Despite two recent interest rate cuts, the economic situation in South Africa and the world remains the toughest in decades. But with professional assistance, employees and employers can weather the storm and emerge on the other side stronger and more resilient.
Business leaders worldwide recognise the fact that motivated and enthusiastic employees are not only a company's greatest asset, but also a key strategic component of sustainable success.
Motivated and enthusiastic employees are more productive and innovative. They are more capable, go the extra mile cheerfully and can contribute creatively to the growth of the company by identifying problems, coming up with clever solutions and actively contributing to the success of the company as valuable team members.
In the current strained economic climate, with widespread retrenchments and increasing business failures and liquidations, motivated and enthusiastic employees are even more important. Companies face many challenges, including higher costs and reduced turnover, and more than ever need enthusiastic, innovative team members who will creatively contribute to the company's ability to survive, and even thrive, in these difficult times.
Yet, at the same time, the economic condition is taking its toll on individual employees, many of whom find themselves in financial dire straits. Personal bankruptcies have increased by 51% and real income growth measured a measly 0.2% in the third quarter of last year, which means wages are not keeping pace with inflation. And, despite the recent interest rate cuts, many employees remain heavily indebted. The national Income-to-Debt Ratio stands at around 80%, which means employees are spending R82 of every R100 they earn to repay debt.
The anxiety caused by financial stress has a massive impact on employee morale, on-the-job time utilisation and decision-making, and the result is that employers face reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and increased staff turnover, at a time when they most need a motivated and dedicated workforce.
So how can companies assist their employees, and simultaneously increase motivation, loyalty and productivity, to ensure the company's success in these difficult times?
"The answer lies in a comprehensive, cost-effective approach to employee wellness, incorporating interventions to address financial stress - one of the greatest stressors in South Africa today," says Martin Mc Laughlin, Director - Western Cape of Interface, a dynamic employee benefit schemes company which provides financial training and services to the employees of some of the leading corporates in South Africa.
Some of the biggest corporate in the country, including Deloitte, Discovery, Merseta, Dimension Data, Anglo Research, Astra Zeneca, Softline Pastel, Hatch, and KPMG, have implemented employee financial assistance programmes and have reaped the benefits of a workforce who are empowered to take control of their financial situation, and can therefore spend their working hours focusing not on their own financial problems, but on achieving the company's objectives and goals to survive this economic crisis.
"While Interface offers debt counseling and financial solutions on-site to employees to provide immediate solutions, the true benefit of the programme lies in its long-term, sustainable approach," explains Mc Laughlin. "An eight-week financial wellness training programme incorporating important aspects such as financial planning, budgeting, money and debt management, and much more, is backed up by ongoing email and SMS support, as well as financial advice and access to finance, to assist employees now and throughout their financial journey."
The Interface offering includes onsite consultations with individual employees, regular communications, training sessions, and ongoing telephonic and e-mail support, all custom-designed to match the company and its employees' exact requirements. Bi-annual reports allow the company to track the results of the programme, which can be seamlessly integrated with existing wellness programmes.
"A comprehensive employee financial assistance programme is a cost-effective way for companies to demonstrate a caring, proactive approach to their employees, to build employee loyalty, and to increase motivation, while simultaneously benefiting from increased productivity and staff morale, as well as reduced absenteeism and staff turnover," concludes Mc Laughlin.
Martin Mc Laughlin
Director Western Cape