With Benefits Cuts, Business Looks for Ways to Compete

A new survey we released today at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 63rd Annual Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas shows that 77 percent of human resource professionals said the poor economy has negatively impacted employee benefits. But this survey of 600 HR professionals that examines nearly 300 benefits – SHRM’s 2011 Employee Benefits Research Report – also found that organizations have found creative ways to compensate for the loss of those benefits.

Among those is an increase in workplace flexibility benefits, with more than half of companies (53 percent) providing flextime, up from 49 percent in 2010. Twenty percent of companies surveyed offer full-time telecommuting.

One story I often share about how to help move organizations forward with these kinds of benefits comes from someone who worked for a large computer sales and manufacturing company and had tried for years to sell upper management on workplace flexibility benefits. His case focused on the fact that it would increase employee job satisfaction. But when he changed his approach to showing management the financial benefit – flexible schedules, telework and hoteling could empty an entire building of employees that they could then lease for millions – workplace flexibility became much more appealing to the employer.

Among other trends found in the survey:

  • Sixty percent of organizations provide wellness programs - and although wellness programs help control health care costs, that percentage has remained stagnant since 2008.
  • Organizations have significantly cut housing and relocation benefits in the past five years. Temporary relocation benefits dropped to 25 percent this year from 42 percent in 2007, while location visit assistance dropped to 18 percent from 40 percent in 2007.
  • Six percent of organizations allow employees to bring pets to work; one percent allow employees to bring babies to work

--Mark J. Schmit is SHRM’s Director of Research.

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