Directorate of internal human resources at the Gauteng Office of the Premier Lerato Pitsi shares how, through her position, she helps improve service delivery in Gauteng as well as her success tips
Share with us what attracted you to the HR field, was it something you aspired to growing up?
It was unintentional that I ended up in the human resource field, but ironically, it’s the only field I have been exposed to for the past 11 years. I initially wanted to pursue my studies in logistics management at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), but the course was full at the time. To avoid staying at home without studying, I decided to go for the public management course with little knowledge about what it entailed. I completed my national diploma, then continued to do my B-Tech degree in public management, while majoring in human resource. At this point, I was already working in the human resource industry. I am currently perusing my Master’s in public administration with the University of South Africa (Unisa). What I love about human resources is that it ensures that an organisation’s functions are strategically aligned to the human element of the organisation. This is important to me because I believe that every element and operation of an organisation, no matter how technically and digitally advanced, points back to its people.
What are the highlights and challenges of being an HR practitioner?
Some of the highlights are having to adapt to the ever-changing environment in this field, a good example is the Covid-19 pandemic we are currently faced with. As a human resource practitioner, I must align environmental changes to human resource needs. Working with people is also one of the highlights, the field is human-centred, and I get to learn a lot from other people. I’ve always found different human behaviours fascinating. This also enhanced my interpersonal skills in general. One of the downsides is that human resource is often overlooked in the strategic functioning of the workplace. It is often seen as a “by-the-way” function. However, I have seen over the years how human resources has improved and is now a key segment in most organisations.
You spent almost 10 years in government institutions, what misconceptions from personal experiences, do people have about careers in these institutions?
People often think there are not enough career opportunities in the human resource field, or generally in a government institution. Most people think that human resource personnel are only responsible for recruiting and firing individuals. This field is about actively contributing to the improvement of service delivery in the public service, it is achieved through various integrated processes and interventions. I think this also points back to unemployment in the country. The amount of applications that are received in government institutions, especially at entry-level positions when jobs are advertised is disheartening. This shows the growing need for employment in this country.
Have you been in a private environment? How different is it from a government institution in terms of corporate culture?
I have never been in a private environment. What I can say is that the public sector is highly regulated and hierarchical in its nature. There is a sense of belonging and job security in government, paradoxically to what I have heard about the private sector.
How do you drive and ensure competency and excellent work amongst the staff at the Gauteng Office of the Premier, especially pertaining to service delivery and implementation of provincial policies?
It’s about having a clear and consistent vision, collaboration and making sure that all stakeholders in the Province see themselves in the vision of the future. We currently have a vision in Gauteng towards the development of our plan of action, namely Growing Gauteng Together 2030 (GGT2030). The plan reflects the outcomes of this process and serves as our guide towards the Gauteng of our dreams, which is: a seamlessly integrated, socially cohesive, sustainable and economically inclusive Gauteng City Region (GCR). A place of opportunities, supported by a growing economy, smart, innovation-driven and sustainable industries, an accountable, responsive, transparent and clean government, and a healthy, active citizenry.
It is Gauteng’s responsibility to lead and ensure the implementation of this vision that will ultimately improve on service delivery. This will also require integration of provincial policies and guidelines that will drive the provincial mandate. The GGT2030 is a decade-length blueprint for a new phase of government in Gauteng, informed by what has come before, but not constrained by it.
How has Covid-19 affected or even sparked innovative ways in your department to manage or help your staff complement to perform their duties?
Covid-19 has shifted our mindset towards how we do things. It forced us to adjust and adapt rapidly. This has made us to reflect as government. We have transitioned to using digital platforms to communicate with employees. Government is developing innovative ways to ensure that staff performs efficiently. One of the challenges faced in the public sector is the lack of funds. Funding impacts on the availability of tools of trade so that employees can work remotely.
On the contrary, this crisis has brought people to work together with a heightened sense of empathy. So, in spite of the tragic and disruptive impacts of Covid-19, it teaches us to be more considerate and to look out for one another.
I believe that this deep challenge has proved beyond all doubt, the importance of people and good human resource management. To be in the forefront of innovation, we need talent that can develop because, what you knew yesterday might not be relevant in the future. That goes back to developing people with diverse skills and providing a variety of experiences.
What is your definition of success and do you feel you have achieved it?
My definition of success is doing everything with excellence to the best of your ability. No matter how little the task is, if I do something and give it my all, I feel that I have succeeded. To a certain extend yes, I do feel I have achieved my definition of success. I remember when I started working, I wrote down a 10-year goal plan and looking back now, I have ticked off most of the things I had planned to achieve. I wouldn’t have achieved those if I was not mindful that every effort I put in, ultimately contributes to a bigger picture.
Do you have a mentor that helps you in your career journey, why or why not? Are they important for one’s success?
I do not have someone that is officially my mentor. I always draw from people around me who are more knowledgeable and experienced in my field. However, I have one friend who has consistently been my point of reference when I need assistance and guidance. Having someone to learn from has contributed positively to my career growth. There’s always someone who knows more than you do, or someone who holds a different perspective.
What is the best career advice you have received that you still apply today?
Don’t be afraid to ask. This was from my mentor friend. It’s one of the best ways to keep on learning. Don’t always assume you know something completely.
Also, there are notions of nepotism that discourage many people from applying for jobs in government institutions, how do you as an HR practitioner tackle that?
True. A lot of people do not apply in government institutions because they hold that notion- that there is corruption and nepotism. There are existing systems that have been intensified to eliminate matters of unethical conduct. Interventions such as the establishments of Ethics and Anti-Corruption units, forensic services, auditing services and other monitoring and evaluation systems assist in detecting and correcting acts that may be unethical and irregular. Human resource is a highly regulated industry in the public services. Every action and process need to be justified by a prevailing legislation, directive or guidelines.
What change would you like to implement within your role?
I would like to be a more strategic partner in the workplace. Driving service delivery from an integrated point of view as we are in the process of formulating an inclusive and diverse agenda. This is imperative in improving the corporate culture. I want to stay relevant by positioning myself in the forefront of innovation. The current climate in government looks demotivated, the fundamental role of leadership is to instil confidence and hope in people, lead with authenticity and walk the talk.
Lastly, what are your success tips for young people?
As the saying says, if you want to see any change in the world it starts with you. When doing your work, do it to the best of your ability and it will speak for itself. This will inspire others to do the same. I would encourage people not to get tired of doing good, one way or the other the universe has a way of rewarding hard work. Lastly, always remember that your attitude will determine how far you go in life, be willing to learn and take on tasks with a positive attitude, this will take your far.
Image source: Supplied
Visit: Office of the premier