net.work

The Way Business Is Moving

net.work published by
Issue Date: February 2002

Recruitment pains

1 February 2002
Niel Human: managing director, pi Africa

You need a network specialist. In fact, you needed someone yesterday, and you needed the individual to hit the ground running. You need a network specialist. In fact, you needed someone yesterday, and you needed the individual to hit the ground running.
You call your recruitment company and give them your technical spec along with the demographic profile of your ideal candidate. Then they tell you you'll have to pay through your nose for someone decent.
What the hell, you decide, this is the way it goes when you are looking for someone decent. You give them the go-ahead and they sharpen their spears and set off on the headhunt.
This is an all too familiar scenario in the South African recruitment industry, and particularly in the IT sector - where skills are at a premium and competition is global. Often referred to as the 'second-hire' phenomenon, poaching skills have a powerful negative influence on the economy.
Skill thieves
Second-hire gives rise to a disappointing value proposition for the country, since the economy ends up paying more and more for less and less.
The only thing that makes an economy grow healthily is quality, at an affordable price. When recruitment is performed on the basis of headhunting inflationary costs get built into the product and the resulting package ends up back at the door of the consumer - who pays more for the product.
In addition, developing an elite pool of skills while ignoring the latent potential of millions of people who possess the necessary talent and intellect to hold down good jobs gives rise to spiralling salaries. It also raises the currency of the elite pool to such an extent that they are bound to lured away from your office to a higher bidder. While some may ascribe this to the brain drain phenomenon, it is much more reasonable to accept it as a fact of life. Throughout the ages intellectual capital has migrated and sold its ability across borders. Never has this been truer than in the digital age - people with skills move all over the world, because they can.
Safeguarding skills
It is exceptionally difficult for South African companies to protect themselves from headhunters. With so few decent training and development programmes out there, those companies that do foster the innate talent of their employees are destined to become victims of the hunt.
This presents the South African economy with a paradox that is very difficult to address.
One of the only practical solutions is for companies to stop relying on money to retain talent. Money is important, but more important are challenges, development and stimulation in the work place. The company that has identified a clear long-term growth path for their employees is the company that will foster loyalty and real growth. In contrast, defining employees in terms of their job function or their salary merely adds fuel to the second-hire fire.
Less costs more
In days gone by, many employers would strangely ask the following question of candidates: "Where do you see yourself in five years time?"
I say strangely, because the answer has seldom been a real concern to employers.
Nowadays, the worm has turned. Candidates are (and if they are not, they really should be) starting to ask the question: "Where do you see me within your company in five years time?"
If you do not have a decent answer, be prepared to haul out that chequebook and keep on paying more, for less.


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