On the Job

Someone Indeed Is Watching<@VM>Offbeat Perks Rare But Popular<@VM>Non-Tech Firms' Retention Woes

By Gail Repsher EmeryMost employers monitor workers' use of the Internet at work, according to a survey of 722 human resources personnel by the Society for Human Resource Management and the West Group.Employers monitor Web surfing and e-mail use at work because of concerns about lost productivity and inappropriate behavior, survey participants said. Most said employers have the right to know what sites an employee visits, how much time they spend on the Internet and what employees send or receive via an organization's e-mail system.Most respondents said they consider private only personal information, such as genetic and medical information and credit reports. Some said e-mail use (24 percent), Internet use (15 percent) and phone calls (37 percent) should be private. SHRM of Alexandria, Va., represents 150,000 human resource personnel worldwide; West Group of Eagan, Minn., is a leading provider of electronic information and solutions to the U.S. legal market. Few employers provide unusual benefits, such as massages, but most employees take advantage of non-traditional perks when they are offered, according to a national survey sponsored by Oxford Health Plans. While 29 percent of companies provide healthy lunches or dinners, 84 percent of employees take advantage of the benefit. Similarly, only 18 percent of companies offer health club memberships, but when they do, 72 percent of employees join. Just 6 percent of employers offer massage, but 60 percent of employees use the service.The New York firm Central Marketing Inc. conducted the random telephone survey of 632 men and women. "Our findings show these perks should no longer be considered alternatives but mainstays, since they are so well-accepted among workers and demonstrate an employer's commitment to promoting wellness in the workplace," said Alan Muney, Oxford's chief medical officer and executive vice president.Sixty-five percent of employers in both high-tech firms and traditional companies had trouble keeping workers with mission-critical skills last year, an increase of 9 percentage points over 1999, according to a national survey of 410 employers by Watson Wyatt, a human resources consulting firm.Interestingly, traditional firms had more turnover than high-tech firms did and more difficulty keeping workers with non-critical skills, the Washington firm found. High-tech firms posted a median turnover rate of 12 percent last year, while those in other industries registered a rate of 14 percent. Forty-five percent of traditional firms reported difficulty in keeping workers with non-critical skills vs. 38 percent of technical firms.

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