Skip to content

Digital Talent In Africa Is More Willing To Change Jobs And Relocate For Better Opportunities

A report from BCG and The Network discusses how to retain sought-after digital talent in a highly competitive market.

Digital talent in Africa leads the pack in looking to change jobs in the near future for better career opportunities: 73 percent will switch roles to advance their careers, compared to 63 percent globally. Career advancement is the main driver for technology employees to move jobs, according to the findings of a Decoding the Digital Talent Challenge report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and The Network, a global alliance of recruitment websites.

The survey of almost 10,000 employees in digital roles – part of BCG’s Decoding Global Talent series – found that 73 percent of employees working in digital fields worldwide are expecting to leave their current role in the next two to three years, and as many as 40 percent are actively job hunting – putting them at the forefront of the emerging ‘great resignation’ trend.

“Workers in digital roles emerged from the COVID-19 crisis relatively unscathed and as companies across all industries digitise, they are more in demand than ever,” says Rudi van Blerk, Principal and Recruiting Director at Boston Consulting Group, Johannesburg.

“Salaries for tech talent have also skyrocketed, and a good digital candidate may have as many as 20 to 25 offers. However, our research shows that money isn’t everything—employers can still be attractive to digital talent with the right workplace culture and values, and the learning and skills training they offer.”

A matter of value: an appetite for learning, skills and relocation

Digital employees in Africa differ significantly from their global counterparts in what they value, with a good work-life balance continuing to be the most valued aspect of their job for digital employees worldwide. For African digital employees, learning and skills training is the most important aspect of their job. That only ranks seventh for global digital talent.

African digital employees are also significantly more willing to relocate to another country for work, with 76 percent saying they would move compared to 55 percent globally. Top countries that digital workers in Africa would like to relocate to are the US, Australia and UK.

“This willingness to relocate is in stark contrast with the trend of decreasing mobility both globally with digital talent and with South Africans in a BCG study in March last year,” says van Blerk.

The Decoding Global Talent, Onsite and Virtual study showed, for instance, that only 59 percent of South Africans were willing to move to another country for work, which was down from a 72 percent willingness level in 2018. This matches what digital talent globally revealed: the number of employees in digital fields who said they are willing to move to another country for work has declined to 55 percent from 67 percent in 2018.

However, 68 percent globally would be happy to work remotely for an employer without a physical presence in their country, significantly higher than the 57 percent of non-digital workers. The African average is even higher, with 80 percent willing to work for a remote employer.

The US, UK, and Australia also top the list of countries where digital talent would look for remote jobs – both for global and African digital talent. “Digital talent in Africa have shown that they are very open to working remotely for a foreign employer because it offers opportunities for workers to advance their careers even with international companies without needing to relocate,” says van Blerk.

Embracing flexibility in where and how work gets done

Although the COVID-19 crisis did not impact technology employees’ working patterns to the same extent as the general workforce, fully remote working increased significantly for employees in these roles, reaching as high as 76 percent worldwide by the end of 2020, compared with 41 percent in 2018.

Ninety-five percent of digital employees would like to retain some of that flexibility by working at least one day a week from home, although only 25 percent would like to work fully remotely. The trend is the same for digital talent in Africa, with only 24 percent wanting to work remotely five days a week. The majority of both African and global digital employees agreed that they want flexibility in when they work, with 47 and 46 percent respectively preferring a combination of fixed and flexible hours.

Diversity and inclusion and environmental issues have also increased in importance over the last year for 61 percent of employees in digital fields globally – and even more so for African digital talent, with 79 percent saying diversity and inclusion has become more important and 70 percent caring more about environmental responsibility. Fifty percent globally and 46 percent in Africa would not work for companies that do not share their diversity and inclusion beliefs; 48 percent worldwide and 45 percent in Africa take the same stance regarding environmental policies.

“The pandemic shifted the power dynamic between employers and digital workers. Employers must adapt and develop a comprehensive strategy for digital talent in order to remain attractive to this highly sought-after segment of the workforce. Once they understand workers’ current and future needs, employers can develop a digital talent strategy that directs whether they should build, buy, or borrow to enhance their digital workforce,” concludes van Blerk.

A copy of the report can be downloaded here. It is part of BCG’s Decoding Global Talent series, which investigates how work gets done around the world to uncover long-term workforce trends.