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Cost Control Trumps Employee Retention in 2010

BY Katherine Boccaccio

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 whymetlife.com/benefitsbenchmark.

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Harnessing the power of the sun

BY CSA STAFF

Walmart announced that it will add solar-generating systems to another 20 to 30 sites in California and Arizona, and the majority of these locations will feature new lighter, lower-cost thin film solar technology. The new solar power systems will be designed, installed, owned and maintained by SolarCity, Foster City, Calif.

"Developing and incorporating new renewable energy sources, like thin film, reduces energy price risk and aligns very well with our commitment to solving business challenges through technology," said Kim Saylors Laster, Walmart VP energy.

When complete, this project is expected to supply up to 20% to 30% of the total energy needs for each location; produce up to 22.5 million kilowatt hours of clean energy per year; avoid producing more than 11,650 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually; and add to the 31 current solar installations Walmart has in California and Hawaii.

Thin film solar panels look similar to the traditional crystalline panels, but require fewer raw materials to manufacture, resulting in a smaller environmental impact over its life cycle, according to Walmart.

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Blockbuster gets approval for ‘First Day Motions’

BY CSA STAFF

DALLAS – Blockbuster announced that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York has granted approval of "First Day Motions" requested by the company to help enable it to conduct business in the ordinary course as it moves to recapitalize its balance sheet and substantially reduce debt.

All of Blockbuster’s U.S. operations, including its stores, DVD vending kiosks, by-mail and digital businesses, are open and serving customers in the normal course. Blockbuster said it is fulfilling all orders as usual, including continuing to provide access to new releases the first day they become available.

The Court also authorized Blockbuster to access up to $20 million of the new $125 million Debtor-in-Possession (DIP) financing provided by the Senior Noteholders on an interim basis to help meet its obligations to customers, suppliers and employees during the recapitalization process. The company said it will seek final approval of the entire DIP financing at a future court hearing. Blockbuster intends to pay suppliers under normal terms in the ordinary course for all post-petition goods and services.

Jim Keyes, chairman and CEO, said, "The authorization granted by the court is an important first step in our recapitalization process. With the continued support of the Senior Noteholders, the movie studios and other key parties, we intend to complete the recapitalization expeditiously and emerge with our debt substantially reduced. With a strengthened balance sheet, Blockbuster will be in a better position to continue the transformation of our business model and demonstrate to our customers the convenience and value of our multi-channel platform and our 28-day rental advantage."

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