It used to be that employees received a health plan, retirement fund, 15 days annual leave and perhaps even a 13th cheque as benefits. But then companies like Google started to pop up. These companies strayed from the norm. They offered their employees more tangible, more immediate, benefits.
For Google specifically, these benefits include the likes of free lunches, dinners and snacks, subsidized massages, gyms, doctors, and free laundry machines. Coffee giant Starbucks promotes a work-life balance with recreational sports leagues, foreign language clubs, and resources for parents. Netflix employees don’t have to take leave, because there are no leave days – workers are free to come and go as they please.
The average employer might find these benefits ridiculous, but these types of benefits are finding their way into South African companies. This is especially true for the creative and digital industries, where attitudes and atmospheres are more relaxed.
Does this trend mean the end of so-called traditional benefits?
Generation Y vs The Rest of the World
Generation Y, those in their 20’s and early 30’s, experience and treat life differently than their parents. They want more from life and that does not necessarily mean more money. In the work environment specifically, it means freedom, balance between work and life, doing something meaningful, and the opportunity to be creative.
This attitude is changing the way the office works, and a big part of the reason behind the change in benefits companies offer. Partly because it’s what Generation Y wants, and partly because some employers fall within the upper ranges of Generation Y themselves.
That all said, The Global Workforce Insights Quarterly Report, released in the fourth quarter of 2013, revealed that there is an increased demand for health and retirements benefits, as well as vacation benefits.
These findings indicate that even Generation Y still attach some value to traditional benefits. One could argue that rising living costs is a contributing factor. The average person cannot afford to pay for medical costs out of pocket. Medical aid as a benefit makes even more sense when the employer contributes to the monthly premium.
High living costs could be increasing the demand for retirement benefits too. Anyone that’s struggling to support themselves right now, in their prime, is likely to worry about their ability to do the same once they’ve stopped earning a salary.
It seems then that it is not the end for traditional benefits just yet. But how do business owners and company executives decide which benefits to offer?
The people who’ll be making use of the benefits offered by a company are the employees. So it makes sense to ask them what they want. Survey staff and have them rank benefits in terms of importance.
Keep in mind that the benefit package offered should still be viable for the business. A start-up, for instance, might not be able to offer free lunches as requested by staff.
Should staff ask for medical aid or pension funds like the global average, don’t automatically turn to the biggest providers out there. Rather investigate all available pension funds and medical aids in South Africa to ensure that you get the best deal.
Benefits should never only benefit one party – it should be a win-win situation.