Are cost-containment strategies and employee satisfaction mutually exclusive when it comes to retention?

The short answer is an emphatic “no,” but there are nuances to evaluate along the road to managing both areas.

 “A lot of times employee satisfaction is directly related to successful communications and their understanding of what you’re offering,” explains Kevin Cipoletti, area vice president for Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. That, of course, hinges on how the workforce is most comfortable receiving and comprehending information, which could be tied to generational differences or other factors.

He says another important consideration is that “there are many things that you can do to either redistribute costs or that don’t cost anything that can improve employee satisfaction, but sometimes get overlooked.” Case in point: voluntary benefits a redistribution of employer-subsidized dollars based on benefits utilization.

Cipoletti and a colleague will delve deeper into this topic in “The Retention Dilemma: Balancing Costs and Employee Satisfaction” at the EBN-produced 25th annual Benefits Forum & Expo Sept. 9-11 in Phoenix, Ariz.

Mary Novak-Jandrey, national managing director of the Gallagher division HRadvantage, makes an analogy to explain how employers can best meet the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce designed to retain top talent. She says to think of it in terms of a Chinese food menu with items from Part A, B or C so that they “pick the things that make the most sense for each particular group of employees, division or department rather than trying to push the same approach on everyone.”

Adopting a total-rewards philosophy is much more powerful than trying to segment offerings into benefits or compensation buckets, according to Novak-Jandrey. When employers make changes on an annual basis, she says they’re explained within a larger context of the entire package. This way, “people understand the whole value of what they are receiving rather than having conversations about each segment,” she notes. “There is an interesting experiment. We are really watching it carefully to see how it is going to turn out.”

Cipoletti adds that including other key areas, such as presenteeism and productivity, into a more holistic view of benefits and compensation will help align this area with an employer’s overall business strategy, and, as a result, produce a synergistic effect.

Gallagher Benefit Services has developed a fresh way to discern underlying trends that affect benefit and compensation costs, as well as employee loyalty and job satisfaction. The company’s Workforce Evaluation methodology initially helped employers fine-tune benefit programs, but has since expanded to address the full spectrum of human capital strategy.

Novak-Jandrey describes it as “a disciplined rather than anecdotal approach” based on metrics that drive strategic decision making.

In hoping employees see “the true value” of their total-rewards package, Cipoletti says the aim is to tailor plans to help attract and retain key individuals who will help drive performance and grow the organization.

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Bruce Shutan, a former EBN managing editor, is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.

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