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From the Editors

From the Editors

Branson and Benefits: SHRM Conference Day 1

June 27, 2011
Related Topics: Strategy and Management

[caption id="attachment_62" align="alignright" width="232" caption="Virgin Atlantic CEO Richard Branson"][/caption]

The action, the slots, the shows and the parties and, oh yes, a conference too.

The Society for Human Resources (SHRM) annual conference and exposition returned to the bright lights of Las Vegas Sunday after a four-year hiatus that featured stops in Chicago, New Orleans and San Diego. According to SHRM figures, 18,000 people braved the 100-degree heat to attend.

Regrettably, I arrived late and walked through the doors just as Sir Richard Branson’s opening keynote concluded. According to folks I talked to about his session, the Virgin Group boss, ever the savvy marketer, took a few digs at his airline competitors stateside and addressed the role of HR in the growth of his bevy of Branson companies. Score that a small success as I’ve been to plenty of big keynotes that could just as well have been delivered to an audience of accountants as HR managers.

Some other news coming out of Day 1:

  • SHRM named Hank Jackson as new president. Jackson has been acting as interim president since former president Lon O’Neil resigned last July and will be the association’s third president in the last three years.
  • A dissident group of former SHRM members, including a few past presidents, board members and Talent Management columnist and editorial advisory board member Jac Fitz-enz, held a competing press conference Sunday to highlight what the group, SHRM Members for Transparency, said are “policies that we believe are not in SHRM members’ best interests and in some cases unknown to SHRM’s members.” Among their concerns, rising compensation for board members and lack of support for HRCI certification.

SHRM is also making a big push for employee wellness this year, featuring a special pavilion on the expo floor highlighting the ways that things like health screening, weight loss and stress reduction programs can boost productivity and employee overall health. That push is in part due to the rising cost of healthcare coverage for employers, said Mark Schmit, SHRM director of research.

While employer spending on mandatory benefits has remained largely the same, averaging about 19 percent of an employee's salary, the cost of healthcare coverage continues to rise, meaning that employee contributions have to go up. Employers continue to be squeezed by the aftereffects of the recession. Seventy-seven percent of the 573 HR managers SHRM surveyed reported that their employee benefits offerings have been negatively impacted. Wellness programs may be the salve to heal those cuts, Schmit said.

According to a meta-analysis of 56 studies, employee wellness and health promotion programs can deliver a return of $6 for every $1 spent on wellness and reduce sick leave absenteeism by 27 percent and health costs by 26 percent. Despite those numbers, the percentage of organizations that provide wellness programs has remained stagnant since 2008 at about 60 percent.

Wellness may be the boost that's needed to keep your benefits competitive.


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