MiWay’s Nomvula Nxumalo is a career transformer by choice


Head of transformation, people, and culture at MiWay Insurance, Nomvula “Nomie” Nxumalo’s outspoken nature has helped her transform her career and influence change for other professionals across multiple industries.

As a child, Nomvula “Nomie” Nxumalo, head of transformation, people, and culture at MiWay Insurance says her opinionated character was often labelled as “loud”.

“I grew up being a very loud child naturally, and I remember every year praying and asking, and saying you know what? New year’s resolution, I’m going to be quiet, I’m going to be a lady,” she laughs.

Little did she know that her character would later drive her into spaces she never imagined, and also help her to connect people to better opportunities. “I never recognised it, but now I see it: that ability to connect people to opportunities and people to people. That has served me in the transformation space as well,” she says.

Nomie’s career goals were not always set on human resources. She remembers how her parents nudged her to study accounting.

“I’m an accountant dropout, I think I need to assume that,” she chuckles. She says growing up in a space where her parents were “suddenly discovering other career opportunities and other career options. “My parent’s dream was that I would be an accountant, purely because we had a few in the family, but it didn’t really work out for me, and the only other option was to change,” she says.

She then considered studying HR, industrial psychology and marketing. “And I thought, the road less travelled, let’s see what this road looks like,” she remembers.

After completing her studies in HR, Nomie did what most graduates do in South Africa’s high unemployment environment. She looked for any job that would rescue her from unemployment. She says she told herself:” I’d rather have any job than to be at home, than have no job.”

Broadening her skillset from sales to HR

Geared with a go-getter attitude, Nomie soon found a job at Alpha Cement, now known as Afrisam. “My role then was sales administrator and I spent a lot of time learning how to build reports and analyse the sales reports,” she recalls.

Though the role wasn’t what she had studied for, it helped to shape the professional that she was developing into. “That has been the one blessing in my career around understanding how data influences decision-making. I was also quite blessed because my mentor at that stage was the general manager of the sales unit,” she says.

Nomi says the role in sales prepared her for her current role in human resources. In this role, she learned the value of HR in a business environment and what her role can contribute to the overall organisation.

Furthermore, her outspoken personality helped her build a mentor-mentee relationship with her general manager around understanding the drivers of the business and profitability models. Her mentor was also generous to ask her what she thought.

“The minute someone gives you an opportunity to talk about what you’re thinking, you’ve got like five minutes to really push in what you feel and what you want to put across,” she says.

Though the mentorship was on an informal basis, Nomie says it helped her grow and thrive. She then moved into the ICT space at Axiz in sales and administration.

“In every organisation, I was blessed to have informal mentors. I don’t think any of my mentors sat down and said ‘Let’s sign a mentorship agreement.’ I’ve never had that, but there were people that I would always identify with,” she says.

She notes how she asked her mentors to help her understand business models. “At Axiz, that’s where I really got the opportunity to move into HR after a conversation with the CEO. That’s the nice thing about small companies: you have access to senior leadership. He then offered me to move into HR,” she says.

Over time, Nomie moved to financial services at Sanlam Capital Markets, then to Nedbank, and eventually found her way into insurance at Telesure before joining MiWay, where she transitioned from HR to business insurance. At MiWay, her transition continued from business insurance to her current role in transformation.

“My colleague, Nkuli, and I founded the transformation department within Telesure and then again moved into MiWay where I headed up the transformation department focusing on B-BBEE,” she says.

MiWay aim to transforming societies through mentorship

Mentorship continues to play a central role in Nomie’s personal and professional life. “I do both, informal and formal. Informal in the case where young people come to you, whether it be in church structures, or when somebody is following you and you say, ’Yes, let’s have coffee,’” she says.

In her professional capacity, she’s leading the organisations mentorship programme, which links young talent from communities with experienced professionals at the organisation. “We’ve just launched our formal mentorship program where exco and manco, as part of giving back, we give them a mentee for a period of at least six months and they provide mentorship,” she says.

She notes how most mentee-mentor relationships often go beyond the prescribed six months. The programme also gives young professionals the opportunity to interact with management and share ideas.

“It showcases the talent that we have in the organisation which would have been missed,” she adds.

From a CSI perspective, the company has partnered with two schools in Moletsane and Tembisa in an effort to create a mentorship pipeline.

“We select eight young people that we spread across the business and they get mentored as part of their growth journey. By the time they finish matric, we’re then able to give them bursaries, so again, creating a pipeline,” says Nomie.

In future, the insurerer hopes to absorb the graduates into the organisation offering internships and possible jobs in the organisation. Nomie notes how this is to create a pipeline where mentees are already familiar with the organisation by the time they complete their studies and start working.

EVP in action

“The mentorship programme is part of our employee value proposition (EVP). For us, the employee value proposition is not about something that’s written down, but it’s in our everyday living. It’s part of our culture. It is our culture,” says Nomie.

She says they’ve adopted a “lead by service, lea by service” culture. She says the organisation aims to service its employees as well as its customers. She says the culture emanates from their EVP, and their culture expands beyond the services that are offered.

“It’s really about the hygiene that happens behind the scenes. How does it feel to be an employee of MiWay? What makes me wake up and say, ‘I want to get to work, I want to be in the office’? It’s the way that we behave, the way that we carry ourselves. It’s driven by the values and the culture ethos,” she says.

Giving an example, Nomie says they recently had four employees who left the office at around 6pm using taxis to get home. They were involved in a car accident. At that point, one of their manco members left his home, drove to the scene of the accident, and informed the HR team.

“From an HR perspective, we were able to pull out a person’s medical aid details, we rallied together as a team to make sure these people were comfortable, they were sorted. That for us is a culture of ‘lead by service, led by service’, because we understand how important they are to their families.”

Her team was also able to keep the families up to date about what was happening, and where they were. “The very next day our marketing department came in with care packs. So it’s not just an HR thing. It’s because we are led by that culture of being of service to everybody and understanding that these people are an extension of family as well,” adds Nomie.

She says it’s important to consider employees’ specific needs as opposed to applying a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

“So when we talk about things like development plans, retention strategy, growth, and development, which is the biggest core of what our EVP gives, we talk about it being individualised.

“One-size-fits-all never works because what might be important to you and your growth span is very different from where I want to see myself,” she says.

She also dispels the notion of a career development always leading to a management role. Nomie says not everyone desires to be part of management, despite their need for growth.

MiWay, says Nomie, has developed a specialist pipeline that develops professionals who want to develop and grow in the roles but do not necessarily want to be in people management roles.

“If we force them into leadership or management roles, you’re actually almost pushing a round peg into a square hole. What follows is burnout, because they are exerting more energy in spaces that they shouldn’t be exerting it into,” she notes.

She says professionals can experience burnout as a result of being in the wrong environment or not fulfilling their true potential.

Transforming industries for minorities

Nomie says the company’s leadership programme has been focused on developing scarce skills in actuaries, industry influencers and underwriting specialists, “If you can find the business need, you can create your own job,” she says.

She says the programme makes it possible to open opportunities for inclusion where more women, black people and other minority groups have the opportunity to work in roles that do not have representation. These include male-dominated roles and roles dominated by a particular race.

Though the organisation has made significant strides in encouraging transformation and inclusion through their programme, Nomie notes how the broader industry continues to face challenges. “As an industry, we’re still content with the status quo,” she says.

She notes how there was a time when there were no black accountants in the industry, until black people decided to take up accounting roles. She says more minorities need to put their hand up for roles where there is less representation, but they also need the support.

She notes how their transformation programme started when they decided to develop more black brokers in an environment that has been predominantly white-dominated. “I’m blessed to be able to sit on forums that address transformation in the industry, and not just at here, to actively voice out the transformation agenda.”

Going back to her early professional lessons on data and understanding the business model in which they operate, Nomie says, “If you can show them diversity and inclusion and say if we send a black person into the township they’re more likely to convert those sales than if we send a white person, then suddenly your case for diversity and inclusion is sold.

“It is important for HR business partners to develop business acumen. We need to ask ourselves, what is my role in the business strategy, how am I helping to get that money on the table?”

Nomie says it remains vital for HR professionals to understand the business they operate, in order to make a convincing value proposition in their work. “If you want to build a business case for this space, put it down to the rands and the cents. Show them the money. If you can show them the money they will follow what you say,” she says.

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