Counterpoint: Offering Good Benefits Now Even More Important

Employers have to focus on benefits if they are going to attract and retain talent. Educating workers about opportunities and offering additional benefits can help boost morale.

This article accompanies Facing the Future: Announcing The 2011 Top Employee Benefits Consultant winners.

Thursday, June 2, 2011
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Face it: There's no way we're going to get healthcare costs under control, not a chance. The Obama administration's attempt to reform the system helps broaden coverage, but does nothing to control costs.

That means healthcare costs are going to continue their inexorable climb -- by single digits, double digits, whatever -- it hardly matters anymore, does it? The point is they going up, and only up.

Who cares about signing bonuses and salary increases of 2 percent, 3 percent or even 4 percent when the costs of benefits are going up by 8 percent, 10 percent and 12 percent?

If we're lucky, healthcare costs might plateau for a bit, if the exchanges work, and we're offered more options. Before long, however, costs will continue to go up.

So, where does that leave us? Right back to where we started: With employers and employees sharing the medical and dental bills through co-pays, subsidies and rebates, which is what we've been doing for the past 50 years.

That means that, if employers want to attract talent, they are going to have to offer decent healthcare, come up with generous subsidies or promote wellness and good health in the workplace. It's really the surest way for companies to retain good employees.

And they are going to need them.

In the wake of the Great Recession, baby boomers are going to stay in the workforce a bit longer than they anticipated, but once they leave, those workers are going to be doing so in droves.

Keep in mind that, beginning this year, and continuing for about the next 18 years, 10,000 or so employees a month are reaching retirement age as the generation born between 1946 and 1964 moves out of the working years and into the retirement years.

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How are employers going to hold on to them? Again, by offering a strong and competitive benefits package.

It's important, because employers will want senior workers to pass on their skills to the next generation of employees before the veterans exit the workforce for good.

In case there's any doubt about the continuing importance of offering a competitive benefits package, readers need only look at the correlation between successful companies and the benefits they offer employees.

With healthcare costs rising at a rate far above any salary increase, and with employees living longer than the preceding generation, the math is fairly simple.

In the end, it's better to stay healthy through good benefits than raking in outsized compensation only to have to disappear in a sinkhole of medical costs.

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