Cost Control Trumps Employee Retention in 2010

If there was ever any question about what retailers value most during the recession, it’s been answered. A recent report released by Manhattan-based MetLife showed that when a recession strikes, retailers trend more toward containing the cost of its benefits than on reducing turnover.

The eighth annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends, which was conducted during fourth quarter 2009 and consisted of two studies fielded by GfK Custom Research North America, showed that in 2010, controlling benefits costs edges out employee retention as the top benefits objectives for employers in the retail industry, with 52% and 49% of retail employers saying that cost control and retention, respectively, are very important to them. 

And, yet, according to MetLife, employees are highly motivated by benefits. In fact, while employers believe the top four factors of employee loyalty are salary/wages, health benefits, company culture and advancement opportunities, the survey found that employee loyalty is actually spurred by salary/wages, health benefits, all other benefits (dental, life, vision, etc.) and retirement benefits.

“There are strategic ways to use benefits programs to achieve both business objectives,” said Bob Love, senior VP, employee benefits sales, for MetLife. “Understanding benefits trends across various demographics positions can better position retailers to deliver competitive employee benefits that are highly valued.”

Fifty-six percent of retail employees said that retirement benefits were a significant factor in influencing their loyalty, compared with only 42% of retail employers. And 57% of retail employees, compared with just 43% of retail employers, said non-health benefits such as life, dental and disability play a strong role in workplace loyalty.

Only 33% of retail employees say they are satisfied with the benefits they receive through their employer, compared to 42% of employees across all industries. This could be because just 24% of retail employees feel that their employer's benefits communications effectively educate them, said the survey.

"Effective communications are key to maximizing the value of a benefits program,” said Love. “Our benefits trends study finds that of those employees who strongly feel that their employers’ communications effectively educates them about their benefits, eight in 10 were also: 1) satisfied with their benefits; 2) satisfied with their jobs, and 3) felt loyal towards their employer.”

However, he added, for those employees who did not feel their benefits communications were effective, just one in 10 were satisfied with their benefits and just three in 10 were satisfied with their jobs or felt loyal to their employer.

All survey results were issued through MetLife’s Benefits Benchmarking Tool, designed to offer insight into what others in the retail industry are offering in terms of benefits. Topics in the tool include: benefits objectives, strategies and offerings; communications and decision making; employee retention and loyalty goals; retirement and the aging workforce; and health and wellness. The tool is available with no registration required at

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