Tag Archives: Employee Benefits

If They Want Cake…

data point tuesday_500

I was reading the results of the recent Making Smart Benefit Choices survey of workers by Mercer and was struck by the confluence of societal issues that are impacting the choices workers are making today.  The key insights from the survey results are these:

  • Workers desire benefits with a decidedly short-term benefit over those with longer-term value
  • Employers need to ramp up their workforce education efforts regarding balancing short- and long-term benefit choices

Employers are not Marie Antoinette.  “Let them eat cake” cannot be an appropriate response when surveys show that cake would be a more popular benefit than, say, fruit or broccoli.  (Mayor  Bloomberg’s foray into the regulation of food options notwithstanding.)

So in the age of disappearing and underfunded defined pension plans and the very real specter of a bankrupt Social Security system in the US (and similar situations in most developed nations), what are the responsibilities of employers to their employees when considering changes in benefit plans?  How much should employers take into account their employees’ preferences for short-term gain over long-term value?

It’s interesting to note this survey’s results.  In part, respondents were asked about their preferences in a trade-off (conjoint) analysis that allowed Mercer to rank 13 core benefits.  A salary increase of $500 was used as the benchmark variable against which to measure how benefits are valued by workers.  Here is the chart with the results:

Mercer Making Smart Benefit Choices 2

I’m fascinated that after a $500 salary increase, the next choice is one week of paid time off.  This certainly synchs with the data that SHRM and the Families and Work Institute are publishing that more flexibility over time is becoming a cultural imperative – and the financial value of a week off is greater than $500 if you’re making more than $26,000 per year.

But given the state of retirement benefits, Social Security, and the general lack of preparedness of the workforce for retirement, the short term focus of the respondents is arresting.

But then again, we live in a business world that measures organization success quarter by quarter, rather than year by year or through business cycles.  We live in a political world that brings the economy to “fiscal cliffs” with some regularity.  We live in a society that appears to value now in ways that leave us unprepared for tomorrow.

So I guess it really shouldn’t surprise us that workers focus on now rather than tomorrow even though an additional $500 402(k) increase would have much greater value over time.  What’s an employer to do in all good conscience?  Give more paid time off or ensure a little more retirement stability?  Give more paid time off or reduce employees’ share of health care costs?

This is a tough one with which HR and Benefits leaders in organizations of all sizes are wrestling.  Employers surely want benefits packages that attract and retain their best and brightest talent.  Employers surely want their employees to be better prepared for an uncertain financial future.  It seems as if these may be in conflict, based on this survey’s results.  So how to decide?

“Let them eat cake” is one way to go:  continue the focus on now and leave the future to the business and policy and political leaders of the future.

I think I’d rather use some of today’s resources to educate my workforce so that they’re making truly educated choices.  I think I’d rather use some of today’s influence to begin to leave behind the now focus for a future focus that might ensure a little more sustainability all around.

While I love cake – especially the chocolate kind – I think that employers have a responsibility to the economy and to the future as well as to the workforce.  What about you?  Are you a cake or a broccoli professional?

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Filed under China Gorman, Connecting Dots, Employee Benefits, Families and Work Institute, HR, Mercer, PTO, SHRM, Sustainability, Workflex

Data Analytics: Too Sophisticated for HR?

Mercer and WorldatWork have collaborated again on a survey and report about current total rewards/compensation trends in metrics and analytics.  The focus of the research was to understand what types of analytics are currently being conducted and what technologies are being used to conduct them.

It’s an interesting report – especially from the vantage point of what it says about the relationship between HR and data and HR and analytics.  The survey was fielded in February, 2012 to compensation leaders who are WorldatWork members (the dataset held 560 scrubbed responses , a final 10.9% response rate), so they all have more than a passing knowledge of the total rewards function.

The big takeaways of the survey data are that:

  • Rather than use sophisticated analytical approaches like projections, simulations and predictive modeling to support decision making, organizations are more likely to use ongoing reports and benchmarking from internal and external peer groups.
  • Survey respondents report lack of access to and confidence in data regarding education competencies/capabilities and training investments – critical to workforce analytics.
  • Compensation professionals may be falling behind their colleagues in other HR functional areas in their adoption of more sophisticated analytics methodologies.

The report discusses why adoption of more powerful analytics is low despite 67% of respondents indicating adequate skill levels to engage in higher level analytics and almost half (47%) having 1 -2 FTEs tasked with HR-related analytics.  More important, 75% of the respondents reported that C-suite executives in their organizations have asked for workforce projections, simulations or predictive modeling.

Mercer and WorldatWork point out that while respondents report that some data is not available or of poor quality, 75% of respondents say their organizations are working to improve the consistency of their data. Paradoxically, 52% are unclear where responsibility for data integrity lies.

I found it interesting that the researchers suggest that “unavailable” data may result from a lack of interest in the data rather than an ability to access it.  A compelling point.

From the responses outlined in the exhibit above, one could readily agree with the researchers that critical workforce information about education, competencies, prior work experience and investments in training aren’t top of mind for compensation professionals. It could easily be that compensation professionals believe these datasets and their analysis more naturally belong to other HR functions:  learning/development and talent management/acquisition.

The writers argue that rewards/compensation professionals have a preoccupation with the behavioral side of rewards and overlook the “asset side” – the impact of rewards on the ability of the organization to acquire appropriate talent.

The bottom line for the researchers is to encourage rewards/compensation professionals to begin to think more expansively – and use higher levels of analytics – on the role of rewards in driving human capital development and business success and focus a little less on salary competitiveness and pay-performance sensitivity as performance drivers.

A very interesting report and very useful data as you begin to plan your 2013 budget.  Stepping up your workforce analytics sophistication could be a game changer for your organization.

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Filed under C-suite, China Gorman, Employee Benefits, Engagement, HR Analytics, HR Data, HR Technology, Mercer, Rewards & Recognition, Talent Management, Total Rewards, WorldatWork

Data Point #9: Employer Loyalty Isn’t Dead? Wait. What?

MetLife published its 10th Annual Study of Employee Benefit Trends on March 19th, 2012.  At 80 pages, it’s a read.  But it’s a fascinating read.

The report shows clearly that the strong role of workplace benefits in driving employee attraction, retention and productivity continues as reported by these MetLife studies during the last 10 years and persists today during the slow economic recovery.  Interestingly, the study correlates satisfaction with benefits to employee job satisfaction, and also shows clearly that employees who are dissatisfied with their benefits are more likely to want to work somewhere else.

The data are fascinating.  And I recommend the investment of 30 minutes to read it through.

The data point that I found most interesting in the study follows:

I haven’t seen anyone discuss employer loyalty to employees in a long time.  I think I assumed, by looking at other trends, that the issue of employer loyalty was long dead.  Building employee loyalty, however, was a whole other discussion:  we call it employee engagement.  And employers are starting to pay attention to this issue because of the rapid shift in workforce demographics coming down on us like a load of bricks. (See my posts on this topic here and here.)

But where has been the focus on employer engagement? Have we all assumed that employer loyalty is dead and gone forever?  That employees “know the score” and don’t expect employers to be loyal to them?  Well, MetLife reports that between 2008 and 2011 employer loyalty scores have increased 5% from 52% to 59%!  Wait.  What?

In the same time period, however, the perception by employees that their employers are loyal to them has decreased 8% from 40% to 32%.  How pitiful is that?  Employers think they’re doing better, but employees aren’t getting the message.  And in fact, more of them aren’t getting the message as time goes on.

I think this is interesting.  Despite all the attention being paid to employee engagement – through salary, through benefits, through recognition, through providing strong ethical cultures, through providing meaningful and interesting work — in fact, the study finds evidence of a widening disconnect between employers and employees.

Job insecurity and expectations that benefits will be cut may well be contributing to employees feeling less important to their employers.  This “loyalty gap” presents an immediate opportunity for HR and C-Suite leaders to really step up communication and feedback about their increased loyalty.  Of course, the proof is in the pudding, and for employees to believe that their employer is growing more loyal to them, they are going to have to see a change in behavior – if they stick around long enough.

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Filed under China Gorman, Culture, Demographics, Employee Benefits, Employee Loyalty, Employer Loyalty, Engagement, MetLife, Talent pipeline, Uncategorized