Survey: SA employers anticipate recovery but don’t plan to hire

Only 16 percent of employers expect to increase headcount this year.

PwC’s latest survey reveals that while CEOs are optimistic about their businesses recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, they will not be rushing to hire more staff.

Findings from the latest survey indicate that 51 percent of South African CEOs report a reduction in staff in the last 12 months and that 40 percent plan to reduce headcount going forward.

The proportion of South African CEOs expecting to reduce staff has exceeded those expecting to increase it with 17 percent anticipating an increased headcount, 43 percent expecting their workforce to stay the same and 40 percent planning to decrease headcount.

PwC said, “This is unprecedented in the history of the survey. The survey findings are based on the economic outlook at the time – namely, a level 3 lockdown period, issues arising from the rollout of vaccinations, as well as load shedding. Only 16 percent — compared to 42 percent in 2020 – of local businesses expect to increase their headcount over the next 12 months. Forty-three percent of organisations (compared to 35 percent globally) expect their headcount to remain the same.”

PwC said that employers were shifting their focus to upskilling workers. Michelle Baron-Williamson, chief transformation officer at Managed Integrity Evaluation  explains that “One of the biggest opportunities is for companies to focus on developing skills in-house, and in turn, creating and growing workplace skills programmes that have the benefit of not only adding to the general technology skills pool in the country, but that can be tailored to the specific requirements of the organisation.

“Hiring strategies will need to change to keep up with the type of technology skills that are in demand, especially if HR professionals have very little knowledge about these areas of specialisation themselves.”

Some hope

The survey shows that 41 percent of local chief executives are bullish about their prospects for revenue growth over the next year.

“After a year of economic and political uncertainty coupled with human tragedy, it is encouraging to note an upswing in sentiment among CEOs about global economic growth,” said Dion Shango, chief executive of PwC Africa. “Although we are not out of the woods, CEOs see a path forward – for the global economy and for their own organisations.”