Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Factors Affecting the Retention of Generation X Public Servants: An Exploratory Study

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Factors Affecting the Retention of Generation X Public Servants: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt


The world of work has changed during the last two decades because of globalisation, technological advances, new ways of doing business and even new forms of organisations to meet changing market demands and to keep ahead of competitors (Holbeche, 2009; Vittori, 2007).

The changing world of work also saw the advent of the 'knowledge worker'. This changed employees' (called 'talent') needs. Consequently, talent and their employment are at the forefront of business agendas to ensure high performance (Harvey, 2009; Linne, 2009).

Because talent is not submissive, employers should respond to their changing needs in order to ensure continuous, appropriate and successful responses to changing market needs (Holbeche, 2009).

Therefore, it is imperative that organisations attract, develop and retain the right talent at all levels to ensure their ongoing competitive advantage vis-à-vis competitors (Bersin, 2008; Boxall, 1998; Grant, 1996, 2010; Heinen & O'Neill, 2004; Peteraf, 1993; Truss & Gratton, 1994).

Retaining the right talent in South African organisations, as is the case internationally, is challenging because of recent phenomena like the struggle for talent, skills shortages, employee mobility and the imminent retirement of baby boomers. This situation will become worse if organisations do not handle recessionary layoffs properly. These phenomena adversely affect the ability of organisations to create and maintain their competitive advantage and their consequent performance.

Generation X employees are losing their trust in, and loyalty to, their organisations and fear boredom. Organisations must retain them if they are to create and sustain their competitive advantage. Generation X employees are human capital repositories of knowledge, skills and expertise, and ensure good performance.

Retaining Generation X employees, in particular, is important for both the private and public sectors. The retention problem may even be worse for the public sector as there are fewer financial rewards in the public service than in the private sector1 (Niewenhuizen, 2009).

The skills shortage2 (Sherry, 2008) and high vacancy rates3 put pressure on service delivery, especially in the public sector. Factors like the crime rate4 compound the problem. It leads to emigration and reduces capacity in the public sector. Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) requirements are not helping because of the lack of appropriately qualified and experienced candidates, especially in the case of senior management posts (Temkin, 2008, 2009). Senior managers play an important part in retaining staff because they are responsible for managing talent, of which retention is an integral part, in organisations.

The response of traditional employers to staff retention is reactive in nature. They try to decrease the desire of staff to leave (De Vos & Meganck, 2009; Williams, 2008). This approach, however, is seldom successful - once people have expressed the desire to leave, efforts to retain them may already be too late (Mosley & Hurley, 1999). Furthermore, the changing competitive landscape necessitates a different approach to staff retention (Pfau & Kay, 2002) if the organisation wants to succeed and prosper in the long term.

Retention has recently received increased attention in the literature, either separately or as part of talent management strategies. The significance of retention stems from the integrated nature of managing talent. This is the implementation of integrated strategies and systems to ensure high performance by developing improved processes of attracting, developing, retaining and using people with the required skills and aptitudes to meet current and future business needs (Lockwood, 2006).

Despite the plethora of literature on retention, organisations' responses to the needs of talent in contemporary times appear to be unsuccessful and jeopardise high performance. …

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