Building Better Benefits

After several years of recession-induced hardship, the construction industry is off to a strong start in 2012. According to the U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce, construction spending amounted to $238.5 billion in the first four months of the year, 7.3 percent above the $222.2 billion for the same period in 2011. The industry as a whole is on an upswing, with the number of jobs expected to grow 19 percent through the year 2018, compared with 11 percent growth projected for all industries combined.

Unlike other sectors reliant on technology-driven productivity, construction depends heavily on its skilled workforce for growth and profitability. With 68 percent of construction companies employing less than five people, keeping highly skilled employees is key to these small businesses’ success. Although construction business owners are more likely to be focused on current and future projects than employee engagement, it’s important for them to know what they can do to keep employees satisfied. It’s particularly critical as the industry regains momentum and top employees look for better opportunities.

A recent survey, the 2012 Aflac Workforces Report, found that many U.S. workers already are considering a job switch. The study shows nearly half of U.S. workers (49 percent) are at least somewhat likely to look for a job this year, and a majority of those restless workers identify themselves as the kind of employees business owners don’t want to lose. Of employees surveyed, those who are extremely or very likely to look for a new job in 2012 say the following qualities describe them fairly or extremely well:

  • Hard worker – 90 percent
  • High achiever at work – 79 percent
  • Ambitious – someone who strives to get ahead – 64 percent

With turnover in the construction industry already about twice the national average, business owners need to be aware of the risk of losing their most valuable assets — employees — if they’re not taking care of them.

Why Workers Leave

To keep their businesses running smoothly, company owners need to understand why workers leave and how to retain them. The Aflac study shed some light on factors influencing decisions to leave a current employer:

  • One-third of workers who don’t believe retaining employees is an important priority for their employer say they are likely to leave
  • Workers who said they are stressed out are nearly twice as likely (43 percent vs. 25 percent) to leave their job compared to workers who are not stressed
  • 28 percent of employees who are extremely likely to leave their job in the next 12 months say they don’t have peace of mind.

Many people assume that salary is the number-one factor in job search or job offer acceptance decisions. However, health care benefits play a major role in an employee’s assessment of whether his or her employer takes care of them. The study revealed that workers who are extremely or very satisfied with their benefits program are nine times more likely to stay with their employer than those workers who are dissatisfied with their benefits program. In fact, 76 percent of employees believe they’d be at least somewhat likely to accept a job with a more robust benefits package, but lower compensation. Employers risk losing workers to competitors if they don’t offer flexible benefits plans that employees believe meet their needs.

Providing More

Most construction companies have a handful of employees, which often makes providing affordable insurance benefits unreachable. However, voluntary benefits or supplemental insurance plans allow business owners to make a variety of benefit options available that satisfy employees at no direct cost to the company.

Why is this important? Because businesses, particularly small businesses, are being hit with sharp increases in health care insurance costs, but they still need to offer attractive benefits that will help them recruit and retain good workers. Providing a menu of voluntary insurance policies – such as accident or hospital plans that help employees cope with incremental out-of-pocket costs associated with serious accidents or illnesses that major medical insurance does not cover – is a cost-effective solution for employers and employees alike.

Employers can stay focused on running the business, while keeping their employees productive and feeling confident that they have plans they can rely on. In the event of a serious accident or illness, policyholders receive cash benefits (unless otherwise assigned) to help with their daily living expenses, such as rent, gas, groceries, babysitting and other necessities.

Unplanned Costs of Accidents

Construction jobs can be hazardous, so it’s not surprising that this industry leads in injuries and workers’ compensation insurance claims. Since these employees often can’t work while they’re injured, protecting their income in the event of an accident is critical. In fact, the two most popular voluntary insurance options provided by companies in the construction industry are accident plans, made available by 35 percent of construction companies, and short-term disability plans, made available by 20 percent of construction companies.

The out-of-pocket expenses related to an accident or illness typically include multiple doctor visits, travel and/or lodging to receive care, and follow-up home care. These unplanned medical expenses associated with accidents can be a problem for many people, especially for those who are not prepared for the unexpected.

The Aflac study found that an alarming number of Americans are not prepared for medical emergencies – in fact, nearly six out of 10, or 58 percent of respondents,  don’t even have a financial plan in place to handle the unexpected.

There are supplemental insurance policies available to help people with these unexpected out-of-pocket expenses. Supplemental policies pay cash benefits to be used any way the policyholder chooses.

Who Needs Disability Coverage?

Although disability insurance has traditionally been a staple of workplace benefits packages, the recession has caused many companies to scale back the amount of coverage or to remove coverage altogether. These changes can leave workers with inadequate coverage and without income replacement.

In fact, almost one-third of Americans entering the workforce today will become disabled before they retire, and 100 million Americans are not protected by private disability insurance. For companies under financial strain and pressure to cut costs, voluntary short-term disability insurance is a no-direct-cost solution for employers seeking a financial safety net for their employees.

As the construction industry continues to rebuild, competition for the best employees will heat up, and benefits play a key role in attracting and retaining top talent.

Owners can minimize future turnover by demonstrating now that they care about employees’ well-being. Employers who offer robust benefits packages including voluntary insurance plans will be able to enhance benefits offerings, differentiate themselves from competitors and offer workers choices in additional coverage.

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