Our role is to facilitate partnerships for mutual growth and value, says Clientele's Tshepisho Tabane

Tshepisho's varied experience has held her in good stead and is what she believes has given her an edge as an HR professional.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of adding value as a business partner, whether you are an HR director or at any other level in the business. There would have been no point in me coming to Clientele if all I wanted to do was implement the things that worked at Old Mutual. Yes, they are both insurance companies but, as a leader, one has to have a penchant for nuance and understand that no two businesses are the same. The challenges in one organisation will be different from those in another because no two cultures, environments or leadership teams are the same,” says Clientele Life HR director Tshepisho Tabane. 

She believes that one of the most important things that one needs to do as a business leader, whether they are a CEO, CFO or HR director is to have an intimate understanding of the business, industry and socio-economic environment in which they operate because what may have been successful in a previous role will not necessarily work in other organisations. 

“If, for example, my next role after Clientele is to work in a mining company that has operations in a rural community, I can’t expect to approach the role in a similar way to this one. The talent needs of such an organisation, for one, are entirely different from what we have here,” she says. 

Varied experience

Tshepisho initially wanted to become a lawyer, but after studying a B.A degree, majoring in industrial psychology and sociology, she felt that human resources was the best postgraduate diploma to study as it had the most similarities to what she had studied prior. She thereafter went straight into HR, holding various roles over a five-year period at Sasol. An experienced HR professional in the insurance industry, she has previously worked for Old Mutual, Liberty and Hannover Reinsurance, and says that each organisation has provided different but invaluable growth. 

Tshepisho believes there is no substitute for experience. Her experience ranges from working in the mining environment, handling a restructuring process, and being exposed and learning from HR colleagues in other parts of the world, to name a few examples.   

At Sasol, she learned a lot about many different aspects of HR operations, which reinforced her abilities as an HR generalist. However, in such a large organisation, even as a senior person, she says one can feel like a cog in the machine whereas, when she was at German multinational reinsurer Hannover Re, there was a lot more pressure on her shoulders. 

“You have to take full responsibility for both the internal and the external stakeholders. In the very big organisations, these responsibilities fall on various departments and you have other people to provide the support and answers to you. At a smaller company, it all falls on you. It can be quite daunting but it is an invaluable leadership experience.”


Enabling growth

She also adds that, in order for HR leaders to be more effective in their roles, they should never be too far removed from what is happening on the ground. They have to know what the lowest level employee is feeling and experiencing so that they are able to communicate that in the executive meetings. In that regard, HR has to act as a conduit for the voiceless people in the organisation.  HR has to facilitate conversations within the organisation, whether it ’s tough conversations about transformation, or nurturing conversations about putting the ‘human’ back in human resources. 

“Diversity discussions are more meaningful when the people around the table represent diversity themselves."

She also believes that the primary role of an HR practitioner is to create an environment that is conducive to growth for both the organisation and the people within it. Ultimately, she feels that if people don’t grow within your organisation, they will go to one where they can. 

She is a mother to a 19-year old girl with aspirations of becoming an investment banker. The advice she gives her is no different to her approach to work, work for what you want in life and always keep moving forward.

In her spare time, Tshepisho loves watching sports. In the household where she grew up,  her father would only ever watch sports or news so that is what the whole family did. Now, when she is not reading, working or spending time with family, she watches sport, whether it is football, tennis or formula one. 

“At the moment, I have a serious case of World Cup fever.  I am having late nights and watching Wimbledon highlights whenever I get the chance.”