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Why Companies Should Put Employee Happiness First

Nicole Goodkind
Nicole Goodkind
Daily Ticker

Some depressing news for U.S. workers: By 2020, over 40% of Americans can expect to be working as freelancers. Walmart (WMT) has resorted to holding food drives for its own workers and U.S. employers on average contribute 3% to their employees' 401(k) plans -- the lowest rate in the developed world.

It appears that the business world is moving away from benefits and perks and letting employees figure out how to save for retirement and pay for healthcare on their own. This is clearly bad news for working-class Americans but it’s also bad news for the companies that employ them, according to a study by Principal Financial Group.

Related: Jobs Market Bumping Along Bottom of Very Deep Hole: Economist

Each year, Principal Financial Group ranks the 10 best small to mid-sized companies in terms of employee benefits. “What these companies find out is if they invest in their employees' financial well-being that pays off in the bottom line,” says Luke Vandermillen, vice president at Principal. “One really good proof-point is that these companies have less than 5% voluntary employee turn-over and the national average is about 20%.”

According to Gallup, lost productivity due to employee unhappiness and disengagement costs over $300 billion annually. Another Gallup study found that business unit sales and profits could be predicted by employees’ feelings about the company.

So what are some of the perks that the winning companies give employees?

“Seventy percent of these companies pay for 100% of employees’ health insurance and 70% have automatic retirement plans,” says Vandermillen.

Related: A New Reason Not To Work

The winning companies also got creative with the benefits they provide:

Capital District Physicians recently installed treadmill workstations so that employees can exercise while getting work done.

The Nyhart company, one of the nation’s largest independent actuarial companies, uses its statistical know-how to calculate exactly how much money each employee needs for a happy retirement and helps them get there.

And consulting firm Integrated Project Management is paying for all employees and family members to take an all-expense paid island vacation to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary.

Does your company give any interesting benefits?

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