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Employee Benefits as a Management Tool

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Glass Balls and Rubber Balls

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  • "Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them - work, family, health, friends and spirit - and you're keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls - family, health, friends and spirit - are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life."

    --Brian G. Dyson

    President and CEO, Coca-Cola Enterprises during his speech at the Georgia Tech 172nd Commencement Address Sept. 6, 1996

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Just a few years ago it would have been unthinkable for the CEO of a major corporation to suggest that employees had a life away from the job, let alone that they should try to balance life and work. What has happened that causes such a shift in our corporate priorities?

There are many answers (and I encourage you to post yours on our Management Forum), but my favorite theory is the standard business rule of supply and demand. As the demand for anything exceeds the available supply, the price increases. That is true of all business resources, including people.

As we move into a period of relative scarcity of adequately skilled people, companies have begun to compete for them as they always have competed for other resources. This trend toward people-friendly employers reflects the recognition that they have to do something different to compete for, and win, these increasingly scarce resources.

What do I need to compete?
Hewitt Associates, a management consulting firm in Illinois, reports that the benefits most commonly offered include:

  • Flexible Scheduling Arrangements - 73% offer flextime
  • Child Care Assistance - up to 85%
  • Elder Care Programs - 33%
  • Family and Medical Leave - 20% exceed federal mandated minimums
  • Adoption Benefits - 26%
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) - 85%

What really matters?
We all know that money is a satisfier not a motivator. So what are the motivators for today's workforce? Motivation guru Bob Nelson claims that Everything You Thought You Knew About Recognition Is Wrong and offers a critique of common practices and their flaws. Toward the lower half of the article, under the heading "How do you recognize employees?", he discusses what specifically motivates employees and the best way to deliver that motivation, timely and informally.

What's the benchmark?
To know how your company is doing, you need to compare against the best. Here, according to Business Week, is a list of the 30 most family-friendly business in the U.S.

Bottom Line
Treat your employees as individuals. Show them that their contributions matter. Treat them with the respect they deserve and you will be rewarded with a productive workforce and a lower turnover rate.

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If you have any questions or comments about this article, or if there is an issue you would like us to address, please post them on our Management Forum to share with the entire group.

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