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Finding, Retaining Top Talent Becoming a Top Challenge

Originally published: 01.01.11 by Thomas Giddens

Boomers, skilled workers looking for comprehensive benefits. 

Healthcare reform and economic turmoil have hogged the spotlight in 2010. But as the economy improves, contractors will need to face three workforcerelated issues that are taking center stage. If business decision-makers ignore these important issues, they could be surprised to find their companies behind the competition in the recovery race.

As Top Talent Dwindles, Can You Compete?

High unemployment, aggressive layoffs, and flat hiring have made it easier for employers to compete for top talent. But that power position is becoming more tenuous, particularly when it comes to highly skilled talent. Nevertheless, during economic rebirth, employers need stellar talent to execute a rebound strategy and drive renewal and growth.

Dramatic demographic shifts, unlike our country has seen in more than half a century, will make skilled workers a scarce and precious resource. Jobs requiring only a GED or high school degree are disappearing, as posts that require highly skilled employees multiply.

At the same time, these knowledgeable workers are becoming harder to find as more people retire than there are equivalent replacements. Therefore, competition for proven managers and business leaders will grow fierce. To complicate matters, these soughtafter workers are also the most difficult to recruit

and retain. They are arguably in the driver’s seat, often entertaining several career moves or lucrative job offers at one time.

Among the things they are seeking are benefits packages and work environments that foster their professional and personal goals. Organizations that can differentiate themselves with a benefits package unmatched by competitors will be more successful at attracting top talent. But small businesses can find this goal difficult, given their reduced resources and buying power compared with larger companies.

For example, in a recent Aflac Insurance for Living study, nearly onequarter (20%) of small businesses (three to 99 employees) admitted their benefits packages were significantly/slightly less competitive than their industry peers. Employees at small businesses felt similarly, with nearly one-third (32%) saying their overall benefits packages are significantly/slightly less competitive than packages that peers are receiving from their competitors.

1 Small business decision-makers will need to seek out creative and new ways to bolster their benefits offerings, without compromising their budgets. For many, voluntary or supplemental benefits programs will be one such way.

Voluntary benefits — such as dental, vision, life insurance and critical illness policies — can enhance employer-sponsored benefits offerings while having no direct cost to the employer.

Retain, Not Retire, Mature Workers

Second only to cash flow, knowledge is of immense value. At its fundamental level, it is what differentiates one business from another. The loss of intellectual capital is often underestimated. Organizations must begin to think about retaining, not retiring or laying off, their experienced workforce.

Fortunately, the Aflac study has found that more and more mature workers are continuing to delay retirement and plan to continue working in some capacity postretirement. The challenge for small businesses is how to retain these highly skilled employees, and provide benefits specific to these segments of workers, including much-needed assistance in financial preparation for retirement, customized life insurance plans, and portable insurance policies.

Yet, the Aflac study found that only four in 10 employers currently tailor their benefits offerings to their employees based on their needs at different levels or life stages. For this generation, Baby Boomers, a package might include heavy retirement savings plans/incentives, health savings plans, or voluntary insurance policies. These plans help protect their assets in case of serious accident or illness during time of need. Additionally, voluntary insurance policies are portable, which allows them to retain their insurance coverage when they retire. 

Clear Up the Benefits Communication Illusion

The Aflac Insurance for Living study uncovered a potentially damaging misperception among small business owners as it relates to the effectiveness of their communication about benefits, and the perceived knowledge that employees have when it comes to the benefits offered at their companies.

More than half (52%) of small businesses believe they communicate very/ extremely effectively with employees about their benefits programs, more so than any other group of companies. In addition, they are most likely to think their employees are extremely/very knowledgeable about benefits offered at their companies, with nearly half (46%) saying so.

Here’s the snag — when employees at small businesses were asked to rate how well their HR departments communicated about benefits and how informed they felt, the picture was quite different. More than one-third (35%) of employees at small companies believe their HR departments communicate not very/not at all effectively about benefits offered, and only 30% say they communicate effectively.

One-quarter of workers at small companies say they are not very/not at all informed about benefits offered at their companies, and only 38% say they are very informed. Perhaps most compelling for small business decision-makers is this — nearly half of workers (41%) said a well-communicated benefits program would make them less likely to leave their jobs. While 46% of employees at small companies say their HR departments communicate about employee benefits too little.

Given that many small companies have few resources to dedicate to HR administration, owners ought to consider using a broker or benefits consultant to help identify a benefits provider or carrier that offers these value-added services. Often, insurance providers will include benefits communication vehicles, including online portals, benefits booklets or even in-person meetings, to help educate and inform workers about their benefits options.

Thomas Giddens has nearly 30 years experience in a variety of roles at Aflac. In 2007, Giddens’ numerous achievements and contributions were recognized when he became the youngest member of the Aflac Sales Hall of Fame. Thomas Giddens is Senior Vice President and Director of U.S. Sales at Aflac. For more information about Aflac, call 1-800-99-AFLAC (1-800-992-3522) or visit aflacforbusiness.com. 

1 “Insurance for Living,” a study conducted by Harris Interactive for Aflac, September 2010.

Articles by Thomas Giddens

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