We've all seen the numbers around the African talent gap. Yes, African CEOs are more concerned about talent among their barriers to success than the top brass in other geographies. Yes, tertiary education in Africa lags behind other regions. Yes, African business is still more dependent on expatriate staff than we would like it to be.
It makes me wonder, though, what is the message that we, as business leaders, recruiters, corporate human resources departments or career seekers, should take from this? What is the picture of an African talent gap saying to us? Looking at the market, I think it is saying "opportunity". It is saying, to employers and employees, "differentiate yourself, if you want to succeed". We can all look on the SWOT diagram as a mirror image and see the talent gap as opportunity, at least as much as threat.
Certainly, Africa is not an easy recruitment market. Consider though, what recruitment market is easy these days? Years ago, employers were looking for candidates with the right skills. Skills were the only consideration, and we have since added filter upon filter to what we are looking for; culture, soft skills, vision and leadership potential. The list goes on. The addition of layers of sophistication to our understanding of the type of talent we want, added to a proliferation of niches in business generally, has made a large number of markets, for discerning employers in all geographies, what are known as 'candidate-poor' markets. The needle in the haystack has become very small indeed. The result is that we are all, as recruiters, employers and employees, really singing for our supper. We need to work to set ourselves apart.
When we look at the effect this is having on African business, it is undeniable that this talent gap exists. Anyone who says it is closing needs to think again, but its existence is not going to obstruct strategic business goals.
Look at average time to fill, as recorded in EY's 'Realising Potential' Sub-Saharan focused talent survey of 2013/14. Speed at getting people in post is a critical recruitment metric. If you are slow, you are burning opportunity. Yet despite the talent gap, more than two thirds of reported roles were filled within four months for all but the most senior hires, whether hiring expats or local talent. That is not bad going at all, and thinking about it, how many African businesses do we see turning away opportunity for lack of talent? I cannot recall many, and perhaps...