The global phenomenon known as the “Great Resignation” has hit South Africa hard, but the profile of workers quitting is different from that of the rest of the world, says Dalia Kets, MD, Gcubed Boutique Recruitment.

Where other countries have seen mass layoffs of low-wage workers, in South Africa highly skilled and skilled workers are not only quitting their jobs, but leaving the country entirely in search of better opportunities abroad.

“Such a skilled outflow is not new to South Africa, with an estimated one million people emigrating between 2015 and 2020, but it is particularly worrying as employment opportunities abroad have increased dramatically, particularly for skilled workers,” Ketz said. .

To remain competitive in today’s job market, companies must offer more than just a high salary, especially if they depend on specific skills.

The number of retirees is growing sharply

Even in a job-scarce country like South Africa, where workers must hang on to their jobs, the “mass resignation” is having a profound impact, with resignation rates higher than they have been in more than a decade, Ketz said.

A study by Old Mutual’s Remchannel rewards management platform found that turnover increased by 16% across all sectors. Nearly 69% of the pay survey respondents (mostly HR and compensation professionals) confirmed that businesses are struggling to attract new talent and retain existing staff.

While there are other factors that contribute to such high turnover, such as retirements, contract terminations and downsizing through downsizing, the October 2021 Salary and Wage Movement Study found that 60% of people who left jobs in period from April to October 2021, they did it through dismissal.

Resigning for better opportunities

A labor shortage abroad also attracts skilled South Africans, Ketz noted, and where international companies are willing to help move their entire families abroad, it’s nearly impossible for local companies to compete.

“The reasons for the mass resignations in South Africa are varied, but many are related to a desire for greater flexibility. There is a lot of dissatisfaction with companies not offering remote or hybrid work, even after the lockdown.

“Stress levels are higher as teams are expected to achieve more with fewer resources due to hiring freezes or difficulty replacing those who have previously left the company. Burnout is a very real risk and employees take every opportunity to find a better work-life balance elsewhere.”

Recognition of changing generational priorities

This is especially prevalent among millennials and Gen Z, who are not as attracted to high salaries as their previous generations, Ketz said.

“These younger generations are less focused on fat paychecks, looking instead for meaning and purpose in their work and using retirement as a springboard to find organizations that better fit their wants, needs and personal values.

“They’re not just looking for a job, they want to join a company that’s committed to making a difference beyond the mandated CSI, and because of that, the attributes that make a company a great place to work need to change. »

How to make your company a great place to work

To meet the needs of an increasingly self-aware workforce and regain competitiveness in a candidate-driven market, companies need to recognize that the solution isn’t to throw more money at new hires, Ketz said.

“What companies need to do is rethink their value propositions and their impact on the world around them, focusing more on retention policies. This includes upskilling and retraining existing staff and offering clearer career paths through skills development and training opportunities.

“Individuals are more likely to stay where there is an opportunity for personal growth. Flexibility is important, and companies will benefit greatly from offering employees more say over where they work, when they work and even how they are compensated.”

However, while money is important, it is not everything. Millennials and Gen Z are concerned about whether the company they choose to work for cares about them as individuals. This means that companies need to rethink their culture, looking for ways to allow employees to achieve a better balance between productivity in the workplace and life outside of work.

“Here, companies need to take a holistic approach and focus on employee well-being not only from a mental perspective, but also from a financial and personal perspective. People don’t leave their problems at home when they come to work, and companies would do well to acknowledge that reality.”

Rethinking the role of recruitment

From a talent sourcing perspective, recruitment agencies play an important role in helping companies navigate the candidate-driven labor market. They should act as an important intermediary in ensuring that the expectations of both parties (both the prospective employee and the employer) are clearly articulated and reasonable, said Ketz.

“Clarity of expectations on both sides means there is less chance of disappointment as a result of unmet expectations leading to further resignations. Recruiters need to provide transparency throughout the hiring process that goes beyond simply ticking boxes to meet job requirements.”


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