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New SHRM reports highlight trends in employee benefits, job satisfaction

While employees consistently rate benefits as a key factor in job satisfaction, employers faced with economic challenges are looking at ways to manage costs. According the 2009 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Employee Benefit report, most employee benefits offerings have experienced a slight downward trend over the last year. HR professionals indicated that their organizations spent on average 20% of an employee’s annual salary on mandatory benefits, 19% on voluntary benefits and 11% on pay for time not worked benefits.

Eighty-one percent of HR professionals reported their organizations reviewed their benefits programs annually, and 12% reported reviewing them even more frequently. This percentage increased significantly over the last year. In 2008, almost three-quarters (74%) of HR professionals reported that their organizations reviewed their benefits programs annually.

Mental health coverage was the only health care and welfare benefit to be offered by more organizations in 2009 than 2008 (80% compared with 75%, respectively). Overall, the category saw a slight decline, including declines in: (1) contraceptive coverage; (2) HMO; (3) life insurance for dependents; (4) long-term care insurance; (5) retiree health care coverage; (6) supplemental accident insurance; (7) surcharges for spousal healthcare coverage; and (8) wholesale generic drug program for injectable drugs.

HR professionals reported fewer companies offering: noncash, companywide performance awards; community volunteer program benefits; and discount ticket services. Also, a number of organizations report plans to reduce or eliminate holiday parties, company picnics, and company-purchased tickets to events during 2009.

SHRM also released the job satisfaction survey showing a majority of employees (58%) report the current economy has no effect on their overall job satisfaction, however slightly more employees believe their job is at risk. The survey details 24 aspects of employee satisfaction and it was not surprising that in this fragile economy that job security ranked number one. Benefits ranked number 2, followed by compensation. Ranking fourth was opportunities to use skills/abilities and fifth was feeling safe in the work place.

It is important to note that HR professionals have consistently rated feeling safe in the work place lower than employees have. A combination of safety and security threats and public health issues and workplace accidents have raised employees’ concerns. Job satisfaction is key in retaining top talent, increasing loyalty and improving productivity. Maintaining and conveying a culture of a safe workplace needs to be recognized as a driver of job satisfaction.