Graduate retention challenges in South Africa

Working recently with several large South African companies, particularly in the financial services industry, we’ve come face-to-face with some of the challenges of attracting and retaining talented black graduates.

There appear to be two main aspects to the retention challenge. The first of these is the acculturation challenge – particularly in large companies with an established culture that is still transforming, graduates may initially feel uncomfortable in what to them is an alien environment. For some, this discomfort will be so bad that they will leave the company within their first or second year.

The second aspect is more of a pull factor than a push factor. Because the competition for black talent is so intense, opportunities exist for graduates to hop from one job to another in their first few years, often securing pay increases and other perks when they do so.

Given that it can take up to 7 years for a graduate hire to repay what has been invested in them, this high rate of turnover amongst graduates is a financial drain on companies, not to mention a disruption to workforce morale and productivity.

Our experience has shown us (and this is backed up every year by the findings of the SAGRA report on graduate recruitment trends) that training and development within a graduate’s first year with a company is one of the key factors that determines whether they stay or go.

What has your experience been with graduates, and black graduates in particular? What do you think are some of the key ways to retain graduates?