Talent retention huge headache for SA firms

by Margaret Harris

Jeremy Langley, the regional director at Lumesse, spoke to Margaret Harris.

According to the recent Global Talent Survey results, South Africa was ranked 45th in terms of talent management. What does this mean?

In South Africa, the war on talent rages on, with a particular hunger for top black professionals. Companies across all sectors have employment equity (EE) and black economic empowerment (BEE) mandates.

Firms are resorting to head-hunting because the pool of talent is fast shrinking.

The brain drain hasn't helped either, though there have been reports of black entrepreneurs rejoining the corporate environment, which can only be good for local companies.

The difficulty for employers is that, these days, old beliefs about talent retention do not apply.

What are the biggest mistakes employers make?

The list is endless. However, there are two linked mistakes that are potentially damaging to an organisation's growth:

  • Firstly, failing to understand the difference that an engaged and skilled workforce can make to an organisation's success - no matter how "blue" the collar; and
  • Secondly, failing to have a specific strand of organisational planning or strategy that addresses the hiring and development of talent.

Inevitably, if you make mistake number one, you'll make mistake number two, and events and changes will control you.

What can companies do to remedy this?

Take the time to ask one question: if we had a highly skilled, high-performing and highly engaged workforce, what difference could that make to our organisation?

Try to make that difference tangible, either through financial or productivity results. This then becomes the return on investment for any investment to answer the second question: what do we need to do to achieve this workforce?

Talent retention is held up as being vital for growth and success. Is it really so important?

Even more so than in other global economies, the challenges within the South African education sector mean that many employers have found that they have to invest heavily in training and development to get the workforce they need.

If you add this to the cost of employee turnover, then retaining and developing talent becomes a simple economic equation.

How can companies use performance management to increase their retention rates?

South African talent is highly mobile, sometimes too much so, and when it comes to key talent, it's clear that good performance management which stretches and rewards key talent is often more important than remuneration and working conditions for ensuring retention.

Recent research we conducted showed that organisations that have effective performance management processes and tools appear to be more effective at retaining their best people than those that fail to develop performance management. It's not rocket science, but it's an area we all too often put off until tomorrow.

Useful resources:
Sunday Times
The Sunday Times is South Africa's biggest-selling national newspaper. Includes Sunday Times Magazine, Lifestyle, Business Times and Metro sections.
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