How affordable is offering attractive employee benefits for SA businesses?

FNB's Elize Giese says many employers have the mistaken belief that employee benefits are out of reach.

Elize Giese, CEO of Employee Benefits at FNB, says that while the majority of South African businesses recognise the need to offer a comprehensive employee benefits and retirement savings offering to their employees, many still don’t.

While the reasons for this vary from employer to employer, the main one appears to be a mistaken belief that employee benefits schemes are difficult to set up, time-consuming to administer and expensive to run. “But this is not the case”, she says.

When ensuring that employee benefit programmes work for businesses of all sizes, including smaller ones, Elize says the first step is simplicity. “Many business owners see employee benefits as complex and expensive. We are very focussed on simplifying our solutions, making them easy to understand and accessible so that more South Africans can benefit from these solutions.”

In discussing clients’ needs with them, FNB found that approximately 70% of them don’t currently have formal retirement funds in place.

The gains for HR

Elize acknowledges that many HR managers may be concerned about the time it takes to implement and manage an employee benefits programme. “For instance, one client expressed that they have two dedicated people in their HR team that only work on employee benefits related queries from employees. If we can make it easier for a business to support these benefits, we will be freeing up their time, creating capacity in their team and essentially saving the business money.”

One of the solutions they have devised has been integrating employee benefits solutions into the bank’s digital platforms so that they can be managed online. “To ensure reduced queries from staff, we have done a great deal of work to make all the information visible to the employees themselves,” explains Elize. “We want people to have access to information and knowledge about their benefits. They need to understand how these fit into their financial planning so that they make better financial decisions for their future and the future of their families.”

Elize says it is important to adopt a mindset that enables HR teams to focus on people and not have to worry about administration, asserting that, “HR professionals have a vital role to play in any business and they should spend time on the things that matter instead of answering queries that can be avoided.”

From a recruitment perspective, employee benefits have also been shown to attract and retain key staff which will reduce recruitment time for the HR teams. “We have found that employees often ask about benefits in the recruitment process and take this into consideration when selecting and assessing a future employer,” says Elize.

These benefits not only have a financial impact on the employee, but are also an indicator of the company culture and importance that is placed on the wellbeing of employees. “People want to work for companies who care about them,” she says.

Benefits fit for today

Elize says the current environment has required her team to think more laterally about how they can provide benefits to staff while adapting to the economic situation and needs of clients. “We therefore provide flexible solutions to cater for the needs of the employer and employees. The solutions could include a retirement fund, risk solutions and/or savings solutions.”

She says employers may prefer a savings solution at the moment, which will help and encourage the discipline of saving, but notes that, “South Africans have a poor saving culture and anything we can do to help people with saving, understanding the importance of savings and how this can benefit them and their families in the long term, is a goal for us.”