Employers: Know what employees want, to keep them


New Work benefits include caring for employees needs is a way to foster mental wellbeing. South African employees know what they want, but are they getting it from their employers?

The concept of New Work was developed by the social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann. The approach focuses on the creativity and personality of employees and the fundamental values are freedom, independence and community.

And, a recent survey has found that New Work benefits are what South African employees are after. This includes allowing employees to feel fulfilled and taking care their mental wellbeing in the workplace. “Our research revealed that there is a big gap between what employees expect from the company they work for and what is actually being offered,” says Natasha Fourie, South African spokesperson for DCMN Insights team who recently conducted global research around work.

The international marketing company found that although South Africans are happy at work, growth and flexibility is what employees are after – in line with the New Work concept in place around the world.

The approach focuses on the creativity and personality of employees. The fundamental values of New Work are freedom, independence and community.

The survey found that employees seek fulfilment by:

  1. furthering their education,
  2. their managers accepting failure and mistakes as a path to growth,
  3. engaging in fun activities out of the office
  4. and most importantly –flexible working conditions.

Fourie explains that locally, the benefits that workers would like to have include receiving subsidies or payment for further education (50%), the possibility to work from home (49%), free personal development courses (42%) and team building activities outside of the office (40%). To work flexible hours is a key goal.

“This indicates that for the most part, South Africans have a strong desire to further their education and development,” says Fourie.

However, employers are falling short. “Only 21% of employees receive subsidies for further education, a mere 14% can easily work from home, 18% get free personal development courses and 22% benefit from team building activities outside the office. Only 24% work flexible hours,” she says.

The removal of hierarchies would also encourage employees, although the survey recorded that only 20% of employees have felt this has happened successfully.

Embracing New Work principles – scary but necessary

“These work principles can sound quite scary to traditional employers, but at its core, it really is simply removing barriers to ensure an increased understanding and correlation between the person’s role and how this contributes to the company goals. When businesses need to pivot, the employee understands and embraces their role in this, thus becoming an active participant as opposed to an unwilling passenger,” says Fourie.

She says that although businesses are changing the way they run their operations, with the goal of increasing productivity and attracting talent, they still expect employees at the office.

“Change is slow and usually only aimed at creating a great place to work. Few companies are making bold structural changes where they remove hierarchies and empower their employees,” she says.

“Today we’re operating in an extremely fast paced environment which requires a lot of adaptability and agility if you want to stay ahead of the game. We believe that the key to success is to empower employees and to turn everyone in the company into an entrepreneur,” Fourie adds.

There is hope; however, because the survey found that 66% of South Africans are very happy or happy in their current workplace. This increases to 86% with those working for companies who have implemented New Work principles already.

Allowing failure for growth

Fourie adds that one of the most important factors that show if businesses have really shifted their mindset to a new way of working, is seeing how they deal with failure.

Fourie says, “Across all markets, not even half of the respondents say that occasional mistakes are considered acceptable within their company or even as a chance to grow. On the positive side, South Africa does score the highest of all participants (49%).The survey also shows that start ups in general, as well as businesses that are already committing to New Work models, are generally a lot more open to failure and that their acceptance of occasional mistakes is much higher than the general average.”

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