More Employers Report Leveraging Benefits to Attract Top Talent

The sluggish economic recovery is getting curiouser and curiouser. While real wages have pretty much remained stubbornly stagnant, with no significant advances for wage earners since 1964, human resources workers across the country are also reporting that competition for talent is heating up. In fact, according to the recently-released 2015 Society for Human Resources Management Strategic Benefit Survey, 4 in 10 HR professionals report that their organizations were having a hard time recruiting workers for all levels in the organization.

For highly-skilled positions, it was even tougher to attract talent: More than half of those surveyed (55 percent) reported that they had difficulty recruiting high-skill workers.

To deal with the increasingly competitive market for new talent, about 38 percent of all those surveyed reported that their organizations leveraged their benefits in order to recruit employees at all levels of the organization. Again, that figure represents a significant increase over 2012 (29 percent) and 2013 (26 percent).

“While the competition for talented workers has heated up, there has been little change in base salaries. So HR has strategically turned to benefits to attract – and keep – skilled professionals,” said Evren Esen, director of SHRM’s survey programs, in a statement. “From unlimited vacation to unusual perks such as electric car charging stations, companies are using benefits to set themselves apart from the competition.”

Health Care Benefits are Key                                                                                          

Two out of three human resources professionals surveyed expected health care benefits would become increasingly important as a recruiting and retention tool for employees at all levels over the next three to five years. More than half also expected the same for retirement benefits, flexible working hours, career development benefits, and of course direct cash compensation.

Survey respondents reported that, on average, their organizations were paying 76 percent of employees’ total health care premiums. However, 46 percent also reported that the percentage their employees paid had increased over the past year.

“Health care is the benefit mostly highly valued by employees,” Esen continued. “Maintaining coverage is an effective tool for recruitment and retention. In coming years, retirement savings, compensation, flexible work and career development also will play increasingly important roles in recruiting strategies.”

42 percent of those surveyed also expected wellness and preventative health benefits would also become more important. That’s down substantially compared to 2014’s results, when 63 percent of those surveyed expected wellness benefits to become more important when it came to recruiting hard-to-land talent. About two-thirds of those surveyed reported their organization provides a wellness program of some sort as an employee benefit.

Only one out of five expected a substantial increase in the role of family-friendly benefits – a big decrease compared to the years 2014 and 2015 (50 percent and 47 percent, respectively.)

The figures comprised HR professionals from a cross-section of industries.

The survey was based on 461 HR professionals who responded, from a randomly-selected SHRM membership sample in May and June 2015. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 5%.

The Strategic Benefit Survey is a follow up to the annual Society of Human Resource Management Employee Benefits Survey, which, among other things, found that one employer in three was strengthening its employee benefits package over the 12 months ending in March 2015 – a significant increase from the 28 percent that reported increasing benefits the year prior. In contrast, only 7 percent of employers reported they were rolling back employer-sponsored benefits for their workers.

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