The fifth annual edition of Alexander Forbes’ industry-leading publication, Benefits Barometer touches on a range of socio-demographic and economic factors that will impact the world of work in South Africa in the context of a changing global environment.

The research addresses critical building blocks that companies could embrace that would equip them to deal with the global influence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the local influence of demographic changes in South Africa.

The publication, authored by Anne Cabot-Alletzhauser, head of the Alexander Forbes Research Institute and her team, is divided into six sections:

The changing world of work

Globalisation, the changing nature of production, the rise of the “gig economy”, the growing use of machines and advances in biotechnology are changes that will have far reaching consequences for organisations and individuals. Benefits Barometer examines how these factors combine to create a new landscape of work, and if policy measures are sufficient to address matters such as growth, minimum wages, flexible-term employment, education, small business development, retirement reform and care for the aged. Cabot-Alletzhauser said the current power dynamic between employer and employee was changing and had to make way for collaborative, flatter organisational structures – critical to retain the talent that will be required into the future.

This section is concluded with a discussion of why a changing world of work matters to retirement funds, and how trustees need to become “agents of change,” leading the charge on the individualisation and customisation of benefits.

Longevity: The demographic disruptor

The second section looks at the trends and consequences of ageing in Africa. The attention of policymakers is rightfully focused on the issues of youth and unemployment, but demographic changes such as longevity and urban migration are placing an increasing strain on assumptions that a culture of reciprocity will mean that families will take care of their elders.

Benefits Barometer asks some hard questions about how ready South Africa actually is for the tsunami of caregiving that will be required when older people look for options for long-term care within their communities and discover there are none, or that they are badly managed.

The research considers what the strain on the traditional model of intergenerational family support means for South Africa when it comes to developing a policy on ageing and reimagining long-term care in a way that reduces healthcare costs and increases quality of life at the end. Approaches to address the inequality of health and care are set out, along with an action plan for ageing reform that suggests a way forward for the various stakeholders involved.

How we need to respond in a changing world

To respond responsibly, there are probably four critical building blocks that employers could consider employing more effectively. The first is the need to embrace HR data analytics as a way for employers to make informed decisions as to what policies or enhancements will have the greatest impact on securing employee engagement, commitment and productivity. Do older employees add value or become a drag on profitability or productivity? Data analytics provides some surprising answers here.

The second building block is an array of customised benefits that move significantly beyond retirement savings and income protections to addressing the kind of aspirational and self-improvement needs that employees of today are demanding. The research makes a case for getting creative about value creation, and suggests how the industry and employers can work together to design benefit offerings that respond to various employee needs, from lifestyle and family to financial and health.

Think of this concept as transforming the benefits framework into what could effectively be seen as a life-planning tool that can be used by any employee, regardless of how or where they are employed. In addition, Benefits Barometer 2016 argued that there was still a historical overhang of ‘asset deficits’, and this year’s edition looks at potential solutions that address an individual’s needs around housing, education, transportation, health and skills development, and by doing so, helps employers establish themselves as magnets for talent.

The third is the incorporation of an employee wellness programme that recognises that keeping employees stable and viable both at the workplace and at home is critical to ensuring that a company remain focused and productive. The problem is not all well-being programmes really focus on the essence of behavioural change. Embracing the well-being programme model demands that employers take a hard look at the business models that underpin them.

The fourth building block would be a completely reconceptualised skills development resource that would enable employees with any set of interests or capabilities to further their skills development, on the job, in ways that address both the needs of the employer as well as the aspirations of the employee. The key feature here is a skills development programme that “learns” how the individual learns and re-enforces this skill set each step of the way.

Taken altogether, these are the types of insights and resources that employers will need to have to meet the challenges brought on by this rapidly changing work world.

The data and all it tells us

The final section examines which issues have historically been barriers to the success of benefits programmes, looking at current employee benefits offerings by sector and providing insights into how companies are undertaking their human capital commitments.

“It’s in our hands, now, to consider how we could use this rapidly changing world to rebalance opportunities and outcomes across our diverse population,” concluded Andrew Darfoor, Group Chief Executive of Alexander Forbes Group Holdings.


Issued by Corporate Image on behalf of Alexander Forbes