The 2023 CHRO Awards were a night to remember, culminating in two individual hat-trick awards.
On the evening of 14 November, the country’s top HR leaders gathered at the Polo Room at the Inanda Club in Sandton to be recognised for their exceptional work. The entire premise of the 2023 CHRO Awards is to acknowledge, elevate and celebrate the HR profession and the people who make it shine.
The evening began with dynamic networking in red carpet-ready looks, while being serenaded by the sweet sounds of South African jazz outfit Kopano Collective over welcome drinks. The atmosphere was warm, electric and celebratory as industry heavyweights prepared for the exciting night ahead.
This prestigious occasion was supported by CHRO SA community partners Workday, Mercer, Deloitte, GIBS, Momentum Corporate and Sanlam Corporate.
Popular comedian, TV personality and actress Nina Hastie served as MC for the evening and opened the night with a bang. The room was filled with uproarious laughter and the sound of ululation reverberated throughout the venue as the announcement of the nominees struck a chord with the audience.
Another highlight of the evening was Sungula Nkabinde, community manager at CHRO SA, taking to the stage to welcome all the guests and thank the partners. He joked that winners didn’t need to thank their teams, as it’s something they do every year, a running joke throughout the evening that emphasised just how integral teamwork in the profession actually is. Naturally, as was expected and sincerely done, every team was given kudos in the evening’s acceptance speeches.
Nina continued to delight the audience with quips about the realities of being single and 40, the “culture” of the South African economy and the blesser phenomenon. Homegrown a capella group The Soil mesmerised the audience with their musical stylings, peaking with the entire audience on their feet singing along.
The first award of the night was the HR and Technology Award, presented by Sanlam Corporate. Standard Bank’s chief people and culture officer Sharon Taylor was honoured with a standing ovation when she took to the stage to accept the award.
The winner of the Transformation & Empowerment Award, Theo Motshabi, HR director of bp Southern Africa, was met with thunderous applause. “This is a reflection of the benchmarking that we have done in the industry. This award goes to every HR professional in the country,” he said. Theo was also the recipient of the Employee Value Proposition award. He shared how transitioning from an oil company to an energy company was a major success for himself and his team.
The Strategy & Leadership Award, presented by Deloitte, was given to Malisha Awunor, Group Head of People and Culture at EOH. She was humble in her victory and touched on how shaping the workplace is ultimately about creating a great future for the children of today, “This is for our kids, guys!” she said.
The audience were then treated to a stirring keynote from South African yachtswoman and adventurer Kirsten Neuschafer, the only woman to win the Golden Globe Race 2022. The audience was captivated by her tales of the trials and tribulations of being out at sea without a GPS.
Her story of preparation and resilience resonated as it mirrored the ever-changing landscape of the workplace and the importance of mental fortitude: “When I was stuck in the doldrums for two weeks with no wind, I got frustrated and negative. But I realised that being negative is not going to get me out of the doldrums,” she says.
The Talent Management Award was next, and was awarded to Microsoft South Africa’s Sameera Mahomed. Sameera was unable to attend the awards ceremony, but had her award accepted on her behalf by one of her colleagues.
The Learning & Development Award, presented by GIBS, was awarded to Sharon Taylor. As she accepted her second award of the night, she mentioned that Standard Bank celebrated 25 years of their graduate programme and 15 years of their internship program. “Ten thousand youngsters have taken their first step into work with us and some of them now feature at our C-Suite tables,” she said.
The ever-gregarious Theo scooped his third and final award of the evening, as he was named Young CHRO of The Year award (presented by Mercer). He thanked his team profusely and credited his eye for talent, “Recruit the right people, appoint them and let them do what they need to do,” he says.
The biggest win of the night was Sharon Taylor as she was crowned CHRO of the Year. Overwhelmed, she graciously accepted her third win of the night and thanked her team. She proceeded to speak of the unique pressures of the HR profession, “We must never under-estimate the impact of our profession. Our profession works the hardest when things are tough and when there is organisational change,” she says.
Sharon spoke warmly of her leaders: “They give us an incredible mandate for the work that we do. What we do every day is get up and make sure we are doing the best we can to create an environment that brings out the best in our people,” she said. She finished off the triumph by exclaiming, “This is for the team!”