Rishi Ramgulam’s take on unleashing human potential and the evolving role of HR in retail


The HR exec at Cape Union Mart Group, believes in unleashing the untapped potential of team members in the ever-evolving landscape of HR.

Rishi Ramgulam, head of human capital at the Cape Union Mart Group, believes in unleashing the untapped potential of team members in the ever-evolving landscape of HR.

Rishi explains that his journey into the HR field was a profound realisation that emerged during his early years in the retail sector. He added that he was driven by the innate desire to recognise and nurture leadership qualities often overlooked within the workplace.

"Human Resources was a natural choice for me as I looked at the people I worked with, and realized the immense potential that lay within them. It saddened me to see how some individuals were viewed merely as entry-level workers, unaware of their true leadership capabilities, which shone through in their roles outside of the workplace," Rishi says.

To equip himself with the knowledge and tools necessary to maximize human potential, Rishi embarked on an inspiring path of continuous learning in the field of human resources. He pursued various qualifications including a master’s degree from the University of Johannesburg. He has more than 18 years of experience in the HR industry.

Growing the next generation

He adds that although he is proud of his educational background, his focal point is to also engage and develop the next generation of leaders in the workplace.

He added that because a substantial portion of his organisation's team members fall below the age of 35, aligning the HR strategy with the needs and aspirations of this demographic poses a unique challenge. “We have to keep up with the demands of a much younger workforce. We aim to keep the organization fresh and ensure that the value proposition we create is relevant to the workforce that we have,” he says. Rishi also believes that there are lessons to be learnt from all generations of team members in the workplace- we just have to take the time to listen and understand one another.

Rishi also emphasises the criticality of embracing empowerment and inclusivity. He adds that he regularly organizes master classes, featuring subject matter experts who provide fresh perspectives on pertinent topics such as Leading multi-generational teams, AI, diversity, and leadership development. Rishi sees the role of HR being similar to that of “Fitness Coaches” where we aim to develop all team members to be “fitter & stronger” to deal with the ever changing world of retail.

Rishi believes that HR Leaders must invest in HR initiatives that have a direct impact on the performance of the business. “If the HR initiative does not impact the performance of the business, think carefully about doing it ” he says.

Leveraging technology

In today's data-driven landscape, Rishi advocates for a more scientific approach to HR decision-making. He encourages HR leaders to rely on data and insights rather than intuition alone, underlining the importance of holding practitioners accountable with tangible KPIs.

Rishi recommends measuring culture scores, talent and succession management, and bench strength. “These metrics serve as pivotal benchmarks in assessing the impact and effectiveness of HR practices,” he says.

Looking toward the future of HR, Rishi envisions a landscape focused on grooming young talent and instilling a sense of purpose. "By empowering young leaders, harnessing data-driven insights and proactively embracing change, HR professionals can pave the way for a workforce that is engaged, fulfilled, and ready to take on the challenges of the future," Rishi affirms with optimism.

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