HR's advice to finance


What Vodacom CHRO Matimba Mbungela believes the finance profession should keep in mind about people

The first CHRO SA event for 2018 will be held in collaboration with brother company CFO SA, and will see finance and HR professionals alike  invited to engage with one another on the topic of people-driven business success. It is sure to be an interesting event, as finance and HR are functions that, in some companies, do not have a good history of communication and collaboration. One function is focused primarily on delivering prudent financial initiatives and results, while the other focuses on the people who are charged with doing so. Vodacom CHRO Matimba Mbungela spoke at Finance Indaba Africa 2017 about what HR professionals wished finance professionals would keep in mind, saying they had to remember that, at the end of the day, people are not machines. He said that, sometimes, people can be so immersed in trying to deliver month-end results or having to deliver a perfect audit that they forget that the people who are doing that work need to be inspired and need to feel like the organisation cares about them.

"Sometimes I think we overemphasise the success of a business in relation to the numbers and the commercial propositions instead of the person behind. I think that is one of the things that (CFOs and finance line managers) have to think about. That is, that you have a person comes up with and executes those brilliant ideas, who sacrifices a lot to make sure that deadlines are met. Don't underestimate the fact that these people are looking up to your for inspiration," said Vodacom CHRO Matimba Mbungela.

"Once you have established what the team or business goal is, how you get there becomes so important. It’s more important than meeting whatever target you have. For me, it’s about having people that are willing to go to war with you," Matimba continued, adding that in the era of scarce skills, many people are working at whichever company they are at by choice. Many of them are headhunted but do not move to those companies because they choose to remain with their current employers.


Matimba also says it is important to have a little more compassion. "When somebody makes a mistake or does not deliver to the required standard, for example, it is not always the best approach to reprimand them," he says. Sometimes a person needs a word of encouragement and to feel like their effort was noted and simply be given another chance to prove themselves. Many times, people are very hard on themselves and are already a little bit insecure about the work, he says, so it can help to let them know it's okay to make mistakes, as long as they learn from them.


The alternative approach, which many finance professionals unintentionally take, is to view people as assets which simply have to deliver a return on investment. And, while this may be the prudent way to look at it, it is not realistic because people are not machines. They have lives outside of their work environment. They have families, friends and activities that they enjoy doing, and which have nothing to do with improving their company's bottom line. It is important for organisations to be aware of that because, at the end of the day, people are not only driven by money.


Said Matimba: "People have so much information and don't know how to synthesise it. Technology has made people so accessible that it is difficult for them to switch off and not be at work. If I get a message for something that urgently needs to be done at 5:30pm on a Friday afternoon, I have a choice to either pass the pressure onto my team, who may have plans or may be looking forward to a relaxing weekend, or say to that person that I need a reasonable amount of time to complete the task and then only bring it to my team's attention on Monday morning. It's really about being more considerate. That can go a long way... Sometimes we don't filter as managers and that can be dangerous because if you continually pass whatever pressures you have onto your team, morale is bound to be affected."


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HR relatively  safe in the age of digitisation

What Matimba has enjoyed most about the HR profession is the way it has evolved from a function that focuses primarily on labour relation to what is now a key strategic function within any business. HR plays an important role in terms of shaping the culture and the talent imperatives of an organisation. Shaping the talent agenda of the business is vital to developing a forward-looking strategy, as it speaks to the kind of abilities and traits that an organisation is going to need both in the short and long term. If a company is not able to adequately plan for or finance the kinds of skills they need, it will struggle to succeed in a what has become a rapidly changing business environment for most industries.


"By no means is it only HR that is undergoing such strong evolution. In fact, when I look at the whole world of digitisation, I would probably say HR is one of the least threatened professions. Of course, the manual processes will become increasingly automated over time, but when one looks at the overall value-add of the role, I don't think there is too much room for mechanisation," said Matimba. "I don't know how possible it is going to be for a machine to be able to assess the skill and personality requirements of an organisation and be able to map that into a company strategy. That's just one example that makes me feel like I am going to be safe as an HR professional living in the age of digitisation."


Leaving accountants with something to think about, Matimba said he was not sure if the finance profession was as safe for technological disruption and displacement, further showing how much the functions need to rely on each in terms of navigating the future.

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