EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Nation's Top 10 Small Employers Announced

The annual Principal Financial rankings highlight the best small businesses for employee financial security.
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Amid a tightening labor market, taking good care of workers pays off, according to a new report from the Principal Financial Group.

In its annual picks of the nation's best small businesses for employee financial security, which were announced on Monday, the Des Moines, Iowa-based financial firm identified fast-growing companies from a range of industries that use innovative benefits packages -- from wellness programs to an auto-pilot retirement savings plan -- to maintain "exceptionally low turnover rates."

This year's 10 winners, which had between five and 1,000 employees, included a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, utilities company, a Miramar, Fla., credit union, and a Saline, Mich., bookmaker, and other companies in a range of industries -- from manufacturing and marketing, to agriculture and financial services.

"They've found ways to reach a balance between the cost of benefits and providing good employee security," Renee Schaaf, Principal Financial Group's vice president, said in a statement. As such, Schaaf said, they're able to leverage good benefits to "help drive their business success, because it allows them to attract and retain the best talent out there."

Whenever possible, workers make job choices based on an employer's benefits offer, said Dallas Salisbury, head of the Employee Benefit Research Institute, and a member of this year's judging panel. Employers need to understand the "tremendous value in providing great employee benefits programs."

Of the top 10 companies, eight offered automatic investment options -- allowing workers to identify their year of retirement and adjust their assets accordingly, the firm said. Two others offered automatic deferral increases, where the percentage deferred for retirement savings rises year by year, while at least one provided automatic enrolment in 401(k) plans.

Nearly all made target date or lifetime investment options, among other "do-it-for-me" incentives in their 401(k) plans, the firm said.

In addition, half also offered defined benefit plans or enhanced defined contribution retirement plans, which boost employees' defined benefit options with an income or variable annuity, the firm said.

Yet, beyond providing extra benefits, the companies also found ways of making them more meaningful to their employees, said Dan McCarthy, another member of this year's judging panel. "Whether it was immunizations of wellness benefits, financial planning or automatic enrollment," McCarthy said. "They are enabling employees to make better use of those benefits."

To do that, nearly every company also provided one-on-one benefit guidance or financial planning training at the workplace, the firm said. 

Last updated: Oct 16, 2006




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