WASHINGTON – How well a company communicates the value of its health benefits can do more towards retaining top-performing employees than the actual richness of the benefits themselves, according to a new study by human capital consulting firm Watson Wyatt. In addition, companies that cannot hold their health care budgets down as a share of total compensation have higher turnover rates for top performers. The report finds that among employers that offer rich benefits but have poor communication strategies, the average turnover rate is 17% for top-performing employees. Among employers that offer less costly benefits but have effective communication strategies, the average turnover rate is 12% among top performers. Supplementing rich benefit programs with effective communication practices yields employers an even lower average turnover rate of only 8% for top performers. “The results really drive home the fact that effective communication is vital for employers if they want to see returns on their health benefit investments and retain top talent,” said Kathryn Yates, global director of communication consulting at Watson Wyatt. “Employers can spend huge sums of money on benefits, but if their employees aren’t aware of the cost or don’t appreciate the value of the benefits, they aren’t going to see a return on their investment.” The study suggests that, as the increasing costs of health benefits crowd out cash wages, turnover rates for top-performing employees increase. Among companies whose health benefits account for more than 14% of their employees’ total compensation, the average turnover rate is 12.5% among top performers. But among companies whose health benefits account for less than 10% of their employees’ total compensation, the average turnover rate is only 8.8%. Companies that participated in the study spend, on average, 11% of their total compensation budgets on health care benefits. “As salary budgets continue to be squeezed by the rising cost of health benefits, it’s essential that employers couple effective benefits communication with longer-term strategies such as health management and consumer-driven health plans to control health care costs,” said Yates. “If employers attempt to offset rising health benefit costs by continually cutting back on other forms of compensation, their turnover rates -especially among top performers – will really take a hit.”

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