Brain drain: 86% of top SA executives would move abroad – survey


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Over the past three years, there has been a consistent year-on-year increase in the number of professionals who would consider leaving the country, according to Advaita Naidoo, chief operations officer at executive search firm Jack Hammer.

In 2018, 86% of top SA executives polled in the latest Jack Hammer Executive Report indicated that they would take seriously an offer to move abroad. 

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The results show that the percentage of executives willing to relocate abroad has significantly jumped from 47% in 2016 and 78% in 2017.

Bad news for transformation

“Unfortunately, this also bodes ill for transformation, as 49% of those interested in relocating to ‘greener pastures’ were black respondents,” says Naidoo. In her view, this trend – of senior professionals from all backgrounds who are willing to consider a future outside of the country – is likely to persist in coming years.

“This presents a substantial challenge for companies wanting to secure the best leaders, particularly given the economic challenges which further impact an organisation’s ability to lure and secure top talent,” she says.

According to Naidoo, South African managers are held in high regard internationally and have a reputation for being hard workers.


“So, we have an unfortunate situation, where the number of top professionals committed to a career future in SA is diminishing, while the demand for their expertise is not,” she adds.

“In times of difficulty, it is more important than ever to convince professionals with a strong track record that despite the current climate, your organisation will continue to offer opportunities worth staying for.”

Although there is not much an organisation can do to retain valuable employees whose reasons for leaving are based on socio-economic-political concerns about the future, they are not completely powerless.

Naidoo says if things are going really well for someone professionally, and the company is acknowledging them with career opportunities and financial rewards, the inclination to look abroad might be a little less enticing.


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