Poor Economy Affects Staff Benefits

Budget pressures force organizations to be more creative in their benefits options.

September 27, 2012

Companies have slashed their employee benefits budgets over the past three years due to the poor economy, causing employers to shift costs and decision-making to staff, according to “Employee Benefits Landscape in a Recovering Economy,” a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

More than three-fourths (77%) of employers say they’ve trimmed benefits since 2007 due to the poor economy, primarily health-care and retirement benefits, SHRM reports.

Other workplace benefits on the decline:

Pressure boosts creativity

Budget pressures have forced companies to be more creative in their efforts to recruit and retain employees, SHRM reports. More than half of survey respondents reported having difficulty finding skilled workers for certain job openings.

In response, employers continue to remodel their benefits plans, giving employees greater responsibility to manage their benefits.

A recent report by SHRM and the Families and Work Institute reveals that workplace flexibility has a positive impact on employees’ work-life experiences, leading to increased job satisfaction, lower turnover, and lower insurance costs.

“As opposed to a one-size-fits-all mandate for all employers, we support a new approach that reflects diverse employee needs and preferences, as well as differences among work environments, representation, industries, and organizational sizes,” SHRM reports. “This workplace flexibility policy should support employees in balancing their work, family, and personal obligations, and at the same time provide certainty, predictability, and stability to employers.”

As companies continue to shift benefits cost decision-making responsibility to employees, effective benefits communications become crucial.

“It is unreasonable for organizations to assume that employees are able to retain and understand elements of their entire benefits package from a distinct event, such as open enrollment or new-hire orientation,” according to SHRM. “Employers may need to develop a benefits communication approach that continues throughout the year. Continuous benefits communication can make it more likely that employees will value, understand, and use their benefits program.”

Other noteworthy findings from “Employee Benefits Landscape in a Recovering Economy” include: