Companies look for healthy ways to keep staff

Singapore – A growing number of employers across APAC are offering health benefits and a choice in packages to help staff manage stress, increase employee engagement and attract and retain the best workers.

With another period of financial uncertainty looming, companies are increasingly concerned about their ability to hold staff and maintain a healthy workforce.

Among the nearly 900 employers interviewed in the Mercer Asia Pacific Total Health and Choice Benefits 2011 Survey, 81% were “concerned about the current and future health of their employees”.

Many also indicated the cost of healthcare as a percentage of payroll was on the rise with 35% saying they were spending more than 6% of payroll on health benefits, while 10% were spending more than 15%.

While the majority of employers across APAC don’t have an integrated or strategic approach to health and wellness management, more than half indicated a desire to implement more programmes.

Topping the list of health services offered by employers was employee health check-ups (84%), biometric screening tests (59%), and health talks or health fairs (49%).

However, firms indicated an interest in implementing more innovative and interventional programmes in the next two years through expanded use of health risk assessment questionnaires (47%), stress management (46%) and chronic disease management (43%).

Employers are also increasingly recognising the families of employees under their health schemes – with 52% of companies providing health management programmes to employees’ children, 40% covering spouses, 13% providing programmes to parents and 5% to retirees.

While around half of those surveyed said they were looking to increase expenditure on health and fitness programmes and benefits, 81% said they offered no choice in benefits for employees.

China topped the list of countries where 20% of companies did offer employees a choice of benefits.

China was followed by Singapore at 19%, Hong Kong 17%, Taiwan 16%, India 15% and the Philippines 12%.

The top three reasons for respondents implementing programmes were market competitiveness, meeting the diverse needs of employees and moving towards a total rewards programme.

Respondent companies that did not offer choice of benefits and did not plan to cited administration complexity and cost of an employee choice programme as the two main reasons.

“The survey highlights the importance of differentiating and positioning your organisation for continued growth in Asia Pacific, while containing the rising cost of healthcare,” said Michael Hilton, Mercer’s APAC benefits consulting leader for health and benefits.

“Many employers are coming to us for cost-effective and innovative choice and wellness programmes to help manage their talent and employee healthcare issues.”

Technologies boost productivity

Global – Organisations are increasingly employing technologies, including social and mobile platforms, to optimise their workforce productivity, according to the recent CedarCrestone 2011-2012 HR Systems Survey.

The survey, based on responses from 18 million employees globally, found applications that helped organisations acquire, develop and retain talent were becoming increasingly popular with employers.

Along with recruiting and performance management, which showed a 56% adoption rate, and recruiting and learning management with 52% adoption, recruiting automation was also enjoying high uptake.

With talent management and workforce management at the top of most organisations’ lists, the use of talent management applications had increased at an average of 14% since 2010.

The survey found a continuing rise in recruiting via online jobs boards, referrals and social networking platforms, while performance management was even being reinforced through automated goal-setting processes using software and platforms.

This allows learning and development programmes to be more easily aligned with the company goals and objectives, while employees are increasingly able to use automated technologies to monitor and track their progress.

Programmes that analyse talent and provide greater access to an employees’ competencies are now being used for planning, recruiting, development and compensation processes.

With employers using platforms and software for more of the particularly administrative HR work, this allows more time to focus on strategic HR functions.

The use of social applications has gained popularity among HR departments with the survey showing 29% were using social media platforms in 2011.

Beyond the obvious networking opportunities, these social tools were being utilised to develop careers, help in succession planning and competency management, with the trend likely to grow in 2012.

Those from US organisations made up 84% of the survey respondents, 9% from Europe/Middle East/Africa, 3% from Canada and 4% from the rest of the world.

Bonuses for employees

Singapore – Companies will continue to increase employees’ salaries and bonus payouts to stay competitive in the current global economic landscape, according to Hay Group, a global management consultancy firm.

Retaining talent remains a core focus for 88% of 480 Singapore-based companies responding to the “Bracing for an Unpredictable Economy” report, who seek to meet new business challenges by engaging employees through a set of performance-based rewards.

Firms have forecast salary increments of 4.4% this year, remaining constant from the previous year. This is paralleled by an increase in average variable bonus payouts from 2.3 to 2.7 months.

Salary increments are among a series of measures firms are looking into to stay current and competitive.

Firms recognise performing talent should be rewarded.

“In light of the subdued economic outlook, companies are looking once again at how to do more with less. Hence, having employees willing to go the extra mile is critical for business success,” said Victor Chan, regional general manager for productivised services, Hay Group.

Other enticements include incentives and implementation of programmes to motivate and train employees.

“As businesses are operating with leaner resources, it is imperative organisations continue to invest in training and development to get the best out of their existing talent force and provide them with the opportunity to gain exposure to other key functional business areas within the organisation,” Chan said.