HR leaders will be encouraged by some of the insights from CFO Day

'Talent' was very much at the centre of discussions even in a room full of finance professionals. 

Disruption was the main theme at South Africa’s second annual CFO Day, which was held at Marble Restaurant in Rosebank on 23 July and saw some the country’s top finance leaders gathered for a day of exceptional networking, inspirational thought leadership and fantastic cuisine. While the event was exclusively attended by finance professionals there were many points raised that are typically the forte of HR leaders. 

In many respects, the event brought home the notion that, no matter what value proposition a company or product has for its consumers, ultimately it is always the people within an organisation that have to deliver the goods. Among the key insights, for example, was that the best technology in the world won't help a business become more agile if the culture is not an enabling one.

Kevin Brady, the CEO of two-year-old stock exchange A2X shared his views on what it takes to disrupt the market, and among the four pillars of disruption, he said it was extremely important for startups to find the right mix of people who believe in the purpose and culture of the organisation because, in those early days, it will be nigh on impossible to motivate people using money.

This was echoed by Victor Sekese, CEO of SNG-GT, who spoke about the challenges they faced in becoming a disruptor to the Big Four audit firms, saying that without the right culture and common purpose it would have been more difficult to continue asking people to stay committed to the cause despite having to forgo the fruits of labour that were promised from the onset.

"We had some people saying, “look, I’m still earning much less than I was earning in when I left my previous firm and I was promised that I would earn much more,” said Victor. “And we’ve had to say to them, wait, your sacrifices will pay off,” said victor

People are key to any turnaround strategy

Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko spoke about people being central to his strategy for turning the company around. Upon joining the organisation, he said he had many conversations with people and learned that the business was viewed in an extremely negative light by consumers and employees alike, and started taking measures to transform the perceptions of the people within the business first.

“People want to be dealt with fairly and in a transparent manner. The relationship between management and labour doesn’t have to be adversarial. But it has been that way for a very long time so it can take a very long time to change that dynamic.”

Sipho said they took steps to ensure that employees in the call centres were treated with the same level of importance as those in head office. And, when the time came to implement headcount reduction policies, the company started with management first, which was something that he says garnered credibility for executive leadership.

Leave stress unchecked at your peril

Performance expert and author Richard Sutton explained the extent to which stress and depression can have on business and society as a whole, urging business leaders to revisit the environment they have created for themselves and their employees. Stating that South Africa was the second-most stressed nation in the world, he highlighted the negative impact this can have on organisations if this is left unchecked, explaining that stress is the result of an imbalance between effort and reward. 

“South Africans are hard-working people but we still have an environment in which the rand is losing its value and people are getting retrenched despite their efforts to deliver value for their organisations.”