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'Don't Show Us the Money-Show Us Healthcare Benefits,' Workers Say

'Don't Show Us the Money-Show Us Healthcare Benefits,' Workers Say

When choosing jobs, Americans want healthcare benefits more than anything, a recent survey finds.

By Kristina Cowan

U.S. workers are putting money in its place-and it isn't first. According to a survey on what Americans want in a job, health insurance plans rank first, while compensation comes in 10th.

Next up after health insurance plans are job security, an environment with clear policies/procedures, retirement/pension plans, and a flexible, family-friendly workplace, says the survey for the Center for State and Local Government Excellence.

Elizabeth Kellar, executive director for the Washington-based center, says what the survey likely reflects "is that increasingly employers are not offering health-insurance benefits that are very good, or health-insurance benefits at all, so it's much more on people's minds when they're looking for a job."

Experts and employees offer differing opinions about the survey's findings, with some agreeing and others remaining skeptical.

Are Health Insurance Plans All the Rage?

While compensation is important, some experts say nowadays workers have different priorities.

Melanie Holmes, vice president of World of Work Solutions for Manpower in Milwaukee, Wis., says she's not surprised health insurance plans rank first in the survey, given the abundant media coverage of the nation's troubled health-care system.

She also agrees with the emphasis on job security and flexibility. "The perception out there is that the economy is soft. So people might understandably have anxiety about losing their jobs," she explains. "Work-life balance is becoming more important to older workers, and younger kids coming into work want work-life balance and want time for themselves, to give back to the community. It cuts across all age demographics."

Rich Milgram, founder and CEO of Beyond.com, a niche-specific career network, says he thinks money is less important than it used to be, especially for younger workers.

"I believe the kids coming out of college today are a different breed. They're not so set on a huge career track that's going to lead them to financial gain as much as their parents or my parents would have been. So there's good and bad to that," Milgram says. "But the fact is money is playing less of a factor. Quality of life is playing more of a factor these days, and I believe that's terrific. Companies need to realize that fact and start treating employees accordingly."

Ryan Healy, who recently graduated from Penn State University, says he ranks salary approximately fifth in importance. "I put ahead of it company culture, people you'll be interacting with, the amount of personal growth the job allows for, the amount of responsibility you're allowed to take," notes Healy, 23. "And this is assuming it's an adequate salary-you're not going to take a job that doesn't pay your bills."

Last fall Healy left his job as a financial consultant for IBM Global Business Services to work as part of the small team behind BrazenCareerist.com, a new online career center for young professionals.

But Money Does Matter!

Some are more skeptical of the survey's findings.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson, a Massachusetts-based human resources expert, says money still matters a lot, and recruiters tell her money plays a critical part in the hiring process.

"People have to feel like they're being recognized and rewarded, and compensation is a part of that. If people want to say money doesn't really matter, then they're living in a dream," she says.
M
ary Froehlich, a senior property manager at Sydney Associates, a real-estate firm in Brookline, Mass., shares a similar sentiment.

"It's interesting that compensation was number 10, because that's never been my mindset, and I still, even in younger workers, am not finding that," Froehlich says. "In 25 years of managing people, I have never come across that people don't want to make money, and I think that today you need to make money."

Ultimately, the survey raises important points for employers, Kellar says."Even during economic downturns, there is still going to be competition for talent. It's important for employers to be aware of what they need in terms of benefits if they want to compete for the talent," she notes.

Kristina Cowan is the senior writer for PayScale.com. She has over 10 years of journalism experience, specializing in education and workforce issues. Email Kristina Cowan.

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