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Empowering Growth: HR’s Role in Tech Professional Development

A conversation with Ntokozo Khumalo – Senior Human Capital Business Partner at Adapt IT

By Katucia Moussongo

Human Resource Professionals are the primary point of contact and the gateway to companies. Corporations entrust them with identifying top talent from a diverse pool of skilled individuals and fostering a harmonious working environment among various stakeholders. In this interview, learn more about the HR industry with Ntokozo Khumalo, Senior Human Capital Business Partner at Adapt IT.

A conversation with Ntokozo Khumalo – Senior Human Capital Business Partner at Adapt IT

By Katucia Moussongo

“Before being HR professionals, we are leaders & custodians of employees.”

Please share a bit about your journey and what drew you to the field of Human Resources, particularly within the dynamic environment of the Technology sector.

From grade 11, I knew I wanted to work with anything related to the mind and behaviour. When asked what I wanted to become, I responded that I wanted to work with fire victims, especially children. I aimed to positively impact their mental well-being, enabling them to find the strength to continue living, even though they faced physical challenges.

I have always aspired to be a hope-bearer who brings peace and encourages others to improve their situation. I believe the future may be better than what you can see or experience today.

I stumbled into HR at Pietermaritzburg, University of KwaZulu Natal. I applied for General Psychology at the University, and in my second year, I was introduced to Industrial Psychology, which, for me, is applying organisational psychology in the corporate space. During my time at University, I was also exposed to many projects. Actually, what drives me is to run impactful projects. I am currently part of a HR team that implements projects that not only impact people but also align with their needs.

For the past 15 years, I have been a dedicated HR advocate, particularly within the ICT industry. In fact, I entered the ICT industry right after I graduated from university. My work has taken me across borders, from African countries like Malawi, Zambia, Kenya, and Madagascar to countries like Brazil, providing me with invaluable opportunities to learn, grow, and build lasting memories. 

With the rise of remote work and digital collaboration tools, how do you plan to leverage HR initiatives to maintain a strong sense of community and connection among Tech employees?

A hybrid work model is practiced at Adapt IT. Despite being a topic of debate, many expert articles affirm that this model is here to stay. However, to ensure the success of any working model, it’s important to have employees’ voices. That’s why we introduced the Employee Engagement Survey, which helps us understand whether our initiatives work for all critical stakeholders, not just executives but everyone (permanent, and fixed-term contractor). Based on the insights we gather; we make necessary adjustments. That’s one of the critical non-negotiable HR initiatives we continue to leverage. 

In addition, to maintain a sense of connection, we have adopted a camera-on approach during meetings to allow face-to-face interaction instead of relying solely on voices.

In what ways do you see HR contributing to the ongoing professional development and growth opportunities for employees in the Tech industry?

Before being HR professionals, we are leaders and custodians of employees. I’m very passionate about the topic of professional development and growth. I can go on and on about this value chain.

Our role as HR professionals involves coaching employees, which implies that our own proficiency level growth is important and should be on point. Indeed, it starts with self. If I invest in my own development, I will stay in touch with best practices and the skill’s depth. Then, it becomes effortless for me to support employees’ professional growth and development by acting as a coach.
The role of coaches is to enable you. They help and guide you to come up with your own answers. And have a conversation with you about your development and growth opportunity.

In your opinion, how can a company attract and retain top talent in such a competitive space?

Top talent is a buzzword across the corporate landscape. It’s relevant because, in any operation, there are outliers. I love the focus on top talents because these are individuals who will carry on the company’s legacy.  

Attracting and retaining top talents starts with genuinely getting to know them. Conversation and dialogue are so important because you will be able to understand, for example, where this person sees himself in the next years and try to guide him or groom him through projects and more.

The recent literature I’ve been reading speaks about engaging them not as numbers but as individuals. Our retention and attraction mechanisms will make sense when we start doing that. We’ll have people staying longer than three years.

 It’s also about not having a fixed mindset because not everything works for everybody. Some would like to travel, and others not. We need to realise that some popular trends may not apply to an African context.

Likewise, engage early because you know the employees who have the right motivation level, willingness, and commitment. Employees should in the same way have a conversation with their line manager because they are the owners of their development and growth. Sometimes, as employees, we wait for the manager to have a conversation with us. 

Can you share an example of a successful HR initiative or program you’ve implemented that significantly contributed to enhancing the workplace culture within a Tech company?

I will stay in the context of professional development and growth because that’s where my heart lies. We rolled out the Adapt IT GIBS Leadership Masterclass, which aimed to build leadership capacity. We received encouraging feedback from those who participated, including Steven Sutherland, William Reeler, Matthew Seabrook, and Thabo Mashigo. 

During the Adapt IT GIBS Leadership Masterclass, delegates had the opportunity to delve into four key modules: Vision and Strategy, Collaboration & Accountability  , Transformational Leadership, and Future Fit Adapt IT. The program concluded with a graduation ceremony in early January, and I’m eagerly anticipating the initiatives that will be implemented as a direct result of this transformative experience.

The other one is the Financial Health Clinics. We know the economy’s interest rates; we are all feeling the pinch. This initiative speaks to the psychology of money and helps people manage their finances based on realities like savings, spending habits, and more. We want you to show up at work at your best. It will enable you to thrive in how you view money and resolve your financial matters. 

The last one is the Adapt IT “YES” Program, which is a government initiative. YES, stands for Youth Employment Services. It is a government-backed business- led initiative designed to create employment for one million young people.  

The initiative aims to give an entire generation of youth the opportunity to gain work experience, transforming their lives, the businesses they help grow, and the economy of the whole country. It is predicated on the fact that without experience, youth cannot get a job, and without a job, youth cannot get experience. 

The government pleads with corporations to partner with them by providing employment opportunities to the designated and /or disable in South Africa. We’ve been participating for over four years in recognising and addressing our political and social landscape as South Africa. And we are giving the youth of South Africa meaningful opportunities. 

The Telecoms Division has excellent stories. One of the ways we attracted them was via the hackathon. We leveraged the event to have them participate in the Adapt IT YES initiative. We also advertise on the platform that students, learners, and unemployed people visit, and we leverage LinkedIn. Most of the individual who were able to join the program, have been converted to permanent employees. Why? Because we saw their potential. 

What advice would you give to aspiring HR students looking to build a successful career?

I will address two groups in my message. First, to the HR students, I want to say that you should say “yes” to yourself because you have what it takes. Believe in yourself and don’t doubt your abilities. 

Second, say “yes” to the person or people who believe in you and support you financially, emotionally, and otherwise. Do it for them. Third, say “yes” to God. You can achieve great things because you are made in His image.
Second to the people who are already part of an HR team. As a team, we must lead with sincere hearts for the people and the business. It’s important to remember that our role is to remain neutral and impartial. We shouldn’t always side with the employee or only with the company. Lastly, HR is not just limited to payroll. We can also lead projects that drive business performance.

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