Taking the right steps to retain talent

With businesses facing a growing number of skills challenges, ensuring they retain their best employees has become more imperative than ever.

Johannesburg, 29 Sep 2023
Shashi Hansjee, CEO, Entelect.
Shashi Hansjee, CEO, Entelect.

In a world that is digitally transforming rapidly, it is becoming crucial for organisations to retain their best staff. Skills shortages abound, and the expertise and talents of experienced staff members are not something that can easily be replaced.

Entelect CEO Shashi Hansjee explains that losing people with knowledge and skills, which are often learned in the context of your particular business, can be disastrous. Thus, to increase their ability to innovate and be agile, it is vital for companies to create an environment in which employees want to remain.

“Remember that any business that loses people too rapidly, and is unable to keep key skills in-house, will struggle to compete in the market. Replacements can never immediately be as agile or effective as your more experienced personnel,” he points out.

“South African businesses have even more to deal with than most. There is already a skills shortage in the digital environment, due to high demand. Furthermore, local businesses are also impacted by the ongoing ‘brain drain’, which further reduces the talent pool.”

Therefore, continues Hansjee, organisations need to focus on four key areas if they hope to retain their best talent in the long term. These focus areas encompass: a good workplace culture; growth and development opportunities for staff; meaningful work that employees can succeed at; and competitive levels of remuneration.

“To elaborate further, to deliver a good workplace culture, your business requires good communications, a strong value system, a meritocracy where people can succeed and a collaborative inclusive mindset where relationships between a diverse set of people are fostered. Secondly, leadership must not only manage deliveries and outcomes, but also provide coaching and support for people and growth opportunities.

“Thirdly, modern digital roles demand interesting work, as these are not skillsets where you want to find yourself doing the same thing over and over again. Finally, the salaries you pay have to be competitive in the market.”

He adds that it is also important to create different experiences for employees. While fun, team-building-type exercises have their place. These experiences include giving staff the ability to spend time in different domains and tackle problems in unfamiliar areas of the business, to help stimulate their minds. It falls to line managers to help stretch their horizons and ensure that employees are exposed to these different experiences, adds Hansjee.

“Remember that offering skills training won’t necessarily help you keep your people – unless you are also allowing them to learn new aspects of the business, and can assist them to develop this into tangible benefits, such as promotions, better pay and increased autonomy,” he continues.

He notes that autonomy – especially in the knowledge worker space – is an incredibly important issue to get right. It all comes down to treating people like adults, communicating effectively with them and ultimately showing you care for them. In this way, management can inculcate greater levels of trust between leadership and staff.

“Long-term staff retention is all about investing in your people. Giving them autonomy means providing a space for them to try something and learn from it, so they can be a better employee. Of course, this also means giving them the space to make mistakes and learn. It means providing them with a more immersive experience than merely attending training.

“It is also important to ensure that senior management is available for staff to talk to, to demonstrate care, by affording them face time with the bosses. Remember that the modern workforce wants to be heard, and to be kept in the loop – basically, they demand something more personal than a suggestion box,” he explains.

He notes that creating this more communicative culture means creating an open line of communication from the C-suite to the shop floor and back again. This could encompass things like coffee chats, face time discussions, or simply management walking the floor and talking to staff.

“The four areas mentioned above should all factor into any company’s checklist related to the acquisition and retention of employees. Failing to get these right will mean your business consistently loses people, and this means also losing knowledge, context and skills, not to mention capacity. Such losses, in what is a constantly evolving business environment, will make it harder for an enterprise to deliver consistent customer service and quality – and means you will likely fall farther and farther behind your competitors,” concludes Hansjee.