HR used to only keep the workforce happy, but now it’s a change agent with greater responsibility.
On 19 October, an exclusive group gathered at Aurum restaurant at the swanky Leonardo in Sandton to discuss how HR leaders can embrace the principles and practicalities of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Good Work Framework.
The dinner was hosted by CHRO South Africa in partnership with principal partner Mercer.
The night kicked off with an icebreaker where attendees had to share what great lesson in life they had recently learnt.
The lessons expressed by the executives ranged from kindness, handling grief and most importantly looking after oneself in order to successfully look after others. It was clear that everyone was in for a night of honest and frank conversations.
The theme for the evening was informed by a recent collaboration between WEF and Mercer, which brought the Good Work Alliance, and developed the Good Work Framework. The framework offers a steadfast and purpose-driven methodology that helps organisations make commitments toward good work, based on 20 measurable goals.
One of the goals, shared Mercer CEO Tamara Parker, is people sustainability. This, she said, is a starting point for all organisations to think about the way that we are sustainable in the human capital space. “One needs to rebuild your workforce for a more human-centric, sustainable, and resilient future by redesigning people processes and work practices.”
One executive said most times with HR, the theory is easier than the practical. “It’s easy to talk about what needs to happen but practically, most things are difficult to motivate in terms of a business case and thereafter implement. As HR leaders we need to work together and challenge leadership to look at the bigger picture and return on investment.”
Diversity and inclusion
The framework also encourages the need to drive diversity, equity and inclusion. A point that is very important to the sub-Saharan market given the area’s unequal history.
An executive who is dealing closely with the BEE Commission explained how leadership is experiencing a lot of pushback when trying to engage in revamping the B-BBEE scorecard in its current form. “We have currently hit a dead end. They are not aware of what’s happening on the ground level. Even though employers want to comply, the scorecard is not logical from a commercial perspective. With the EE Amendment Bill, we have proposed new targets based on how subsectors operate, but the Department of Trade and Industry has set blanket targets for entire sectors and that’s not feasible.”
Diversity is an asset, another said, the more distinct differences there are in a room, the more potential for impact. “The whole report talks about understanding how we are different and finding a way to maximise the value from that.”
One lamented the scorecard in its current form as well, saying instead of fostering inclusion it is instead creating a platform where pockets of society can now create exclusive ‘clubs of belonging’.
“Social impact and diversity targets should not just be tick-box exercises. We look at these communities of belonging that we are all keen on developing in our organisations and ask – are these really inclusive or is it just an exclusive space for like-minded individuals?”
One guest explained how, just like DEI, mental wellness and burnout should not be a tick-box exercise. Narrating a story on a colleague’s society, the exec said as HR leadership, all those around the table need to lobby for more hard-hitting programmes that deal with the core of the issue and not the side-effect, which is depression and/or burnout.
“It’s impacting young people, especially men. They don’t want to get counselling. There was a young man who was reported to me for various issues and when I spoke to him, he said he had nothing wrong. When I told him about a boy that recently committed suicide, he admitted to needing support. But when he had a call, he refused help, saying he wanted to speak to a man.”
An array of other issues, including flexibility in the workplace, talent retention and much more were discussed at length over an exquisite fine dining experience, and by the end of the night, HR leaders all agreed that they take on the daily challenge of always making sure the employee experience is positive, but also realise that as a country there are major financial and mental wellbeing issues.
“We have to be the custodians and champions for positive change because we are at the forefront of the country’s workforce and see the positive effects first-hand.”
Those in attendance were:
Avanthi Maharaj, Market HR Cluster Lead, Google
Bongani Phakathi, Executive Human Resources and Public Affairs , Assore
Hope Lukoto, CHRO, BCX
Kgaogelo Letsebe, Senior Writer, CHRO South Africa
Kutlwano Rawana, Chief People Officer, Rectron
Ndima Rawana, Head of HR, PPC
Phil Tshikotshi, Vice President – Human Resources, Startek
Sungula Nkabinde, Community Manager, CHRO South Africa
Tamara Parker, CEO, Mercer
Themba Chakela, Chief People Officer, Blue Sky
Tseantha Naidoo, Career Consultant, Mercer
Unathi Sihlahla, Executive Head: HR (member), Rand Refinery
Zizile Lushaba, Human Capital and Skills Development Executive, SEISFA