What do employees want? | Fin24

What do employees want?

Mar 17 2016 14:23
Buhle Ndweni and Lameez Omarjee

As competition for talent in the workplace mounts, knowing how a company measures against its industry peers becomes all the more important.

Employing a winning team is not merely about choosing talent you want to form the A-Team that will push your strategies forward, but about whether individuals pick your organisation as their number one choice of employment, which is likely to see them remain with the company for longer. 

Today, prospective employees have increased access to information about employers and are making “extremely informed decisions about which organisations they choose to work for”, says Jenali Skuse, employer branding consultant at Universum Communications, which publishes the annual Ideal Employer Rankings.

“They are looking for an organisation that’s aligned with them, their goals in life, their career goals, what they would like to achieve.”

This year’s survey found that the top five overall drivers for employer attractiveness among students are leadership opportunities, professional training and development, ethical standards, inspiring leadership and leaders who will support the employee’s development.

Among professionals, the top five overall drivers for employer attractiveness were access to professional training and development, leaders who will support the employee’s development, ethical standards, leadership opportunities, and a creative and dynamic environment.

Winani Ndlovu, research manager for Africa at Universum, says while the drivers for both students and professionals are almost similar, students probably have more idealistic drivers in mind.

“Professionals on the other hand are more realistic because they are already in the workplace and know what they want. Students are looking at leadership opportunities as well as professional training and development. However, it is clear that this is driven by their idealistic view,” she says.


Research for the latest Universum Ideal Employer Rankings was conducted from August 2015 to January 2016, and consists of the responses of 46 709 students and 23 906 professionals to an online survey.

The research focused on six main fields of study: business/commerce; engineering/technology; sciences; humanities/liberal arts/education; law; and healthcare/health sciences. The number of employers surveyed was 150, compared with 130 in the last survey cycle. The increase was mainly to accommodate more technology companies.

The reason for this, explains Ndlovu, is because trends indicate that the sector has shown some significant growth in South Africa. “The implication for employers is because the sector is growing so much, skills in the ICT sector are in high demand. So competition for things like IT skills, software development, software engineering, and artificial intelligence is fiercer than ever before,” says Skuse.

Due to a change in the methodology used, this year’s ranking cannot be compared with previous years’. “We used to have one employer list that we used to show across all the different fields of study, but this year we introduced different lists for the different fields of study,” explains Ndlovu. “This affected the rankings.”

Key trends

One of the key trends from this year’s survey are the popularity of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) among graduates, as SOEs are perceived to offer good training and development, horizontal and vertical mobility and better job security, says Skuse.

For instance, SOEs like Eskom and Transnet offer bursaries to tertiary students. Many students know about these employers from an early age and understand the value proposition of these SOEs. When choosing employers, they select ones they know most about and are aligned to what is most important to them, says Ndlovu.

International technology firms also ranked highly, as well as local blue-chip companies like SABMiller and Investec.

Skuse says a salient trend that came out from the research was how important a sense of purpose is for prospective talent. “Those organisations that can’t clearly articulate a sense of purpose tend to lose relevance with talent quite quickly.”

Ndlovu agrees: “A lot of talent […] looks into what are you doing for the community, what are the environmental issues that you are looking at, what ethical issues are you faced with and what stand are you taking there?”

Elsewhere on the continent

Universum also conducted the talent survey in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria, and the findings highlight the need for potential employers to tailor their offerings in a way that is relevant to the local market, says Skuse.

Where work/life balance is for example the top career goal for students in SA, in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria, the top career goal is being entrepreneurial or creative or innovative, says David Rachidi, marketing and activation manager Africa at Universum.

Different needs are also interpreted differently. In Nigeria, work/life balance is more associated with being able to have childcare available on work premises. In SA, it refers to being able to control your work hours and have flexibility, Ndlovu says.

In Kenya, Nigeria and SA, professional training and development is one of the top attributes that are most important to students.

In Ghana, the top career goal is to have international exposure, whereas in Kenya and Nigeria it is entrepreneurship and innovation. In Kenya, non-governmental organisations topped the list as key industries to work for. In Ghana, the banking industry ranked top, and in Nigeria the oil and gas industry.

Companies cannot just “copy and paste” their solutions to different markets. It is essential to tailor their global solutions to the market needs, says Ndlovu.

For the complete list of rankings by students and professionals click here

This is an excerpt from an article that was featured in the 24 March 2016 edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here. 

business  |  work  |  careers  |  employees  |  students  |  graduates

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