Both Pay and Health Benefits Matter to US Employees

Both Pay and Health Benefits Matter to US Employees

The latest “Getting Paid In America” survey from the American Payroll Association finds that 63 percent of US employees consider higher wages more important than better health benefits—more than the number who said so last year:

“A wage increase is easy for workers to understand. The value is clear and immediately apparent,” said Mike Trabold, director of compliance risk for Paychex. “In 2017, considering today’s unpredictable regulatory environment, the same can’t be said for better benefits.”

The annual APA survey asked, “What’s more important to you, better health benefits or higher wages?” Sixty-three percent of respondents indicated higher wages are more important than health benefits. The number of survey participants with this preference rose 12.5% from the 2016 results for the same question, which indicated only 56% of employees shared this sentiment.

Even if health benefits are less important than wages to American workers, our research at CEB, now Gartner, shows that they are still a priority. In fact, according to our Global Talent Monitor data, health benefits are the second most important attribute for US employees considering a potential employer. The first is compensation, which is consistently the leading driver of attraction worldwide.

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UK Labor Market’s Brexit Beating May Be Yet to Come

UK Labor Market’s Brexit Beating May Be Yet to Come

After suffering a shock in the aftermath of June’s Brexit referendum, business confidence in the UK appears to have stabilized. A new report from ManpowerGroup suggests the same, but as Alexandra Gibbs observes at CNBC, there are signs of trouble down the road:

In the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, out of the nine industry sectors surveyed, eight are expected to grow in staffing levels during 2016’s final quarter, highlighting that on the surface, the referendum outcome has “done little to dampen employers’ immediate hiring plans.” … Yet in its survey which looks at U.K. employer responses, despite job prospects having remained relatively stable, Manpower suggests that “cracks in the ice” are starting to appear within the country’s labor market, after six out of nine sectors reported a drop in jobs optimism.

Portrayed as “bellwether sectors”: construction, financial & business services, and utilities showed the biggest declines in confidence, having all reported a four percentage point dip in employer optimism when comparing Britain’s final quarter to its third quarter for 2016. Looking at regions, employers in Yorkshire & the Humber and Northern Ireland expect staffing levels to fall. On top of that, the Manpower outlook survey revealed that sentiment around hiring in the public sector had tumbled to its weakest level in over four years. A sector that according to Manpower, accounts for close to one in 10 U.K. jobs.

I still don’t think the optimistic August numbers are enough to ward off concerns about the future of the UK’s labor market. The sectors showing the biggest increase, according to Manpower, are agriculture and hotels/retail. The agriculture sector depends heavily on seasonal migrant workers from Europe, and just this week, British farmers called on the government to make sure they still have access to that vital labor pool after the UK exits the EU.

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Why Financial Incentives Can Backfire

Why Financial Incentives Can Backfire

At Science of Us, Melissa Dahl discusses an interesting experiment from behavioral economist Dan Ariely’s upcoming book Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations. In the experiment, employees at an Intel semiconductor factory in Israel were told at the start of their workweek that they would get a modest cash bonus, a voucher for pizza, or a compliment from their boss if they got all their work done, to see which of these rewards had the greatest motivational effect. The results were surprising:

After the first day, pizza proved to be the top motivator, increasing productivity by 6.7 percent over the control group, thereby just barely edging out the promise of a compliment (in the form of a text message from the boss that said “Well done!”). Those in the compliment condition increased their productivity by 6.6 percent as compared to the control group. But the worst motivator, much to the company’s surprise, was the cash bonus, which increased productivity by just 4.9 percent as compared to the control group.

It wasn’t a big cash bonus, at 100 NIS, or about $30. Even so, what happened over the next several days was surprising: On the second day of the workweek, those in the money condition performed 13.2 percent worse than those in the control group. This leveled out over the next several days, but for the week overall, the cash bonus ended up costing the company more and resulted in a 6.5 percent drop in productivity. From the employer’s perspective, a cash bonus is worse than offering no incentive at all.

Pizza and compliments, on the other hand — people like pizza and compliments. Over the course of the workweek, the output of the workers in these conditions slowed a little, becoming by the end of the week closer to the productivity level of the control group (but still better than no incentive). All told, the compliment proved to be the very best motivator, though Ariely thinks that if the experiment had gone the way he wanted, pizza would’ve fared best.

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Are Headhunters to Blame for Rising Wage Inequality?

Are Headhunters to Blame for Rising Wage Inequality?

At Bloomberg, Carolynn Look takes note of a new paper arguing that professional recruitment firms, by funneling top talent into high-performing (and high-paying) organizations, are exacerbating the gap in pay between top earners and the average employee:

The share that the top 1 percent of earners in the U.S. take from total wages has almost doubled since the 1970s, and Alexey Gorn, a researcher at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, suggests it may have something to do with the simultaneous rise of professional recruitment firms. In a paper, presented at last week’s European Economic Association conference in Geneva he argues that at least 40 percent of top earners’ wage growth can be traced back to headhunters offering exclusive opportunities to high-skilled workers at the best firms — along with a paycheck that less-well trained people won’t ever see. …

To determine the impact headhunters might have on wage inequality, Gorn developed a model based on U.S. labor-market features in the 1970s and 2010s. According to his calculations, the introduction of headhunters leads to a significant shift of high-skilled personnel toward the most productive firms. Likewise, less-productive firms have lost top workers, and less-skilled laborers have forgone a shot at the best-paying jobs.

This idea is reminiscent of “corporate inequality,” the theory that income inequality is driven largely by how well different firms pay. While I understand the argument this paper is making, I wonder whether it’s accurate to identify professional recruiters as the cause of this phenomenon.

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Parenting and the Pay Gap

Parenting and the Pay Gap

While the gender wage gap is much narrower today than it was half a century ago, women’s progress in closing that gap has slowed in recent years. FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Casselman explains why:

Hourly pay has risen more than twice as fast over the past three decades for men working long hours, as employers increasingly reward employees willing to work extra hours with raises or promotions. (The pattern crosses educational and industry lines, and holds when excluding overtime pay.) Notice that I said “men.” Men make up a bit more than half the full-time workforce, but they account for more than 70 percent of those working 50 hours a week or more. So as wage gains have gone disproportionately to people working long hours, they have also gone disproportionately to men, widening the earnings divide between men and women overall. …

The rapid rise in pay for people working long hours has played a major role in the persistence of the overall gender wage gap, particularly for parents; new research in the Russell Sage Foundation volume estimates that the wage gap between mothers and fathers would be 15 percent smaller if the extra-hours increase hadn’t occurred. But that premium itself isn’t the result of discrimination, explicit or implicit; women who work long hours have seen even faster gains than men (although they still earn less on average).

Rather, the trend contributes to the wage gap because men are so much more likely than women to work those long hours. That, in turn, is the result of a confluence of factors that are deeply embedded in the American economy and society: Women, on average, spend much more time than men on housework, while men — especially a certain category of highly educated, elite men — are expected to work as much as possible.

Arguably, the cultural norm of mothers as primary caregivers is holding women back from closing the wage gap in more ways than just hindering them from working longer hours.

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