Monday, February 9, 2009

Concierge benefits give employers an edge in recruitment and retention

Employee Benefit Adviser

By McLean Robbins

January 1, 2009

... Katherine Giovanni, president of the International Concierge and Errand Association, says that concierge benefits are an effective and still largely overlooked work-life benefits offering.

"It's going to give you an edge up on your competition because not everyone is offering this benefit," according to Giovanni. ...

Doug Cook, owner and founder of Birmingham, Ala.-based Concierge Worldwide, advocates for concierge benefits because they have a direct and lasting impact. He puts the rationale in terms employers understand.

"If you add in 1% [to the match] on the 401(k), people think, 'Wow, that's good,'" Cook says. "Two days later, they've forgotten about it."

... Dalbey Education Institute, a 275-employee Denver-based company, ... [brought] a full-time concierge into their office. Within seven weeks of implementing the program, Dalbey says 70% of employees were onboard, more than twice the one-year national average.

Dalbey's HR Director Nancy Bodnar ... and her three-member team had been brainstorming for some time about how to increase employee satisfaction and improve retention, especially among the "what can you do for me now" Gen X and Gen Y set.

"Our culture is first and foremost. If our employees aren't successful, our clients aren't happy," says Bodnar. ...

... Concierge benefits, she says, can actually affect cultural change - the way employees view a workplace, and the way they perform day-to-day activities at the job without personal distractions. ...

Show me the $$$

When marketing his services to potential clients, [Todd Wheeler, owner of Concierge Resources] ... says that he focuses on finding companies that understand that people are their most important product. ...

["We do what you don't want to do, what you don't know how to do, and what you don't have time to do," Wheeler says.] ...

"It was about helping employees focus on work and not having to worry about all the little things that can bog down their time," [Bodnar]says. She wanted to increase retention and make the organization a true "best place to work."

Bodnar's data suggested that employees can lose as many as one to two hours each day with non-work related activities while in the office. Thus, she said, even if productivity loss was cut to a mere 30 minutes daily, when averaging the monetary loss of each employee, the net loss for the company was more than a million dollars annually - several times the price tag for an effective concierge program.

Depending on the size of the office, Wheeler estimates that full-time, in-house concierge benefits cost between $20 and $40 per employee, per month. Given the economy and the ever-shrinking pile of employee benefit dollars that sounds high, but Bodnar disagrees. "It's a modest financial impact; really ... we're talking a couple of people's annual salaries." She says that if you lose several employees each year and consider the cost of finding, training, and re-hiring new personnel, the costs even out, particularly when factoring return on investment.

Hiring a concierge is indeed less expensive than many cash-strapped businesses fear, according to Giovanni. Older workers looking to retire and work part time, or younger employees looking for a foot in the door can make great concierge workers, she says.

There are green benefits to having a concierge program as well. Wheeler says that in a single year, one business's concierge program eliminated 130,000 vehicle miles from the roads.

Effectively-developed concierge programs should create a positive feedback loop and numerous referrals when implemented correctly.

"Our executives have commented that this has been the best benefit we've ever offered," Bodnar says.

When baby boomers in the organization begin to retire, many spots will open up for Gen X and Gen Y employees who will "shop around" for the best positions. Since work-life balance plays a decisive role in their decision making, a concierge program could become more valuable over time.