Welcoming the new season of HR…the Human Experience Era, with Dieter Veldsman from AIHR



Dieter Veldsman, Kathryn Hume,


Dieter Veldsman  00:00

Move on the organisation once you’ve grown somebody that is able to really step into your particular role. So I think it is that deal thing around changing the way we think about talent, the way we manage talent ecosystems, but also breeding this thing in individuals that it is not just about me and what I do, but it’s about what I leave behind.


Voice over  00:17

This is the Reimagined Workforce podcast from Workforce transformations Australia, the podcast for People and Culture professionals seeking to drive meaningful, impactful and financially sustainable workforce transformation through curiosity, creativity, and data science. In this podcast, we hear from talented and innovative people making a positive difference for their people, their organisations, and those their organisations. So they share stories and learnings to help others on their path to transforming their workforce today and tomorrow. Now, here’s your host, Kathy, you.


Kathryn Hume  00:54

So Dieter Veldsman PhD is an Organisational Psychologist with a strong focus on strategic HR, talent, digital HR organisational design and development. He was awarded the CHRO of the year in 2021 by the Chief HR Officer Society of South Africa. He has 15 plus years of experience across the HR value chain and lifecycle having worked for and consulted with various multinational corporations in Europe, Middle East and Africa, APAC and Latin America. He has held the positions of groups CHRO people in organisational effectiveness executive, Principal, consultant, and chief scientist research and development. I became aware of Dieter via the Academy to Innovate Human Resources, or AIHR, where I was completing a certificate in People Analytics. This organisation provides incredible resources and thought leadership for HR professionals to develop their knowledge and capability so we can continually enhance our organisational outcomes. Dieter, welcome to the Reimagined Workforce podcast.


Dieter Veldsman  02:05

Thank you so much, Kathryn. It’s lovely to be here with you. And thank you for the privilege to contribute.


Kathryn Hume  02:09

Thank you. So would you mind by starting with providing a bit of detail around your story to date  and where you’re heading in the future?


Dieter Veldsman  02:18

Sure. So I think to get started, I’ve always been interested in human behaviour on the one side and on the other side in organisations as living systems. And as such, I think the interest in industrial organisational psychology and human resource management was born from those two fields of interests. I started my career working in organisational design and development and change. So working in the financial services sector, first in South Africa, where I’m originally from, and then from there, I shifted and I moved on to work for a boutique consultancy focusing on human impact during business transformations. It was really an interesting role for me to understand how do people engage and interact with technology and how does technology and work in people come together in order to deliver organisational outcomes. From there, I tried to stretch my own boundaries and tried to get a little bit more of international exposure. And with three other colleagues, we then started a HR consulting or human capital consulting business focusing specifically then on the organisational design elements, organisational development, and then gradually growing the business across the HR value chain. I’ve always been very passionate about studies and about the world of research. So I had the opportunity at that time also to pursue my PhD part time in employee engagement and financial business performance. And I was fortunate enough to be able to partner with the company at that stage to turn a lot of my research into an HR technology platform and employee engagement business which I then ran with him for five years as the Chief Research and Development Officer. From there, I returned back to corporate so I then moved into People Effectiveness Executive role for a multinational organisation, particularly looking after their Africa, United Kingdom and Asia operations. Basically, what that meant was all the different centres of excellence reported into me kind of from a specialist point of view, and we acted as an internal consulting business within the larger organisation to help with people solutions across the 14 different product lines and 14 different businesses. Eventually, in that role, I then also shifted to become the Group Chief HR Officer for the organisation looking after the 17,000 plus workforce at the time. And I think a wonderful experience for me is also during the time of COVID. So I think you know, being in a CHRO role during that time was definitely an interesting experience and I think a very meaningful one where you could contribute to the organisation in different ways. As you’ve mentioned in the intro, I’m now with the Academy to Innovate HR based in the Netherlands. So I play the role as part of helping build out the thought leadership and subject matter expertise team. As part of the broader Academy. Our goal is to continuously educate the HR professional of the future. So we believe that HR is changing and we believe so too should the skill set that we equip HR professionals with if they’re going to have an impact in the world of work, and our goal is through online development through live master classes, through live events, through webinars through conversations, and then also through original research to inform and to shape the conversation for HR for the future. So that’s a little bit about me. And that’s where I find myself. But as I said, the roots really lies in this interest in terms of how do human beings work? And how is the workplace evolving in the context of also, I think, you know, what’s happening in the world around us, because it looks very, very different than what it did nothing 2030 years ago.


Kathryn Hume  05:28

And what I like is that two way relationships, so HR is changing, but it’s also probably changing because the more capability the profession has, the more value we’re going to drive in our organisation. So I think it goes both ways. If we’re seeing HR change, then we can be responsive to it. But we can also lead that by being proactive and having those capabilities. And actually, that’s what I really liked about the courses that I’ve undertaken, is that you’ve really demonstrated that idea of the HR value chain, and you’ve really broken it down into how do we contribute value to those organisational leaders and get that seat at the table?


Dieter Veldsman  06:06

I agree with that. And I think it’s such an exciting time to be in HR. And if you look at the history of HR, we’ve always shown up and reshaped our identity aligned to what the world of work was requiring at that point in how organisations were operating. So if you go back to the first industrial revolution, that was the case, we showed up in almost this role, and in this identity of how are we going to manage labour, how are we going to manage welfare and nothing changed through the years to shift towards more strategic partnership type of role. And I believe that you’re definitely accurate in saying that it is about changing our perception also around who we are and what we bring to the table, because I think HR has got so much to offer the world of work. But there’s a couple of things that we need to do to get our own house in order to be able to really demonstrate that impact. And I think very often that starts with our own perception around who we are and what we do and where we fit into organisations because we’ve got a real reason for existence. But we need to claim that space, nobody’s going to give it to us. And I think there’s been some good shifts over the last couple of years that really has moved us in that direction, which I’m very excited about as a fellow HR professional.


Kathryn Hume  07:11

And what I did like too that you mentioned, you refer to it as a living system. So it’s something that we’re continually having to engage with and understand and bring our skills to to, to bring out the best in the people in the organisation. So as the our organisations thrive, but what I always say is that people in the organisations, the organisations themselves and the people we serve, so there’s mutual benefit from what we do.


Dieter Veldsman  07:38

I agree, and I think that perception is changing around, you know, who does HR exists for, because I think there’s a very limiting view that a lot of people hold that HR only exists for either the shareholder interest or the leadership interest or the interest of the organisation. And I think definitely through advances in things like digital, analytics, etc, we are able to increase the coverage that HR has for the employee experience. So to give a practical example, you know, I think digital makes it possible that people can engage with HR solutions, regardless of time place, or wherever they might be, you know, a couple of years ago, and now it sounds really strange. But if I was an employee that was not based in office environment, or in a campus environment, my access towards HR services were very limited. So I typically only saw HR when I got hired, when there was a problem that HR had to kind of guide the process for, or when I left, and I had to close out my employment relationship. And I think that’s really changed around the value that we can offer and the value that we can provide. But to your earlier point, then we also need to change our understanding of how an organisation works and what an organisation is because organisation is people aligned towards a common goal. And if we take that perspective, I think HR plays a very good role to say, but how do we optimise the potential that organisations hold through the potential of people? And how can we really create a workplace where people want to work want to stay, but that also exists for a purpose, profit and sustainability, because it’s a two way relationship. It’s not only about the organisation, it’s not only about the people, it’s about this relationship of trust, where I think HR plays a very, very key role in order to establish that going forward.


Kathryn Hume  09:09

Yeah, and I think more and more we’re seeing with the talent market the way it is, organisations are really having to think about that employee experience to make sure that individuals are getting that benefit, because otherwise someone else will offer it to them. And so if we want our people to stay and we want them to perform at their best, we really got to think about how we create those opportunities for people. So as it’s pleasurable, it’s satisfying, it’s meaningful, and they can thrive in those environments. So it’s great to have this beautiful mix of skills and capabilities that you’re creating with AIHR to drive that. So I always start this podcast by asking my guests, what does your reimagined workforce look like?


Dieter Veldsman  09:55

So I think that’s a really good conversation that almost been holds a little bit on some of the previous points that we’ve already made. And I think, definitely to your point, we need to reimagine work first in terms of what work looks like. And then we can kind of build backwards from there in terms of what the workforce would look like. But for me, there’s a couple of points that I think is really interesting, then it’s, you know, there’s a couple of implications where I believe that in the future, the reimagined workforce, there has to be a better fit between organisational purpose, why organisations exist and what they need to do, and how people find a reason for existence and their contribution within an organisation. So you mentioned that the employer employee relationship is changing quite a bit. I also believe what we perceive work to be as changing quite a bit. So why we work where we work when we work. And I think all those things are going to culminate into the way that we perceive the future workforce in the future workplace to be now for me, it has to exist on a couple of levels. The first one is, we need to create a society that provides decent work or the opportunity for decent work for people around the globe. Work has to become something that unites us where to a large extent, I think in the past, it’s been something that’s divided people a little bit more in terms of the haves and the have nots, but also on the other side, the people that have the skills and don’t have the skills or don’t have the opportunity to develop the skills. So I think there’s a big shift that we need to make that work has to exist at a societal level, to allow people to make a decent living and to be treated in a way that is fair and meaningful for them in order to contribute towards the sustainability of all. I think in that context, organisations need to have a very clear identity, and why do they exist? Yes, they exist for a profit, no profit motive, but they also exist to contribute something towards society, or the target audience within where they want to play a role. And I think that’s such an important thing for organisations to realise and really to spend time to explore in future to see what is that going to look like. And then in that context, I think we can reimagine the workforce to be a collection of individuals that have different types of relationships with the workplace, because I think that’s going to be important when people choose and decide the role that workplace for them in the context of their holistic life, the opportunity for them to find joy and meaning and purpose in what they do and how they contribute. And I think on the other side, in order to be well, as part of that, I think, to be able to combine this notion around being productive is not the opposite of being well, it’s actually an interwoven relationship between the two. And I think the, you know, the reimagined workforce, that is what it looks like. So it’s for the betterment of society, organisations that know why they are they, why they exist, and what they contribute. And they create this environment where people can be well and productive, with different relationships that will establish the way that people work and the way that people incorporate and integrate work into their lives. Because I think it’s different, right, you’ve got a perception about work, I’ve got a perception about work, it plays out differently, potentially in my life than what he plays out in your life. And I think there has to be a lot more flexibility in that conversation, as opposed to this is a standard employment contract. And you either pay by payroll, or you’re not paid by payroll, I think this notion of degrees of membership to the organisation is going to be very interesting, where we find people that have full time membership, people that have bought time membership, people that are only members or specific pieces of work that needs to be delivered, people that only bring certain skills and with results that they have kind of fleeting degrees of membership or relationships with the organisation. And for me, that’s the reimagined workforce. It’s this flexible, fluid moving, evolving mechanism that is continuously adapting to what the needs of the consumer is, because I think consumer needs will also change quite a bit in a couple of years to come. And that will influence the way that organisations set themselves up and the way that they access talent as well.


Kathryn Hume  13:37

Honestly, I am so thrilled with that response, when I started this podcast, that was exactly what I had in mind the whole idea, and I’m working with a client at the moment, and we’re really trying to change the language around wellbeing to be that work is a contributor to well being. I think you’re absolutely spot on where we perceive work as depleting us, whereas I think and yes, in the past, if it was labour intensive, and even knowledge work, yes, it is tiring. But when it’s something meaningful, it’s so energising it’s gives us a vitality, and it gets us up in the morning. So I just love that you’ve reframed that notion of work. And I also like that you mentioned around work, it’s different for different people. And we’ve got to understand that and I was actually thinking it even changes over time, because when I had small kids and money was tighter and it was really a means to an end. That context, the way I viewed work was very, very different and my approach to it was very different. Whereas I think now that I’m older and my kids are less reliant on me and you know, I’ve got the flexibility to invest more time myself and I, I’m not feeling guilty about dividing myself up as much it’s, I feel a lot like I can contribute more and that feels good. But I also have that empathy for people who have caring responsibilities or have things that they need to do and that it ability to integrate work into our lives, it’s just it’s really heartwarming to think that organisations are understanding that there’s benefits to be gained from creating that experience to people.


Dieter Veldsman  15:10

And I think that’s a we think there’s a lot of talk at the moment around human centric organisations. And I think it is slightly misunderstood what the term means, because human centric organisations doesn’t mean I shift all the way, and I concede absolutely everything and it’s only about, you know, the ones and the needs of the human. I think a human centric organisation is an organisation that creates space in the way that they engage with real human beings and they see, you know, we always had the saying in a previous organisation where I was when we spoke about just think human first. So think, who’s the human being on the other side of this process, this policy, this requirement, you know, this performance expectation? Because you’re absolutely right, I think in HR, we often make the mistake, to think about people in terms of demographics, and not to think about people in terms of things like life stages, and personal wants and needs, because you’re right, you know, for some people, when I’m moving into a big life event, starting a family, my priorities change, which also then means the way that I want to engage with work is going to change for that exact period of time. And what’s sometimes ironic for me is in the traditional notion, very often, you know, when people want to become leaders, they want to become first time managers. For some, that’s also the time when they kind of start families, it’s also the time when they start thinking about, you know, relocating a bit more permanently and putting down roots. There’s a lot happening at that particular stage. And now, it does not help if we just put more things on the plight of that particular individual. But it has to be an open conversation with people that also say, you know, your earlier point on I believe work is a two way relationship between what I can contribute and the meaning that I can gather from it. And I think if we start viewing it in that way, we think very differently about things like employee experience, or the way that we put together renumeration packages or the way that we personalise work, because personalization doesn’t mean, you know, that detail or do it exactly for detail, it just means I’ve got a better understanding of the persona within which the default is at the moment, and I give him choice or the opportunity, at least to be flexible in what’s going to be important. And I’ve got a young family, let’s say, time at home or flexibility is more important for me at the moment versus a very big bonus. That trade off, I think a lot of people will be willing to make because at that stage of their life, time is important. Yeah. At this stage of life, if flexibility is not necessarily such a key requirement, maybe got some other needs that sits on the other side of that particular spectrum. But we have to speak to people to find out where they are. And we have to give the opportunity that they some flexibility for them to drive choice, because flexibility is all about choice, in my view. Yes. And it’s about the freedom that I can also have a saying in how I am going to work and weigh in when that looks like and obviously there’s some certain parameters and requirements for both parties. But it has to be an open conversation.


Kathryn Hume  17:48

And that point you made about flexibility being a choice. One of our unis, Swinburne, uni in Australia and Deloitte, a consulting firm, have recently done a lot of research in Australia around the flexibility question, and they’ve produced some really good research, but it was interesting. I heard Sean Gallagher, Representative from sorry, I’m not sure if he’s Deloitte or Swinburne, but I think he’s Swinburne, but he was reporting about the fact that flexibility is the one thing that contributes to wellbeing that is within the employees control. And I just loved that call out that made me realise I now understand why this is so important to people. And I’ve seen in lots of employee surveys, flexibility rates so high and it’s great that that’s been pointed out to me, it’s probably it’s really obvious now I’ve seen it, but I like the fact that it’s actually about control and I also understand that through our COVID a lot of people’s anxiety was around the fact that that control was taken away to some degree and there was a lot of uncertainty and I think, as we emerge from that providing flexibility is one way we can give back to people and say, here’s some control back in your hands, and that’s going to enhance their well being.


Dieter Veldsman  19:06

No, I agree with that. I think there’s also this notion on that I think sometimes people confuse flexibility with freedom. And I think unfortunately, flexibility is tied in so tightly at the moment with, you know, remote and hybrid work conversation. That’s not the only place where flexibility shows up because you’re right flexibility for me is about autonomy. As for me about the opportunity that I get to make a particular decision on what something would look like for me to be able to take control of things that will influence me decisions that will impact me. And I think we need to display there’s a lot of good research, as you’ve mentioned, that’s coming out on this that also around the fact that choice and freedom in the context of flexibility is a very, very powerful employee engagement mechanism. We get stuck on the practicalities of that. So you know a lot of people say but oh the nature of the work you know we are in manufacturing we are in retail, we cannot give people choice because it has to be rigid structures. That’s not necessary. The case flexibility does not mean people don’t work from your side, it means that there’s other options. There’s a retailer which we work with that’s done something, I think it’s really clever where they’ve said, the nature of the work, you work in a shop, retail storefront, we cannot make you work from home. That’s the nature of the job you have to be, that’s just, the way that the cookie crumbles, if I can put it that way. However, we can provide some flexibility and choice around that. So let’s incorporate an experiment with a new system design, instead of me scheduling you on six shifts, you have to schedule yourself on 15 shifts, they get paid in different ways, depending on which app you select, there’s a minimum that you have to select, there’s a maximum that you can’t go over. But you know, let’s start engaging with you a little bit more. So if I am a mum that wants to or do what a dad wants to do the school run in the morning, I don’t schedule myself with a morning shift, I maybe I work in the afternoons. Sounds silly, but that gives autonomy and power back to people on the other side to say, but I’m also in control and I can influence the way that I’m going to work and how I engage with the organisation. And that shifts the conversation from relationship of power, that in the past has been a little bit parent child between the organisation and the employee, towards the relationship of equals talking about trust, and talking about collaboration and talking about I give you benefit for all. And I think that’s where the employment relationship needs to shift in.


Kathryn Hume  21:21

And I actually think if people are choosing their shifts, to some degree, there’s going to be greater commitment, because that’s the time that they’ve chosen to work. Yeah, I do really just love these new ideas and new ways of thinking. And it’s funny, because I actually think that self rostering is something we used to do. Back before we had technology that rostered for us.


Dieter Veldsman  22:17

No, sorry. I just wanted to make a comment on that. Because I think something that you mentioned, they struck a real chord with me is around the fact that I think people mix  advancement in technology, with the augmentation that it has to bring to the human experience. So what I mean by that is, I think in HR, there’s a real question we need to ask because yes, we can become automated and faster and a lot more intelligent through the utilisation of tech, and it’s the right way for us to go, we have to do that to remain relevant. On the other side, it should never take away from what is that human experience and the human moment that we want to create? And how do we still respect somebody’s dignity with whatever we do, because in the rostering example, allowing you the opportunity to kind of schedule yourself aligned to what you need, or as a worker was a human being at the time gives you dignity. And I think those are the types of things that we should remember going forward, that technology should be utilised to enhance our humanity and our humaneness in the workplace not to replace. And because I think then collectively, we can be a lot more powerful. But that has to be an intentional choice. And that has to be an intentional design choice that we almost make through the tech that we utilise. It’s like the age old saying that I think happened in HR, we, you know, we created a policy for everyone, but the policy was the common denominator of the minimum requirement. And we should be careful for that same type of thinking coming in we we create these blanket things just because we can, as opposed to really trying to respect what what’s happening in that situation. And who are the parties involved? Because I think there’s a great opportunity for us to change the narrative. Lee Yeah.


Kathryn Hume  23:48

So. So how would you say the work that you’re doing is enabling people to thrive?


Dieter Veldsman  23:55

So, you know, I’ve always had this this view from my side, that everybody’s got a responsibility to leave things just a little bit better than what they found it. I think big change happens through small steps and I think it changes by, the ins and outs, what can you do just to make it better, for whatever reason, that situation or in that moment, I think the work that we are doing at AIHR, and then kind of talking about the work that I’m doing on a personal level. I hope that that contributes towards changing a couple of things. The first one is the mindset around the role that HR has in organisations because I firmly believe that we have a very big public relations crisis and issue around how people perceive HR and the reputation of HR. Some of it is due to our own doing, some of it is due to things that happened that out there is outside of our control, but I hope that the work that we do helps reposition and really helps us act as advocates for the beautiful science of HR because I do believe that there’s a great contribution that we can make. I think the second component there is I hope that it helps organisations to leverage and utilise HR in a way that helps organisations to unlock the potential that sits inherently within an organisation because I do believe, yes, it’s through the people. But it’s also through understanding that ecosystem of work that we’ve been talking about, and why these different levers and relationships exist. And I believe, as IO Psychologists, and as HR professionals, those are the things that we know a lot about, and that we can contribute towards a more meaningful world of work for the future and for organisations in a real tangible, measurable way, from an impact point of view. And then lastly, I think, you know, I’m going to say this, and please don’t take this out of context. But we need to make HR sexy again, for people to want to join. Because I sometimes believe that we’ve had a couple of generations of people that have just ended up in HR because they couldn’t go somewhere else, it was seen as a softer job to get into HR is really hard. HR is really difficult. HR is a really tough job to have. And I hope that through the work that we do, we can give people the right skill sets to be able to thrive in that environment. Because I do think the way that we have been educating HR professionals have not prepared them for what they face in the world of work. We haven’t, we’ve kind of breed an HR professional at the moment. And I say this with a lot of love and respect as a fellow HR professional, that is continuously trying to prove and say, “This is why I’m here, thank you so much for including me” It’s really great for us to spend the time to talk about these things, you’ve got a real right of existence to add real value. And I think if we can contribute a bit to give people the skill set and the mindset and the tool sets that actually sets them up for success. I hope that we’ve done something a little bit to move the profession forward and the HR professional into that next step. And then other people will take the baton from there again. So I hope that’s what we contribute, from a personal point of view as well.


Kathryn Hume  26:44

No wonder you look so happy Dieter, because it sounds like a very, very meaningful thing to do. And what a way to leave what you started and know that you made that difference in people’s lives.


Dieter Veldsman  26:56

I think I’ve been very privileged and fortunate to be involved in things that I do find a lot of joy in personally. And I do believe, you know, one of the reasons I got into doing what I’m doing is, I really believe, I can’t remember the exact statistic. But there’s a lot of research that says you spend 60-70% of your adult life working, we need to make that meaningful for people. Otherwise, we are going to breed a very, very miserable human being that is just kind of going through, the Monday through Friday and just trying to live for those two, the two days or three days, if you’ve got a four day workweek, where they you know, where they are not at work. And I don’t think that’s the way to live your life. So I really hope that through kind of the work we do we change that perception a little bit, can we make it just a little bit better for people a little bit of the time. And I think that would be enough.


Kathryn Hume  27:46

And I am wholeheartedly in agreement with you, because that’s exactly when I left school, I did a commerce degree with an Employment Relations major and an Economics sub-major. And that was exactly why I did it because I watched people around me who were working full time and you know, quite exhausted and wondering what really life was about getting quite philosophical. And I thought if I can study this Employment Relations and that linkage with the economy and show that there’s an economic benefit from looking after people, then maybe I could make a bit of a change and help make people’s lives more enjoyable, because we spend so much lot of our lives working, you know, it just really devastates me to think that anyone is miserable during all of those working hours that they’re at work for.


Dieter Veldsman  28:32

No, I agree. And I think something that COVID that highlighted, whether you believe in the anti work movement, or you know, lying flat or great resignation, or any of the other Rs that are currently being quoted in that space as the next big thing. I think what it did highlight was a discontentment with what work has become. And what I mean by that is, I think, especially for people in lower income jobs, sometimes they feel you know that they are just another number. Sometimes they feel that they’re not treated fairly, sometimes they feel they don’t have access to opportunities to almost break the cycle of circumstance. And I think what that has highlighted is that we really need to rethink how we design work, and what work will be for people, because I firmly believe that there is a different way of doing it. And this is definitely the season to engage with that. So I think that’s one of the formula to say that one of the positive things that came out of the post pandemic world at least is this realisation that things don’t have to be the way that they always were, and how can we think differently about that, and there’s some very good conversation and good movements at the moment that I hope will really go in production for the future.


Kathryn Hume  29:31

Yeah, and one of those things that I’m seeing is that the HR profession is changing. And so where do you see it going in the future?


Dieter Veldsman  29:39

I think there’s an interesting shift at the moment in HR. And, to take us just back very briefly, like I’ve said in the in the past or in kind of one of your previous questions was the fact that HR has always shown up in a way that responds to what’s happening in the world of work the environment and in organisations of the time. I think what is now starting to happen is We’re on the cusp of a bit of a new season. Now for the purpose of our conversation, let’s call it the human experience era, because I think that’s where HR will shift towards where we really become the architects of the human workplace experience, where we start looking at organisations in a systemic way over all entities, if this is what the organisation is, how is it going to contribute towards the bigger picture pertaining to society. So what does that mean for HR? It means we need to start thinking beyond organisational borders, because we actually play a very big role in communities and family structures and support structures. And very often, let’s take the example of well being we focused on the employee that works for us in the wellbeing domain, but we forget that they’ve got a whole social structure that sits around them, which is actually where a lot of the support comes from. So I think for HR, it means going beyond borders. On the one side, I think on the other side, it is around becoming the architects of holistic human experience within the workplace, and then also helping and guiding organisations to be responsible citizens that not only contribute towards sustainability, but on the other side drives, I think, in a responsible way, real impact for the shareholders and stakeholders and whoever they engage with. But we have to change those definitions of what that looks like. So HR, I think, is really, really exciting place to be at the moment. And I, if I can sum it up almost in a maybe I’m sticking up my neck a little bit here, in terms of what I hope the profession will become is really around, I think a consumer driven and a digital rich, diverse HR organisation that exists to drive value for various stakeholders in the pursuit of purpose, profit and sustainability. And that’s kind of a statement that we work with quite a bit in terms of saying, Where do we believe the profession should go? And what is it that we need to do now so that this aspirational notion comes to pass, you know, in 10-15 years time, because it’s going to take a couple of big shifts to be able to get us there. But we believe really, that that’s where HR should play, as I almost want to say HR no longer as a partner or enabling function, but HR is an organisation and its full right organisation in an organisation delivering value and rewarding investment. And I hope that we are able to get the proficiently,


Kathryn Hume  32:05

yeah, look, I’m pretty confident that you’re taking us in the right direction, that’s for sure. And that what a positive future you frame there, I just love it. One of the things that I really have been focusing on lately, and I think I’ve mentioned it before on the podcast is just around the need for human skills in this space, and the three human skills. I’ve been focusing on are curiosity, creativity, and courage. And I see that those are three fundamentals to transform what we’re doing today to get to where we need to tomorrow. So do you have any thoughts on those through human skills and how we leverage those?


Dieter Veldsman  32:40

I agree with you. I think curiosity for me is one of the biggest things we need to cultivate in people. You know, everybody talks about learning organisations, and engaging culture and openness to learning, that it all is rooted in this behaviour around, I’m curious about the world around me, I’m curious to see where things are going. And I actually, from my side, engage with the world in a very different place. I think what sometimes does happen in the current environment is we get so caught up in kind of holding the technical skill sets. So we talk a lot about data, digital, etc. Yes, they are crucially, crucially important for the future. But it’s not just around what I do. I think it’s also around how I do them. Where for me is where things like, creativity comes in, where things like curiosity comes in with things like problem solving has to come in for the future. So I definitely think we start thinking about human development, we should be a little bit more holistic in nature. And I think the way that we tend to develop people as we develop you technically first, because I want to teach you something you can do, then we go into this notion of saying, but now let me teach you how you do it, which is the creativity in those things. And then only we shift towards, let’s not talk about why you do it. And then you know, we tried to say, what is the ethical component look like, let’s give you the courage to be able to make the right decisions, etc. People don’t operate in that way. So I do think we need to take a bit more of a holistic perspective and a holistic view. And I, again, wish that these things don’t start in the workplace, or that they start way beforehand, so that we can start almost developing people from a very young age, to be creative, to be curious about the world, to be courageous in the risks that they take in the decisions that they make, around what matters to them, and what’s going to be meaningful for them. And if we can complement that type of mindset  with the technical skill sets that people required to be really, really proficient in their chosen profession. I think that’s a winning formula for the future. But we can’t ignore those things. I get frustrated when people call them soft skills, because they’ve really, really not. You know, there’s a lot of science that sits behind how to read curiosity, if I can use that word, how to make yourself a lot more open to learn how to be a lot more open to experimenting to overcome your fear of failure. Those are really difficult things to do. And that’s what we need to start in graining a lot more into our philosophies around human development.


Kathryn Hume  34:51

And I think you’re right about nurturing it from an early age. And I almost think that there’s something that we do as a society and I don’t know If it’s education, or parenting, or or what it is, but we are innately curious when we are young. I’ve seen statistics on the number of questions, children asking in what we call kindergarten, as opposed to by the final year of school, what they’re asking you and it dramatically diminishes. And I think, if we look at education when we bring kids into school, and it’s would have changed a lot since I was at school, but we tend to ask some questions. And there’s an assumption there’s a right answer. And I think, if we could nurture that innate curiosity and that desire to understand the world, and the people in it and ourselves, investigate what we’re doing that reduces that for kids. And so rather than so it’s about nurturing it not taking it away. I’m not I’m not saying it very articulately. But yeah, there’s there’s something that we can do to foster it when it’s there, and just build on it and continue to grow it.


Dieter Veldsman  35:58

Yeah, I agree. I think we, we don’t celebrate curiosity enough. And at the different stages of life, I think we, we stifle it. To your point, I think very much when people enter the schooling system there is this notion that there’s a right answer that I need to get to. And I don’t think enough celebration around the fact that maybe it’s not so much about the answer. It’s about the questions that we ask. It’s about the learning that occurred during the process of answering the question. And I think if we can help teach people that even in the workplace, I think there is a very big fear of failure that sits on the other side, when people say, you know, maybe I do wonder about it, but I’m not going to speak up, because what if, and if we can just change that mindset to say, you know, it’s you can be wrong, it’s good to be wrong. And that’s how you grow. That’s how you learn. And there’s not necessarily always consequences for that. So I think if we can create safe spaces for people to really live out the curiosity, at the different stages of life, I think we will breed a very different interest that people have around the world around him. And when we look at digital developments at the moment, and it’s something that we’ve been exploring quite a bit at AIHR, some of the underpinning behaviours that you need to be really digitally proficient in the future is curiosity. It’s openness to learning, it’s the willingness to experiment, it’s the ability to overcome that fear of failure. So a lot of the success for future coding more technical skill sets, like digital and technology, etc, actually lies in the human behaviours that will enable that there are things like curiosity, creativity, etc. And we need to create, I think, a societal system that celebrates that, that encourages that a lot more for people to explore, for people to fall, it’s not about being right. You know, I think we’ve got this big satisfaction or kind of this, this obsession with being right all the time, doesn’t really matter. I think we need to change that a little bit more around how we also allow people to engage visually with the world of work.


Kathryn Hume  37:50

And how do you as an Organisational Psychologist, think we can foster that in organisations?


Dieter Veldsman  37:56

You know, there’s a couple of things there. And I think there’s obviously I think the obvious one is you need to take a systemic view of the organisation broader. But I think there is a way that there’s some traditional structures that we need to break down. I think very much a lot of organisations are built on, you know, this notion of efficiency and effectiveness is absolutely everything. I think there’s something else we need to build in there, I think we have to start thinking about what is the experience in there as well, and then holistically Look at that. And you know, the whole agile movement that we’ve had in the past. The Lean movement, etcetera, have promulgated these ideas around the fact that people have to fail forward or fail fast. I think we need to change that narrative a little bit. Because I think it’s not about failing forward or failing fast, it’s a lot more about creating the space where people feel comfortable enough that they can fail, to learn and then go again. And I think that’s what we need to bring in. But if you look at you know, I work with a lot of organisations, then they say, We want to be innovative. And I said, that’s perfectly fine. And my first question is, what do you do when people make a mistake? And they say, oh, no, you know, we are really hard on quality and hard on results. So mistakes are not tolerated. Yeah. So you’ve just killed innovation, and you’ve just killed curiosity. Because if people are not, don’t feel comfortable and safe enough to be able to experiment to explore with not this fear of negative consequences. So I think as from an IOP point of view, from an IO, psychologist point of view, these things we need to help organisations with, with what is the unintended consequences of the systems and the structures that they put in place in order to drive things that’s not there’s no mal intent behind them right. But there are some consequences for certain things that you put in place because everything has got a, you know, light side and a dark side, if I want a, then I’m not going to get B, if I want a and b then I need to do something different. And I think that’s where we need to play a role to guide and advise organisations on that, backed by good data and by good science, because it cannot be assumptions and it cannot be intuition and it cannot be you know, back of a cigarette box type of type of theory. So I think those are the things where I think I’ve got a real contribution to make.


Kathryn Hume  39:55

And if I can just move now to AIHR . And I’ve found since they introduced HR, that this organisation is incredibly generous, there are blog posts regularly there are podcasts, there are reports that are being shared. So it feels your focus is on improving the profession as a whole. Why is that important to you?


Dieter Veldsman  40:20

I think there’s a couple of reasons. The one is, I think we hold the belief that knowledge is there to be shared, right. And knowledge is there to be put into the public domain so that people can learn with us and from us, and we can learn from other people as well. So I think it is important, we all have a responsibility to contribute towards the movement forward, definitely for our own members, but also beyond that. So I think that’s the one reason I think, on the other side, it touches on a point I mentioned earlier, is that there is also we have to create a lot more trusted sources where people can trust the information that they’re getting, I think there is still in some instances, in some places, there’s a lot of good information out there. But I think there is also information there that’s harmful to the way that people will implement it in their organisations. And I think what we are trying to do is to say, you know, let’s provide you with a body of knowledge that you can draw from, so that you can, like I said earlier, just make it a little bit better, and make sure that you really drive good evidence backed science backed HR practices, something we’re very passionate about. If you speak to anybody from AIHR in the first minute and a half, they will either say, Are you data driven? Or are you evidence based. And those are the two things that we believe sits at the heart of everything that we do in every single business decision that we inform, and through the things we share with that blog post, or whether that’s an article or a research report, or a Trends report, what we are trying to do is just to infuse that type of thinking into the HR profession and make it accessible to people from all walks of life. In my experience in corporate environments, very often, it’s the people that are extremely curious, that want to learn that don’t necessarily have the opportunity or the access to the resources. And we believe we need to play a role in changing that. And I think that’s why the mindset of the organisation and the heartset of the organisation is very much about being generous with a body of knowledge. And also then believing kind of pay it forward principle, right? If you put things out there, people also give the views on it. So we learn from it as well. And I think in a two way relationship, it’s to the benefit of all.


Kathryn Hume  42:12

And that’s yeah, that’s a very positive contribution you’re making to the world. One of the things I did notice, in the conversations that were happening at a conference that I went to recently was something that you alluded to earlier around, we’re trying to contribute to society and so it’s less about the organisations that we’re working in, yes, we have a responsibility to those organisations. But we also have to understand that people are going to move fluidly throughout organisations throughout their career. And one of the comments that someone mentioned at this conference I was at which I really loved was that we have to get less possessive about people. And I just wondered if you can share with us your thoughts on that comment?


Dieter Veldsman  42:57

Absolutely. So you know, this concept of, let’s call it talent hoarding, which I know some people have used in some organisations, wher e, you know, this notion that an organisation owns talent, I’ve always been extremely uncomfortable with, you know, almost sounds a little bit like, just because you believe that you pay me a salary, you now have some sort of shape of ownership over who I am and what I do. Now, there’s two things for me, that’s going to be very important. I think, access to talent is a critical success factor for any organisation going forward into the future. And I think access to talent comes with a lot of things around what is your employer brand look like? How do you bring people into the organisation? How do you get into stay? What is the experience that you provide, but that has to start with this notion of mobility, because mobility is going to be crucially crucially important. People want to grow, people want to develop people want access. Now, growth does not mean I get promoted, it means, you know, I find different things that challenges me in my work, and there’s movement around that. Now, talent hoarding doesn’t allow for that. And one of the biggest reasons and there’s a lot of research out there to back that is the moment that somebody doesn’t see a future for themselves in that organisation, if they’ve got the means to do so they will go somewhere else. And in the current talent market, it’s easier for people to make that decision, especially if they’re part of a niche skill set or a very critical skill set in, in the market. So there’s a couple of things either one, I think the way we think about things like succession planning, etc, has to change because there is this notion around me and mine and you and yours. And you know, on the one side, we some people or talent. On the other side, what also sometimes happens is even in an open talent market is people only want to utilise the people that they really no. And that’s not again informed by, you know, the proper evidence and the science that sits behind that. So I think we have to change the way we think about talent mobility on the one side, because I also think even though talent mobility sometimes just refers to internal mobility, it’s going to refer a lot more towards mobility in between different organisations, things like alumni talent pools are going to become really important. Boomerang employees are going to become really, really important because it is this relationship that you have to acknowledge for people to develop to their fullest. So maybe that doesn’t mean that they just stay with you as an employer. Sometimes they have to go elsewhere and come back. But what is that relationship that you’re going to maintain. But that starts with the fact that you have to change your mindset that you do not own talent, you have got the opportunity to be in relationship with talent for a particular period of time. And in that relationship, things will shape and move and things will change as well. So I get it on the other side, I do feel for leaders and managers, you know, I have also been in that situation, I’ve developed people, and then when I feel they’re finally at the point where you know, they can do what we’ve always dreamed about being they need to move on. But I think that’s the realisation for managers to say that, you know, a very big part of your role is to help people find their own way and find their own path. And sometimes that means leaving you as tough as that is. But it is to change that thing also to change. The mindset for talent is a very big responsibility in this organisation, I can’t remember whose name that is principle to say, I will only promote you move you in the organisation, once you’ve grown somebody that is able to really step into your particular role. So I think it is that dual thing around changing the way we think about talent, the way we manage talent, ecosystems, but also breeding this thing in individuals that it is not just about me and what I do, but it’s about what I leave behind. One of my mentors once made the comment to me when I became a ChRO, they said, remember, the real measure of a successful CHRO is not what you did in the organisation, it’s how many CHROs are going to be in the future that that kind of, you know, grew up under your leadership. And I think that’s a very interesting metric to think about in terms of what you leave behind and how we manage that.


Kathryn Hume  46:31

Yeah. And it goes back to the system that you were talking about, too. Because if if we are all talent hoarders, then when you do lose that person who you’ve nurtured, then that’s devastating, because if everybody else is hoarding their talent, then there’s no no one available for you to move into that. But if we’re all moving more fluidly and have that mobility, then hopefully someone in another organisation somewhere has also nurtured another person who will be able to move into that now vacant position that you have.


Dieter Veldsman  47:02

No, I definitely agree with that, you know, I think one of the one of the biggest ways to disengage with people very quickly is not to allow in people in an organisation, they know whether people move around or not, right now, when internal movements get blocked, you know, whether that’s efficiently communicated to them, or whether they pick that up through the grapevine. So I do think it is changing, you know, a little bit of that, of that mindset, also around employment for life, it’s no longer a reality, people move around, they do different things, they enter into portfolio careers, they wants and needs change. Last thing I want to say on this topic is also we need to move away from this notion that when somebody resigns, they are betraying the family, I’ve seen this in so many instances where, you know, it’s like, somebody makes a life decision to move on, maybe for a better opportunity, maybe for a personal reason, you know, maybe for something else. And then all of a sudden, it’s like this mindset immediately changes to say, oh, you have betrayed as you are, how do we just get you out, you are no longer welcome here. My goodness, that has to change, because that’s not beneficial to either party. And as I’ve said, alumni talent, Boomerang talent, talent that returns that is the way of the future. And we have to think about the relationship that we keep, especially with regrettable losses in the talent landscape. And that’s an important shift in mindset shift that we need to make the notice period, you work at any workplace that last week or two is terrible, because either running around to finish things up or hand things over. Or if you’ve done really well, and you’ve done that you lost because you just get excluded from everything else, you know, you kind of hanging around in the coffee area waiting to hand in your laptop. Yeah, that experience has to change.


Kathryn Hume  48:37

Yeah, absolutely. Especially, we’ve got to remain open. My dad always hated it, when I left a job, because he’d always say, Oh, don’t burn your bridges. And because, you know, he was always the person who had one job his whole life. And so he, his thought was, if you ever left no organisation, it wouldn’t matter what you’re going to. But that was just a bad thing. Because he felt that bridges were burned, and that you’d never actually be able to go back. So I think you’re absolutely right, we need to remain connected and get those people as part of the alumni so they understand what opportunities are coming up in the future and always keep the door open that you know, those regrettable losses can come back when the positions are available for them to do so.


Dieter Veldsman  49:20

We worked with an organisation A while ago, which was really interesting way, we help them understand what is their memorable moments look like in the employee experience journey across, different phases of the lifecycle. And one of the worst experiences in that organisation at the time was how I exit and how I leave. And that’s the one process in HR we never focus on. We focus on it in terms of efficiency, and are we not making mistakes and is it happening in the right way, but we actually never think about it’s such an emotional time for people. It’s a very big life change. I’ve decided to do this. There’s something new on the one side but I still have to finish other things on the other side very often it comes with uncertainty. Sometimes if a new factory location In today’s day and age, it sounds really strange, but I might be moving towards a different technology stack, which means all of a sudden, I feel like I know nothing. Yes, we have to think about what that experience looks like. Because I think you can actually breed a lot of good favour and commitment with employees that are leaving during that phase, that makes you a lot more attractive to return to at some particular point. But for them, what was really interesting is they almost neglected that experience. And a lot of people said, really great employer to work for, absolutely loved it. But when the time came, for me to move on, that was just such a terrible experience, I’m not going to consider necessarily coming back, because you know, just the way that I was treated, showed me the true colours of the organisation.


Kathryn Hume  50:39

And you got to remember to that those people, even if they’re not going to ever come back, they are the ones who are going out there and advocating for the organisation. So you do want them to be saying positive things about their experience, especially if it was positive, up until that point, you want to leave on a positive note, because they’re the ones that are going around talking about your organisation. And then if we’re wanting to attract other people, you want them hearing those positive news stories


Dieter Veldsman  51:05

You are spot on. And I think that’s where social media started to play a real beneficial role, right is to be able to really give a voice to employees and for potential employees to understand the authentic experience that they’re going to get at the organisation. Because it’s, you know, a lot of the research tells us as well that people actually trust testimonials from employees, a lot more than what they do from, the very sexy marketing material that we put out around who we are as an employer and what we promise. Yeah, so I think there’s a obviously, there’s a dark side to that as well, where things have to be monitored, et cetera. But I think there is this opportunity, really to say, but what is the authentic voice? And you’re absolutely right. Your own employees now and your own employees that used to work for you are your best ambassadors, if they’ve got a positive experience and a positive narrative? Because they’ve got a very realistic view of the things that don’t tell you in the brochure. Yeah, I think is good.


Kathryn Hume  51:54

I’m very conscious of time. So I’ve got just one last question. Could you give us a piece of advice for any aspiring individual who wants to enter the HR field?


Dieter Veldsman  52:05

I think there’s a it touches a little bit on my earlier comment is, I think, be very clear on why you want to be an HR, I still sometimes hear very much when I was in a new HR professionals, why you in HR said, you know, it’s just my absolute love of the people. That’s not the reason to get into HR. You know, I think there’s a lot of other professions where you can play out that passion a lot better HR is about, if you’ve got an interest in order to optimise the effectiveness and the efficiency and the well being of organisational systems and the human beings that operate within them. I think HR is then definitely the place for you to come and contribute your skill set. Be aware of the fact that when you enter the field, we are going through a very big transition, we need new thinking we need new skill sets, we need new tool sets to come into the fray, which is going to result in, you know, I think an opportunity to make a very meaningful contribution. But it’s not always going to be the easiest path, you know, to be able to work. So my advice is be clear on why you want to do this. And if this is something then that you make the decision to enter into the fold and into the fray. Make sure that you broaden the skill set that you bring, make sure that you enter with the right mindset. And I think to add to an earlier question, remain curious about how the field is developing, because that’s definitely something that we do need for the future.


Kathryn Hume  53:17

Oh, awesome. It’s been a great conversation Dieter, I’ve really, really enjoyed it time is just flying by I keep looking at the clock and thinking oh, it’s gonna be a very long episode this one, but it’s just been gold. So can you just tell us if someone wanted to connect with you? What’s the best way to do that?


Dieter Veldsman  53:37

Sure. Kathryn from my side, I thank you very much for for having me. I really enjoyed our conversation. And people can find me on LinkedIn, feel free to reach out and connect with me, they will follow. I do share quite frequently, you know, some of the articles and the materials that we produce at AIHR, Please also make sure to follow the HR channels, we do try to provide regular materials for our members as well. If you follow me on LinkedIn, you’ll also get you know, I also have a podcast that I share some clips and snippets from during the course of the week. So yeah, reach out to me, they happy to engage.


Kathryn Hume  54:04

Excellent. And I will include all of those details in the show notes as well. And I can say, I love that you’ve put some great infographics in there as well, because that really helps me to get an understanding of what I’m about to read. And then it helps me to digest what comes after that. So it’s a really great service that you’re providing. Thank you very much. And thank you so much for your time.


Dieter Veldsman  54:25

Thank you very much really enjoyed it. Have a good one.


Voice over  54:29

Thanks for listening to the Reimagined Workforce podcast. We hope you found some valuable ideas that you can apply to transform your own workforce today and tomorrow. Additional information and links can be found in the show notes for this episode at workforce transformations.com.au/podcast. Please share this podcast with your community and leave us a rating to let us know what we can do better for you

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