ORIENTATION: Globally, the demand for academic staff in higher education is expected to continue
to increase. The South African situation is exacerbated by the so-called ‘retirement swell’ and
turnover and retention problems; measurements to diagnose these factors remain limited.
RESEARCH PURPOSE: This study aimed to investigate the factors that influence turnover and
retention of academic and to validate the developed talent retention diagnostic tool for use in
South African higher education institutions.
MOTIVATION FOR THE STUDY: Limited research currently exists on the retention factors of academic
staff in the South African context.
RESEARCH APPROACH, DESIGN AND METHOD: Using an investigative quantitative research approach,
the tool was administered to a convenience sample of academics (n = 153) in 13 higher
MAIN FINDINGS: The results showed an array of distinguishing turnover and retention factors
and proved the tool to be a valid and reliable measure. Over half the respondents indicated
slight to strong dissatisfaction with compensation and performance management practices.
Significantly, 34% indicated that they considered exiting their academic institution, citing
unhappiness about compensation, as the most likely reason, whilst 74.5% have previously
looked for another job.
PRACTICAL/MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS: The research highlights key areas (i.e. compensation,
emotional recognition, a bonus structure that reflects employee contribution, performance
management systems, mentorship and career development opportunities) that higher education
should attend to if they want to retain their key and talented academic staff.
CONTRIBUTION/VALUE-ADD: The results contribute to new knowledge on the factors that contribute
to turnover and retention of academic staff and present a valid and reliable measure to assess
these retention factors.
This article is based on Marguerite Theron’s doctoral
study, which is currently in progress