Employee benefits packages with a simple medical plan are becoming a thing of the past. These days, getting top-notch people to sign on and stay with a company takes a little wooing and a lot of creativity. Some companies use cash bonuses to attract talented people. Other organizations tout fringe benefits such as wellness programs, flex time and on-site day care.
The Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation figures indicate it’s a job-seeker’s market. According to the department, Nevada’s unemployment rate dropped in July, 2000, to 3.5 percent, compared with 4.7 percent in July, 1999. The Las Vegas unemployment rate as of July 2000 was 4.2 percent, compared with 5.2 percent this time last year.
Riley Wimberly, a principal of the Las Vegas-based management consulting firm, Advanced Concepts Inc., says today’s workers don’t typically stay with one company the way employees did in the past. “The way people work changed about 10 years ago,” said Wimberly. “People used to work for a company for 20 or 30 years. Now people only stay about five years. Younger people today not only want a salary; they also want independence and recognition. And these younger people want an added benefit – training for advancement – for their entire career.” Advanced Concepts provides pre-employment evaluation for employers, addressing such issues as benefits, including vision and dental programs, cross-training opportunities and long-term care provisions.
To have the benefits of a topnotch staff – even for five to seven years – employers are stepping up to the plate. But there’s more to it than just trying to please potential employees. The experts agree that it’s simply better for the bottom line. Wimberly says it can cost a company between $5,000 and $10,000 to lose an employee and then recruit and retrain a replacement. “Recruiting costs a lot of money,” Wimberly said. “We’re trying to greatly reduce the turnover rate by pre-assessment. Companies are slowly catching on to the value of using assessment tools in the selection process, to ensure there is a good match between employer and employee.”
Valerie Murzl, vice president of human resources at Station Casinos Inc., is a 22-year human resources veteran. She believes businesses across the United States are beginning to show concern about balancing employees’ work and life. “The bottom line for employers equals employee retention, loyalty and recruitment. It costs a lot of money to replace employees,” she states. Murzl, a work-life advocate, began a crusade to change Station Casinos’ benefits packages three years ago. “We recognize our employees are our most valuable asset,” Murzl said. “We’re successful because of them. We want to complement their lives so when they come to work for Station Casinos they can tell everyone they get more than medical and dental (coverage).” Murzl refers to the employee benefits offered by Station as “Total Life Enjoyment.” To attract topnotch employees, several new programs have been instituted, including on-site child care at all Station casinos. Station also offers a mobile dental care facility so employees and their families can have common dental work like cleanings and fillings done on-site. An Employee Assistance Program enables employees to call for help with substance abuse, marital, death, children and personal issues for counseling advice. The first two visits are free. After that, 80 percent of counseling services are covered in conjunction with the company’s medical benefits package. Station’s turnover rate has been reduced by about eight percent since these benefits were added, according to Murzl.
Station’s newest employee benefit is sharing in the company’s ownership. Human resources did away with the traditional “clock-and-pen” catalog to honor those who reach milestones in their careers. As employees celebrate the number of years of their employment, they’re given stock. The number of units depends on the length of employment. Station Casinos employs 8,000 people in Nevada and 3,000 at its Kansas City property.
Companies like Accountemps, based in Menlo Park, Calif., agree that today’s employers are only too happy to tout their job benefits. According to a spokesperson for Accountemps, the company, in cooperation with an independent research firm, polled executives from some of the nation’s 1,000 largest companies on the importance of employee benefits. The results were clear. Ninety-eight of the 150 executives who responded agree that it is more important today to sell applicants on the benefits of working at their firms than it was just three years ago.
But Wimberly and Murzl agree on one thing. Not enough employers – especially smaller ones – are sold on the idea of employee benefits. It requires an investment for a company either to hire human resources staff to develop programs or to pay for such benefits. But a small company might also be able to offer advantages that larger companies cannot. For example, it may be easier for a small firm to offer flex time or telecommuting arrangements because it’s dealing with a smaller number of people. An employee with young children or aging parents to care for may be able to share a position with another employee in similar circumstances. Smaller companies can even offer perks like the use of the company condo or boat, which would be impossible in a large organization.
Richard Fitzpatrick, founder and president of IBAN (Internet Business Association of Nevada) said benefits are critical for contracting employees. IBAN represents small- to medium-size Internet and high-technology businesses. “There are a lot of small companies, with maybe three to 10 employees,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s pretty hard to recruit people out of Silicon Valley to come to work here unless you can offer them something more than just a great salary.”
One way IBAN is able to help is by pooling smaller companies together to obtain medical benefits as a group, rather than several individual companies. “That’s one thing that really is the minimum that people want these days,” Fitzpatrick said. “More and more high-tech people are getting some hefty sign-on bonuses to come to work for companies in Las Vegas. Some medium-size companies we represent have paid $5,000 and $10,000 cash bonuses to sign on with a company. We’re trying to help our members recruit for a broad range of jobs in Las Vegas. Benefits are critical in getting topnotch employees.”
Larger companies across the United States also spend a lot of money on adding benefits and attracting an employee base that will last over the long term. Aetna Insurance was recognized in this year’s Working Mother Magazine’s 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers, for the 11th year in a row. “We are delighted that Aetna’s continuing commitment to working mothers has been recognized once again by Working Mother Magazine,” said Elease Wright, senior vice president for human resources. Aetna has been a leader in developing programs and implementing policies centered around family and work/life issues. These are issues that impact our 46,000 employees, and we are committed to addressing the needs of working women and their families.”
Leslie Klein Peltz is a sales manager for Working Solutions Inc., a company that offers “integrated life benefits” package to employers, including employee assistance programs, child and adult elder resource referrals, educational services and a health-care benefit for those with chronic medical conditions. She says smaller companies actually have a lot more options for attracting employees than they may think. “I consider Working Solutions a holistic life events service company,” Peltz said. “We’ve been offering employer/employee solutions since 1982.
“In a 1998 National Report on Work and Family, it was estimated that over one million employees miss work each day because of stress-related problems,” Peltz said. “Employers need to start thinking about this. Either they do it in-house or hire companies like ours to help deal with employees’ ability to work, do their jobs well and balance their lives.” Peltz, a mother of two grown children, remembers herself how hard it was to be a working parent. “Back in those days, we didn’t have much of anything in the way of benefits,” Peltz said. “I did a lot of juggling to work full-time and raise children.”
Northern Nevada-based Sierra Pacific Resources and its Las Vegas subsidiary Nevada Power Co. are concentrating on employee wellness. While Sierra Pacific launched an internal Wellness Committee in 1993, the company this year has made it available to Southern Nevada employees. Lori Woodman, health consultant for Sierra Pacific, said while Nevada Power offers other benefits, her big push is for better health. “Our Wellness Incentive Program reaches several different branches of wellness,” Woodman said. “We’re trying to encourage employees to get their annual physical. We just bring it onsite to address those high-risk people who don’t visit their doctors.” Woodman assures employees that all information gathered at health fairs and by doctors is confidential.
The company also offers employees on-site, 15-minute chair massages by participating vendors. In addition, up to $150 is reimbursed to those employees who participate in the Wellness Incentive Program by joining a local gym or buying a treadmill. About one-third of the company’s 3,200 employees in Northern and Southern Nevada have participated in the program on one or more levels.
Wimberly sums it up: “Spending a little money and a little time up-front can save a lot of money for employers in the long run,” Wimberly said. “It’s an employee’s market — at least for those who are marketable. They ask more penetrating questions of employers than they did a few years ago. And it’s critical for employers to look at these issues to retain employees.”