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Detriments of benefits

24 February, 2015 - 17:30

Benefits can provide companies with ways to attract high quality employees and help retain them especially if the benefits offered are significantly different or better than the benefits offered by competitors. However, there are negative situations that can arise from offering too many or the wrong kind of benefits to employees. These can be better understood in the context of the following case study.

By attracting employees who desire a strong work/life balance, the SAS Institute has the potential to create an overly homogenous culture. This can lead to a lack of dissent in the company; if someone disagrees with a policy or practice, they may be less likely to voice their opinions for fear of demonstrating different opinions than their friends and co-workers. This can also foster an environment that lacks cultural, ethnic, or social diversity, which can lead to an inability to adopt change within the company.

Case, The SAS Institute

The SAS Institute, based in the southern United States, is a software development company that competes against global software giants, such as Microsoft. In order to attract employees that fit their unique company culture, SAS has developed an extensive employee benefit program that is offered to all employees at the company. Salaries paid to SAS employees are not significantly higher than competitors in the industry, but they do maintain a competitive pay rate. For the ideal employee, however, the benefits more than compensate for an unimpressive salary.

Benefits at SAS include: private offices for all employees; contributions of 15 per cent into employee profit sharing plans; 200 acre natural campus setting with on-site hiking trails and picnic areas, sculptures, and artwork; the latest technology and equipment; 35 hour work week; on-site medical facility (including nurses, doctors, a physical therapist, massage therapist, and mental health practitioner), five minute waiting time for appointments, and free healthcare for employees and their families; health plans that cover most basic needs and offer “cost accountable” services for services that are more extensive; on-site Montessori daycare at 33 per cent of the cost of normal daycare; on-site private junior and senior high schools, open to students from outside of SAS, with high tech laboratories and equipment; free on-site gym for employees and families with a pool, exercise classes, yoga, weight room, etc.; cafeteria with high quality food at low prices, live piano music, and the option of dining with your children if they attend the on-site schools; subsidized memberships offered for health clubs and daycare off property; company owned country club memberships at significantly low costs for employees and their families; and more.

SAS is a unique example of a company that hires employees who desire a strong work/life balance. Not all software engineers would desire this lifestyle, but SAS recognizes that they hire from a unique niche of employees and seek to attract these individuals. This has been very successful; “SAS is certainly among the lowest [turnover] in the industry—less than 4 per cent annually. For a company of more than 5,000 employees, this is quite an achievement, and much of their success can be linked to their unique HRM practices” (SAS).