Many companies feel that the pressure to meet ethnic quotas, combined with a shortage of black talent, drives this behaviour. Therefore, the myth around this debate states that: black professionals are more likely to job-hop than professionals of other ethnic groups.
There are two schools of thought dominating the debate. One school agrees with the myth, stating that Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and affirmative action (AA) exacerbate this behaviour.
The other school disagrees, suggesting that this is an ‘era of instant growth’ and that job-hopping is a cross racial trend – it is only South Africa’s history that causes the consideration that colour makes a difference. They believe that it is up to the employer to make talent stay, as talent will stay as long as it feels it is still being valued.
Whilst a lot of people have something to say on this matter, few statistics exist to substantiate or refute the argument. The primary objective of this paper was, therefore, to substantiate statistically whether this behaviour was unique to black professionals in South Africa.
Quantitative research concluded that while a proportion of black professionals have indeed changed jobs since they started their careers (48 per cent), ‘white’ professionals were significantly more likely to have changed jobs (75 per cent). We could therefore infer that black professionals are not more likely to job-hop than professionals of other ethnic groups. Note that the age distributions of the four population groups were very similar so this is not a function of “newness” in the job market.
Graph 1: Agree – Statements About Career Path
Read: 43% of the professionals in South Africa have worked for the same company since they started their career, whilst 29% are currently looking for another job. The total sample was 2 000 adults aged 18+ living in metropolitan areas, of which 484 fell into a defined list of occupations.
However, and more worryingly, the second statement shows that black professionals are significantly more likely to be looking for another job compared with other racial groups – a clear indication that they are unhappy with their current job. This prompted an analysis of how black professionals experience the workplace.
An employee commitment model that uses the Conversion Model to determine both commitment to one’s organisation and commitment to one’s job allowed a segmentation of this group to measure the number of black professionals who were committed to their current companies vs those who were committed to the work they do via an on-line panel survey:
It is apparent that black professionals (who can be accessed online) in South Africa are more likely to be committed to either only the work they did or only the company they work for. The balance of commitment to work and company is significantly lower (28 per cent) than global norms (43 per cent).
This further prompted the research to include a qualitative component, as the debate around job-hopping evidently is just the tip of the iceberg.
This shows that black professionals feel they face considerable challenges and frustrations in the work environment. Racial discrimination was cited as one of the key causes for unfair treatment. Many feel that whilst companies have transformation strategies in place, attitudes and systems are yet to be transformed. Black professionals feel that companies need to reach out to them and recognise their efforts. They feel that they are often the only ones going the extra mile, trying to impress their companies, whilst these efforts are not fairly rewarded and recognised.
Another key concern that emerges from this qualitative research, which also contained in-depth interviews amongst HR specialists, is the disconnect in how black professionals experience the workplace and how HR specialists, especially white HR specialists, perceive the situation. This means that corporate South Africa does not yet have effective retention strategies for black talent.
On a more positive note, it is clear that the majority of black professionals are ambitious, and want to grow and add value to the companies for which they work.
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