It would be tempting to think South Africa is immune to the Great Resignation. Referring to the unprecedented number of workers quitting their jobs in the wake of the pandemic, this phenomenon has been blamed on everything from government support programmes (most notably in highly developed markets), to shifting priorities among workers, to toxic workplace cultures.
With an unemployment rate of just over 35%, you may think few employed South Africans can really afford to leave their jobs. But the truth is, even here, employers aren’t immune to this phenomenon. Thanks to the rise of remote work, South African workers (especially those with in-demand skills) can truly compete in the global job market, and not limit themselves to regional roles. They have faced many of the same pressures as other people around the world as a result of the pandemic, meaning they have the same temptations to start their own businesses or enter the freelance market.
What can businesses do to avoid losing employees to the Great Resignation? While the answer may vary depending on industry and market, one universally key solution is earning employee support.
The importance of employee loyalty
Before digging into how organisations can earn employee support, it’s important to remember why it matters. Losing an employee can take a big toll on your company (with the effect magnified for smaller organisations). On average, it takes 41 days to fill a position. That’s 41 days other people in the business have to do all of that employee’s duties in addition to their own.
Further, replacing an employee can be incredibly expensive. According to analytics and advisory company, Gallup, it can cost one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary to replace them. Whichever way you cut it, you could give that employee a substantial salary increase and it would still be more financially viable than replacing them.
It’s also worth pointing out that there’s a positive correlation between good employee experiences and good customer experiences. That makes sense—a single positive interaction with a company employee can dramatically alter how a customer perceives and experiences that company. The chances of a positive interaction taking place are much slimmer in companies that have high levels of employee turnover and a lack of institutional experience.
Building employee support
With that in mind, how should companies go about building the employee experiences they need to ensure they have the full support of their workers?
The HR team can leverage cloud technology and implement a comprehensive human resource management system (HRMS) in order to automate most of their mundane manual tasks. Through HRMS, an organisation can also create a self-service model so employees have a single portal for various activities, such as applying for leave and adding medical claims. Workflows can be created so that when a request is raised, the appropriate approver is automatically notified. Automating processes will free up the HR team to focus on employee engagement activities.
Rethinking talent acquisition
The rise of remote work as a result of the pandemic saw many people leave big cities for smaller towns and villages. For some, the move was inspired by the prospect of a better quality of life; for others it was about being closer to family.
Rather than lament the loss of centralised offices in big cities, smart organisations should see this as an opportunity. Instead of fighting over the same pool of talent available in metro cities, they can create opportunities for those living in non-urban centres or rural areas, and invest in skill development.
At Zoho, for instance, we have always believed that talent is everywhere, though opportunities are not. We have traditionally hired people from all backgrounds, and opened offices away from city centres in order to tap under-utilised talent in smaller towns and rural areas. We expanded this approach during the pandemic by opening smaller, satellite offices wherever we had enough employees residing, instead of prompting them to come back to the office. We have been hiring locally in these satellite offices. By creating opportunities in the sought-after tech sector in non-urban and rural areas, we help communities retain talent and flourish. This adds a sense of purpose to the job, which also helps in retaining talent.
The right (virtual) environment
Even if an organisation meets its employees’ needs when it comes to working location, it’s still important for it to provide the best possible working environment (even if it’s a virtual one).
One of the most effective ways of doing so is to take a considered approach to the software solutions your employees work with on a daily basis. Rather than a patchwork of software solutions, for example, organisations can benefit from a unified enterprise software suite that meets all their needs, from documentation, to meetings, to CRM. In an increasingly hybrid work model, keeping data and processes on a unified system leads to better visibility and fosters cross-functional collaboration.
A holistic approach
Ultimately, employers looking to ensure they don’t fall prey to the Great Resignation need to do everything they can to keep their employees onboard. That means understanding that they operate in a globally competitive environment (especially when it comes to in-demand skills) and adopting a holistic approach that includes meeting employee needs and providing them with the best possible work environment.
By Andrew Bourne, Regional Manager – Africa, Zoho Corporation
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