Skills retention – A moving target

[captionpix imgsrc=”” captiontext=”Muzi Siyaya, GIBB Group Business Development Executive“] The recent Skills Development Summit held at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria attracted more than 30 prominent speakers from a cross section of society, both the public and private sectors – all with the same concerns as to how to address the skills crisis facing the country. gibb_logo

Personalities such as Peter Ndoro, captains of industry – ArcelorMittal chairperson Mpho Makwana, renown academic Dr Rene Uys and Deputy Minister for Communications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams were amongst the high profile speakers that voiced their apprehension and future consequences of how a lack of skills was impacting the country.

This is particularly relevant to technical skills where the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) statistics state that South Africa has one engineer for every 3,100 people, compared to Germany with one engineer for every 200 people and in countries like Japan, UK and USA, this ratio is about one to 310.

Muzi Siyaya, Group Business Development Executive at leading South African black-owned engineering consulting firm, GIBB, shares the same concern, “In a developing economy such as ours, the ratio should be much better, not worse than in developed countries.”

The effects of supply and demand are no more apparent than in the labour market, especially where sought-after technical skills are in demand.

Consulting engineering firms face the same skills shortages as related industries and within public sector bodies such as local and provincial government. “To say that we are in a crisis is not an overstatement – but one we have had for so long that it now just appears to be the norm. The topic becomes more acute when the economy is in a boom phase and less so during recession, but the problem never completely disappears because the fundamentals are still to be addressed.”

Siyaya stated that one cannot look at the issue of skills in isolation. “At GIBB, we take a comprehensive view focusing on attraction, development and retention – a holistic approach, but no one wants to work for a firm with a bad image, so our reputation and integrity is paramount.”

Attracting talent

Attracting mature talent is of course necessary to get current jobs done and this is usually by way of advertising or through recruitment agencies – convenient but not the best way as it doesn’t tackle the fundamental problem of too few engineers and technicians.

The industry needs to develop and ensure a pipeline of talent and that is where the GIBB emphasis lies. GIBB offers a large number of learnerships each year which complements its bursary programme, to qualified applicants who relate to the firm’s culture, key business competencies, and high performance standards.

“The vast majority of our new recruits are sourced through internal employee referrals as we believe that our own employees know the talent in the market better and who would fit with GIBB’s culture and expectations better than any agency would,” said Siyaya.

Talent development is also central to retaining high performing individuals and is designed to offer aspiration to individuals who want to be the best.

“Providing the opportunities for academic advancement and working on different, challenging projects – often in other parts of the world – are all attractive incentives for the ambitious engineer or technician. As with others in the industry, mentoring plays a key role in steering individuals in the right direction and to where the firm wants them to go,” said Siyaya.

Retaining talent

GIBB’s approach to retention focuses on reward, remuneration and instilling pride of being an A-team player. While remuneration is often a reason why people leave any firm, it is one of the easier challenges to address. Understanding what motivates individuals to perform at their best requires deeper understanding of the human psyche and recognition of one’s abilities is a strong motivator.

Promotion is not only good for the individual concerned but serves to inspire others who want the same recognition. “At GIBB, we try to manage this in a comprehensive manner, we have a number of successful programmes that we manage in-house which typically results in the promotion of around 10% of the entire group workforce each year.”

Siyaya believes that many firms don’t recognise the importance of ensuring that the workplace becomes a place where employees actually want to be on a day-to-day basis.

“We call it our culture, in essence meaning the way we do things, includes the work environment, site conditions, the office space, the way people are treated, and the one-on-one relationship between managers and staff. We’ve defined our ideal culture, determined the actual culture, and work continuously to close the gap through various initiatives,” he said.

Note to Editors:

Leading South African black-owned consulting engineering firm, GIBB, announced its partnership with the largest architectural firm in the country, SVA. The partnership will strengthen the skillset of both firms and grow its confidence in Africa.

With an impressive track record of delivery spanning over 70 years, SVA International has successfully delivered over 1000 architectural projects.

In partnership with SVA International, GIBB will now be able to offer clients a full range of architectural services including Master Planning, Urban Design and Building Design.

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Issued by: Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide:

Cheryl Reddy

Tel: 011 709 9621

Email:   [email protected]

On behalf of: GIBB:

Rowan Sewchurran

Tel:  011 519 4600

Email:  [email protected]