Microsoft employees found out Friday of last week in a town hall type meeting that starting in 2013 they will have to start contributing to their healthcare plans.

So based on that little tidbit of info, is the dream over for Microsoft employees?  Most IT professionals consider Microsoft as a top tier company with benefits and other perks to die for.  I for one have always dreamed of working at Microsoft, but as one employee posted on Mini Microsoft blog, “Microsoft now looks ordinary to me”.  Has this move changed people’s perspective and opinion of the company?

Speaking from experience of working for an organization that provided better than average health benefits that just recently pulled the rug from beneath its employees with barely adequate benefits; I feel for Microsoft employees.  It is not yet known just how much they will have to pay out of pocket, but in these tough economic times any amount could be substantial for many employees.  Those who also cover spouses and/or children will be especially hard hit because cost can double or even triple to cover families.

So what could this be a sign of?  It could be that Microsoft is losing the battle and on it’s way out.  However unlikely that could be there seems to be blood in the water and the sharks are starting to circle.  With its stocks being downgraded and Steve Ballmer having his bonus capped, there seems to be trouble in paradise.  Microsoft employees could be easily led away by other companies offering better benefits and that could spell potential trouble.  The economic troubles we’ve faced in these past few years have affected everyone and even the might Microsoft giant was not immune.  Employee retention will suffer as more and more employees weigh their options when it comes to paying anything out of pocket for health insurance.

Or could it be a sign of the direction the US as a whole is headed?  Healthcare costs in this country have skyrocketed over the past decade with no signs of letting up.  On top of the economic problems that makes making ends meet a tough challenge for households.  So you have to give Microsoft credit for holding out this long.  The funny thing is about health benefits as much like sales tax hikes, they very seldom ever get better or go away once your employer is forced to lower them.

One thing you can give Microsoft kudos for is that there seems to be no plans to eliminate the endless supply of free sodas offered to it’s employees.