What caregiving benefits do modern employers provide? 6 business leaders share their answers

Which Caregiving Benefits Do Modern Employers Provide?

What benefits are top-of-mind for organizations that want to attract and retain great talent in today’s challenging talent market? Many are finding it pays to step outside the standard benefits box with creative options that meet diverse employee needs. For example, caregiving benefits are gaining strong momentum.

To learn more about this, we asked business and HR leaders to describe one caregiving option they believe is essential in supporting employees as they move through various life stages — from family planning and fertility to childcare and eldercare. Their recommendations cover a spectrum of solutions:

  • Childcare Benefits
  • Tuition Assistance
  • Sabbatical Leave
  • Unlimited PTO
  • Nutritional Support
  • Family Medical Leave

To learn more about why these options are so helpful, read the responses below…

6 Caregiving Benefits for the Modern Workforce

1. Childcare Support

One “do-everything” benefit can’t cover all the complexities involved with each stage in life. To ensure higher utilization and satisfaction, focus on stages with the most impact on employees and find the best option for each stage.

Certainly, fertility and family planning are good benefits to consider. However, childcare has the biggest impact on employee retention and productivity.

Childcare costs are soaring. In fact, in most states, the average annual cost of childcare is more expensive than college. This expense means many working couples are considering whether they can even afford to have kids, or if one parent must resign from work to care for their children at home.

Childcare also has a direct impact on employee attendance. On average, parents who must respond to childcare needs miss 9-14 days of work each year. And more than 65% leave work early or arrive late because they lack access to care. This is nearly 3x more productivity lost than from employees who are managing healthcare issues.

Kevin Ehlinger, VP Product Marketing, TOOTRiS

2. Tuition Assistance

Higher education and vocational training open up a wide range of opportunities for employees. They equip workers with the skills and knowledge to pursue additional career options and improve job mobility.

Tuition assistance makes education more accessible, empowering workers and their families to plan for their future. Offering tuition assistance as a benefit helps attract high-quality candidates and helps them hone their skills while helping employers retain top talent. In addition,  government education assistance programs in the U.S. let employers deduct sizable reimbursements for employee tuition contributions.

Ben Travis, Founder, HR Chief

3. Sabbatical Leave 

Although sabbatical leave was traditionally offered only in academic settings, it has started to gain strong traction over the past few years in the private sector, in response to a rise in employee burnout and the Great Resignation.

Private employers are looking for generous perks to attract new employees, keep them engaged, and help them maintain a healthy work-life balance. Sabbatical leave is the perfect benefit to check those boxes. 

In short, sabbatical leave is the option to step away from work for an extended period (usually 6 to 12 months) for any purpose whatsoever. This is a perfect way to accommodate employees at every stage in the employee lifecycle, from cradle to grave.

Individuals can take a sabbatical to de-stress and get pregnant, care for a new child, fight an illness, spend time with a dying loved one, or just travel the world. It is a flexible, practical benefit that allows for a range of uses. Whether paid, partially paid, or totally unpaid, any employee will appreciate the flexibility that sabbatical leave offers.

John Ross, CEO, Test Prep Insight

4. Unlimited PTO

As a business, we are committed to helping our employees maintain a work-life balance. We’re also committed to creating an environment that supports our employees’ personal goals and lets them prioritize their families. One way we do this is through a generous personal time off (PTO) policy.

We offer unlimited vacation time as well as unlimited sick time. We encourage employees to take time off for both personal and family goals, as well as when they need to care for ailing family members.

In addition, we provide resources for employees so they can continue working from home and/or work on a flexible schedule while they are taking time away.

Luciano Colos, CEO, PitchGrade

5. Nutritional Support 

One aspect of healthcare that spans the entire lifecycle is nutrition. So one benefit worth considering is coverage for prescribed nutritional supplements — not just prescription drugs. Other ways to support nutritional needs during different life stages is by providing access to educational information and expert talks about nutrition.

Optimum nutrition at each phase in the lifecycle promotes more robust immune systems and higher energy levels. That means it helps keep your workforce and their families healthier. So ultimately, these benefits ensure better performance at work and fewer illness-related absences. 

Ruth Novales, Marketing Director, Fortis Medical Billing Professionals

6. Family Medical Leave

Family medical leave is one benefit every employer should consider to help employees address the full lifecycle, from fertility to family planning to elder care.

Family medical leave helps protect an employee’s job for up to 12 weeks if they become ill or they need to care for a family member. A supervisor cannot fire an employee when they rely on this benefit for a legitimate reason, so it can provide a helpful safety net if the need arises.

Lindsey Hight, HR Professional, Sporting Smiles

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: These caregiving benefits ideas were submitted via Terkel. Terkel is a knowledge platform that shares community-driven content based on expert insights. To see questions and get published, sign up at terkel.io.

Childcare Benefits: A Reckoning for Working Families

Childcare Benefits: A Reckoning for Working Families

It’s not a stretch to say COVID changed everything—including the way working families think about childcare benefits. Before the pandemic, parents struggled with childcare challenges, of course. But the day-to-day realities grew much worse when the pandemic struck.

After the initial shock of schools and childcare centers shutting down, families were left to figure out how to work from home while parenting. Instead of being at school or daycare, children spent the day side-by-side with their parents. In fact, from February 2020-February 2021, the lack of childcare pushed 2.3 million women out of the labor force. And a very long time passed before these women could return to work (if they have returned at all).

While people in some jobs continued to work on-site throughout the pandemic, many workers had to adapt to the new remote work world. This is where many employees still find themselves today, either working remotely or in some form of hybrid schedule—splitting time between home and office.

Today, childcare conditions have improved slightly, but still are far from ideal. Fortunately for some working families, employers are sponsoring more childcare benefits for those who need this kind of support.

Remote and Hybrid Employees Still Need Childcare Assistance

The benefits of remote work are well documented. However, one drawback is often overlooked. I’m talking about the misconception that people don’t need childcare assistance when they’re working remotely. This notion became prevalent early in the pandemic, and unfortunately, employers still haven’t moved on from this line of thinking.

Picture a typical working mother in a remote or hybrid management role.

Compared to her in-office peers, she doesn’t have fewer deadlines, less ambitious KPIs, or a smaller staff to manage. Nor does she have extra hands to hold her baby while attending Zoom meetings or responding to email messages. There are no extra hours in the day when she can feed or play with a toddler.

The workday is still the workday—even when people perform those tasks at home, surrounded by family distractions and obligations, rather than in an office cubicle.

Families With School-Aged Kids Face Unique Challenges

Contrary to what some believe, childcare needs do not stop once kids start kindergarten. I’m a mother, myself, so take it from me! Parents of 5-year-olds are still in the thick of their childcare journey.

Historically, preschool programs (as well as before-school and after-school care) served as a safety net to support a large, productive workforce. But COVID, chronic underfunding, and budget cuts have left these programs with limited capacity, fewer teachers, and reduced hours. The safety net is frayed, at best.

And now, working parents have the added burden of anxiety about COVID risks.

Previously, when children were mildly ill, they still attended school. These days, we know better. Emergency and backup care are must-haves for working parents who are unable to stay home with a sick child.

Even when parents take precautions, they still face the risk of a COVID outbreak at school that can suddenly change the course of a day, a week, or a month—depending on mandated quarantine periods. This is a lot for working families to handle, which is why employee childcare benefits matter so much.

Throughout the pandemic, working parents have been balancing the risks of depriving their children of social interaction or exposing them to a potentially deadly disease. Some families decide to choose individual or small-group professional care, such as a nanny or nanny-sharing arrangement. But this increases overall childcare costs and isn’t affordable enough for some.

The Trouble With Workplace Childcare Centers

Some employers have tried to help working families fill this gap by investing in on-site childcare centers. While an admirable idea and a substantial financial commitment, these large centers fall short for many employees.

These facilities no longer meet many childcare needs, and simply do not work for remote and hybrid workers. For example, how many working parents would want to commute to headquarters for their kids when they may otherwise be working from home? Working families prefer caregivers who are located close to home—which should be good news for employers who don’t want to dedicate massive budgets to build and maintain large childcare centers.

Childcare Benefits Are Key to Employee Retention

No matter which childcare option families choose, it comes at a price. And it’s hard for people to keep in perspective just how unaffordable it has become.

The national average childcare cost has risen to more than $10,000 per year, per child. That’s incredibly steep. How many working families do you know with two or three kids who also have an extra $20,000-$30,000 lying around?

The increasing cost of childcare forces parents (and mothers, in particular) to make a very difficult choice: Stay employed or quit to care full-time for their children. This has pushed record numbers of women out of the workforce.

The reality facing families is stark and alarming:

Current and prospective employees value family care benefits more than ever. This means employer-sponsored childcare benefits should play a key role in retention and recruitment strategies.

Final Thoughts

COVID drastically changed employment and childcare. The status quo is no longer sufficient, for both employees and employers. Forward-thinking business and HR leaders are rising to the challenge and supporting working families with employee childcare benefits that make a significant difference in people’s lives. This is a step in the right direction.

Employee Caregivers Are Quitting How Employers Can Help?

Employee Caregivers Are Quitting. Here’s How to Keep Them

These days, we’re flooded with headlines about The Great Resignation, The Big Quit, and The Great Reshuffle. It’s not surprising. The desire for career advancement and better work/life balance are powerful reasons why people are resigning in record numbers. But these aren’t the only motives. Actually, a growing number of people are quitting so they can take care of loved ones. If your organization can’t afford to lose these employee caregivers, this advice can help you keep them on board.

Factors Driving This Trend

We’re seeing more employee caregivers, partially because the pandemic put older people at risk and disrupted existing family care arrangements. But also, it is the result of broader population shifts and the rising cost of long-term care. Let’s look at how this could play out over the next 15-20 years…

1) Our Population is Changing

Historically, if you mapped our population by age, the chart would look like a pyramid. In the past, many more young people were at the base. As they became adults, they helped support a smaller number of older people at the top. Today, that pyramid is inverted, with a larger elderly population and an increasingly smaller base of young people at the bottom who struggle to support the elderly. This is happening because:

  • Boomers are aging
  • Younger generations are producing fewer children
  • Medical advances are extending life expectancies

This inverted pyramid means that by 2040, the elderly will depend more heavily on the working population than those under 18. Put differently, in less than 20 years, more of your employee caregivers will be supporting elderly loved ones, rather than their own children. Or potentially, they could be caring for both at the same time.

That’s already the case for many employee caregivers. In fact, more than half of middle-aged Americans are currently “sandwiched” between generations.

2) Caregiving Costs Are Rising

Because care is expensive to provide, not everyone will be able to hire professionals to look after aging family members. Instead, they’ll need to provide care themselves at home. According to a recent AARP survey, there are 48 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. and 80% of these caregivers are providing care to an adult family member or friend.

This means organizations will increasingly have employees who are juggling job performance with the burden of being a caregiver—along with all the time, energy, and emotional commitment that caregiving requires. While they may manage caregiving by missing time at work, it could also be as serious as leaving the workforce altogether.

For example, consider these statistics:

How to Support Employee Caregivers

What are forward-thinking HR leaders doing to help employee caregivers? Our recent conversations focus on three key action areas:

1) Provide Financial Solutions

One of the most important ways to support employees is by helping them plan for their own long-term care. While younger employees may not see the need, education and planning now will offer them more care options in the future if they’re injured or become ill.

When you create financial programming, be sure it includes discussions about the role of:

  • Medicare and Medicaid – Some people see government programs such as care options. However, they typically don’t cover long-term care (Medicare) and access involves significant drawbacks and limitations (Medicaid).
  • Retirement savings/401k – Similarly, using 401(k) and retirement savings to pay for care is possible, but this also comes with drawbacks. These investments are best reserved for funding life expenses during retirement and are not recommended for use during working years.
  • Standalone long-term care insurance – This coverage may be offered at work or purchased through an independent insurance provider. It can be a viable solution that can help cover some costs of long-term care.
  • Hybrid life insurance with long-term care benefits – This lets people purchase life insurance coverage that includes the ability to advance part of a death benefit for care needs. Many products on the market focus care benefits on professional care such as a nursing home or home health aide, but new products in this category cover family caregiving, as well.

2) Promote Your Employee Assistance Programs

Another way to support your workforce is through an employee assistance program (EAP). The right program can help employees navigate the challenges they face as caregivers. Whether it’s offering care planning tools and strategies or access to tools to help people manage complex aspects of care, be sure to consider a wide range of resources. For instance, you could include:

  • Care planning services
  • Care needs assessments
  • Help in finding and evaluating care
  • Life insurance claims support
  • Long-term care claims support
  • Home care placement assistance
  • Legal support for wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents
  • In-home loneliness solutions
  • Home modification services
  • Relocation support

Finally, it’s important to share details about your EAP program, and re-communicate the program’s features and benefits on a regular basis. Pairing this with enrollment or re-enrollment of your financial support solutions is a great way to protect your employees.

3) Pay Attention to Caregiving Legislation

Many state governments are taking notice of the need for care—the growing number of people who need a solution, the lack of affordable care, and the expected future drain on state Medicaid funds. A growing number of states are enacting legislation to address these care issues.

For example, in 2021, Washington became the first state to pass this kind of legislation. The Washington Cares Act provides long-term care financial support for state residents. The program is funded by a payroll tax. Employees with qualifying long-term care coverage could opt out of the program (and the associated tax).

Although this legislation may provide a rough blueprint, each state’s approach is likely to be different. To prepare their organizations and their employees for the future, employers should begin tracking legislative activity.

Start Planning

It’s hard to know precisely what’s in store for employers as more Boomers leave the workplace and younger employees step in to care for aging loved ones. But thus far, it’s clear that employee caregivers will need support and solutions as they navigate an increasingly challenging eldercare crisis.

HR leaders can be an essential part of the solution, but it’s important to start planning now. Workplace programs and policies need to evolve, with active involvement from employers and their employees. Start by educating your workforce about the need to plan for long-term care–whether caring for an elderly parent or planning ahead to manage their own care should they need it. Working together with employees to address their needs will help them understand your commitment to them, and encourage them to stay.

open enrollment season

Keys to a Successful Open Enrollment Season

Open enrollment season is upon us again, and the world of work continues to shift at a head-spinning pace. This fluid environment poses benefits-related challenges that HR leaders can’t afford to ignore. For example, decision-makers are wondering:

  • How to address employees’ evolving needs. It’s essential now to meet individuals where they are and provide clear pathways to benefits that resonate.
  • How to communicate effectively in a “work anywhere” environment. Everyone deserves easy access to clear, relevant benefits information, regardless of whether they’ve returned to the office, they’re working remotely, or their schedule blends both work modes.

Why Benefits Education Counts

To illustrate how important education is for a successful open enrollment season, consider these U.S. health benefits research findings:

  • 72% of employees wish someone would tell them the best health insurance for their particular situation. (Justworks/Harris Poll)
  • Nearly 90% of employers think their benefits are clear and easy to understand. Yet only 65% of employees agree. (via MetLife)
  • 54% of employees don’t know the full scope of their health benefits. Yet nearly 65% say these offerings significantly influence their willingness to stay with an organization. (Justworks/Harris Poll)

This means education is vital—not just to help people choose relevant benefits. The truth is that, without effective benefits education, you’re putting employee retention at risk. But improving open enrollment communication doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Below are a few simple ways to help employees through the decision-making process and ensure better overall results:

5 Ways to Improve Open Enrollment Education

1) Host Multiple Information Sessions

Conducting a single all-hands open enrollment season meeting no longer covers all the bases. Even if 100% of your employees work on-site, you can’t expect full participation. Some people will be out ill or on vacation. Unavoidable business priorities will keep others from attending. It’s smart to plan ahead and assume conflicts will make it impossible for everyone to join a live session.

You can rise to this challenge by producing content in various formats (for example, an in-person meeting, a live webinar, a digital recording, and a series of podcast episodes). You’ll also want to share this content through multiple delivery channels (for example, sending email messages, sharing in Slack groups, and posting on your organization’s intranet platform).

The goal is to make information easily accessible and available whenever people can fit it into their schedules.

2) Plan Open Enrollment “Office Hours”

To augment your core benefits “broadcast” content, consider offering prescheduled office hours with an HR staff member. You can structure and promote this as an opportunity for individuals to drop by in person or online and discuss their specific circumstances with a benefits expert.

Often in public information sessions, employees hesitate to ask questions about what they don’t know. But office hours provide a private safe space for discussion. This frees employees to speak more openly about their specific concerns. At the same time, it helps the HR team provide more relevant information to ensure individuals understand the impact of their open enrollment choices.

You may also find it helpful to extend the value of these sessions by repurposing the content for broader use. In other words, you can select some of the most common questions from “office hours” visits and repost them anonymously as “frequently asked questions” on a wiki or web page.

3) Get Your Vendors Involved

Sometimes, information is best received directly from the source. Hosting virtual live and recorded benefits fairs gives vendors a platform for sharing details about their solutions and services. It also provides more time for providers to discuss specific questions in-depth with employees.

So, instead of conducting a standard 1-hour session where your HR team summarizes available health benefits, you could schedule a series of 30-45-minute sessions showcasing key vendors. (For example, you could feature each of your health insurance companies, along with sessions devoted to specialized vendors, such as onsite dental services, wellness consultants, or fertility benefits providers).

These sessions can focus on basic facts about each solution, as well as ancillary benefits that are underutilized. Then you could close each session by answering individual questions from the audience.

Also, if you’re scheduling topic-focused HR office hours, you may want to ask vendor consultants to join relevant sessions. Or you could invite key vendors to conduct their own 1:1 sessions. Sometimes, employees feel more comfortable talking to external benefits specialists. For these people, dedicated vendor sessions or 1:1 office hours are an ideal solution.

4) Integrate Micro-Learnings into the Process

Micro-learnings are brief educational events and materials targeting topics that tie in with key benefits, such as health and finance. This kind of knowledge sharing encourages more employee interaction and tends to generate deeper interest in relevant benefits.

To illustrate, here are a few micro-learning themes:

  • “Urgent Care vs ER: What’s the Difference?”
  • “The Link Between Mental Health and Overall Health”
  • “How to Balance Work Life with Family Caregiving

Top online learning providers (such as LinkedIn Learning and YouTube channels) already provide excellent educational content about these topics. This means you don’t have to create content from scratch. Instead, you can curate strong programming from several online sources and then easily deliver the content to interested employees.

Packaging and promoting this kind of useful information upfront is invaluable for employees. It saves them time because they don’t have to research these topics on their own. Plus, the convenience of “anytime” access to high-quality educational content about health and benefits enhances workforce well-being.

5) Customize Educational Materials for Various Interests

Every employee is unique. And the beauty of today’s workforce is in its diversity. So everything about open enrollment season should support this reality. In other words, it’s important to appeal to various interests within your workforce.

For instance, recent grads may not appreciate benefits that appeal to new parents and vice versa. Instead of offering a generic “one-size-fits-all” menu, think about how you can categorize benefits so they align with groups that will value them most. Then present these benefits collections on your open enrollment site as packages. (For example, you could specify “Benefits that support LGBTQIA+ employees.”)

Clearly, you’ll find overlap among groups, so you don’t need to recreate an entirely new package for each community. But structuring benefits options in this way helps people more quickly identify the benefits information they’re likely to want.

If you’ve already established dedicated employee resource groups, consider creating packages for each of those ERGs and sending a customized message to each group with a direct link to their accompanying package. This extra measure ensures that individuals can quickly and easily find materials that matter most to them.

Conclusion

As we continue to navigate today’s dynamic business and benefits landscape, this year’s open enrollment season is sure to present challenges. But continually reflecting on your communication process, seeking employee feedback, and making informed adjustments can help you move forward more smoothly.

Remember to distribute information in more than one format. Also, make it as easy to find as possible, in as many places as your budget and resources will allow. And above all, focus on personalizing communication when you can. Although this is a “broadcast” communication challenge, benefits decisions are highly personal for each employee. The more willing you are to meet people where they are, the more successful you’ll be.

Caregivers

Why Benefits for Employee Caregivers Are Good Business

We’ve all seen alarming headlines about “The Great Resignation.” Some observers say it shows no signs of letting up. McKinsey recently called it the “quitting trend that just won’t quit.” And data confirms that the “big quit” is real.

In May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the U.S. voluntary quit rate was 25% higher than pre-pandemic levels. It’s hard to ignore numbers like that. And chances are you’ve experienced this recently in your own organization, as more top performers leave for various reasons.

What’s behind this surge in turnover? The pandemic forced us all to reevaluate what’s most important in life. Now, many are choosing to be more present for family while also juggling a demanding career. But the choice is especially challenging for those with family members who need special care.

This segment of the workforce is larger than you may think. In fact, according to the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, 1 in 5 American workers also double as an unpaid family caregiver for an aging, ill or disabled loved one. The amount of time they spend on caregiving, in addition to their full-time careers, isn’t trivial. The AARP estimates that these caregivers devote an average of 23.7 hours a week to these tasks.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that employee caregivers are struggling mentally, physically, and financially. Nearly 60% are dealing with clinical depression and anxiety. Experts say they are stretched so thin that the snowball effect of caregiving will cause 1 in 3 to leave the workforce entirely.

New Insights About Employees as Caregivers

A new study entitled Following The Journey of Family Caregivers” commissioned by Homethrive, Home Instead, and Certification in Long-Term Care (CLTC) sheds more light on how employee caregivers are responding to the pressure.

Nearly 70% of survey respondents who identify as employed said it has been important to rely on paid in-home care because it helps them avoid leaving their job, or because it helps them concentrate better at work.

“I wasn’t surprised to hear (working caregivers) turning more to paid care,” says Eileen J. Tell, a Boston-area researcher who administered the survey. “They cited the importance of doing well at their job and the desire to maintain their job.”

It’s no wonder why working caregivers said they need paid assistance. For example:

  • 35% often provide companionship
  • 33% often provide transportation help
  • 26% often help with daily living activities
  • 23% often help arrange care
  • 26% often help make care decisions
  • 31% always help make home safety changes

Respondents also said if they received help coordinating care, it would take a major load off their already piled-high plates. Specifically:

  • 42% want coordination with doctors or care teams
  • 38% want assistance in finding service providers
  • 34% want help finding benefits eligibility
  • 34% want meal delivery coordination
  • 32% want recommendations for devices and equipment
  • 31% want help assessing home safety

Interestingly, the study found that only 6% of working caregivers receive support from an employer-provided benefit program to help find reliable paid in-home care for loved ones.

What about the other 94% without access to employee caregiving benefits? There is good news. An increasing number of forward-thinking employers are offering these unsung heroes benefits packages that include family caregiving options.

Why is this a wise choice? Employers gain in multiple ways. For example…

Business Benefits of Supporting Employee Caregivers

1. Restore Retention

When employees have an option to access the right kind of assistance, when they need it, they’re less likely to leave. They’re also more focused and productive at work. Offering this benefit can position you as an employer who cares about worker wellbeing on all levels—which in turn fosters a sense of company loyalty.

2. Rev-Up Recruitment

You want to attract the best employees possible. Offering a family caregiving benefit is one way to excel at recruiting because your company will appeal to candidates who value an employer with compassion, a concern for families, and a sense of community.

3. Improve Employee Wellbeing

According to Mercer’s 2022 Global Talent Trends study, employee wellbeing programs are among the top five reasons why people remain at a company. Caregiving can be a time-consuming and emotionally draining responsibility. A family caregiving benefit helps take some of this burden off your employees and improves their wellbeing.

4. Increase Productivity

Time is money. And caregiving can take up a lot of time.

One employee might spend hours on the phone setting up doctor appointments for an aging parent, while another might leave work frequently to take a special needs child to therapy.

It all takes time away from the workday, decreases productivity, and increases employee stress. But with a family caregiving benefit, employees and their loved ones will receive higher quality support when it matters most, so your business productivity will flourish.

5. Revolutionize Work-Life Balance

A family caregiving benefit can drastically improve work-life balance. When employees continually put others’ care ahead of self-care, it can translate into mental and physical health issues such as exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. Those issues inflate your company’s healthcare costs.

When a caregiver’s mindset has shifted to a “life-work tilt,” career advancement, salary increases, and professional praise are important. But quality time with loved ones, the opportunity to explore passions outside of work, and overall mental wellbeing are also critical.

Leaning into this “life-work tilt” can have multiple advantages. By proactively acknowledging the needs and responsibilities of family caregivers and offering tangible support, you can set your organization apart. And when your employees find a better balance between work and life, they can focus better, be more productive, and stay loyal to your company.

6. Protect Your Bottom Line

High turnover is expensive. The cost often extends beyond investing in recruitment to replace lost workers. For example, institutional knowledge and team morale also suffer. In addition, productivity can take a hit, which in turn, can reduce innovation and growth. Ultimately, this negative spiral can prevent your company from reaching its full potential. 

A Solution That Helps Employees and Employers

Family caregiving benefits are a win-win.

They’re a win for employers because they help improve workforce wellbeing, retention, and productivityall while protecting your bottom line.

They’re also a win for employees because they help support work-life balance, mental health, and job satisfaction. 

As Eileen Tell explains, “I think it’s key that employers understand how important it is to family caregivers to feel like they don’t have to choose between their jobs and their role as a family caregiver. Employees may look like they’re not paying attention to work, but they really don’t want to compromise their job and they don’t want to skimp on their family responsibilities.”

Open Enrollment

4 Steps to Hit the Mark for Open Enrollment

Is the benefits information you have to tell employees important before and during Open Enrollment? You bet! Easily understood? Not always. 

According to the latest MetLife employee benefits trends, close to 90% of employers believe their benefits are clear and easy to understand. Yet only 65% of employees (only 56% Gen Z) agree. 

Uncomplicating the complicated is not an easy task, but it’s well worth the effort. Employees who better understand their benefits are ones who better appreciate the benefits they have. 

Let’s look at 4 steps to help supercharge your Open Enrollment communications strategy.

Step 1: Know Your Audience

For HR, this means not just thinking about employees. Think like employees. Heck, you are an employee.

When Open Enrollment season hits, chances are you’ll be making some decisions about your benefits. Just like all the other employees. What (and who) are you thinking about when you’re comparing options? Your family? Your health? The costs? The coverage? Yep…just like all the other employees.

If you can hold on to that “employee to employee” connection when you’re communicating to them about benefits, you’re more likely to create understandable, compelling communications. Make your messages relatable and relevant, with a hint of emotion.

Relatable – We’re all people. We can empathize with each other. Remember this when you communicate to employees. Make an emotional connection. That’s how you get employees to engage.

What does that mean? For example, many employees have families they love, and so do you. And you all want the best benefits you can get for them. Relay that feeling.

Relevant – Present information from the employees’ points of view, not the company’s. Avoid touting your company’s awesomeness (“We’ve added a great new dental plan”). Talk more about why it matters to them (“You have more dentists to choose from in the new plan”). Instead of saying, “We have a new enrollment system,” say, “You can enroll faster and easier with our new enrollment system.”

Keep the message conversational, too. If you were talking to a colleague, how would you get your message across? Probably not in a verbose, run-on sentence with oodles of detail. 

Step 2: Plan Bite-Size Information

If you’re sending a firehose flow of information two weeks prior to Open Enrollment, employees will not absorb everything you’re telling them. Try starting communications about six to eight weeks prior to your OE start date, especially if you’re making major changes

Strive for a slow drip campaign that feeds bite-size bits of information. A sample campaign for a late October enrollment may look like this…

Late August

  • Teaser/kick-off announcements
  • Watch for what’s to come messaging
  • Training webinar for leaders and HR partners

September

  • Weekly or bi-weekly communications with chunks of information
  • Home mailer with highlights and a few important details
  • Portal/website or interactive guide with a deeper dive into info, tools, and resources

Mid-October

  • Meetings, webinars, and benefits sessions
  • Displays for enrollment to-do’s and timing
  • Weekly reminders to enroll (first day, one week left, last day)

To get the word out, a wide variety of channels is best. But when it comes to education, a Colonial Life Employee Enrollment Survey (via Unum) shows how employees rank their three top choices: benefits portal or website, in-person counseling session, or printed materials.

Step 3: Stay on Point!

When you start crafting your Open Enrollment communications this year, remember that employees:

  • Check their phones 150 times a day
  • Check email 30 times an hour
  • And are still trying to do their jobs

Competition for their attention is fierce. How do you break through the distractions, buzzing and beeping all around them? 

Diligently.

You must spend time considering the message you’re putting out there. Is it going to drive the results you’re hoping for? The key is to build messaging super-focused on achieving that objective. Avoid filling headspace or airwaves with any other content — stick to information employees need to know to make the decision at hand.

Also, our brains don’t want to work hard at processing information. Keep content easy-to-read and scannable. 

  • Short sentences (14 words or less)
  • Short paragraphs (3 sentences or less) 
  • Eighth-grade reading level
  • “Chunked-out” content with subheads (bite-size)
  • Lots of “you” and “your” and less “we”
  • Human language — no acronyms and other benefit geek speak

Don’t be afraid to use phrases and incomplete sentences. No, really. (See what we did there?) It goes against everything you learned in grammar class but write like you talk. Employees will trust it more, as they read it like a conversation.

One last trick — after you’ve created your first draft, cut the amount of text in half. Get rid of any sentences that are repetitive or words that don’t help employees understand your message.

It may be interesting, amusing, or truly relevant, but if it’s not essential, it’s just brain clutter.

Step 4: Don’t Bury the Bad News

They may not like bad news — but they’ll like it even less when they find it hidden among other news. Employees are adults. They can adapt to change if you’re upfront, honest, and help them through it.

Rip off the band-aid. Give them the “why” of the situation through consistent and continuous communications.

  • Tell the same story, the same way, and tell it often
  • Provide a specific date when they’ll know more
  • Be honest and open (or transparent if you speak HR)

Are rates increasing? Probably because the company’s costs keep increasing. Explain that to employees. “U.S. health care costs are expected to rise 10-15 percent this year, but we’re keeping your increase lower, at only 6 percent.”

It’s Time to Change Things Up

HR professionals tend to be criticized for overexplaining and using confusing terms that make benefits hard to understand. We know why that happens, and we get it. 

Put in the work now so you can achieve effective, results-generating communications. Communications that have higher employee engagement. But put yourself in employee shoes when you communicate. Wait…you’re wearing employee shoes.

Mental Health

10 Ideas To Make Mental Health Support More Accessible For Employees

What are some ideas to make mental health support more accessible to employees? This question was posed to a group of talented professionals for their insights. From offering mental health holidays to flex work schedules, here’s what they had to say.

Offer Mental Health Days

Mental health Days are meant to be used when you have too much on your mind or when are feeling high levels of stress and anxiety. We can’t pre-plan how we will feel, so it’s important to allow employees to take unplanned days off.  Moreover, it is a great way to track the mental health of your employees. If someone is taking too many “mental health days” then you can reach out and support them! It’s easy to apply and simple, yet so few companies do it!

Annie Chopra, She TheQueen

Take Time to Communicate Benefits

In our brand new research on mental health, we found that employers rated themselves a “C” while the workforce rated employer support for mental health as an “F.” When you get into the data, you see that while companies are trying to make changes, these changes aren’t always felt by the workforce. We have to spend as much time communicating the changes and benefits we offer as we do actually selecting those benefits if we want to see real impact.

Ben Eubanks, Lighthouse Research & Advisory

Provide Health Coaching Sessions

Working with a qualified health & wellness coach has the potential to make a big difference in employees’ work and personal lives.  A health coach is NOT a licensed mental health practitioner. A good health coach IS a trained empathetic listener and motivator who works with people in groups or one-on-one. They help to create and work toward solutions to increase the enjoyment of life and work. 

Employers can offer coaching services onsite or remotely, in groups or individually.  The National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) certifies coaches who have completed specialized coaching training, demonstrated coaching skills, have experience working with clients, and passed a rigorous exam.

Ronel Kelmen, Attainable Transformation

Include Inspiring and Regenerating PTO Perks

We all understand that employees need sufficient high-quality PTO experiences in order to stay sharp, satisfied, and healthy at work. But what really makes PTO beneficial for our mental health is when that time is also inspiring. 

For example, we offer our employees three fully paid 24-hour days per year to participate in volunteer activities. Not only do these experiences give our team the chance to step outside their work and breathe, but while doing so they’re also engaging in work that can reignite and reshape their worldviews.

Tina Hawk, GoodHire

Promote a Work-Life Balance

Make sure your employees are taking time away from work on a regular basis. This means encouraging regularly scheduled vacations and not rewarding a burning the midnight oil mentality. You may get short-term results, but this type of schedule will often lead to burnout and far less productivity and motivation. 

A great leader challenges their employees to regularly rest, recharge, and connect with their loved ones. When employees feel valued, they will be much more motivated.

Mark Daoust, Quiet Light

Host Mental Health Fairs

One out-of-the-box way to make mental health more accessible to workers is to hold a mental health fair. These events function like traditional health fairs yet focus on psychological health. Booths can give out information on practices like stress management and avoiding burnout. Additionally, you can do activities like meditation and mindfulness worksheets. Beyond providing at-risk employees with resources, you can also use these fairs as a way to educate the workforce at large about mental health and help professionals to be better allies to psychologically vulnerable peers.

Carly Hill, Virtual Holiday Party

Encourage the Use of Wellness Apps

Employers can provide free resources and access to mental health apps. It can be a way for everyone in your company to get the mental health help they need, especially to prevent burnout amongst your employees. Using an app might feel less intimidating when seeking professional help from a therapist or psychiatrist.

You might not be there to visually recognize when an employee is overworking themselves. But with certain apps, they can get reminders to take breaks and maintain healthy habits during their working hours.

Scott Lieberman, Touchdown Money

Foster a “Life Happens” Culture

A healthy company culture understands that even the highest performing employees will face unideal circumstances that may take them away from work. A culture of ‘life happens’ understands that company needs shouldn’t supersede employee needs but ebb and flow. As we navigate turbulent times as a nation, we’ve all faced the universal truth that life happens, and sometimes things are out of our control.

Amrita Saigal, Kudos

Allow Flexible Work Schedules 

A remote or hybrid work schedule creates more flexibility for employees to take care of their physical and mental health how they see fit. Workers want freedom – time to spend with loved ones, take care of themselves, and travel – promoting one’s mental health on their terms. Allow the space and flexibility for your employees to take care of their mental health at their discretion.

Breanne Millette, BISOULOVELY

Train Leaders to Create Inclusive Environments 

Smaller businesses can make mental health more accessible to employees by equipping leaders with the tools and resources to have open, honest conversations and by creating a safe space for employees to speak openly without fear of judgment. 

Creating inclusive environments for conditions like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia can go a long way in making sure everyone feels supported at work. By educating people about and accepting neurodiversity, you can create an inclusive and supportive workplace where everyone can thrive.

Dan Gissane, Huxo Creative

       

HR in Healthcare | The Crucial Role HR Plays in Urgent Care

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care job openings are expected to grow by 16% from 2020 to 2030. This rate is significantly faster than the average growth for all occupations, making healthcare HR an important industry to watch.

Part of this growth is due to the Baby Boomer generation needing more care as they age. However, the healthcare industry is experiencing a shortage of clinical staff workers. Many nurses are of that age group and will be retiring as patient care needs increase.

In addition, millennials leave this industry because of low satisfaction and lack of training.

With ongoing staffing deficiencies, providing quality health care will be one of the main concerns for many organizations. As a result, hospitals need HR (human resources) more than ever to meet demand, replace retirees, and close the gap.

The Importance of HR in Urgent Care

HR can effectively recruit and train employees while implementing safety measures within the workplace. HR in healthcare is crucial for the industry for many reasons. From providing staffing efficiency to maintaining an effective workforce, these are some of the benefits urgent care clinics can receive with HR. Knowing that the Healthcare Industry has been forced to change– organizations needed to take a fresh look at workplace healthcare trends and rehaul their programs.

Furthermore, a high-quality HR management program can develop worker satisfaction while patients receive exceptional service.

To overcome the challenges of staffing deficiencies, hospitals need effective staff training, which will be one of the most critical tasks in the health care sector.

What are some of the approaches that HR professionals can take to close the growing talent gap within the industry?

1. Training

HR professionals are equipped to identify the staffing needs of a workplace. However, with the rapid advances of technology, existing staff members require training to fill in the gaps and run an organization efficiently.

Moreover, HR can maintain talent recruitment by partnering with training institutions and monitoring enrollment for future candidates. Many health care organizations support training through a hands-on teaching approach. HR professionals can design these programs to help with future staffing needs and ensure quality service.

A properly trained health care workforce is paramount to meeting the public’s needs.

2. Targeted Recruitment

Recruitment involves identifying staffing needs, determining a targeted source of new workers, and advertising the jobs. Meeting the needs of recruiting requires unique solutions.

Since 79% of job seekers use social media to search, social recruiting will be a more effective strategy. One of the primary benefits of social recruiting is its cost-effectiveness for organizations. A strong social plan can generate reach when done correctly and avoid a cost-per-click expenditure.

3. Career Development Strategy

Worker career development plays a vital role in retaining and attracting a solid workforce. The proper employee management strategy sustains success by incorporating leadership, culture, and talent insights. Furthermore, it should involve offering workers the opportunity to grow and learn.

Some strategies that enhance a worker’s development should start immediately within orientation training. This focus helps new workers understand the organization’s behaviors, culture, policies, goals, and missions.

Likewise, a development strategy should integrate new health care technology and patient care methods. Regular leadership workshop scheduling can help workers acquire leadership and management skills in urgent care.

4. Retention and Compensation

To improve worker retention, urgent care centers should define competitive compensation. Compensation plays a significant role in worker motivation and retention. To attract top talent, it should either match or slightly increase what is currently available on the labor market. Essentially, this will increase organizational competitiveness.

A good retention plan involves more than a basic salary and benefits. Attractive benefits include paid holidays, comprehensive retirement plans, scholarships, and good medical insurance.

In addition, retention rates are determined by an organization’s culture, involving both worker and management behavior. Maintaining open communication will be one of the best strategies for detecting problems and preventing turnover.

The Possibilities of Recruiting Qualified Personnel

An effective human resources management plan will determine the hospital’s growth and performance. Health care organizations can utilize creative solutions to find and retain qualified workers. However, HR professionals must employ all possible measures to retain top talent.

Recruitment strategies and an effective resources management plan will be the solutions to developing and retaining qualified talent in a healthcare organization, ultimately promoting HR in Healthcare properly.

employer healthcare benefits

Employer Healthcare Benefits and the ‘Great Resignation’

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 11.5 million workers quit their jobs between April and June of this year, and that trend isn’t likely to end soon. A Microsoft survey found that 41 percent of people are considering making a similar move.

This mass exodus, referred to by many as the “Great Resignation,” came as a result of the pandemic. In fact, 74 percent of those surveyed by LinkedIn cited the pandemic as their reason for moving on. During the shutdown, people had a chance to really contemplate their current work situations. Stress and burnout were also contributing factors, but many workers appeared most concerned with their employer’s response to the coronavirus and the financial risks and ramifications (e.g., frozen merit increases, holds on promotions, potential layoffs).

None of this should be a surprise. Even under “normal” circumstances, people leave their employers for many of the same reasons. Burnout is the number one contributing factor, followed by lack of opportunities and low pay. People have also come to enjoy the flexibility of remote work. Returning to the office and working a set schedule is far less appealing, as evidenced by the prediction that freelancers could make up more than 50 percent of the workforce by 2027.

Employer healthcare benefits: a potential solution for the Great Resignation

Some industries have been harder hit by the Great Resignation than others. Leisure and hospitality are still struggling with attracting and retaining talented employees, losing more than 740,000 people in April alone. In the retail sector, nearly 650,000 people quit that same month. Nursing saw an 18.7 percent turnover rate in 2020.

Many businesses have responded by raising wages and offering hiring bonuses of up to $1,000, but financial incentives haven’t been enough. A Korn Ferry survey found that 94 percent of retailers can’t find talent to fill empty roles. Part of this could be due to the prospect of long hours spent in positions that involve interacting with the public, which still feels daunting and dangerous for many; the coronavirus still poses a severe threat to people’s health.

Another part of the equation is insufficient employer healthcare benefits packages. According to the 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Benefits Survey, just 50 percent of small businesses (fewer than 200 employees) offer health coverage to employees. And with more than 40 percent of the private workforce employed by such establishments, that’s a lot of people personally insured, underinsured, or uninsured. The Great Resignation is compounding the issue. More than 60 percent of the workforce receives health benefits through their employers. When someone leaves without another job, they lose their employer-sponsored health insurance and aren’t eligible for unemployment insurance, creating a gap in health insurance coverage between jobs.

The key to attracting and retaining talented employees could be as simple as offering employer healthcare benefits. It can be a huge differentiator by increasing job satisfaction, employee loyalty, and productivity.

Employer-sponsored health insurance options

Despite the benefits, finding room in the budget for employer-sponsored health insurance can be difficult for many small businesses. While deductibles and premiums may be on the rise, it is still worth the effort to explore your options. Many retail and services workers are now taking entry-level positions in offices and warehouses with lower wages because of the benefits, career development, and upward mobility they offer.

Here’s what to consider when building your employer healthcare benefits plan.

1. Supplement a high-deductible health plan with virtual primary care.

A complimentary virtual primary care plan can be a good supplement for businesses that cannot afford full employer-sponsored health insurance. Virtual care plans can reduce out-of-pocket costs associated with deductibles, copays, and prescriptions.

2. Include a health savings account with high-deductible plans.

Health savings accounts provide many advantages for employees. The funds are available to pay for medical expenses, which puts the individual in control of when and how to use the money. Want to pay a deductible? Go ahead. Need to refill a prescription? Feel free. But the contributions come out before taxes, lowering taxable income. Many plans also earn tax-free interest, and any unused funds can be rolled over for the next year.

3. Base premiums and deductibles on employee income.

Basing premiums and deductibles on employee income doesn’t always work for smaller businesses, as the difference in wages isn’t usually extreme. For midsize and larger employers, however, it can be a helpful tool in attracting and retaining talented employees. Perhaps pay 80 percent of premiums for workers making less than $60,000 a year while also offering lower annual deductibles.

4. Offer an independent virtual primary care plan when insurance isn’t an option.

Telehealth plans can help employees access the care they need. Look for comprehensive solutions like virtual primary care, which allow employees to see the same primary care physician regularly and manage chronic conditions with ongoing treatment plans. These plans also provide access to annual virtual wellness exams—including routine labs—as well as virtual urgent care and behavioral therapy.

The reasons people seek other employment opportunities will vary, even after the pandemic. Finding ways to address the most common causes of talent loss should help, but it’s also important to provide people with the perks and benefits they seek—one of which will always be employer-sponsored health insurance.

dental care

On-Site Employee Benefits: Bringing Dental Care into the Workplace

Employee expectations are changing, with many looking to their workplaces to provide better benefits and wellness solutions. Employees want to feel valued, and in turn, they value employers who take the initiative to make sure their workers are healthy.

In recent years, workplaces have been offering on-site health services, including massages, counseling, eye-care check-ups, and more. Bringing benefits to employees makes their lives easier and gives them a greater chance of staying healthy. Organizations that prioritize comprehensive benefits not only make themselves more competitive in the job market, but also show that their brands are flexible, forward-thinking, and that they care about the wellness of their people. Which, as we all know, should always be a top priority.

Our Guest: Jordan Smith, CEO, Jet Dental

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Jordan Smith, CEO of Jet Dental, an on-site provider of dental care for corporations nationwide. They offer pop-up clinics, which can be set up in the office. Jordan is a seasoned chief revenue officer with experience in the healthcare industry and growing call centers. Before joining Jet Dental, Jordan led a 400 person sales team with annual sales of $200 million.

Pre-pandemic, 45 percent of people with dental insurance were not going to the dentist annually, Jordan explains. This was due in part to it being difficult to get away from their busy work schedule. Now that people have more flexibility with hybrid work, I wanted to know: What’s the advantage of pop-up dental clinics for today’s employees?

Since COVID, a lot of people have delayed preventive care. A study by Business Group on Health is predicting a 5.3 percent increase in health plan costs for large employers because of delayed care brought on by the pandemic,” Jordan says. “As a result, individuals are delaying care, waiting until maybe it’s too late.”

A big incentive for employers to offer in-office services like dental care is to prioritize employee health. Not just to make sure employees are well, but to help cut unnecessary costs. Insurance carrier Cigna did a study of a million of their members over a five-year period and found that those who got regular preventive care saw a 31 percent decrease in costs in that period. People who didn’t get that care saw a 43 percent increase in costs.

“The healthier your workforce, the less likely it is for you to see increases in premiums,” Jordan says. “A simple thing like regular dental care check-ups, twice a year, can prevent a host of maladies.”

Bringing Dental Care to Employees: Motivating the Unmotivated

So what does in-office dental care really look like? How do employers motivate employees to walk down the hall to pop-up clinics and prioritize their health?

“The vast majority of the folks we’re seeing aren’t going to the dentist just because it’s one other item on their task list. So by making it convenient, we get those people to go down the hallway to get a cavity filled. We motivate the unmotivated,” Jordan says. “Also, in our experience, there are people who are afraid of the dentist, and by offering them the in-office option, we see those people on a daily basis.”

As employees continue to demand better benefits packages in the competitive job market, employers are looking for new ways to make benefits a top priority. On-site benefits and services like dental care will likely become the new normal, Jordan says. Perhaps even expected by employees.

“A lot of us have gained more empathy for one another due to the pandemic. Because of that, I think employers are looking even further into how they can help employees have a better experience at work and find a better work-life balance,” Jordan says. “Going forward, we’re going to continue to see more onsite health vendors. We’re going to see not savings for 401ks, but for travel and matching travel expenses to help people go have great experiences. Those competitive offerings are going to continue to evolve and improve and not just for white-collar businesses, but blue-collar as well. We’re starting to see that and will continue to see it.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Jet Dental. You can learn more about employee dental care by connecting with Jordan Smith on LinkedIn.

hourly workforce

Why Employers are Reconsidering Hourly Workforce Benefits

If there’s a silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s the significant increase in status that the world’s hourly workers have achieved. Hourly workforce and gig employees have discovered they have more leverage today regarding their work hours and wages. Sadly, that recognition has been hard-won. The next chapter in the story could center on the best way for employers to provide this majority segment of the workforce an employee experience that includes accessible and comprehensive well-being solutions, including programs and tools for mental health care.

Across the U.S. alone, non-salaried employees (people paid an hourly wage) make up 58 percent of workers, according to a 2019 study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hourly Employees are Valuable

Hourly employees have always been the unsung heroes of the global economy. They are the workers who show up and keep the wheels turning during the worst of times. They’re the frontline healthcare workers, firefighters, and police officers. But they’re also the people working on the production lines, driving the busses and conducting the trains. These hourly workers build houses, deliver packages, handle the behind-the-scenes tasks in restaurants, hotels, and retail stores.

Before COVID-19, the hourly workforce wasn’t considered “essential,” and those in many industries were treated like second-class citizens. Then suddenly, many of these same people were considered necessary for civilization to run day today. During the pandemic, nearly every state governor issued executive orders that defined “essential” industries. They include healthcare, food service, and public transportation. And their employees accounted for roughly 42 percent of the entire U.S. workforce in April 2020, according to the Brookings Institution. Among these, most are hourly or part-time workers, and 57 percent of them earn less than $20 an hour. In fact, essential employees earn an average of 18.2 percent less than employees in other industries, according to the Brookings report.

Nonetheless, many hourly workers are the customer-facing brand ambassadors for their companies. Their customer-facing job requirements made it impossible for many hourly workers to work from home when the global economy shut down. Instead, they were let go. According to the Economic Policy Institute, hourly, low-wage earners experienced 80 percent of the overall U.S. job losses in 2020.

The Needs of Hourly Workers

Now, it’s clear that COVID-19 has disrupted the entire hourly workforce landscape in other ways. Workers changed industries and realized that they could increase their pay significantly in new jobs. Also, as companies compete for a scarce pool of labor, wages are rising quickly. Many hourly workers are aware of this and are no longer wary of changing jobs for a better-paid position. Instead, they’re asking for better pay and greater benefits right where they are. That’s the impression of people like Alex Pantich, whose on-demand staffing platform Upshift is dedicated to the hourly and part-time workforce.

“In my experience operating an on-demand staffing platform,” Pantich said, “many of those working in the hospitality industry making minimum wage realized that they could work in a warehouse with better hours and a pay rate almost double what they made working in a restaurant.“

Research backs him up. Gallup reports that hourly workers are now significantly less satisfied than salaried employees. They are less satisfied with vacation time, retirement benefits, pay, safety conditions, job security,  health insurance benefits, and more. A recent study by Workplace Intelligence and MyWorkchoice that included 2,000 U.S. HR leaders and hourly workers revealed that nearly 94 percent of leaders and 87 percent of hourly workers felt that hourly workers should receive the same, or some of the same, benefits as salaried employees.

Meeting Changing Demands

“We’ve reached a critical turning point,’’ the study concluded. “The evidence is growing that employers who want to remain competitive in today’s marketplace should consider rethinking their benefits for hourly workers, especially flexibility.”

Researchers with the hiring platform HireVue say competition is fierce for top hourly talent. Organizations are getting creative with benefits to attract high performers. A recent survey by the hourly hiring platform Snagajob found that 89 percent of employers are competing for talent using flexible hours and scheduling. Also, 76 percent are offering a robust set of employee discounts and 54 percent are offering increased job skills training.

“Other trends among hourly employers include signing bonuses, increased pay, and vaccination incentives,” says Mathieu Stevenson of Snagajob.

Employers who hope to attract and retain top talent will provide employees full access to wellness tools and programs. Roughly 40 percent of all U.S. adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic. That is nearly four times the number who reported those symptoms in the first half of 2019. But the problem is even worse among essential workers. More than 42 percent of essential workers have suffered anxiety or depressive symptoms during the pandemic, compared with 30 percent among other workers.

To stay competitive, employers need to offer valuable benefits to all employees, regardless of hourly or salaried status.

voluntary benefits

Voluntary Benefits and Why Employers Should Offer Them

The coronavirus pandemic has greatly accelerated two recent and parallel trends in employee benefits. One is that more employers want to take a holistic approach to employee health and wellness. The other is that employees are increasingly looking to work for companies that show a culture of caring.

These trends, combined with other impacts of COVID-19 on the global workforce, have brought the value of so-called voluntary benefits to center stage. Employers should take note if they’re not already.

The Current State of Voluntary Benefits

Even before the pandemic, 41 percent of workers said they were likely to look for a new job with better benefits, according to Unum research. That percentage is even higher among the younger generations: 57 percent of millennials and 65 percent of Gen Z workers said they felt the same. Meanwhile, a recent employee benefits survey found that if employees had to choose between a high-paying job and a lower-paying one with quality health benefits, 88 percent would consider the lower-paying job. More telling, a majority (54 percent) of employees would “heavily consider” the tradeoff.

And employees are looking more closely at the benefits they’re being offered. During the last enrollment season, thanks to COVID-19, more than seven in 10 employees (71 percent) reported that they intended to spend more time reviewing their voluntary benefits. More than half (53 percent) planned to make changes to their benefits coverages.

No wonder 94 percent of employers now consider voluntary benefits part of their value proposition. That’s a massive increase from barely 33 percent of employers who felt the same way in 2018. When they were first introduced, voluntary benefits were considered icing on the cake. They were sweeteners to help close a deal with an employer buying basic medical (core) benefits. About a decade ago, the voluntary benefits market grew gradually, and then it exploded with a variety of supplemental benefit add-ons. Consider this: 63 percent of employers are adding child care benefits to their lineup this year.

Statistics to Consider

The subject of voluntary benefits has recently become a critical tool for employers to support employee mental health. It’s a topic that employers were just starting to focus on before the pandemic. This happened, coincidentally, when voluntary benefits were beginning to take off. The pandemic catapulted voluntary benefits into the spotlight. People everywhere were forced to work from home, social-distance, wear masks, and forgo most of their everyday social habits. Consider these telling statistics:

  • In early 2019, SHRM’s annual Employee Benefits Survey found “slow but steady increases” in on-site stress-management programs provided by employers, compared to five years prior. Stress management programs were up to 13 percent and meditation and mindfulness programs were at 11 percent.
  • Earlier this year, research by Randstad found that 41 percent of workers say their employers began offering new health- and wellness-focused benefits during COVID-19. Among those companies, “mental health assistance” was the third most commonly added benefit (13 percent). The number of companies adding benefits to support mental health was, in fact, statistically the same as for new “general health and wellness benefits” (14 percent). (At 20 percent, “flexible work hours” was the most prevalent new benefit.)

The increasing attention by employers to employee mental health is coming none too soon. Roughly two in five U.S. adults reported symptoms of either anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic—up significantly from one in 10 who reported these symptoms in the first half of 2019. The rate is even higher for essential workers (42 percent) versus nonessential workers (30 percent).

Developing an Effective Mental Health Initiative

These numbers shouldn’t alarm just HR and wellness professionals. All business leaders should take note. Why? Two reasons:

  1. The global cost of lost productivity, absences, and turnover caused by poor mental health is already estimated to be about $2.5 trillion annually.
  2. Employer investment in what one study called “effective mental health initiatives” can return an average of just over $4.00 for every $1.00.

So, where do you begin to find and implement an effective mental health initiative?

First, look for a solution that takes a four-part approach. You’ll need a solution that:

1) Takes a whole-person, whole-organization mindset

2. Includes tools and programs for all employees (not only those who are reporting mental health concerns)

3) Empowers employees and delivers practical insights to HR and wellbeing leaders

4) Has a human touch (support from experienced, dedicated service specialists) backed by solid science

To stay competitive in the new world of work, there really is no Plan B.

employee mental health programs

Image from Lightspring

The Deeper Benefits of Employee Mental Health Programs

Rewind for a minute to the pre-pandemic state of your company culture. How did you measure up in terms of morale? Recruiting? Retention? How about employee engagement, productivity, presenteeism, and positivity? These are all critical attributes companies increasingly evaluate for their value on investment (VOI), a progressive alternative to ROI. In many organizations, the use of VOI is gradually changing the way employers assess the impact of their people programs, including employee mental health programs.

Of course, companies had begun to rethink their approach to employee mental health and well-being before COVID-19. Then the pandemic hit. Suddenly life was more about surviving than thriving.

There hadn’t been time (or much interest) before we all went into sheltering in place to call the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). And there certainly wasn’t time during, what with homeschooling and back-to-back Zoom meetings. We all seemed awash instead in apps for meditation and calmness.

Measuring Employee Mental Health Programs: ROI or VOI?

But as the dust settles and work life finds its new sense of normal, HR, talent leaders, and the C-suite are all certain to return to putting a finer pencil to the cost of these programs and well-being initiatives. This begs the traditional question: Where is the ROI?

What HR and benefits will quickly learn is that the ROI of mental health programs is at best an elusive target. At worst, ROI is an impossible metric to nail down. But this is not the first time category leaders in a company have faced this quandary.

For example, learning and development has been buzzing with the need to hire and train for “soft skills” for at least two decades. But as important as those skills are for the way work gets done today, L&D leaders still struggle to prove the ROI of those traits. They also struggle to quantify the programs intended to build soft skills. Yes, learning has found ways to produce data that draws a line (if often indirect) from soft skills development to changes in productivity and ROI. But the objectivity of the data, and the authenticity of the reports based on that data, are often questioned.

Of course, connecting the dots and measuring the true ROI of employee benefits and programs that offer financial planning, better nutrition, mindfulness, and improved mental health faces similar challenges. So what if, instead of ROI, you shift your focus to a whole-person, whole-organization approach of employee mental health – and consider its value on investment (VOI).

Defining Employee Well-being and VOI

Consider a clinically-based approach that addresses mental health proactively from the standpoint of physical, social, and psychological well-being — the three spheres that psychologists and healthcare providers agree make up the whole person. It isn’t just about treating the 1 in 5 Americans who have mental health issues. It’s about proactively reaching and educating every employee about mental health. Because just as everyone is somewhere on the yardstick of physical health, we are all also somewhere on the continuum of mental health.

And what supports our mental, physical, and social well-being? What — speaking of VOI — can add value to our mental health?

Science says there are seven aspects of daily life to consider: happiness, sleep, fulfillment, coping, calmness, health, and connection all influence employee mental health. When one area is off-balance, an employee — and ultimately their coworkers and the company — are directly affected. Your company’s performance, culture, and reputation are all on the line. At the same time, studies show current programs to support mental health are under-utilized. EAPs, for example, are hugely underutilized with an average 3% to 4% engagement rate.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a “one size fits all” mental health solution that can add value to your organization by optimizing the use of well-being programs you’re already paying for, improving employee performance, and positively affecting your company culture and brand.

Four Benefit Areas with Measurable Outcomes

You need a platform with expert guidance, scientifically-backed tools, and data-driven outcomes. And, you must take a proactive approach that inspires and empowers your employees to take matters into their own hands. You need a platform that speaks to the employee experience and adds value to the organization. You can prove that value by focusing on these four areas critical to any organization — and have measurable outcomes.

1. Strengthen existing well-being payout

Our first goal: Close the gap between an employee having a problem and the employee going to the EAP to solve that problem. For example, trouble sleeping doesn’t lead employees directly to their EAP. But with a better understanding of what mental health truly means, how a sleepless night might indicate a more significant issue exists, and with support to navigate them to existing programs and services — employees feel knowledgeable and safe. They’ll reach out to their EAP — and get the right care at the right time.

2. Improve performance

It’s no secret that a thriving workforce leads to better performance. Providing employees with the tools to manage their individual challenges equips them to make incremental changes in their well-being and job performance. With that comes fewer sick days, less presenteeism, and fewer accidents on the job. Once you empower employees to take mental health matters into their hands, understanding and measuring progress becomes natural.

3. Strengthen company culture

Mental health is not binary; it’s more than being OK or not OK. Move away from mental well-being programs that offer checklist or check-the-box approaches. Shift the mindset to where everyone’s on the spectrum — because we all have mental health. Forget “show up, be your best, and get rewarded.” It contradicts the culture of well-being and taking care of oneself. And it certainly isn’t a culture that supports openness about mental health (or much of anything else, for that matter).

4.    Enhance company reputation and brand

When it comes to the most in-demand traits of employers, a company’s mission, sense of values, and providing support for total well-being have surpassed compensation. Job seekers now look for companies ready to protect and care for people — including offering programs to support their mental health. Enhance your company’s reputation and brand by taking a proactive approach to  — and a vocal stand on — mental health.

Employee Mental Health Programs: Next Steps

Advocate for what matters. VOI does that and will help sell a whole-person, whole-organization approach to employee mental health up the ladder. Choose a vendor you trust. Invest in technology that delivers or optimizes what you have. Research, research, research. Then, ultimately, prioritize what truly matters.

 

2021 workplace healthcare trends

Image by BirthBrand

2021 Workplace Healthcare Trends: What Employers Must Know [Podcast]

The tsunami of turmoil that started in 2020 has continued wreaking havoc in 2021. Over the past year, the accompanying stress and uncertainty have taken a toll on employees. As a result, those employees now expect their employers to step up and be supportive in ways unfamiliar to them. This demand has forced entire organizations to take a fresh look at 2021 workplace healthcare trends and re-evaluate their current wellness benefits.

How do employers keep up with those trends? What must they know to help employees better deal with physical and mental wellness issues?

Our Guest: Richa Gupta, Veteran HR Executive

Joining me on this week’s episode of #WorkTrends is a well-respected HR executive, Richa Gupta. Richa has had a front-row seat as 2021 workplace healthcare trends have developed, so I have been looking forward to this critical conversation. First, I asked Richa how the pandemic has forced companies to shift their healthcare and wellness priorities this year. Her answer showcased three distinct elements of this worldwide conversation:

  • The different ways employees work today; how and where we get our work done
  • The evolution of leadership; specifically, how we lead our workforce out of the pandemic
  • Health and wellbeing strategies; how employers are helping care for employees

“Employers play a very vital role in employee health in 2021,” Richa said. “Specifically, given their extensive reach into the workforce, midsize and large employers play a critical leadership role in health advocacy.” 

“Employers are a trusted resource for healthcare, so they must realize they are at the core of today’s wellness issues.”

An Insider Look at Understanding 2021 Workplace Healthcare Trends

In large part because of the pandemic, Richa said the most significant workplace trend is that as the pandemic maintains its grip on the workplace and presents ongoing health and wellbeing challenges, many companies are changing their wellness-related priorities. And that starts with personalizing the benefits offered to employees.

“CHROs in particular need to more deeply understand their employee population. So they’re starting to ask questions that we didn’t before. How do we serve them differently? How do we cater to their specific healthcare and well-being needs?”

Richa added: “How we ensure a healthier, productive workforce starts with understanding who you have — and then catering to them by offering benefits in a very personalized way.”

I couldn’t agree more; the reality is one-size-fits-all healthcare plans just don’t work now. Maybe they never have.

I gained valuable insight from Richa during this conversation — and I know you will too. Enjoy the listen, then incorporate Richa’s sage advice into your company’s inevitable transformation.

To learn more about Richa and her work, connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

elder caregiving

Image by Pop Nukoonrat

[#WorkTrends] Elder Caregiving: A Growing Employee Crisis

Many members of the 70 million-strong Baby Boomer generation are at prime caregiving age, and soon many will become care recipients themselves. While they will live longer than previous generations, they will also be fighting many battles with age-related health issues. And with hospital stays becoming shorter, this means many employees will soon be fighting a crisis new to them: in-home elder caregiving.

How can employers help their team members through this inevitable crisis? And why should they care?

Our Guest: Larry Nisenson from CareScout

On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, Larry Nisenson of Genworth U.S. Life Insurance Segment and CareScout® Caregiver Support Services joins us to discuss how employers can anticipate the growing need for eldercare. We jumped right into the conversation by learning just how extensive the eldercare crisis will become:

“There exists today, in just in the US, over 40 million unpaid family caregivers,” Larry said. “Over the next decade, we expect that number to balloon up to 80 million. As the US economy ages and more folks must pitch in to help parents and loved ones, there is a dramatic impact on the US economy and workplace productivity. That puts incredible pressure on folks like you and me trying to work and take care of those we care about.” 

Larry added that the situation often forces people to choose: “Do they take this burden on alone? Or so they can focus on work-life balance, or perhaps take care of younger family members, do they bring in help?”

This is where employers can step in and relieve some of this pressure.

Elder Caregiving: The Role of Employers

I asked Larry what employers can do to support the growing need for in-home caregivers. Larry’s response was both practical and insightful. Rather than assume what would help caregivers most, he says:

“We too often hear from employers: ‘The vast majority of my employees don’t need eldercare benefits.’” After demonstrating their employees soon will, Larry advised them: “First and foremost, survey your employees. Don’t assume you know. You’ve got to ask them what they need in terms of support!” Because caregiving is a unique, isolating incident, he adds there is another benefit to asking these questions:

“Caregivers need to know their employer is interested in helping.”

Once you have input from your employees, Larry says, consider offering employees an elder caregiving benefit: “Care advocacy benefits — where you call an 800 number, and they provide all of the advice, expertise that you need to make decisions for your elderly loved ones — is one of the hottest benefits out there.”

To learn more about how your company can help employees through the coming elder caregiving crisis, be sure to listen to my entire conversation with Larry. You, and your loved ones, will appreciate his expertise!

 

Have more questions about this topic? Find Larry on LinkedIn.

 

Editor’s note: We’ve given our #WorkTrends Podcast page (and also our FAQ page) a fresh, new look. Please tell us your thoughts?

 

employee health

Photo by Tero Vesalainen

How The Best Employers Will Support Employee Health in 2021

As 2021 begins, human resources professionals are well-positioned to consider the actions they can take this year to help employees stay healthy. Here are five excellent ways employers will support employee health in 2021…

1. Investigate Opportunities to Relieve Stress

Keeping stress levels down at work can go a long way in helping people stay healthy. Some of the go-to stress-relieving activities include having on-site yoga and meditation sessions. While those can be beneficial, experts clarify that such activities alone are not sufficient.

It’s time for an all-encompassing approach concerning managing organizational changes, ensuring employees have what they need to excel in their roles and that they can adequately handle their workloads. Such aspects can keep stress levels low without sacrificing output. As people feel less stressed, their productivity will often rise, too.

Creating an atmosphere where people feel comfortable enough to admit feeling stressed is equally vital. For example, in a workplace where managers value high performance, people may worry that speaking up about feeling stressed due to their workload may lead to accusations that they are falling behind compared to colleagues.

2. Show Support During Mental Health Struggles

The COVID-19 pandemic called more attention to mental health struggles. Even for those who didn’t contract the virus, the worry and extra responsibilities associated with the global health threat caused additional burdens. Women bore the brunt of these societal issues.

A recent global Deloitte poll of working women showed that 39% noticed worsened mental health during the pandemic. Moreover, 75% said they experienced increased caregiving responsibilities, and a third reported a heavier general workload.

Regardless of a person’s gender and situation, employers should strive to stay sensitive to and aware of any possible mental health difficulties. They can support employees by modeling good self-care and encouraging workers to take breaks when overwhelmed, for example. Educating employees about the diversity and prevalence of mental health difficulties also helps decrease associated stigmas.

3. Help Employees Understand the Specifics of Their Health Coverage

Usually, people who receive health insurance through their employees either participate in traditionally fully insured or self-funded plans. Research shows that, of the approximately 150 million Americans who receive health insurance through employers, 61% do so through self-funded or partially self-funded plans. One of the main differences in the types is that self-funded plans involve paying the employer for coverage instead of a carrier.

Regardless of how an employee receives coverage, they may not understand the extent of associated benefits — especially newly available perks. During the pandemic, AXA Asia — part of a global insurance brand — expanded its free telehealth service to help approximately 6.5 million people. Some providers also have specialty content that helps people learn more about diagnoses, treatments, and preventive measures.

Human resources professionals should consider sending weekly tips about policy features or suggestions to help them get more out of the coverage. A company-wide email could be one effective option.

4. Cultivate a Workplace Wellness Culture

Many company decision-makers mistakenly believe that implementing a few minor changes is enough to create and maintain a workplace wellness culture. However, getting genuine, lasting results requires a more concentrated effort that relies on employee input.

Asking employees what they need and want will likely get better results than providing them with packaged, one-size-fits-all health solutions. For example, giving a gym membership to someone who’s intensely uncomfortable with the thought of exercising in public. Aske what they need, and you will probably get the desired results.

People responsible for improving or starting an employee wellness program should explore ways to reach people where they are, which means understanding that everyone has different goals and definitions of wellness.

5. Teach Employees to Avoid Health Scams

Learning to spot phishing scams is often part of workplace cybersecurity training. It’s indispensable now, since many scammers ramped up their efforts to take advantage of the unusual circumstances caused by COVID-19. Most people living through the pandemic have never dealt with something like this before. The associated uncertainty, coupled with the desire to stay well during these challenging times, makes some people more likely to fall for health-related scams.

In one recent example, cybercriminals created a fake version of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service website. It explained that people had to provide bank details for COVID-19 vaccine eligibility. To make matters worse, many older and vulnerable people living in the United Kingdom can get vaccinated soon and were likely not surprised to get emailed details about applying for a vaccination date. Health authorities confirmed they would never ask for residents’ bank details, however.

Employers should consider how incorporating health scam awareness into employee education could boost wellness. Suppose a person gets their bank account depleted after falling for a scam. In that case, they could go through extraordinary anxiety, periods of depression, and difficulties in getting essential items.

Employee Health: Input Must Guide Changes

These five tips encourage employers to think about how they can help employees stay healthier in 2021. However, it’s ideal if employee feedback shapes change to existing wellness efforts or entirely new initiatives.

Once employers see what workers need, want, and are likely to participate in, they increase their likelihood of bringing meaningful and sustainable results to support employee health. Moreover, workers will see organizational leaders consider their values. When that happens, they feel heard and appreciated, positively impacting morale and overall participation rates.

top 5 posts

Photo by Anikasalsera

A Quick Look Back: TalentCulture’s Top 5 Posts of 2020

It’s that time of year again. Time to look back on TalentCulture’s Top 5 posts of 2020!

Not surprisingly, many of our most-read posts of 2020 were influenced by the pandemic that dominated the world of work. Also not surprising: Our community came through with insightful, actionable posts just as relevant today as the day they were published.

Take a look (or a second look) at each of these posts. Then put this solid advice to work at your organization!

5) Job Descriptions: How to Eliminate the Hidden Bias Within

We start this countdown with recruiting insights from Cyndy Trivella – Managing Partner here at TalentCulture. Cyndy took a bold look at how the typical job description adds bias to the corporate hiring process. As Cyndy so eloquently says, “Job descriptions are indicative of systemic injustice that impacts the lives and careers of women, the disabled, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and specific religions or nationalities.” Read Cyndy’s post, and learn how your company can better meet your diversity goals by changing how you write job descriptions.

4) How to Establish a COVID-19 Safety Policy

The fourth most-read post of 2020  provides powerful insight into COVID-19 safety policies. And not just how to establish those policies, but how to use them to build trust among employees. Courtney Mudd, Director of Human Resources at Influence and Co., doesn’t stop there, though. She goes to great lengths to show us how full transparency is the key to creating supportive, safe work environments for employees.

3) After COVID-19: Improving Your Employee Wellness Program

In the third most popular post of last year, Antonio Barraza of Innovative Employee Solutions looked into the future to give us some much-needed insight into improving our post-pandemic employee wellness programs. From the accessibility of fitness classes to flexible office hours, Antonio covered many of today’s hot topics. More importantly, he suggests many improvements to wellness programs many companies should consider now.

2) Five Industries Poised to Thrive Post-Pandemic

In our second-most-read post of 2020, Daglar Cizmeci – CEO at Red Carpet Capital Limited – offered a close look at the five industries that were sure to thrive once the pandemic was over. The post originally appeared during the first major spike of the COVID-19 crisis. Today, we see several of these industries already doing well, including healthcare, collaboration technology, and organizations focused on remote learning.

1) Remote Work During Coronavirus: Leadership Matters

And in the top post of 2020, our own Meghan M. Biro – Founder of TalentCulture – contributed this inspiring post on the impact of leadership during the Coronavirus crisis. Her words could not have been more prophetic: “…if you approach remote leadership with a real commitment to staying human and staying present, this is just the beginning. And when this is all over, and it will be, your whole organization will be in a far better position to meet the future of work head-on.” Yes, leadership – today more than ever before – matters.

2020’s Top 5 Posts

These top 5 posts of 2020, and so many more on TalentCulture, are social proof that not all of 2020 was bad. As always, we’re incredibly grateful to our community members for sharing the insights that helped us get through a challenging year. And, of course, we must thank you, the readers, for once again making TalentCulture a go-to resource in the world of work!

Here’s to making 2021 the best year ever, together.

 

2021 work trends

Photo by VivilWeb

Futurecasting: 7 World of Work Trends We’ll See in 2021

Futurecasting is sometimes akin to looking into the sky and trying to connect the stars. As we look ahead to the future this time, though, we know the direction we’re going. We know where the prominent work trends are taking us.

The pressures and complexities of 2020 and the pandemic forced an awakening. The innovation developed, creativity demonstrated, and momentum generated since that global reckoning has been so strong, there’s no turning around now; we’ll never go back to the way it was. So the tools and strategies we’ve leaned on throughout the pandemic will continue to redefine how we work in 2021.

With that in mind, here are seven key work trends that will continue to make their mark this coming year…

1. Remote Working

As an option, a necessity, a perk, and an official policy, remote working is here to stay. It’s a classic example of “if you build it, they will come.” And the many employees (and their managers) who have now experienced the ability to function remotely and now know the advantages remote work brings won’t want to go back.

As companies scale back on real estate spends (sorry realtors), remote working is a way to maintain a large workforce on a tighter budget. So we’ll see countless organizations following the path of big tech firms who have pledged to keep their employees remote for the time being — if, of course, they can accomplish the job and responsibilities without the need for a shared physical workspace. Once again, big tech is leading the way and disrupting the status quo. Only this time, it’s not transformative leadership creating the change; it’s the technology itself.

2. New Hires, New Experiences

For new hires (and particularly for Generation Z), that traditional rite of passage of joining a workplace and learning a whole new set of behavioral and social norms isn’t going to be as prevalent. This wholly digital generation has already changed the way we experience technology. Now, they’ll help us usher in a whole new way to enter the workplace. Soon, we’ll come to know this new wave of hires as the “remote generation” (or “hybrid generation”).

The brand-new job experience will not have the same impact as it did past generations. We don’t yet know how younger hires will feel about the value of that experience or workplace culture. But we will — and soon. The difference here: The 2021 work culture will be digital in nature. So the experience will not be as sharp a contrast as going from the classroom to the world of work.

3. Video Conferencing

Video conferencing has become the de facto way we meet. It has become so ubiquitous in the workplace that “to Zoom” is now a verb.

Zoom may have been the frontrunner. But there are plenty of existing competitors and new visual collaboration platforms that will help how we work together evolve. After all, this is a very hot aspect of HR technology and will undoubtedly continue to be one of the most dominant work trends.  So I predict increasing capabilities to communicate just as effectively over mobile as we once did face-to-face. I also see better ways to archive and transcribe our video-based conversations and more ways to extend the work done via videoconference to teams and stakeholders.

4. Upskilling

In 2021, we will see a big shift from hiring being the primary driver of increasing an organization’s capabilities to upskilling existing talent. Organizations that had to tighten their hiring budgets after sustained buffeting from 2020 and the pandemic will shift resources into training and development. Those that did just fine despite economic turbulence — in industries that actually grew during 2020 — will be adding a robust reskilling and upskilling program to their HR strategy.

The bottom line for everyone is that institutional knowledge is critical for maintaining continuity and weathering a crisis. Upskilling existing employees will become known as a smart way to hold onto that intelligence while evolving skills to meet new challenges. Upskilling will become a business imperative.

5. Mental Health

Without question, our mental health has become an enormous issue. A recent report by Monster revealed a whopping 69% of employees working from home experience severe burnout. It’s not that working from home is particularly hard on everyone by itself. But the rush to remote without an underlying culture and infrastructure — and without an end-game being defined — has caused some stress.

Because one of the key triggers of burnout is mistreatment by supervisors and managers, we’re learning about the importance of setting boundaries and doing frequent check-ins. Many of us are also making sure our people have access to the mental health benefits they need. To help us continue this critical work trend, we’ll soon see even more apps that help with emotional and mental well-being (such as a meditation app and a mindfulness training tool). And we’ll see more forward-thinking companies providing these practical and widely-available tools as part of their overall well-being programs.

6. Inclusive Cultures

Diversity is critical to every aspect of the workplace — and organizations need to do better. So we’ll see a lot more leaders focusing on how to improve a sense of belonging in their organizations, as well as some authentic soul-searching as we dive into legacies such as systemic racism.

Our timing couldn’t be better. Currently, 70% of job seekers in a survey by the Manifest say they consider a company’s commitment to diversity when evaluating them as a prospective employer. But diversity in terms of hiring and promotions is only one part of the equation. Companies must pay attention to their work cultures, gauge how truly inclusive they are now, and then work to close the gap between what is and what should be. This is perhaps the mother of all work trends and will play a critical role next year. Because in 2021, organizations are not going to be able to get away with a performative statement or symbolic gestures. If you truly believe in equality — if you genuinely believe black lives matter, for example — you’re going to have to show it.

7. Empathetic People Management

Let me add a few words to the phrase above: “empathetic people management… for the right reasons.”

The pre-pandemic talent crunch triggered many reflective moments around how to better conduct HR and talent management. The goal for many companies is to be perceived as a better employer brand and to successfully engage and retain your people. That’s all well and good. But we’re not in a talent crunch right now.

Yet between February and October 2020, some 2.2 million women in the U.S. left their jobs. Overwhelmed, undersupported, and stressed out, many women — particularly working mothers — reached a tipping point and gave up. That’s an incredible talent drain. When they come back to work, they’re going to look for companies that set up the structures that truly support their people through empathetic people management for all the right reasons.

Looking Ahead to 2021

2020’s silver lining is that we’d been stubbornly dancing around what was truly important in the workplace — and to the workforce. We were forced to reckon with real-time discoveries in an authentic way. So we now know exactly what lies between us and where we want to go. We’ll bring that wisdom, and these work trends, to 2021.

This welcome knowledge, together with knowing we have better tools and a clearer vision of what must come next than we’ve ever had before, brings me to my final bit of futurecasting…

2021 will be the year HR once again finds its soul. 

In 2021 and beyond, we will take better care of our people — and each other.

 

healthcare spending

Jonathan Borba

Healthcare Spending 2021: Employee Education Key to Controlling Costs

What is navigation assistance? And how will it help employers control healthcare spending in 2021?

While 2020 has thrown human resources (HR) many curveballs, one fact remains constant: Employees need help navigating their benefits.

Poor healthcare consumerism influences the cost of healthcare for employers. It drains employee satisfaction, as well. When they don’t have the help they need to access high-quality, low-cost care, employees feel left out in the cold. Now more than ever, we owe employees our support.

Navigation assistance – guidance through the healthcare benefits maze – is an important way to provide that support. Employers also benefit: Providing the assistance lowers healthcare costs.

Healthcare Spending: The Value of Employee Education

For our recent 2021 State of the Benefits Experience Report, Healthjoy sent a survey to +9,000 HR professionals nationwide. Respondents reported using every imaginable benefits education tool, from benefits booklets to presentations and from healthcare fairs to portal websites. Yet they gave the success of their benefits education strategy an average score of just 3 out of 5.

I’m not surprised. At the moment, it’s almost impossible to judge the success of our education efforts. Plus, we know awareness is just one of the areas we have to consider. Still, indications are that our existing education strategies aren’t hitting the mark.

For example, our survey respondents reported employees didn’t know enough about their full EAP offering. As a result, even at this critical time for mental health, employees are missing out on the support they need. And only because they don’t understand, or can’t navigate, their benefits plan.

Ultimately, we won’t know if our efforts to improve employee education are successful until employees are asked to make tough decisions under pressure. That makes education a really tricky strategy to hang our hats on. To succeed, we must educate employees about the stakes involved with making smart healthcare decisions. We must also show up for them with assistance tools when they’re under pressure.

Navigation Assistance: Taking the Pressure Off HR

It’s clear that a lack of navigation assistance is also leaving HR to drown in employee questions.

Our Benefits Experience survey revealed that HR professionals spend an average of 9 hours per week answering employee questions. In the end, some reported spending 20, 30, or even 40 hours per week on this task alone.

They aren’t spending time on complicated billing questions or coding issues, either. The most common question – asked by nearly four out of 10 – was also the most basic (paraphrasing): “How do I find contact information when I have employee benefits questions and need support.”

In other words, employees had questions about… how to ask questions.

Another 38% ranked “understanding benefits coverage/cost” as the most common employee question.

From the amount of time we see HR spending on employee questions each week, we can clearly discern where their confusion is leading them. So, as we talk about transforming healthcare and benefits, we must focus on tools that quickly and efficiently provide answers.

The good news is we know the answer: A ben admin system with navigation and decision support. We also know this system takes the pressure off of HR; when made available to employees, HR spends far less time answering the most common questions.

Manage Healthcare Spending with Navigation Assistance

As Meghan M. Biro, CEO of TalentCulture, and I discussed in a recent episode of the #WorkTrends podcast, healthcare spending is a really complex issue. Costs in the US were already out of control due to factors like an aging population and the obesity epidemic. Then the pandemic added yet another layer of complexity. Because many employees are not fully using their benefits during the pandemic, healthcare costs might temporarily go down for employers next year. However, those delayed healthcare events will eventually occur – driving costs up again in the very near future.

For instance, by some estimates, 28 million elective surgeries were halted or delayed during the pandemic. These are exactly the types of non-emergent, predictable procedures employees need help navigating. Sure, they may be predictable. But if employees don’t carefully scrutinize every aspect of their scheduled procedures, they can easily lead to thousands in surprising medical bills.

And if the number of elective surgeries is doubled next year?

We’ll need to figure out a system by which employees can choose high-quality, cost-effective facilities and providers. We must put these solutions in place now, before they’re needed and before those elective surgeries are scheduled. That is the only way to save employees money and frustration – and to keep employers from engaging in unnecessary spending.

Managing What’s Within Our Control

When we talk about rising healthcare spending, there are many factors outside our control. Thankfully, provider, procedure, and prescription choice are within our control. So the question becomes: Are we willing to give employees the support they need to make the right decisions?

Our recent survey revealed the answer to this important question: Most employers don’t plan to add this type of navigation assistance to their benefits plans next year. Still, I remain hopeful that top-performing, high-growth companies that genuinely care about their employee’s experience will consider adding this benefit in very near the future.

We have a responsibility to take care of employees during the 364 days outside of open enrollment. Navigation assistance changes the way employees access, and then fully leverage their benefits.

Ultimately, navigation assistance improves the lives of your employees – every day of the year.

 

This post is sponsored by our friends at Healthjoy.

 

Healthcare Benefits

Edward Jenner

#WorkTrends: Transforming the Healthcare Benefits Experience

Now more than ever, employers feel a mandate to take good care of their people. And that responsibility is bigger than how best to empower a remote workforce. It is more complex than deciding the right time to bring them back on-site. Today, how we enable our employees to take care of themselves, and their loved ones, is a front and center issue.

You don’t want to miss a single episode of #WorkTrends… subscribe to the podcast now!

Are we providing the wellness benefits our employees need? Do they have access to the right providers? Is preventative care and testing available? How are employees making the decision on what plan to pick — and who is helping them make those decisions? And what kind of experience do we want our employees to have while choosing the right health plan, and providers, for them?

Healthcare Benefits: A Timely Conversation

This period just before open enrollment is not a great time for employees to be left without answers to these questions. So for this episode of @WorkTrends, I invited Justin Holland, CEO and Founder of Healthjoy, to shed some much-needed light on healthcare benefits.

In speaking with Justin, I learned how much healthcare has changed over the last few decades. I also discovered just how important it is to properly educate and enable employees before asking them to choose health benefits. “It’s really easy to run through an open enrollment presentation and forget about the impact of the decisions being made,” Justin said. “So our goal is to give employees the tools and framework they need to make the right decisions for them.”

Justin also confirmed how I have felt about open enrollment: That having a day or two to make major decisions just isn’t enough. “Open enrollment is obviously a very important time to educate employees on benefits. But there’s 364 other days a year they’re utilizing those benefits,” Justin said. “Our vision is that healthcare education be available at the right place at the right time. Because when a kid is sick at 2:00am and you’re going to the ER, chances are slim you’re going to remember what was said in that open enrollment meeting six months ago.”

Healthcare Education and Empowerment

Justin added: “Healthcare education and empowerment needs to be relevant during those touchpoints. At that moment, we’re all accountable — employee and employer, provider and platform — for the health and wellness of the family.”

During our conversation, Justin and I also talked about the rising cost of healthcare. We discussed how employers can provide healthcare benefits to freelancers and independent contractors. And we touched on how healthcare might look after the COVID-19 crisis is behind us. The timing of our conversation couldn’t be better. After all, chances are good your company is about to start an open enrollment period, or is considering a change to employee benefits for 2021. So please listen in!

Healthjoy sponsored this episode of #WorkTrends℠. And I’m so glad they did. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot from our 20 minutes or so together. I did!

 

Find Justin on Linkedin and Twitter.

 

Editor’s note: Have you heard about how #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats are changing to better meet your needs? For details check the new FAQ page. Also, to see upcoming event topics and guests, check the new calendar listing on the #WorkTrends Podcast page.

 

Tuition Assistance

Photo: Tumisu

Recruit Top Talent With Tuition Assistance Programs

What do Apple, Disney, Verizon, Google, and Starbucks have in common? They’re all multi-billion dollar companies, and they all offer tuition reimbursement to their employees. And they’re showing that a company benefits by paying fees for their employees’ education. Tuition assistance is a win for both employers and employees.

A Growing Trend in Employee Benefits

Tuition assistance programs are a type of employee benefits in which the employer pays for a predetermined amount of continuing education costs for their employees. Assistance may come in the form of reimbursements for tuition, fees, and books.

Some employers may opt to cover the full cost associated with the education, while others may choose to pay a portion. Some might pay upfront; others per course/semester.

To protect themselves from employees taking advantage of the program and leaving the company, employers take various measures, such as requiring the beneficiaries of the program to remain in the company for a specified time — or be required to reimburse the company for part of the fees paid on their behalf.

The Benefit for Companies

As skilled talent becomes harder to find, many companies are looking to grow from within. As of 2018, 85% of US employers surveyed were offering tuition assistance to some or all employees, according to a study by WorldatWork. Here’s what companies gain:

1. Reduced Tax Burden

Companies with tuition assistance policies for their employees can benefit from tax breaks. That’s because money spent on paying employee education expenses is tax-deductible if it meets the IRS requirements.

Under section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code, an employer can deduct up to $5,250 per year for each employee that qualifies and participates in the employer’s education assistance plan.

With the US government facilitating the implementation and adoption of tuition assistance programs, there is no reason for an organization not to take advantage of this opportunity.   

2. Free Part-time Work (Depending on a Company’s Tuition Assistance Policy)

Besides the tax break, companies can also get free part-time work and increased brand awareness by offering tuition reimbursement.

For example, Finnegan, a Washington-based law firm that specializes in intellectual property law has an attractive reimbursement program that covers 100% of employee’s tuition fees.

To qualify for the program, staffers must work as “student associates” while they attend law school. This program is a win-win for all; the company gets part-time work from the student and the student gets free tuition. What’s not to like, especially if you’re going to a top law school like Harvard on someone else’s dime.

According to BLS, lawyers make $122,960 on average but can expect to pay anywhere from $12,000 to $70,000 for the LLM (Master of Law) program. But with a tuition reimbursement program, like the one for Finnegan, the cost can be reduced to nil.

3. Help Businesses Attract Top Talent

It’s no secret that every company wants to attract, recruit, and retain top talents.

To achieve this, many companies offer attractive benefits and perks. Some will opt for vacation days, others gym membership, and a few will stick to industry-standard salaries.

But when you look at the various generational cohorts in the workplace (Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z), you may come to realize that you’re not giving your employees what they actually want. For instance, millennials comprise a majority of the American workforce.

That means for a business to have the people it needs, it may need to fish from the millennials pond. And to attract and retain millennials, you’ll want to give them what motivates them most. And that is, you guessed right: tuition reimbursement.

Don’t take our word for it. In a recent Gallup’s survey on ‘The State of the American Workforce,’ 45% of millennials said they would change their current jobs for one that offers tuition reimbursement. By comparison, 24% of baby boomers and Gen Xers said they won’t change jobs on the basis of tuition reimbursement alone.

4. Helps Employers Reduce Turnover

Offering tuition assistance helps to reduce employee turnover and the associated costs.

And there is no better example to bring this point home than the case of Cigna, which was published by the Lumina Foundation.

From 2012 to 2014, Cigna Corporation invested millions of dollars in tuition assistance through its Education Reimbursement Program (ERP). By the end of 2014, ERP resulted in a staggering 129% increase in ROI as a result of the avoided talent management and recruitment costs.

When a company invests in its employees’ development and success, the employees feel obliged to reciprocate by helping the company grow. In a nutshell, a tuition reimbursement program fosters a sense of loyalty between the employee and the employer.

Wrapping Up

Tuition assistance provides an effective way for employers to nurture their employees’ skills through continuing education programs. 

But as businesses and schools around the world cancel physical meetings in response to COVID-19, in-class learning is emerging as one of the hardest-hit activities. However, businesses can’t afford to put capability building on hold. 

To foster employee development in the midst of COVID-19, employers can encourage their employees to do remote learning by offering tuition reimbursement programs. With remote learning, completions can be done from any location, and what better time than now when employees can’t do their normal jobs?

better benefits program

4 Strategies for a Better Health Benefits Experience

The phrase “You can lead a horse to water …” has become synonymous with far too many engagement efforts in today’s workplace — new systems that go untouched after implementation, or innovative new offerings that employees just don’t connect with.

When your organization makes an investment in a new program, it’s not enough to just set it up. You won’t see a good ROI if you can’t get employees to engage with your offerings and make them a part of their experience. And nowhere is that more clear than in health care benefits.

Health benefits shouldn’t be a blind spot when it comes to employee engagement — they’re traditionally a major part of the employer/full-time employee compact, and they address one of the most important facts of life for all of us: health. But health benefits have traditionally been characterized by tedious administration, confusion and lack of choice. They’re often viewed as a necessary evil rather than a helpful asset by both managers and employees. Faced with these negatives — and more — employees tended to focus on subsistence goals: Fix immediate problems, tend to the minutiae, deal with an illness or injury.

But that was then. Now, given the choice, employees want to be involved with their benefits; they want benefits they can use and they often view their employer through the lens of the benefits offered. A survey by Glassdoor found that 79% of employees would prefer new or additional benefits over a pay increase — the numbers break down to slightly more women (82%) than men (76%) and more millennials and Generation Z (89%) than Generation X (70%) or baby boomers (66%).

That said, the problem is getting the horse to drink: As companies get on board with a consumer-focused approach to benefits, how do they best reach their employees, and succeed in engaging them with new benefits programs? Here are four strategies.

Get the C-Suite on Board

Organizations need to make the case to senior leaders that investing in a better benefits experience can drive business results. Better benefits can drastically improve talent acquisition, retention, and the overall ROI of benefits spend. Better benefits can also decrease HR admin time.

An up-to-date, forward-looking benefits program with a digital benefits platform can bypass the need for a time-consuming ramp-up by managers, and deliver improved services and choices directly to employees. It can also consolidate the channels connecting managers and outside providers, reducing administrative pressures.

Go for Ease of Use

Employees want to be engaged with their benefits just as they’re engaged with every other service — as individuals, and as consumers who can make their own choices. Most employees are accustomed to making consumer decisions in the digital environment, and they’re more than ready to use the same approach with benefits, even those with chronic conditions. A Deloitte study that measured consumer use of technology for health found that among consumers with major chronic conditions, tech-based monitoring increased from 22% to 39% in two years.

But ease of use is critical, and service is everything. So provide a simple, singular point of entry; an easy way to select and personalize options; self-service and auto-population; and access to the entire ecosystem beyond just traditional benefits — for example, wellness programs and spending accounts. The value to employees decreases if some offerings are easy to find while others are only reachable through an entirely different portal. This kind of fragmentation is likely to reduce adoption and diminish engagement.

To stand behind a benefits program that includes great choices as its hallmark, organizations should ensure that all are equally accessible and easy to use.

Clarify the Terms and Offerings

User adoption is the first step to engagement, but often that’s a blind spot. You never want employees to throw up their hands in frustration and say, “I had no idea this existed!”

Companies need to make a concerted effort to convey the scope of benefits and programs being offered, how employees and their families or partners can participate, and who to go to for information. All the specifics should be clear. It should go without saying that the more employees understand about their health benefits, the more they will continue to engage with them: as we know in terms of consumer behavior, familiarity breeds stickiness.

This is another compelling argument for reducing the complexity of too many point solutions and increasing the points of contact, from chats to FAQs to real-time assistants and navigational help. Genuinely consumer-centric programs (like a health care wallet and wellness initiatives) should be simple, nearly self-explanatory and able to be self-driven. Your employees are looking for easy access to answers about their benefits questions.

Autonomy in terms of health benefits will gain far more traction than a top-down, wait-until-we-get-to-you approach when it comes to sustained engagement. And, in highly engaged workforces, you may also see long-term employees informally mentoring new hires on how to get the most in terms of their own health and wellness from the organization’s benefits, in effect becoming employer ambassadors for the program.

Equate Choice and Freedom with Health

If you want employees to leverage your new benefits, provide the kinds of programs that offer development, improvement and choice. Shopify, for instance, offers employees $5,000 to apply to a health or wellness spending account — or a charitable giving account, or retirement savings. Shopify collaborated with League to best serve up a benefits program that would meet the needs of all of its employees, by enabling them to pick and choose on their own terms. The program has helped put Shopify on Canada’s Top 100 Employers list for 2019.

Not only do the company’s employees engage with this benefits program and actively make choices, but they also refer to it in their glowing reviews of the company on job portals. Again, engagement has traction, and will pay off in far more ways than just direct ROI.

Health and wellness need to be about empowering employees to get healthy and stay that way. But that means companies need to leverage the best technology to deliver an employee experience that increases engagement and reduces complexity. That means streamlined navigation; plenty of online tools, secure messaging and data; confidentiality throughout; and responsiveness.

Make the details clear, offer plenty of support and information, and encourage active adoption with a range of programs — even rewards and incentives if those fit into your company culture. But health is its own reward, after all, and frontrunning companies know that. Wanting the best benefits for your people is going to be noticed. From the employee perspective, you might even say that’s the sign of a healthy employer.

This post is sponsored by League. League is the benefits platform of choice for the world’s most forward-thinking organizations, including Shopify, Unilever, Lush Cosmetics, and Uber. Learn more about the award-winning League Health Benefits Experience platform (HBX).