Guy Chennells, Head: Product, Discovery Employee Benefits
In the US, which is well known for being a front runner in global trends, we can see starkly the incredible revolution of hybrid working. While the hybrid work trend spiked during COVID, it has stabilised since then at a level 20% above its pre-COVID levels (about 30% of days worked at home by employees).
One thing is clear, for those who can work remotely (and their roles do not require them to physically be in the office), hybrid is here to stay. Yet even where the norm is to come into the office, the ability now exists for someone to work from home when family responsibilities would otherwise have left them and their employer with no good options.
All this additional latitude in terms of ways of working should make holding onto talent easier. Unfortunately for South African firms, other trends, also triggered to an extent by the pandemic, are working against this goal of sourcing and retaining talent. Just two of those trends are the “consumer conundrum” and the “brain drain”.
The consumer conundrum
Inflation due to rising import costs as the Rand slides, rising fuel costs, additional costs and compounded hassles because of load shedding, rising crime and declining municipal effectiveness, are just some of the current issues affecting daily life in South Africa.
Employers experience these issues in the form of good employees leaving in favour of small pay rises elsewhere and to access their pensions. Companies are also noticing a decline in performance as the psychosocial and financial pressures of life overwhelm the mere mortals (not machines) who need to be on top form every day, and suicides or mental sickness are ripping holes into the team fabric where they occur.
The brain drain
Amongst the professional class in particular, the delicate balance between quality of life and family support versus the green grass of perceived safe and stable societies overseas, has tipped over for many. According to a survey conducted by the Social Research Foundation in July 2022, over half (53%) of South Africa’s university graduates and biggest earners are considering emigrating.
In a separate survey of 300 participants conducted by InfoQuest, 5% of respondents indicated that they have already applied for residency in another country, have been accepted and will emigrate soon. A further 14% said they are seriously considering emigrating and have made inquiries or submitted applications.
The realisation in all of this is that people these days will make difficult career and emigration decisions for their families and futures. And many of those who cannot, are reaching a breaking point.
Work from home, and other tools
Employers need to consider a multi-pronged approach to their employee value propositions that make staying in the company, and indeed in the country, the most attractive and sustainable option for them.
Work from home is one solution and can be used in different work contexts to make challenging lives more manageable for employees. If the holistic wellbeing of the employee is an outcome which employers have in mind when calibrating their hybrid work policies, this can be a very powerful tool.
This can be complemented by support programmes which further assist employees to navigate (and sometimes to survive) the complex psychosocial and financial dynamics of their lives.
Finally, one area of low hanging fruit is employee benefits. Employers can reclaim their employee benefits programmes from the fringes of their employee value propositions (EVP), and use new, rewarding and engaging programmes to enrich their EVPs. This will add materially to the overall equation for individuals needing to decide whether to stay with their existing employer and in the country, usually without needing to spend another cent.