South African companies urgently need to address their strategies to attract and retain talent

South Africa has experienced its share of brain drains, and the pandemic may just have induced a new kind of the same. With the shift not only to work-from-home, but work-from-anywhere, top talent now has a choice of more local and global opportunities, which has serious repercussions for organisations. 

On the one hand, the uncertainty of moving jobs during a pandemic and various fears associated with the economy make candidates more cautious about considering a career move currently. Additionally, those who have moved organisations have cited a struggle with effective integration due to the virtual nature of the work and teams. 

On the other hand, however, with the onset of remote and hybrid work, candidates have realised they have the option of working from anywhere. In our candidate engagement we have noted an increase in “semigration”, emigration, and in candidates wanting to hear about international roles. We sense a growing resistance among professionals to return to full-time work at the office. 

In South Africa, therefore, the so-called “Great Resignation” is more of a talent tsunami, where professionals are leaving South Africa, and in some instances, those who remain are actively seeking employment with multinationals or with the option for remote work. 

The past year has seen some interesting trends in the talent and recruiting space: a rapid increase in ecosystem partnerships, the growing importance of Environment, Society and Governance (ESG), and the digital transformation of many companies. These factors have played a key role in ensuring that talent is now in the driving seat, and companies will need to rise to meet the challenges this presents. 

The key characteristics of a talent ecosystem are its cohesive, interrelated, and interdependent parts that potentially enable a more attractive employee experience. For instance, the rapid formation of many ecosystem partnerships could present the opportunity for employees to move across organisations to gain access to a broader portfolio of developmental opportunities.

 These ecosystems could also offer the opportunity for employees to engage in an organisation beyond the employee-employer contract, which can mean more integrated and diverse employee experience. 

ESG and its translation into an organisation’s purpose and values are also major topics of conversation among the candidates we work with. According to Mercer’s Global Talent Trends 2020 –2021, 67% of South African HR leaders reported ESG goals were being built into the company’s transformation agenda, and one in five organisations is embedding ESG metrics into executive score cards. Candidates are looking for evidence of employers that really care. This is no longer an HR issue only, but one which all executives need to exhibit, communicate and live up to.

 The reputation and credibility of an organisation’s leaders is a crucial factor – an organisational brand and Employee Value Proposition (EVP) are extremely important, of course, but specifically the reputation of the leader the role reports into is much more critical.

 Reporting lines are a very important consideration. For candidates this often determines the strategic mandate that a function holds and is a definite attraction or detraction, while organisations that are experiencing leadership uncertainty and an unclear succession plan are less attractive to candidates.

 We don’t believe these trends are just interesting themes as a result of the pandemic, but rather permanent and long-lasting change that talent management strategies will need to address. Investing in people is a key priority.