Friday, July 29, 2011

It's 2011: Do You Know Where Your Benefits Are?

Sometimes, you get things by a circuitous route. In this case, The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) did a study about benefits that used to be somewhat prevalent that have largely disappeared. US News & World Report then did an article about the study. And, Employee Benefit News (EBN) saw it and wrote about it.

Now, you get to see it from me, with my sometimes unique take on it.

How many of these benefits do you think SHRM found that have faded into oblivion? 3? 5? 10? 15? Actually, they found 21 of them. And, employers wonder why morale is low. The frightening thing is that some of these benefits were low-cost or even no-cost. Yet, they are largely gone.

For those of you who like lists (SOA exam takers should be familiar), here they are:

  • Traditional pension plans
  • Retiree health care coverage
  • Long-term care insurance
  • HMOs
  • Paid family leave
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Dependent life
  • Incentive bonus plans
  • Contraceptive coverage
  • Casual dress day
  • Legal assistance
  • Sports team sponsorship
  • Executive club memberships
  • Relocation benefits
  • Help purchasing a home
  • Travel perqs
  • The company picnic
  • Company purchased tickets
  • Take your child to work day
At the EBN web site, there is a place to comment at the bottom of the article. One such comment came from an individual who identified herself as Julie A. She said, in pertinent part, "Also, these were the kinds of things we offered to employees when we cared about employee loyalty. Those days are long gone--from both the employee and the company perspective."

So, there you have it, companies don't care about employee loyalty. It shows. Do you know where it shows? It shows in customer service. And, do you know where that shows? It shows in the bottom line.

Consider two companies in similar businesses. Let's call them Delightful and Arrogant, respectively. Delightful, like many of its competitors, has gone through difficult times. But, Delightful believes strongly in both its core business and its employees. It has cut some benefits, but views that keeping its employees engaged and happy will pay dividends in the long run. Arrogant has also gone through tough times. But, Arrogant has a different solution. Arrogant is going to cut expenses bare to the bone, especially in the areas of employee benefits and compensation. They feel strongly that they are so special that revenues will be able to increase while they make their employees unhappy.

Arrogant has a long term client called Loyal. In fact, Loyal, over time, has become Arrogant's single largest client. The Arrogant team servicing Loyal has gone through lots of turnover. Those remaining on the Arrogant team feel overworked and underappreciated. One Friday afternoon, the Arrogant employee who serves as the Account Manager gets a call from a key executive at Loyal. Being burnt out from his horrible week at Arrogant, he elects to ignore the call and figures he will check voice mail on Sunday evening and see what's going on.

In the meantime, the Loyal executive remembers that Delightful has been calling on her. As she really needs an answer to her question, she decides to call her Delightful contact. When he hears his phone ringing at 4:55 PM on Friday, he answers the phone and hears the Loyal executive. Her question is difficult, but she says the matter is urgent. He asks her if she would be available to discuss this any time on Saturday. They agree to a time, he does his research, and when they speak, the Loyal executive is thrilled to have an answer.

The first of the next month, the Arrogant Account Manager and the Delightful Account Manager, among others receive a Request for Proposal (RFP) from the Loyal executive. In fact, she has already determined that Arrogant will not be retaining the business. In the end, Arrogant loses a $50 million per year account and Delightful gains one.

The moral of the story: treat your employees well and it will reflect in the marketplace. Treat your employees poorly and so will they treat your clients. Would you rather spend a little bit more and make a lot more, or would you rather spend a little bit less and make a lot less? You make the call!


  1. Looks like investment in employee development and engagement does pay off - wonder how long it will take companies taking the Arrogant approach to realize this? I suspect it may be too late for some...

  2. Anonymous, you seem to have the same name as many of my readers. In any event, thanks for reading and commenting. And, please refer your friends and co-workers to my blog.