South Africa rises as great HR leadership paves the way for future-focused processes. Here are the personalities that have been fighting the good fight for HR and employee empowerment. These are the 20 HR leaders in South Africa to follow!
20 HR leaders in South Africa to follow
1. Sarah Rice
Sarah Rice is the Chief People Officer at Skynamo. She has been featured in CHRO South Africa’s Visionary Women Leader’s Series, after just two years of experience in shouldering HR responsibilities. After working in the South African technology environment as a PR and communications strategist for 20 years, by mid-2019 Sarah moved her focus towards culture and leadership development at Skynamo.
She brings fresh and experienced eyes in her mission to transform the recruitment experience. Sarah quote accurately notes that the old ways of doing things in HR - traditional hierarchies, information flows, and structures - are outdated and don’t work anymore. As one of the most visionary talent management and HR leaders in South Africa, Sarah believes that recruitment strategies needs some serious change, and is striving on building an environment where people are challenged to do their best work and managing programs that help develop staff members.
2. Bongani Phakathi
Bongani Phakathi is Assore’s Human Resources Executive and has seen HR evolve through many stages and faces in his varied 29-year career. Bongani acknowledges that the path an HR leader walks shares an allegiance with two sides. One side is the interests of the company, and on the other side, the interests of the people within the company.
During the span of his career, Bongani remembers a time when he believed that HR’s job was just to keep people happy and to make sure they get paid in time. “Today, we think about how we do good for people and for the business,” he remarked. He believes that the good that HR does for the people should also be in support of the company’s commercial imperative. Therefore, HR has to ensure that the people that represent the company are competent, capable and empowered to do the job of advancing the business.
3. Tanya Ramlagan
Tanya Ramlagan is the Group Chief Human Resources Officer at Bravo Brands. Upon her induction into her role as CHRO, Tanya was tasked with building the human resource structures and approach that would support the company’s growth and expansion strategy. During her transitory period, she discovered the importance of the first 90 days of being on the job. “If you want to be successful an ensure the team is excited and wants to go on the journey with you, it is important that you do not start with preconceived ideas and pre-determined strategies.”
Tanya is a strategic leader and change agent with more than 18 years of experience as an HR specialist and global project manager.
4. Jonathan Muthige
Jonathan Muthige is the Group Chief Human Capital & Transformation Officer at Alexander Forbes. As an individual who studied in the drama department, Jonathan’s journey into HR has been an unconventional one. As a man with multi-potentialities and varying interests, Jonathan moved from drama to deejaying to lecturing and found his way into conflict resolution. He spent years trying to figure out why HR should exist in any organization and what their business case was.
At the heart of it all, the development of people and how companies leverage human resources is what keeps him going and what he enjoys the most. Jonathan is also a great believer in the people who work in the HR space and has faith in them being the most influential people in the organization.
5. Tantaswa Fubu
Tantaswa Fubu is the Group Executive of Human Capital, Internal Audit and Corporate Affairs at Barloworld Ltd. Through the challenges she underwent in 2021, one of the greatest lessons that she learnt was on how to lead with empathy. “The leaders that emerge out of this era,” she stated, “will be those who have internalised what it really means to lead with empathy… they will be the leaders who have a true understanding of how to treat people in the most decent and dignified manner.”
Covid-19 came with challenges of every colour, and Tantaswa believes that the most important challenge of them all was to emerge a stronger and more humane leader.
6. Laressa Thavarin
For Laressa Thavarin, HR Director at Air Liquide Africa, fostering diversity and inclusion is a the core focus of her purpose as HR leader, with gender equality in the workplace being a top priority. In her current role, Laressa is actively driving the D&I agenda. For her, a commitment to diversity means creating a great place for women to work, empowering young girls for the future world of work and supporting communities to ensure inclusivity.
Larissa is a bold, non-conformist business thinker and id deeply passionate about growing young women and leaders of tomorrow.
7. Sibongile Bobo Mngxali
Sibongile Bobo Mngxali, Head of HR at Roche Diagnostics, believes there’s no better time than now to be in HR. She says, “We are the partners in the organisation that connect talent to purpose, value and the new age of human connection.” Like many other HR leaders, Sibongile has witnessed a dramatic shift in in the workplace as a result of Covid-19. HR is no longer just focused on the goings on within the four walls of the office, but more on employee health and safety.
Sibongile believes that the Employer Value Proposition (EVP) is the new reason for purpose in an employee’s life. Employees are looking for a flexible working environment that brings value, purpose and human connection. The responsibility of guiding employees to become self-actualised and discover that purpose now rests in the hands of HR. And HR leaders in South Africa need to develop the muscles that will ensure that it remains fit for the future.
8. Michaela Voller
As Chief HR Executive at Dimension Data, Michaela Voller’s prime objective is to execute business strategy by enabling people. But in order to enable people, Michaela believes it is important to break away from traditional ways of thinking about employee experiences, and readjust their approach towards the holistic wellbeing of employees, with mental wellness being the top priority.
The future of work, Michaela asserts, must be enabled by technology but also be inherently human. The more digital the workplace the more human the experience will need to become. As companies make strides into this new reality, they must initiate a significant shift form simply supporting HR-driven processes to Human Experience Management.
9. Aisling Tellard
Once a senior HR professional with a career that spanned 25 years, Aisling Tellard established Our Tandem in 2016, which is an employee experience and engagement toolkit to develop people through real time feedback, regular check-ins, structured 360s, and insightful analytics.
Aisling believe in the effectiveness of building healthy and constructive workspaces. By creating such a culture, employees and managers feel comfortable giving feedback to one another and also witness the benefits of doing so. And technology is a great channel for people to give and receive feedback privately or otherwise.
Making the shift towards a human-centric approach to people management and building a culture of feedback isn’t just a wish away. But specialised methodologies and the right technology can help ensure that companies build these habits sustainably over time.
10. Portia Thokoane
As Chief HR Officer at Dark Fibre Africa, Portia Thokoane states that it took a lot of strategic thinking for HR to rethink its role and pivot & adapt through the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic presented many significant challenges to employees ad employers alike, and Portia admits that at DFA, they really had to rethink their roles as HR practitioners and craft a workable approach to dealing with the effects of the pandemic.
Above it all, Portia stands for the cause of HR leaders in South Africa being enabled to care for employee wellness and wellbeing during this time. Quickly realising the necessity of significantly changing the way HR operated, one of the things that she did at the DFA was to take care of employees by taking all their learning online and make tools available so that employees could better manage working remotely and deal with mental-health challenges.
11. Hope Lukoto
Hope Lukoto is the Chief Human Resources Officer at BCX. With more than 16 years of HR work under her belt, Hope is an experienced organizational development professional and a human behaviour specialist who works as a psychologist and executive coach. As a force to be reckoned with and one of the budding HR leaders in South Africs, Hope is an expert at creating a vision, showing people what can be achieved, and encouraging people into working on achieving it.
12. Thakazelwa N.
Thakazelwa is the Healthcare PR Lead and HR Leader at 3M. With more than 10 years of experience in the HR leadership role, Thakazelwa unique skills and capabilities makes her a key force in the face of rapid and significant organizational transformation. She is one of the up and coming HR leaders in South Africa with both the technical and relationship skills to effect the difficult task of change management.
13. Neridha Moodley
Neridha Moodley is the Head of People and Culture at SNG Grant Thorton. When she talks about transformation, Neridha says that it’s more than just about changing the company culture and making sure that people are on the right journey in the organization - it’s also about how as an HR specialist, one can make a difference to people, communities and the organization as a whole.
And when it comes to being a good leader, Neridha believes that leadership as a skill can be built and developed on the job. As long as one learns as they go and surrounds themselves with the right team, they will have the experience and the ability to understand what is needed and deliver on those needs.
14. Masenyane Molefe
Now the Group Executive of Human Resources at PPS, Masenyane Molefe says that not her studies nor even the the first 15 years of her career pointed towards he becoming an HR professional. During her years as a non-HR professional, Masenyane had dealt with issues and concepts of a strategic business and national importance. But with her appreciation of business imperatives as well as being a people’s person, Masenyane has since been acknowledged as one of the most non-conventional HR leaders in South Africa who is often described as bringing a fresh perspective to HR.
15. Jasmin Pillay
Jasmin Pillay is Microsoft SA’s Director: HR Consulting. She has been described as a passionate, diligent and meticulous HR practitioner. Jasmine believes that hybrid work is the future - a belief that is also carried by the organization. According to her, the post-pandemic workplace is one that presents a major shift in employee expectations and major flexibility. Jasmine has a deep passion for developing people, or as she states it, “Empowering the people who empower the planet."
16. Athol Swanepoel
Athol Swanepoel is the HR Director for East and Southern Africa at Nestlé. If 2020 made one thing clear, it is that HR was indispensable. The pandemic accelerated digital transformation in many organizations. Post the pandemic, Athol was under no illusion that 2021 would be an easy year, but the flexibilities that it Covid-19 afforded and the skills that were developed during the time made him more than prepared to take on the challenges ahead.
“The age-old conversation of HR having a seat at the table has been put to bed. It is clear that HR is at the forefront and leading organisations.”
17. Lungile Langa
Lungile Langa is the Group HR Executive at Airports Company South Africa. She is a seasoned HR Executive and an Industrial & Orgnizational Psychologist with extensive experience in the field of Human Resource Management and Organizational behaviour. On the matter of ethics and maintaining a core ethical conduct in an organization, Lungile emphasises that setting standards and creating a culture where ethics are respected not only depends on the leaders of the organization but also on its HR department. Therefore, in order for HR to be viewed as a strategic partner and not just a support function, the department needs to be empowered to act on behaviours that don’t meet the organization’s ethical standards.
18. Candice Watson
Candice Watson is the Group Human Capital Executive at AECI Limited, and was the recipient for the award for Young CHRO of the Year’21 at the 2021 CHRO Awards ceremony. She is an experiences Human Resources professional, and skilled in Functional Leadership, Labour Relations, Succession Planning, and Organizational Development.
19. Celiwe Ross
Celiwe Ross is the Human Capital Director at Old Mutual Limited, and was the recipient for the award for Talent Management at the 2021 CHRO Awards ceremony. With the power of clear vision as her ally, Celiwe has strong capabilities for building high performing organizations and teams that are both efficient and customer-focused. She invests in people’s careers for the benefit of the company and the bottom line.
20. Kyle Gareth Chetty
Kyle Gareth Chetty is the HR Executive at Autoboys Glass Fitment Services and winner of the 2020 Young CHRO of the Year. With more than a decade of extensive HR work experience within the Wholesale, Retail, and Automotive industries, Kyle's expertise focuses on the development and implementation of HR strategy, HR policy and procedure, recruitment and succession planning, organizational strategy, and change management. His passion lies in utilising his knowledge, experience and competencies to contribute towards the growth of knowledge and skills, achieving successful business objectives and making an impact on people by adding value.