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Employee incentives a boon to employers and employees alike

ANAHEIM, CA — If you’ve been thinking about employees and their benefits as a cost to your company, you’re taking the wrong approach.

Benefits and employees should be looked at as an investment rather than a cost to employers. That was the takeaway message from the “Retaining Top Talent and Keeping it Engaged — A Total Rewards Approach” educational workshop session, held at the Produce Marketing Association’s 2012 Fresh Summit, here.

Paul Rowson of the MITRE Corp. and WorldatWork said that salary initially attracts employees, but it gets less important as time goes on. Ultimately, he said, people want to feel appreciated at work, and the best way to do this is through benefits, including educational and training programs, flexible work arrangements and a good work-life balance.

While companies may be unable to offer extensive benefits packages, Mr. Rowson noted that many companies would actually save money if they consulted employees to see which benefits they want. In doing so, employers can avoid committing their time and money to something people are indifferent to.

“Don’t give them something they don’t want,” he warned.

He also discussed the power of appreciation, noting a company that found itself in a salary freeze. Unable to provide employees with more money, the unnamed company brought in PricewaterhouseCoopers to teach employees how to better invest the money they made. Over the next year, the company’s retention skyrocketed. When asked why, employees noted the experience and said they stayed because the company cared about them.

Employee benefits, which don’t necessarily have to cost employers money, can be a hidden source of value for companies.