10 things that make workers in South Africa unhappy

Advisory firm Deloitte recently released their Best Companies Survey, analysing the things South African companies are getting right – and wrong – in their handling of employees in the country.

Unlike previous years, where the report focused on a competitive, ranked list of companies which were rated highest among their employees, for 2017, Deloitte focused inward, and assessed what each company was getting right and wrong among each specific workforce.

For privacy and competitive reasons, Deloitte could not identify which companies took part in the survey, but rather focused on the push and pull factors identified across all companies and sectors.

From its results, the group identified the top 10 ‘focus areas’ – the areas that employees identified they were most unhappy with – as well as the top 10 ‘leverage areas’ – the areas where employees felt most satisfied.

According to Deloitte the overall findings from its survey pointed to a trend within South African companies where there is a shift away from ‘legacy’ concerns among employees, to concerns driven by flexibility and the changing life expectations of an increasingly ‘millennial’ workforce.

In the group’s 2017 Human Capital Trend report, Deloitte highlighted that, like global companies, South African firms face the challenge of catering to this workforce, which demands an attractive corporate culture, flexible benefits, skills development, technologically-driven systems, and continuous feedback.

This is in stark contrast to the ‘old way’ of doing things – where corporate structures were far more rigid, with set systems and feedback loops, and little in the way of ensuring the well-being of employees.

“The working environment is moving towards much more collaborative, networked teams, which thrive off open dialogue and inclusive working styles. Millennials and future workforces require different leadership skills, and specific training and development strategies need to be considered now for high-performing leaders of the future,” the group said.

Millennials, specifically, are highly competitive, ambitious, driven individuals, who have a lot to contribute, and poor performance is not tolerated, Deloitte said, while management and leadership is scrutinised, more than ever.

One of the biggest challenges South African companies face, however, is bridging the gap between generational workforces, and the push and pull factors highlighted by the Best Companies Survey show exactly where employees currently place these shifting needs.

10 areas workers are most unhappy

Deloitte’s Best Companies Survey identified 10 struggle areas, where South African employees were most unhappy with the status quo. In line with its findings on the changing workforce, four of these areas related directly to the employee experience at any given company, with a focus on pay and performance.

The list below ranks the categories employees are most unhappy about.

  1. Competitive pay and benefits package
  2. Organisation retains the best people
  3. Organisation delivers on its promises
  4. Genuine care and concern
  5. Public recognition for achievements
  6. Performance reward encourages performance
  7. Long term career development
  8. Equal pay for equal work
  9. Equal opportunity
  10. Trust throughout the organisation

The survey results showed that employees were most unhappy with their overall pay package, feeling it was not as competitive as other organisations. These remuneration concerns were also expressed around reward based on performance, and the view of ‘fair’ compensation for the work done.

Aside from reward trends, Deloitte’s findings also pointed to a general sense of mistrust – with worries over whether the ‘best’ people for the job requirements are selected; whether informal promises’ are fulfilled; and whether or not there is genuine concern for employees’ well-being (regular check-ins as opposed to insincere assessments to meet targets).

There is pressure to move away from annual or bi-annual appraisal measurements, towards continuous feedback with a focus on coaching as support, Deloitte said.

10 areas workers are most happy

Feeding into the findings that the most attractive South African companies offer a more ‘caring’ and feedback-driven environment for workers – the areas that employees are most happy with relate to clear communication and feedback from their bosses and peers.

The list below ranks the categories employees are most happy about.

  1. Identify with organisational values
  2. Understand how work relates to organisational goals
  3. Good fit between talent and position
  4. Manager values contributions
  5. Like what the organisation stands for
  6. Personal accomplishments
  7. Opportunity to learn and grow
  8. Positive feedback
  9. Work done is important
  10. Leadership moves in the right direction

All 10 of the most attractive features of South African companies identified by workers show the need for employees to fit in, feel accomplished and to grow.

According to the findings, employees like to know what a company stands for and what direction it is heading in (internal values). And they like to know where they fit into that picture – that their work is important and how it helps the company, all while receiving positive feedback and recognition for the work they have done.

“Organisations must be attractive to the new workforce and be ready for the digital revolution. They must also recognise, honour and leverage experience from older generations, and sensitively manage changes to bridge the gap,” Deloitte said.

“An employee experience is a combination of both culture and engagement. Organisations wanting to keep ahead of the engagement curve, need to have a clear engagement strategy.”

Read: CEO vs employee salaries at Eskom, SAA and other state companies

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10 things that make workers in South Africa unhappy