HR executives explore heightened challenges in the industry


Embracing technology, upskilling workforce, and prioritising employee wellbeing are top of the list.

In the ever-evolving landscape of the modern business world, HR executives are currently grappling with an array of unprecedented challenges: tasked with navigating complex issues such as rapid technological advancements, shifting demographics in the workforce, and the aftermath of global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yvonne Tshepo Mosadi, human resource director at Hyundai Automotive SA, says in her opinion the biggest challenge is the rapid uptake of technology. “The challenge for HR is around execution and driving adoption in order to show ROI to the shareholders,” she says. “HR can expect to be scrutinised for the investment of enterprise tools that the business funds.

“HR leaders need to become more comfortable with how they use the data and be less prescriptive and more predictive. In order to achieve this, people leaders will have to achieve new levels of programme management capability, consistency, leveraging of data and analytics, and overall command and influence within their organisation.”

HR will have to take its position at the executive table around the user experience
of enterprise technology and no longer make technology an IT department problem, she adds, pointing out that what is most important is how people interact with tech. “HR will have to be the gatekeeper on making decisions for the tech that’s best for their people, based on needs.”

Sungeetha Sewpersad, the chief people officer at Rand Merchant Bank, agreed, adding that the move to digitally enhance the human capital function via their WorkDay platform, will enable leaders and employees to navigate their human capital (HC) processes on a single system.

“Once we get this system fully embedded in the organisation, the HC capability can evolve to the next level of strategic partnership. We can no longer rely on the skills of the past to progress us into the future. To remain relevant, we need to consistently upskill and reskill.

“This requires us to evaluate our kit of parts (skills set) for every role on an annual basis. For skills like technology and data, the review will have to happen more frequently.

“The world of work is rapidly evolving: with ChatGPT, AI, robotics etc. we have to remain on the front foot from a skills perspective, ensuring that we provide the tools for learning as well as varying platforms to enable the learning journey.”

Julia Modise, group human resources director for BMW Group South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, reckons the biggest challenge is the unpredictability of the work.

She adds that the geopolitical issues that are taking place, and the instability globally requires HR to think differently. “We cannot get into a situation where we make things up as we go along. Now, HR is required to look at the world and see what we can predict, plan for risks, and find answers to mitigate problems before they arise.

“The world has also become so small that we are not only fighting for talent among companies in the country. International companies can hire South Africans to work for them remotely. So, HR needs to be agile and make sure that the people processes, benefits, and pay structures are flexible enough to attract talent and create a culture that people can be happy with.

“Culture is crucial to employee and customer experience. What I am acutely aware of is that while technology is great, it can never completely replace human beings, so the human and social aspects will always remain necessary.”

Both Yvonne and Sungeetha add that employee wellbeing and mental health are still an issue.

“Mental health still remains the big challenge facing HR leaders. The recovery from the pandemic, coupled with the recent economic downturn and high interest rates, have a huge impact on employee wellbeing. In order to build people first, organisation employee wellbeing is crucial,” says Yvonne. “The one-size-fits-all wellness programme will no longer be yielding any positive results. To overcome this, employers have to deploy a significant transformation programme focusing on mental health and wellbeing.”

Sungeetha adds that addressing the six dimensions of wellness, which are proven drivers of performance, fulfilment and engagement, may be a feasible way forward.

“These are physical, mental, spiritual, financial, emotional and social,” she says. “With the rise in remote work and hybrid work arrangements, wellbeing is becoming an increasingly important topic. With our ‘always on’ culture, this unfortunately leads to unintentional impact on an employee’s health and wellbeing.”

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