Communications in Government Departments, working independently as a Communications Specialist with a focus on Strategy Development, Project Management, and Brand Activation programmes, of which I am still doing to date in my current position.
In addition to having good communication skills, what other abilities are essential in your capacity?
Focus is key. Most of my projects are long-term planned since they form part of the strategy which gets reviewed every six months. I need to be flexible on adhoc projects without de-prioritising the main goal.
For someone who is uncertain about their career path would you encourage them to become a communication manager – if so why/why not?
It is a great opportunity to be in Communications. As much as I specialise in Communications and Marketing I get to be responsible for resource material of the organisation, which means consolidating information from other Departments internally to present them in such publications, thus allowing one an opportunity to engage in-depth with information across services offered.
What aspect of your job gives you the most job satisfaction?
Delivering good quality information sharing material and creating successful network opportunities in a form of conferencing has been rewarding.
What is the biggest lesson in Communications that you’ve learned?
Have a master action plan in place for daily, weekly, monthly and annually and set your own targets to meet over and above your signed performance management system. The job has a lot to do with creative thinking that can be translated into implementable projects with tangible results.
Based on your experience what would you say to young professionals entering the field?
It is an exciting field and there is never a dull moment. You need a positive attitude and positive energy in excess, you are your own cheer leader and fan and you should not base your deliveries and achievements on others. The responsibility to excel remains yours alone and once you understand your role then you can rope in the team.
What achievement are you most proud of in your time with MEIBC?
There are plenty, but to mention a few; we launched the Business Strategy, re-worked the vision and mission, delivered the first coffee table book, relaunched the newsletter, and hosted the first Annual National Conference with industry awards, the list is long.
Alice Zondo is the Human Resources Manager of the MEIBC, a position she has filled for a year and a half. She has been in the HR sector for 10 years, an industry that she was drawn to because of its big picture thinking, talent development, variety of tasks and workplace opportunities. In her role she aims to make the MEIBC the best by playing a strategic role in the company’s development and growth.
What is your advice to those planning on going into Human Resources?
The HR industry has undergone a significant transformation and long gone are the days when it was thought to play little more than an administrative function within a business. A career in HR brings with it multiple opportunities for variety and career progression.
With organisations becoming increasingly aware of the need to attract and retain the best people for their workforce, along with the somewhat complex nature of employee welfare and employment law, employers are constantly seeking skilled additions to their HR team.
They are recruited to deal with all the functions of a business that relate to its employees, explaining why it might often be known as the personnel department. Whilst there are several specialist roles in HR, including employer branding, HR business partner, and change management, most positions will require you to get involved in multiple functions such as recruitment and selection, training and development, employee relations, contracts of employment, complaints and grievances, employee rights, appraisals, and health and safety.
Some of the major reasons why people choose a career in HR is the opportunity to influence innumerable aspects of the organisation, to assist in the development of its employees, and to play a part in influencing strategic business decisions. A business is only as good as its employees, and an organisation's employees are only as good as their HR team.
What do you like most about your chosen profession?
A career in HR is always interesting and challenging and frequently rewarding, but it can also be stressful. Even so, it is emotionally satisfying. You need to genuinely understand and relate to people, you need common sense, must be able to control your emotions, and have a strong disposition in order to handle the tough parts of the job, and must be able to handle various situations.
And yes, it is stressful - because the remedies you feel are most appropriate have to be 'sold' to senior management, and that at times, leads to the most frustrating part of your duties, and even if you enjoy good rapport with your senior management they are not always willing, or able, to listen, to quote vague terms like 'corporate policy'.
However, it can help you build on your strengths, acquire more relationship skills, learn flexibility, and how to compromise more adequately, how to look for solutions and not at problems, and most importantly it will help build up your character. Equally important, it will teach you to expect the unexpected, and be able to deal with it! Believe me; it's never dull being in HR!
And this is what all budding HR junior executives need to realise - it's not just being able to remember and apply rules and regulations, it's throwing yourself head first into complexities and complications, and yet emerging successful.
What has been the highlight of your career with MEIBC thus far?
Working at MEIBC has been a highlight in my career and I am proud of what we have achieved. Working with the staff and the colleagues here has been a delight and a privilege. I have managed to introduce Strategic Human Resource Management structure which is important because organisations must be able to position HR Management from a strategic perspective to drive sustainable long-term business values and results.
Going forward, what are your career goals?
Broadening my global experience. I plan to expand my HR experience by relocating and accepting an international assignment (e.g. Brazil, Russia, India, China or elsewhere). Yes this is a major life, family and career move, however, HR practitioners with international experience are hugely desirable in our global economy, and will continue to be. Such experience will differentiate me from the rest of the pack and open up opportunities to take my career to an entirely new level. I’d like to give a lecture or teach an HR class at a local university. Local universities, junior colleges, or their extension campuses, are always on the hunt for guest lecturers, instructors and part-time adjunct faculty members. Landing a college teaching position can help me polish my presentation skills and confidence. Besides, you never know who is in your class and who knows whom.
What do you think is the future of HR?
Strategic thinking will be HR’s new core competence which will include two major aspects. First, the HR executive should provide input into the firm's strategy in order to ensure that the firm has the human resource capabilities to implement it. Second, the HR function needs to ensure that the HR programmes and practices are in place to effectively implement the strategy.
As the Executive Assistant to the MEIBC CEO, Elsie Masuku is a woman with many skills. She feels that being part of the executive team and working for the Council has given her much experience, strengthened her abilities, increased her knowledge and prepares her for major challenges. Elsie started working for the Council on 1 October 2012 and has been with them for 2 years and 9 months.
What is the most challenging part of being the Executive Assistant to a CEO of a company?
Being an Executive Assistant is a complex role which requires a range of professional skills that are necessary to achieve results, including time management, interpersonal ability, customer service and organisation. It is important to understand the dynamics and politics of the Council as the CEO reports to the Stakeholders; subsequently it makes both the CEO and stakeholders a priority on my day to day functions.
However, the most challenging part is the turnaround time. At times decisions are made without considering all aspects involved and duties must be carried out quickly. I believe in accuracy, perfection, sufficient time and a job well done. As I work for the Office of the CEO this is just not always feasible as last minute jobs are sometimes required. At times it can be a challenge to communicate and receive feedback from other parties at the last minute, but my aim is to maintain a good atmosphere within the office, to maintain regularities and discipline and to liaison with other related offices to the best of my abilities.
The duties of an Executive Assistant are varied and require a wide set of skills – how do you go about continually developing your skills?
I attend relevant training courses such as managing time for results, effective communication skills and so on. I also have meetings with other Executive Assistants to learn different ways of doing things effectively and efficiently.
As someone who has to multi-task and plan schedules, what is your biggest asset in terms of being organised?
I am a very structured and organised person. I believe in planning to execute accordingly. I would normally use a four quadrants strategy to categorise my daily tasks and an electronic calendar invite to remind me of any meetings. It’s probably an old fashioned style but it works great for me.
As technology advances I am expected to be on par with it, but one needs to be safe and not rely on technology alone as it may be provide problems at times. In my experience I find it best to use old fashioned methods while still being on the same level with new technology.
What does an average day look like for you?
I normally start at 08h30 and knock off at 17h00. However, in terms of my tasks my days are never the same as it depends on CEO and stakeholders’ priorities, workload and internal duties’ urgency and important tasks. Some days are non-stop the entire day, on which I would leave the office after hours just to ensure that I have achieved and delivered as per the mandate. Overall I provide assistance to the General Secretary to ensure that the office of the CEO operates optimally and that all activities are coordinated accordingly.
What has been the most out-of-ordinary task / request you have ever received in your career as an Executive Assistant?
After the Main Agreement was signed by Stakeholders in July 2014 one morning when I walked into my office I was requested to prepare/compile all relevant documents to be submitted to the Department of Labour for extension of the Main Agreement for gazettal within three hours. Considering that since I’ve joined the Council I have never executed that task and it consists of a mandate/ resolution from stakeholders, membership verification (the total number of employers and employees they employ and there was still a dispute for some parties), signing of schedules by all principal delegates and completing of about six different forms from DOL. It was beyond my scope of work but the CEO showed faith in me and trusted that I could execute the task accurately and develop my skills further as there is no room for error.
Outside of her professional role, Elsie is very involved in her church and particularly with the youth in her community. She enjoys staying active and in shape by jogging and swimming, which also helps her relieve stress.
The Women of MEIBC
The Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) is a statutory body created under the Labour Relations Act (LRA) to provide for the co-regulation of stable and productive employment relations in the metal and engineering industries. The MEIBC has four core functions, namely; Collective Bargaining, Compliance Management, Dispute Resolution and Social Protection.
Monki Hlutwa is the Communications Manager for the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC). A position she finds rewarding and challenging. From her many years’ experience, Monki shares lessons and gives advice to other young and future communication managers.
Can you share a bit about your career journey from where you started to where you are today?
I started out working part time as a research field worker during my school going years to
WIMVATION | Aramex
by Andrew Ngozo