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Mercer Marsh Benefits People Risk Survey Report 2019


Our second annual People Risk Survey Report, again conducted in partnership with the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand (HRNZ), comes after a challenging year for New Zealand.

The attacks on the Christchurch mosques were an explosive condemnation of inclusiveness and tolerance, while the first wellness budget highlighted uncomfortable truths about inequities in our society. How firms are dealing with divisiveness, diversity, bad behaviour, and wellbeing varies across size, location, ownership structure, and industry.

This year, we see organisations grappling with the demands of an increasingly people-centred workplace. On the one hand, they understand the value of living and breathing the golden rule –treating employees with care and consideration – not only makes good business sense, it’s the right thing to do. On the other hand, ensuring the workplace treats everyone fairly and safely is no mean feat in an increasingly complex landscape where there are more kinds of workers, with different needs and skills, and more technological disruption than ever before.

In 2018, we learned that over half of Kiwi organisations surveyed (57%) felt people risks were not considered a priority. Many respondents cited a lack of senior leadership buy-in as the reason. In 2019, this number has improved, with 54% reporting people risks are sufficiently managed.

Of those who said it is not, again a lack of support from the top was the reason most often cited. There was a mix of answers about where accountability lies, with line managers, HR, and the CEO each earning over 20% of their firms’ votes; the COO, board, and others picked up the remainder.

This year, organisations also expressed a strong awareness of the impact of mental health problems on their workplaces, noting absenteeism and impacts on performance as their chief concerns. Reassuringly, the vast majority of respondents offer employee assistance programmes and a raft of other wellness programmes as a means of addressing mental and physical health in both proactive and reactive ways.

Companies’ records are mixed when it comes to having procedures in place to address particular people risks such as workplace injury and data security (83% and 80% have a procedure, respectively) and losing employees to the competition and retirement (19% and 25%).

Very few organisations offer insurance products that address important people risks, such as health, total permanent disablement, income protection, trauma, and key person.

And although 70% of our respondents review their benefits programmes regularly, many organisations (64%) fail to adapt them to their changing workforces. Perhaps of more concern is that some simply don’t know what they do – 30% could not say how often their programmes are reviewed, and 12% were unaware of any tailoring to the various age groups within their workforce.

Overall, awareness of major people risks, along with the options for mitigating these, is generally high. How best to address and prioritise these varies considerably, and the result is ongoing high exposure in some areas for some firms. Like any set of risks, people risk is particular to each organisation, so there is no template for all firms to follow. As a first step, those with an unacceptably high risk profile would do well to quickly deal with unresolved matters of responsibility and a review of their programmes as befits their strategy and, above all, their people.