Humsha Ramgobin on how helping people is her north star


The CHRO of Mediclinic shares her lessons on success at work and home.

Humsha Ramgobin, Mediclinic’s CHRO, says her path into HR was driven by an idealistic view of helping people.

“I actually started out as a social worker,” she says. “That experience gave me a different lens on South Africa and provided much insight into the socio-economic complexities of the country and the many faces of the disenfranchised.” It also led to some complex and sometimes dangerous situations where she was trying to resolve issues of domestic violence and abuse.

She says, “Social work gave me a solid foundation about life and supporting humanity. After five years, in the midst of our apartheid era, I knew, however, that I couldn't continue within this challenging environment with limited support and resources, and therefore pursued my studies in industrial psychology.

“It was a painful and difficult decision for me all around, but I had to put my family ahead of everything else. And so I transitioned into HR purely because I wanted to continue to work with people but in a safer environment.”

A flourishing HR career

She subsequently embarked on a 25-year career that has given her exposure to a wide range of industries including financial services, FMCG, retail and fishing, with leading companies like Clicks, Woolworths, Absa, I&J and Massmart.

Her experience has enabled her to achieve significant success in designing and implementing HR strategies and objectives into tangible business solutions and successes.

“I know what a privilege it can be to lead a human resources function within an organisation. The challenges are enormous and there are so many different aspects of the job across the HR value chain, but once you achieve alignment of people, processes and systems working effectively, you'll feel like you're really making a difference with your work.”

A new chapter with Mediclinic

With extensive experience transforming human resource teams to merge, expand or flourish across a particular industry, Humsha has now placed her focus squarely on developing an agile and simplified people organisation within Mediclinic that will allow for greater capacity for nursing, and empowering the supporting services to provide their expertise with greater impact.

A core focus area for her is Mediclinic’s ability to become more agile in response to the needs of their employees – where teams are able to work seamlessly in a safe environment. Her incoming observations have left her with the assurance that the ‘Mediclinic people’ exhibit genuine care and compassion for each other.

The depth of that respect is beyond what she has experienced in many other environments, she notes. But as always, there is room to ensure that HR delivers a stronger environment that supports the individual and joint needs of the team, where individuals can express themselves freely, and where the company can return the support asked for in a human and deliberate fashion.

“Nursing is the biggest agenda for me at the moment,” she says. “We are facing a shortage of healthcare professionals in this country and I want to play a bigger role in supporting this agenda and thinking about ways we can build the talent pool around nursing. I am very excited about looking at nursing as a core opportunity around accelerating skills-building in our country and interrogating how we can improve retention of nurses.”

She also emphasises that times have changed. The needs of the business have changed with the dramatic demands on the healthcare industry and across the globe in recent years. With this, the individual’s motivation has also changed. Humsha believes that it is vital for the industry to lead from a new place if we hope to attract, retain and develop the individual across their career.

What is needed to offer a working environment that continues to fulfil the broad growth and realisation goals of different individuals – and thus contribute to the business’s goals? Is the healthcare industry understanding how to attract a diverse and inspired workforce? Are we prioritising mental wellbeing in a real and tangible fashion? These are all questions she is asking now and going into the future.

With all these considerations, Humsha is aiming to remove the ‘disconnect’ that often occurs between the operational and leadership levels of the business. She believes that leadership should serve as a service centre that seamlessly integrates the systems in place with the humaneness that is needed at operational levels – allowing each individual to operate to their potential and ultimately provide exceptional care and service to clients.
“We know that anyone entering our industry does so from a place of passion and love – we need to create the space for them to grow and flourish in delivering care,” she says.

Advice to her younger self

Decades into her career, Humsha believes that it’s important to prioritise one’s own wellbeing and has observed that HR professionals tend to be neglected when it comes to being supported in the workplace, but also in their personal lives.

“As an HR professional myself, I know how difficult it can be to navigate through all the challenges that come with this line of work. That’s why I started coaching and mentoring other HR professionals. Often, they need someone who has been there before to help them get through the tough times.”

She believes in the importance of work-life integration “because it's important for women to prioritise themselves, work and family with setting clear boundaries, self-care and flexibility.” She’s wistful about the time she could have spent with her now 29-year-old son if she had these tools earlier in her career, but is also proud of showing him what a mother who is passionate about her work looks like. She says she and her son are close and that gives her much comfort.

That said, she affirms that being collaborative, creative, empathic and thoughtful are important qualities if you want to be a change leader. She whole-heartedly believes in the impact that HR makes in an organisation and her approach is to say, “Let's be efficient, effective and most importantly, care for our people and find ways to do things simpler, better and create more fun at work.”

To unwind, Humsha says, she enjoys “hiking, yoga, photography and spending time with friends and family. I love to travel and immerse myself in different cultures and experience different types of cuisine. I am a foodie person who enjoys the good food and wine of Cape Town.”

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