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Deloitte Human Capital Trends study shows worker wellbeing and belonging is now the top priority

Key Takeaways:

  • In this year’s report, organisations are challenged to re-examine whether humanity and technology were truly in conflict and to consider how to resolve the seeming paradox of remaining distinctly human in a technology-driven world.
  • Survey findings reveal that the need for a human focus has catapulted well-being and belonging into top concerns for organisations as the No. 1 and 2 trends, respectively.
  • COVID-19 has created urgency around workforce reinvention and it is clear that while organisations have doubled down on investments in technology over the past decade, many have significantly underinvested in how humans adapt to and embrace new ways of working.

South Africa, 14 July 2020 - The onset of COVID-19 has led to organisations taking immediate action, such as shifting to remote and virtual work, implementation of new ways of working and redirecting the workforce on critical activities in reaction to the pandemic. Subsequent to this, it has become clear that organisations should now be thinking about how to sustain these actions by embedding them into their organisational culture and DNA beyond COVID-19 for sustainability.

In its 10th annual 2020 Global Human Capital Trends report, “The Social Enterprise at Work: Paradox as a Path Forward”, Deloitte highlights ways to create that level of sustainability by finding the intersection between humans and technology and defining the core attributes that need to be embedded in the organisation to create and sustain that integration. Having surveyed approximately 9000 respondents in 119 countries, this is the largest longitudinal study of its kind.

Access Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends video here.

Social enterprise at work and bringing purpose to the forefront

“In just a few short years the concept of the social enterprise - an organisation whose mission combines revenue growth and profit-making with the need to respect and support its environment and stakeholder network - has grown from an intriguing new concept into a concrete business reality,” said Deloitte Consulting Africa Human Capital leader, Pam Maharaj.

This year’s report focuses on how the social enterprise can find the integration between technology and humanity at a time when humanity is in the spotlight as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This integration will enable lasting value and provide workers with an increased sense of belonging and well-being. In fact, almost half of this year’s respondents categorised their organisation’s purpose as broadening extensively to include all stakeholders, including the communities they serve and society at large,” says Maharaj.

Based on the research, the three characteristics that need to be embedded into a social enterprise’s DNA to help them prepare for the future are: purpose (deepening the mission and values connection amongst teams, individuals and the work itself), potential (tapping into workers’ capability to contribute in new ways) and perspective (making bold decisions at a time of persistent change). Each requires significant shifts in workforce strategies and programs, offering a clear path that organisations can follow to enable them to recover and thrive beyond COVID-19.

Worker well-being as an organisational responsibility through belonging

Belonging at work has become a top organisational priority for a number of reasons. Many people feel the world is becoming more polarised and volatile. These divisions may be leading some individuals to turn to the workplace to find a sense of meaning and solidarity. When working long hours, people are increasingly looking to work for personal fulfilment and satisfaction.

Well-being had a significant gap between importance and readiness across this year’s trends, with 84% of South African respondents saying worker well-being is important or very important for their success over the next 12–18 months, but only 44% saying they are very ready to address this trend.

“The rise of alternative work arrangements, coupled with technological advancements of working virtually and remotely, many employees may not formally “belong” to the organisation they work for—which can make it harder for them to feel a sense of belonging at work and contributes to increased feelings of isolation and loneliness,” said Maharaj.

Creating security in a world of reinvention beyond reskilling and investing

Going into 2020, the South African economy has faced slow growth and credit downgrades - as well as the unprecedented burden of the COVID-19 outbreak. Seventy four percent of South African organisations say reskilling the workforce is important or very important for their success over the next 12–18 months, but only 6% say they are very ready to address this trend. Globally, organisations are finding it challenging to navigate through the fast-changing skills landscape, and this is not any different for South African organisations. According to this year’s Human Capital trends survey, 56% of South African respondents state that between half and all of their workforce will need to change their skills and capabilities in the next three years.

In South Africa, organisations report being only 22.23% ready to use algorithms to influence decisions, making only 24% ready to manage the impact of automation on the workforce. Furthermore, only one quarter of these organisations felt they were ready to use artificial intelligence (AI) and data to monitor individuals and the workplace. Seventy four percent of organisations also report that they are not ready or only somewhat ready to address the ethical issues relating to the design of jobs for climate and sustainability.

A total of 63% of South African respondents said that their organisations are not rewarding workers for developing skills and capabilities. Only 24% are rewarding leaders for developing skills and capabilities on their teams. A total of 40% of South African non-Human Resource (HR) respondents reported they are not confident in HR’s ability to make the needed changes, and an additional 30% said they were only somewhat confident.

Maharaj added, “While renewing workers’ skills is a tactical necessity, reskilling alone may be a strategic dead end. South African organisations should not only reskill their workers, but also focus on building the inherent capabilities humans need to be resilient and adaptive. Economies are shifting from an age of production to an age of imagination, driven by creativity and uniquely human capabilities.”

Taking bold action in an age of uncertainty

Ninety six percent of our South African respondents said that the accelerating need for organisations to change at scale and speed was important to their success over the next 10 years, yet only 49% felt that their organisations were ready to change at the scale and speed required.

Added to this, several ethical concerns are top of mind in today’s organisations as the nature of work evolves. The survey suggested that it would be up to organisational leaders to initiate and lead the dialogue around tech-related ethical concerns and the alternative workforce. A resounding 91% of this year’s South African respondents believe that the future of work raises ethical challenges— but only 31% have clear policies in place to manage these challenges. Meanwhile, two thirds of the respondents believe that ethical challenges related to the future of work are one of the top issues facing their organisations today.

“In a post-COVID world, purpose, potential, perspective, and possibility are no longer future-focused aspirations, but the reality of the here and now. Organisations face a choice between returning to a post-COVID world that is simply an enhanced version of yesterday or building one that is a sustainable version of tomorrow. As technology and human capital converge, it’s time for organisations to make people feel connected, increase engagement, and improve productivity,” notes Maharaj.

To see additional results from Deloitte’s “2020 Global Human Capital Trends” report, click here.


Since 2010, Human Capital Trends tracks the thinking and actions of leading organisations, representing some of North America’s largest and most influential organisations. Completed by nearly 9,000 respondents in 119 countries, Deloitte’s 10th annual Global Human Capital Trends report is the largest longitudinal survey of its kind and marks a decade of investigating and understanding how humans can continue to find meaning in work.