Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a CHRO

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Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a CHRO

Welcome to another exciting episode of All About HR! This is the podcast & video series for HR Professionals and business leaders who want to future-proof their organization and learn about the latest trends & insights from industry experts, CHROs, and thought leaders.

What do you need to become a strategic and future-ready CHRO? In this episode, we sit down with Dieter Veldsman — HR Thought Leader & Domain Expert — to discuss the competencies, key domains, and future roles of the CHRO.

In his last role as a CHRO, Dieter helped his organization utilize its people resources to optimize its business strategy and earn the Top Employer Certification in 2021. 

In this interview, we’ll talk about: 

  • The key elements that make a well-rounded HR leader
  • Three strategic competencies that every CHRO needs to be effective
  • What the CHRO role will look like in the future

Watch the full episode to find out everything you need to know to become a well-rounded and future-ready CHRO.


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Dieter Veldsman: HR has to also step up. I love what we’re doing currently with digital and technology. I do think there’s a dark side to that though. So I think HR has to also be the conscience of the organization, you have to make sure that we do these things in a responsible way. And you know, sometimes you have to ask the question, are we really doing the right things and what would be the consequences for our people if we go in this direction? 

Neelie Verlinden: Hi, everyone, and welcome to a brand new episode of All About HR. My name is Neelie. I’m your host, and in today’s episode, I speak with Dieter Veldsman. Dieter is the HR Thought Leader here at the Academy to Innovate HR. He also is a CHRO, an organizational psychologist, and many, many other things. In our conversation, we talked about Dieter’s journey towards becoming a CHRO. We touched on the role of education and academics, we looked at practical experiences and the importance of knowing the business, we discussed important skills. And we took a sneak peek into the future. I think this is more than enough reason to check out this episode straightaway. But as always, before you do so, please don’t forget to subscribe to the channel, hit that notification bell, and like this video. Thank you very much, and happy watching.

Neelie Verlinden: Hi, everyone, and welcome to a brand new episode of All About HR. My name is Neelie. I’m your host. As always, even though not as always, I’m not in the studio today. As you can see, I actually got a pretty bad cold. No COVID. But still, I couldn’t come to the studio. So thank God for the technology. And that’s why you are seeing me here now remotely. While our lovely guest for today, Dieter, is in the studio. Hi, Dieter. Welcome. How are you? 

Dieter Veldsman: I’m doing very well. Thanks, Neelie. And thank you for having me. I look forward to our conversation. 

Neelie Verlinden: Me too. I’m very much looking forward to our conversation. And I think that without further ado, we can dive straight into that conversation, Dieter. And today’s conversation is going to be all about your journey towards becoming a CHRO. What it’s like to be a CHRO and also, hopefully, some interesting advice that we can share with our listeners. Now, first of all, Dieter. Can you perhaps briefly tell our listeners what your journey was like? 

Dieter Veldsman: Sure, Neelie. So I think really, the story starts. And I’ve always been fascinated by understanding human behavior on one side, and really on the other side trying to understand how that plays out in business. And you know, I can remember, literally the week before I started studying, I changed my course to psychology to be able to understand how do we bring these two different elements together? As you’ve already mentioned, my career started in a corporate setting, I worked as a change analyst in a big global bank. And I think what I really enjoyed about that environment was learning how a big business functions and operates. And how do all these different pieces come together to deliver value for clients? However, after doing that for a while, I realized I wanted to see what the science of HR looks like in other industries, outside of the financial services sector, and I made the decision to really join a small boutique consulting firm at that stage to get involved with as many projects as I could. And really just to stretch my own thinking beyond just change management and organizational development and also started to play really with organizational design at that stage. And you know, how do we design organizations differently? And I think for me, it was really great, you know, in the morning to spend time with clients in the aviation industry, but then in the afternoon you’re having a conversation about retail, and the next day, you’re talking about mining. And I think that variety really taught me how HR applies to all these different contexts. And how are we able to really make a difference as an HR professional? Beyond that, I then started my own business with three other colleagues. And really the intention behind that was to say, where do we think we can make the most impact, and what is the challenging work that we believe that we can add value? And really, joining with them, it was a very, very interesting period for me, you know, running the business on the one side, on the other end consulting on various things across the HR lifecycle. And really, I’m proud to say that, you know, as we built the business out over a couple of years that a lot of big international companies, as well as really, really small startups, trusted us to be their HR advisors, and also to run a lot of their operational HR processes. And that’s really something that sparked a lot of joy for me to see the difference that we were making in the lives of our clients. I think whilst doing that, I also realized that I really get my energy from really being in the thick of things, being in the science of HR and I made the decision to further my own studies at that stage, focusing very much on an employee engagement topic that I’ve always found extremely interesting. And I think it’s something that we haven’t solved yet. So I really found, you know, how do I deep dive there and also be able to understand what that looks like in a business context? And how do we create the journeys differently for employees with regards to engagement? Post my Ph.D., I then tried to apply the lessons I learned in practice. So I joined a small tech startup. And really our goal was to say, how do we build different workplaces and bring the science of HR and technology together in this new digital landscape? And how do we play with some of the old practices in a new way? I really enjoyed that and I learned a lot about how technology and human behavior actually interface and how we should design for that intentionally as part of our HR practices. While doing that I really was very fortunate to stumble across another opportunity, I was asked to come and help a process around mergers and acquisitions for three retail brands that wanted to reassemble into one group structure. And mergers and acquisitions have always been something that’s fascinated me. And if I can give anybody advice, if you want to learn 10 years’ worth of lessons in two years, get yourself involved in a big merger and acquisition process. I think it’s one of the toughest but probably most rewarding experiences that you can have, as part of an HR team and leading that process for an organization. I did that for a while before being headhunted and starting my last adventure before joining the Academy to Innovate HR, as the people executive of a multinational insurance business. At the time, the business was at the beginning of a big turnaround strategy, it had been a couple of really, really tough years in the market. And the role was to say, how do we help guide the organization through that? And that appealed to me, you know, very impactful work and very high-priority workflows to get right. And how do we really change the narrative in that organization as well? I joined as the people executive. Later on, I transitioned into the CHRO role, also then tasked with leading the five-year turnaround people strategy with regards to that particular scope of responsibility. And whilst you’re doing this, I’ve always been fascinated by how do we develop people, you know, and how do we develop HR practitioners, and, you know, through the work that you’ve mentioned around writing and lecturing, I’ve always tried to give back to the science and give back and hopefully, you know, share some of the lessons that I’ve learned so that other people can utilize them as part of their own journey. And I think that’s really what’s brought me to AIHR, to say, how can we combine some of the experience I’ve got, how can we look at the science of HR? And how can we look at the future of the HR profession and the HR professional? I’ve seen a lot of HR practitioners with so much good intent and so much passion for organizations, but there are certain stumbling blocks that we just don’t seem to push out of the way. And I’d love to play a role just in changing that, for the practitioner of tomorrow. 

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Neelie Verlinden: Well, really beautiful journey, Dieter, I think what I find so interesting about your journey is to hear really how you’ve constantly had this combination of making sure that you keep learning and educating yourself, but then also putting that into practice by working in these various organizations. And also, and I think this is a super nice element, as you put it yourself, by then trying to give back as well, what you’ve learned, and teach others about that. So many elements in this journey that I would like to unpack with you. So I think we’re going to start again, at the beginning. If we look outside of formal education for a second, what would you say would be the most important thing that you have learned, and that helped you in your role as a CHRO? 

Dieter Veldsman: I think there have been quite a few things there. The first one for me is you have to stay curious. As an HR practitioner, I think HR is one of those jobs that gets extremely busy, there’s always something else to do, there’s always a next priority or a next fire to fight. And you have to find a way to remove yourself from that environment from time to time and say, let me take a step back, let me make sense of what is happening to me. And let me also understand what’s happening broader than my own context, you know, the world outside, trying to get into the minds of the stakeholders that you’re fortunate enough to deal with and really understand, you know, from a curiosity point of view, what can I learn from this person? What can I learn from this particular situation? The second one for me that I’ve always tried to do is, if I don’t know how something works, I try to find somebody to teach it to me, or at least somebody that I can observe. That was about HR, but it was also broader than that in terms of some general business skills and some general business exposure. I can remember early in my career, you know, one of the things I did is I always put up my hand to say, I will build the PowerPoint deck for the expo meetings. Now it wasn’t because I had this love of PowerPoint, it was just this love of exposure in what types of conversations at that stage that the senior executives were having? And how can I equip myself one day to also participate in those and understand, you know, what is important at that level and what all the things that we need to look at and that we do need to solve for? And I think a third one really is, you know, I don’t believe HR is done behind the desk, you know, get out from behind your desk, you know, move into the business, get to know the people, spend time with the people. And something that I’ve always tried to do as the CHRO is really to meet with employees that, you know, in the normal course of the day, that as a CHRO I would not normally interact with. You know, one of my most meaningful learning experiences was with an engineer that looked after our generators in Nigeria at the time and just chatting to him about, you know, what would he do differently? Or sitting with a call center agent, you know, and saying, what’s your view on client experience? What is it that you keep on hearing? And how do we really change that? So I think for me, it’s this balance between, you know, formal studies gives you a way to interpret the world, it gives you a way to think about the world. But you have to combine that with, you know, stretching your own thinking and getting out in the real world, getting your hands dirty, and really taking those things on and saying, what exposure do I need? And what do I take out of the situation? And what do I give back? And that’s always been important to me.  

Neelie Verlinden: Get out from behind your desk, I think that’s such an important one, Dieter. I recently did an episode here on All About HR with Khurshid Anis, and she also said that when we talk about epic fails, and epic wins, what we love to do at All About HR. One of them was that initially when she started out that she did not necessarily get out there enough, she spent a lot of time with her HR team. And that was fantastic. But she did not necessarily get out there enough to speak with people in the organization and people within other departments, to really get a feel for okay, what’s going on here in the organization. So I think that’s a very important one, I think we can continue now. I know that there’s no predefined career path to becoming a CHRO, I think that’s actually an important thing to keep in mind. Because that also means that there’s a lot of different ways that lead to Rome as they always say. But surely there are a few key areas that leaders need to be good at or excel at, even if you had to make a shortlist, what would be the key topics, or areas HR professionals need to master if they want to become an HR leader? 

Dieter Veldsman: I think this is a very good question, Neelie. I think, you know, firstly, to your point, the acknowledgment that there is no one path, there is no, you know, golden recipe that leads to the CHRO at the end of the rainbow. And I think that’s a very important point to understand. Having said that, though, I’ve always thought, you know, to be a well-rounded HR professional and a well-rounded CHRO, these three domains that you need to be good at. And for me, the first one is, you have to understand business realities. You know, we talk a lot about business acumen. But I want to go even further to say you have to spend time in the business or living very, very close to the business. So to make it practical, in my own career, I’ve always tried, you know, whether it was organizational design, or HR business partner type of responsibilities, to really get into the minds of, you know, why do we exist? Why do we make money? And what is the difference that we make as a business? And I think that’s important for you to be able to understand and apply that reality to the context within which you find yourself, I think the second one is, and it might seem like, you know, a very forthcoming one, but it is that you have to understand the HR science, you have to understand how the different parts of HR all contribute towards value. Now, one of my biggest frustrations is when HR practitioners get tunnel vision, you know, I’m so focused just on what I need to do, I’m so focused just on what my responsibility is, I forget that I form part of a bigger fraternity or a community and that all of us have got a different part to play. Because ultimately, you know, the real value comes about leveraging the different areas of HR at the right point in time, as opposed to just doing the same thing, you know, over and over for me to make that practical, it’s like being a mechanic that specializes in the front right wheel of the car, you’re extremely effective and valuable, as long as the problem is the front right wheel of the car. But the moment the problem goes beyond that you need other people to start also guiding and shaping your own thinking. And then the last one for me is really around, you have to understand human behavior. You know, we spend so much of our adult lives in the working environment. And I think as HR professionals, we have to understand what makes people tick, what motivates people? And how do we create some of these environments that are really going to lead towards people flourishing and reaching their own potential? And there’s a lot of science behind that and there’s a lot of evidence behind that you do need to understand. So really, for me these three, those domains are knowing the business, knowing HR is a science, and understanding human behavior. And if you can bring those three together, I think there’s a real sweet spot that a CHRO needs to play in. 

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I think so, too. This, to me, sounds like the, let’s say the magic combination if something like that exists. But yeah, I think all of these are very relevant points. And now I want to deviate for one second because there was something that triggered my mind when I heard you speak. And it was like you need to know what makes people tick. Now, I know that you are very interested in employee engagement, as you said earlier in our conversation. Could you perhaps give an example of how that could look like in practice, a very short one maybe for our listeners? 

Dieter Veldsman: Sure, Neelie. I think it’s a multi-layered question in a multi-layered concept. But I think, for me, it boils down to the question, why do people work and where does work fit in the context of them being a holistic human being? Now, that might sound extremely theoretical, but people work for different reasons. And if you’re able to understand that and able to think about, you know, how does the employer or the organization engage with people in those different contexts for the reasons why they are there, I think you’ve already won the battle around employee engagement. I think very often, we take these generic blanket approaches towards, you know, saying everybody has to be motivated and engaged and involved in everything we do as an organization. But what are those moments that matter? You know, I’m a very big fan at the moment of the employee experience movement, because I think there’s a lot of good things that we can learn out of, you know, what are those meaningful touchpoints? Because, ultimately, you know, what is an organization? An organization is a whole bunch of people coming together around a common goal or a common cause, using processes and technology to implement to a consumer. You know, and I think that’s what engagement is about, it’s about how do I create balanced and meaningful people, in their relationship with the organization? 

Neelie Verlinden: And that’s the answer, Dieter. I think you did a really great job, because, as you said, it was a multi-layered question in a multi-layered context as well. So great job on that. All right, let’s go back to our red thread of today’s conversation, talking about becoming a CHRO, being a CHRO. So Dieter here’s a point I wanted to touch on with you is that when we talk about career advancement, it’s easy, of course, to focus on degrees and job titles that people have picked up along the way, and then think, Okay, I will definitely continue to go up the ladder, because, you know, advancing in my career. But in the current climate, career paths are not necessarily linear anymore. And I think that that’s something that will only increase. So in this situation, or in this current context, how do you prepare for becoming a CHRO? Are there any particular positions that people could look out for? Or are there any strategic competencies that they should master? What are your thoughts on this? 

Dieter Veldsman: I think you’re dead right, Neelie. Like I said earlier, there’s one path or one recipe. I’m personally, you know, not a huge fan of the restructured career paths to say, you know, if you stay in this role for two years, then you will be ready for the next one. And we will take you through your paces. And eventually, you know, you end up as CHRO. For me, it’s always been more important to look at careers as a series of experiences and exposure that you want to get over time that makes you a holistic HR professional, or holistic HR practitioner. And I think you have to almost start collecting these things. And again, my earlier point is saying in each of these situations, what can I learn? And what is it that I want to take away and put either in my toolkit or in the way I think about the world, and what that’s going to look like going forward. You also asked, you know, around the competencies associated with that, I think there are a few that you definitely have to have to kind of have under your belt as a holistic HR professional wanting to move into a CHRO position. The first one is problem-solving. Now, I know everybody talks about problem-solving, I think for me problem-solving is really being able to listen and identify what is the root cause of what’s happening in this situation? And what is it that we can do about it? So trying to almost apply solutionist thinking to real-world problems, right? So taking a step back and saying: this is how we can solve this. This is how we can move forward when engaging with your stakeholders with regard to that. I think the second one, which also sounds extremely obvious, is you have to learn to prioritize your biggest superpower as a CHRO. It is knowing where to spend your time and where you’re going to have the biggest impact. And yes, they will always be the next priority, they will always be something else that pops up that is important at the beginning of your day. But you have to understand how do I protect my time? How do I protect my headspace to be able to understand where I dip in and out to really have the impact that I want to at that particular level. It brings the point to you know, you will always be dealing with stakeholders and their expectations. So I used to tease my team to say, you know, 70, to 80% of the role of a CHRO, I was actually stakeholder management. And it’s about clearing and creating a runway for the rest of the HR function to be able to do what they are supposed to do. And I think that’s a skill that you definitely have to learn and you have to foster and you have to mature it. And I think you know, we’re all different. I don’t think you should copy anybody else in that. But you should rather learn from them and develop your own style around how you like to deal and engage with stakeholders. And I think that’s something I will never go away regardless of how remotely we start working or how digital work becomes. I think that definitely is really, really a key thing. And maybe the last one is I think you need a very strong sense of self-awareness. You know, you asked the question around, you know, what is the career path to being a CHRO? And I almost want to turn that around a bit to say the question we should be asking is why do you want to become a CHRO? You know, I think it’s one of those roles, it’s very underappreciated. It’s really, really tough, you find yourself in very difficult situations. But on the other side, it’s also one of the most rewarding roles if you’re able to understand why you want to do it. And that only comes through self-awareness. And I think in your journey, as a CHRO, you have to get to know yourself, be able to understand your own behavior, and be able to understand why do I do what I do? And how do I show up? As I said earlier, you know, 70%, is how you show up and deal with stakeholders and what their expectations are. So that for me is important for you to be able to learn regardless of what the path is that you take, to get into the CHRO level. 

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Neelie Verlinden: Yes, again, I think Dieter, some super valid points that you make there, both around self-awareness and also around stakeholder management. Now, I was thinking when you mentioned stakeholder management, and I think this is absolutely something that will never go away, and that will always remain extremely important. However, Dieter, I’m wondering, because we are moving towards a much more hybrid way of working, at least in a lot of organizations, some are actually going digital-first. Now, when it comes to stakeholder management in that kind of reality. Does that, in your opinion, add an extra layer of complexity, the fact that we’re not necessarily physically there to interact with stakeholders? 

Dieter Veldsman: Well, I think on the one end, it adds complexity. Look at us, you know, today, our conversation, in terms of how we are engaging, I mean, that’s a very good example of a different channel that we are using. We still do have, you know, what I hope is a meaningful conversation for the audience. So I think it adds a layer of complexity around what we need to learn and how to engage in a different way, you know. A lot of people rely on the social cues that I can pick up from someone else in the room. What does that feel like? You know, what is the atmosphere like? I think we need to learn how to do that digitally. I don’t think it’s impossible to do that. I think on the other side, also, it does provide a lot of opportunities for stakeholder management, it does provide the opportunity to engage with people that you might not be able to connect with. Now, whether that’s due to time or location, or anything else, I think that’s a skill that you have to learn as an HR professional. And I think something that never will go away is, you know, why do people engage? We are social beings. On the one hand, we do seek connection. And I think the past 18 months have taught us that we need to start engineering social connections, even if we have to do so digitally. And that, you know, then pushes the agenda to HR to say, how else are we going to really engineer this in the organization so that it happens? So I think, super important, I think whether we do that digitally or whether we do that physically, I think the challenges associated with both. I’ve seen some really great practical examples of people that, you know, just flourish in this digital environment, they speak to people in a much more confident way, because they’re in a calm, comfortable setting, you know, that they really can be themselves. Whereas on the other hand, I’ve also seen people really shy away from digital connection and say, you know, I wish it still was that you and I could sit around the table. And I think we need to find that balance. Because you’re right, I don’t think the world will go back to the way it was. I think it will look very different. And we need to be intentional about connections into the future. 

Neelie Verlinden: I like that one being intentional about it. Alright, Dieter, as some of the listeners may know, and as you may also know, sometimes I like to act as if I have a crystal ball. And if we can look into the future, even though I think if we’ve learned anything from the past 18 months, it’s that it’s pretty impossible to look into the future. But let’s talk about the CHRO of the future for a second if that’s okay with you. So we all know that COVID has shaken up the world quite radically. We’re not going to talk about that anymore. But we do see some radical transformations happening in the world of work, think for instance of car manufacturers switching to producing only electric cars or packaging companies moving away from plastic. So all these require big changes, and leadership and then more, in particular, HR leadership plays an essential role. This is also something that we’ve seen over the past 18 months, and there’s much more spotlight and focus on HR to also take this role. Now, in a nutshell, because again, this is obviously a fairly broad question, but in a nutshell, how do you see the role of the HR leader or the CHRO moving forward? 

Dieter Veldsman: Yeah, I think, Neelie, if we look forward, I think firstly, what a great opportunity to be in HR. I just think, you know, there’s so much opportunity on the horizon. You know, firstly, you asked the question CHRO the future. What does that look like? Now for me a few things. The first one is, we have to play a role in re-thinking how human beings work, where they work, how they work. I think we’ve been stuck in a very outdated model and the world which we live in has almost moved on. And I don’t necessarily think we’ve necessarily kept up with that at that particular pace. So I think that is really, really important. For me, the second one is, HR has to start playing a role, and the CHRO particularly, in societal issues. We have to apply our skill set beyond the traditional organizational borders, we have to start thinking about what is our contribution towards leverage in HR for goods, I think about topics like climate change, you know, you use the few examples, they think about topics pertaining to poverty, think about topics pertaining to unemployment, how do we play a role, they also guide society around doing things a little bit differently, you know, and thinking differently about some of these topics as well. The other component that I think is going to become even more important, and you mentioned it around the uncertainty about the future is, we are going to have to become scenario strategists. Now for me, what that means is helping your leaders and your organizations prepare for multiple futures, because there’s no one right answer, and there is no one thing that will happen, you know, the world has become too complex, and there are too many variables out there. So I think, how do we build that into our own way of work? You know, I think as HR traditionally, we’ve liked predictability, right, but this is how it works. And we can make it more efficient, and we can make it better. And over time, you know, we will do it at scale. I think it is that opportunity that we have to really make sure we help people play in this gray space of not knowing, but being confident that they are prepared for whatever will come because it’s well thought through, there are plans in place, and there is a response really, you know, that we can pull at a moment’s notice. And you know, that leads me to the last point. I think HR has to also step up, I love what we’re doing currently, with digital and technology. I do think there is a dark side to that, though. So I think HR has to also be the conscience of the organization, you know, sitting around the table, you’ve earned your right to sit at the executive table. But now you also need to make sure that your voice is heard. So you have to make sure that we do these things in a responsible way. And you know, sometimes you have to ask the question, are we really doing the right things, and what would be the consequences for people, if we go in this direction? So I think a new role for the CHRO, I think there are some of those elements that we’ve always done that will continue to be there. And then some of these new areas that are emerging, but you know, getting into those conversations help shape what the future is going to look like. And I think it’s the famous Peter Drucker quote that says: The best way to predict the future is to go and create it. And I think that’s the opportunity that we sit with, as HR. 

Neelie Verlinden: Very nice one there Dieter, from Peter Drucker indeed. Now, you mentioned the element of being ready for multiple futures. So I think this can be a really nice bridge, actually to something else I wanted to touch on in that regard, because as a CHRO, and also, as an organizational development consultant, you have a lot of experience with change. And pretty much everything that we were just talking about is about the change that might still come now that will come and being ready for that. So if we zoom in on that for a second, I would be curious to know what you think are crucial elements for bringing about meaningful change in an organization from the perspective of an HR leader. 

Dieter Veldsman: Yeah, I think that you know, the first point I want to make is I think we’ve long lived in a world where we believe change is done to people and to organizations and not with them. And I think it’s a very important distinction, right? You have to work with the organizational system around change. And practically, you know, what that means is in my view, change is navigated. It’s not managed, it’s like playing a game of chess, it’s moving the right pieces at the right time in response to an environment. And I think there it is around helping the organization understand why change now and what is the purpose behind this? And where does this fit? The biggest mistake I see a lot of organizations making is not helping people understand where this change fits in the bigger narrative that we tell about the organization. I think the second point there is change and navigating change are also about the scenes making process. And what I mean there is the organization and the employees in the organization, and especially leaders, have to make sense of what is happening to them and why it’s happening, and what the response is going to look like. Change will always be tough, change will always be hard. I think it is important that we help people make sense of what has happened and understand what that’s going to look like going forward and guide them through that process. And you know, HR plays such a key role sometimes. You’re the confidant for somebody. Sometimes you have to be the tough voice that says Okay, enough, now we need to move, we need to shift. And I think it’s about balancing those different roles. And for me, the last one is to change the energy in an organization. And one of the biggest things that we need to take accountability for in HR is to help the organization create a climate where change can happen now. What is the climate? Climate for me personally is different from culture. You know, culture is the long-term question of who we are, what we do, why we do it, whereas climate is what is the mood of the organization where we find ourselves now, you know, how tired is the organization? Is there enough petrol in the tank for us to be able to implement this change now? And building resilience, I think, is one of our biggest responsibilities as HR and as leaders in the future. How do we put these different elements together, and make sure that the organization has enough energy to shift and really deal with the change that is coming?

Neelie Verlinden:  Now Dieter, of course, it doesn’t just take one person to be a CHRO. To succeed at leadership, CHRO also needs awesome people to surround themselves with and to help them with the incredibly hard but also fulfilling work that they do now. So you need to build a coalition with other people to make meaningful change happen. When you are a CHRO, what kind of people do you surround yourself with within your team? 

Dieter Veldsman: I think you saw, right, Neelie, it takes more than one person and I think the role of CHRO is really around bringing people with very diverse backgrounds and diversity of thought together. And that’s something in my role as CHRO that I always tried to do. I got so worried when my team kept on agreeing with me or saying, you know, oh, that’s a really great idea, we should do that. I think it shows you know that being in this comfort zone, we just have people around the table that actually think the same way, and do things over and over again. So I always tried to break down some of the traditional functional silos in my last role, you know, I’d have anything from a process engineer to a digital marketer to a data junkie to a clinical psychologist, all sitting within the HR function. And I think that all provided such unique perspectives on how we really solve the problem for the business. So surround yourself with great people that you can learn from, make sure that they come from different walks of life. And you know, diversity comes in many shapes and forms and sizes. And I think it’s great to explore the full extent of what that provides in terms of how you build and put together the team. Often I think the role of the CHRO is to listen to the people around them. And to really understand what is the view of different parties? And how do we combine that into the decisions that we need to make? Don’t get caught up with the traditional functional boundaries that we’ve always said to say, you know, what this role is in HR, this role is in IT, this role in marketing. Ultimately, it is about what we want to achieve. And the more collaboration we can initiate between different sciences and between different departments, I think the better for everybody involved. 

Neelie Verlinden: Great answer, Dieter. Once again, I think you’re so right. But now it seems like I am one of these people who’s always agreeing with you. But I think we get down to the final part of our podcast Dieter. And that is the part where I always ask our guests to share an epic win and an epic fail with us. So please, if you have something in mind, and you can start out with the epic win, or with the epic fail, and go ahead. 

Dieter Veldsman: Sure. That’s a tough one for me but, I think, let me start with a big fail. I think it was an unavoidable process that I was involved in, where we had to downsize an organization and close a part of the organization. And, you know, try as hard as we did at that particular stage, we couldn’t necessarily guarantee employment for a lot of people beyond what we could offer, as we close the business down. And for me, you know, looking back at that I would have loved to be able to walk away from that situation and say, you know, there was a different way of still providing people hope for the future. Because I think when you see that in somebody when you take away the avocation, I think it’s such a tough thing to have to deal with. So you know, from a failed point of view, I don’t have something that meets the definition. But it’s something that I wish I could have done differently. On the epic win side, I think I want to use an example of a process that we ran in myself and the rest of the team in one of the previous culture transformation programs, as part of the business turnaround that I referenced earlier. We tried to install this thinking that we called think human first into the organization, which was really around saying, at the end of each process, at the end of each policy, at the end of each technology solution, is a real human being on the other side, and what would they say and you know, this coincided a lot with us working more digitally and more remotely. And I really think that when they were working overtime that got so ingrained in the organizational language that other people started using it. And, you know, I believe you change culture by changing the conversations in the language that you have. And for me, that was a great one just to see how you could influence a business to really take something to heart, which I ultimately believe creates a better work environment for both the organization and the employee. So I think that’s something that I’m pretty proud of, that we’ve managed to achieve as a team in the past. 

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I think you should be. Thank you so much for sharing both of these examples, Dieter. And I want to thank you as well for joining me today for this episode of All About HR. It was a lovely conversation. I think we could have easily continued for another hour if we wanted to. So thank you so much Dieter for being here. 

Dieter Veldsman: Perfect. Thanks so much, Neelie. Thank you for having me and thank you to the audience. I really enjoyed it. 

Neelie Verlinden: Absolutely. Thank you everybody for listening. And before we go, please if you haven’t done so yet, subscribe to our channel. Give this episode a thumbs up and leave a review, please. Thank you very much and see you soon for a new episode of All About HR. Bye.

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