Understand why people leave, say CHROs at HR Indaba


The Great Resignation session delved into the importance of understanding the type of employees organisations have.

The Great Resignation session was one of the best attended at this year’s HR Indaba. Boardroom 5 was so packed that the door had to be left open for some guests to be able to listen in.

In this session, S’ne Magagula, CHRO at Tiger Brands, Sthembiso Phakathi, Deloitte’s director: human capital practice, and Kutlwano Rawana, chief of people at Rectron, took the audience on a journey of how they have made sure they do not lose their staff, and that those high performers who have left, come back.

S’ne shared that a lot of their talent tends to circulate between manufacturers in the FMCG sector. “We’ve become a hunting ground in South Africa for small companies that are looking for talent. Our attrition levels were increasing. We saw it climb more than six percent compared to the previous two and that's when we knew we had a crisis looming.”

An important factor that helped Tiger Brands understand why they were losing talent was their data. “Data is our friend. We did an analysis of why we were losing people, and who we were losing them to. We were losing our skilled employees,” she revealed.

Some of the reasons people were changing jobs, S’ne said, was that they are looking for flexibility. Most are looking for better opportunities elsewhere. “We started having deeper conversations on why people were leaving and what kind of opportunities they were looking for.

“We had deep conversations with people about their aspirations. We encourage our leaders to have the right conversation around talent.”

S’ne also shared that their company has been on a culture transformation journey for three years now. “There’s a big focus on creating conditions for people to perform at their best. We have a clear purpose, which is nurturing lives. We do a lot of work understanding what drives people.”

At Tiger Brands, they have responded to people’s feedback in terms of what would make life better for them. “Could we make our products more accessible to our staff? We’ve since developed an online shop for our staff where they can shop and save between 40 to 50 percent. This is a direct response to what people have said.”

Kutlwano revealed that she does not believe the Great Resignation is a bad view after all. “Is it a bad thing if the skill you have developed needs to grow and they have reached the ceiling in your organisations? People need to grow even if they grow outside the organisation,” she said.

“The crisis is when they leave and you have not built enough succession. We need to focus on the strength of skills we have in the organisation. Organisations need to focus on high performance and developing skills,” Kutlwano said.

Speaking on the trends around the Great Resignation, Sthembiso said their research shows that people who are younger are looking for different things.

“People are motivated by different things to work. We need to reward them. The Gen Zs and millennials are looking for autonomy and interesting work that is going to evolve. Jobs should evolve,” Sthembiso said.

He said at Deloitte, they believe people need to move to spaces where they can thrive. “Workforce mobility is good. Research shows if you can notice people when they disengage, interventions are critical. Our leaders are not trained to pick those patterns. With hybrid work, it is difficult to pick up if a person is disengaged. We need to ask the right questions.” Once employees are disengaged, it is difficult to re-engage them, Sthembiso pointed out.

He contended that the Great Resignation is a good thing, but when people leave when they are upset, they don’t talk positively about their former employer. “Once they leave when their work is no longer fulfilling, they will say bad things about your company. We want high performers to leave our business so that they are good ambassadors.”

S’ne said she subscribed to the idea of catching people while they still want to shape the DNA of the organisation. “It all stands and folds on leadership. We have a big role as HR professionals in terms of leading our leaders to be better connectors to our talent and activists. You need to act on the feedback you get and be open to changing what needs to be changed. It’s the leaders who are going to change things,” S’ne said.

Kutlwano said most leaders were struggling to understand that employees are motivated by different things nowadays.Therefore, it is critical for HR leaders to facilitate that awareness. “We need to be aware that the world of work has changed and our employees have changed,” she said.

Sthembiso reiterated that HR should use the data they have to empower line managers to make better decisions. “Give them the data to say: ‘Your attrition has moved up: what do you think is going on?’"

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