Managing Talent: Fact or Fiction?

Managing Talent: Fact or Fiction?

I recently watched an Interview with a panel of leading SA recruitment agents and employers regarding how to manage up and coming talent in organisations. The insights were both expected and surprising. Below I touch on the points that stuck out most for me and I detail how you can use this information to gain a competitive edge in the market place.


Degree or no degree – that is the question!

Fact: In South Africa, there is a 25% unemployment rate.

Fiction: You do not need a degree to find employment.


Looking at the above in conjunction, the fact that there is such a high unemployment rate in South Africa, potential employers are naturally going to be choosy in their selection criteria for possible candidates. This means that if given a batch of possible candidates, someone with a degree does have an advantage over someone else without a degree. Bottom line – a qualification is a definite door opener!


Degree vs career path

Fact: Right now there is a high percentage of graduates who are pursuing distinctly careers from what they initially studied.

Fiction: Any degree is sufficient to get you into your first position.


Right now, employers are seeing a dis-connect between what candidates have studied for and the jobs that they are applying for. At the heart of the matter, students and potential employees need to be clear on their career path and what jobs to apply for to help them on their journey. Applying for a job out of desperation only results in mismatch for both the organization and the individual.


Is it ambition or entitlement?

Fact: Employers and recruitment agents are reporting a higher incidence of candidates who demand certain positions or salary packages, based solely on their qualification and background.  There are a lot of individuals in SA that have big titles and heavy pay-cheques , but no depth of experience.

Fiction: If you have a qualification that is high in demand, and you are a candidate that meets the specification, you should be hired and be able to command a high salary.


There is a fine line between being ambitious and appearing to have an entitlement attitude. Remember the 25% unemployment rate? Regardless of your background or educational qualification, always remain humble – you are the one that needs the job. Remember too, that employers are looking for an all rounded individual that has soft skills and experience to complement their technical ability. Remember to balance your ambition with experience and abolish the entitlement attitude.


Fast-track programmes

Fact: Most organizations admit that they have a shortage of multi-talented and multi-cultural individuals who are able to be part of a pipeline for development as senior managers. However, the reality is that candidates can and do get prematurely promoted to senior positions and these candidates can feel like they were set up for failure.

Fiction: Fast track programmes are always effective in creating a diverse pool of candidates for senior management.


Undoubtedly, fast-track programmes do work in creating a pool of talent, or else they would not be in place. However, what is important is that the programme do allow for flexibility against the standard programme, to allow for individual growth and time needed to develop skills.

Most fast-track programmes are run based on how long the person was in the programme, say 18 months, the level of technical training they received whilst on the programme, say 50 hours of training, or how many rotations they have had in business units. Whilst all these are good measures and should be maintained, an added measure is a skills assessment – is the candidate ready for a particular job or should another intervention be put into place. This is where career guidance sessions become critical.


Employees need to invest time into a position

Fact: The employer seeks to hire the individual that cares enough about the organization to know about the business in detail. When an employee understands the business, they are better able to contribute ideas and deliver work that helps to grow the business. It is very hard for an employer to see a person leave their organization when that person becomes valuable to the organization.

Fiction: Job-hopping is what employees need to do in order to remain fresh and relevant.


Every time an employee moves between one company to another, more time is needed to learn the new organization with its related policies and protocols. Whilst the individual might gain breadth of experience, they certainly do not gain depth of experience. Employers and recruitment agents frown upon job-hoppers for the simple reason that you need time to understand the business and to prove your worth to the company.


In summary:

  1. A degree is a door-opener, but will not keep the door open;
  2. Have a clearly defined career path, don’t apply for a job out of desperation;
  3. Balance experience with ambition and abolish entitlement attitudes;
  4. Honest self-reflection and career guidance helps to assess skills gap;
  5. Depth of experience is more important than the quantity of positions held.