HR Indaba Conversations opens with a gripping keynote from Bonang Mohale

The thought-provoking keynote address inspired the audience of top HR executives.

Author, Bidvest chair and recently appointed president of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) Bonang Mohale opened the HR Indaba Conversations with a scintillating keynote address before the online panel discussions commence on 5, 6 and 7 October.

An exclusive breakfast was held for 30 of South Africa’s top CHROs at Summer House on the beautiful Summer Place grounds in Hyde Park and was streamed to all registrants of the innovative HR Indaba Conversations.

The scrumptious breakfast, made possible by Diamond Partners Mercer and Workday, was a great way to kick start off a Monday, paired as it was with stimulating conversations.

Covid-19 impact
Bonang started off his keynote by sharing that on 11 July he had his first Pfizer jab and exactly 42 days later, his second. “So, if you love life as much as I do,” he said, “I am hoping that you are fully vaccinated by now.”

Bonang said that just as he is the product of a woman, in the world of work he is a product of chief human resource officers. He explained that when he grew up, human resource officers gave people human resource solutions, but in the wake of what we are currently facing (Covid-19), “I find that human resource officers are giving us business solutions.”

He noted that the pandemic had not created inequalities, but rather had exposed them so much more.

Bonang said that after 556 days of the lockdown that we initially thought would be mere weeks, we could choose, when we see our people after a long time, to ask them to deliver operational excellence, financial stability or final accountability.

“But I think the most important thing we can do is choose to be kind,” he said. “Ask your colleagues what they need and if you can, help them with anything.”

Considering wellbeing
Bonang continued that none of us will be able to claim we are well after this pandemic because we were designed to be social animals in bone and marrow. People are not called to be perfect – just to be real. And we are imperfect by design, he said.

“The wellbeing of our people becomes the most important thing, and nothing is more important than that,” he said. “Because health is not just the absence of disease and infirmity; it is the state of physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being, especially mental wellness.”

Bonang said people yearn for human interaction – to engage, interact and interface with other human beings – and the pandemic meant that’s not always possible.

“We need to ask ourselves, ‘How can I belong to myself so that I am present for others?’” he said, emphasising the importance of self-care – particularly for those who had found the strength to help others in the midst of their own challenges.

Conversations to be had
Bonang said conversations leaders should be having now are: how do we ensure that we build sustainability in the short term while focusing on long-term resilience? Because resilience in Africa is much more than food, energy and water.

How do we become leaders who are both courageous and empathetic? How do we contribute to turning the current economic crisis into an opportunity to thrive? We need to talk about how to strengthen our “implementation muscle” and develop new capabilities as a nation of people with great natural endowments.

Bonang concluded with a quote from his grandmother: "A child who is not engulfed with love and support by their community, will burn it down in order to feed himself.”

After Bonang’s address concluded, he responded to one or two questions from the live-streaming audience. Then the group of leading HR executives took the time to talk among themselves and enjoy a delicious breakfast.

The intention in the room was palpable as the business leaders present considered ways that they could respond to Bonang’s call to courageously support their people in taking the next steps to rebuild South Africa.