As 2023 draws to a close, it is worthwhile reflecting on hiring trends that impacted South Africa in 2023. There are lessons to be learnt and clues as to what the future of work may look like.
Since the pandemic, the workplace has undergone significant upheaval. From being forced to work remotely for a long enough time to change habits and behaviour and rapidly adopting digitisation, how we see and feel about how work should be done has forever changed.
Technological advancements have improved work-life balance dramatically, but these gains have also increased burnout and employee isolation. The pandemic tipped the scales in favour of employees, who now request more flexible working conditions, job-life satisfaction, and overall well-being.
2023 finally brought a level of stability back to the way we work. Below are some of the trends that we saw at RecruitMyMom that have impacted the hiring landscape in South Africa.
1. The critical skills shortage invited global employers to South Africa
Due to the critical skills shortage globally, we have seen a significant increase in global employers actively fishing for critical skills and cost-effective skills in the rich waters of South Africa's talent pool.
South Africa’s innovation and reputation for fostering these skills in various industries, particularly in sectors like information technology, engineering, and healthcare, coupled with its English speaking, low-cost and diverse workforce, have lured international companies in search of talent.
This trend is not expected to decrease, especially with the high-calibre South African graduates entering the workforce each year. ManpowerGroup’s Employment Outlook Survey for Q3, 2022 survey indicates that South Africa exhibits a hiring intention of thirty-eight percent in Europe. This means that South African employers will have to work harder to secure the skills they require.
2. Return to office vs. remote working was hotly contested
Although many employees prefer to work remotely, or at least hybrid, many businesses enforced a return-to-the-office policy.
The hybrid and remote working models that gained popularity came under scrutiny because they appear not to incorporate essential elements that improve business operations, like in-person interactions, mentorship, and a strong work ethic. According to Gartner, 41% of HR leaders believe remote work compromises employees' connection to culture.
Employer motivators to return-to-office included:
- The impact of load shedding and its effect on reliable internet connectivity in South Africa has increased the number of employees going into the office. Although many skilled workers have adopted alternative energy to counter the impact of load-shedding, the loss in productivity spooked employers and called employees back.
- A need for increased face-to-face collaboration among employees to develop creativity and team problem-solving.
- Businesses decided to provide office spaces that facilitates more in-person interactions, team projects, and increased engagement.
- The ‘presence is productivity’ bias still exists.
Employees seek flexible ways of working
Our observation is that employees having experienced remote working, desire flexibility, with job applications being significantly oversubscribed for remote and hybrid jobs versus full-time in office jobs. Job seekers increased as employers called them back to work.
It is not evident which type of arrangement—remote, hybrid, or return to office—is best; instead, the best work arrangements depend on the needs of individual companies and employees.
The best results come from situations where people can be productive while still striking a balance between their personal and professional lives.
3. Loadshedding impacted employment
One cannot emphasise the negative impact of load shedding on South African businesses and employment. Businesses of all sizes were affected, from small and medium-sized businesses to large corporations. In addition to financial and confidence loss, equipment damage and lost productivity have resulted from the power outages.
Employees were negatively impacted - remote workers' productivity suffered, and in-office workers lost many work hours commuting and being stuck in load-shedding-related traffic jams.
850,000 jobs were lost in the South African economy in 2022 because of the energy crisis, affecting hiring in 2023. On the down side we noticed many businesses put a freeze on hiring and making do with their workforce in the hopes of keeping costs down. On the upside, renewable energy and tech companies continued to boom and finding experienced skills remained under pressure.
4. Skills-based hiring is popular
Skills-based hiring aligned South Africa with international hiring trends this past year. This approach to hiring forgoes the need for specific qualifications and focuses on the aptitude, experience and skills on hand.
Adopting a skills-based hiring approach has been a trend in 2023, primarily due to the lack of skills available in some industries.
Employers historically relied on number of years experience and/or education when making hiring decisions believing these factors demonstrated a candidate's ability to do the job. As a result excellent applicants were turned away for having practical experience and skills but not the necessary qualifications. Skills-based hiring became increasingly popular as a means of identifying suitable applicants who possess the capability and potential to succeed in a job.
Transferable skills and experience from one industry to another are readily being sought for skills in short supply. And employers turned to coding foundations and training schools to fill an ICT development gaps given university graduates were snapped up in key skills.
Global giants such as Accenture, General Motors, IBM and LinkedIn, among others, shifted their importance on skills when hiring employees rather than focusing on traditional educational qualifications alone.
An increasing source of skills-based hiring was through returnships. Returnships are short internships offered to candidates, many mothers who are highly skilled and have taken time off work to raise children. After a few years, they want to re-enter the workforce by updating their already-gained skills. Many of these interns quickly move into senior or middle management roles after completing a successful returnship. ICT Project Managers are perfect candidates for returnships. Read how you can unlock talent with returnships.
5. Slower hiring decision-making
We have seen a definite hiring trend of employers taking longer to decide on a full-time hire in 2023. Unlike the hiring of independent contractors which has sped up in 2023.
When the economy and overall mood are buoyant, businesses hire quickly to not lose out on top talent. However, managers are reluctant to make quick decisions when there are elements of risk and uncertainty. Economic and geopolitical concerns, load shedding, high-interest rates and increased inflation have taken their toll on South African businesses and have caused employers not to rush the decision-making process, often losing out on excellent candidates.
However, the decision-making process was quicker in industries where skilled candidates were in demand, like the financial, renewable energy, education, health and ICT sectors. Employers realised they needed to move quickly to not miss out on top talent.
6. AI and the human touch in hiring
Generative AI took the world by storm with the launch of Chat-GPT. Both candidates and employers took to using generative AI to write job specifications, motivational letters and CV’s.
Artificial intelligence (AI) found its way into almost all aspects of work, and the hiring process was no different. Forbes found that forty-three percent of hiring managers incorporated AI into their hiring process.
AI is a helpful tool for saving time, including streamlining processes, sifting thousands of CV’s, drafting documents and sourcing information. While there are undeniable benefits, businesses should approach AI with caution before taking human thinking out of hiring.
Human experience remains vital in the recruitment process. Although one needs to be cognisant of human bias, past experience and intuition in recruiting is a significant advanatge that a machine cannot match. As an example, probing questions around values and cultural fit to an organisation are best done using human interaction.
AI is not flawless. As it is designed to learn from existing data. There have been situations where this has unintentionally led to biased selections. As was the case at Amazon a few years ago, AI detected a pattern in which more men than women were applying for open positions throughout the organisation. It then 'taught itself' that men must be better than women in that field and began to devalue all applications from women.
7. Workplace demographics shifted: Gen Z
The entry of Gen-Z into the workforce during the last few years resulted in yet another change in the dynamics of the workplace. The coexistence of various generations at work required careful managing from business leaders. RecruitAGraduate has found that hiring recently graduated candidates is a cost-effective way to bring in young talent.
Generation Z (born between the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2010) grew up in an online and digital age. They interact with other generations differently, have different perspectives, and spend significant time on social media. These are tech-savvy young adults who know how to use AI, among many other technologies. To get the most out of these workers, managers from different generations needed to modify and adapt how they mentored and developed these younger generations.
Gen-Z expects mentorship from their employers and values growth opportunities and training. Gen-Z thrives on feedback. They value the social ties that can be made at work often preferring to work in an office - but not all the time, RecruitMyMom’s Gen Z job seekers are young, tech-savvy women with young families. These women want greater freedom in their work environment and prioritise work-life integration. Read more about what Gen-Z wants from their careers here.
As this generation becomes the future workforce, businesses need to update and adapt their hiring and retention tactics this year to draw in and retain Gen-Z talent.
Plan your hiring
The workplace landscape will continue to shift in 2024. Employers who plan and hire strategically will prosper in 2024. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Consider your talent corridor for 2024. What challenges will you face, and how can we help you?
RecruityMom is here for you and your business as you wrap up 2023 and prepare for 2024. Whether you are looking to focus on skills-based hiring or need a female candidate with tech skills looking to return to the workplace, we have an excellent talent community of over 200,000 job seekers ready to grow your business.
RecruitMyMom is a recruitment company that helps businesses grow and positively impacts women by placing skilled moms in jobs, whether permanent, contract or freelance. Visit our website to post a job.