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Emerging talent trends in 2022

One of the leading international employer branding agencies, Universum Global, has released its 2022 report on the South African talent landscape, the Universum Talent Survey. The survey collects global data on employment trends, preferred employers and evolving talent needs in the current economic climate. The results reveal several emerging trends in the global talent landscape, summarised in this article.

‘One of the biggest trends to look out for globally is the overarching evolution of employees’ need to belong,’ says Pabi Mogosetsi, Country Manager for Universum Global South Africa. She continues, ‘Transformation is one of the HR areas that is widely viewed as urgent to address.

‘With the revised equity and transformation legislation coming into effect this year, the issue is under the spotlight. Our data has shown that diversity, equity, inclusion, culture and values have become quite important to our talent population. These became more widely recognised over the past two years during the pandemic and have become important differentiators to talent, as have learning and growth opportunities.

‘According to the Manpower Group, economic activity is reverting to pre-pandemic levels. Data reveals that we will have many more employers expecting to hire talent in Q3 and Q4. But the “Brain Drain” and skills shortage dilemmas remain a challenge. Manpower’s data also indicates that it is becoming exceedingly difficult to fill open positions with suitable talent.’

How talent needs are evolving in 2022 

Mogosetsi continues, ‘Ethical standards and professional training and development are still highly regarded by both students and professionals, while secure employment is important for professionals, leadership opportunities have become important to students.

‘This demonstrates that talent is largely more focused on job characteristics, so employer brands need to ensure that their EVP (Employer Value Proposition) and employer brand image is correctly communicated in job descriptions. This helps them ensure that candidates’ experiences align with what is promised.

‘Success, presence and culture are the three key words that stand out in the 2021 Universum Talent Survey, which includes data gathered from South African students on the most considered and attractive employers. 56 967 students from 27 universities participated in the survey as well as 27 391 professionals from over 56 professional areas. The full number of respondents has increased from last year and currently stands at 84 358.

‘We have learned that the most used communication channels through which students learn about employers are social media, news media and online job boards, closely followed by employers’ career websites. As we start getting into the post pandemic economic stage, we have also observed that remote work is favoured for both target groups.’


Mogosetsi adds, ‘In business and commerce, students reported increased interest in employers that support future education, linking it to secure employment. The most interesting talent preference is that innovation has lost ground in terms of interest to students. Challenging work has also lost ground in the fight for stability. Professionals have placed a lot of importance on secure employment and leadership opportunities, with decreased focus on challenging work and responsibilities.​’

Key Findings

The banking and fintech sectors proved to have strong areas of growth within the talent population. There has not been much movement in the highly competitive auditing and accounting, banking and e-commerce organisations for business talent. In the fintech sectors, interest has grown.

  • Investec and Deloitte hold pole position within the top five finance and accounting organisations, and KPMG has risen to be a top contender for talent in the aspirational accountancy-focused target group.
  • The South African Reserve Bank, First National Bank (FNB) and Standard Bank took the top spots in the fight for the aspirational banking-focused target group.
  • Investec, the South African Reserve Bank and South African Revenue Services (SARS) take the lead in attractiveness for the aspirational finance-focused target group of students.
  • Nike, Google and Coca-Cola came out tops in the marketing-focused target group of students.


Student target group culture conversation – pre-COVID stages

Says Mogosetsi, ‘Student trends show us that their attributes are reverting to pre-COVID stages with the various projects that clients have decided to follow. Tech talent or “STEM” talent still remains important and keeps rising to the pre-COVID stages.

‘We have noticed that this industry and the tech, finance, banking and auditing Industries have grown in interest and have noted various organisations following suit in making sure they get a “piece of the pie” by opening various technology hubs in South Africa, setting it up to become a focus point for African tech.

‘While these industries are enjoying substantial growth in interest, the FMCG Industry is bleeding talent interest and growth is extremely limited. With the Top 10 companies in the FMCG industries losing rank to banking, and in particular, the international banks.

‘The preferred industries within this target group have evolved to include a fast growth in the energy, IT, computer and network security, computer software and technology and IT engineering consulting.

‘We have noticed tremendous growth in interest towards this target group with many companies setting up their hubs in South Africa to contribute to building on their skillset.’

  • In the top spots for attractiveness within the engineering category are Sasol, Transnet and Eskom, which has not changed since last year.
  • The construction group is led by WBHO & Transnet in attractiveness.
  • Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Huawei, Samsung and Tesla take the lead in attractiveness with the IT focused target group.


There is a sentiment of trends getting back to pre-COVID stages with slight changes of interest. What do professional hires think about organisations?

Mogosetsi notes, ‘A particular area of interest is that more professionals are not as trusting in their organisations’ leadership as they may have been previously. 6,2/10 of the respondents would recommend their current places of work to someone else, which is concerning considering that a satisfaction rating of 8/10 should be achieved.’

How does employer branding impact company culture for professionals?

‘Company culture influences retention and stimulates belonging, bringing DEI and wellness into the front line of importance to professionals. Professionals trust their own circles first when looking for information on other employers.

‘They rely on professional networks, people in the industry and online reviews to make their choices on employer information. Secure employment has increased significantly as one of the attributes the talent population sees as an important factor to have. This population is interested in furthering their skills to give back to the organisations. They want to have professional development and training opportunities to plough back into the organisation.’

How have the preferences changed in the business/commerce professionals target group?

‘In the past year, we noticed that ethical standards are still an important attribute to Business/Commerce professionals, while benefits and embracing new technologies have come up significantly as important too. A large decrease in high levels of responsibility and challenging work have come up as the least important attributes for this talent group.’

Who is the most attractive employer within this target group?

The South African Reserve Bank still holds the top position, followed by SARS and then Transnet. And many employer brands fought up the ranks this year, with the new entrant landing in the top 50.

  • Google, Nike and Unilever are still in pole position for the marketing occupation group while, Coca-cola South Africa, AB InBev and Google dominate the sales occupation group.
  • Within the consulting occupation group, Investec is leading the pack followed by Deloitte and Discovery as the most attractive employer brands in this category.
  • The banking category sees the SA Reserve Bank leading the pack, followed by Investec and then SARS. This includes the finance category where the SA Reserve Bank still leads, followed by National Treasury and then Investec.
  • Within accountancy, SARS, Investec and SA Reserve Bank take over top positions, closely followed by PWC and Deloitte.

What are professionals in the engineering/technology target group preferences?

‘Employer reputation and image, job characteristics, as well as people and culture are important to this group. They are interested in innovation and embracing new technologies, and most of all professional training and development. For the whole target population, encouraging work life balance, flexible conditions and competitive base salary have risen in importance. Challenging work is seen as one of the least important attributes, as are leadership opportunities. We believe this is linked to the importance of work-life balance and flexibility.’

Who is the most attractive employer within this target group?

Sasol, Transnet and Google, remain the most attractive employer brands within the engineering/technology group. While a lot of significant movement has been noticed by the local municipalities as well.

  • The top 3 positions within the manufacturing occupation group sees Sasol, Unilever and the BMW Group coming out as the most attractive employers in this category.
  • In the construction occupation group, WBHO and City of Johannesburg hold pole position, closely followed by Murray & Roberts.
  • Microsoft, Google and Amazon lead the IT occupation group pack, closely followed by FNB and Discovery.

Mogosetsi concludes, ‘This year, we have new entrants all round and we congratulate them all for making it to the Universum South Africa Most Attractive Employers 2022. We look forward to seeing how your employer brands will grow and evolve through this journey.’

The top five most attractive occupations in South Africa are as follows for the main fields of study and occupation:

  • Business/Commerce
  • Professional
  • Students
  • Engineering Tech
  • Professional

To view the rankings in more detail, click here. Universum surveys over one million students and professionals worldwide every year.


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