LIBERTY CORPORATE: Expert Opinions: Edition July / September 2019


Next level for employee benefits

Companies that take better care of employees also perform better in

business. Linda Schroeder, divisional director for corporate sales and

servicing at Liberty Corporate, explains what her group is doing.

Schroeder . . . extended services

People magazine, partnering with research and consulting firm Great Place to Work, has found companies that scored highest in being attentive to their employees made four times the revenue than those that were neglectful of their workers.

The highest scorers in leadership effectiveness made five times the revenue than those that didn’t, according to People. Companies that sought employee opinions and prioritised worker opportunities to innovate made 5,5 times more.

Liberty has conducted research of its own and arrives at the same conclusion. Based on our research, we found that smaller and medium-sized companies (SMEs) struggle to attract good talent and then retain them when it is competing against bigger companies with deeper pockets. We’ve used our research to re-orient our employee benefits for addressing this need.

Our research shows companies that take better care of employees suffer less absenteeism, improved productivity and greater company loyalty. Taking better care of employees does not necessarily mean paying them more.

SMEs battle to compete with larger companies in the area of employee benefits due to lack of resources. Their human-resource divisions are generally small and under-resourced. Also, they lack the scale to compete in terms of staff facilities such as canteens and gyms.

One of the biggest issues facing SMEs is the call from employees for company loans because their wages are insufficient to cover their expenses. Rather than being a sign that employees are not being paid enough, the demand for month-end loans suggests bad financial planning.

Employee benefits have become a highly-commoditized offering built around investments, umbrella funds, consulting services and risk protection such as death, disability and dread disease cover. This is the standard employee benefits package.

Though employees are the beneficiaries, the purchasers of these packages are employers. Sales teams from benefits providers tailor their sales pitches to the language of those who make the companies’ financial decisions.

Measured by the number of participating employers, Liberty operates South Africa’s largest umbrella fund for SMEs. An umbrella fund is established to accommodate individual companies who are not related to one another. Their assets are held in sub-funds of the umbrella fund.

Liberty decided to differentiate itself by looking at employee benefits as a life journey. One of the key elements missing from traditional employee benefits offerings is education. Liberty launched the “Mind my Money” programme to fill this gap.

It involves educating employees on the basics of financial planning, such as how to understand their pay slips, how to file tax returns, monthly budgeting and the importance of drafting a will.

Experience shows that employees properly educated in financial basics are more likely to live within their means, pay down debt and accumulate savings.

We help employees understand their credit ratings, and how to improve them. This may seem like an obvious thing that everyone should understand. But in truth it is poorly understood, potentially creating huge problems for employees and their families.

We have also identified the need to provide assistance to members during life events and have teamed up with an external professional service provider to provide our members, their spouses and their dependents under age 21 with much-needed telephonic assistance. These services are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in the member’s language of choice.

The professional counsellors are trained in a range of disciplines such as legal advice, emergency medical information and trauma assistance. Included are body repatriation and emergency ambulance services. When responsible for the overall wellbeing of employees, it’s essential to offer guidance and advice through a wide range of different areas.

Liberty would like to partner with employers to ensure that they look after the wellbeing of their employees. This will not only enrich the lives of employees in their organizations but will improve their bottom lines.