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11 August 2021 | Story Dr Cindé Greyling | Photo Supplied
Leading a happy and productive workplace - Susan van Jaarsveld

Susan van Jaarsveld is the Senior Director: Human Resources at the University of the Free State. Since the HR department is the ‘go-to person’ for all employee-related matters, her duties involve managing activities such as recruitment and selection, employee relations, performance management, training and development, and talent management. “As the employees are the most important asset, we have to ensure a happy and productive workplace,” she explains. 

What is the best thing about your job?
You always move between what is good for the UFS and what is good for the employees, and you have to build that bridge and find a good balance. The best part is that you can really make a difference – for an employee or a team – by helping them to let their (hidden) talents come to life and helping them realise their dreams.

What is the best and worst decision you have ever made?
Two of the best decisions I ever made were to have my two amazing children. They have enriched my life and I cannot imagine a world without them in it. I made many bad decisions, but I choose not to dwell on those. In hindsight, many of these bad decisions taught me valuable life lessons and also led me to wonderful new opportunities.

What was/is the biggest challenge of your career?
The biggest challenge throughout my career was to balance my work and home life. This is certainly a challenge that many people, especially women, can relate to. It means constantly feeling guilty. When I was at work, I felt guilty that I’m missing out on important parts of my children’s lives, and I felt guilty when I was spending time with my family and not working. My children are both grown-up now and maintaining a balance between my home and work life has become easier.

What does the word woman mean to you?
Being a woman is complicated, multi-faceted, and often unfair. Womanhood is about strength, love, and compassion; a human being who can be powerful and assertive and kind at the same time.

Which woman inspires you, and why?
I am inspired by South African women, the single mothers who raise their children in difficult circumstances, the ones who make ends meet every day, the CEOs who manage big companies successfully, the ones who are battered and bruised by life and other people but still keep going, the health workers who are carrying us through this COVID-19 pandemic, the ones who stand up against injustice and say, ‘when you strike a woman, you strike a rock’.

What advice would you give to the 15-year-old you?
You are enough! Relax and enjoy life to the fullest.

What is the one self-care thing that you do? 
I exercise regularly, it helps me to stay healthy in body and mind.

What makes you a woman of quality, impact, and care?
I choose to be positive, fair, and caring in everything I do. It is a privilege to be part of the UFS, where I strive to continuously improve the institutional culture, together with a very supporting and competent team. Care (commitment, attraction, retention, excellence) is the acronym that best describes the vision of the HR team; we care and incorporate this into every initiative we undertake. 

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