U.S workers want more flexibility over pay and benefits

May 19 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

More than four out of 10 U.S workers would like to see a greater mix of cash and benefits within their remuneration, even though three-quarters say they are happy with what they are getting already, a new survey has suggested.

The Transforming Pay Plans report from consultancy Hudson found that 72 per cent U.S. workers claim to be either very or somewhat satisfied with their compensation.

But a large portion (44 per cent) of the 10,000 workers polled would change their mix of cash and benefits if they could.

Given their choice of unconventional benefits, most employees would select a more flexible work schedule or additional family benefits, including parental leaves and personal days, over job training or supplemental insurance.

"The survey reveals a work force with shifting compensation demands that can be hard for employers to decipher and even harder to satisfy," said Peg Buchenroth, managing director, compensation and benefits at Hudson Highland Group.

People are more interested in having a well-balanced life
"Though cash is still king, workers are coming to grips with paycheck-squeezing realities like higher healthcare costs and self-funded retirement programs. At the same time, they are placing much greater value on less tangible, lifestyle oriented benefits," she added.

"People are more interested in having a well-balanced life," added Buchenroth.

"Many individuals find elements such as flex-schedules, telecommuting, on-site daycare or more personal time to have greater importance than cash. In fact, employees may forgo additional cash in order to have an improved work-life balance or better opportunities for career advancement."

None the less, cash is still and always will be most important, so employers are turning to pay-for-performance strategies to compensate top talent, the survey found.

However, organisations are slow to implement these systems or are ineffectively communicating them to their staff.

In fact, when asked about the factors influencing compensation at their company, 57 percent of workers believed tenure determined pay.

Just 35 percent reported that workers who did a better job earned more. Additionally, only a quarter were eligible for earning a commission or bonus on top of their salary.

Managers had a slightly different perspective on this issue, as nearly half (48 percent) believed that their organisation paid their top performers the best, opposed to only 31 percent of non-managers.

"Performance-based incentives are ineffective if employees do not realize there are rewards for achieving their objectives, no matter their position," said Robert Morgan, chief operating officer for Hudson Talent Management.

"By clearly communicating these rewards, companies not only entice their work force to meet strategic goals, but top performers are also likely to stay longer," he added.

Another aspect of compensation packages that was a major concern for employers and employees alike was health insurance.

Faced with requests from one-fifth of workers wanting better benefits on top of excruciating cost pressure, companies were responding by offering consumer-driven healthcare plans.

However, these alternatives appeared to be unappealing to most workers, as only one-third had a positive impression of these programmes.