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Home  > Article

Looking for Good Benefits

By Ann Reckner

When looking for a company that offers good benefits, decide which benefits are most important to you and check out some of the determinants as well.

To obtain the best benefit package, it's a good idea to look to industries that are experiencing a hiring boom, or those that are facing a talent shortage.
How do you choose a company that offers good benefits? The first step is to define what benefits are most important to you. Are you interested in financial perks or a balance between your work and personal life? While some companies focus on one end of the spectrum or the other, it is possible to have both. So where do you begin?


Industry is the most frequent determinant of benefits, because each field has a unique culture that gives rise to distinct priorities regarding benefits. For example, finance, insurance, and real estate services are the most generous with benefits, according to a study by the Work and Families Institute -- especially benefits related to long-term financial security. Another example is the non-profit sector, which is known for offering exceptional health care benefits.

To obtain the best benefit packages, it's a good idea to look to industries that are experiencing a hiring boom, like health care, or those that are facing a talent shortage, such as information technology. Keep in mind that within each industry there are exceptions to the norm--good and bad--so do some research before making a judgment.

Like each industry, every company has a distinct corporate culture that affects the selection of benefits they offer. Companies with traditional cultures typically offer standard benefits -- including healthcare, pensions, and limited paid vacation time. Those with more progressive cultures are more likely to offer a broader array of benefits -- including flextime, stock options, and paternity leave. Ask around to see what kind of reputation a given company has, and refer to "best company" surveys in magazines such as Fortune, Money, and Working Mother.

The next most influential factor in determining benefits is size. While larger companies have more money and resources to put toward benefits, smaller companies often have less traditional corporate environments that lend themselves to more flexibility and creativity in determining benefits.

Difficulty Filling Positions
Companies that are experiencing difficulty filling positions tend to be more open to giving employees what they ask for. These companies are also more likely to offer benefits such as flextime, management/leadership training for women, health insurance for part-time workers, and retirement accounts.

The following factors are related mainly to work-life benefits:

Proportion of Female Executives
One provocative finding of the Work and Families Institute study was that companies with the best work-life benefits also have an above-average percentage of female executives. Eighty-two percent of companies with women in at least fifty percent of the top positions provide flextime, compared with 56 percent of companies with no women in top executive positions.

Proportion of Minority Executives
A similar pattern emerged in relation to the number of minorities in top positions. For example, nearly four times as many companies with minorities in executive positions offer on- or near-site child care.

Women as a Percentage of the Workforce
A company is more likely to provide flexible benefit options--such as job sharing, part-time work arrangements, time off to attend school functions, longer maternity leaves, and direct subsidies for child care--when women constitute a larger proportion of its workforce.

Hourly and part-time employees as a percentage of the workforce
While it may seem that hourly employees have a greater need for benefits because they are concentrated in lower paying jobs, companies that have a large number of hourly workers are less likely to provide significant benefits. In addition, even though companies with a lot of part-time workers are more likely to offer flexible work arrangements, they are less likely to provide health insurance or benefits that ensure economic security. The bottom line is that the best benefits typically come with full-time, salaried positions.

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