If you were to ask most business owners what their biggest challenges are, they will likely tell you that cost management is a major factor to the success or failure of their business. In most businesses today, the people part of the business is the most likely place for cuts when the economy isn’t doing well.
Consider the expenses that involve the people part of any business:
- Health-care benefits
- Training costs
- Hiring process costs
- And many more…
These costs cut into the bottom line of any business. The trick is to figure out how much, how many, or how often benefits should be offered, without sacrificing employee motivation. A company can cut costs by not offering benefits or 401(k) plans, but if its goal is to hire the best people, a hiring package without these items will most certainly not get the best people. Containment of costs, therefore, is a balancing act. An HR manager must offer as much as he or she can to attract and retain employees, but not offer too much, as this can put pressure on the company’s bottom line. We will discuss ways to alleviate this concern throughout this book.
For example, there are three ways to cut costs associated with health care:
- Shift more of the cost of health care to employees
- Reduce the benefits offered to cut costs
- Change or better negotiate the plan to reduce health-care costs
Health care costs companies approximately $4,003 per year for a single employee and $9,764 for families. This equals roughly 83 percent and 73 percent of total health-care costs for single employees and employees with families, 1 respectively. One possible strategy for containment for health-care plans is to implement a cafeteria plan.Cafeteria plans started becoming popular in the 1980s and have become standard in many organizations. 2 This type of plan gives all employees a minimum level of benefits and a set amount to spend on flexible benefits, such as additional health care or vacation time. It creates more flexible benefits, allowing the employee, based on his or her family situation, to choose which benefits are right for them. For example, a mother of two may choose to spend her flexible benefits on health care for her children, while a single, childless female may opt for more vacation days. In other words, these plans offer flexibility, while saving money, too. Cost containment strategies around benefits will be discussed in "Compensation and Benefits".
Another way to contain costs is by offering training. While this may seem counterintuitive, as training does cost money up front, it can actually save money in the long run. Consider how expensive a sexual harassment lawsuit or wrongful termination lawsuit might be. For example, a Sonic Drive-In was investigated by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) on behalf of seventy women who worked there, and it was found that a manager at one of the stores subjected the victims to inappropriate touching and comments. This lawsuit cost the organization $2 million. 3 Some simple training up front (costing less than the lawsuit) likely would have prevented this from happening. Training employees and management on how to work within the law, thereby reducing legal exposure, is a great way for HR to cut costs for the organization as a whole. In "Training and Development", we will further discuss how to organize, set up, and measure the success of a training program.
The hiring process and the cost of turnover in an organization can be very expensive. Turnover refers to the number of employees who leave a company in a particular period of time. By creating a recruiting and selection process with cost containment in mind, HR can contribute directly to cost-containment strategies company wide. In fact, the cost of hiring an employee or replacing an old one (turnover) can be as high as $9,777 for a position that pays $60,000. 4 By hiring smart the first time, HR managers can contain costs for their organization. This will be discussed in "Recruitment"and "Selection". Reducing turnover includes employee motivational strategies. This will be addressed in "Retention and Motivation".
In a survey reported on by the Sales and Marketing Management newsletter, 5 85 percent of managers say that ineffective communication is the cause of lost revenue. E-mail, instant messaging, text messages, and meetings are all examples of communication in business. An understanding of communication styles, personality styles, and channels of communication can help us be more effective in our communications, resulting in cost containment. In HRM, we can help ensure our people have the tools to communicate better, and contain costs and save dollars in doing so. Some of these tools for better communication will be addressed in "Successful Employee Communication"
One cost-containment strategy for US businesses has been offshoring. Offshoring refers to the movement of jobs overseas to contain costs. It is estimated that 3.3 million US jobs will be moved overseas by 2015. 6 According to the US Census Bureau, most of these jobs are Information Technology (IT) jobs as well as manufacturing jobs. This issue is unique to HR, as the responsibility for developing training for new workers and laying off domestic workers will often fall under the realm of HRM. Offshoring will be discussed in "International HRM", and training for new workers will be discussed in "Training and Development".
Of course, cost containment isn’t only up to HRM and managers, but as organizations look at various ways to contain costs, human resources can certainly provide solutions.