CHRO Dinner: Talking Black Friday, retirement and financial literacy

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CHROs discussed how best to create an environment where employees are financially savvy and shared solutions on how to keep the already strained workforce out of debt.

This week, HR leaders gathered at Aurum restaurant at The Leonardo for an intimate dinner to discuss retirement, financial literacy and how to create better lasting legacies for their workforce.

The dinner was hosted by CHRO South Africa in partnership with Old Mutual Corporate. 

Before guests explored the topic further, it was necessary to discuss to Black Friday. CHRO South Africa community manager Sungula Nkabinde kicked off the night with an icebreaker asking attendees “What do you have your eye on for Black Friday?”

Answers ranged from simple things, such as getting great savings on toilet paper and groceries, purchasing a new Christmas tree, buying new Le Creuset pots, to bigger purchases like a motorbike and best deal to go off grid and avoid the loadshedding blues.

What soon became very clear though is that there is very little disposable income for most households and not many people have savings for a rainy day or adequately prepare for retirement.

Financial (un)wellness

According to a recently published study, 94 percent of employees will retire with inadequate funds to sustain them during retirement.

A harsh but very accurate reality, explained one attendee, is the financial turmoil that the country is going through and consequently many employees are facing high levels of indebtedness.

“We have a real challenge with the level of indebtedness, especially our so-called blue collar colleagues. We realised that our workers were getting themselves into all sorts of debts - including with loan sharks. We took a holistic approach to wellness but provided a medley of solutions to create financial wellbeing for our staff. For instance we offer practical solutions in the form of loans to get out of the debt spiral but attached to that will be enrollment to financial wellness programmes and coaching,” one CHRO said.

“I believe that financial wellness is linked to mental wellness. We’ve seen that when people are not able to provide or feed their children, that takes a very big toll on them,” the CHRO added.

Another HR leader highlighted that it is not just the blue collar colleagues who are over-indebted, but members of the C-suite are also susceptible to the same debt issues.

“We’ve also had executives who are in the same position. Honestly it is about how one relates to money and that sometimes requires a behaviour change.” It is a vicious cycle if not attended to, said another, and can lead to bigger problems such as employees dying penniless and their families have nothing or having no savings for retirement.

Changing the face of retirement

One attendee highlighted that there is a changing face of retirement with the younger generation not necessarily believing in the traditional approach. “There is a younger generation who are tech savvy and actually go out and find better suited retirement options. Of course there are those who also believe that GenZ don’’t believe in it at all and live for the now.”

Another, however, explained “We have the privilege to create solutions for the entire workforce and in the same breath help many create a better future for themselves and their families.”

“I think as people of colour, being placed in positions where we're able to affect and improve the quality of lives of South Africans, is an incredible privilege.”

True to their nature, the CHROs brought the conversation back to people. “Somehow in all our existence, there was an intervention, whether it was a teacher or your first boss, that came to you and spoke about money matters - it changed the trajectory of our lives. We ought to do the same on an even better scale.”

The night ended with everyone agreeing strongly to make real changes in how well people understand money and get ready for retirement at their workplaces. They promised to help all employees, knowing how important they are in making sure the future is safer and smarter for everyone in the company. They all accepted that they have a big role in making this happen and are eager to do so.

Those in attendance were:

Abey Kgotle, Executive Director Human Resources, Mercedes Benz South Africa
Bess Skosana, Regional Talent Leader, MTN
Blessing Utete, Managing Executive: Old Mutual Corporate Consultants, Old Mutual
Bongani Phakathi, Executive Human Resources and Public Affairs, Assore
Humphrey Mkwebu, General Manager: Employee Benefits Solutions, Old Mutual
Kgaogelo Letsebe, Senior Writer, CHRO South Africa
Tebogo Rakubu, Manager: Public Affairs & Sustainability, Old Mutual
Mandisa Seleoane, HR Director, Isanti Glass
Sungula Nkabinde, Community Manager, CHRO South Africa
Thembi Mbengashe-Mazibuko, Chief People Officer, PicknPay
Vinolia Singh, Chief People Officer, Adcorp

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