The global talent shortage presents pro-change talent management opportunities

16 March 2022

In Francois Kriel’s Bizcommunity article published in March, he compared the optimum talent management strategy with keeping the bigger picture in mind when building a thousand-piece puzzle.  How does this strategy look when viewed through the lens of a global talent shortage (with an estimated $8.5 trillion loss of economic opportunity by 2030) as well as the Great Resignation?

According to Allianz’s Corporate Risk Barometer for 2022, 69% of companies globally reported talent shortages. The ManpowerGroup survey suggests that it is the highest figure reported in 15 years. The risks associated with the shortage of a skilled workforce is being recognized, and now ranks on the list of top 10 corporate risks alongside cyber incidents, climate change and business interruption.

According to the ManpowerGroup employers in 42 out of the participating 43 countries and territories, anticipate growing payrolls. Sadly, South Africa is listed as one of the countries with the weakest hiring prospects.

With these statistics in mind, it is essential that local organisations take a step back and consider the bigger picture. In fact, navigating a global talent shortage presents an opportunity to make talent management decisions ahead of the curve and for the long haul.

What is the current state of South Africa’s skills gap?

Many factors have influenced the global skills shortage such as the impact of a global pandemic and the Great Resignation trend. However, we cannot ignore the significance of supply and demand economics for critical skills. By no means is the global skills shortage a new phenomenon – it has been aggravated by the abovementioned trends.

South Africa’s steady exodus of critical skills has exponentially increased in recent years as more lucrative opportunities abroad presented themselves to the country’s skills pool. 

For instance, Xpatweb, a specialist immigration consultancy, recently released their annual Critical Skills Survey 2020/21, which surveyed 220 organisations across Africa including JSE-listed companies and large multinational groups. The survey highlights Engineering (18%) and ICT (13%) as the top two critical skills that local organisations have the most difficulty securing talent for. We can agree that this statistic that does not bode well for the future considering that we are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution Age of digitalisation, machine learning and big data.

Practical considerations for the wider critical skills pools

We are generally advising organisations during the consultation process to fortify their own talent management strategy by paying close attention to the following measurable approaches to assist in plugging their own potential skills drain:

1. Create internal transitioning opportunities 

In many cases, the need for new skills or competencies do not necessarily translate into recruiting new talent. An often-overlooked part of any organisation’s talent management strategy is to plan for people to transition – and be mentored or coached – into new roles.

By anticipating that employees will in time outgrow their current scope of work and by proactively planning the next set of role specifications, organisations lower the risk of losing valuable team players due to unmet professional development opportunities.

2. Harness the value of mentorship and skills transfer 

Mentorship needs no introduction and remains one of the most valuable tools in an organisation’s talent management and development toolkit to foster an environment of continuous learning. A formalised mentorship programme allows employees to gain insight from not only their direct reports, but also other leaders in the organisation. We’ve noticed the significant benefit of mentorship programmes that are not based on a traditional one-to-one relationship, but instead, a one-to-many relationship that keeps changing.  

Organisations that fail to emphasise the value of transferring skills and knowledge, are creating a competitive internal culture where employees hoard knowledge because of the perception that it increases their individual value to their employer. The opposite is in fact true – transferring skills and knowledge internally strengthens the culture of continuous learning and lays the foundation for more meaningful collaboration.

3. Plug the critical skills gap through remote working 

The more common benefits referenced in conversations about hybrid and remote working are flexibility and work-life balance. However, in the midst of a global talent shortage, organisations that nurture critical skills use such working arrangements to tap into wider critical skills pools. Hybrid and remote-working help these organisations to effectively ‘import’ the talent and skills that have been identified via their skills and competency gap analysis.

For potential employees, working fully remotely for an organisation in a different country without the need to relocate might be attractive in terms of lifestyle and financial benefits. For local organisations who have invested into the systems and processes preparation to support remote working team members, it almost a logical next step to attract and onboard the best of international talent.

4. Prioritise wellness as part of the employee value proposition

Bruce Talgan, in his Training Mag article cites workforce burnout and depression alongside increased family needs as some of the top causes that motivate people to leave organisations in the short-term. As employer-employee relationships tend to become more transactional as a result of our post-COVID world’s blurred digital boundaries, organisations can be sure that the top talent place a higher value on wellness and are less likely to compromise on their overall wellness.  

This is good news for organisations who have invested into a holistic approach to the well-being of their employees as a priority and a foundational component of the organisation’s culture. A formalised focus on wellness is not only an important part of the employee experience, but also a value proposition that could attract and retain like-minded talent.

A talent shortage is one of the many pervasive change events that modern-day organisations are expected to navigate. Attracting and retaining critical skills and competencies for the future of work requires organisations to grab the opportunity to swivel their talent strategies with both hands.