LeadMe recently interviewed four HR leaders in various industries to get their insights around the future and value of these departments after a year of constant change. Meet Azaria Beukes from Yoco, Candice Watson from AECI, Harry Akinola from Puma Energy Group and Sarah Rice from Skynamo.
Azaria Beukes: “Our main objective throughout this process was to ensure that everyone remained whole. We made fundamental changes to the way we communicate. For the first two months, we had a company gathering every two days. We took over-communication to a whole different level. Even though leadership did not have all the answers, it was better to be in the unknown together than to leave everyone to their own devices. We wanted to ensure that everyone felt part of a community.”
Candice Watson: “My role pivoted from ‘how do we find our best talent’ to 'how do we keep our staff safe.”
Sarah Rice: “Book out personal time each day to eat and take a break. At the beginning (of lockdown), I was sitting at my desk all day long, whereas in an office there are natural pauses that happen throughout the day. Also, make sure people are taking leave. Our company created an initiative where people who took five days’ leave in August were eligible for an entry into a raffle where the prize was R2500 for your next holiday. This worked well, encouraged people to take time off and the whole company was better for it.”
Candice Watson: “Play the long-term game. No one was ready psychologically to stay in this lull for as long as we have. And we still aren’t seeing the end of it. If we knew that in March 2020 we would need a two-year plan instead of three weeks, then it would have been drastically different. Now we should apply that thinking going forward, instead of only thinking about the here and now.”
Azaria Beukes: “People management is all about increasing talent density in the business and then leveraging that talent to propel the business forward. Each person brings something unique to the table and should feel able to share ideas, insights and concerns. More importantly, they should have the opportunity to play in their genius zone. This means helping leaders build great teams.”
Harry Akinola: “Human resource management should be a targeted approach by having the right people in the right position to execute the business strategy. It is ensuring we attract, develop and retain the right people.”
Sarah Rice: “Mental health is now a central part of the role. This means creating space for conversations about how people are feeling more often, and in more ways than ever before. Managers need to be more psychologically and emotionally literate to support their people. Companies need to provide support in the form of company wellness programmes that offer therapy, talks and workshops on how to maintain personal wellbeing and mindfulness opportunities such as yoga or meditation. Now, and in the future, these kinds of interventions and services need to become standard and not ‘nice to haves.’”
Azaria Beukes: “My absolute favourite Slack integration is Donut. It randomly pairs people up on Slack and encourages them to have a “Donut Date” to get to know each other better. Another worth mentioning is Miro, we love to use this to brainstorm ideas, complete retrospectives and much more.”
Candice Watson: “Last year, the focus went back to the basic needs of our employees (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) and getting all our COVID safety and protocol set up. Now with the rest of this year, we’re getting excited about online technology and moving forward with relearning online and personal and employee development.”
How has your work culture been impacted?
Azaria Beukes: “We understand that culture cannot be controlled but is rather something that happens and evolves through our interactions with one another. Sticking to our core values has minimised the impact of remote work on our culture. That said, culture is only one part of it. There is a whole system that needs to be considered, which presents a bigger challenge. Something that has helped us bridge the gap between office and remote work is by applying the principle of remote first. If one person is remote, everyone is remote. People have a choice as to whether they work in the office or remotely, but all our company rituals remain remote. Leaders have played a critical role in ensuring that their teams feel connected and have a sense of belonging, whether working in the office or remotely."
Candice Watson: “It’s very difficult to keep building culture and integrating values, because these are things that are observable - not something I can do on a text or on a presentation. We underestimate the nuances of bringing people into a place of work and how we relate to them and how that impacts organisational culture.”
Candice Watson: “What is most important now is to pick up the pieces of this broken world that COVID resulted in and piece it back into something that is beautifully strong and resilient for the generations of the future.”
Harry Akinola: “I believe we’re coming out of the year of COVID holding us back and now we’re moving forward and looking at all we want to do. And I’m excited that we still have more months this year to achieve these goals!”
Candice Watson: “The leaders who will succeed in the future will be human-centric.”
Harry Akinola: “If you’re in HR, focus on the goals or areas that will have the greatest impact for the team and company.”
Sarah Rice: “Don’t forget to love your humans. Remember that our role is about helping every single person in the company find their groove so that they can be passionate, committed and keep growing.”