Old Mutual’s Nomaswazi Ngwane believes in the power of people


Nomaswazi Ngwane, human capital executive at Old Mutual’s mass & foundation cluster, believes in the power of nurturing people so that they can help build a company and contribute towards its success in an ever-changing time.

Old Mutual’s mass & foundation cluster human capital executive, Nomaswazi Ngwane, has a ‘passion for business, economics and people,’ which led her into HR so that she can help build powerful and growing organisations. To do this, she helps the company find and nurture people who can contribute to its success, while tackling emerging changes in the workplace such as digitisation, transformation and learning for an inter-generational workforce.

HR is changing, Nomaswazi points out, with one of the biggest challenges now being the need to create a human-centric employee value proposition while managing an employer-employee relationship that is increasing in complexity. “Crises, like Covid-19, have meant trying to increase hybrid productivity without breaking the trust relationship between leaders and those who report to them,” says Nomaswazi.

At the same time, artificial intelligence (AI) is making itself known in the professional world, which Nomaswazi says calls for an augmentation of process with this innovative technology, while finding harmony between humans and bots in the workplace.

“In my view, AI creates workforce opportunities rather than diminishing roles. In our organisation, efficiencies gained from time saved are being used to increase and drive sales and servicing quality, which grows the bottom line. This drives the appropriate customer experience.”

What this translates into on a practical level, Nomaswazi says, is that more effort is spent on developing skills such as influencing, creativity and problem solving. “It has meant increasing spend on leadership and customer engagement skills.”

As technology changes, so too has the hiring practice because of the merging of several generations in the workplace, says Nomaswazi. Generations from millennials through to Gen Z (millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996, while zoomers are those born between 1997 and 2010, when generation alpha enters the equation,) are co-existing in the workplace, all seeking to thrive.

“As we seek to attract younger generations, it is critical that the brand positions itself as one that has a bigger purpose beyond making profit. Our purpose of ‘championing mutually positive futures every day’ tries to appeal to the heart of a potential employee and customer by showing that the relationship should provide prosperity, financial wellness and benefit all stakeholders.”

HR practitioners are having to tackle workplace cultural differences as well as unmet expectations of the employer–employee relationship in addition to intergenerational conflict, says Nomaswazi. To do this, Old Mutual has created platforms and engagement opportunities for employees to express themselves and air the difficulties they may face, but also propose solutions because it is about co-creating a culture that drives performance, is diverse and inclusive.

“We need to build skills beyond those that are technical and focus on leadership. Simultaneously, we need to ensure that we build and strengthen tolerance towards cultural differences.”

It is vital, says Nomaswazi, that organisations are clear in how they want to develop talent, from onboarding through to development. Safe spaces for people to ask questions need to be created, and HR practitioners must be transparent and enable meaningful career paths. “Visible artefacts like young boards, the deliberate communication of opportunities and success stories of young, developed talent, as well as mentorships and reverse mentoring are all ways to position the organisation as one that is future forward and open to multi-generations.”

Born in Soweto and the eldest of three, Nomaswazi was drawn to HR after spending six months studying Psychology. “I finished high school uncertain about what I wanted to do. As my first year continued, I found myself drawn to HR  management and industrial psychology, and I have never looked back.”

After completing her honours in Industrial Sociology, she completed an MBA at GIBS, as well as the Amplify executive programme at the London Business School. Her career has taken her from companies as varied as Discovery to South African Breweries (later Anheuser-Busch InBev) and she was recently appointed as a non-executive director at Two Mountains.

“I have worked in various generalist roles but found myself energised by organisational design and development as well as transformation (both people and systems). As an HR executive today, my organisational design strengths set me up for success for a business that is looking for growth.”

Winner of several awards, including HR Practitioner of the Year in 2016, Nomaswazi considers one of the highlights of her career to be seeing some of the talent she has recruited growing into senior and executive roles.

“No problem, project, or job is too small. Every opportunity is one to learn and grow. Take the time to build and nurture networks – learn from peers and giants that have gone before.”

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