Making an impact on people drives Kyle Chetty as an HR executive


It was a connection with people that got the winner of the 2020 Young CHRO of the Year Award to start his HR journey.

Kyle Chetty, HR executive at Autoboys Holdings, was in the US when he got his first taste of HR. “I was working for an entertainment company called Six Flags Great Adventure for almost two years,” says Kyle. It was there that I realised my passion for people.”

He then came back to South Africa and started off in the call centre at the JD Group and worked his way up.

“While working at the call centre I kept finding avenues to pursue HR and finally got the opportunity. I left the JD Group after five years as the HR manager while also handling the change and communications portfolio at Financial Services,” he recalls.

“I was intrigued and inquisitive by how things work in HR. As a labour supervisor, I would manage staff scheduling and overtime. I used to watch the HR department deal with employee issues. I was fascinated by the process and knew that this was the space in which I needed to be.”

“The connection with people drew me to HR. It is through this that I am able to make a difference through the ability to provide tools and resources to help the organisation grow human capital. It is this that drives me in terms of my role. I enjoy seeing people develop, go through the ranks and attain skills. Making a difference and having an impact, even for just one person, impacts your life in many ways, personally and professionally.”

Kyle later moved to Grandmark International, where he was appointed HR business partner.

He then joined Cape Union Mart in 2016 as a human capital partner and moved to Autoboys Holdings in 2017, where he began building the HR and greater teams.

“For me it is important to provide value to the people of an organisation. The pandemic has elevated the importance of HR within an organisation. We as HR professionals have the opportunity to connect people and business. Our purpose is to see businesses thrive, and people engaged, happy and performing well.”

Kyle says that he got his first HR job purely because of his passion. “I didn’t have a degree at the time as I couldn’t afford it. I said to the company, ‘I don’t have a degree, but I promise you, I can do the job’ and I managed to prove that. I have since completed a BCom degree in HR marketing and a BCom honours degree in HR management. I am also a certified Gallup coach, and was selected to be part of an HR leadership programme for Africa. The programme was run by the RIKA Institute based under the faculty of Susan Githuku, Deborah Excell and Prof Ulrich, to name a few. It was a phenomenal programme. I have now been selected to participate in the W&R Seta International leadership programme run by GIBS.”

Highlights and challenges

For Kyle one of his biggest highlights was winning the Young CHRO of the Year award in 2020. “The award really came at the right time, as it was a challenging time during the pandemic. There was a lot of uncertainty, and I was doubting myself. I think when that recognition came, it reignited my passion and gave me the self-confidence to stop doubting myself,” he says.

The success stories of employees are also highlights of his professional career. “I bumped into a cleaner once and we started chatting. He was so well-spoken, and I asked him if he wanted to do another job and he told me that he was just waiting for the right opportunity. So I took his number, and I called him a month later with an opportunity for learnership. He started with us, finished his learnership, and he was one of the top performers. He is now a call centre agent and being groomed as a 2IC. He bought a car, and he is now able to provide for his family,” he recalls.

“Another highlight for me at Autoboys, is that when I got here none of the people were doing tertiary qualifications. Through a partnership with SETA, there are now 60 people that have been enrolled for BCom degrees or higher certificates. We’ve put 250 people through learnerships, and made them more employable. It comes down to my purpose to make a difference.”

He mentions that there were times in his life when he had to prove that he was able to do a job even when he was considered too young. “People said I was too young to be an HR manager or too young to manage a project. I have always been more mature than my peers, I think it was just due to my upbringing. We were raised with a strong work ethic and I was taught to work hard to reach my goals and that there are no shortcuts in life. Having passion for what you do makes all the difference.”

The pandemic also posed a huge challenge for Autoboys as they had to navigate through a tough time. The company unfortunately had to retrench some employees, but today they are stronger than before the pandemic, he says.

Kyle is motivated by his goals and his next major goal after completing ILDP is to write a book about people in Africa who faced hardships and challenges and rose above them. “It will be a book with short stories. I would love to shine a spotlight on people that are really making a difference born in our amazing continent.”

Kyle at home

Kyle is a family man and loves spending time with his wife and six-year-old daughter. “My daughter is fun and full of energy. She loves to play with dolls and tea sets, so I get roped into that almost every day. She’s very creative and enjoys making things. She drives me crazy because there are sometimes stickers all over the house or my phone or my laptop. I just enjoy the innocence and honesty of a six-year-old,” he says.

Kyle says that most people won’t believe it, but he is actually an introvert and had to learn to force himself to be an extrovert when he needs to. “To be quite honest, I just like spending time by myself or with my family and a few close friends. I had to learn how to balance work and life and to make self-time a priority,” he admits.

He enjoys reading and going to the gym, and he and his wife are avid cooks and foodies. “We love to travel and like to experience other cultures and their food. Most of our family lives in Durban and when we visit them, we enjoy spending time on the beach and enjoying the Durban food culture.”

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