by Nomha Kumalo


Future-proofing your business demands a major re-think on employee benefits, writes Nomha Kumalo, Managing Executive at MMI Holdings (Corporate and Public Sector)


The workplace is changing radically and managers need an equally radical change in their thinking about how to motivate and retain their best employees.

There is a combustible generational mix building up in most workforces. Older staff are living longer and seeking to retire later. Younger staff, stereotypically, are impatient and disinterested in conventional career paths.

Those in between can easily feel trapped and by-passed.

In this messy context, the best always seem to seek new pastures while the rest remain behind and productivity declines. One of the key staff retention and motivational tools for companies should be their employee benefits packages but the conventional EB models often are ineffective in this changing environment and can even be counter-productive. A new approach is required.

The first step is to abandon collectivisation. Don’t lump employees into Gen Y, Gen X or Gen Anything Else. As far as possible, treat them as individuals and deliver benefits that really matter to them personally and then communicate those benefits in relevant and clear ways.

The second step is to understand the financial wellness eco-system. A business’s financial wellness is dependent on the wellness of the employees within it. Healthy, engaged, financially stable employees are less likely to be absent, and, when they are at work, they’re far more likely to be genuinely productive. So a successful, future-fit Employee Value Proposition (EVP) needs to properly address an employee’s health and financial wellness. This might involve upgrading to enable proper customisation of benefits at employee-level. This could add some upfront cost but it will deliver a positive outcome for the bottom line. The third step is to start using data properly. Enhancements in cloud based Human Capital Management software as well as tools like MMI’s Effective Employee Index allow employers to get a clear picture of their workforce so that service providers can construct tailor-made interventions and benefits.

An example is proper analysis of sick leave and health claim data.

Any marked spike in claims based on unnatural causes might suggest a work safety issue which demands an occupational health solution, while a growth in natural cause claims might indicate that more unhealthy people are being hired in the first place or that there is something in the demands being placed on staff that is leading to lost productivity.

Statistics suggest that one in four South Africans will experience a mental disorder in their lifetime. In this context an effective EVP can reduce anxiety and tackle the increasing phenomenon of ‘presenteeism’ where employees may be at work but, because of worries about their circumstances, are not engaged and effective.

The latest MMI/Unisa Consumer Financial Vulnerability Index shows that South Africans are in the Very Exposed category in terms of how they feel about their debt.The same survey also shows that the delivery of financial wellness education can have alleviate this stress and have a remarkable impact on productivity.

Another pillar of this is to constantly communicate existing benefits to employees– the benefit has no psychological benefit if it is not fully understood.

The overall goal for EB programmes must be to attract and retain the best staff and to motivate them to work optimally.

A bespoke blend of health, insurance, retirement and rewards benefits, properly informed by relevant data, is needed to produce the employees who will deliver that outcome.

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