Leading the way: Dineo Sekwele's vision for wellness in HR

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Nutun CHRO Dineo Sekwele discusses leading the wellness movement in HR.

Dineo Sekwele, the CHRO of Nutun, is a champion of holistic wellness. She believes that wellness is not merely a buzzword, but a fundamental way of life. With her demanding role overseeing HR across multiple countries, including South Africa, Australia, Fiji, and Botswana, she understands the critical need to prioritise wellbeing.

Building a thriving workforce

“You can't pour from an empty cup,” Dineo reflects. Her emphasis on fostering well-rounded health, including mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing, is the cornerstone of her mission. “In my line of work, it's vital to have an abundance of energy and maintain a sharp focus. This makes taking care of my health a non-negotiable aspect,” Dineo shares. “For me, exercising is very important,” she emphasises. Her passion for fitness has led to the establishment of an on-site gym at Nutun, and active pursuits such as running and cycling. This ensures that physical wellness is not only encouraged, but woven into the fabric of her workplace. Dineo’s day begins at 5am, a time she dedicates to exercise and physical fitness. She believes that a healthy body fosters a productive mind, ensuring she approaches her work with vigour and determination. “I firmly believe that you can achieve anything you visualise. It’s about setting your mind to it and putting in the effort,” Dineo adds, shedding light on her training for an upcoming Ironman event, a testament to her commitment to pushing her boundaries.

Body and mind wellness

She promotes open communication and a supportive work environment, where individuals feel heard and valued. She is the driving force behind creating spaces for emotional expression and building a culture of empathy. Her commitment to nurturing the emotional wellness of her team is evident in her words and actions. Dineo’s approach to mental wellness transcends the workplace stigma associated with therapy. To that end, the organisation provides regular access to therapists, creating a safe space for employees to talk about their concerns, stressors, and anxieties. She openly shares her own experiences with therapy, noting, “We forget to take care of ourselves. There are so many people that come into my office on a daily basis that I have to listen to and give advice. But who does that for me?” Her call for proactive mental health care inspires her team to prioritise their emotional wellbeing. In addition to these wellness initiatives, Dineo is an advocate for achieving a healthy work-life balance. “I first have to take care of myself before I can take care of others,” she says.

Navigating HR’s diverse landscape

Alongside her dedication to wellness, Dineo’s professional journey in HR has been defined by determination and a passion for making a difference in people's lives. From an early stage, Dineo had a clear vision of her career path, shaping her destiny in the HR domain. Throughout her career, her professional path meandered through diverse landscapes of state-owned entities and private listed companies. Her tenure at CSIR, a state-owned entity, marked a significant chapter where she ascended to the role of senior HR business partner and later HR manager, overseeing a crucial business unit. Dineo reflects on this pivotal period, saying, “I realised the importance of not only understanding HR, but also comprehending the intricate workings of the businesses I served.”

Navigating transformation at Nutun

One pivotal turning point in Dineo’s journey was her transition to Nutun, where she has been on a journey of strategic transformation within the organisation. Tasked with shaping the company’s direction and fostering a culture of success, she recognised the gravity of her role and the need for strategic, impactful decisions. “This was a big game-changer for me. I realised that this is bigger than I thought. Whatever I do for the organisation, I have to think thoroughly and ensure it’s the right decision.” Many employees view call centre roles as stepping stones, joining out of necessity rather than passion. To address this challenge, Dineo and her HR team have embarked on a journey to create a conducive environment. They focus on establishing clear career paths for employees. “We had to establish very clear career paths for them,” she emphasises. The organisation invests significantly in education, acknowledging that many employees only possess a high school education. Encouraging further studies and providing opportunities for advancement have led to remarkable results. “A high number have attained degrees, and some former call centre agents now hold executive positions.”

Meeting the unique needs of different workforces

Dineo also delves into the diverse nature of her organisation’s workforce. While the call centre employees form a substantial portion, there are distinct groups of professionals, including those in finance, legal, actuarial, and HR. Each of these groups has its unique set of needs and challenges, demanding tailored responses from HR. Notably, the organisation has launched a learnership programme for women. “Seventy-five percent of our workforce are women,” Dineo states. The programme is rooted in the idea of empowering women with structured, accredited learning opportunities in partnership with Duke University. Dineo envisions that through this programme, more women will occupy higher-level positions, gain confidence, and develop a deeper understanding of the business. Dineo’s commitment to employee wellness stands as a transformative force, shaping a corporate culture where success and self-care are not at odds but mutually reinforcing. As she continues her impactful journey in HR, Dineo remains motivated by the prospect of confronting new challenges, making a mark in the dynamic realm of HR, and shaping the future of the organisations she serves.

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