“War for talent” has employers ramping up employee benefits: survey

June 15, 2011

If there’s a silver lining to be had following the financial crisis that shook the global economy in 2008, it’s this: more employers are feeling increasingly responsible for the fate of their employees — and that’s translating to more comprehensive employee benefit plans, a new survey finds.

The downside? Nearly 60 percent of the employers polled say most of their employees fail to take advantage of the resources available to them.

“The disconnect we’re seeing today… is that despite the fact that employers are making financial education and advice programs available to employees, many employees do not engage in these programs because they do not find the information relevant enough to them personally,” says Andy Sieg, head of retirement services for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which commissioned the survey.

Despite the fragile economic recovery and high jobless rate, the labor market is in a so-called “war for talent,” Sieg says. In fact, a recent report from the American Society for Training and Development found that by 2015, 60 percent of all new jobs will require skills held by only 20 percent of the population. Add in the fact that two out of three employees at big companies are looking for the exit sign, Deloitte reports, and there’s legitimate reason for employers to be jittery about losing top talent. As a result, workplaces are ramping up efforts to not only attract younger employees, but to retain older employees for a longer period of time.

Among the efforts underway:

  • 50 percent of employers surveyed offer flexible or customized work schedules
  • 33 percent are implementing retirement and healthcare education
  • 22 percent are giving employees the chance to work remotely
  • 21 percent are offering extended benefits to older workers

With Social Security worries plaguing Americans, employers are beginning to recognize the need for a workplace benefits program that goes beyond the standard auto-enrollment plan.

“Employers are supplementing this with advice and services that help their employees do a number of things: plan for retirement, pay for and understand healthcare, and understand their investments, stock options or equities plan,” says David Tyrie, managing director, head of personal retirement services at Bank of America.

Seventy-eight percent of employers say they will likely enhance their defined contribution plan, 74 percent say they will focus on their flexible savings accounts (FSA), and 58 percent say they will improve their non-qualified deferred compensation plans, among other measures.

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