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Industry leaders are optimistic about the future

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Despite some of the harshest economic and business conditions being felt for some time now, a survey has revealed that many of South Africa’s top industry leaders are still positive about the future, and that they display a resilience that will be critical for keeping businesses moving forward in the coming year.

The survey, conducted by leading executive search firm Jack Hammer, asked executives and managers in various sectors about their expectations for bonuses, increases and business growth in the new year.

“There is a common assumption that with the markets being as challenging as they are, and with all the data on low business confidence, it will be doom and gloom all round,” says Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, CEO of Jack Hammer.

“However, our most recent survey shows that while it is certainly not business as usual, executives and middle managers still have their eye on growth and opportunity. This is reflected both in the assessment of their personal career circumstances, as well as their commercial sentiments for the coming year,” she says.

The survey polled top managers and executives from the mining, construction, industrial, retail, FMCG, manufacturing and oil and gas sectors. Respondents included directors of finance, supply chain heads, country and production managers, chief procurement officers, supply chain directors, African regional managers, operations directors and group financial accountants, among others.

Findings from the survey reveal that:

  • 36% of respondents were positive (lots of opportunity and growth potential) about the year ahead, with another 36% feeling somewhat positive (solid but tough environment). Only 28% expressed a negative sentiment, with little hope for growth;
  • 71% of respondents expected at least an inflation-linked salary increase, with 21% expecting an above-inflation increase and only 28% expecting no increase at all;
  • 50% of respondents expected to receive bonuses in line with or more than previous years (executives have greater expectations of receiving bonuses this year than middle managers: 71% of execs vs 29% of middle managers); and
  • 64% of respondents said that if their bonuses were below expectations, this would influence their career decisions and potentially a decision to start looking elsewhere.

“It is worth noting that this survey polled some of the hardest-hit industry sectors in the country,” says Goodman-Bhyat.

But she says the findings should also act as a warning to companies about the importance of looking after their top talent, despite needing to watch the bottom line more closely than ever before.

“What this survey made clear, is that especially top leaders in the executive space would consider alternative career options should their bonuses and increases not be satisfactory. Even in difficult times, there remains a limited pool of suitably experienced and qualified leaders at this level, and they are well aware of their value in the marketplace,” says Goodman-Bhyat.

In terms of the outlook for the year ahead, she says that at management and executive levels, there remained a drive towards looking for growth opportunities no matter what.

“The fact is, that while GDP figures are low, it is the endeavour of leaders who have the drive and vision to push through the mud that will keep organisations moving forward and hopefully growing, regardless of macro-economic issues.

“It is therefore imperative that companies retain their key leaders and executives. And this means that even if the coffers are low, they need to ensure satisfactory bonuses and at least inflationary related increases. Not looking after your senior teams could turn out to be a case of penny-wise, pound-foolish,” says Goodman-Bhyat.