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Survey flags best practices in employee benefits

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Which employee benefits are best of breed companies offering their workers? For an answer to this question, look no further than Principal Financial Group.

A new report from the insurer unveils the 2014 winners of the “The Principal 10 Best Companies for Employee Financial Competition.” Though the companies vary widely in terms of size, industry sector and geographic location, they have much in common.

All of the 10 best companies offer and fund 401(k) or 403(b) plans as well as profit-sharing programs. Several also provide defined benefit pension plans, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) or both.

There are other common denominators. Eighty percent of the 10 best companies automatically enroll eligible new employees in their 401(k) plans. And half of the plans boast auto-escalation features.

Several winners also do “periodic sweeps” to encourage eligible, non-participating employees to join their 401(k) plan. Other hallmarks of the companies include “generous” direct contributions to employee accounts and matching funds for employee contributions.

Additionally, 90 best of the 10 best companies have made a lifecycle fund their default asset allocation choice for their 401(k) plans. And all of the companies offer employees “extensive” financial planning resources, such as group seminars and guidance sessions, online telephone help lines and educational books and brochures.

The 10 honored companies also boast these benefits:

  • Comprehensive health insurance as a standard benefit, the premiums paid in whole or in part by the companies;
  • Health savings accounts (HSAs) and other flexible spending accounts, including ones that provide employees with financial assistance during life events;
  • Incentive programs and/or sponsored events that encourage employees, and often their families, to improve health and physical fitness and financial fitness.

How have the 10 best companies — CoBiz Financial, Keller Williams Realty, National Pork Board, among others — benefited from these generous offerings? As one might expect, they enjoy on average greater employee retention and loyalty than do other firms nationally.

“Employee turnover rates at [the] 10 best companies are lower than the national average, and in many cases markedly lower than their industry sector averages,” the report states. “Executives at these firms are convinced their benefit strategies play an important role not only in employee recruitment and retention, but also in maintaining high levels of engagement, motivation, and productivity among their workforces.”


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