Winning the war for skills

Providing personalised skills development resources will help companies retain their top talent. | Freepik

Providing personalised skills development resources will help companies retain their top talent. | Freepik

Published Apr 23, 2024



FORTY-FIVE percent of CEOs in sub-Saharan Africa and 52% globally believe that skills shortages will impact their profitability over the next 10 years.

This has been already evidenced by South African businesses reporting a 2022-2023 loss of more than R16 billion to replace skills lost due to higher than ever staff turnover. With this in mind, it is clear that the war for skills is now more hotly contested than ever.

Recruiting and replacing employees is far more costly than retaining talent. It is therefore essential for companies operating in the current economic climate to consider how they can reduce staff turnover – and this starts with people practices.

However, these are constantly evolving; and what might have worked yesterday, may not work today or in the future. As such, businesses will need to take ongoing industry trends and best practices into consideration to achieve the best results now and beyond.

Train to retain

In the post-pandemic world, employees have had a chance to reflect on what truly matters to them.

Therefore, to attract, grow and retain the very best talent, employers need to now work more closely than ever with their people to personalise their everyday experiences at work, including learning and career development.

While many organisations offer a wide range of resources to help staff develop the competencies and skills needed for the future, personalisation ensures their successful uptake. Ideally, this should entail the provision of online self-managed resources as well as in-person support.

A balance between both resource types is proving to be the most effective and generates the best experiences. Among some of the world’s top-ranked employers, 90% use personalised learning portals, 62% provide mentoring and coaching, and 43% enlist the services of a career counsellor to ensure that all employees can receive personalised advice on their next career steps.

Listen and learn

To thrive, businesses must think about long-term horizons while also analysing information and acting decisively in the short-term.

When organisations employ active, intentional and continuous listening, this not only helps them ascertain whether they are on the right track in terms of developing the present and future skills they require, it also provides employees with direction for their professional development.

Yet only 44% of employers have an employee listening strategy in place.

Businesses need to understand that it is not sufficient to obtain feedback once a year through an employee engagement survey. Rather, they should be using clearly defined channels at specific intervals throughout the year to gather insights and feedback without over-burdening the team or creating survey fatigue. Additionally, people from all areas of the company should be included in these.

By providing staff with a variety of channels and opportunities to provide feedback - and acting on this input - they feel valued and that their opinion matters. This not only increases productivity levels and overall engagement, it also converts employees into company brand ambassadors.

Power of purpose

Those firms wanting to retain and get the most out of their people must have a commitment to making a positive impact as the guiding principle behind their people practices. And this “lived purpose” must include all of their employees - from the C-suite to more junior staff members.

Nowadays, people want to be part of an organisation that aligns with their own personal views and purpose. They want to be able to make an emotional connection with their daily work.

With the cost of doing business in South Africa skyrocketing, organisations can not afford to lose billions as a result of skills losses. Therefore, how they arm themselves now in the war for talent will go a long way towards their survival in the future.

  • Botha is global HR auditor at Top Employers Institute