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Data from recruitment consultancy Robert Walters shows that headcount growth within South African start-ups swelled by 20 percent in the past 12-months. This trend will continue that growth trajectory with half of South Africa’s most-experienced professionals indicating that their next career move will be to a start-up.
Start-ups and SMEs now represent 60% of all job vacancies in Africa.
The survey findings follow on from a bumper year for African start-ups raising over $4 billion and the World Bank declaring start-ups as “the biggest job creating opportunity in South Africa.” SMEs now represent almost two thirds of vacancies on the continent and founders are petitioning governments to relax labour laws to help grow the sector.
“After any period of economic change, we typically see a wave of entrepreneurial or start-up activity – and so it doesn’t surprise me to hear of the success of these businesses,” says Megan Prosser, Senior Manager at Robert Walters South Africa.
“Combine this with the support from the Future of Africa programme – an accelerator for start-ups helping young people find jobs – and we have a prime hotbed for fast-growth companies in emerging industries,” she continues.
“What is most interesting is how these relatively-new 10-30 person companies are managing to draw some of the region’s top talent away from established firms who typically offer much higher levels of job security. Post pandemic we have seen a seismic shift in what professionals want from their employer – with purpose, culture, and people, rated above competitive pay and the well mapped-out corporate ladder.”
5 reasons why start-ups are attracting the best talent:
1. It’s a career accelerator
Relatively flat structures and hands-on founders mean that new staff can interact with the senior leadership team from day one. Leaders will be able to clearly see your involvement in a project’s initial stages through to completion, and as a result, the rate of advancement at start-ups tends to be much faster.
2. The scaling mindset
Start-ups are designed to be high growth and decisions are processed far quicker than at a large firm. Working for a start-up, you’ll understand how the whole company works and develop commercial acumen not expected of you when sitting lower down in corporate structures. Some start-up leaders argue that these on-the-job business lessons are in fact better than an MBA.
The survey found 33% of professionals are leaving corporate to ‘try something new,’ and 15% are looking to reskill.
3. Diversity is baked in
Start-ups are staffed by all kinds of co-workers, from all kinds of nationalities, backgrounds, and ideologies – and due to the small nature of the teams, there will naturally be ample cross-over working with colleagues with different skill sets or working styles. This strong multicultural environment can open your mind beyond work and tasks. It also leads employees to have a global vision.
4. A culture of innovation
Joining a start-up means adopting an ‘out of the box’ mindset – an ability to think on your feet and get creative with smaller budgets and fewer resources. Autonomy is not considered a perk within a start-up, but a given.
28% of professionals leave a corporate job to join a newly established business for greater autonomy
5. There’s a clear exit plan
Growth targets are ambitious, but if achieved by the team then they stand to cash in from significant rounds of funding as shares are often offered as part of job packages as a way of competing with corporate pay.
Fastest Growing Start-ups by Headcount in SA
|Company||Industry||Funding||Headcount Growth or No. of Employees|
|The Sun Exchange||Solar Technology||$7.7M||11-50|
|SweepSouth||Home-improvement and e-Commerce||$6M||51-100|
|VALR||Blockchain and cryptocurrency||$4.9M||1-10|
Featured image by Sigmund/Unsplash