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It’s a good time for advisers to assess offerings

24 March 2022 Myra Knoesen

COVID-19 has changed the entire landscape for benefits, compensation, wellness, diversity and more.

If your clients are considering revamping their fitness and wellness benefits for 2022, what is it that they need to know?

FAnews spoke to Nashalin Portrag, Head of FundsAtWork at Momentum Corporate about the top corporate wellness trends for 2022, the employee value proposition and product development in a post-COVID-19 world.

Employee benefits in 2022

“We know what a powerful tool a compelling employee value proposition (EVP) is for companies to attract and retain top talent, and that employee benefits (EB) are a key component of the EVP. We also know that the world of work is changing and that younger generations of employees have different needs,” he said. 

“Research by Momentum Corporate shows that when employees feel appreciated and protected by their employer when they see how their benefits improve their lives, engagement levels increase. They become more productive and more invested in the business succeeding – in effect becoming strategic enablers of the business’s success,” he added. 

“Many businesses were resilient and survived the initial onslaught of the pandemic. Now they need to renew and reinvent in a world of rising unpredictability, in which adapting, and innovating are essential components to take them forward, from resilience to recovery and renewal,” continued Portrag. 

“Therefore, it is a good time for financial advisers and employers to assess the employee benefit offering they offer to employees. The aim of the reassessment should be to find the optimum balance between providing appropriate and relevant benefits and affordability,” he emphasised. 

Vaccination and employee wellness is key

“Encouraging employees to vaccinate will help to improve the claims experience on insurance benefits such as death and disability benefits, which in turn will lead to better premium rates and of course, save lives,” he said. 

“Employers and financial advisers should keep a close on eye on disability benefits with potential long COVID claims that are expected to rise. Employee mental illness is on the rise because employees are under severe pressure. Adapting to the new working environment, dealing with continued fear of infection as new coronavirus variants emerge, and job insecurity are just some of the stressors that have been plaguing employees. Further, remote working environments present new risks that, if not managed, will undermine employee productivity and accelerate the rise in musculoskeletal-related disability claims. This is because many makeshift home offices are unergonomic, affecting tendons, ligaments, joints, nerves and intravertebral discs. It is important that financial advisers raise this issue with their corporate clients, and encourage them to take proactive, preventative actions to reduce these risks. The global increase in computer work is coinciding with an increased prevalence in work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Even before COVID-19 and the move to remote working, musculoskeletal disabilities were one of Momentum Corporate’s top three disability claims,” stated Portrag. 

“The utilisation of telehealth services increased especially during the various waves and this trend can be expected to continue. This makes Employee Assistant Programmes (EAP) a driver of change within the employee benefits sector since the programmes enable the wellbeing of employees and ensure good mental and psychological wellbeing of employees,” he added. 

Retirement fund relief options

Many businesses, according to Portrag, started experiencing financial pressure when the initial lockdown period was announced last year. “To alleviate the financial pressure on businesses several employers opted to make use of the retirement fund contribution relief options provided by their retirement funds, which negatively impacted members’ retirement outcomes.” 

“In South Africa, with a poor savings culture and poor retirement outcomes pre-COVID, it is important to make sure members increase their contribution rates or consider additional voluntary contributions to close the gap created. Ensuring that employees have sufficient short-term savings in place so that they do not have to rely on accessing their retirement saving when they change jobs will also enable better retirement outcomes,” he continued. 

Employee experience post-2020

As COVID-19 continues to reshape our world, Portrag said employee resilience, well-being and engagement are becoming strategic imperatives for business leaders to protect their organisations against future crises and to remain sustainably successful amid unrelenting change and uncertainty. 

Momentum Corporate’s research highlights the severe impact of the pandemic, with nearly all the businesses surveyed having to revise business and operational strategies due to the pandemic, and a third experiencing major disruption and retrenchment. A key insight emerging from the research is the increasing importance of employee resilience and engagement in the new world of work. 

“Resilient employees tend to be more capable of dealing with change and are at lower risk of burnout, resulting in better physical and mental well-being. It stands to reason that a critical mass of resilient and engaged employees translates into a more resilient organisation, which is better positioned to overcome future challenges, survive crises and remain successful on a sustainable basis. Building an enabling culture in which employees understand and identify with the organisation’s purpose and feel empowered to manage all aspects of their personal health and well-being – mental, physical, emotional and financial – is a key part of building employee resilience,” he said. 

“Businesses may also want to rethink their employee value proposition (EVP), including employee benefits. Momentum Corporate’s research insights highlight the need for a far more holistic approach to the EVP (which incorporates EB), one that considers the well-being and changing needs of employees and their families over the employee’s working lifetime. The right combination of EVP and EB offerings helps employees to deal with distracting stressors and, in doing so, boosts employee resilience, well-being and engagement. It’s no longer simply about offering employees a competitive remuneration and benefits package but rather a proposition that considers work-life balance, work-life fusion, and the health and well-being of employees and their families. When businesses get this right, they reap the many rewards of resilient employees and a resilient, successful business,” he added. 

A word to advisers

“There is much that still needs to be understood about the true impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workplace, but what is already clear is the need for more wellness initiatives, increased employee support and easy-to-understand benefit education to empower employees to make good health and financial choices,” continued Portrag. 

“A partnership between the employer, their group financial adviser and the product provider where data analytics and insights are leveraged to inform the employee benefits solutions required to address employees’ real needs is crucial. For this reason, financial advisers need to engage with a strategic partner, rather than just a product provider or supplier. A strategic partner should also support financial advisers and their clients with relevant, practical information about the challenges that employees experience in a changing world of work and provide solutions that talk to the heart and not the organogram,” he concluded. 

Writer’s Thoughts
As Portrag mentioned, financial advisers should partner with providers who will listen closely through deep engagement and then ensure that, together, they co-craft solutions that will ultimately deliver on the objectives the employer has for their employees. Post COVID-19, has your value proposition changed? Please comment below, interact with us on Twitter at @fanews_online or email me your thoughts – [email protected]

 

 

 

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