How to train and retain: CHRO SA meets BAT SA Head of Talent Candice Watson

Candice Watson, Southern Africa Area Head of Talent at British American Tobacco (BAT), has garnered a lot of experience as an executive-level human resources professional in a short space of time. Since September 2014, she has been the HR partner at Lenovo, HR director for Sub-Saharan Africa at Pernod Ricard and now at BAT, where she has been for three months.

Candice met with CFO Enterprises CEO Melle Eijckelhoff and Didi Sehume of CHRO South Africa, a soon-to-be-launched organisation that seeks to help HR executives to boost their network, knowledge and careers through events, media and peer-to-peer advisory.

In a way, her career trajectory is a reflection of the major challenge companies face in retaining talent. As proponent and benefactor of the national need to accelerate transformation in corporate leadership, Candice says companies face a very difficult task where retention is concerned, especially at BAT where they invest heavily on training and mentorship.

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"We change have to change our mindset from one of attraction where we attract people who can assimilate the culture of the organisation to one of getting those people to a level of adding value in the organisation and that means starting at the bottom."

Candice added that it is a typical hire for attitude and train for skills approach, which is unsustainable if the talent keeps moving onto other companies.

The challenge is that, at a multinational company like BAT, there's a risk of training people for the economy's gain because the other organisations are not going to lay out all the necessary capital to do all this training.

"So your retention mechanisms have to be rock solid. Between SAB, Unilever and BAT, everybody is somewhat hiring people from the same pool of individuals. Other organisations will wait for us to train them and then poach them by offering them double-digit increases, which is also not a sustainable approach (to recruitment)," she says.