Doing Well and Doing Good: Benefits and the Bottom Line

Posted on August 31, 2009


Today’s Wall Street Journal features two articles that nicely describe how employee benefits – and, by extension, the professionals who create, manage and communicate employee benefits programs – can have a measurable and positive impact on the bottom line.

The first article describes how Burgerville, a regional restaurant chain, reduced turnover and boosted its financial performance by significantly expanding the number of employees eligible for the company’s health insurance. The chain has gone above and beyond the norms in the restaurant industry by paying at least 90% of insurance premiums for hourly employees who work at least 20 hours per week. According to the article,

Executives say the plan paid for itself, and more. Turnover in 2006 plunged to 54%, from 128% in 2005. That’s a big deal when it costs an average of $1,700 to replace and train a restaurant worker. . ..

The second article looks at the wellness program run by the U.S. operations of Syngenta, the Swiss maker of seeds and agricultural chemicals. The program includes employees’ spouses and domestic partners. The article notes that around half of U.S. employers include spouses in wellness programs, but that Syngenta is unique because of the company’s “aggressive pursuit” of spouses. The company decided on the strategy after “noticing [staffers’ spouses and domestic partners] had higher medical-insurance claims than employees themselves.” The program has been successful, both from a financial perspective (the company says its annual health-care cost increases have been less than average) as well as from the perspective of employee engagement.

It’s always nice when doing the right thing by employees – whether expanding access to health insurance or providing a comprehensive wellness program – is also the right thing from a business perspective.