The development of a talent risk management tool for academics in a selected South African Education Institution
Mokgojwa, Deborah Madge
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The talent risk management of academic staff at South African higher education institutions is becoming vital as many top qualified scholars are leaving. This results in a vacuum that is very difficult to fill as higher education institutions are currently not an employer of choice for especially younger scholars. A great deal of attention has been devoted to understand the reasons of the high turnover, such as poor compensation, student unrest, ongoing political involvement from the government, a lack of funding, poor infrastructure and unrealistic performance expectations. As a result of these factors, academics are experiencing various challenges in the pursuit of the "new modern academic career," while the resources to support them remain scarce. The need therefore exists to explore the factors that constrain the career environment of talent academic staff and develop a talent risk management tool that can assist in the proactive detection and mitigation of academic risks. This research followed both a qualitative and quantitative research approach. The data for the qualitative part of the research were collected by using semi-structured interviews with ten managers of a selected South African higher education institution. The data for the quantitative research were collected from academic staff (N=225) from a selected South African higher education institution by using the newly developed talent risk management questionnaire. The qualitative data were analysed using content analysis by means of SPSS for descriptive statistics (i.e. means, frequencies, standard deviation, skewness, kurtosis) and factor analyses. The results of the literature review for this study showed that there is still a great deal of confusion relating to the definition of the field of talent management. The researcher highlights the need for higher education institutions to define talent for their context, as well as the expectations for high performing individuals. The clarification of the concepts and theory for talent management is vital as it has implications for the effective implementation of talent management in higher education. Poorly applied talent management practices result in significant risks for higher education institutions, as academic staff are likely to leave their jobs. The findings of the study highlighted prominent workplace risks that affect the ability of higher education institutions to create a talent culture in which academic staff can thrive. The five themes that were identified included management support, strategic direction, work environment, physical environment and diversity practices. The participants in particular highlighted risks relating to a lack of management support and strategic direction for talent management. Additional risks such as lack of physical infrastructure and unsafe work environments also came to the fore. The findings of the interviews further showed five prominent occupational talent risks, namely career development, talent attraction, compensation, performance management, and talent retention practices. The findings showed an over reliance from management on career development opportunities as a method to attract and retain talented academics. Although the variety of career development opportunities are commended, the reality is that academic staff is still not compensated fairly in comparison with their counterparts in the industry. The findings also revealed that higher education should revisit its employer brand to attract and retain talented academics. Based on the interviews, the research developed a talent culture risk management tool and an occupational talent risk management tool to assess the talent management risks that academics are exposed to. Both measures resulted in a five-factor structure for talent culture risks (i .e. strategic direction, management support, work environment, physical infrastructure, diversity management) and occupational talent risks (i .e. career development, talent attraction, compensation, performance management, talent retention strategies). Acceptable reliabilities were obtained for both measures. The results therefore support the qualitative findings of the interviews. The results further pointed out risks relating to poor compensation and the work environment. Two thirds of the academics in this study considered quitting their jobs. This research made an original contribution by exploring an area in the field of talent management that was yet to be researched in the higher educational context, namely talent risk management. This research presented a talent risk management tool that can assist higher educational management to detect talent risks in advance. Higher education management is encouraged to develop talent management policies and practices that will assist in the effective talent attraction and retention of scarce academic skills.
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