Published: 2006-03-22

The South African Graduate Recruitment Association (SAGEA) recently commissioned an exploratory study into talent management practices, focusing specifically on talent in the graduate sector.

The research design included parallel surveys, one for organisations (current policy and practice), and another to look at graduates (the designated talent pool in this study).

Twenty six leading South African employers participated in the study, whilst the graduate survey was sent to 1544 graduates, of which a total of 736 completed the survey.

Top Line Findings

Talent Management as a Strategic Business Issue

All of the participating organisations indicate talent management and retention as a strategic business imperative. However, only 62% of organisations have a budget allocation for talent management, and only 46% reward senior executives for managing the talent pipeline.

Defining Talent in Organisations

Talent, in this sample of organisations, is primarily differentiated by high performance (96%), and high potential (92%). Other key factors are critical positions with a strategic business impact (88%) and demographic groups (race and gender in this case - 74%). Only 10% differentiate talent by hierarchical levels of work.

Graduate Rating of Job Factors: Importance and Satisfaction

The two most important job factors for graduates are employability (developing knowledge and skills that are marketable within and beyond current employment), and work-life balance. Compensation and benefits is rated lowest in importance.

The top five items, across factors, of importance are:

  • Advancement opportunities
  • Developing new knowledge
  • Open and transparent communication
  • Challenging and meaningful work
  • Flexibility

Graduates: Anticipated Tenure

Only 20% of graduates indicate that they intended to stay with their respective employers for 5 years or more. Black graduates see themselves as more mobile than white graduates. Overall, the indications are that organisations will retain only 2 out of 10 graduates over a five year period.

Talent Management: A Three-Way Partnership

The talent management practices dashboard was developed to measure 5 dimensions (integration, development, motivation, deployment and reward) from 3 perspectives (the individual, the organisation and the manager).

Overall, there is agreement between the organisation and graduate scores, with graduates scoring slightly lower across all of the 15 items.

The lowest scoring dimension was reward (non-monetary rewards). The 3 factors are visibility for the individual (beyond the immediate work environment - 46%), measurement (rewarding managers for managing talent well - 43%) and accountability (managers recognising and rewarding individuals effort - 48%).

Overall, the perspective with the lowest average scores is the individual - manager perspective. This is important given that managers are the point of contact between talented individuals and the organisation. The key results are:

  • Connect the person to the social and other networks - 47% (Integration)
  • Blend learning and development into the work context - 49% ( Development)
  • Demonstrate interest in goals and aspiration - 48% (Motivation)
  • Create opportunities for practicing new skills - 48% (Deployment)
  • Create accountability for success - 48% (Reward)

These findings also need to be seen in the context of the Y-Generation questions. Graduates describe themselves significantly higher than employers do on the following characteristics:

  • Entrepreneurial (14% higher)
  • Wanting increased responsibility (20% higher)
  • Having a get off my back attitude (18% higher)

Graduates also describe themselves much lower (38% lower) on a free agent disposition. This is an interesting paradox of wanting independence, but not wanting to act independently (or at risk). We believe that it is this paradox that is the underlying driver of the lower ratings seen on the talent management practices dashboard. It could be that, organisations, and particularly managers, are not properly equipped to deal with emerging needs.

What the findings suggest is that there may be an emerging attitude of temporary loyalty, i.e. I will be committed to the goals of the organisation and deliver against a specific set of accountabilities for which I want to be appropriately rewarded. In doing so, I also need to increase my value.. and then I am moving on to the next opportunity.

Concluding Comments

This was an exploratory study, and despite the limitations relating to the size of the sample groups, there are useful insights to be gained.

Regarding the observations around temporary loyalty, these are some suggestions:

  • Do not hire for a job. Hire individuals to achieve a set of outcomes within a 2 - 3 year period with a significant portion of total package at risk based on achievement. Begin to position the employability benefits that will be gained on completion, and make the contract renewable if there are further opportunities and there is mutual consent.
  • People need time to develop, 6 months in the accounts department does nothing but disrupt. Identify a particular environment for the 2 - 3 year period and let the person focus on that, they will have to interact with related function and departments anyway.
  • Create clarity for managers, so that they understand their role in the process and provide them with the resources and skills to fulfill that role and reward the ones that do.
  • Changing the mindset to temporary loyalty is a financially viable alternative. People can be committed without being loyal. Think of how bands can have fans that are totally committed to them, who will support them by buying CD's and merchandise, telling all their friends and attending concerts, it doesn't last forever, but while it does it is very profitable.

For the detailed findings please visit www.sagra.org.za or contact Cathy Sims at sagra@mweb.co.za or Angus Bowmaker-Falconer at angus@skillbase.co.za or Martin Sutherland at martin@skillbase.co.za

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