Having looked at the global factors shaping our world, how these are impacting on the South African context, the issues that will determine how successfully we respond to change, and how we can find creative solutions to providing benefits that matter, we now turn our attention to what it is that employers can do. What offerings can they provide to ensure that both employer and employee derive significant value from benefits that will make a real difference?
Increasingly, employees are looking to employers to provide support in balancing their roles as employees, citizens and family members. While financial rewards are still important, there’s a greater expectation for employers to be more directly involved in the overall well-being of their employees. In this section, we consider some areas where employers may offer innovative benefit solutions that start to address this concept of overall well-being – financial and otherwise. More importantly, we see these five innovative concepts as providing win-win solutions for both the employer and the employee.
If we see housing as a building block for wealth creation, with home ownership playing an important role in both social mobility and social protection, it stands to reason that funding to acquire this important asset should take priority. Looking at the housing and funding options in South Africa, it’s clear that while renting, buying and building all have a role to play in solving our housing problem, the current financial advisory framework does not cover these holistically. We propose that an alternative advisory solution is required if the problem is to be resolved adequately.
In our discussion on the cost of commuting, we consider the impact of transport costs on employees. In South Africa, largely owing to the country’s history and the apartheid legacy of forced geographical segregation, it’s usually people in low-wage, low-productivity jobs who are faced with long – and costly – commutes. We see how employees’ costs of travel, modes of travel and time spent commuting have major implications for workplace productivity and overall financial wellbeing. We then present an agenda for action that suggests how policymakers, government and employers can start to address these challenges.
The best benefits packages will need to accommodate the constantly shifting requirements and wants of employees – and their families – at different phases of their lives. In rethinking the concept of employee benefits within the employee well-being framework, we start with perhaps the most important investment of all: early childhood learning. We see how an early investment in child development yields the highest return and, with this in mind, present some options and benefits for employers to invest in workplace-based early learning centres. Such programmes go beyond the ‘traditional’ benefits framework to encompass the individual’s family in the overall benefit offering – with significant results.
Staying with learning, we then address a critical need identified in a changing world of work: the need for new learning tools that will put skills development ‘on steroids’ and help us leapfrog a massive skills gap to equip employees and organisations for the future. Modern organisations will implement the technologies and infrastructure that enable people to learn, from the ‘Netflix of learning’ – learning from every source – to creating career-specific learning paths for different role types. The way we learn, and accredit learning, will change, and we will be better for it.
We end this section by looking at the benefits that will matter to us when we’re ready to start planning for a better ending, and propose that employers can still add value at this stage of our lives by presenting us with a new framework for making financial decisions at retirement. We put forward a three-phase retirement roadmap that can help navigate the complexity of retirement, from being an active retiree with options for a second career, to slowing down and, finally, requiring frail care.
The pay-off for providing advice on funding for this next phase of life is so significant that employers should consider adding this service to their array of employee benefits as a last, and considerably valuable, life-planning tool.