Startek CHRO Phil Tshikotshi on empowering disadvantaged youth, retaining talent


2022 Young CHRO of the Year aims to employ more previously disadvantaged youth at Startek.

Phil Tshikotshi, vice president for human resources at Startek, has his eyes set on improving the lives of youth from previously disadvantaged communities. He says this is an integral part of the company’s key objectives this year.

“In the past year we hired just over 80 young people through our impact sourcing initiatives and we are aiming to hire at least 200 this year. We also aim to continue with our bursary scheme initiative, which has seen us sponsor our young employees in the call centres to go back to school and further their education, as well as clearing of their historical student debt.

“As part of our retention strategy this year, there are a number of skills development initiatives in place to support our high potential and high performing employees. We are intentional about retaining our key talent and one of our objectives is to ensure that we retain all key talent and keep the overall turnover low.”

Phil, who was named the Young CHRO of the Year at the 2022 CHRO Awards , adds that some of the key challenges include attracting and retaining top talent given the competitive current market. “In my experience, younger employees thrive in an environment that cultivates a sense of belonging and one that provides them with psychological safety and that is what CHROs should aim to achieve if they want to attract and retain young talent.”
He adds that because Startek employs predominantly young people, they have adopted flexible work models and revised their engagement initiatives to align with what keeps younger employees motivated and engaged. “CHROs could build an internal pipeline of key talent who could be upskilled and reskilled for roles for future. There is also a need to review retention strategies, because what CHROs may think is the right approach to retaining a key talent may not necessarily resonate with employees.”

Starting from the bottom

Phil, who is originally from Vondwe village on the outskirts of Thohoyandou, Limpopo, says an ‘aha’ moment regarding his leadership skills came when he was in high school. “The highlight of my leadership development stage is that I was the SRC president in grade 11 and 12 at Dengenya Secondary School and was well known for my passion for education, having always come first in class.” It was at this point that he knew he was destined for greatness.
After matric he went on to study for a business, management marketing and related support services qualification at Wits Business School and a postgraduate diploma in business management from Regent Business School.

Following that he found himself in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry and has been there for over 20 years. " I haven’t always been in HR, as I was initially part of the operations team. It was, however, my passion for people and talent management that drew me into the HR profession, and in 2012 I accepted the opportunity to transition into the HR management role with my current organisation. It has been an incredible and fulfilling journey so far.”

Winning the award, he says, was truly special, and no doubt has opened up new opportunities for him. “It shows that the dreams of young people are valid. I am particularly proud that the HR team that I lead, the real winners of this award, are young people, some of whom were brought in as HR graduates.”

He notes that having a positive impact in other people’s lives, no matter how little, is what fuels his fire, especially while dealing with young people. “I believe that life without impact on others is not worth living.”
He also carries his core life values – love, honesty and integrity – with him, even in the workplace, and lives by Roy Bennett’s words: “Never stop dreaming, never stop believing, never give up, never stop trying, and never stop learning.” When he isn’t busy with work, Phil can be found cooking up a storm for his family – Bonofulu and Zoe –, who he describes as an absolute blessing. “My downtime activity is cooking – I find it therapeutic. Outside of that, I also enjoy reading. I am now reading Disruption Amplified by Abdullah Verachia.”

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