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South African Workforce

How to

build a winning

“As the needs of employees change, so has the modern workplace. Although many businesses may feel the effects of these changes, do they understand the causes and how to implement strategies to solve it? In this data-driven playbook, we did a deep-dive into what matters most to employees - to show employers how they can build a winning workforce in South Africa."

Jaco Oosthuizen

Co-founder and MD of YuLife South Africa

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South African workforces are in the midst of a stress pandemic.


Of employees are stressed – that’s more than 4 in 5, with 18% finding their current job very stressful.

1 in 6

Employees report their employers don’t help them manage stress at all.


Of employees say support is only there when requested. 

Employer support is varied. Only 1 in 5 employers are very active in preventing and managing employee stress.

South African employees speak out:

Why they quit. When they’ll stay.

I've noticed a trend in my TikTok comments lately that people do not want to be involved in team building or business events. They want to do their work and go home. However, business is a team sport. And what this is telling me is that leaders are not creating a team environment that inspires and entices people to be more involved. Build the right environment and they will come, break it down and they will leave.

Erik Kruger

CEO and founder of Modern Breed

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Say the provision of more workplace benefits (e.g. improved pension plan & health insurance) would persuade them to stay. 


Of employees want the provision of more and improved mental health and wellness programmes.

Want the opportunity to have greater flexibility in working arrangements. 


Retaining your top employees isnt all about pay.

Unsurprisingly, poor pay still tops the reasons employees are considering leaving their jobs (40%), but demand for growth and learning opportunities is also fuelling organisational exodus. It’s not just pay increases that would persuade them to stay, however – more than half of South African employees would be persuaded to stay in their jobs if they had more employee benefits. 

Reasons for quitting:

Inability to get along with other colleagues


Unsatisfactory employee benefits


Lack of recognition


Job dissatisfaction


Lack of growth or learning opportunities


Poor Pay


“The workforce is now experiencing all five generations of workers in the workplace. They all have different preferences in how they see working arrangements. Management needs to ensure that the ways of working meet the needs of all these generational workers to ensure they perform at their optimal best to ensure business success. As such, we are seeing the hybrid work model becoming a permanent feature in the employee value proposition.”

Vinolia Singh

Chief People Officer, Adcorp

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What keeps South African employees in your business?

Generally, employees would be more likely to stay at an organisation that tracks and measures their employee wellbeing.

More than 70%

of South African employees are a lot more likely to stay at an organisation that tracks and measures employee wellbeing.

Organisations that ask about HR initiatives


Organisations that ask about company sustainability impact and ESG data


Organisations that ask about mental wellbeing


Organisations that ask about managers


Organisations that ask about workplace culture


Organisations that ask about employee satisfaction


How often do organisations collect feedback on employee satisfaction:

Organisations that ask about physical activity


While more than half of South African organisations collect feedback on employee satisfaction, only 32% ask about mental wellbeing, and less than 30% ask about physical wellbeing.

“Employees are seeking just in time support, often anonymously. Traditional employee support programmes which are mainly reactive in nature, will no longer suffice. The demand is now for digital support. It becomes even better when peer support is also available. 

With hybrid working, it is also important to ensure face-to-face contact with team members when they do come into the office. Often if one is not comfortable disclosing the challenges they are facing, with in-person engagements one can detect red flags in an employee's body language or how they show up allowing managers to proactively act if support is needed.”

Vinolia Singh

Chief People Officer, Adcorp

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How to attract top talent to your business



Flexible working conditions (ie hybrid, flexible hours)


Benefits available to employees (eg leave, health and wellbeing benefits etc)


The ambitions of the company (ie founder mentality)


Culture of the team


Culture of the company


What matters most to South African job seekers when they are searching for a job:

Opportunities for career growth


When it comes to what matters most to jobseekers, company culture, opportunities for growth and training are as important as pay. But employee benefits and flexible working also matter in equal amounts to each other. 

Training opportunities


When it comes to benefits, nearly a quarter of South African employees consider Group Life Cover such as Income Protection, Funeral, Life Cover and Lump Sum Disability to be the most attractive – more than double in appeal to the number of leave days.

Which are the most attractive benefits to SA employees

Number of leave days 11%

Mental wellness offering for you and your direct family 7%

Access to free basic healthcare (virtual GP) 9%

Wellbeing tools 15%

Medical Aid 17%

Pension and/or provident fund 17%

Group life cover (income protection, funeral, life cover, lump sum disability) 24%

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How to use data to build your winning team

and make a case for health and wellbeing 







Less than once a year




How often are South African employees asked for feedback by their companies:

There’s an employee wellbeing data gap. Most South African companies ask employees for feedback once or twice a year, while only 18% ask for employee feedback monthly. 



More than half

of SA companies conduct employee surveys, but only 15% have an internal dashboard that measures employee feedback in real time.


of employees would be a lot more willing, and 28% slightly more willing.


would be more willing to give data/feedback to HR/leadership if they knew exactly how it would be used in decision making.

How do South African companies obtain employee feedback:

“In the past, the HR community always thought they knew what employees wanted. They built wellness solutions that they thought would be appropriate for employees. Now, with great HRIS out there, employers and HR teams can track data and use this to influence their wellness offerings. This allows for more appropriate solutions which more employees will embrace, and we will see an increase in uptake to the offerings. We as HR teams and leaders no longer need to rely on intuition or gut to design wellness solutions, but use data and insights for relevant and appropriate wellness offerings.”

Vinolia Singh

Chief People Officer, Adcorp

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The need for employee feedback transparency comes from the top

72% of South African employees find their organisation transparent with how employee feedback is used – but 28% say it does not feel very transparent or transparent at all. And they’d be more honest with their feedback if they knew exactly how it would be used in decision-making. Generally, employee wellbeing programmes are deemed varying in their success, according to employees.


Feel fairly or very cared for by their employee wellbeing programmes but 31% feel a varying degree of ineffectiveness.


Of employees would be a lot more honest, and 22% slightly more honest if they knew how employee feedback was being used. 

It is part of our way of work at Yulife to recognise our peers on a regular basis and it pays off in creating a cohesive culture where people all work towards a common objective. Every Thursday since we started the company, we have an All Hands meeting where we shout out all the amazing work that people do across our company. These small moments of thanks sends a ripple effect through the company that culminates in a culture of caring.

Jaco Oosthuizen

Co-founder and MD of YuLife South Africa

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How to use employee wellbeing data to build a winning team

Access to actionable data is crucial in all aspects of business decision-making, from supply chains to sales. So why should it be any different when it comes to managing the wellbeing of the people you employ?

In an unstable economic climate, indefensible areas of expenditure can become easy prey to budget cuts. Fortunately, the advent of technological advancements has introduced a new set of tools that HR professionals can leverage to gather information and maintain streamlined processes. Through proper implementation, companies can assess the effectiveness of their business strategies, refine organisational procedures, optimise resources, and enhance the overall employee experience.

Research shows that organisations that look after the wellbeing of their employees, have a positive impact on productivity levels and on reducing absenteeism rates. This ultimately impacts the business’ bottomline.

But how do you incorporate your employees’ data and feedback in the decision-making process when it comes to enhancing the overall company culture, ESG goals, and more?

Vinolia explains how they do it at Adcorp:

“It starts by listening to what employees request in our employee engagement feedback. For example, we have an entire dimension that measures employees’ social impact.

It starts with employee engagement feedback

“We then incorporate this feedback into our overall strategy. , In the instance of our ESG strategy, we create opportunities and platforms for our employees to participate in our social strategy allowing them to give back and make an impact.”

Incorporating feedback

Measuring success

“We use selected metrics from chosen frameworks to measure our success. We set targets and measure progress against these targets annually.”

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The employee landscape:

5 trends impacting HR teams today

The survey highlights an employee desire for change – but let’s ‚Ä®take a step back at the broader employee landscape impacting HR and business leaders in 2023 and beyond. 

Trend 1:

South Africans are suffering from workplace and financial stress

The World Happiness Index, an annual UN assessment of national happiness, put South Africa at a low 85th place, behind Algeria (81st), Vietnam (65th) and the Russian Federation (70th).

How much of this is related to business? Unfortunately, research by Floatpays suggests that both the workplace environment and financial stress are impacting people negatively.

Trend 2:

The recession is creating workplace benefit cuts

Morgan Stanley's State of the Workplace Study 2023 reports that 88% of HR leaders report that employees have requested benefits the company doesn't offer. The current trend is for South African businesses to reduce their investment in the wellbeing of their employees when times get tough, but employees are demanding additional workplace wellbeing support.

Trend 3:

There’s a new focus on financial wellness

According to Morgan Stanley, nearly nine in 10 HR leaders offer employees financial wellness programs. With inflation hitting hard and the cost-of-living crisis continuing apace, employees are desperate for financial wellbeing support. PWC's survey data shows that 60% of full-time employees are stressed about finances, an even higher figure than during the peak of the pandemic.

Trend 4:

A new focus on mental health

With predictions that mental health conditions, if left untreated, could potentially cost the South African economy an astonishing R161 billion, the HR profession is increasingly seeing this as a crisis, not least because South Africa came bottom on the mental health wellbeing scale in the Mental State of the World 2022 report.

Trend 5:

Hybrid work challenges

Professor Renata Schoeman — head of Healthcare Leadership at Stellenbosch Business School — explains in this interview how many employees are now getting the worst of both worlds. "During COVID, we started using our time differently," she explains. "We were having back-to-back online meetings. And now suddenly we have to commute again but we still have back-to-back meetings. So people feel they need to create more time to fit in the levels of productivity we had before."

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The employee landscape:

5 ways to improve employee wellbeing

So how should a company in 2023 and beyond respond to these challenging wellbeing trends? Here are some tips for South African employers on how to improve employee wellbeing: 

Implement a formal employee wellbeing programme.

This program could include access to mental health support, financial wellness counselling, and physical wellbeing programmes.

Create a workplace where employees feel respected and valued. 

It helps to have a robust and valuable benefits programme which is well-communicated, engaging, and easily accessible by employees.

Review existing wellness benefits.

Offer employees flexible work arrangements.

Such as the ability to work in a hybrid environment and the ability to manage their personal and professional responsibilities. At the same time, guard against remote workers feeling isolated and alone, either by mixing virtual and real-world working, hosting regular events and/or building daily togetherness rituals.

Ask yourself: is it a ‘tick box’ exercise within your business or are you giving employees what they need to thrive? Are the benefits providing the best value to employees, or could an alternative provider offer more? Are you leveraging new technologies effectively, and driving engagement with employees… or just doing things in the same old, inaccessible way?

Think about work-life balance. 

Encourage employees to take breaks and time off, and consider how best to support their work-life needs. Don't assume this will automatically damage the bottom line. After all, as freelancers will tell you: often the fewer hours people work, the more productive and creative they are.

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Strategies for building high-performing teams in the era of hybrid work

Leading remote or hybrid teams has become increasingly common in the past few years, and the implications on workforce health have also been seen. So what best practices can be implemented to ensure high performance in distributed work settings? We asked Erik Kruger, CEO and founder of Modern Breed.

“If you can build your hybrid or remote setup around established leadership values, then at least you know that you are always moving in the right direction,” says Erik. “Keep an open mind and know that the way forward is through experimentation, failure, and iteration. We are all still trying to figure this out. Some are more successful than others. But the reality is that the future we are moving into is unknown. For example, who knows how forces like AI will shape hybrid and remote work? Remain open and adaptable and you will be just fine.”

Here are the 3 of Erik’s key considerations:

“Build psychological safety and trust. Those who are in the office are likely to feel more included than those who aren’t. Therefore, they might speak up more because they feel more valued. How will you continue to include those who aren’t at the office and make them feel valued too?”

Team environment

“Create crystal clear alignment, so people know what is expected from them: alignment about the work that must be done and alignment on how the work is done.”



“Not just on the channels of communication, but on what we communicate and how we communicate it. If you are constantly focused on improving the team environment, aligning behaviours, and communicating effectively then you cannot go wrong.”

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The Employee Wellbeing Checklist:

6 ways South African companies can improve their employee wellbeing 

Jaco Oosthuizen, co-founder and Managing Director of YuLife South Africa, shares six strategies on how to improve your employee wellbeing strategy. 

Create the right culture

Be vulnerable

"Sometimes people think vulnerability is a weakness, but it's a big value. As a company, we de-stigmatise mental health because of the way that our leaders are vulnerable and open to talking about it."

"Wellbeing starts with the culture you're creating. It needs to be driven from the top down," he explains. “Your entire leadership team needs to buy into this culture of employee wellbeing, and then it is easier to create a culture where employees feel valued and cared for.”

Foster social connections

Encourage face-to-face interactions

"We have a lot of weekly interactions with our team. For instance, once a week, the South African team get together and update each other about what is happening in our personal lives. This helps us to understand where people are at - both professionally and personally.”

“Social wellbeing is one of the biggest determinants of longevity: it's bigger than even eating healthily. I think wellness is partly about having a sense of belonging, and that people feel they're cared for by the employer.”

Prevent fragmentation

Use tech to drive engagement

"A lot of wellbeing initiatives are very fragmented. They are either too costly for most people, too inaccessible, or too difficult to achieve the desired reward. People often don't know where to access their wellbeing services, but once you collate them in an easy-to-use employee app, they're visible and people are much more likely to use them.” 

"As employers, we need to deliver wellbeing on a day-to-day basis for everyone. We also need to learn from other industries about how to keep people engaged.  This is where gamification has become a key driver of engagement. We also need to make wellbeing simpler for people to use. People don't need to run a marathon, they just need to do five minutes of walking or a quick meditation a day to get them going. Building simple daily habits will have a longer lasting effect on employees’ overall wellbeing.” 

For more insights on employee wellness, you can view the full discussion below.



YuLife is a global insurtech providing innovative insurance and wellbeing solutions to over 700k employees across the globe.YuLife is working to reimagine the insurance industry by protecting lives, rewarding living and inspiring life. We’re on a mission to transform traditional insurance into life-enhancing experiences every employee will value and use daily.

How does it work?

Our award-winning app uses behavioural science and game mechanics to reward people for living well while offering protection in case of crisis. And with our top-rated employee assistance programme, your team gets access to mental, financial and social support, virtual GPs, nutritionists, life coaches and more to help them live their best lives.

Because we believe that your employees should benefit from their insurance from day one – and that wellbeing should be accessible every day, for everyone.

Request a demo for your team today.

The YuLife SA employee wellbeing survey was conducted in July 2023 by Ipsos and surveyed 700 formally employed workers across South Africa. The demographics of the surveyed individuals consisted of:

56% males and 44% Females Age breakdown: 43% between 35 and 49, 36% between 25 and 34, 11% between 50 and 65, 10% between 18 and 24. Provincial split: 32% GP, 19% KZN, 14% WC, 9% EC, 7% MP, 6% LP, 6% NW, 5% FS, 4% NC