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Competitive benefits in hard times

Earlier this week, our founder and CEO, James Weinberg, joined a panel of experts discussing nonprofit employee benefits. This Chronicle of Philanthropy online event convened a panel of sector leaders to examine recent trends in employee benefit offerings, as well as how organizations can offer competitive and creative benefits packages that help them to attract and retain top talent, particularly in a down economy. Highlights from the conversation included:

  • While professional employer organizations (PEO) are a cost-effective option for some nonprofits to reduce their HR-related overhead, these services do not always deliver better benefits for employees. A common probli for nonprofits using PEOs is a lack of options and control over the details of benefits plans. As reflected by a recent Listening Post Project survey, nonprofits are opting to dealing with rising medical costs by increasing the shares of their employees’ medical costs, as opposed to moving to an outsourced PEO.
  • In this recession, many organizations appear to be less concerned about employee retention. However, most employers cannot afford to lose their best staff, and need to focus on offering competitive “quality of life” benefits. Benefits such as flexible schedules and reduced work weeks meet the often heard demands of employees searching for more work-life balance. Offering these types of benefits are key to employee retention, especially for organization that have had to make other sorts of cutback due to economic conditions.
  • Many employers are looking for “extra” benefits they can offer their staff, but that are not a significant expense to the organization. Some low/no-cost perks include (1) professional development benefits such as mentoring, defined career ladders, online trainings, and attending conferences; (2) work-life balance benefits such as flexibility in working from home occasionally, compressed work weeks, less than full time work weeks at reduced pay, unpaid sabbatical opportunities; and (3) mission-oriented benefits such as time off for volunteering, organization-wide community service days. (For other ideas, please check out our article Rethinking Benefits for Nonprofit Employees)
  • We may be witnessing a permanent decline of generous benefits and pension plans designed to keep employees anchored at individual organizations for decades. On the rise seems to be a generation and culture in which everyone is more of a consultant, bouncing around a number of—not just jobs but—careers in their lifetimes. And this shift will bring with it, more individual benefit plans and less organizational support. The economy has created a brief acceleration of this trend out of necessity, but it seems likely that it will continue.

For the full transcript of the discussion, please visit the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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