An alarmingly high number of skilled executives – 86% – say they’re willing to leave South Africa for greener pastures, according to a survey run by executive recruitment specialists, Jack Hammer.
The group has published its latest Jack Hammer Executive Report, which investigates the leadership landscape in South Africa and the rest of Africa.
This year, the research focused on the management makeup of SA’s Top 40 listed companies (totalling 373 executives and 41 CEOs), as well as a random selection of 40 other large to medium sized organisations with offices in the country.
In addition, the group polled senior managers of local and multinational companies across the retail, financial services, professional services, education, FMCG and telecoms sectors on a number of issues, such as business sentiment and outlook for the future.
“Over the past three years, there has been a consistent year-on-year increase in the number of professionals who would consider leaving the country,” the group said.
“This year, an unprecedented 86% of top South African executives polled indicated that they would take seriously an offer to move abroad.”
The results show that the percentage of executives willing to relocate abroad has significantly jumped from 47% in 2016, and 78% in 2017, showing an upward trend.
“These statistics support the findings of other independent surveys and research projects across a number of other sectors this year,” said Advaita Naidoo, COO at Jack Hammer.
“Unfortunately, this also bodes ill for transformation, as 49% of those interested in relocating to ‘greener pastures’ were black respondents,” she said.
According to Naidoo, the trend of senior professionals from all backgrounds who are willing to consider a future outside of the country is likely to persist in coming years.
What makes the trend particularly concerning, is that the people who will leave are those best positioned to effect meaningful change in the country.
South African managers are held in high regard wherever they land, and boast a reputation for being hard workers.
“Given the prevailing combination of push and pull factors, it’s merely a matter of time before international opportunity knocks for suitably qualified and experienced candidates, and the pool of top talent contracts a little bit more for each executive opening the door to a life abroad.
“So we have an unfortunate situation, where the number of top professionals committed to a career future in SA is diminishing, while the demand for their expertise is not,” Naidoo said.
Organisations must urgently start thinking creatively about how to approach the current and future building of strong teams that can drive growth, she said.
“In times of difficulty, it is more important than ever to convince professionals with a strong track record that despite the current climate, your organisation will continue to offer opportunities worth staying for.
“Although there is not much an organisation can do to retain valuable employees whose reasons for leaving are based on socio-economic-political concerns about the future, they are not completely powerless.
“If things are going really well for someone professionally, and the company is acknowledging them with career opportunities and financial rewards, the inclination to look abroad might be a little less enticing.”
However, Naidoo noted that when people are continuously overlooked for promotions, don’t get the bonuses or financial incentives they deserve, or don’t feel a connection to the work that they are doing or the people they work with, their reasons to stay rapidly dwindle.