/ 30 August 2013

Recruitment in an age of entitlement

Recruitment In An Age Of Entitlement

The South African employment landscape has been peppered with high unemployment rates and sad statistics.

However, it also has one of the highest rates of public investment into education in the world, with R24.6-billion set aside for higher education institutions and new universities established in both Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has indicated that the government was expecting the number of students to increase from around 910 000 to 990 000 by 2015.

As more students emerge from the hallowed halls of universities with master’s and honours degrees, they are receiving attention from the organisations that need them.

“The millenium generation, or generation Y, are educated and they are asking for more than the previous generations,” says Ayanda Maphumulo, HR specialist at Growthpoint Properties. “They place a higher value on material things and that alone is forcing organisations to change.

“The challenge is to attract, retain and reward employees because generation Y is proving tough to satisfy.”

Bongani Phakathi, head of HR at Growthpoint Properties, says 10 years ago, having medical aid as an incentive would have attracted many people, but today it isn’t an attraction anymore.

“You have to find an offering that really appeals to these young and qualified people; even though they don’t have experience they are expecting the same rewards as people who have 10 years of experience.”

Lynn Kleinsmith, HR director for Adidas South Africa, agrees: “There is a lot of talent from the graduate level and there is a challenge in managing their expectations. Their ideas as to what they want from their careers are very different to what the baby boomers and generation X were looking for.”

The key challenges do not just include fresh-faced graduates with unrealistic expectations.

There is also a need for the business to locate people that have the right blend of competencies, experience and attributes.

Hannes Badenhorst, group manager for talent and learning at Exxaro, says: “Organisations also face the issues of getting to the right talent fast and competing in the same talent pool due to the skills shortage.”

Exxaro has been working towards solutions that tackle these issues by adopting a strategy of promoting from within and spending 6% of its annual salary bill on training and development.

Badenhorst adds: “It is difficult to retain EE candidates due to this inadequate pool and women in mining are still a challenge.

“We have four major feeder schemes or pipelines that comprise 10% of our total workforce and that focus on core skills and different entry points into the workforce. These feeder schemes cover both studies and bursaries as well as experiential training and internships.”

Trendy employers
These challenges are one side of the recruitment coin. The other side is the market trends that can have a notable impact on corporate policy.

Kleinsmith says: “Changes in the labour market about a year ago saw many companies doing away with labour brokers and fixed contractors became permanent employees.

“These changes impacted on the corporate environment and saw many organisations that were originally geared towards labour-broking now focusing on permanent recruitment and directly marketing their candidates to companies.

“These companies have also been on cost saving drives and tried to bring that saving internally. It has been a tough combination of factors that has seen companies internalising their functions and then trying to hire and recruit talent using their own sources.”

This level of promotion means the organisation advertises vacancies on job boards and career websites, working at attracting talent directly.

It has prompted many savvy businesses to revise their value propositions and deliver a brand identity that will appeal to the employee.

According to Kleinsmith, Adidas South Africa is already working on its value proposition so that it can expand brand awareness and attract talent from that perspective.

“That has been a definite change in the market,” she adds. “Having networked with other HR departments, I know that a lot of other companies are following suit.”

Growthpoint Properties is an organisation that has worked hard to build a strong brand identity to attract high quality employees.

“As we are not sitting in a popular sector, so brand building has been quite big for us,” says Phakathi. “We have to establish a brand presence before people start saying that they want to work for Growthpoint and we have really been focusing on this.”

Badenhorst says: “The mining industry is no longer a sought after career choice for highly talented youth and so building a strong and positive Exxaro brand helps us to get hold of the required talent. This is particularly true in the communities in which we operate.”

Another trend that has changed the face of recruitment is, of course, social media. The vast network that is Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn has given organisations a superb tool for finding and attracting talent.

At the same time, it also provides employees with a resource that gives them insight into what a business can offer them, what the business’s ethos is and whether or not it would be a good fit.

“Social networks are a branding, networking and recruitment platform all in one,” says Badenhorst.

These trends and challenges have driven modern businesses towards more sustainable recruitment practices.

Growthpoint Properties, for example, has developed an offering that blends monetary rewards with the non-monetary.

“All our staff members are shareholders in this company, not just the senior members. We offer them a competitive salary and make sure that the social perspective is included along with medical and disability,” says Phakathi.

“We protect income for life and this has become a strong point for us. Over the past seven years people have realised how important this commitment from a company is.”

Money and toys
Organisations are facing interesting times as the landscape changes and the market becomes more volatile.

Employees want more than just a well-designed package that checks the old boxes of medical aid and pension. They want careers, growth and non-financial benefits too.

“The youth understand money and they don’t value experience,” says Phakathi. “We have been quite clear that we will reward people competitively and that as they progress through the organisation they are rewarded even further.

“Growthpoint Properties offers a career in a box as well as caring about the people themselves.

“One of our managers has been off ill for three years on full income. That is a bonus that few companies can repeat and in the current economy that is worth gold.”

Kleinman agrees: “Adidas sees recruitment as a strategic objective and there is alignment in terms of how we train and how we hire people into the organisation.

“Part of our recruitment is to examine our company values — honesty, non-political, collaborative — and put our culture first so that we ask candidates the right questions and ensure they have a good experience if they join.”

All organisations interviewed by the Mail & Guardian believe in hiring people that meet the qualities of the organisation to ensure that employees have the potential to drive their careers through the business and into the future.

Certainly the low attrition rates at all firms interviewed — Exxaro has a turnover rate of more than 30% lower than standard in the mining industry — shows that they are doing something right in their diverse and people-focused recruitment drives.

Recruitment looks set to become a far more exciting arena than ever before, offering both employer and employee the opportunity to forge relationships that can last for years.