Hybrid work helps Momentum Investments' human capital executive Desiré Pauw to balance her professional and personal life

The HR executive has a passion for people that shines through in her work.

Desiré Pauw, executive: human capital at Momentum Investments, says her fascination with people is what led her to the Human Capital (HC) space.

While studying for her undergraduate qualification, she coached hockey for Grade 1 learners, and through a connection she made there, her journey in HC started. “One of my hockey kids’ dads knew an HR executive at Stanlib and she was kind enough to offer me a job.

“People really fascinate me. I think there is something that you can learn from every single human being, no matter who they are or where they come from,” Desiré says.

While at Stanlib, Desiré fell in love with human capital and the investments industry. She later joined the Momentum Metropolitan Group (previously known as MMI) where she currently provides HC services to three businesses. She has worked for the group since 2013 and says she loves the brand and business.

“My role is to make sure people can deliver on the ambitious goals we set out to achieve. We make sure people are enabled and empowered to deliver their best work, but also have fun while doing so,” says Desiré.

Delivering quality work, coming up with creative solutions and creating HC teams that are “different” is what makes Desiré proud of the work she does. “We run a business that delivers through people and if a human capital team is not seen as a true authentic business partner you are doing something wrong,” Desiré says.

The culture that she has instilled in her team is one of serving and going beyond the call of duty. Desiré feels passionate about the role that human capital teams play in setting businesses up for success through the transformational work they deliver. “The era of traditional HR is over. We need to think differently and outside of our traditional HR box and parameters. We are in the era of humanity, compassion and purpose and we need to see the crucial role we can play as human capital professionals,” Desiré says.

“When you walk into our business you will feel what we stand for. For us, investing is personal. It is not just something we say, it is reflected in everything we do,” she says proudly.

Like most companies, Momentum Investments encountered challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Our IT team had to set up our entire workforce to work from home in one week,” she says. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Desiré is proud of her team, their resilience and the creative work they delivered during this time.

“For us, Covid-19 presented an opportunity to rethink the way we worked and did things. All of a sudden, your family was part of your meetings, and your leader was in your home.

“Wellness was a key focus during this time and we implemented a number of initiatives centred around three pillars – physical, emotional and physical wellness. Wednesdays became known as Wellness Wednesdays. We kept abreast of the challenges our employees faced and had focused interventions and campaigns to help them thrive in the new way of work we found ourselves in due to the pandemic. During lockdown level 5, we realised parents were struggling to play the role of teacher, caretaker and parent so we implemented a series of parenting webinars with an educational psychologist and gave them activities to keep their kids busy.

“We all had to deal with the incredible sense of loss – loss of life as we knew it, loss of a partner’s income, and loss of friends and family. We partnered with expert counsellors and clinical psychologists to help our employees cope with the grief and loss they had experienced during this time.”

“We realised the important role that physical wellness played and had the most fun workshops with dieticians helping us with healthy cooking tips, fitness professionals teaching us Pilates and running live training classes with personal trainers.

“The inspirational stories of people not giving up, is what made Wellness Wednesdays so special,” says Desiré.

Being a mother of two girls aged six and nine, Desiré must balance her time between her personal and professional life. She finds that the hybrid work model gives her the ability to do this, as she is also able to work from home.

“With that flexibility my husband and I can take turns with school drop-off or pick-ups, as well as responsibilities at home. I can also attend their extra-mural activities, which is really important to them. The flip side is that my girls can now experience first-hand that it is okay to have a career, work hard and be successful as a woman and mother.”

During her spare time, she, her husband and their children enjoy playing board games, going camping, watching movies, listening to music and just dancing! They make an outing of everything they do, even if it is just going grocery shopping. “We also exercise together. My husband is big on fitness and tries to incorporate the whole family into his fitness regime,” Desiré says. In staying true to the business she works in, it is also very important to her and her husband to teach their kids the value of money and the importance of saving.