From: Matthew Brodsky [email@example.com]
To: Cyril Tuohy [firstname.lastname@example.org]
CC: Human Resources
Subject: Forget Benefits ... You Better Give Me My Motivation!
Don't fool yourself. The dilapidated state of the economy has given the American employer a white-knuckled grip over its minions and indentured servants. All this talk about the job market turning around, about demand overtaking supply, about employees retaking power over the hiring process, is complete consultantspeak.
So is the line that HR consultants have fed us over the last few years: that benefits packages are key to retain and attract top talent.
Employees, top and bottom, care about one thing: better give them their money! We are not a barter society. We consume. And to consume iPads and BMWs, steak dinners and trips on Walt Disney cruises with the kiddies, we need money. Our credit cards are maxed, so cash only please.
Let's be honest. Healthcare benefits aren't an attraction for most employees. They are a ruse. They are the excuse that the employer gives for a measly 3.5 percent raise (if you're lucky). I'd dare posit that most workers don't even notice their healthcare benefits, unless something medically horrific happens or their employer really downgrades its package?say, by offering a high-high-deductible plan as the only option.
Like I said before, the employer is king in the current climate. Most likely, in a country where the boss makes 1,001 times the salary of the company peon, and 13.5 million people are reporting themselves unemployed, the employer will remain king.
That doesn't mean, however, that the employer cannot make us feel good at our jobs and motivate us. I recently had the honor of attending a "think tank" on the virtual workforce put on by the Disability Management Employers Coalition. Among other things, we discussed ways to motivate the remote worker. Turns out, like many things with the virtual workforce, motivation is pretty similar to the unvirtual, chained-to-a-cube workforce.
If you the employer wants to motivate an employee--without giving them their money!--the top ways include giving them a sense of control over their work, making them feel a part of the team, and providing them opportunities for growth and career development.
From: Cyril Tuohy [email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 6:02 PM
To: Matthew Brodsky [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Offering Good Benefits Now Even More Important
Face it: There's no way we're going to get healthcare costs under control, not a chance. The Obama administration's attempt to reform the system helps broaden coverage but does nothing to control costs.
That means healthcare costs are going to continue their inexorable climb--by single digits, double digits, whatever--it hardly matters anymore, does it? The point is they going up, and only up.
Who cares about signing bonuses and salary increases of 2 percent, 3 percent or even 4 percent when benefits are going up by 8 percent, 10 percent, and 12 percent?
If we're lucky, healthcare costs might plateau for a bit, if the exchanges work, and we're offered more options. Before long, however, costs will continue to go up.
So, where does that leave us? Right back to where we started: With employers and employees sharing the medical and dental bills through copays, subsidies and rebates, which is what we've been doing for the past 50 years.
That means that if employers want to attract talent, they are going to have to offer decent healthcare, come up with generous subsidies, or promote wellness and good health in the workplace. It's really the surest way for companies to retain good employees.
And they are going to need them.
In the wake of the Great Recession, baby boomers are going to stay in the workforce a bit longer than they anticipated, but once they leave, those workers are going to be doing so in droves.
Keep in mind that beginning this year, and continuing for about the next 18 years, 10,000 or so employees a month are reaching retirement age as the generation born between 1946 and 1964 moves out of the working years and into the retirement years.
How are employers going to hold on to them? Again, by offering a strong and competitive benefits package.
It's important, because employers will want senior workers to pass on their skills to the next generation of employees before the veterans exit the workforce for good.
In case there's any doubt about the continuing importance of offering a competitive benefits package, readers need only look at the correlation between successful companies and the benefits they offer employees.
With healthcare costs rising at a rate far above any salary increase, and with employees living longer than the preceding generation, the math is fairly simple.
In the end, it's better to stay healthy through good benefits than raking in outsized compensation only to have to disappear in a sinkhole of medical costs.
(Editor's note: CYRIL TUOHY is managing editor of Risk & Insurance®. MATTHEW BRODSKY is senior editor/Web editor. This is a fictionalized and fun e-mail exchange, an argument no doubt that they've had in various department meetings or at the 19th hole.)
June 1, 2011
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