Finding the time to recruit, attractand engage employees while developing a strategic approach to the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may feel like navigating shark-infested waters while swimming against the tide.

Organizations can break out of the barriers that prevent them from recruiting, attracting and engaging employees by using a solution called total rewards. Total rewards is everything an employer does to attract and retain its workforce. It can include the following:

1. Compensation, inlcuding base compensation, variable compensation, pay for performance, motivation for high performers, executive compensation.

2. Benefits, including health and welfare plans, pretax benefit programs, employee contribution strategies.

3. Employee-paid voluntary benefit programs.

4. Financial wellness, including retirement plans, retirement readiness analyses and executive nonqualified retirement plans.

5. Physical wellness programs, including incentives and tying benefit contributions to wellness participation.

6. Work-life balance program, including employee satisfaction surveys and benchmarking your programs.

7. Career development, including employee education opportunities and education reimbursement.

8. Paid time off. Examine the structure and competitiveness of your plans with industry absenteeism.

Organizations can gain a competitive advantage by using total rewards to develop a holistic approach to solving their challenges.

For example, a client was relieved that with 49 employees, her organization currently avoids the employer shared responsibility penalties associated with the Affordable Care Act. With a focus on growth, though, her company felt confined by the 50-life threshold for the assessment of these penalties. Using a health care reform impact modeling tool, we were able to help her assess the impact of adding the additional employees, as well as align the benefit programs with workforce needs.

You don't have to be a prisoner of health care reform. Breaking out total rewards strategies can set you free to recruit and engage employees to drive success for your organization.

Laurie S. Miller is area senior vice president for Gallagher Benefit Services in Rockford, Ill. She can be reached at laurie_miller@ajg.com.

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