Though health care cost continued its eight-year reign at the top of the annual agendas of employers, employee retention edged up to the second spot, as well as retirement benefits, according to a survey released Feb. 15 by New York-based Deloitte Consulting and the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists, a nonprofit educational association.
Approximately 80 percent of the 422 U.S. human resources professionals surveyed identified health care cost containment as a top five priority, according to the report, with 36 percent ranking it No. 1, a significant drop from the 91 percent who identified it as a top five priority, and the 55 percent who identified it as their No. 1 priority, in 2006.
"Controlling health care costs is still a critical issue for employers, but the challenge to juggle these costs while sustaining a high-quality workforce is a trend that wont be waning any time soon," said Deloitte Consulting Principal Tim Phoenix, a co-director of the survey.
Yet 75 percent of respondents identified the ability to attract, motivate and retain talent as a top five priority, up from 69 percent in 2006 and 56 percent in 2005. This growth was even more pronounced among respondents whose company revenues exceed $1 billion; 77 percent of respondents in this category identified the issue as a top five priority, slightly higher than the control of health care costs (73 percent).
Other concerns creeping up on employers agendas included retirement plans. More than half of respondents (59 percent), from their perspective as an employee, felt that affording retirement was the issue most important to them personally.
However, when asked to identify their organizations top priorities, the ability of employees to afford retirement was far down the list, with only 25 percent of respondents considering it a "top five" issue and just 1 percent calling this their No. 1 priority.
The survey found that employers were looking for ways to improve and expand their retirement programs, with a large number indicating that they planned to provide employees with better retirement-planning tools. Other tactics included offering pre-retirement planning sessions and increasing contributions to defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s.
Employers were also focusing on health and welfare plans in 2007, adding options from increasing employee cost-sharing (62 percent), introducing financial incentives to encourage participation in wellness programs (53 percent) and adding consumer-driven health plans as options for employees (42 percent).