Hire for attitude, not skill, says HR leader

A CHRO is one of the powerful influencers that stand behind every good CEO.

Standard Bank’s chief people and culture officer, Sharon Taylor, revealed that each person has four superpowers, and that attitude is one of them.

Sharon was speaking at CHRO Day which was held at the exquisite Marble restaurant in Rosebank on 12 May.

“I will hire any day for attitude before I hire for skill because you can teach skill, but that attitude and that ability for people to be energised and passionate about something, is incredible. That stuff is not the same for all our industries, but it’s important to figure out what that right stuff is for you,” she said.

She said an organisation that was experimenting with data and analytics was in a powerful position to understand what is going on in the system to generate insights and to help the business to grow and develop.

“Never underestimate the power of seeing the whole because very few people have an integrated view of life and I think that’s very powerful.”

“One of the superpowers of every single person in this room is that you have to do what you do when you’ve had to get to where you are through influence, and you should never underestimate that.”

According to Sharon, behind a good CEO stands a couple of powerful influencers and the CHRO is one of them.

Sharon emphasised that HR leaders had to balance between the technical capability and the “soft stuff”. She said she had found that what is lacking in interaction, not only with people in an organisation, but also with clients – is empathy.

A look back

Taking a look back at the Covid-19 pandemic and the changes it brought, Sharon said the last two years have been characterised by performance and transformation. “We all managed a crisis,” she noted.

At Standard Bank, Sharon said they had to ensure that their staff were safe, well, engaged and feeling confident about the organisation, and the fact that the organisation is putting its people first and being very careful about what it was asking them to do and being fair about that.

Moving from office to virtual work

Sharon said they had to pivot 70 percent of their workforce to work online. “We could see a lot of domestic violence and a lot of abuse with people working from home during the lockdown. The company found that people who lived alone and single parents struggled during the pandemic.”

She shared that the great new practices that companies should not lose were flexibility and connectivity, and the ability to get things done with and through people.

“Our board and leadership, of which I’m a part, made a decision that we were going to pivot our industry during this time. We were going to move from being a typical banking financial service into becoming a platform organisation. We went into lockdown in March and in May our board took a decision that we were going to be pivoting to a different business model.

“The leadership had to think about how the company would be structured and who was going to do which leadership roles.”

They also took a decision to put in place a vaccine mandate. “It’s been one of the most polarising things that I’ve ever dealt with in my entire career because it doesn’t matter what you do and which perspective you come at it from, you have to meet people where they are in terms of their views. It’s been a very interesting two years for us.”

She also announced that during the period, they had their first female chairman.


The importance of leadership and holding people accountable

Sharon said one of the things she had reflected on in her career was that people join organisations but they leave bad leaders.

“The poor performing teams in the business are the ones with the lowest engagement. When you go and look at the scores of the leaders that are driving those teams, it’s the leaders with the lowest scores in an environment they are creating for their people that are getting the lowest results,” she said.

She noted that most people get promoted for their technical capabilities and not so much for their leadership capabilities.

“You’ve got to decide who you can train and who can’t you train. You’ve got to pick leaders for the role that they play and not because they want some senior position with all the perks. Leadership is a calling and unless you can engender followership, you are not a leader.

“We are putting in place leadership effectiveness measures that we think we should be looking at. That is a lead indicator of what you can try and achieve in the future.”

Leaders, she said, are the people that create the environment for their teams. “We [at Standard Bank] are saying it’s our job to ensure that we create the environment where people can be the best version of themselves. Leaders are not perfect. They’ve got blind spots. Many of them need the mirror to be held up to them on the things they could improve on.”

She said HR professionals should be spending the bulk of their time working with the leadership.