Lessons from the 2006 SHRM conference: Do you really need to offer that employee benefit?

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in Employee Benefits Program,Hiring,Human Resources,Office Management,Payroll Management

Employee benefits are, in many cases, a lot like other pieces of an organization's culture: They're there because, well, they've always been there. But in these days of constantly rising health insurance costs, employers can't afford to keep providing benefits just because that's the way they've done things in the past, said Gary Kushner, president of Kushner & Co. benefits consulting firm.

Employers should examine each benefit to see if it's pulling its weight. "If (the benefit) isn't helping with retention or recruiting, why are you doing it?" Kushner asked.

Example: Kushner says most employers offer accidental death and dismemberment insurance because it's cheap, it's often packaged with other insurance and, most important, because they've always offered it. But do employees or applicants care about it? Probably not.

In the same way, Kushner suggested employers rethink the typical vacation-pay benefit that provides vacation days to employees based on their years of service. If you really want to attract 22-year-old workers, Kushner said, flip that pyramid on its head.

"Younger employees tend to value paid time off more than older employees," said Kushner. "These are people who are used to having summers off."

Kushner said employers should consider allowing older employees to sell some of their vacation time to buy better benefits. Younger employees can buy more time off in exchange for a different benefit mix.  

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