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Can Flexible Working Improve Employee Attraction and Retention? According to the independent IWG Global Workspace Survey a way to attract and retain employees in your business is to offer a flexible working environment.

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In the worldwide war for talent, it seems employees are calling the shots. 86% of South Africans when faced with two similar job offers, would turn down the one that didn't offer flexible working, according the IWG Global Workspace Survey.

With over 66% saying they would rather choose the place they work from than work for a prestigious company, could flexible working be the answer to the brain drain currently affecting South Africa?

Flexibility can assist in attract and retaining employees

IWG canvassed over 15 000 respondents from over 80 countries online in January 2019 and asked for their views on the changing workplace and flexible working. Over 77% stated that businesses in their sector were introducing flexible working to attract or retain employees (83% worldwide).

South Africa has been continuously losing critical skills, particularly in the professional, semi-professional and technical categories like science and at an executive level. According to a 2018 study by the HSRC (Human Sciences Research Council), SA lost nearly six times more professionals than it gained, in 2001 alone.

The reasons cited for the losses are multifaceted but are attributed to the intense global competition for talent, advanced recruitment policies by countries like China and New Zealand compared to South Africa, the transformation policy paradox and inadequate skills development to replace lost skills in the agriculture, science, engineering and trade industries among others.

"We are living with a disconnect between the willingness of businesses and government to see the economy grow in South Africa, and the ability to attract and retain the talent needed to do so," says Joanne Bushell, Managing Director South Africa and VP Sales, IWG.

"One of the ways we retain talent, is through our flexible and remote working policies. We have many employees who stay in their country of residence while working in a global role," she adds.

The study did show that South Africa is catching on to the need for flexibility, in order to retain talent. 89% of respondents had a flexible working policy in place or planned to put one in place with 25% referring to flexible working as "choosing which location (city, country, type of office) they work from at least some of the time".

The daily commute continues to be another obstacle, with over 75% saying that businesses in their sector were introducing flexible working solely to help reduce commute times.

"Last year our Global Workspace Survey talked about reaching a tipping point, but what we are seeing now is that flexible working is considered by many to be the new norm for any business that is serious about productivity, agility and winning the war for top talent. Half of all our respondents claim to work outside their main office location for at least half of the week," says Mark Dixon, CEO and founder of IWG.

"Businesses around the world are facing multiple challenges including ensuring that their business is agile enough to adapt to change. Our research shows that businesses that haven't already considered the financial and strategic benefits of flexible workspace need to do so now.

Otherwise, they face being seen as out of touch, both with their competitors and with the demands of the modern workforce on what makes up a great day at work, which means losing out on the best talent," he adds.

With the global advancement in technology there are many professions that can be managed remotely once businesses get over the perceived barriers to switching to flexible working:

  • Changing a long-standing non-flexible working culture.
  • Fear of how it may affect the overall company culture.
  • Data security.

"There is a combination of factors at play here. South Africa is losing talent but it is also not able to attract migrant talent fast enough due to the lack of a mature "recruitment" processes targeting skilled foreign nationals.

"Flexible working allows companies to attract migrant talent in certain positions while working from a flexible workspace in their own country. It also allows skilled South African workers to relocate while still being able to work remotely with local companies," says Bushell

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