Why is workforce planning critical to addressing South Africa’s unemployment?

According to ManpowerGroup’s 2017 Total Workforce Index, the jobless rate in South Africa is now at a 14-year high, topping 36% inclusive of the inactive unemployed labour force.

The South African workforce has a nearly 95% literacy rate, but while approximately half are proficient in English only 10% of the total workforce is classified as contingent. This is evidence of a skills mismatch between the available workforce and the skills required to fill open opportunities.

In the long-term, increasing the percentage of the emerging workforce actively enrolled in secondary and tertiary education with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) will be critical in correcting the underlying causes of unemployment and skills gap in the country.

In the short- and medium-term, however, workforce planning is emerging as an increasingly essential component of the business strategy for businesses operating in the modern business environment. With nearly three-quarters of the workforce aged 41 and younger, the South African labour market is moderately flexible with regards to workforce regulations.

Workplace regulation and planning involves ensuring that an organisation has the right employees with the right skills. This helps examine the gaps in the workplace as well determine hiring needs and trends in the future.

The report ranked South Africa 24th in terms of the global ranking for total workforce index, and 13th in terms of regional ranking. In terms of the tools yielding comparative hiring models and strategies amongst organisations, South Africa ranked high in terms of cost-efficiency and regulation, followed by availability and productivity. About 40% of the workforce is contingent whilst 60% is permanent, according to the report. This comparative model allows companies to gain deeper insight into talent trends and workforce composition data to enhance workforce planning and decision-making. Bearing in mind the workforce subjectivity to change, today’s talent engagement strategies must allow companies to objectively predict workforce potential.

Interestingly, the report notes that one-third of South African employees currently work outside of their employer’s offices. Working remotely or from home has become a more common practice in global organisations since business Cloud computing technologies have become pervasive. Employers view the use of remote workers in the region as both cost-effective and beneficial to both employee and employers. This is positive, as it shows the country’s advancement in terms of global best practice and trends, but this trend also requires more rigorous workforce planning to ensure that productivity remains a priority and the business continues to run successfully as methods of working continue to change.

Many organisations have only a single resource to help them analyse and understand the workforce landscape and develop talent strategies that deliver on business objectives. The main benefits of successful workforce planning are an increased productivity and a reduction in labour costs – since organisations will have the right skills, in the right places, at the right time.

Workforce planning works because it requires employers to plan ahead using an integrated talent-management system that accommodates the unavoidable changes in today’s workforce.

Lyndy van den Barselaar is the managing director of ManpowerGroup South Africa.

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