Not surprisingly, the insecurity about the future of the global economy is affecting employers’ benefits offerings. According to a recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), uneven economic growth and related uncertainties about the nation’s fiscal health are having an impact on benefits offerings.
As fewer employers offer defined-benefit pension plans and more are using other savings plans, they continue to shift more of the cost burden to their employees. Other benefits offerings that have taken a hit include employee services, like mentoring programs and professional development opportunities, and housing and relocation benefits.
Employers are watching their bottom lines more attentively, and the variety of benefits offerings has changed with slow-growth. In 2011, 77 percent of HR professionals said their employee benefits offerings were negatively affected by the economy, according to the SHRM 2011 Employee Benefits Research Report. That is a 5 percent increase from 72 percent in 2010. Employers have kept the foundational benefits of paid holidays, life insurance, prescription drug program coverage and dental insurance, while reducing other health-care-related offerings such as long-term care insurance, health maintenance organization plans and retiree health coverage.
The most interesting aspect of these results is the effect on job satisfaction. In both 2009 and 2010, 60 percent of respondents cited benefits as a “very important” factor when ranking elements that contribute to their job satisfaction. That trend changed in 2011, only 53 percent of respondents cited benefits as very important for job satisfaction. Other factors deemed more significant were job security (62 percent), opportunities to use skills/abilities (60 percent), compensation/pay (59 percent) and relationship with immediate supervisor (55 percent).
Because employees are receiving fewer offerings or paying more for benefits, they are valuing other aspects of their jobs more. We believe strongly that as the world economies recover, employers will bring back their various benefits offerings. They will have to, if they want to win over the best talent. The real winners will be skilled talent. Employers will get creative in tailoring benefits offerings to these valued individuals. Employers adding the most value will attract the top talent.