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Employment Today, HR Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Employment Today, HR Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Employment Today Magazine

The rise of the social enterprise

Social capital is the new gold standard by which companies are judged, by both internal and external stakeholders. Sonia Breeze explores the rise of the social enterprise and its impact on New Zealand business.

Organisations are no longer judged on traditional metrics such as financial performance or the quality of their products or services, but are increasingly also being judged on their relationships with their workers, customers and communities; and ultimately on their impact on the environment and society.

In the past, Deloitte’s annual Global Human Capital Trends survey findings have focused inwardly on the “new rules” organisations need to adopt to succeed with the organisation of the future—things like creating an agile network of teams, empowering and engaging these teams, and building cultures of continuous learning to name a few. Now, organisations must have a broader focus that also encompasses the external ecosystem they are operating in—we are calling this shift the rise of the “social enterprise”.

Leading organisations embody our concept of the social enterprise: they are alert enough to sense, and responsive enough to accommodate, a range of stakeholder expectations and demands. This requires a determined focus on building social capital by engaging with diverse stakeholders, accounting for external trends, creating a sense of purpose throughout the organisation, and devising strategies to manage societal expectations.

This years’ Global Human Capital Trends report, the largest longitudinal survey of its kind, is the result of input from over 11,000 HR and business leaders across 124 countries and eight industries, including from New Zealand. The trends we identified focus on three key influences:

The power of the individual is growing. In response, organisations are revamping their approaches to areas such as workforce management, to better listen and respond. As the practice of engaging workers and networks outside the organisation grows in importance, companies are striving to build effective ongoing relationships with every part of the workforce ecosystem.
Society expects businesses to fill a widening leadership gap. They are increasingly developing strategies that address societal concerns, such as wellbeing, and doing so in a way that improves productivity and performance.
Technological change is having an impact on society. As this creates massive opportunities to achieve sustainable growth, organisations are looking to capitalise on the benefits of a surge of new artificial intelligence (AI) based software and robotics, while redesigning work to enrich the employee experience and creating new learning and career opportunities.

This article looks at some key considerations for HR and business leaders in New Zealand.


Ready or not, automation has arrived and will only improve in scale, speed and quality over the coming years. Thirty-one percent of New Zealand organisations are already using AI and robotics, and the conditions are right for other organisations to begin experimenting and designing what AI, robotics and automation could mean for them. Instead of approaching this from a position of fear (“Will I still have a job in five years?”) or cynicism ( “My work is too difficult to be replaced by a computer”), it is time to embrace the sustainable growth opportunities that technology creates.

Leading companies are recognising that technologies are most effective when they complement humans, not replace them. These companies are rethinking their work architecture to maximise the value of both humans and machines. While automation will remove some workplace activities, it will also allow a shift of the human focus in the workplace to more value-add activities.

We’re seeing this play out with some New Zealand companies who are experimenting with models where people, automated assistants and AI sit alongside each other in the organisation chart. And they are already reaping the benefits—working with automation and AI means human employees can work at a rate up to 70 percent faster, with enhanced quality assurance and improved compliance.


With only six percent of New Zealand organisations currently restructuring working practices to make use of AI and robotics, and only 16 percent using the technology to automate repetitive tasks, there is a huge and exciting opportunity for Kiwi organisations to lead the way in designing the future of work here.

We also shouldn’t forget the role that AI can play in HR. Analytics tools are intelligently selecting candidates, identifying employees’ career options, and coaching managers on improving their leadership skills. AI is even being used to create chatbots that can interact with job candidates, identify and score video interviews and understand the sentiment of engagement surveys.

These advances are huge for HR leaders seeking to minimise bias and save time spent on administrative tasks. With this, however, comes a responsibility to maintain data and carefully review these tools for accuracy and potential bias.

HR must redesign the workforce with new technologies in mind. This includes assessing which activities can be automated, what technologies to use, what combinations of people and machines can effectively do the work, and what capability uplift is needed to embed the future model.

Globally, executives are anticipating the requirement for skills such as complex problem-solving, cognitive abilities and social skills to grow—skills that are ultimately more service orientated, interpretive, social, and play to our essential human skills.


The composition of human workers is changing too, moving from a model of traditional employer-employee relationships, to one of a diverse workforce ecosystem encompassing a variety of alternative workforce arrangements. There is a wide range of worker types now engaged by organisations, from full-time employees at one end of the spectrum to freelancers, gig workers and crowds at the other, who focus on projects and tasks.

In New Zealand, despite 63 percent of businesses regularly employing the services of non-traditional workers, only nine percent of organisations have a defined strategy and established policies and processes for the management of non-traditional staff.

To make the most of the flexibility and capability offered by engaging the alternative workforce, organisations not only need to manage these arrangements from a procurement perspective but appeal to, engage with, and drive value through workers of all different types to build effective ongoing relationships.

So what can organisations do to engage with these increasingly important workers? Firstly, talent management strategies should expand to focus on the entire worker ecosystem, not just traditional employees. HR should work with the business to give all workers, regardless of worker type, clear performance goals and the training and support to succeed. Organisations should also consider how they select and onboard these workers from a cultural point of view, as well as how to retain them.


Changes to the workforce and the “always-on” nature of digital business blurs the line between work and life. This increases the need for designing robust employee wellbeing programmes focused on physical, mental, financial and spiritual health. New Zealand respondents rated wellbeing as a driver of productivity as the most important trend.

The benefits of a wellbeing focus are clear—organisations with this focus tend to see an increase in employee retention rates, strength in branding and improved productivity. Having a well-thought-out wellbeing strategy can be a key differentiator for any organisation in attracting talent in a tight labour market.

Ninety-two percent of New Zealand’s organisations have a focus on wellbeing as part of their agenda today—53 percent focus on delivering more traditional wellbeing programmes (ie, safety, employee assistance), but 40 percent offer programmes beyond the traditional programmes, including mindfulness, life balance and financial fitness. Wellbeing no longer consists of just physical health and safety, but now also encompasses social and emotional wellbeing.

However, for these programmes to be effective, they need to be supported by the workplace culture and leadership teams. Leaders should play an active role in modelling desired behaviours and new ways of working, and should understand the specific moments and actions that can have a real impact on the wellbeing of their employees.

HR also needs to consider how wellbeing programmes, as well as reward and career management programmes, apply to contractors and casual workers. Improving the types of programmes on offer, and widening their availability to all kinds of workers, is a necessity in any competitive, high stress and rapidly changing working environment.

This year Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends report focuses more than ever on external trends that are drastically shaping our organisations. Executive teams need to acknowledge they are no longer leading just a business enterprise, but a truly social enterprise. Social capital is the new gold standard by which companies are judged, by both internal and external stakeholders. To thrive in this new environment, organisations would do well to:

  • • 
    Listen carefully to the external as well as the internal environment and increase awareness of market and societal trends.
  • • 
    Invest in the broader social ecosystem—starting with their own employees through wellness and other initiatives.
  • • 
    Actively manage their position in the social ecosystem by engaging with stakeholders. A focus just on full-time employees is no longer enough.

For a more in depth exploration of these issues and more, the 2018 Human Capital Trends report can be read at

A social enterprise is an organisation whose mission combines revenue growth and profit-making with the need to respect and support its environment and stakeholder network.

This includes listening to, investing in, and actively managing the trends that are shaping today’s world. It is an organisation that shoulders its responsibility to be a good citizen (both inside and outside the organisation), serving as a role model for its peers and promoting a high degree of collaboration at every level of the organisation.

It also means treating all workers (on and off balance sheet) in a fair, transparent and unbiased way.

SONIA BREEZE is a Deloitte New Zealand consulting partner.

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