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Weldon LeBlanc: Flexible options to both keep and find new employees

Friday, March 5th, 2010 | 10:07 am

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By Weldon LeBlanc

A few years ago, retaining and recruiting employees was one of the top challenges facing businesses in the Okanagan. With the onset of the economic downturn, businesses shifted their focus toward keeping the doors open.

Now as the economy begins to rebound, the issue of retaining and recruiting staff is once again emerging from the economic clutter as a challenge. In the annual survey of Kelowna Chamber membership (February 2010), businesses anticipate that retaining and recruiting qualified staff will be an obstacle during 2010. This survey reinforces a survey that was conducted in October 2009 by the Kelowna Chamber and Meyers Norris Penny which indicated that one-third of businesses plan to increase staffing levels in 2010 (above 2009).

Of those planning to hire new staff in 2010, the primary areas of focus are sales, technical, and administrative/clerical positions. The Kelowna Chamber office is a small office with the ages of staff spanning four decades. For those who have done their homework, they know that meeting the needs of your gen X, Y, and boomers is a challenge. More money More vacation time More health coverage More pension benefits

Come to think of it, that looks like my wish list. My thoughts about flex benefits started with a conversation with human resource professional Shawnee Love of Love HR at a Chamber Business After Hours. We chatted about staffing and retaining staff. We followed that up with a coffee shop meeting.

While in theory a Chamber of Commerce is a not-for-profit organization, I run the office like a business. And, like many businesses we have limited financial resources. Rather than be a market leader in HR practices, I prefer to adopt market practices. I don’t have to lead the way, but I want to be competitive and treat our employees fairly.

The thinking behind using flex benefits is that employees can select from a range of benefits to meet their own specific needs. The employer determines how much they want to spend on benefits, and the employee chooses based upon his/her needs.

In a study by Hewitt Associates (Flexi-ability: Employer Attitude Towards Flexible Benefits) the main reasons employers use flexible benefits are: 91% — to cater diverse work force 67% — contain benefit cost increases 38% — attraction / retention 35% — employee satisfaction and employee awareness

So far in my research I’ve found that there are flexible options for an employer to offer flex benefits: core plus options, modular, full-flex, flexible spending accounts, premium-only, opt-up/down, and, add-on programs.

There are a number of qualified human resource professionals in Kelowna who can provide guidance and insight into the world of flex benefits (it’s not for everyone). If you’re not sure who they are, have a look at the Kelowna Chamber directory ( If you’re one of those employers concerned about keeping up your staffing levels in the upcoming year, flex benefits may be an option for you.

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