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
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Human resource methods and processes of yesteryear are no longer applicable in the modern context.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.