Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Talent: Can organizations keep it?

South Africa faces many challenges especially the public sector in attracting and retaining its talented skills or "critical skills" as some people would call it. However, the private sector is no different at all.

Critical skills are the group and individuals that drive a disproportionate share of their company's business performance and generate greater-than-average value for customers and shareholders, according to Delloitte research.

Globalization is one of the factors that put an enormous pressure on companies to compete in the international market and the need for talented skilled to do so. Attracting a new talent is one thing, but keeping it is another. This is a result of lack of "skilled labour force" that the country experiences. It has now become a national anthem that lack of skills is due to apartheid.

Research has indicated that government sector is the hard-hitest by the lack of skilled workforce - as a result many positions remain vacant and hence lack of service delivery.

Do government departments have the "critical talent" and how do they keep the little they have?

Not only has public sector had to answer this question, but also the private sector needs to find ways in keeping the little talent they have. Many people leave the public sector to join the private sector due to "low compensation" and other reason as many have indicated. It's therefore become a challenge for the South African government departments to retain that talent from getting out of their hands. In certain instances, many South Africans are forced to leave the country for "greener pasture" overseas especially in the nursing and teaching profession.

Despite different attempts by government through its SETAs, JIPSA, ASGI-SA and other programmes to curb and improve the country's workforce, many of these programmes seem to have ended before they even begun and failed to attract, train and retain potential employees.

Lack of critical skills, relevant qualifications, working experience and soft skills are some of the many challenges HR managers, recruiting agencies and recruiting consultants continue to face during the recruitment and selection processes.

Although compensation and reward are the commonly strategies used to attract and retain critical skills in companies - many still fail to consider safe working conditions, training and development, performance bonus and mentoring as alternative strategies to attracting and retaining talent. "Once a talented person is employed it is essential to ensure job satisfaction and retention. Initially, strategies such as personal career development plans, individualized development programmes, career tracking and promotions may be employed," Bridget Bakos, CEO of Kaphela People Solutions SA wrote in Management Today.

Another factor that makes it difficult for companies to keep its talent is the difference between the Generation X (Gen Xer born 1964-1983) and Generation Y as potential employees (Gen Y born 1984-1994).

Finweek indicated "with more than 60% of South Africans under the age of 29, corporations not attuned to the needs of the younger workforce will increasingly find it difficult to attract and retain young talent." This is a result of both generations viewing work differently because of their work expectations. Although this young workforce might have different names - others would call them young professionals.

Gen Xers enjoy flexi-time, telecommuting, flat management structure, work life balance, frequent career changes in different industries and freedom. It will be somewhat difficult for some employers to attract and retain such potential employees and are often called "job-hobbers" because of moving from one company or career to the other and are much more career-development oriented.

And this raises many question as to how long are they likely to stay with the company and if trained – aren’t they likely to look for better offers. That is why many companies do not invest in training it's employees to provide them with skills that will help them perform their work much better and more effectively and efficiently so.

Gen Y on the other hand enjoy flexible working hours, social networks, boundary-less, constant feedback on performance, portfolio of careers and more than one job at a time and no loyalty.

It is therefore evident that keeping and attracting talent especially the "critical skills" is one of the most challenging and difficulty task facing Human Resource and recruitment agencies in the 21st Century. This is also indicated in a another study by Delloitte and Economist Intelligence Unit in Middle East and Africa that identifying critical employee talent groups ranked the highest while retaining critical talent ranked third. However, recruiting critical talent followed second on the list of scope of management talent.

Because of the growing social networks like Facebook and Myspace, it would therefore mean companies would have to make these accessible to its employees especially the Gen Y as they are more into Social networking although if abused - could have a negative impact on that individual's work performance. Despite the growing social networks, many companies restrict employees’ access to these social networks. Many young professionals argue this as a "right to leisure" however some argue that it is the likes of Facebook that gives "the edge" especially after a tough day and long meetings.

Another survey on by PricewaterhouseCooper indicated that retention as challenge facing African organizations is currently at 13% while 16% in Asia, 20% in Europe, 11% in North America and 17% in South America. This is however likely to drop by 7% in the next three years to 6%.

What are you going to do then to keep the little talent your company or organization has? And how effective and efficient are your organization's recruitment and retention strategies? What needs to change if they are not delivering on your expectations?

As CEO, HR manager, maybe a recruiting consultant - these are questions you need answer or ask if you are an employee.

Aligning HR strategy with corporate strategy has a significant role in identifying recruitment strategies to attract critical talent and the retention strategies to keep such a talent.

Bakos said it is therefore only through constant communication that companies or HR managers could engage with critical skills on how to retain them and how to attract new talent. The actual key to retain talent in South African organizations lies within open and transparent communication. The employers and employees should have regular meetings and feedback sessions in order to create a mutually beneficial relationship.

Bad company policies, relationship with supervisor and peers, security are some of the reason why employees remain dissatisfied and unhappy at work. And as a result – many of them leave and go and look for employment elsewhere or start their own businesses.

Although not all employees can be happy in the workplace, achievement, recognition, the challenging work, sense of responsibility, career growth and development, are some of the factors that make employees remain in their work or which companies can use to retain critical talent.

Maybe these can help many organizations especially public sector by replacing Google the number one company to work for in the world and just to become the number one sector in the world to work for!

"A final word of advice: do all that you can to retain your good staff, it will cost you if you don't" warned Bakos.

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