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Jan 10, 2014

The thinking that companies need to offer benefits to help recruit and keep employees seems to be one of those long-held beliefs that doesn’t hold water anymore.

New research from SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management is quantified in a six-part State of Employee Benefits in the Workplace Survey that was published late last year. At the top of the research, as I read it, are these key findings about employee benefits:

  • Only about one in four (26 percent) of organizations say that they leverage their benefits programs to recruit employees;
  • Less than one in five (19 percent) leverage their benefits programs to retain workers;
  • More than half of all employers (57 percent) offer flexible work arrangements, and of those, 45 percent said that the majority of their employees are allowed to utilize flex work, an increase of 11 percent since last year;
  • One third of respondents (33 percent) said employee participation in flexible work arrangements had increased since 2011. Some 61 percent said participation remained the same.

Flex Work as a talent differentiator

I haven’t dug through every part of this massive, six-part report on the research finding, but what jumps out at me is that organizations that offer flexible work arrangements would do well to use that fact as both a recruiting and a retention tool given the growth in flex work as a workforce practice.

Clearly, flex work is an important differentiator for many organizations, and while all work can’t be handled in a flexible system (as my friend and former colleague Lance Haun likes to point out), it’s a high-value and highly sought after benefit for many, many people.

As Part 2 of the SHRM research focused on flexible benefits in the workplace points out:

The numbers are rising for flexible work arrangements (and) the percentage of employers that participate in this benefit increased from 2012, and more organizations offer flex work to a broader scope of their payroll. This trend is in line with workers’ increased desire to manage their own time and better balance their work with their responsibilities out of the office. Separate SHRM studies have shown that many workers rate “the balance of work/life issues” as an integral factor in job satisfaction, and flexible work arrangements can offer a cost-effective means of delivering that balance. Other research by the Families and Work Institute revealed that an increasing number of men have expressed a need for flexible work to better balance their jobs and family responsibilities — proof that demand for such arrangements spans a broad segment of the workforce.”

Alex Alonso, SHRM’s vice president of research, said that, “Many HR professionals recognize the importance that workers in the Millennial generation place on flexible work schedules. In fact, 55 percent of respondents noted flexible working benefits as a valuable factor in recruiting. That’s a significant increase from the 33 percent who did so a year ago.”

Yes, flex work is becoming a bigger deal, and a huge recruiting and retention tool. There’s a lot more details about benefits worth digging into in SHRM’s State of Employee Benefits in the Workplace Survey, but to me, the insights into why flexible working arrangements are important are critical for every talent manager and HR professional trying to make a case for why their organization needs to embrace flexible work arrangements whenever and wherever they can.

The trick in being a family-friendly boss

Of course, there’s more than the state of employee benefits in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • How to be a family-friendly boss. This HBR blog post generally answers this question with a pretty self-explanatory answer — you can be a family-friendly boss by offering more flexible work arrangements. As the author puts it, “In my work with employers (usually advising on work-family balance for fathers), I sense that many managers believe in giving more employees this kind of flexibility — allowing them to fashion the particular arrangements that work for them while minimizing disruption of the workplace. However, many cannot see their way through existing HR policies and short-term business imperatives to know how to respond to such requests — let alone be proactive in suggesting possibilities to their people.”
  • The flap over a new high-tech benefit. With more and more Silicon Valley workers opting to live the urban life in San Francisco, tech companies have stepped in to offer a benefit for those braving the 50-mile or so (one way) drive to the office. And some people in San Francisco are pushing back, as San Jose Mercury News columnist Mike Cassidy points out. “”They’re definitely, for us, a symbol of a wider systemic issue, which is these tech companies are basically becoming, if you want to call it, the ruling class or the upper class in San Francisco,” Erin McElroy, of Eviction Free San Francisco, says of the double-decker buses. And she said activists haven’t ruled out blocking buses again in an effort to make their larger point” — that rents soared and somewhat affordable San Francisco neighborhoods got gussied up and unaffordable, and activists believe that tech workers are the culprits.
  • Portland struggles with new mandatory sick leave law. As The Oregonian newspaper notes, “under Portland’s new sick leave law that took effect Jan. 1, “businesses … are now required to give employees up to a week of earned time off, and all but the smallest of companies must pay workers for those hours.” But they add, “While the basics of the sick leave law are straightforward, figuring out exactly how compliance looks for each of Portland’s 62,500 private employers, which employ a combined 776,000 people, is the hard part. The rules also stretch to businesses based outside of Portland that must cover employees who work a certain amount of time within the city limits.”
  • Boeing vote shows diminishing private sector union clout. Although unions seem to be running the show for all of us in the public sector, a recent vote by unionized workers at Boeing show how much labor’s influence has declined outside of government. As the Los Angeles Times notes, (Boeing’s) “largest union approved an eight-year contract that trades hard-fought pension benefits for the right to build the 777X airliner — a bitterly fought concession that underscores unions’ uphill battle at the bargaining table. … It’s part of a larger trend for labor unions, which face dramatic declines in membership strength, reduced bargaining power because of right-to-work states and hostile public opinion.”