Leading in a time of crisis: tapping into our shared humanity
17 Mar, 2023

Dumo Mbethe, CEO – Momentum Corporate

Also watch the video on EBnet Video

The cost of living has been rising steadily over the past few years, and this has made it difficult for many employees to make ends meet. Pandemics, loadshedding, European conflicts, unemployment, grey listing – there is seemingly no end to the economic hardships experienced of everyday South Africans.

As business leaders, it is important to understand how these challenges impact your employees and find ways to help them find the strength to overcome. People aren’t just part of your business – they are the very heart of it. Looking after them provides a solid foundation for your success.

As a business that understands that ‘The success of your people is your business’, Momentum Corporate recently hosted a panel of leaders both within its own stable and beyond to unpack what it means to lead in a time of crisis.

Understanding the impact of our crises

Starting with Momentum Corporate CEO, Dumo Mbethe, the conversation began with an important acknowledgement. “We have to know that we don’t have all the answers. There is no user manual for the challenges we face, but within and among us lie the answers – and that means tapping into the experiences of those around us.”

Mbethe made it a point that leaders absolutely have to prioritise the human experience. “Many businesses in many industries can find it too easy to be the smartest, or the most technologically advanced, but the one thing that connects us all is our humanity. As leaders we have to prioritise humanity, and always acknowledge and live by this core principle.”

Mbethe said that Momentum Corporate research had found that at least 30% of employees in businesses across the country are not feeling engaged, and that is bad for business outcomes. “People are worried about themselves and their families and many of them have lost incomes. These pressures are real and prevalent and we need to make sure there is an awareness in those we lead that there are channels available to help them.”

He refers to channels, like many employee benefits schemes provide, like Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), which can play a crucial role in helping employees overcome the challenges life throws at them.

However, Mbethe said the risk of burnout is real – not just for employees, but for leaders as well. “The reality is that the adrenaline levels of the crises have gone, and now we have to centre people on a clear vision and strategy about where we want to see ourselves. We need to give people something to look forward to – a dream they can relate to and connect with. This leads to the next important topic of conversation.

The mental toll of the current times is real

Tackling the issue of mental wellness, Elna Van Wyk, National Head of Disability Claims and Technical Underwriting at Momentum Corporate was more than willing to speak for those feeling the full weight of these trying times.

“If you are going through hell just keep going – sometimes small steps and sometimes bigger steps but you need to keep moving,” said Van Wyk. “You can’t go through such crises and expect things to remain the same, but tomorrow we can always try again.”

Van Wyk said leaders have to remember pressures of the workplace can cascade in various ways. “It is clear that retrenchments have an impact on people whose colleagues have been affected by it. It impacts on motivation and workforces can start to become negative towards their jobs.”

She continued, “Even though companies are proud to do more with less, it is vital that we stay conscious of the struggles that employees are going through.”

Van Wyk said Momentum Corporate are seeing a significant uptick in the use of their mental health benefits. For her, this means that leaders need to understand their position relative to their employees and have the strength to endure. “Always stay in touch with where you are. No matter how busy things are, know where you, who you are, and have the strength to just be,” said Van Wyk.

But sometimes endurance is simply not enough, people need solutions to their problems in the now

People are powerless and need solutions

“As leaders, being there and providing support provides the energy that people need. Use the tools and people that are there at your disposal,” said Tebogo Mphafudi, Business Development Manager of Pension-Backed Home Loans at Momentum Corporate.

“People are not coping. They are desperate and are clutching at anything that will help. It is no longer requests for assistance, but rather pleas for help.”

For him, employees need the right financial advice and support. Many employee benefits schemes have financial advice facilities to take advantage of. “As a leader, it is important to note that you can offer financial advice that helps your employees find the right solutions to their problems.”

One challenge that has left all South Africans literally powerless is the ongoing energy crisis. There is no end to load shedding in sight and Mphafudi said many employees are simply unaware of the tools they are able to tap into. One of these is a pension-backed home loan.

A pension-backed home loan is the perfect example of financial advice that most employees don’t even know about. “This is a unique financial product that allows employees to use their retirement savings to secure a home loan and install some alternative energy solutions.”

He said this can be an attractive option for employees who may not have enough savings for a down payment. “Coming from a leader, that advice could be life changing. And if the benefits are there, it’s in your interest to ensure that your employees take advantage of all your organisation provides them.”

From one crisis to another, Mbethe was able to convey that this world is hard to predict, but taking care of each other and tapping into our shared humanity is the only way to thrive on our journey to success. “The success of people should always be our business and as leaders, sometimes those people are our employees, and sometimes they are ourselves. True strength lies in knowing where to find the balance between the two.”

 

ENDS

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@Dumo Mbethe
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