Great conversation, laughter and luscious food take centre stage at CHRO Dinner


CHROs revealed how they learnt to be agile, empathetic and innovative during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some of the country’s top HR executives gathered at the spectacular Saxon Hotel in Sandhurst, Johannesburg, this week, where they shared how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the way people work and how the role of HR has evolved over the past two years.

The dinner, hosted by CHRO South Africa in partnership with Workday, was a resounding success, as all guests honoured the invitation and took part in an insightful discussion while they enjoyed a selection of mouthwatering meals – from starters to dessert.

The mood in the private dining room where the dinner was held was upbeat as guests had the opportunity to mingle with their counterparts over drinks before they were seated.

CHRO South Africa’s managing director, Joël Roerig, set the mood by asking each guest to introduce themselves and tell others one thing people do not know about them. This was a moment of oohs and aahs as guests made their revelations.

From then, the conversation flowed and it was interesting to hear how HR executives shared similar and different views about how things have changed in the workplace and how they should be post-Covid-19.

Sharing the lessons they learnt over the past two and a half years, CHROs agreed that they had become agile and that since the pandemic, things had changed and continued to change everyday.

“The burnout kicked in and people started losing their loved ones. We had to support them, as we were dealing with real pain and loss,” one CHRO shared.

They said everyone in the workplace looked to HR for solutions. “It [Covid-19] taught me a lot about agility. I now make decisions on the fly,” the CHRO said. “The sense of agility was a big lesson.”

Another CHRO told of how the pandemic took their company through a digital journey as they developed an application to connect with and reach staff.

Collaboration has also become part of the development brought about by the pandemic. One HR leader said during the period, hierarchy became irrelevant. “Not one person could solve things alone,” they said.

The past two years, one HR executive said, had tested the concept of being a people-centric company. “Sending people home with laptops was not an issue, but people started asking for data at home. The value of diversity and inclusion was tested for us,” shared another CHRO.

According to one executive, Covid-19 has helped a great deal in terms of how staff have become engaged and how they speak openly and honestly about issues that affect them, including their wellbeing. “We are seeing a lot of willingness to discuss it. We are seeing engagement and Covid has brought in that softness in terms of how we handle people.”

The executives agreed Covid-19 brought the best and worst of times. When it came to the hybrid work model, there were very different views, with some arguing that working from the office brings a sense of “collaboration”. Others felt it was not necessary to ask people to go back to the office because they still conduct virtual meetings at the office.

“If people are at the office, it has to be purposeful,” one CHRO said.

“It is great, once in a while. We need to have a digital-first mentality,” another said.

Another CHRO said there was no need for companies to run an “adult day care centre” by expecting people at the office, because employees can self manage. “It looks like everyone has nostalgia for the old because they want people back at the office,” said one executive.

“Discussions with my colleagues don’t happen on Zoom. They happen at the office. We have to ask ourselves what impact working from home has had on the business,” said one CHRO, who added that he and his team have been able to make better decisions at the office than at home.

The evening ended with CHROs being thankful for the platform CHRO South Africa offers HR leaders. “This platform has been phenomenal. It’s always great to be able to share ideas,” said one leader.

Those in attendance were:

  • Beverley Bennett, HR Executive at Curro Holdings
  • Dewan Hamman, People Executive: Systems & Solutions, Smollan
  • Kiveshen Moodley, Country Managing Director, Workday
  • Latisha Govinder, HR Executive Kia South Africa 
  • Masenyane Molefe, Group Executive: Human Resources,  PPS
  • Michele Seroke, CHRO, Motus
  • Nametsegang Maruping, HR director, Webber Wentzel
  • Siya Mnyanda, Senior Enterprise Account Executive, Workday
  • S’ne Magagula, CHRO, Tiger Brands
  • Tumi Matseka, Chief of People Management and Learning, Transnet
  • Thembi Mazibuko, Chief People Officer, Pick n Pay
  • Tswelo Kodisang, Chief People Officer, First Rand Group

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