Gobodo Inc. with SizweNtsaluba VSP to form SizweNtsalubaGobodo, South Africa's largest black-owned accountancy firm.

“Nonku appointed me as a director and asked me to head up the HR space at the time, as HR director. Over the past few years since she left the company, I have progressed to people and culture leader under the mentorship of Victor,” Neridha says.

The portfolio takes an all-encompassing look at the management of people from a more progressive perspective. It includes the traditional transaction aspects of HR, such as the management of employee relations and payroll management, as well as the transformational side, which speaks to being a change agent and strategic partner to business in order to create an enriching employee experience.

“Transformation talks about how to change culture, to have an impact and make sure people are on the right journey in the organisation. It’s also about how we make a difference to people, communities and the organisation as a whole,” she adds.


Legacy building
With the formation of SizweNtsalubaGobodo, the employee base grew from about 400 people to more than 1,200. “It was quite overwhelming. I went to Nonku and said, ‘I don’t have the skills and I’m worried,’” Neridha says.

The response Neridha received has remained with her. “She said: ‘You can build skills. Learn as you go along and surround yourself with the right team to help you deliver. Your role is to lead and you need to understand that,’” she recalls.

It was clear at that point that even without a formal HR qualification, experience counts for a lot in an organisation, as does the ability to understand what is needed and to deliver on those needs.

“I appreciated that context, and the firm subsequently sent me on leadership courses and contributed to my growth,” she says.
Taking on the leadership role also resulted in the mother of two teenagers playing a pivotal role in the formation of a corporate academy under the leadership of Dean Davey – a milestone in her career.

“I’ve had the good fortune over the years to work with professionals in the people and culture space and received a lot of growth and development under their leadership. I’ve had really great mentors, including Nonkululeko, Sathie Gounden, Dean Davey and now our CE Victor Sekese,” she says.

People potential
In turn, Neridha also provides mentorship to her team and colleagues. “Last year we successfully navigated our way through Covid-19, by keeping people engaged and providing continuous support and wellness assistance. We also learnt more about the technological efficiencies we needed,” she says.

Now the focus has shifted to the ability to maintain boundaries while planning for the workload ebbs and flows that every business goes through.

“I encourage people to schedule time off. It’s pointless waiting until the end of the year to take a break. My advice is to schedule time off every quarter or extend a long weekend. You can recharge your batteries in that way,” Neridha says.

In addition, she has been coaching younger employees to consider practical aspects of working from home, such as taking stretch breaks and having water and snacks available during a day of back-to-back virtual meetings.

The avid reader is also unwavering in her commitment to the company that realised her potential. “I work for a brilliant firm. I love the firm, the culture, the environment. There is so much potential in our people and I have the unique opportunity to live my purpose through the work I do at the firm. So, although I have had the opportunity to go elsewhere, why would I?” she asks.