hR means taking people to heart

Maryanne Maina

Maryanne Maina

Nathan Motjuwadi is the group human resources (HR) manager for Coca-Cola Africa. He has been an HR practitioner for the past 17 years in various industries.

His role is to provide support to the business in various aspects such as recruitment, talent acquisition and governance.

He joined Coca-Cola in 1999 and started as a training manager, then became a division performance consultant, was promoted to a region HR manager and later again to the group HR manager when he was based in Britain.

"I am experienced and skilled in talent acquisition, performance management, competencies and business, among other essentials. Additionally, my competencies are in strategic partnering in the business, people leadership and problem solving."

Working for a global company has enabled him to have interacted diversely and with various people from all over the world. But his profession faces various challenges.

"HR as a role is challenged due to the fact that most practitioners lack an educational background in HR.

"This is unlike professions such as finance that have the chartered financial analyst qualification or accounting where you have to be an accountant. The popular educational background for the profession is social science and humanities.

"It is becoming essential that those getting into HR have HR qualifications and there are institutions such as the Institute of Personnel Management (IPM) and the University of Johannesburg that offer specialised qualifications in HR."

The profession has evolved from its role of personnel to being a strategic partner to provide support to all departments in a business.

"Our job is to understand people, their motivation and to make policies to cater for this," he says.

"We have various roles such as facilitation, talent acquisition and retention, career management, development and training and providing the right environment for the employees to support business growth. We have a lot of staff with no direct managers. For example, my manager is based in Istanbul, Turkey.

"This requires a virtual system that can cater and provide support for such roles. So, procedures and polices supportive of the business have to be designed to achieve success with the employees.

"The culture and objectives of the company have to be well understood."

When a new employee joins a company, orientation is important.

"At Coca-Cola, we call it on-boarding.

"This is very important as it could make or break the new employee's views and performance in the company."

Another major role of HR is the process of retrenchment.

"First, the country's legislation on labour has to be considered to understand how retrenchment will take place.

"Secondly, the process must be analysed requiring new models to be designed to cater for this role. Then we do outplacement which involves acquiring psychologists to prepare the employees who will be retrenched.

"Being a global company, we have a lot of expatriate movement. To prepare an employee who is about to take an expatriate role, we use the psychologists to advise them. Psychologists also assist during talent acquisition."

Motjuwadi said that in Africa "it is essential to be a general human resources professional".

"Understanding compensation and benefits is also crucial as it enables movement of talent. Another crucial skill is industrial relations.

"In HR people are our most important assets and we are their custodians."