Women’s Event shares the difference between thriving and surviving companies

Organisations that thrive can embrace disruption and find opportunities in the disruption.

On the evening of 4 August, 120 leading women in finance and HR gathered virtually for a unique online immersion event in honour of Women’s Month. Each leader also had the opportunity to bring along their mentees.

The annual Women’s Event, which took place online for the second time this year, celebrated everything the attendees had achieved and learned over the past year and which of these lessons they would take into the “brave new workplace” of the future.

After a brief welcome and thank you to the partners who made the event possible, including WorkdayCaseWare AfricaDimension Data and Momentum Corporate, the virtual floor opened up for some of the women attending to share their experiences over the past year.

Read more: Use your influence for change – women execs gather for inspirational event

CHROs shared what they had learnt from the past year and what their biggest challenges were both at home and in the workplace.

Charlotte Mokoena, executive vice president: HR and corporate affairs at Sasol said one of the things she has learnt from the pandemic, “is how emotions can come all at the same time and you don’t have the words to describe those emotions. You are not sure whether you are angry, sad or anxious.

“Often when we feel the tension of pressure we tend to go back to our true self. To what we have been taught or what we were born to be. The pandemic has made me go back to the basics I was taught, to dig deep into myself and it has brought the best of who I am.”


She added that she also dug into her authentic self, “and I realised that authentic me appreciates silence and, having raised four children, there was never full silence in our home. I found that there is strength in being silent and going deep into who you really are. I also learnt that I could cope in times of pressure and learnt who I really am when the going gets tough.”

HR executive at ENSafrica, Lebitso Mokgatle, said a big challenge from an HR point of view was to try and get leaders across the line to guide and mentor people. “And to say ‘this is what has worked in the past but it does not necessarily work now.’

“In the previous year, what came into sharper focus for me, which is something I’ve always believed in, was compassionate and empathetic leadership. More people required their leaders to show empathy and compassion because of the trials and stress of lockdown.

“What I saw is that the leaders who had developed the connections and relationships with their teams prior to lockdown were better able to engage with their teams once we were on lockdown working virtually.”

How companies can thrive instead of survive
Group organisational development and HC executive at FNB, Caryn Baird said in terms of what future-ready organisations need to think about to make the shift from surviving to thriving, there are a couple of things that resonate with her.

“The first is, I think, that organisations that survive merely respond to a crisis, before returning to ‘business as usual;. I think, however, in reality, pandemics like this change us. We are not going to be the same again after the uncertainty, change, trauma and loss we have experienced.”

She explained that while there is no silver bullet in making the shift to being a thriving organisation, in her mind, organisations that thrive are able to embrace disruption and can find opportunity in the disruption.

“They are able to be responsive and agile, ask the question, ‘What does this mean for us and how do we use this inflection point to redirect?’ and to make courageous decisions to ‘flex’ and pivot in whatever way is needed, whilst being open to fail fast if needed.”

The second characteristic that resonates with Caryn in respect of a thriving organisation is that, “I think organisations that are truly human-centric are going to be the ones that make the shift from surviving to thriving. Really making sure that every decision is about the human being, and appreciating that we don’t just go to work as ‘workers’ and ‘contributors’, but as human beings – we go to work as moms, dads, sisters and brothers, juggling many roles in our lives. We talk about ‘being in the business of being human’, which really resonates with me.”

Caryn concluded that she further thinks that thriving organisations think about integrated wellbeing and the psychological, physical, social and financial wellbeing of their people.

“The third characteristic of a thriving organisation for me is that it is one with compassionate leadership and one that can normalise the need for self-care – allowing people to find the time to get off the corporate treadmill and recharge when needed, and finding time as leadership and executive teams to reflect and think and deeply dialogue and engage on what matters.

“So often, we find ourselves on this treadmill and whilst it is okay (and often good!) to be challenged and stretched and to juggle many balls and much complexity, normalising self-care in this world of change and uncertainty is so important. Time for rejuvenation and recovery after times of stress are critical.”

Keynote speaker Ambassador Nozipho January Bardill then delivered a powerful address with the theme, “You can’t change the world, but you can change your sphere of influence.”

After lively discussion in the breakaway sessions, the webinar ended with a round-up from each of the panellists, with the consensus being that there was a need to build a future workplace that is sympathetic and accommodating to the needs of both men and women.