Few employers leveraging benefits in recruitment

In an era of stagnant wages, you’d think that companies everywhere would rely on their benefits packages as a lure for new employees.

That’s apparently not the case, according to a survey of HR professionals by the Society of Human Resource Management.

“About one-quarter of employers use benefits as a recruiting tool,” said Alex Alonso, vice president of research for the group.

In other words, 75 percent aren’t using benefits in that way, although many organizations reported having difficulty recruiting and retaining employees.

That fact prompted SHRM to comment that, as many organizations are still recovering from the Great Recession, offering competitive salaries may not be a sustainable option. As an option, it said, organizations might want to consider using a “total rewards” approach and emphasize their benefits program to attract top talent.

Indeed.

The State of Employee Benefits in the Workplace Survey found that the most common benefits employers said they leveraged to their employees were health care (68 percent), retirement savings and planning (57 percent), flexible scheduling (43 percent), professional and career development (40 percent), family-friendly benefits (38 percent) and leave benefits (37 percent).

“Many HR professionals recognize the importance that workers in the millennial generation place on flexible work schedules,” Alonso said. “In fact, 55 percent of respondents noted flexible working benefits as a valuable factor in recruiting. That’s a significant increase from the 33 percent who did so a year ago.”

In addition, the survey of 441 randomly selected HR professionals found that 57 percent allow flexible work arrangements. A third said the number of employees taking advantage of flex scheduling has increased over 2012.

About half, 47 percent, said they monitor employees who use flex scheduling, up 9 percentage points from 2012.

Almost all of those surveyed, 83 percent, said they are very concerned about controlling health care costs. About the same percentage, 72 percent vs. 74 percent, said those costs increased this year as said so last year.

To that end, 24 percent said next year they planned to increase the employee share of health care costs, 21 percent said the would not do that and 55 percent were unsure. This year, 45 percent of companies said they increased the share employees pay for health care.

Another way employers try to control costs is by offering wellness education programs. Such initiatives were used by 45 percent, and 43 percent said participation in such programs had increased.

Most companies, 72 percent, are offering wellness programs and participation is up at 56 percent of employers, but whether they help control costs is unclear.

“More employees are taking advantage of wellness programs that their employers offer,” Alonso said, “but the challenge for employers remains in quantifying the impact of wellness programs. Fewer than three out of 10 organizations measure return on investment or cost savings associated with wellness programs.”

Despite the low number offering such programs, 71 percent of those that do so said they were very effective or somewhat effective in controlling costs. A high number, 84 percent, said they’d increase their investment in the programs if their impact could be better quantified.

More than half, 56 percent, offer wellness rewards or incentives, with 82 percent of that group calling them very effective or somewhat effective in encouraging participation. 

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