21st Century: a true South African success story

11 December 2020: Since its inception and humble beginnings 24 years ago, 21st Century has become one of Africa’s biggest reward and organisational development consultancies in Southern Africa. 21st Century is a success story that has changed the face of remuneration and HR practices following the change in South African government in 1994. The company continues to build a complete Human Resources solution, encompassing all the pillars of HR.

“21st Century first came to life in a garage – much like Microsoft, when my long-time friend and now Chairman of 21st Century, Dr Mark Bussin and I started a small remuneration and reward consultancy. Mark and I have known each other since nursery school”, says Chris Blair, CEO of 21st Century. He continues, “And we’re quite proud to have remained a private company that hasn’t been bought out by a global player”.

“From a two-man operation in a garage, we’ve since grown into a company with 70 staff members, 40 of whom are specialists. We have undertaken many major remuneration and rewards projects – including being instrumental in both the private sector and public sector remuneration landscapes.

“We stuck to remuneration and reward for many years because, as a team, our skills were very complementary in the space. And we have since become the largest remuneration and reward consultancy in South Africa, with a market share of approximately 40%.  But when we started expanding outside our borders, we saw the opportunity to

grow into the other pillars of HR, starting with Organisational Development.

“This turned out to be well-suited to Africa’s strong start-up culture and we undertook several restructuring projects of various sizes. But we realised that, while it’s all good and well to sweep through a company and restructure, people are often resistant to change – or don’t know how to process it. So, the next logical step for us was to expand into Change Management.

“We’re more familiar with change now than ever before, with the pandemic having an effect on companies and their people all over the world, and we all know how difficult it can be to accept. So, it’s a natural conclusion following any organisational restructuring process that Change Management should be a priority, and continually supported by, education, which our Training division now has the capacity to provide.

“During COVID, we took the opportunity to move into data Analytics. Using our existing databases as benchmarking tools, our Analytics division gives companies locally-based benchmarking that allows them to build best practices based on working structures other local companies have in place. It’s a unique service, in that international benchmarking has been far more commonly used until now. So, this is particularly relevant to South Africans in this challenging time.

“Our most recent addition to the 21st Century family is 21st Century People. We specifically use the word, ‘People’, rather than ‘Talent’. The word, ‘Talent’ has often become more associated with top positions. But what about the rest of the company? From the CEO to the cleaning staff, everyone has an important role to play. So, for us, talent management is not just about the top players, it encompasses everyone else, too. And that said, we always try to implement policies that are pro-retention across the board.

“During COVID we elected to apply our strategies inwardly. I’m happy to say that we were able to emerge from lockdown without having had to retrench any of our own staff. At the core of 21st Century is a people-centric approach to the pillars of HR. There is far more to Human Resources than simply employing people. Solid HR and remuneration practices must be engineered to serve both the organisation and its people. And all along, that is what 21st Century has set out to do”.

To find out more about 21st century’s comprehensive HR consultancy services, visit


About 21st Century:

21st Century is one of the largest Remuneration and HR consultancies in Africa, with a team of more than 60 skilled specialists, servicing over 1700 clients – including non-profit organisations, unlisted companies, government, parastatals and over two thirds of the companies listed on the JSE. 21st Century offers effective business planning with KPA and strategic planning reviews, creative reward practise modelling, operating modelling, change, stakeholder and culture management, training courses and comprehensive organisational development plans. 21st Century continues to offer solutions via virtual channels during the lockdown period. 

In this volatile and uncertain environment, the way of working is changing dramatically. There are new – and often unprecedented – challenges that require businesses to plan rapidly and take decisive and immediate action. 21st Century offers a Resilience Audit assessing businesses during COVID-19 for their sustainability, offering these businesses tailor made solutions and developing new remuneration structures and performance measurement systems, as well as helping with managing organisational changes within the business.