Meet Palesa Moloi: The HR director championing people and progress in Southern & East Africa

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Palesa plans to use her passion for people and progress in ways that extend far beyond geographic boundaries.

Palesa Moloi, the HR Director of Southern & East Africa at Ipsos, attributes her successful career to her unwavering passion for human resources and her deep commitment to nurturing people.

With over a decade of experience in the field, Palesa's journey into HR was ignited by her genuine love for connecting with individuals and her genuine desire to foster personal and organisational growth. She doesn't view HR as merely a job title; rather, it's a way of life—a lifelong dedication to creating a positive impact on the lives of individuals and the organisations she serves.

She attributes her sense of self-worth and confidence to her humble upbringing. “This foundation laid the groundwork for my career in HR, where qualities like empathy, understanding, and support are essential. You accept people for their strengths, but you also love who you are in what you bring to the table. So those are my humble beginnings,” she said.

Getting into HR

Palesa was introduced to the HR field by a friend and felt an immediate resonance with the role.

The idea of being a thread that weaves through an organisation, connecting various departments and individuals, was profoundly appealing to me. It's not merely about hiring, firing, and managing personnel. Instead, it's about nurturing an environment where individuals can thrive, where their potential is realised, and where transformation happens.”

For Palesa, although HR leaders are driven by passion, they need to be supported to do their job through coaching and an HR community.

“We are people who take care of people, and generally, we are people who have no one to take care of us,” she said. She drew attention to an article she had recently come across, which boldly proclaimed, "There's no HR for HR.'' She added that the article resonated with many other HR professionals in the HR community.

To address this issue, she said, it was important for organisations to recognise the necessity of establishing an HR for HR, Just as HR is responsible for nurturing and supporting the broader workforce, there should be dedicated support structures in place for HR departments. These may include training programs, mentorship initiatives, and a steadfast commitment to fostering HR talent,” she added

Mentoring and coaching

As an HR leader, Palesa said she cherished roles within HR that enabled her to coach. She added that she finds satisfaction in guiding individuals through challenging phases of their careers. “Through coaching, she's witnessed the transformative power of honest conversations. Having difficult discussions, while uncomfortable in the moment, have the potential to liberate individuals from career stagnation and lead them toward new directions she might have otherwise resisted and being part of helping someone realise that maybe they're in the wrong field, or they're in the wrong organisation, or being part of those difficult conversations as well is satisfying.”

This, she adds, is because one gets those calls afterwards, where someone affirms that the conversation that you had with me at the time that we had, was painful and so difficult, but it liberated me and I'm now doing this, that and that. And mind you I would have resisted this change or this direction of my life,” she said.

She placed emphasis on work-life and having to unlearn traits that have taken her away from her family time.

“In my professional career, I've been that person who over-exerts themselves. So I've always gone an extra mile, that person who stays late, to work on projects, that person who would work outside of working hours and ended up just being a workaholic, for lack of a better word.”

She added that motherhood has been a journey of learning as she is in a transition phase of trying to unlearn a habit that I've learned for as long as I've been in. “I've been working right in the corporate industry and it's difficult to unlearn habits,” she said.

Africa and beyond

Beyond their role in HR, Palesa advocates for better education and exposure for African children in the continent.

“When I was working for Macmillan, that's when I got an Africa role, and I was exposed to the continent and I think also that's where a new passion developed because then I realised what Africa looked like and the need for social African development.”

As an HR professional with a global perspective, Palesa said she plans to use her passion for people and progress in ways that extend far beyond geographic boundaries.

She said her perspective is one of growth and influence within the African continent itself, as she believes African talent can make a substantial impact globally.

In her free time, Palesa enjoys her time with her family and reading.

“Having the comfort of our home and the leisure of having our children with us in that setup. I love that. That's my activity. If I'm not doing that, I'll probably be reading something or just, you know, enjoying downtime with the kids,” she said.

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