Three Financially Focused Benefits Your Employees Will Love

In the last two years, employees across the country have had to adapt and adjust to a lot of challenges, many of which organizations had little to no control over. Employee burnout, stress, and wellbeing took major hits, putting more pressure on organizations to come up with solutions to help them face these challenges. According to the 2021 Employee Benefit Trends Study by Met Life, 86% of employees said finances are a top contributing factor to their stress now and into the future. While this may feel like an insurmountable problem for employers to take on, there are many solutions that can make a big impact for both the wellness of your employees and the health of your business.

1. Student Loan Repayment Programs

Today, 47 million Americans are carrying the burden of student loan debt. This year, student loan debt in America reached a staggering 1.7 trillion dollars. Despite the temporary loan forbearance the Biden Administration placed on federal student loan payments, student loan debt remains a top concern for many Americans in the workforce.

Employers looking for ways to help support employees who are paying off student loans should consider offering employee benefits aimed at just that—helping them pay off this debt. In December, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, enabling employers to contribute up to $5,250 in student loan payments tax-free, making it easier than ever for organizations to help.

Supporting employees burdened with student loan debt can be a strong tool for attracting and retaining top talent.

2. Retirement Planning

A 2019 study by GOBankingRates found that 64% of respondents expected to retire with less than $10,000 in their retirement savings. Employers can help employees prepare for retirement and reduce stress by offering benefits designed to enable employees to begin saving for retirement. Some plan options that provide tax benefits to both employers and employees include:

  • Payroll Deductible IRA – For employers who don’t want to implement a retirement savings plan, this plan offers a way for eligible employees to contribute to an IRA through payroll deductions.
  • 401(k) Plan – This plan offers an opportunity to employees to save through salary deferrals with the option of employer contribution.
  • Money Purchase Plan – This plan allows employers to make contributions to employee savings based on their discretion. There is no fixed amount nor requirement to make a contribution by the employer.

There are many types of retirement plans available to organizations, so do your research and choose the one that fits the needs of your business.

3. Education and stewardship

Understanding the basics of investing, saving, and money management is a challenge for many Americans, leading them to avoid this type of planning altogether. If your organization can’t offer benefits to help them save, consider offering a program to empower them through education.

Platforms like Skillshare and financialgym offer online courses to help anyone learn the basics of investing, planning for retirement and savings, and managing money. Knowledge and understanding can make a more powerful impact, in many ways, than simply offering a plan that no one understands.

Their financial wellness is your reward

Helping employees plan for retirement and effectively manage their savings and debt is a sure-fire way to improve their overall wellbeing by reducing stress and creating stability within their lives and futures. You may see an increase in talent attraction, employee engagement, retention, and satisfaction by offering a hand and enabling employees to create financial stability within their lives. What’s good for them is good for business.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by fizkes

 

3 Ways to Set Yourself Up For Open Enrollment Success

Regardless of when your benefits package renews, there’s a lot to be said for employers who plan ahead. Undoubtedly, many changes caused by the pandemic have shifted the needs of employees and altered the ‘normal’ approach to open enrollment. However, planning has always (and will always) be a good idea—especially when it comes to group health plans.

Giving your organization time to plan and prepare will help you improve the absolutely critical process of implementing your benefits package, which has *major* repercussions on your return on investment (ROI). Start by following these three steps.

1. Consider changes to your benefits offering

Pandemic or no, employee needs are constantly changing. They have changed significantly over the past year and will continue to change as our country adjusts how we approach work. Since employee benefits are such a significant investment for employers, it only makes sense to meticulously review what benefits are most popular and what benefits don’t hold as much value.

Survey your employees and do your research. Since the start of the pandemic, some benefits have risen in popularity as employee needs have changed.

These include:

  • Virtual healthcare
  • Flex work, childcare, and elderly care
  • Financial wellness
  • Mental healthcare

Talk to your broker about your options and create a strategy that fits the needs of your employee population, as needs and wants can vary broadly. One size does not fit all for an attractive benefits package.

2. Open enrollment planning

Depending on the shifts your organization made since the pandemic, it’s important to consider how you will proceed with open enrollment this fall. Organizing a supportive and education-based strategy to guide your employees through enrollment can make a real impact on the employee experience during the process and increase plan utilization by employees.

  • Consider how to create a system that works for your employees wherever they are (on-site or remote).
  • Provide resources and support to employees as they make their decisions. These can include educational resources (such as this glossary of standard benefit terms), in-person or virtual support, and clear communication around deadlines and qualifications.
  • Get feedback from your employees before open enrollment about their experience last year and their concerns and needs for the upcoming season. Find common trends to help you fill in gaps that you may have missed in years past.

3. Preparing for implementation

Spend time reviewing and improving your plan of execution. This plan should include a detailed communication strategy, employee education, and year-round support. If you want to see significant participation from your employees, you need to engage with consistent support and education strategies. Ask your employees if:

  • They understand the benefits available to them. Do you offer an HSA or self-insured plan? If so, make sure your employees have a proper understanding of how these different plans work and what to expect when they participate.
  • They know where to go to ask for help. Do they have access to a support line? Are there online resources you are providing them?

Consistent and clear communication is a critical part of ensuring your employees participate in and get the most out of the benefit plan you’re offering. Consider which channels you will be relying upon (email, meetings, one-on-one support, a web page, etc.) to get the word out and offer support. Get clear on how and when you’ll use these channels and stay consistent in using them.

Preparation = success

The more you plan, the better you can guide your employees and your organization through the process of open enrollment. This isn’t the sort of thing you want to put off until the last minute or until your broker comes to talk to you.

Employee benefits are a crucial part of your employee engagement, retention, attraction, and ultimately, the business’s success. And as such, they require and deserve careful planning. By starting with these three steps, you’ll set your organization, and your employees, up for success.

 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

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Exit Interviews: The Good the Bad and the Ugly

The value of exit interviews is a long-standing debate in the HR world, with people landing on both sides of the aisle. Some argue if an organization is broken, exit interviews are useless and hurt the interviewee’s reputation. Others say they are an excellent opportunity for an organization to learn from its mistakes.

The reality? The answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Every time a valuable employee leaves an organization, it suffers. Not only because of the cost it takes to hire and train a replacement, but also:

  • For the loss of institutional knowledge
  • For the time it takes for teammates to adjust
  • For the potential dip in productivity and team morale
  • For the loss of value to customers

So, it makes sense that the smartest move for an organization is to try everything to mitigate loss.

Where they go wrong

Exit interviews, team check-ins, increased training, and team development are tangible ways to counteract the loss of a valued employee. However, if your organization suffers from a toxic company culture and mindset, or functions under a fear-based leadership style that discourages open and honest conversations about what’s not working, you’ve got a much bigger problem on your hands.

In this kind of culture, exit interviews will likely be ignored and forgotten. Organizations failing to manage these issues will likely experience (at least) one mass exodus of employees. For that reason, it’s worth doing what you can to conduct honest exit interviews.

For example, suppose employee retention is low. In that case, it’s likely at some point leadership will take a keen interest in figuring out the cause, at which time those exit interviews will come in handy. No matter the case, exit interviews can be instrumental if handled correctly. If you’re interested in doing what you can to improve your organization, inform your leadership, and mitigate loss, then exit interviews are a great place to start.

Follow these steps to make the most out of them.

Be proactive

It’s essential to get your interview in before too much time has passed. Everything will still be fresh in the interviewee’s mind, making it easier for them to recall information and offer suggestions. However, be sure to account for heightened emotions as this can be a rather tumultuous time for a departing employee. It may be worth it to schedule another interview a few months down the road when the dust has settled to allow for hindsight and clear thinking. 

Be clear about your objective

Before you start your interview, work out what it is you’re trying to gain.

Do you want:

  • To uncover processes that need a review?
  • An honest assessment of managers, leadership, or team dynamics?
  • To get a picture of the job they’re leaving for?
  • To find out why their new job is more attractive than their current role?

Knowing the goals and what you want to gain will help you frame intentional questions and prepare for the answers.

Follow up

A common misstep is to forget the interviews as soon as they’re done. But there isn’t any point in conducting them unless you’re ready to follow up, analyze the data, and use what you learned.

Apply what you learned

Once you’ve gotten what you can out of an interview, set up action steps for integrating what you’ve learned. If your goal was to see how your company compared to its competitors in talent attraction, your response would look different than if you wanted to uncover issues with leadership styles. Make sure you lay out your goals and how you’ll reach them both before and after an interview; otherwise, all it will do is gather dust and become irrelevant.

A holistic approach

Internal reviews are a critical part of growth and development. While exit interviews are an excellent way to mitigate loss, they aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution to uncovering issues within an organization. If you’re interested in improving the employee experience, work out leadership problems, evaluate company culture, and generally drive your organization in a good direction.

Don’t wait until an employee leaves to get their opinion. Start early and start strong. Set internal reviews throughout the year, with individuals as well as entire teams. Normalize feedback and open, honest communication. Train leaders and managers to respond to and positively integrate constructive feedback. And above all, work to foster a trusting environment where employees feel free to share their experience without fear of retribution.

All of this may be uncomfortable, but the positive impact on your organization makes it well worth the effort.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Antonio Diaz

Non-Insurance Solutions That Make a Real Impact

The world of employee benefits experienced significant growing pains since the pandemic hit a little over a year ago. With all the new challenges employees began experiencing (job loss, loss of childcare, financial instability, mental health, and so much more), employers learned, fast, that ensuring the wellbeing of their employees is essential.

Let’s break down some of the factors contributing to employee resilience and wellbeing that employers can effectively take action on.

Employee Wellness

It’s important to understand that while the term ‘wellness’ is singular, it encompasses a variety of factors that contribute to it. While someone may have good physical wellness, if they are experiencing hardship in other areas of their lives, their overall wellness will be affected. In this way, employers need to approach wellness holistically, focusing on more than one contributing factor in an employee’s overall wellbeing.

Financial stability

A 2018 report by the Federal Reserve found 40% of adults would struggle to pay off a $400 unexpected expense. According to the MetLife Employee Benefit Trends Study 2021, financial stress is both the top concern and the leading factor contributing to poor mental health among employees. A staggering 86% of employees reported financial stress was a leading source of anxiety now and going forward.

These numbers vastly differ between demographics, showing a disparity in the experience of white/Caucasian and Black and Latinx respondents. When asked if they had been worried about their financial health, 53% of white respondents and 70% of both Black and Latinx respondents said yes. These numbers are concerning not only because of the disparity they represent but also because they demonstrate the vast number of people suffering from financial stress.

Many employers function under the misconception that their employees are financially stable, but there is no way of knowing what kind of financial burdens employees may carry. They may be a single parent, a caregiver of a family member with medical needs, or struggling to pay off staggering student loan debts. Whatever the case, employers that offer financially focused benefits can help make a significant difference in their employees’ lives.

Consider offering financially focused benefits aimed at developing financial stability for your employees now and into their future:

  • Student loan support
  • 401(k) and other retirement savings
  • Monthly wellness stipends
  • Financial coaching and education
  • Childcare support

Mental health

One of the positive side effects created by the pandemic has been the increased availability of accessible mental health support. Organizations like BetterHelp and Talkspace provide access to qualified therapists that provide therapy services online or over the phone, and these services have taken off over the past year as more Americans have reached out for mental health help. Offering programs designed to overcome cost barriers that may deter employees from accessing mental health services is a great way to help support your employees’ wellbeing.

Flex time

Another way to provide support to employees is to offer flex time. Many organizations have started to use flex time since the pandemic began, along with remote work. According to the same MetLife study, 76% of workers are interested in continuing alternative working arrangements developed during the pandemic such as remote work and flexible schedules, but 90% of employers who said they implemented these alternative solutions are planning to go back to pre-pandemic working arrangements when possible. That is a concerning disparity that may result in employee frustration when they are forced back into the office, expensive commutes, and less flexibility to manage their personal lives.

68% of employees working remotely want their employers to allow them to make the decision for themselves. Over half of workers in their 20s, including Gen Zs and young Millennials, are happier with their working arrangements now than before the pandemic.

Flexible scheduling, remote options, and unlimited PTO programs allow employees to better manage their personal commitments with less stress, enabling them to maintain their overall wellness with greater ease.

Social justice

2020 wasn’t just the Year of the Pandemic, but a year of great social unrest and change. 42% of all employees say that social justice issues are a source of anxiety for them. These issues reach across demographics, location, age, and economic status. All employers must do what they can to provide support in this area.

Consider offering:

  • Paid volunteer hours
  • Paid holidays or time off during election days
  • Inclusivity training for managers and employees

In it for the long haul

Employee wellness was a critical issue long before the pandemic and will continue to be one well into the future. Employers who are serious about developing a company that can drive growth, attract, retain, and engage employees, and leave a positive legacy behind them need to be considering these issues consistently throughout the years.

What’s good for your employees is good for you: employees who identify as mentally and physically healthy are 37% more productive than those that aren’t. And that’s just one statistic that shows how caring for your employees creates a positive ripple effect within your organization, their community, and the world.

It’s a win-win for everyone.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by fizkes

Three Approaches to Workplace Safety

According to an analysis by Liberty Mutual, the two most expensive causes of workplace injury are overexertion and falls. These two things alone cost employers nearly $24.8BILLION in 2019. The Workplace Safety Index (WSI) of 2020 also cited the total cost of the most disabling workplace injuries costs employers $59.59 billion a year. But that’s not the only reason to think about raising your workplace safety game. 

Workplace safety is a concern for many people on a variety of levels. Employees expect a safe place to work. Customers expect to have a safe experience in the places they frequent. Banks and insurance companies want to work with companies that aren’t being unnecessarily risky. And business owners have a whole other set of worries: 

  • What happens if an employee gets hurt or sick (think Pandemic)? 
  • Who will cover shifts if an injury causes someone to be out for an extended time? 
  • How will an accident affect our operating costs? Healthcare? Business insurance? 
  • What about expensive fines, penalties, and litigation? 
  • Are we in compliance with federal and local regulations? 
  • How can we protect our employees and ourselves? 

These are all very valid questions and concerns. Let’s talk about how to keep your company and everyone in it as safe as possible.  

A bird’s eye view 

Safety is about more than checking the boxes required to comply with federal and local regulations. If your company is doing the bare minimum to meet workplace safety requirements, you’re going to get the bare minimum when it comes to results.  

If you want to put safety to work for you and your business, you need to think bigger. Create a culture of workplace safety. Don’t just make it a prioritycommit to making it one of your core values. Weave it into your infrastructure, your operations, and your daily reality.  

Here are a few quick ways to get started: 

  • Make time for it. Move safety to the top of your todo list and keep it top of mind. 
  • Include workplace safety as a critical part of all decision-making processes.  
  • Train staff and leadership thoroughly from a safety-first perspective.  
  • Communicate about safety openly and often.  
  • Put your money where your mouth is. Invest in a safer workplace. 

There’s a big difference between talking about safety and actively working to create a safe environment. Employees can tell the difference between an employer who says they care about safety and one who truly does. Be on the right side of that equation. 

Into the details 

While you’re building a strong foundation for safe practices, don’t be tempted to let the little things slide.  

When it comes to workplace safety, details matter. When it comes to workplace safety, little things can become big things in an instant. A loose cord, a slippery floor, or a cracked pair of safety glasses may not seem like a big deal, but in the wrong set of circumstances, it could be.  

If an employee comes to you with a safety concern, no matter how large or small, take it seriously. Better yet, be proactive about finding potential unsafe areas, equipment, and practices. Do a safety audit to determine what tools and processes need to be fixed, replaced, or thrown out entirely.  

Not only will this keep your workplace safe and your business protected, but it will also show your employees that you care enough to invest in their well-being. 

Be strategic 

Everyone wants to work in a safe environment. That’s a no-brainer. So how come so many businesses don’t do what it takes to actually get there? 

Perhaps they think that fully committing to workplace safety sounds way too: 

  • expensive, 
  • complicated, 
  • time-consuming, 
  • unnecessary, or 
  • paranoid. 

If you’ve run into some or all of these objections at your company, now is the time to refer back to the WSI study, which found that disabling workplace injuries cost employers over $59 billion a year. That’s right. Billion. With a capital B. Now which strategy sounds more expensive: committing or not committing to workplace safety?  

Focusing on workplace safety is smart business. It’s not just good for the health of your employees. It’s good for the health of your organization. And that’s good for everyone.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Boonchu Pinkaew