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  The Herman Trend Alert

November 19, 2008

Protecting Perks in a Downturn

In spite of the drastic effects of the economy on the labor market with announced workforce reductions up 30 percent, a surprising majority of companies (66.7 percent) have chosen to preserve their employee perks. Ten percent of those employers said they had considered trimming perks, but decided to leave them at current levels.

Despite their need to reduce their expenses, almost 55 percent still plan to distribute year-end bonus checks this year (2008). Only 20 percent of the companies surveyed said they had cut or eliminated perks to contain costs. At the same time, 35 percent reported they had to cut these extras to save jobs.

These findings were part of a recent survey of employers, conducted by one of the leading global outplacement firms, Challenger, Gray & Christmas last month.

According to the Challenger survey, 50 percent of companies reported having awarded year-end bonuses last year (2007). A mere 4 percent said they planned to decrease the levels of bonus checks, while 23 percent said bonuses will be approximately the same as 2007. One could also conclude from these data that a surprising 22 percent of employers actually plan to increase their bonuses.

The destabilized economy has led to major reductions in force. According to Challenger's estimates, through September 2008, employers have announced plans to cut a total of over 750,000 jobs. Yet in spite of the softer economy, another survey conducted by a business research firm in Arlington, Virginia and ADP, the payroll provider, found that 34 percent of their respondents reported "recruitment and retention" as their top priority.

Looking at the findings from both of these studies, we can infer that a large percentage of employers understand the value talented workers provide to the organization. They know that if they do not take care of their employees during this difficult time, when the economy improves, those employees might leave.

Wise employers will hunker down and engage their associates to help them streamline processes, market smarter, and cut expenses. They will continue to resist reducing bonuses and perks, because they know the future dangers and choose to think long-term.


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