On the Fringe No More

Benefits packages play key role in attracting and keeping staff. Which benefits matter the most? Join the survey; get the answers.

August 16, 2007
by Rick Telberg/On Careers

The accounting and finance profession is clearly struggling mightily to address chronic staff shortages and work/life balance issues. As a result, fringe benefits packages seem to be gaining increased importance in the battle for talent and competitive advantage.

To be sure, employers in the tax, accounting and finance fields face hiring pressures little different from those found in other industries. And the attitudes of CPAs are hardly unique to the CPA profession. The employment situation is a national, perhaps global situation, requiring broad new economic and social policy initiatives.

Which benefits matter the most?

Join the survey; get the answers.

(Free. Confidential.)

Until that day comes, however, businesses and employees alike will be facing the same issues. The winners in this struggle will gain a competitive advantage in a market in which even the slightest advantage can be significant.

In our research into the inner workings of the profession, we are identifying which job benefits entice accountants the most and which kinds most firms and companies offer. First, the easy question: What benefits would come with the perfect job? Not surprisingly, almost all (96%) would want paid vacations and health insurance, and 95 percent would want a pension plan or 401(k).

The next tier in the ideal package is about 20 percentage points less popular. Seventy percent want dental insurance, while 77 percent want paid sick leave.

We drop almost as far to the next tier, where 59 percent want disability insurance, 56 percent want payroll direct deposit, 54 percent want life insurance and 50 percent want education reimbursement.

Generally, workers report receiving those same benefits in about those same proportions. Almost everybody gets paid vacations and health insurance, 91 percent have a pension plan, 80 percent enjoy payroll direct deposit, 79 percent get paid sick leave, 62 percent got disability insurance and 57 percent get flexible spending accounts. Life insurance and dental insurance were enjoyed by 73 percent and 63 percent, respectively.

So everybody's happy, right?


Ask this open-ended question and you'll get an earful more about overtime and health insurance.

Just listen for a moment:

— From a middle manager in public accounting: "Workweeks over 45 hours are commonplace and are actually a form of pay cut. This needs to stop and more consideration shown for workload and time off with pay."

— A senior executive had a good idea: "Partners should be allowed a sabbatical of one month off every three years in addition to regular vacation."

— From an HR department, some chilling words: "Soon I expect unions of CPAs where members insist on lesser hours."

Hey, maybe that's what it takes? Perish the thought!

Health insurance comes up as often as time, and four times more than anything else. The employers' gripe: The cost. The employees' gripe: The coverage.

The managing partner of a small firm in the Southwest echoes a common complaint: "Health insurance is getting outrageously expensive even though we have quadrupled the deductible and tripled the co-pay. We receive 12 percent to 22 percent increases year after year."

Many suggest that employees with employed spouses be able to decline the insurance, but, as one middle manager in an educational organization said, "How do firms compensate staff who do not require health insurance?"

Despite the cost of insurance, it's still the most common job benefit — yet it's not enough.

"Benefits are becoming more and more important in the accounting world as the marketplace for employees becomes more and more competitive," said a senior partner in a local firm. "Two weeks’ vacation and health insurance aren't going to cut it anymore."

Surprising Findings on Benefits

What cuts it? We turned up a few unexpected possibilities: Better working conditions, shorter commutes, tuition for the kids, more time with the family and longer vacations.

Employers had better listen hard, because we also know how benefits factor into job-changing plans. Fully three in four CPAs could change jobs for the right benefits package.

That's actually good if your company needs new staff and offers the right bait. But if your company can't compete with benefits, it may soon be saving a lot on salaries as staff emigrates in search of a better deal.

NOW IT'S YOUR TURN: Which benefits matter most? Join the survey; get the answers.

COMMENTS: Rants, raves, idle thoughts or questions? Contact Rick Telberg.

Copyright © 2007 Bay Street Group LLC: All Rights Reserved: Used by Permission.

About Rick Telberg

Rick Telberg is editor at large/director of online content.

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Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA or CPA2Biz. Official AICPA positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.