Igniting human potential is everything to Tiger Brands CHRO S'ne Magagula

"In my view, human resources is about connecting the art of possibility, individual and team potential with organisational performance. It is how innovation comes to life and that's what inspires me the most about leading change in an organisation like Tiger," says S'ne.

Tiger Brands CHRO S’ne Magagula always knew her passion was lighting the fire inside others to live out their full potential. Upon completion of her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science at Rhodes University, the 2020 CHRO Awards nominee started her working career as a therapist at an inhouse treatment centre for alcoholism and drug addiction. Her detour towards human resources and human capital leadership came about when she had he first opportunity as an HR business partner at manufacturer Haggie Rand, where she was well and truly thrown into the deep end and was responsible for the full HR portfolio for the Durban division.

She did everything from sourcing talent, developing skills, to reward, union relationships and managing negotiations – a true generalist people management role - It forced her to learn the craft very quickly and was pivotal to her development. 

"I cut my teeth as an HR business partner, which was very challenging but also offered a great learning experience because I got exposed to so many different parts of HR in a short space of time. Also, because I operated independently, I had to form relationships with the union leadership and the executive team, which was critical to developing a toolset, capabilities and tough skin I draw from today," says S’ne.

She later joined SAPREF (a joint venture oil refinery owned by Shell and BP) in a resourcing and talent management role which resonated with her because it was so aligned with her passion. The role saw S’ne expanding her contribution from talent management to culture change, diversity and inclusion and system design. Hence started a long love story with the petrochemicals industry that would last 20 years.

The role at SAPREF was followed by a move to the Shell Southern Africa head office in Cape Town where she led the full people portfolio as a business partner to several of Shell’s businesses across Southern African. 

A branch out into a role in business strategy followed when she combined work on group-wide projects with supporting the CEO and Chairman as executive assistant.   

"It was great exposure and broadened my knowledge of the whole business and the role of leadership in inspiring change and performance under challenging market conditions," she says. During this time, she also studied towards her MBA at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business which she says gave her a lot of grounding in driving business performance and innovation. 

But her passion was always “people”, which she returned to as the HR Manager for the Fuels and Bitumen business where she was responsible for this business’s people function in several geographies across the continent as part of Shell Oil Products Africa. 

From The Hague to Secunda

S’ne would later be seconded to the Shell Global Headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands, where she worked on human resources strategy development for the group, conducting business performance reviews for various operating units across diverse geographies 

After her time in the Hague, she made the bold move  to Secunda to lead the HR team for  Sasol's Mining  division. Again, she moved lock, stock and barrel, to a completely different environment that presented her with a completely new set of challenges.  It was a decision that she did not take lightly but is very relieved for making, firstly because it was the most rewarding professional and leadership experience of her career and, secondly, because it led her back to her husband and the family of two girls she has now. 

S'ne stongly believes that every HR leader worth their salt must have one really challenging operational role at least once in their career 

The Sasol Mining job led S’ne to believe that anyone who wants to develop themselves as an HR leader in the South African complex socio-economic landscape has to have had one big, hairy operations role where they have a direct impact on the performance of a business through driving a fit-for-purpose people and very humane agenda. At Sasol Mining, she found the most value in directly impacting the lives of people in and outside the organisation and playing  a key role transforming the trajectory of the business.  

" As we all know, the legacy of the mining industry left many people working in conditions that needed to be improved significantly and I was part of a leadership team for whom transformation of these conditions  was high on the agenda, whether that meant closing the wage gap or transforming the hostels of mineworkers into proper residential areas or skilling up and providing employment opportunities for young people ," she says. 

"To this day, it was one of the best assignments I have had in my entire career. That was a period during which my aspiration of igniting change and taking people along a journey to achieve their personal aspirations and a business vision was a lived experience daily. 

Following her time at Sasol Mining, S’ne moved to Sasol Group role where she led the Global HR Operations team spread over 17 business units and several geographies, followed by her role as Senior Vice President of Human Resources. During this time S’ne led the Sasol HR team through various restructuring and change programmes spanning talent, leadership, rewards, diversity and inclusion and culture transformation.  This continued to grow her passion and drive of impacting business performance through the people agenda across multiple locations and cultures. 

Making a difference at Tiger 

S’ne joined Tiger Brands when the group was recovering from news naming one of its factories as an alleged source of the listeriosis outbreak. Surprisingly, S’ne says being part of the team leading the organisation’s recovery from the crisis was one of the things that attracted her to the role. That and the Tiger Brands purpose, which is “to nourish and nurture more lives every day”. She believes dealing with the crisis has made the company stronger because everyone has pulled together to address the matter as one team and there is a renewed focus on the company’s purpose as lessons continue to be drawn from the experience. 

"The fact that I joined during such a challenging time was a blessing in disguise because the organisation’s attitude was not to waste a crisis but rather to leverage it as an opportunity to galvanise change, inspire winning performance in all our people and become even more consumer-obsessed and future-fit as a company. 

“So, the execution of our people agenda which focuses on three pillars - Talent, Leadership, and, Great place to work - supported by fit-for-purpose technology and digital transformation, is well under way. Across Tiger, we continue to strive to innovate to ensure our iconic brands stay top-of-mind and competitive in a very challenging macro-economic environment where consumer spending is severely constrained. The foundations for our culture transformation journey to achieve a great place to work that delivers on the promise of an agile employee experience have been laid. We are now all keeping our shoulder to the wheel to ensure that our people and our brands continue to differentiate us as the best FMCG company in Africa.” 

In her spare time, S’ne mentors a number of young women, enjoys reading and travel and spends much needed quality time with her husband, 2  girls, extended family and small circle of friends she’s known “forever” and like in any Zulu-Swati home, there is always a lot of good food  and celebration involved.