4IR Adoption and Innovative Reward Solutions demanded by Pandemic
South African Reward Association
13 July 2021
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is about the acceleration of innovation and the velocity of disruption, and these two factors are creating disruption and along with this, new opportunities for business,” says Nicol Mullins, Chartered Reward Specialist and Executive Committee Member at the South African Reward Association (SARA).
He observes that Covid-19 has served as a catalyst for the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies, along with forcing the development of new business models or the adaptation of existing ones. This trend is also redefining the approach employers take to remuneration and reward.
A New Perspective on Reward
“4IR certainly presents risks, but risks are also opportunities for workers to upskill and position themselves to gain the most from this new era,” says Mullins.
This is especially true of the massive global move towards the virtual workplace, with many employees now working exclusively from home and connecting with their organisations, teams and managers digitally.
Most organisations have pivoted rapidly to this new normal while others have not been as quick to transition.
Either way, businesses are reviewing their strategic outlook based on a new set of challenges they face and resources now available to them due to the automation of repetitive, routine processes.
“Reward strategies must likewise be adapted to complement this new paradigm and align with reimagined business strategies to contribute the highest value to their achievement,” says Mullins.
Expanded Talent Possibilities
An important effect of digitalisation is that talent sourcing and recruitment in a virtual world is not restricted by national borders. Or to humans.
Instead, 4IR is blurring the boundaries between the physical, digital and biological, allowing organisations to draw from a worldwide pool of talent and specialisation. Resources no longer need to be situated locally but can contribute to corporate outcomes from anywhere on the planet.
Because of this, reward strategies are shifting from an internal-only focus to include external parties as well. While companies have long followed a build, borrow or buy approach to talent planning and acquisition, borrowing is coming to the fore.
“Organisations can more readily direct work to underutilised personnel without being constrained by departmental or divisional boundaries, resulting in greater efficiency and productivity,” says Mullins.
Similarly, freelancers can be more seamlessly integrated into business processes to tackle activities that require professional attention, but not so frequently as to justify permanent staff.
Better Reward Strategies
As they embrace virtual workspaces, a more fluid talent mix and flexible work assignments, organisations must also determine how rewards should be structured for both internal and external staff requirements.
For short term assignments, freelancers may be considered vendors who bill clients for their work and manage their own benefits and work-life balance. For long term contractors, especially those offering scarce or critical skills, a viable reward policy should be investigated.
Employers may also consider hiring out specialist staff to other organisations, earning extra income when their workload is low. Embracing a sharing economy.
How to design and implement remuneration and reward programmes appropriate to these dynamics falls squarely within the purview of the reward specialist.
“Now is the ideal time for organisations to engage closely with their reward practitioners, whether inhouse or outsourced, and involve them more deeply in workforce planning and strategy,” says Mullins.
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