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Surveys of benefits satisfaction at large and small firms show there's more to it than money spent
Workers at the smallest companies don’t have good benefits packages—and they’re not happy about it, a recent survey shows. But other research reveals that workers at slightly bigger employers are just as satisfied with their benefits as those at the largest companies. Together, the findings suggest that there are ways to stay competitive with benefit offerings without breaking the bank.
Supporting the idea that employees at small companies are dissatisfied, newly released results from the latest annual U.S. Worker Survey, conducted in December 2014 for insurance providers Colonial Life and Unum, show that employees at very small companies—those with less than 10 employees—are much less likely to have benefits than other workers:
The survey of more than 1,500 U.S. workers revealed that those working for the smallest companies are significantly less likely than employees at large companies to say they value their workplace benefits in the following areas:
“It might be easy to assume smaller employers can’t afford to offer rich benefits programs and provide comprehensive education and enrollment support, but that’s not the case,” Gil Youmans, director of small market solutions for Colonial Life, said in a news release.
“Small employers can gain access to most of the same benefits and support services as larger employers at no cost to their business. One way to do this is by partnering with a voluntary benefits provider that offers benefits education and enrollment support at no additional direct cost as part of its services.”
Beefing up the benefits program can help put smaller employers on a level playing field with larger companies when it comes to attracting and keeping top talent, Youmans added, noting that “Most employees expect benefits at work, the survey shows. A strong majority of employees—67 percent—prefer to purchase insurance coverage through their employer.”
The International Foundation for Employee Benefit Plans recently looked at
data from 50 corporate employers with 50 or fewer employees and compared it with data from more than 200 larger corporations. Although the difference between firms with 10 or fewer employees (the focus of the Colonial Life/Unum survey, above) and those with up to 50 employees isn’t trivial, it’s still surprising to see such divergent results.
The International Foundaton’s survey showed that when employers were asked to rate their employees’ engagement and benefits satisfaction, the ratings came back just as high for small employers as for their larger peers.
That’s despite the finding that as a percentage of payroll costs, surveyed small employers spent 26 percent on employee benefits while larger employers spent 33 percent, on average. Moreover, 9 in 10 responding small employers provide health care coverage and 3 in 4 provide a retirement plan.
“We took a more detailed dive back into the data and found a few areas with a common theme in which small employer benefits stood out,” wrote Neil Mrkvicka, senior research analyst at the International Foundation, in his analysis of the findings. He pointed out that small employers can hold their own—or lead the way—in the following areas:
“Additionally, employers were asked to describe the most appreciated and engaging benefit they provide. Health care, paid time off and 401(k) plans were commonly mentioned by small employers, but flexible schedules, casual dress and the overall work environment came up nearly as often,” Mrkvicka noted.
“What’s the common theme?” he asked. “Flexible, personalized, culture-based benefits—something that can’t be bought or scaled easily. … When it comes to engagement and satisfaction, small employers are demonstrating sometimes a little can go a long way.”
Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter
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