It’s not about the money!

The in­abil­ity of com­pa­nies to re­tain black tal­ent has a lot less to do with re­mu­ner­a­tion than some peo­ple think

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - BY SIZWEKAZI JEKWA sizwekazij@fin­week.co.za

I ONCE BE­LIEVED THAT EV­ERY TIME a black South African ex­ec­u­tive left a com­pany af­ter a short stint, that the pro­fes­sional in ques­tion was just chas­ing the bucks. Like most peo­ple, I thought the pri­mary mo­ti­va­tion be­hind all job switch­ing among black pro­fes­sion­als was money. Just like the Re­serve Bank gov­er­nor.

But as I’ve got­ten to know a bit more about the sub­ject, I’ve come to re­alise that this is only half the story.

I think cer­tain of the prob­lems that some com­pa­nies ex­pe­ri­ence in re­tain­ing black tal­ent are re­lated to an­ti­quated em­ploy­ment man­age­ment sys­tems.

Hu­man re­source meth­ods and pro­cesses of yes­ter­year are no longer ap­pli­ca­ble in the mod­ern con­text. Young peo­ple don’t want the same things that their pre­de­ces­sors wanted 15 or 20 years ago.

Most young pro­fes­sion­als are global cit­i­zens: born in South Africa, moved to Botswana when par­ents were in ex­ile, stud­ied in Eng­land and work in Jo­han­nes­burg with reg­u­lar sec­ond­ments abroad.

The new gen­er­a­tion of black pro­fes­sion­als is worldly, cul­tured and well trav­elled and if they aren’t yet, they def­i­nitely want to be.

Why do com­pa­nies ex­pect the same ben­e­fits that they give Oom Frik, who’s worked in the mail­room for 20 years, to be suit­able for 28-year old whiz-kid Vusi in IT? Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, the rapid and sud­den demo­cratic change in South Africa has cre­ated a big gen­er­a­tion gap be­tween the younger and older mem­bers of our so­ci­ety.

This “ gap” of­ten cre­ates a mis­fit be­tween the needs of younger em­ploy­ees and the com­pa­nies they work for.

Of­ten the ben­e­fits of­fered by com­pa­nies do not re­flect the real as­pi­ra­tions of younger ex­ec­u­tives who value things very dif­fer­ently from their pre­de­ces­sors.

Em­ployee share schemes with lengthy pe­ri­ods of ma­tu­rity or risk-averse pen­sion fund schemes are not as ap­peal­ing to young ex­ec­u­tives.

Younger peo­ple don’t want to be tied to any one com­pany for life: they want op­tions and flex­i­bil­ity with their ben­e­fits be­cause their in­di­vid­u­al­ity is so im­por­tant to them.

If South African com­pa­nies have any hope of en­sur­ing they con­tin­u­ally iden­tify, at­tract and re­tain the best avail­able tal­ent, they have to be­come more adapt­able to the par­tic­u­lar needs of their di­verse em­ploy­ees. Leon Pot­gi­eter, CEO of ex­ec­u­tive re­cruit­ment com­pany, Oval Of­fice, main­tains that ex­cuses like “there are in­suf­fi­cient skills” and “we can’t re­tain black staff ” used by SA cor­po­rates to ac­count for slow trans­for­ma­tion are just easy cop-outs.

He be­lieves that there’s a dire need for com­pa­nies to com­pletely over­haul the way they look at man­ag­ing ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship and find more in­no­va­tive and creative ways of deal­ing with trans­for­ma­tion and other mod­ern hu­man cap­i­tal chal­lenges.

One of the most mis­un­der­stood and un­der­es­ti­mated as­pects of re­cruit­ment is of­fice cul­ture. Of­ten this and not remu- fes­sion­als se­lect can­di­dates us­ing a “tick box” method, which is no longer ap­pli­ca­ble in the cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment.

Of­ten the lists of qual­i­fi­ca­tions com­pa­nies for­mu­late do not ex­ist in one sin­gle “pack­age”. And if they do, com­pa­nies are forced to out­bid com­peti­tors in the open mar­ket at ridicu­lous pre­mi­ums. In­stead, com­pa­nies need to look at what’s re­al­is­ti­cally avail­able in terms of can­di­dates and iden­tify those who dis­play qual­i­ties that would make them suit­able.

In­stead of look­ing for a qual­i­fied CA with 10 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in a par­tic­u­lar in­dus­try, they should look for some­one whose CV demon­strates gen­eral ex­cel­lence and an abil­ity to adapt.

RMB’s Class of pro­gramme has been us­ing this kind of think­ing to iden­tify lead­er­ship for a decade with much suc­cess. The pro­gramme seeks out pro­fes­sion­als with no bank­ing ex­pe­ri­ence what­so­ever, who they can mould into ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship for the bank­ing group.

“Why do com­pa­nies ex­pect the same ben­e­fits that they give Oom Frik, who’s worked in the mail­room for 20 years, to be suit­able for 28-year old

whiz-kid Vusi in IT?”

ner­a­tion, as most com­pa­nies be­lieve, is the big­gest fac­tor in en­sur­ing com­pa­nies re­tain tal­ent. Let’s face it, tal­ent will al­ways be mo­bile. There’s noth­ing new about that – even be­fore trans­for­ma­tion the smartest and bright­est ex­ec­u­tives were al­ways tough to hang on to, es­pe­cially in a glob­alised econ­omy.

But if em­ploy­ers have a clear vi­sion of the kind of peo­ple they want to at­tract and then cre­ate work­ing en­vi­ron­ments that re­flect the per­son­al­i­ties and the cul­ture of those peo­ple, they are far more likely to hang on to them.

The prob­lems with cur­rent HR prac­tices in South Africa ex­tend even as far as the re­cruit­ment pro­cesses. Most lo­cal HR pro-

The truth of the mat­ter is that South Africa suf­fers more from an ex­pe­ri­ence deficit than skills deficit, be­cause there are plenty of high po­ten­tial young peo­ple who have the ba­sic skills re­quired but who sim­ply lack the ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­po­sure. In light of all this, maybe the Gov­er­nor – like many other CEOs in South Africa – is not ask­ing the right ques­tions in his ef­forts to un­der­stand why he strug­gles to re­tain black pro­fes­sion­als.

Maybe he should be ask­ing him­self if the Re­serve Bank is the kind of or­gan­i­sa­tion that would at­tract young, bright, up­wardly mo­bile black pro­fes­sion­als – and if his or­gan­i­sa­tion has po­si­tioned it­self to at­tract such peo­ple.

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