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Mayikana Consulting: Mbulelo Mayikana

Creative retention strategies make all the difference in retaining equity candidates

Juliet Pitman

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Mbulelo Mayikene

We’re 12 years into democracy yet many South African businesses still can’t seem to look affirmative action squarely in the eye and deal with the issues that arise from it. The overt racism that once lurked in the corridors of corporate South Africa is less of a problem than it previously was but, as Mbulelo Mayikana, founder and director of Mayikana Consulting, points out, there are more subtle forces at play that continue to impact organisations’ ability to retain equity candidates.

Mayikana, with his straight-talking, unaffected and direct approach, assists businesses in tackling such issues. Originally from a teaching background, he joined the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) in 1999 and there gained a unique insight into the human capital management problems facing the country at the time. “Even though the cases differed, the bottom line in all of them was the inability to manage staff. I felt that I could make a difference to organisations and it was this that sparked my desire to go into consulting,” he says. Being privy to the changing face of human resources management at such a critical time in the country’s history has stood him in good stead. Mayikana describes a situation many organisations are familiar with: “Companies are experiencing huge difficulty retaining affirmative action talent. Some organisations try to get these employees to stay by offering them huge packages, but they still leave. It’s not a new story, but businesses are still grappling with it.” In his extensive experience, one of the biggest push factors for equity candidates is the fact that they feel their talent is not being used by the organisation. “They don’t believe they are being given the space to contribute and this often leads them to think they are just token appointments,” he says.
 
“Even if they aren’t, this is their experience of the company and that’s what counts, especially when no one does anything to disprove this perception.” A subtly hostile company culture often puts the last nail in the coffin and, feeling alienated and under-utilised, employees leave. As Mayikana points out, the problem is not new. Yet organisations still haven’t come up with an effective solution. Mayikana Consulting’s approach is comprehensive and long-term but Mayikana picks out a few key solutions for simplification purposes. To his mind, continual engagement with employees is crucial. “I always tell clients that you can never over-communicate on issues of transformation and affirmative action. It’s just not enough to communicate once and leave it at that, or to do a climate survey once every two years, because in the time between surveys, you’ll have lost all your talent,” he says. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all retention strategy and companies have to start getting creative about how they approach retention. “You need to ask yourself what would make certain groups of employees stay with your company and customise your retention strategy to suit different target groups,” Mayikana says. Culture, recognition, utilisation of skills and engagement are key priorities for retaining the equity employee target group. “When companies stop using a one-dimensional approach to affirmative action issues, they will be more successful at retaining these candidates,” he adds.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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