For Your Benefit

While talking with a couple of Gen X’ers the other night, they questioned if it was a good idea to find new employment in hopes of bettering their benefits?  Certainly a good benefits package is among the reasons people accept particular jobs.  But if all you want to do is improve your benefits without trying to improve the quality of your work life and the value of your impact, switching jobs for better benefits is not a good idea.
When your decision to transfer employers for better benefits becomes known to the employer – and they will figure this out – it will kill your chances of getting hired.  While there is nothing wrong with wanting better benefits, as a prime motivator to switch jobs you will look shallow, arrogant, and selfish; not the traits most wanted by employers.
There are many factors that determine the actual dollar value of your benefits, some more easy to calculate than others, so switching jobs based on benefits is not clear cut.  Your personal lifestyle, costs of living, location and familial needs will contribute to that valuation.  If you live in the heart of an urban area, your need for certain benefits will be different than if you commute from the suburbs.  Workers with spouses and families will have different benefit needs than those of a single individual.
The cost factors of some benefits are partially based on the total number of employees in the entire firm, not just your office.  In a large company with multiple locations, the actual dollar costs to the employer may be less per worker than in a smaller firm with a single location and fewer people to insure for the same benefits enabling the employer to offer more diversity in their plans.
Benefit program rates charged to the employer may in part be influenced by location, average worker age and other actuarial and demographic factors.  Not all benefits will be employer-paid.  And not all employers in the same industry will offer exactly the same benefits packages, despite claims of “competitive salary and benefits”.  And even if a plan is fully paid for by the employer, it may not be perceived as of equal value.
Some benefits will seem more important or attractive than others, depending on your own needs at the time of hire.  Unfortunately there is no guarantee the employer will be able to keep up the same level of benefits as time goes on.  Company liquidity, stability, debt, acquisitions, size, the economy and other factors will influence their ability to offer and pay for your benefits.  Circumstances could change after you’ve been hired necessitating the company no longer make the same payments toward employee IRA accounts.  Stock options may seem very attractive but if the company doesn’t have the success they hoped for, those options could end up being worthless.
Employers are not obligated to offer any benefits! Those who can afford to pay for benefits do so because it helps them attract, hire and retain candidates they hope will be motivated to do good work.  Some provide these incentives in hopes that doing so will free up the employee to concentrate on their jobs with less distraction.  Employers recognize that most workers do expect good benefits, so they try to offer as much as they can, when they can.
Certainly if you’re unhappy with the level of support you feel as a worker from your employer, and you feel you can do better elsewhere, then switching gigs is something to consider.  If you’ve outgrown the gig and feel like you’re stagnating, make the move.  Otherwise, think about staying put.
Yes, sometimes you may be able to find “greener pastures” to work in, but don’t forget to weigh all the factors: the actual work you’re doing, the people, your output, personal recognition, your commute, daily expenses and the myriad other reasons you took that job in the first place. If you are unsatisfied, you need to figure out why, and then react.
Better benefits alone are not reason enough to change jobs in my opinion.
Talk to your employer or HR representative and ask about any improvement to the benefits package that appeal to you and other employees, and ask if anything can be done about it.  Speaking with the right party on these issues is important when you have the job because these aren’t fully appropriate discussions for when you are seeking a job.  Silence and complacency do not encourage change.
Stay put, or make the move.  Do whatever is best for your benefit.
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