U.S. Employers Rate "Retention" As the Top Benefits Objective

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U.S. Employers Rate "Retention" As the Top Benefits Objective


According to the recent fifth annual MetLife study of Employee Benefits Trends, employee retention is the top benefits objective among employers, edging out controlling costs for the first time since the study's inception. Employee retention was identified as the most important benefits objective by more than half (55%) of employers overall. Certain industries such as retail (62%) and services (59%) were even more likely to place importance on workplace benefits as a retention strategy.

In 2003, less than half of employers acknowledged employee retention as a primary goal. In an environment where 40% of employees say they have changed employers at least once in the last five years, there is growing recognition of the need to create benefits plans that address the struggle to recruit and retain employees.


The study also reveals a strong correlation between benefits satisfaction and job satisfaction. Among employees who are "highly satisfied" with their benefits, 80% indicated strong job satisfaction, up from 65% in last year's study. Seven out of 10 (72%) surveyed employees say workplace benefits were a reason for joining their current employer and 83% say it is a factor for remaining there.

Employees at different life stages weigh workplace benefits differently in their decision-making process to take a new position. Nearly one-third (32%) of married employees and 41% of young families (parents with children under six-years-old) stated that workplace benefits were a top consideration for joining their current employers, while only 10% of singles agreed it was a top consideration for them.

"While employee retention is a major benefits objective for employers, controlling costs is a close second. The strong relationship between benefits satisfaction and job satisfaction indicates that there is more pressure than ever on employers to strike this balance and utilize benefits strategically to achieve both objectives," says Ronald Leopold, MetLife vice president, institutional business.

While baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are often discussed collectively, young boomers (those age 50 and younger) are also facing many of the same issues as Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1976).

As a result, at times they have concerns more closely aligned with their younger colleagues. For example:

o Sixty-four percent of younger baby boomers and 60% of Gen Xers are very concerned about having enough money to make ends meet compared to 58% of older baby boomers.

o Approximately seven out of 10 Gen Xers and young boomers vs. six out of 10 older boomers are concerned about having enough money to pay bills during a period of sudden income loss.

o Both Gen Xers and young boomers are also very similar in terms of seeking financial advice.

Approximately half of Gen Xers (51%) and young boomers (48%) say they do not consult with anyone regarding their personal finances contrasted to about one-third (30%) of employees 21 to 30 years old.

In addition, both groups are alike when it comes to valuing family time. More than half of Gen Xers (54%) and young boomers (51%) rated having more time to spend with their families as very important, while 43% of older boomers and 38% of Gen Yers (age 21 to 30) agreed. They are also at a life stage where taking care of aging parents and relatives is becoming a worry. Almost half (45%) of Gen Xers and young boomers said they were very concerned.

The workplace is an important source for obtaining financial protection and other products for both Gen Xers and young boomers. For more than half of Gen Xers (56%) and 45% of young boomers, the workplace is the primary source for obtaining products.

To obtain a copy of the 5th annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends, visit the website http://whymetlife.com/trendspr.


Turning Adversity into Advantage

As a student of history, and military history in particular, Richard Martin, president of the management consulting firm Alcera Consulting Inc., has been impressed with the ability of leaders that can bounce back from almost any difficulty or adversity. This is also true in the fields of sports, politics and business.

"In some ways," Mr. Martin writes, "great leaders are also great survivors. They often thrive on chaos and adversity. No adversity seems too great to prevent them from finding some advantage. While I certainly don't believe in deliberately creating difficulty, there are nonetheless some principles that you can apply to turn adversity to your advantage."

He offers eights steps for how a leader can turn adversity into advantage:

1. Keep things in perspective. Things are rarely so bad -- or so good for that matter -- as they appear initially. I'm not talking about tragedy and death, but rather the day-to-day mundane events that seem to create setbacks for mere mortals but that great leaders thrive on. If you are facing adversity it is probably because you are pushing yourself and your organization to achieve greater goals. This is a good thing.

2. Keep the big picture in view. The military has institutionalized this idea by giving every commander at every level a second-in-command. This way, the commander can focus on leading the troops and keeping his eye on the enemy and the evolving situation, while the deputy takes care of administrative manners and the "rear area." How many civilian organizations do this? My assessment is not many, and they would surely be more effective and, yes, even more efficient if they did so. An added benefit is that the deputy can replace the boss in some circumstances, thereby giving a chance for much needed rest and recuperation during difficult times.

3. Stay calm and don't overreact. When I was on the staff of the Royal Military College of Canada, one of my colleagues was a naval officer. One of his favorite principles of leadership was expressed thus: "The sailors get nervous when their officers start running." This is a very succinct way to say that leaders should project calm and resolve no matter what the situation, lest they unnerve those they are leading. Judging by his demeanor, I think my friend had learned the value of that principle first hand. I certainly did as a young military officer.

4. Build on core values and beliefs. U.S. airline JetBlue had a major crisis in February 2007 when operating management made poor decisions about how to manage flights and passenger relations during a major ice storm on the Eastern seaboard. David G. Neeleman, the founder and CEO of the airline, apologized to the airline's customers and promised to compensate them in the future for the same type of incident. Up to then, the low-cost airline had had a reputation for excellent customer service and Mr. Neeleman didn't want to jeopardize that. He has created a "Passenger Bill of Rights" that promises to compensate passengers for such inconveniences in the future and company employees were mobilized en masse afterwards to contact passengers inconvenienced by the debacle. This kind of leadership by the CEO could only come about because Mr. Neeleman focused on the core values and beliefs of the company and took them seriously. Only time will tell if JetBlue can recover from the crisis, but at least the company has a roadmap with its core values and principles as signposts.

5. When in doubt, go with your gut. My observation of dozens of senior military officers and other high-level leaders is that they all trust their instincts and are highly intuitive decision-makers. When all is said and done, reason can only take you so far in your decision-making. Information is never perfect in any case, especially when faced with adversity. Intuition is simply an inner knowing that comes from years of practice and reflection on a particular subject. Great leaders usually have well-developed intuition because they have so much experience and are used to considering the emotional aspects of a problem in their decision-making. Even more important though, is that they listen to the little voice that tells them that something is wrong or is good and they act on it.

6. Build on lucky breaks. Uber-consultant Alan Weiss says it is sometimes better to be lucky than good. I have found this to be very true. When I was commanding a peacekeeping force in Bosnia, I sometimes had my troops set up vehicle check points to control movement and to check for illegal weapons and smuggling. One day, we set up some checkpoints and the UN resident envoy congratulated me for my excellent use of a decoy tactic to quell an incipient demonstration by local military personnel, which could easily have turned into rioting and looting. His information network had obviously tweaked him to something I had been unaware of. I let him and everyone else in my area of responsibility believe that my tactic was intentional. That lucky stroke contributed to our credibility by sowing the idea that we knew everything that was happening in the area. Afterwards, representatives of the international community were also more forthcoming in providing us with information because they believed we would act on it to keep the civil peace.

7. Communicate and lead with emotion. In May 1940, Britain faced its most trying circumstances of the Second World War. Winston Churchill gave an address to the nation. His words? "I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat, toil and tears." In a series of stirring speeches over the weeks and months of that difficult summer, he appealed to the emotions of Britons and rallied them using the values and beliefs they held dear as a people. He didn't sugarcoat the situation and because of that he was able to create an overarching sense of purpose and mission to their struggle. Had he simply listed the balance of forces it might have demoralized the people. Instead he made them truly believe that Britain was a beacon of hope and right for the oppressed peoples of Europe and that they would come to their defense.

8. Reinforce success and build on strengths. In war and in other adversarial endeavors such as sports and politics, victory can only come from relentlessly using one's strengths against the opponent's weaknesses. No country ever won a war by focusing on defense. No sports team ever won a championship by focusing on their own weaknesses. No politician ever won office by admitting to his or her weaknesses. We may not like that, but that's the way the world works. You may think I'm only looking at adversarial situations, but the same principle applies to business and economics. Peter Drucker is widely credited with the concept that managers should build on strengths rather than constantly attempting to correct weaknesses. He believed and taught this over many decades but many managers still focus on the negative side of life rather than the positive side. In economic terms, this is known as comparative advantage and it is the fundamental logic underpinning international commerce and free trade.

"As a manager and a leader, the next time you are faced with a difficult situation, make a commitment to apply these principles. Even if you can't do it well the first time, persistence will pay off. It will allow you to build resilience in yourself and your organization, and it will also contribute to making you a much more inspiring and effective leader."

For more information about Richard Martin and Alcera Consulting, visit the website http://www.alcera.ca/.


Making Employees Feel Good During Tough Times

According to consultant and training coach Linda Talley, some people believe we are experiencing an economic downturn. Some believe we are facing a crisis regarding safety, security and the threat of terrorism. These issues, as well as others, will affect anyone. It's difficult not to take on the burdens of the world, especially when you read about it daily, listen to it on the TV and radio and talk about it with friends or co-workers.

"So how can you make your employees feel good during tough or difficult times? I always say, begin with an acknowledgment circle," writes Ms. Talley. "This is something you can do with your staff that will change the focus from the external to the internal and will change how staff relates to each other. Instead of letting external pressures determine how staff relates, the acknowledgment circle builds bridges among the staff to develop a stronger personal foundation for everyone."

Whenever Ms. Talley is called in to deal with difficult situations in an office, many times she begins with an acknowledgment circle. If you are experiencing any of the following situations, the circle may be just what you and your staff need, too:

1. High staff turnover.

2. Low staff morale.

3. Turf issues.

4. Feeling of dull, boring, routines.

5. Money becomes the No. 1 issue.

6. Staff is feeling isolated and alienated.

7. Staff are not connecting, innovating and synergizing.

8. Focus is problem-oriented vs. solution-oriented.

An acknowledgment circle is easy to do. Begin to do it daily and then as you see changes, move to a weekly and then monthly format. To begin, bring your staff together in a circle. You, as the leader, begin by acknowledging someone else in the circle. Then that person acknowledges another person and you go around the circle until everyone has been acknowledged. You might even see some tears in some people's eyes as they connect at the heart level rather than the head.

If you're still wondering if you should do an acknowledgment circle, here are some reasons to help you decide.

1. It brings passion, excitement and energy to the people in the circle, then to the entire circle and then to the entire workplace.

2. It motivates better than money.

3. It brings people together openly and honestly.

4. It reveals an inner truth about someone, which they always live up to.

5. It teaches the staff to tell the truth.

6. It teaches the staff to keep their words to themselves.

7. It teaches the staff to look for the good even in the midst of "bad."

For more information about Linda Talley, visit her website at http://www.lindatalley.com/.


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