HR leaders weigh in on the importance of culture in organisations

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Panellists told the HR Indaba that culture must be inclusive and accessible, as well as transformative.

Vodacom group head Thando Nkosi told attendees at this year’s HR Indaba that culture must be transparent and also reflect the importance of community. “Vodacom has an inclusive, transparent spirit behaviour, where we push for inclusivity for all, and have equality in leadership where we get it done together,” he said.

Thando emphasised that the role of HR is evolving, and culture in organisations needed to be adaptable and agile.
He added that KPIs should also be in line with the organisation’s culture as it impacts how the company succeeds. “You can’t expect to have a successful business if your performance goals do not align to the company’s purpose,” he said.

Transformative culture

Webber Wentzel’s HR Director Nametsegang Maruping added that having a transformative culture in an organisation was important to adapt to change. Nametsegang unpacked how Covid-19 forced Webber Wentzel to transform its culture to suit their employees in uncertain times.

“Covid-19 taught us to be human and be intentional about our cultural transformation in the firm. It has highlighted the importance of wellness and to be comfortable around someone suffering from mental challenges.”

She described how the pandemic forced teams in the firm to learn to adapt to uncertain times and taught leaders to provide solutions for their teams who were struggling with mental health issues.

“We have leant to accept that it is okay to disclose that you are suffering, and we have been able to support our staff through the challenges,” she said, adding that the firm’s cultural transformation is proactive and purposeful and aims to empower its employees mentally, physically and through their careers.

She explained that the company partnered with the Helen Suzman Foundation in providing research and litigation to communities and has also provided 17,000 hours in pro bono cases to invite communities into the culture of the company.

Old Mutual Human Capital Director Celiwe Ross said that culture in a company should highlight why companies have values and how they align with the culture of the company. She added that the culture should reflect the connection between the company and employees.

“People are looking for simplicity in companies, and organisational culture should reflect that by creating a personal connection between the company and its employees.”

Mental health importance

Celiwe added that companies need to increase psychological safety in their culture-building to enable employees to speak without prejudice. She added that companies should invest in building its leaders’ capabilities to deal with the mental wellness of employees.

“We need to be intentional about time: we must create time and space to help people deal with their mental wellness and also provide solutions as leaders by continuously having the conversations to find out how our employees are doing,” she said.

On mental health, Nametsegang urged delegates to be proactive in dealing with mental health problems for employees.
She said they must take action and support employees by “getting psychologists to come and help employees and provide mentorship programmes for our leaders to be able to identify employees that are suffering from mental health problems.”

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