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October 02, 2006
Survey: Employers Underestimate Role of Benefits in Retention

Employers underestimate the role that healthcare benefits play in retaining top employees, according to two new surveys.

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According to Watson Wyatt's 2006 Strategic Rewards study, none of the employers surveyed believe healthcare coverage is a key reason why top-performing employees leave. Twenty-two percent of top-performing employees surveyed in the same study, however, cited healthcare benefits as one of the top three reasons they would leave an employer.

The Watson Wyatt WorkUSA 2006 survey, meanwhile, found that two out of three employees said healthcare benefits are an important reason to stay with their company. Also, the same survey found that 69 percent of workers who are worried that their employer will increase out-of-pocket healthcare costs through higher deductibles and co-payments over the next 3 years. And 53 percent worry their employer will cut back on healthcare benefits by limiting providers or items covered in the next 2 years. This all adds up, Watson Wyatt Worldwide says, to a situation employers need to address.

"As their concerns escalate, employees will increasingly consider healthcare benefits when deciding whether to stay with their current companies," said Ilene Gochman, director of organization effectiveness at Watson Wyatt Worldwide. And if the trend continues, these benefits could become a real differentiator as employers try to hold on to key talent."

"It's not surprising that employees are concerned about benefits reductions, given the changing relationship between employers and employees," added Laury Sejen, director of strategic rewards at Watson Wyatt. "Employers can help ease those concerns by explaining the competitive pressures they face in the marketplace and associated trade-offs in reward programs. By clearly communicating their total rewards strategy, management can pave the way to better employee understanding of their total package and acceptance of any benefit changes that need to be made."

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