Event: WorldatWork Total Rewards Conference and Exhibition
Date: May 20-22, 2008
Where: Philadelphia Convention Center
What: More than 1,500 compensation, benefits and HR managers get together to share best practices and learn the latest strategies in health care and retirement benefits, compensation and total rewards.
Conference info: For information, go towww.worldatwork.org.
Day 2—Thursday, May 22
Benefits for Everyone: With the economic downturn, voluntary benefits are gaining traction among employers, said consultants at the conference.
These benefits, which employees can use through a payroll deduction, have become much more attractive as many companies realize they can’t offer employees more compensation.
"I just had a client say to me that they can’t give pay raises this year, what else can I do," said Marie Dufresne, a consultant at Hay Group in an interview.
Voluntary benefits are attractive because they are free, and while employees have to pay for them, they still get that nice feeling that the company is doing something for them, she said.
The latest popular benefits are pet insurance and ID theft, says Lenny Sanicola, practice leader, professional development at WorldatWork.
"These benefits may not have high participation rates, but there is still the perception from employees that companies are making these services available to them."
Flex-Time Folly: A big mistake that companies make is thinking they are solving all of their employees’ work-life balance issues by allowing them to work from home, said Ellen Kossek, a professor of labor and industrial relations at Michigan State University.
In her presentation, "CEO of Me: Managing Flexstyles and Work-Life Relationships," Kossek warned that teleworkers can often be as stressed if not more stressed than those employees who come into the office because their work and home lives meld together. "Many teleworkers are checking e-mail all the time late into the evenings," she said.
Employers should be particularly concerned about this because those are the employees who tend to be the high-performers and companies want to be wary of burning them out, said Shelley MacDermid, professor and director at Purdue University in her presentation later that morning.
"Those employees who experience the most conflict are the ones that are highly motivated and conscientious," she said.
To address this issue, some companies are setting policies that forbid employees from sending e-mails at night or during the weekend, said Rachel Hastings, vice president with WFC Resources, a consultant.
Day 1—May 20
Risky Business: Taking risks was a theme of many speakers’ presentations on Wednesday. Whether it was taking a risk by hiring candidates based on values instead of skill to taking a risk in trying new types of work arrangements, it was clear that WorldatWork speakers subscribe to the philosophy of nothing ventured, nothing gained.
In the opening keynote speech, business guru and author Jonas Ridderstrale told attendees to get over their fear of surprises.
Too often companies accept mediocrity, he told attendees. Instead of just allowing some mediocre performers to coast, employers need to embrace those high-performers who make mistakes every now and then.
"If we rule out the risk of a negative surprise, we will never have a positive surprise," he said.
In a panel discussion later that morning, Richard Postler, director, HR for global research and development at Procter & Gamble, explained how his company actually encourages mistakes.
To encourage employees to create new ideas for products and services, Procter & Gamble constantly communicates the importance of innovation. As part of that, the company’s goal is to drive a 50 percent failure rate, Postler said.
"If an idea fails, we don’t expect it to just die," he said. "We expect something else to happen with it or to learn something from that experience."
For example, one team came up with an idea for the Mr. Clean car wash. But that idea didn’t fit into what Procter & Gamble does, Postler said. "We don’t do car washes." Instead, the company set it up as a franchised business.
It’s up to HR to drive a culture of innovation that encourages employees to take risks and in some cases fail, Postler said.
In her presentation, Flexibility: So Much More Than an Arrangement, Kathy Kacher encouraged HR managers to take a risk and turn their flex work arrangements into formal policies.
Many companies are offering employees the chance to work flexible schedules, but since they are keeping these programs secret, they have no way of tracking the return on investment.
HR executives need to go to their bosses and explain the business strategy behind these programs, said Kacher, who is president of Career/Life Alliance Services.
"Figure out what the leaders are doing with regard to business strategy and explain how flexible work can contribute to that," she said.