Humility shines through at the 2022 CHRO Awards


The biggest winners described HR as a calling, especially in an era of unprecedented disruption.

On the evening of 17 November, the country’s top HR leaders gathered at the Polo Room at the Inanda Club in Sandton to be recognised for their exceptional work in what is often referred to as a thankless profession. The entire premise of the 2022 CHRO Awards is to try to change that, and it was certainly successful.

Guests were dressed to the nines, in attire that would rival the Oscars red carpet. This prestigious occasion was supported by CHRO SA community partners Deloitte, GIBS, MercerMarch Benefits, Momentum Corporate, and Workday.

Renowned comedian Loyiso Madinga opened the night with a witty and engaging comedy set themed around culture, which was appropriate given that the HR profession is centred on people and culture. He delighted the audience with his interpretation of which of the 11 official languages sounds the most romantic, aggressive, and dramatic.

Sungula Nkabinde, community manager at CHRO SA, then took the stage, and said the awards meant as much to him as they did to the CHROs in attendance. This was due to the fact that the previous two years had been extremely difficult for everyone, but on a personal level, during this year in particular, Sungula had to deal with some medical issues of his own. He expressed his gratitude to the HR community and the CFO South Africa team for their unwavering support while he was in and out of hospital.

The Johannesburg Queer Chorus, a choir for the greater Johannesburg LGBTQIA+ community, then took the stage and performed Siyahamba, a folk song that, when translated from isiZulu, means “We are marching”, and it certainly got the audience moving. Some of the guests couldn’t resist joining in the fun and began ululating to express their love for the song.

The first award of the evening, the HR & Technology Award, went to Njabulo Mashigo, executive director HR at Vodacom SA, the evening’s biggest winner. She emphasised the importance of technology in improving the employee experience.

Njabulo also took home the Transformation & Empowerment Award. She expressed her pride in Vodacom’s significant achievements in terms of employee advancement. “I am very proud to say that during my time with the Vodacom group, we have had significant promotions in exco. We are continuing to ensure that this transformation pervades the entire organisation,” she said.

The Strategy & Leadership Award went to Pumeza Bam, group executive people and culture at Liberty Group.

The Employee Value Proposition Award was presented to Portia Thokoane, chief HR officer at Dark Fibre Africa. “What we do as human resource professionals is a calling,” she said, “especially in this era of unprecedented disruption. From business to home, everything has changed, and there is no manual for what we do as HR professionals.”

The Learning & Development Award was given to Lee-Ann Samuel, who was unable to attend the awards ceremony, but had her award accepted on her behalf by one of her colleagues.

Tendayi Viki, an award-winning author and corporate innovation expert, then took the stage to deliver the evening’s keynote address, titled “The Entrepreneurial CHRO”. Leadership, according to Tendayi, is all about stewardship. “Half the job is what you’re doing now, and the other half is what you’ll be doing later,” he explained.

He told the audience that CHROs must attract and develop entrepreneurial talent. Tendayi believes that there must be a balance between the innovation team and the core business when it comes to innovation.

“CHROs are also responsible for developing policies that make it easier for innovation teams to experiment with new ideas by making legal and compliance within the organisation more favourable to them.”

Phil Tshikotshi, Startek’s vice president and country HR head, was named Young CHRO of the Year. “We accomplished a great deal during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said, “like going on a nationwide talent acquisition drive to townships to recruit many young people from underserved communities.”

“We also started an initiative at Startek to clear historical debt in order for these young people to finish their studies.”

However, the biggest win for the night went to Vodacom’s Njabulo Mashigo who was named CHRO of the Year 2022. She received a standing ovation as she made her way onto the stage to accept the award.

Njabulo gave an emotional speech. “I would like to dedicate this award to my mother,” she said. “She passed away in July this year. Mama, thank you for who I am and all the things I’m not.”

Njabulo also took the opportunity to reflect on her 20-year career, which began as a bright-eyed, 19-year-old aspiring CHRO, who never let her passion for the profession fade away. “My passion for the profession continues to grow,” she noted. “I am quite grateful that I get to have an impact on people’s lives on a daily basis through my career. My dream for employees is for people to continue to show up.”

At the end of the evening, Joël Roerig, managing director of CHRO SA, asked the HR professionals in attendance to applaud themselves for actually weathering the storm and sticking together.

He also added that, while traditionally, CHROs would receive a goodie bag for attending the awards, the CHRO community wanted to do things a little differently this time and use the money meant for the goodies to help one deserving aspiring CHRO complete their studies in HR by clearing any historical debt that may have existed.

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