• Staying power

    Employers are adapting their retention strategy to remain attractive to younger talent. By Silke Colquhoun
    Staying power

    Employee loyalty seems to run in families – at least that’s the impression that accountant Lizelle Britz gives. After more than four decades with Tsogo Sun, she talks about being inspired by her father, who dedicated 45 years of work to South African Breweries – incidentally the company that, in 1969, co-founded the Southern Sun Hotel Group, which later became Tsogo Sun. ‘I also knew that if I stayed committed, honest and loyal, I would be rewarded,’ she says.

    ​And she was right. In today’s rapidly changing world, full of uncertainty and complexity, employers value the stead-fastness embodied by Britz and her father more than ever. Companies are constantly adapting their HR strategy to retain talent and inspire loyalty in the next generation.

    Gen Z

    ‘The focus of loyalty has shifted from employee loyalty to employer loyalty,’ says Rachel Thompson, insights director at GfK SA, a global market research company. The digitally savvy, ‘always on’ young generation (known as Gen Z) value their work-life balance and question the traditional way of working, she says. ‘They understand their personal worth and demand that the employer shows them loyalty through opening possibilities, offering an environment for learning, adopting more fluid, agile processes, and even supporting the causes they feel strongly about.’

    ​According to Thompson, ‘Companies need to recognise the need for a diverse workforce by delicately balancing the needs of this younger generation, but also focusing on retaining the older generations with their higher value of personal relationships, duty and traditional foundations.

    ​‘Some companies have successfully partnered younger employees with older mentors in the workplace to embrace this diversity, and recognise the qualities each generation offers,’ she adds.

    ​Vusi Dlamini, Tsogo Sun’s group HR director, says, ‘We have mastered the art of retaining baby boomers, and are researching and trying different methods with the younger generation with reference to retention.’

    ​This is no easy task, as the group employs 14 000 people in South Africa and accounts for a total of 24 500 direct and indirect jobs.

    Going the extra mile

    Thandokazi Mbane, a lecturer at Nelson Mandela University and co-author of the study ‘Employee Retention Factors: The Case of Hotels in Cape Town’, told Equinox, ‘There’s good news for hotel managers, as the results show that about 67% of surveyed hotel employees do not want to leave their jobs. About 63% of them “feel attached to the hotel”, and about 42% “want to remain in the hotel for a long time”.

    ​‘However, these employees raised serious concerns towards “strict supervision” (about 46%), “long working hours being a problem”
    (about 34%) and “perceived unfair salary in relation to responsibilities” (about 34%) as clear demotivating factors.’

    ​To understand its workforce better, Tsogo Sun conducts an employee engagement survey every two years, which also helps to identify areas of non-performance and highlight improvements since the last survey.

    ​‘Employee engagement is very critical for staff retention and organisational performance,’ says Dlamini. ‘It assists in ensuring that employees go above and beyond the call of duty to provide the business with their utmost effort, energy and commitment in delivering
    on the organisation’s objectives, thus ensuring progress, sustainability and profitability.’

    Human assets

    A good retention strategy starts by hiring people with the ‘right fit’. Renate Scherrer, MD at JvR Consulting Psychologists, says, ‘When recruiting, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of the competencies (knowledge, skills and abilities) for a particular position;
    to use psychometric assessments as part of a holistic scientific process; and to understand which competencies a candidate will need to improve on after being successful in the selection process.

    ​‘The retention strategy then taps into aspects of keeping employees challenged and engaged as they grow and develop in their role.’ ​This makes business sense, as losing staff can be expensive. There are many ways of calculating the replacement cost, which, depending on the level of seniority, can amount to 200% of the annual salary.

    ​Therefore all human resources policies, procedures and practices should be geared towards nurturing talent, according to Dr Christina Swart-Opperman, senior lecturer at UCT’s Graduate School of Business. She says, ‘The remuneration package and non-financial incentives go hand in hand – talent has a price. Non-financials are crucial, and include career prospects, growth, flexibility and the nurturing of employees.

    ​‘Companies must consider people as important as other assets. Staff are retained in a culture of trust and caring; employers should walk the talk and encourage a culture of inclusivity.’

    ​All this is reflected in Tsogo Sun’s retention philosophy, which features the following key points: engaged workforce through employee engagement surveys; values-based organisation; conducive working environment; competitive employee benefits with long- and short-term incentives; and a corporate culture that is ‘high performance, but relaxed’, according to Dlamini. He says, ‘It’s an innovative, committed, ethical and honest culture. A glamorous working environment with a restless energy.’

    ​To equip the workforce with the skills needed for this environment, the group spends 6.6% of its payroll on training and development. This includes individual learning plans, coaching and mentoring, job shadowing and job rotation, as well as management leadership development. ‘The variety of learning offered provides opportunities for employees to build their CV and career path,’ says Dlamini.

    ​Essentially, it shouldn’t matter that employee loyalty is no longer a family value that is passed on to the next generation, as long as companies strive to create a retention-oriented culture that puts their workforce first. Or as entrepreneur Richard Branson puts it: ‘Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.’ 


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