Benefits Are Crucial Weapon in War for Talent

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By Genevieve Douglas

Dec. 1 — Employers are bolstering their benefits packages to give them an edge over competitors in today’s war for talent, according to research from the Society for Human Resource Management.

“We are seeing that employers are having some difficulty retaining employees,” Evren Esen, SHRM’s director of workforce analytics, told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 1. According to Esen, 25 percent of employers surveyed by SHRM in 2012 said they had difficulty competing for talent, compared with 34 percent in 2016.

This especially holds true for top talent, “so organizations are feeling the pinch when it comes to retention but also recruitment,” Esen said.

SHRM found that about one in five HR professionals (19 percent) said his or her organization had altered its benefits program to retain employees at all levels of the company over the past 12 months. HR professionals at high-tech companies were the most likely to have tweaked benefits programs to keep valuable employees, in comparison with other industries (25 percent versus 17 percent).

Employers have to be sure to communicate the availability of these benefits, however, SHRM found. According to survey respondents, just 14 percent of HR professionals indicated that employees are “very knowledgeable” about employer-sponsored benefits, and a little more than two-thirds (69 percent) said employees are “somewhat knowledgeable.”

The research is based on a survey of 738 HR professionals from a randomly selected sample of SHRM members throughout the U.S.

Benefits Employees Value

To gain the competitive advantage, employers should target benefits that employees value, Esen said. “Health care, retirement and leave benefits are all highly valued by employees, so bolstering these benefits could go a long way in recruiting new employees and retaining existing ones,” she said.

But employees increasingly also are asking for more creative benefits, Rod Adams, U.S. talent acquisition leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chicago, told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 1.

The key is for companies to use creativity in their benefits packages that really helps make their employees’ lives easier by reducing pressure and stress, Adams said. For example, PwC offers employees everything from company mobile phones to student debt repayment programs, he said.

Flexibility in how employees prefer to work has also been a huge piece of PwC’s efforts to stand out from other employers, Adams said. Flexible work “is a benefit that has been created in PwC’s culture that really resonates with candidates.”

Adams recommends employers look at their employee base and understand the various worker demographics, especially what interests them and drives them. Ultimately, HR will need a suite of benefits to accommodate the needs of many different types of workers, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at

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