By: Tebogo Mokwena
After realising that while decisions taken in the boardroom are often well-meaning but do not take into account the different realities of employees, Julia Makhubela decided to switch tact from sitting in boardrooms to making the lives of staff members easier. She does this by helping companies understand how to lead diverse groups of people, recruit, onboard and track the performance of employees. Her consultancy also helps colleagues understand each other better.
Makhubela started 54twentyfour in 2018 after spending a considerable amount of time working in the corporate world, including as the operations director at a digital marketing agency. She told Vutivi News decisions taken at the boardroom level had unintended consequences for those in the lower structures of a company. Therefore, her consultancy helped a business think about recruitment, onboarding, performance and structure. “Because we are all naturally biased, a lot of leaders don’t know how to manage people that are different from them,” Makhubela said.
“We help organisations identify moments that matter to the employee experience so that people can experience a sense of fairness and inclusion in those moments. “These moments could be something as simple as acknowledging that people take taxis to come in for interviews at 8 am as well as considering if this is a reasonable time for the interview. “It could also be something as simple as structuring the workday to enable working parents to look after their children and work at the same time,” she said. Makhubela said that her clients also struggled to retain talented workers.
In order to address this, she helped them establish the physical, mental, relational, emotional and financial needs of an employee to ensure that they did not change jobs. According to Mkhubela, another reason she started her consultancy, was that when she started working, she would field well-meaning but awkward questions based on her race and upbringing. She learned through those experiences that identity mattered in a country where people were treated differently based on race, age, gender, disability and sexuality.
Makhubela said it was, therefore, important to empower employees to share their vision and lived experiences. But this approach only worked only when people felt comfortable. “We just try to awaken people to the realities of everyone else,” she said. “If you keep that in mind, how you engage with people and show up at work changes.”