Why Your Company Needs a Professional Development Plan

Several key factors always hover on the list of employer concerns in nearly every industry. Employee engagement and productivity are almost always on the list as turnover rates, profits, efficiency, and customer experience are directly related to both. Which makes them critical factors contributing to a business’s lifespan, stability, growth, and health. 

Despite engagement and productivity’s nearly permanent spots on that list, it’s common for businesses to address the two with a one-and-done approach. This is especially true for small businesses that lack a significant budget for employee experience. But providing employees with a benefits package and break room won’t go very far in encouraging real engagement in their work.  

Employees need more than having their basic needs met to feel engaged. They need to see a direct investment in their success as your employee and as an individual. A vast majority of millennials say they want career development opportunities from their jobs.   

recent report by Axonify exposes the gap between what employees want and what businesses are providing them. Their principal findings include: 

  • Nearly a third of employees fail to receive formal workplace training 
  • A quarter of employees don’t receive training after onboarding
  • Almost 60% of employees fail to receive additional training and skill development from their employers  
  • 81% of employees say training makes them feel more engaged and happy at work 

It’s cost-effective 

While many employers are ignoring training as a benefit for their employees, providing training and professional development is an incredibly smart tactic for boosting profits.   

Giving employees opportunities for skill development and training can have a massive impact on the value they contribute. Businesses that provide formalized training can more than double their income per employee than companies that don’t.  

Investing in employee skills is investing in the agility and strength of your company. It creates a stronger relationship between company and employee, encouraging loyalty and engagement, which can lower turnover rates. The cost of turnover alone should be a driving factor in implementing strategies to keep your employees learning and engaged.  

Losing an employee can cost 1.5-2x their annual salary. Yet, it can cost between $135 – $750 for an individual community college course, depending on the length of the class. That’s a reasonably small investment compared to the cost of losing an employee or maintaining unproductive employees.  

Now is the time 

The beautiful thing about living in our age of technology is our access to resources. There are seemingly endless ways companies can provide learning opportunities to their employees. Online learning databases like SkillshareAlison, and Udemy are all options employees can access for learning and development in their own homes.   

Now that a vast amount of the world is learning to work from home, there is no better time to take advantage of these training opportunities. Not only will it give your employees a chance to grow and develop their skills and what they can offer your company, but it may also help address the feelings of isolation and culture loss that many are struggling with during the pandemic.  

An investment into a shared future  

Providing learning development opportunities isn’t just a way to engage your employees—it’s a value statement that can have ramifications across your company culture and employee experience.  

You’re not only investing in the potential of your employees to grow their roles within your company, but you’re telling them you think they are capable of that growth. Show them you value their contribution and also their potential as a professional.  

Having confidence in the power and potential of your employees will lead them to see the value within themselves and feel that their value is recognized. It will create a relationship of trust and confidence that is irreplaceable. It will save money. It will save time. And it will inspire growth in the deepest level of your business. There is nothing to lose but disengagement and apathy.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Aleksandr Davydov

Nurturing Employee Wellness in Uncertain Times

Two years ago, a report by Gallup found that nearly a quarter of the 7,500 full-time employees they surveyed felt burned out “very often or always” with another 44% who reported feeling burned out some of the time. You’re probably aware of the massive costs, increased risk, and decreased health of both individuals and organizations that suffer from burnout. It’s not something you want in your business in the best of times.

But what about when your company, community, and economy is under immense pressure from an external source you can’t control? Do you double down on what you believe most critically demands your attention and put things like employee wellness aside?

Although you may be feeling pressure to cut down on extraneous programs to conserve effort, time, and money, it’s critical to remember that your employees are going to make or break your success during this trying time.

The ability of your employees to successfully navigate particularly stressful situations is deeply influenced by the ability of your company to support them. It wouldn’t be a reach to suggest the interaction and experience employees have within their role in your company has a significant impact on their quality of life. Especially now, when employees are struggling to find a new balance of working from home, often with children, and isolated from their communities.

Assess the tools available

As a leader during a challenging time, it’s crucial to take stock of what resources are available. Now is not the time to get tunnel vision. Keep your mind open to new and different solutions than you may be used to. Employee wellness isn’t just built from having enough time off or fair compensation. Wellness is a multifaceted thing, with many different aspects your business can focus its influence on.  

Outsourcing employee wellbeing programs

There are several organizations whose sole focus is to help businesses develop and nurture their employees’ wellbeing. Here are a few examples:

  • Thrive Global offers a multi-pronged approach to improving employee wellbeing and productivity through behavior change programs, educational content and resources, and digital solutions designed to help individuals make positive changes.
  • Whil is a platform that provides goal-based resilience training for individuals through targeted courses focusing on twelve aspects of employee wellbeing.
  • RestoreResilience provides stress-reduction and lifestyle improvement programs targeted to specific groups of employees. Their programs use a combination of smart technology and individualized coaching outreach to help employees make small meaningful adjustments and improvements in their lifestyle.

Getting creative

If your company isn’t set up to incorporate larger programs, there are numerous ways you can make smaller, yet still impactful changes to your employee experience. To help, let’s break down employee wellness into a few categories with examples for each.

Nutrition

  • Consider helping your employees boost their nutritional health by working with meal delivery services like Blue Apron or Sun Basket to offer food at a discounted price.
  • Offer discounts to online cooking classes and resources from services like the NYTimes Cooking subscription and ChefSteps.
  • Purchase gift cards from local restaurants (a great way to support your local community) to give to your employees. If you’re a local business, promote this idea to employers in your area and provide incentives. (i.e., purchase $1,000 of gift cards and receive $100 free!)

Mental Health

  • Remote counseling services have skyrocketed recently. Consider working with companies like Talkspace and BetterHelp to provide your employees with mental health services that will help them navigate this challenging time.

Fitness

  • Consider reaching out to local fitness instructors and yoga teachers to offer virtual training sessions and classes to your employees every week.

Financial

  • Consider implementing a program like Compt to provide your employees with a monthly stipend they can use towards their wellness. This is a great way to find something that fits your specific budget while providing employees with the freedom to choose what they will spend it on. This increases the chance they will actually use what they purchased. A win-win!

Their wellness is your wellness

However you choose to help your employees maintain their wellness during this challenging time, be sure that you are doing something. Even the smallest acts make a difference. Remember, how you treat your employees now will influence their relationship with you for the rest of their employment. By giving them what they need now, you’re ensuring their long-term loyalty, engagement, and productivity. Think healthy employees = healthy business. It’s good for everyone.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by racorn

5 Ways to Attract and Retain Young Talent

It’s becoming increasingly imperative that companies do everything in their power to keep up with the needs and expectations, not just of their customers, but of their employees. To attract a workforce that views you as an employer of choice and feels committed to your company is becoming more and more difficult as the demographics of the workforce grows and evolves. This year, over a third of the workforce will be Gen Z, meaning that all the work you did to try to attract millennials is going to need to be reviewed and adjusted.

But that isn’t such a bad thing. Your company should always be working to improve its culture to be the most attractive to new talent. It’s just part of the game. Thankfully, there are large trends that you can follow to help guide you to the best decisions around what benefits and perks you should offer, personalizing them to the distinctive needs of your company.

Personal Development

The lifecycle of a typical career has evolved dramatically over the past 40 years. Where an employee used to stay with the same company for decades and work their way up the ladder, employees now are viewing their career as happening in a series of waves, not linear steps in a ladder. With more and more people expecting to work longer than their predecessors, there is a natural expectation for more variety within a career, with more frequent breaks.

Younger generations are continuing to evolve by prioritizing jobs that offer opportunities to grow and develop their skillset, which will widen their career options moving forward. Four out of five employees consider the opportunity to develop new skills a critical factor when considering employment options.

Giving your employees opportunities to attend classes, conferences, and access learning opportunities is a great way to get the most potential out of your hires while building loyalty and engagement.

Flexibility 

Younger generations are exceedingly interested in employment that allows them to have greater control over their schedules. Consider implementing flexible work schedules, offering flex time, or even fully remote positions at your company. You may find that you can actually save money while increasing productivity by providing remote working opportunities.

Wellness

It’s common knowledge that Gen Z and Millennials have put a stronger emphasis on the importance of a healthy work-life balance, and as an employer, it’s important to factor this into your attraction and retention plans. Younger generations are seeking employers who offer wellness programs that support their needs and show that the company values their health. There is a large selection of wellness perks and programs to choose from, so you can select the perfect-fit programs for your company and staff. Here are a few ideas:

  • Provide a monthly gym membership to employees
  • Offer a monthly stipend to be put towards personal wellness (massages, yoga classes, etc.)
  • Provide educational opportunities for employees to learn about nutrition, sleep, and self-care

Whatever you provide, make sure you’ve talked to your employees about what they actually want. That way, when you make the commitment to offer a wellness perk, you know it’s going to be used and appreciated.

Financial empowerment

Young generations face high levels of financial challenges, such as student loan debt, high cost-of-living, and excessive healthcare expenses. The current financial situation employees are dealing with has them expecting to work longer into their lives to be able to survive. You can support these employees by offering 401K programs, student debt matching, and financial coaching.

More employees than ever report being stressed by their financial situation. By offering them a way to find better financial security and relieve their anxiety, you’re showing them you not only understand their needs but are willing to help them meet and overcome their challenges.

Develop a positive hiring experience and company culture

According to a survey, nearly 80% of candidates consider their hiring experience as a top indicator of whether or not the company values its employees. Over 90% of job seekers research at least one resource to determine the employer’s brand before applying. This indicates a strong emphasis placed on company culture and values.

Make sure your hiring and onboarding process is candidate-friendly, accessible, and easy-to-execute. Do your workplace culture and online presence match up? Find ways to communicate the core values of your company through your hiring process and take pains to ensure they align with the experience of a committed employee. You want your candidates to know who you are from the get-go so they can make an informed decision whether or not to apply and aren’t disappointed when they join your team.

Never stop improving

As our world and culture develop, so do the expectations and needs of employees. Carve out time every year to evaluate how well your company is keeping up. Doing so won’t just make you look more attractive to prospective talent; it will help keep the talent you already have happily working for you.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by ammentorp

Empowering Employees Through Financial Wellness

The heightened frustration around the rising cost of living in the US is unmistakable and likely felt in your organization. Extreme healthcare costs, massive student loan debt, and rising housing costs have put an enormous strain on the American workforce. 

In a study on employee financial wellness in 2019, it was found that the leading source of employee stress across generations stems from financial issues. Despite record-high employment, employees are still struggling to meet rising financial demands across the board. Nearly half of all employees struggle to pay their household expenses on time each month. More and more people are expecting to work into their retirement to pay for healthcare and living costs.

So what does this mean for employers trying to attract, retain, and care for their talent?

It’s an opportunity to find ways to empower and support your employees financially.

But how?

There are many ways to provide financial support services to your employees, but it’s critical you understand the particular needs of your workforce. What might be right for a start-up tech company may not work for a retail store or small insurance agency.

To identify what services are right for your employees, it’s always a good idea to start by asking them! Conduct an internal survey to pinpoint where your employees need help. You can decide how to best address the needs once you know what they are.

There are a few common financial pain points; however, you can expect to find in most communities. Here are some ideas to address them.

1. Offering 401k plans with matching contribution

It isn’t far-fetched to assume that everyone—really, everyone—wants to retire someday. And with 80% of people expecting to work during retirement, you really can’t go wrong by providing an opportunity for your employees to get in (or ahead of) the game. Tax breaks are available to businesses offering 401K matching plans to their employees, which helps mediate the overall cost of set-up and maintenance.

To those employees you’re hoping to attract and retain, offering a 401k plan with matching contribution says you care about their future and are willing to invest in it. Doing so will help build loyalty to your company and will play into a company culture that values the empowerment of its employees.

2. Student loan repayment 

It’s widely known in the US that student loan debt has increasingly damaged people’s ability to thrive. It’s common to hear graduates working extra jobs, moving back home with their parents, and living in poverty to pay off their bills. Here’s what the numbers tell us:

Ok, so these numbers are pretty scary. Thankfully, there are ways that employers can help support those employees who are struggling to pay off their student loans. Two options are Student Loan Replacement Plans (SLRPs) and student loan matching programs. Do your research on the available options to make sure the benefits program you choose is right for your particular employee population. 

3. Short and long-term disability (STD and LTD)

Statistically, a quarter of all adults in the US will live with a disability in their lifetime. Offering long and short-term disability benefits can play a critical part in your employee benefits strategy. However, it’s essential to understand the different programs available and exactly how they provide support. Not all plans are created equal. For instance, STD and LTD programs define disability in a variety of ways. Some follow the definition followed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is more rigid, where some have a broader and more flexible definition, allowing a more comprehensive range of people to access support.

Join the cause

Whatever options you choose for building a financial support system for your workforce, make sure you communicate with your employees about their level of need and interest and do your research accordingly. Providing relevant and easy-to-use solutions will make your employees feel supported and cared for.

Whether you choose a benefits package to help employees with student loans, get the upper hand on retirement savings, or offer financial protection in a time of need, you’re showing employees you’re invested in their well-being and care about their future success.

People want to work for a company that wants to see them succeed. There’s no better way to show you believe your employees are valuable than offering benefits that will provide real value to them. It’s not just good for your company culture and brand image; it makes a positive and lasting impact on the lives of the people working for you. Now that’s real value.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Wavebreak Media Ltd 

Create a Winning Strategy with Happy Employees

In today’s job market, companies are having to take extra steps to stay ahead of their competition. Prospective employees have more options than ever and are often already employed.

Now more than ever, employees are valuing jobs that support their ability to lead a healthy lifestyle. The Randstad 2019 employer global report found that the demand for employers that support a healthy work-life balance has steadily risen since 2015 and now sits above job security.

Building a work environment that supports a healthy work-life balance and encourages employees to take care of themselves outside of work may sound like a daunting ask for an employer. Here are three ideas to get you started.

Consider a shortened work week

There’s a recent study going around that’s gotten a lot of media coverage—for good reason. Microsoft’s subsidiary in Japan did an experiment over the summer to investigate what would happen to productivity if they cut their work week from five to four days a week. The result was a 40% spike in productivity from the same month of the previous year.

Take a moment to let that sink in.

Employees were given less time to accomplish their duties and more time to focus on their personal lives and the result was a massive increase in productivity for the company. Not to mention the savings they had from decreased electricity usage (down almost a quarter from the previous year) as well as a decreased use in office supplies.

Talk about a win-win for both employees and employers.

This may not be a model that works for your company, but don’t worry! There are other ways to offer employees greater personal control over work hours.

Flex time

While remote working options have taken a huge rise in mainstream economy, it doesn’t work for a lot of people for a variety of reasons. Flex time, however, offers employees greater flexibility for the hours they work without having them work at home.

Often, flex-schedules revolve around a set number of hours that are agreed upon, allowing employees to control what time they begin and end their workdays. Companies that offer flex-schedules often have set hours during the day or week where all employees are required to be at the office, allowing for easier scheduling and promoting collaboration.

Employees with children or family members in their care are able to make work schedules that allow them to run errands, drop children off at school, or take someone to a doctor appointment.

The easier you can make it for employees to work for you, the less stressed out they’ll be. And the less stressed out your employees are, the more likely they won’t call out of work. (Which, by the way, contributes to over half of all the lost working days in a year.) 

Perks

Purchasing a benefits package for your employees can be incredibly expensive and isn’t an option for most small business owners. But that doesn’t mean you can’t provide employee perks that encourage self-care.

Consider getting rid of those beanbags no one ever sits in, and instead, offer perks that encourage employees to take time to nurture themselves.

Providing your employees with a gift certificate for a massage every quarter or offering a sponsored gym membership are great examples. If you can, try putting together a number of options for employees to choose from.

When you offer employees a variety of perks and let them choose which is best for them, you’re contributing to a great employee experience. Offering choices increases the chance they’ll use it, allows you to give them autonomy, and helps personalize the work experience. 

You can even take this a step further and create opportunities for team building and development around fun, recreational activities. Just be sure you select activities that are accessible to everyone in your office for it to be a team morale booster.

Encouraging your employees to take care of themselves, to prioritize their mental, physical, and emotional health not only shows that you value them as individuals, but that you recognize a healthy employee is a good employee. Talk about a good loyalty-builder! 

It’s good for everyone

Work-related stress can cause literal death, but it also contributes to lower engagement, lower productivity, and lower job satisfaction. Having stressed out employees does no good for anyone.

So whatever it is your company does to help, be it increased flexibility, decreased hours, or a free massage every few months, make sure your company is doing something. You’ll nurture trust, loyalty, and engagement in your employees.

Plus, it’s just the right thing to do. Care for them, and they’ll care for you.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by ammentorp