Sunday, April 20, 2014

Attracting , training and retaining the brightest talent

The days of individuals working for large corporations until they retire are long gone.

The recession has brought to an end many of the benefits offered by large organisations, such as medical aid, flexible working hours, maternity benefits and provident funds. And while working for a big company used to mean job security, that is no longer the case. This has led to a large number of people seeking work in the small and medium enterprise (SME) environment, or even starting their own businesses. This influx of skilled individuals is great news for SMEs – and SA as a whole.

Gail Styger, executive director of Da Vinci CAIT and Da Vinci SEED, says SMEs attract top talent mainly through word-of-mouth referrals. “Recruitment agencies tend to be an expensive option for SMEs so most hire new talent via referrals from existing staff, often offering incentives if the referrals work out,” she says. “There is also an increase in SMEs taking on interns to ‘test drive’ them, offering long-term career prospects if they excel. Some of these companies are aware of the many benefits of offering learnerships, which enable the company to get the benefit of a full-time employee without the obligation or red tape of hiring that person if they don’t work out.

“Retaining new talent is often the most challenging aspect but this can be addressed through tailor-made benefits that larger organisations don’t necessarily offer, such as telecommuting and working from home, extended leave, and personal or family leave as needed. Many employees find these benefits far more
attractive than just earning a big salary in a corporate environment. Furthermore, there are more personal relationships involved and career advancement is much quicker in an SME due to less red tape.”

Cassim Parak, CEO of The Coir Institute, agrees with Styger about the use of recruitment agencies. “The cost of using recruitment agencies is seriously prohibitive for an SME. A much greater emphasis is placed on hiring people with the best potential rather than on experience. Efforts are concentrated on providing on-the-job training, with salary increments being a means to retaining developed talent.”

However, on the point of hiring interns, Parak disagrees with Styger: “In my experience the use of interns is generally very limited due to the legalities and bureaucracy associated with the entire process.” He says SMEs also “hire fewer employees but they have much larger volumes of responsibilities”.

“It’s not about the number of employees you have. It’s about the quality and potential of that individual to grow. Training interns costs time and money, something that all SMEs are sensitive about, so it does not always make sense to go this route,” says Parak.

However, many SMEs are unaware that they can receive funding for training interns over and above the intangible benefits that accrue from training and uplifting employees.

Benefits of working for an SME versus a large company

Styger believes flexibility is one of the major benefits of working for an SME. “Interestingly enough, SME employees get a better picture of how the business is doing and the business direction.

“In a lot of corporate companies, communication with employees remains the greatest challenge. Sometimes employees hear about company changes via the grapevine and this often causes a lot of unrest and unhappiness. One minute you have a job, and suddenly you are retrenched without the proper communication,” she says.

Parak offers a slightly different take: “I’m not so sure if there is greater flexibility, other than a greater base of evolving responsibilities. Employees within SMEs are generally part of the heartbeat of the organisation and for those keen to hold greater responsibilities, this is a big benefit as it involves them becoming street-smart on a range of subjects rather than a limited base of task-based responsibilities.”

Styger believes that there is far more growth potential in an SME environment. It boils down to a choice between being a little fish in a big pond, or a big fish in a little pond, she says. “With SMEs there is greater opportunity to go beyond your job description, learn new things and move into another role without going through strenuous HR processes.”

The intended role of the Sector Education and Training Authority

Recognising the dire need to improve skills development, in 1998 Parliament ratified the Skills Development Act which defined a new Sector Training and Education Authority (SETA) system. In essence, the plan was to develop a series of sector skills plans within the clearly defined framework of the National Skills Development Strategy. The concept was noble. The reality was a lot more challenging, especially for the SME.

Parak says: “SETAs need to transform themselves completely. Frankly they do not have a clue on how the SME environment operates and are generally focussed on larger corporate environments. They should spend less on standardising material for specific industries and spend more on funding SME employers in terms of salaries for interns. Perhaps, as they start understanding the SME environment better, they can assist employers with methodologies for increasing the employee efficiencies.”

Styger recommends “that SETAs should make training material and resources available free to SMEs to encourage the uptake of learnerships. Training is very expensive, especially for SMEs, and is the one area where corporate staff stand to benefit more than those working for an SME.”

Bytesize 2011 | Contents

Thought leadership

BI little for the little guy
Focus on the customer
A new era in mobile communication
A new way of doing business

Solution profile

Attracting , training and retaining the brightest talent
Greener and leaner
Telkom’s Cybernest solution
Cybernest grows into adulthood
Core business communication
A business-to-bank back bone
Get the basics right
HP’s P4000: Meeting the storage requirements of SMEs
Managed Infrastructure Hosting: less complexity, more efficiency

Case studies

Telkom helps Mnquma Local Municipality deliver to the people
Telkom VPN reduces downtime, boosts corporate growth
Technology distributor chooses Telkom VPN
Telkom delivers a sweet solution for TSB Sugar
Telkom Hosted IP Contact Centre – Flexibility on an unprecedented scale
Marrying fashion with financial efficiency
Fast food, faster transactions
The Kit Group kits up with Telkom VPN
Telkom Metro LAN powers remote contact centre specialist
Bandwidth on tap for Logwin Air and Ocean
Managing a monolith
Recession demands dynamic thinking
Telkom partners GUD to help it maintain market leadership

Editorial profile

The 2011 SME – Facing Teenage Angst
SMEs and the law – do you comply?
Guards and gates vs geeks and technology
SME IT : outsource or in-house?
Managing the supply chain
SME IT in the real world
Think before you print
Avoiding the hype trap
SMEs should capitalise on convergence
Getting the most from voice and data access
Mobile communications – pipe dream or sustainable solution
Hardware : incidental or indispensable?
Tabula rasa
Smarter than phones
Servers and small business success
Starting out with a small business server
Containing the data explosion
When will SMEs open up to the source?
3-OS battle for SME desktop
Business applications – the time is now
SMEs slow to get onto the cloud
Social media platforms and tools for SMEs
Open Your Cellphone