Tswelo Kodisang joins the 2022 CHRO Awards judging panel

The experienced executive says HR is in the ‘sweet spot’.

Tswelo Kodisang has joined the 2022 CHRO Awards judging panel. He currently holds the role of group chief people officer at FirstRand.

CHRO SA recently spoke with Tswelo, who is also the winner of the 2020 CHRO of the Year Award.

Q: What attracted you to becoming a CHRO SA Awards judge?

A: I was awarded the 2020 CHRO of the Year Award and when I was asked to contribute as a judge this year, I was more than happy to do so. It is a great opportunity to contribute.

Q: How did it feel being recognised as a CHRO of the Year?

A: It was recognition for the work that the team and I had done, with the timeframe being during my time at Discovery. I have been in the HR space for 30 years and have experienced different organisations. Accolades are not for one moment of work and impact, they are the result of years of practice, learning, unlearning, making mistakes, bouncing back and making an impact.

With recognition like CHRO of the Year, it shows that you are on the right track and highlights others who have contributed to your journey.

Q: How do you see the CHRO role evolving in the next few years?

A: At a macro level, it is important for people to grow by receiving feedback and constantly learning. The pandemic was felt intensely because there was no playbook, nothing to reference so it was a challenge to navigate. We all had to learn fast and came together collaboratively. Design thinking was at play.

So, when I reflect on that I understand that we are on the right track and can dig deeper and learn from what others have done to raise the floor of the function. This is one of the reasons I enjoy participating in the CHRO SA roundtables, where people can reflect and get inspiration and make sure that we as HR don’t stand still. In this way we can create the platforms for the next generation of HR leaders as well.

Q: How can organisations leverage this evolution of HR?

A: Even before the pandemic, the role of CHROs was more than an HR function. Any organisation is made up of people, who are unique, dynamic, quirky and social. This leads to a level of complexity that we need to understand, leverage and navigate.

The pandemic has brought this to the fore, as well as the different types of contract that people are willing to enter into with organisations. With work-from-home, being constantly on, we need to help organisations and people navigate this.

So, we are in the sweet spot of evolution, which is about people. Organisations are starting to put human-centricity at the centre of their business models and find the levers that make work meaningful and give people purpose. The HR function is best placed for this.

HR has always had a role to play, and we can focus on the commercial and business aspects too. It’s not just about a seat at the table anymore. I feel fortunate to be part of this, learning from great people, other functions in business and bringing that into focus.

Q: Do you have any advice for the CHRO SA Awards nominees this year?

A: The awards are part of a journey, not a one-year event. Sustainability and longevity are key. It’s about impact and the difference that has been made. Be deliberate and understand that it’s a team sport.

If you surround yourself with people more brilliant than you, they will shine their light on you. Tell the stories of how your team supports you, how good they are at their craft and in that way you will become great.

Go back and understand the levers around why you are where you are, reflect on them and when engaging with the judges, express these clearly, while using as many examples as possible.

About Tswelo

Tswelo joined FirstRand towards the end of 2021. Prior to that he was the chief people officer at Discovery for three years.

Tswelo has held the CHRO role at Tiger Brands, and worked across Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, Israel and England with Unilever. He has spent most of his career at Unilever, where he was accountable for driving and executing the people strategy across all the key HR areas and ultimately became the global HR vice-president of the company.

Tswelo has a BCom in business, managerial economics and psychology from the University of the Witwatersrand.