Survey Suggests Attracting Top Talent in Africa Requires More Than Money

Editorial Team
Editorial Team

Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, CEO of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, explains the findings of a recent survey into financial incentives.

The number one reason for top executives to seek new pastures at a different company is the prospect of fresh role and career challenges. And 97% of respondents in a recent survey cited dissatisfaction with their current role as a reason for accepting a new position.

The findings, contained in the latest Jack Hammer Executive Report, highlight the need for employers to consider their holistic offering and image, and go beyond mere financial incentive when trying to lure the cream of the crop over to their side.

The recently released report, entitled ‘Executive Talent: Get them, Keep them’, investigated the challenges faced by businesses in attracting and retaining top executives while ensuring continued transformation. The survey was conducted for Jack Hammer by independent research consultancy EIGHTY20, and questioned hundreds of mid-to-high level executives across several categories, including remuneration, role, expectations and company culture.

“Last year, as we celebrated 20 years of democracy, South African companies continued to grapple with the imperatives of transformation while attempting to find, appoint and retain the executive leadership resources needed to make businesses flourish,” says Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, CEO of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters.

“As a company tasked with identifying the best executive appointees for our clients, we are deeply aware of the challenges businesses face in not only attracting, but also retaining these ‘game-changers’  over time,” she says.

“Is it possible to secure the commitment of your most important people assets when many other companies are vying for their attention? That was the question we sought to answer in this year’s research report. And we decided to get the answers to these questions by asking a representative sample of SA’s executive talent themselves.”

Goodman-Bhyat says the research unleashed some surprises. 

“What became abundantly clear, is that it is definitely not all about the money. Sure, most of the respondents definitely wanted companies to show them the money, but finding and keeping executives requires much more than just a compelling package.

“Furthermore, while different demographic groups responded somewhat differently at times, they had more in common than one would have anticipated,” she says.

Goodman-Bhyat says that the overriding impression gleaned from this year’s survey, was that top talent wanted their relationship with their company to mirror the best practice in any relationship: they want openness, trust, honesty and clear communication from the organisation they work for.

“Top executives are frequently caricatured as single-mindedly money-driven, and motivated solely by self-interest and personal financial enrichment. However the findings from this research show a different, much more balanced, picture.

“As it stands, the role itself, leadership, values and culture are right up there with financial incentives. Top talent want to be stretched and challenged, and their work must have meaning within the context of their lives.”

Goodman-Bhyat warns that stagnation at work and in the current role should be viewed as major red flags by companies, and should be addressed as soon as such issues are identified.

“These complications will without a doubt lead to a decision to move on if left unresolved,” notes Goodman-Bhyat.

“The data shows that there needs to be a clear balance between deliverables and reward. Top execs are expected to be available 24/7, delivering on multiple, complex, and often onerous demands from a vast range of stakeholders. In return, they want to be rewarded appropriately and fairly.

“And they will very likely sign on the dotted line should a new employer be perceived as offering better financial rewards for their efforts. But people will not move for a bigger package alone. If the financial offer is excellent, but the expectations of the role outputs are exceptionally high, even ambitious, driven executives will think twice about accepting.

“However if the balance between the expectations and the reward is fair, then you’ll have a deal, and most probably a sustainable deal at that.”

Share This Article