What South African employees want

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NEW WORK: The term describes a structural change of the working world in the global and digital age. It replaces the traditional working environment with a more meaningful and collective experience. Central values of New Work are independence, freedom and participation.

How advanced are South African companies when it comes to implementing New Work attributes? New research conducted by DCMN reveals that there is a big gap between what employees expect from their employer, and what is actually being offered.

Of the five countries surveyed (Germany, France, the United States, United Kingdom and South Africa), only the US has a happier workforce than South Africa.


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. Yet the research also indicates that 41% of South African employees are open to leaving their workplace if an interesting opportunity comes along, and another 40% are planning to leave their jobs in the near future. Both are the highest rating of all the countries.

What they want, and what they get

Flexible working hours are the most desired benefit for two out of three respondents (61% in South Africa). It is followed by 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%). This indicates that for the most part, South Africans have a strong desire to further their education and development.
The reality, unfortunately, sketches a different picture. Only 24% of South African respondents currently enjoy flexible working hours, 21% 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.

Dealing with failure

One of the most important factors to see if businesses have really shifted their mindset is when you see how they deal with failure. Across all markets, less than half of the respondents say that occasional mistakes are considered acceptable within their company or seen as a chance to grow. On the positive side, South Africa does score the highest of all participants (49%). The survey also shows that startups 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.

War for talent

“Businesses are changing the way they run their operations with the goal to increase productivity and attract talent. Although this is encouraging, 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,” says, Natasha Fourie, Insights at DCMN.

Changing the way how you manage your teams could be the key to success in the war for talent and employee retention. “In today’s extremely fast paced environment, DCMN believes that the road to success is to empower employees and to turn everyone in the company into an entrepreneur. These work principals can sound quite scary to traditional employers, but at its core it is simply about 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,” concludes Fourie.

Research conducted by DCMN Insights Team with a representative panel provided by Dynata (formerly known as Research Now SSI). The online survey of 5028 respondents in South Africa, France, Germany, the UK and the United States was conducted between August 22nd and September 5th 2018. The results were pondered by age, sex, location, business size and business type. All survey respondents had an employee status. 

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