HR Elements January 2014
Ideas and Information for Human Resources Professionals
 Employee Recruiting

Benefits Used to Attract, but Not Retain Employees

As the economy slowly improves, and employees begin to gain the upper hand in terms of job opportunities, employers are again trying to lure the best talent with top-notch benefits.  If a job prospect is being courted by two companies, then as long as the salaries are equal it often comes down to the "perks" of working for one company over the other.

That being said, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), those very same benefits that attracted a new hire are seldom used to retain high-performing employees.  Furthermore, those benefits may have changed and several major topics have emerged as being more important.  For example, flexible work arrangements and a wellness-oriented approached to employee health care dominate the wants of younger employees.

Alex Alonso, SHRM's vice president of research, said that many HR professionals recognize the importance of flexible work schedules to the millennial generation.  He further noted that flexible work schedules were a more valuable factor in recruiting top talent than in prior years.

The reason wellness-oriented health care has risen to prominence is that a greater number of employees are becoming more health conscious.  In addition, employers are pushing more of the costs of health care onto the employees themselves so it becomes more cost-effective to be sick less often.

Not surprisingly, as companies try to one-up each other for the best and brightest employees, there will always be something to tempt an employee to "jump ship" and work for another company with more and/or better benefits.
Human Resource departments will need to find ways to measure the return on investment (ROI) of their company's benefits and weigh the pros and cons of adding or improving them in order to retain superior workers. The cost of such a gain or loss in the quality of a company's workforce could be much more than the cost of the benefit.



Electronic Disclosure of HR Documents

As technology improves, and a generation of younger professionals starts populating the workforce, the desire to go "paperless" for everything in business becomes a driving force.  We can see it now in terms of the number of emails, blogs, websites, and other forms of electronic communications that have replaced more traditional forms of paper communications.

Human Resources departments are equally affected by the change and have adapted many of their benefit plan notices to be distributed to employees electronically.  It's far easier and faster to send information to an employee electronically, which is why it has become the preferred method.  However, paper communications are still the preferred method from a regulatory agency perspective.

While it's true that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) does permit certain documents to be communicated electronically, employers need to tread carefully when doing so.  According to an article in Employee Benefit News, employers can distribute many plan communications electronically, including summary plan descriptions, open enrollment materials, summaries of material modification, COBRA and HIPAA notices, and even the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  Still, the rules for electronic distribution are different depending on whether employees have work-related computer access. The primary difference is the requirement of obtaining consent.

Something all HR professionals should consider, however, is a recent survey conducted by Jellyvision about benefits communications.  It revealed that almost a third of employees prefer direct, one-on-one communications with HR while only 19% prefer direct mail and fewer still -- 17% -- said that they prefer email or website notices.  That same survey found that of the employers surveyed, they most frequently use non-interactive, text-based formats for communicating benefits information.  At 62.5%, email led that type of communication followed by websites at 53.5%, and direct mail at 52.8%.

The crucial thing is to know your audience.  If, as a company, you have employees who prefer electronic communications to deliver their HR notices and you have any needed consent from the employees to do so, then go ahead.  Otherwise, any HR department would be wise to continue using paper documents as that will lead to less confusion among employees.


 Employee Relations

Co-Worker Relationships More Important Than Supervisor Relationships

As an employee, we tend to be more engaged at work if we like the people we work with rather than the people we work for.  According to a survey from TINYpulse, relationships among co-workers are more responsible for their happiness than their managerial relationships by 23.3%!

These co-worker interactions, it seems, are not centered on being the same as each other.  You don't need to have the same problems, your kids don't need to play on the same team, and you don't need to go to the same place of worship.  What you do need to have, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), are the traits of team play and collaboration.  These proved to be far more desirable than knowledge and skills.

"This shows that who you work with is becoming more important than who you work for," said David Niu, founder and CEO of TINYpulse.  "We often think of employee happiness and satisfaction as being manager-driven, but now as the workplace becomes more cross-matrixed, collaborative and 'bottom-up,' the importance of co-worker relationships continues to grow."

All these working relations aside, the absolute most important factor of employee engagement is management transparency.  According to the survey by TINYpulse, workers are demanding transparency in their leadership including roles, responsibilities, and values as well as their company's missions and strategies.

Whether you're a C-level manager or a supervisor who is further down the ladder, it costs virtually nothing to improve your level of transparency.  How high your employees value this factor will vary, but what remains constant is the improvement in trust that's fostered and the advantage in employee productivity and retention.


Coordinated Benefits Company

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 In This Edition


Wisdom Workplace Webinar
What You May Not Know About Vision

Thur., Jan. 23 -- 2:00 p.m. ET

Looking for ways to build a better benefits package? Join Patrick McClelland, vice president of U.S. Commercial Accounts of VSP® Vision Care to learn how adding a vision plan can help you improve satisfaction and productivity while lowering health care costs.

  • Why a vision plan is critical for employees of every age
  • The pre-tax savings for employees
  • How to minimize employee paid out-of-pocket costs as shown in national pricing research
  • Results from a study revealing the positive return from an investment in vision exams
  • How to evaluate vision plans, including what's not on the spreadsheet

Patrick McClelland, vice president of U.S. Commercial Accounts for VSP® Vision Care, the world's largest managed care company with over 60 million members. Pat has been helping companies of all sizes and industries build strategic benefit packages for nearly 20 years.

Employer Webinar Series
Current Developments With Health Care Reform

Tue., Feb. 11 - 2:00 p.m. ET

The health marketplaces/ exchanges have enrolled many individuals, but are not without problems. Lawsuits continue to be filed about different provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and a number of bills have been introduced in Congress to modify the law. Meanwhile, the regulatory agencies continue to release clarifications and new regulations.

To help you remain up-to-date with employer obligations and opportunities as PPACA continues to evolve, in this 90-minute, intermediate-level webinar we will discuss:

  • The logistics of the marketplaces and the challenges of choosing insurance, enrolling through the marketplace, and accessing health care
  • Issues currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court
  • Pending legislation
  • Recent regulatory guidance and clarifications

Kathleen R. Barrow is a Shareholder in the Rapid City, South Dakota office of Jackson Lewis P.C.  She has designed welfare benefit plans and executive compensation arrangements, and has counseled sponsors and administrators of these types of plans, for 15 years.  She is a member of the Jackson Lewis Health Care Reform Task Force.

Contact your Partner Firm to register or to learn more about these webinars!

 In Brief

Despite the best intentions of retirement plan sponsors, 24% of Americans report that they have borrowed against or took early distribution from their retirement plans in the past three years, according to recent data from Purchasing Power. The research finds that respondents are using their retirement funds to pay for everyday needs. These expenses include mortgage, rent and utilities (37%), medical expenses (24%), college tuition and expenses (22%) and credit card debt (22%). Big-ticket items, such as appliances, electronics and computers, are even taking a bite out of retirement funds, with 18% of respondents saying they've dipped into their plans to make these purchases.

U.S. cities and towns won't be required to provide health insurance for volunteer firefighters, a reprieve from
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) rules that fire departments had said would be financially devastating. Volunteer emergency workers will be made exempt from a requirement that employers with more than 50 workers provide health coverage to those putting in at least 30 hours a week, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a January 10 blog post. That employer mandate, which takes effect in 2015, is part of PPACA.

Starting next September, women at increased risk for breast cancer will be able to get some drugs shown to help prevent the disease without a copay, the Obama administration said Thursday. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended last September that clinicians give medications such as tamoxifen or raloxifene to such women to reduce their risk of the disease. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), items or services rated A or B by the independent review board of physicians and academics must be covered by insurers without a copay or deductible. Insurers are given a year to make the change.

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