Downward pressure on budgets and a shortage of skills in the industry are having a major impact on communicators’ plans in South Africa. This is according to a new study led by VMA Group Africa, a division of VMA Group Global. The study posited that fewer growth opportunities and a reduction in training budgets are making it harder to source and retain top talent.
Daniel Munslow, co-author of the research and Principal Consultant for VMA Group Africa says, “The 2016 research results within the communication profession very much reflect the broader macroeconomic context that South Africa faces. In many instances, the decline in certain indicators within this report – when compared to the 2015 research – happened at an almost unprecedented rate, very much in line with market conditions. For a number of questions, we have drawn year on year comparisons to isolate key factors that are keeping communicators up at night.”
While a strong majority of communicators reflected positively on their growth and expansion plans in 2015, with 61% suggesting they would grow their communication departments in South Africa over the course of the two years ahead, by February 2016 that figure had declined to only 13% – a reduction of nearly 500% in that growth sentiment.
More than a quarter of communicators in South Africa also say the skills shortage in the sector coupled with downward pressure on budgets – at 58% of respondents – make up two of the top challenges they face in the next two years.
The poll surveyed 386 senior communication practitioners from 251 different companies. Approximately 8% of respondents were from Ghana, Nigeria, Botswana, and Kenya. Polling was conducted during February 2016, after the successful launch of the first annual communication survey in 2015.
“Overall, there has been a decline in optimism across the industry, ranging from reasons for leaving places of employment, to growth opportunities, to an almost overnight increase of 200% in the budgetary and skills shortage challenges facing the profession”, add Munslow. “Having said that, there is a major shift year on year to improve skills development among communicators, especially on strategic thinking and business acumen – something senior practitioners did not deem as important in the 2015 research. This is likely the result of mounting pressure on communication professionals by senior leadership demanding better measurement and sound returns on reputation management activities”.
From a talent management perspective, Human Resources departments should take cognisance that the number 1 reason for employees leaving both agency and corporate environments is career development. ‘What is intriguing, is that later on in this survey we asked if training budgets had increased or decreased… alarmingly, 51% have had their training budgets cut, despite this being the number one factor that could influence employee retention’, says Munslow.
This survey was conducted in partnership with the Public Relations Society of Southern Africa (PRISA) and the Africa Region of the International Association of Business Communicators’ (IABC).
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