The Herman Trend Alert|
September 6, 2006
Benefits Race is On Again
As the labor market continues to tighten, employers are becoming more competitive in their drive to attract qualified workers. They are equipping their recruiters with many of the weapons that were used to lure top talent in the late 1990s. One class of those weapons is employee benefits.
While some employers were dramatically reducing their benefits offerings to control costs, more strategic firms were redefining their packages and seeking ways to respond to emerging marketplace indicators. The emphasis, given the shift to new lifestyle management, is in the area of life-work balance.
A recent survey of 263 employers by JobKite reports that 147 of them have significantly increased benefits packages over the past six months. As reported in “Inside Recruiting,” published by Electronic Recruiting Exchange, the companies that increased benefits did so with the following tactics:
- Medical: 88 percent added health-related benefits, including life, vision, and better or increased health plans.
- Money: 69 percent have increased stock vesting, 401(k) funds, salary relative to market averages, sign-on bonuses, quarterly bonus plans, and/or relocation packages.
- Vacation: 41 percent are increasing the number of paid days off per year.
- Alternative working arrangements. Thirty-six percent are adding or enhancing flextime and/or telecommuting. One Fortune 1000 company says it launched a new telecommuting program on August 16, for example. Another has an informal telecommuting option to be used for unexpected events, and a formal program for modified or reduced work schedules. Only one-third of the employees using that program are men.
- Other: 8 percent plan to offer other miscellaneous benefits, including massages, monthly cookouts and gym memberships.”
These results are consistent with our ongoing research into recruitment and retention strategies. Many of the companies talking with us describe efforts to customize benefits, like those described above, in ways that address the needs and interests of individual applicants.
Some of the interest is also focused on portable benefits that the employee can take along to a new employer when making a job change. This capacity may seem counterproductive to retention, but actually helps build longer-term relationships with its move away from control and limitation.
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