Here’s what happened when a South African boss asked how many of his employees were looking to emigrate

As South African companies struggle to find the right skills they need to grow and boost their businesses, more needs to be done to keep the talent already in the country, from leaving.

This is according to Pavlo Phitidis, chief executive officer (CEO) of Aurik Business Accelerator, who was speaking about the effects of emigration on small businesses South Africa in an interview with 702’s Bruce Whitfield.

Phitidis specialises in resolving business challenges and accelerating growth in businesses generating annual revenues between R15 million and R300 million.

He related the story of a chief executive and owner of a software development firm which employs between 600 – 700 people in South Africa.

These employees are skilled in programming and have skills in Python, Ruby on Rails, Java, and C# – meaning they are considered incredibly valuable because of the IT skills shortage in the country.

Facing this skills shortage, the CEO gathered his staff together and asked ‘who is planning to leave the country’? About 70% of the employees put up their hand.

“His business serves very big corporates and when they invest in developing a piece of software they need the team to be on track more or less the whole way through,” said Phitidis.

“You can’t chop and change people out as you have deadlines to meet and cost budgets to meet.”

Solving the problem 

Phitidis advised the CEO to sit down and explain to the employees that they are currently a ‘big fish in a small pond’, meaning they punch way above their weight in the type of work they have secured.

In a more competitive environment they will not be given the same level of work which means they will ultimately have fewer opportunities, he said.

“Secondly, you are competing with the best and brightest in the global community. If you look at the west coast of the United States, the coders and hackers there are the best out of China, the best out of Europe, and the best out of everywhere else.

“The view that you are a precious commodity (in South Africa) is not the same as over there”.

Phitidis suggested that it may also be possible to open a US branch which would allow the company to hold onto talent and also expanding the business.

Pay increases

As highlighted by Phitidis , the issue of moving for pay increases is not necessarily unique to South Africa.

A recent HSBC report found that young professionals who move abroad before they turn 35 see bigger increases to their earnings and get promoted more quickly.

They see average wage increases of 35% after relocating overseas, with the average salary rising to $54,484 from $40,358, while earnings in the 35-54 and 55-and-over age brackets increase just 24% and 9%, respectively.

The best pay packages for young professionals are to be found in Indonesia and Turkey, according to the bank, which are emerging economies like South Africa.

Read: These are 10 of the best countries for skilled South Africans to emigrate to right now

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Here’s what happened when a South African boss asked how many of his employees were looking to emigrate