Creating a Remote-Friendly Benefits Strategy

As organizations settle into offering remote work as a long-term solution, it’s time to re-evaluate their employee benefits strategy to match the needs of remote employees. It’s not surprising that employees working from home have different needs than those working in an office. While it may seem obvious, it will still take time and effort to design a strategy that matches these new needs.

With open enrollment approaching, benefits strategies are top of mind for employers, many of whom are concerned about shrinking budgets as the economy continues to feel the impact of COVID-19. With that in mind, we’ve created a list of employee benefits and perks designed for employees working from home, which can be worked into a variety of different budgets.

Home office support

Consider offering employees a budget to help them adapt their homes into functional workspaces. Small things like folding partitions, ergonomic keyboard and mouse supports, back pillows, and desk lamps can make a big difference in someone’s experience working from home. The more comfortable and functional their space is, the more attention they will have to get work done.

Mental health services

As many employees adjust to working in more isolated environments, and a growing number of adults in the United States say they are suffering from mental health issues, offering virtual wellness services can make a meaningful impact on your employees’ health. Services like BetterHelp and TalkSpace offer virtual therapy over phone, text messaging, and video calls. Giving employees an accessible format for meeting their mental health needs—especially as they learn to navigate the challenges of the pandemic—can help improve their quality of life and their ability to bring their best self to work.

Childcare support

With many schools continuing to stay closed going into the rest of the year, families are under a lot of pressure to support their children who are learning virtually while they’re also working from home. Consider offering financial support for childcare services, giving parents some much needed relief. If this isn’t an option for your company, offering flex-time can be a significant help to parents who need to be available to support their children during the day.

Subscription benefits

One way to support employees as they work through the pandemic is to offer grocery subscription services. This can provide higher risk employees relief from going to the grocery store and can provide support to working families who are already crunched for time and resources. Home Chef, Instacart, and HelloFresh are some of the many popular meal and grocery delivery services available.

People-centered design

In the end, your employee benefits should reflect the needs of your team. Consider running a company-wide survey to identify the most common needs your employees share, and find solutions that can work for both them and you. Your benefits package is a wonderful way to help build strong and long-lasting relationships with your employees. By designing a benefits plan that meets their needs, you’re showing them you care about their wellbeing, which can positively impact not only their quality of life but the quality of your business.

 

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Effectively Communicating Employee Benefits Plans

As open enrollment approaches, employers and HR departments need to be thinking about the most effective ways to communicate with their employees about the benefits package. This is especially true if your company is functioning with newly remote employees. Benefits are expensive. And ensuring your employees know what they have and how to use them is a critical part of ensuring a positive ROI on your benefits package.

Here are several things to keep in mind as you work out your communication strategy.

Pick your purpose

Defining a messaging plan around your benefits package should be a critical part of your benefits strategy. For messaging to be successful, you need to define a clear purpose behind the communication.

  • Are you implementing new benefits designed for remote employees?
  • Are you attempting to increase engagement with your benefits?
  • Are you trying to educate employees about what’s available to them?
  • Are you trying to educate employees about how to use their benefits?

An easy way to lose your audience and miss the mark on your message is to get your goals jumbled. To create clear, easily consumable information around your benefits, identify a goal for each piece of content you create, and stick to it. Ask yourself if everything in that piece of content aligns with the goal, removing everything that doesn’t.

This leads us to the next piece of the puzzle: what content, and where?

Pick your platforms

Depending on your provider, the demographics of your employees, and the benefits themselves, you may want to use a variety of ways to communicate your benefits package. Whether you’re using a website, a string of emails, in-person/video meetings, or shared documents, there are several things to keep in mind.

  1. For the sake of ease and efficiency, have a place where employees can access all the documents they may need to learn about and use their benefits.
    1. If you’re sending documents through the mail or over email, make sure you also store them somewhere they can access later. Use DropBox, Google Drive, or any file sharing platform to keep all documents in one place.
    2. If you’re using a website or page on your website for employee benefits, create a clearly marked and easily accessible place for employees to find any documents they might need. Keep this accessible year-round.
  2. Consider the different demographics within your team and develop a communication strategy that meets their differing needs. Older employees may find in-person or video training sessions useful when learning to use their benefits platform. Younger generations who may be new to having their own benefits plan may need extra help understanding their benefits as well.

Keep it going

One of the most effective ways to increase ROI on your benefits plan is to create a year-round benefits communication strategy. Keep it top-of-mind for your employees by regularly checking in with them.

  • Consider adding it to your company-wide newsletters
  • Hold quarterly training sessions or meetings to help your employees use and understand their benefits
  • Survey your employees and keep close tabs on how they feel about their benefits plan, including:
    • How easy it is to use
    • How relevant the benefits are to their needs
    • How often they use their benefits
    • How satisfied they are with their plan and what they would like to see changed

Effectively communicating employee benefits plan takes time and effort. Be ready to hear and act on the feedback you receive. Pay careful attention to who uses their benefits and who doesn’t. If you’re serious about creating a benefits plan that works for your business and your employees, then take the time to work out your communication strategy. It’ll pay off for you and them.

 

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Employee Benefits: Planning Ahead

In the past year, employers have had to make significant adjustments to their benefits packages to cope with the pandemic. Most significantly, employers with less than 500 employees have had to adopt new paid leave policies to help employees combat COVID-19 and new childcare demands, with 44% planning on expanding their paid leave benefits in 2021.

But that isn’t the only thing that’s changed. As employers look ahead to upcoming open enrollment and prepare for the year ahead, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Virtual enrollment

Since in-person meetings are sharply declining for safety concerns, employers are shifting the yearly in-person meeting with their broker to virtual walk-throughs over the phone, or doing it themselves online. But it’s more important than ever that employers get the most help they can when it comes to their employee benefits plans.

The changing needs of the workforce, the blowback from delayed elective surgeries, and new regulations mean there’ a lot employers have to navigate if they want to see solid ROI on their benefits packages.

To best prepare your business for the upcoming virtual enrollment period, start by checking off this list:

  • Do some preliminary research and see what’s out there. Get a feel for what other employers of a similar size and industry are doing.
  • Ask your employees what they need the most. Create a tiered list of benefits they express a need for, and benefits they would appreciate, but don’t require.
  • Create a detailed list of questions.
  • Call your broker with your questions and the information you gathered and walk through what’s available to you, making sure to take note of everything.

Research preparation will help you cover all the bases and avoid any gaps or lost opportunities. Make sure you give yourself enough time to do sufficient research and get answers to your questions.

2. Shifting the basics

As you plan for the year to come, take stock of all the changes your organization has gone through in the last months. Have you gone partially or fully remote? Are you considering offering remote positions at your company moving forward? Do you have young parents on your team who are juggling new childcare challenges?

Your benefits strategy may very likely need to be updated to meet the challenges relevant to your employees today. To attract, retain, and engage talent, it’s essential you understand their needs and offer resources for them to maintain a healthy life, both physically and mentally.

And that looks different for remote employees, parents with children at home, and employees suffering from increased strain on their mental health due to the isolation and anxiety caused by the pandemic. The basics of employee benefit packages need to shift around these new and different challenges to adjust appropriately.

3. Benefits communication

With the vast majority of organizations still working remote and expecting to continue doing so into the year to come, employers must create a solid virtual communication strategy around their employee benefits.

Depending on the technical skill level and abilities of your employees, you may want to offer varying types of education and support around how to use their benefits. Especially with heightened awareness around healthcare, employees may be more anxious to learn everything they can about their benefits to help ease some of their anxiety.

4. Planning for changing costs

With so much up in the air, leaders in healthcare are warning that cost projections for next year are cloudy at best. Increased demand for mental health services, the blowback from delayed elective surgeries, and potential vaccine costs are making it difficult for employers to prepare financially for the unknowns. To help with this, talk with your employees about what services they expect to need. Work with your broker to define a strategy that works best for your business.

Stay tuned

As circumstances change, be sure to keep a finger on the pulse of the insurance industry. Keep tabs on how your employees are feeling and what their concerns are moving forward. Although this can feel overwhelming, remember that there are many resources available to you to help guide you through the confusion and change.

Work closely with your broker and expect them to provide you with objective, informative information. Your broker should be your right-hand man during the next few months, and if they aren’t preparing you with strategies, education, and support, you may need to look elsewhere. As you move through the upcoming six months, stay informed, in touch, and open to new solutions and ideas, and you will come out the other side successfully.

 

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Hiring Managers, It’s Time to Adapt!

Among all the aspects of day-to-day operations that have changed this year, very little in the business organization has been left untouched. As the future begins to settle into a clearer picture, HR departments are doing what they can to adjust their practices to meet the new needs of the day. Among the methods needing evaluation and improvement, hiring is going to be high on the list.

Here are three areas that hiring managers should keep in mind as they adjust their systems to the new normal.

The description and the search

With millions of people unemployed, organizations are experiencing a larger than normal pool of candidates viewing their job postings. This can be an excellent opportunity for companies to be picky and find the best candidates possible for their roles. However, it can also cause problems.

With so many people out of work, it would be no surprise to find yourself slogging through piles of resumes and running through many interviews with candidates who aren’t good fits. To help avoid attracting people who won’t be a good fit for the role or your culture, you can do a few things.

  • Put the starting salary for the role in the description
    This is a good practice even if you aren’t fighting off hordes of job seekers to find the right candidate. Wage transparency helps job seekers decide for themselves if the role you’re offering would fit their needs. It also says something about your company culture: mainly, that you aren’t secretive, and that you value transparency.
  • Keep up your standards
    Having a larger pool of candidates may make hiring managers feel they have to put less work into the candidate experience. But doing this would be a mistake. Your candidate experience plays directly into your brand image and your reputation. It’s the first interaction new employees have with your company culture. Ensure you’re doing the best you can to respect the time and energy of each candidate—it’s good for everyone.
  • Be clear about your culture
    Where at all possible, include information on your company culture in the hiring process. Make sure your description honestly illuminates what it’s like to work for you. When you’re interviewing candidates, try convincing them not to take the job. Tell them about all the aspects of the role they might find challenging or frustrating. If they are still interested in the role, then you know you’ve got someone who is genuinely ready to take it on.

Regarding resumes

When hiring managers review resumes, it’s common for them to look for things that they deem as red flags. These could be:

  • Gaps in work (large chunks of time between employment)
  • Short stints at more than one job
  • Jobs worked below their skill level
  • Jobs worked that don’t apply to the traditional career trajectory for people with their skills

But it’s more critical than ever that recruiters take a second look at these practices. Assuming you know what each of these means on a resume isn’t just selling yourself short on potentially qualified candidates—it’s directly harmful to the job-seeking community.

With coronavirus causing mass layoffs, many people might have gaps on their resume or have to work jobs that don’t match up with their skill level. They may work temp jobs or positions that don’t relate to their field. This is not a defect. It is merely a fact of life working in a struggling economy. Do everyone a favor, and don’t assume anything. Make a note and bring it up in the interview and find out more from the candidate. You may be surprised by what you find.

Virtual onboarding

While you may not be hiring right now and don’t feel an intense pressure to create new systems for integrating remote onboarding into your process, you will eventually. Even outside of COVID, remote work is here to stay, which means that recruiters need to buckle down and figure out how they can meet the needs of new employees working virtually.

The good news is there are a lot of really great resources out there to help you design a successful onboarding process. Do your research and cover all the bases. The last thing you want is to bring someone on who struggles to connect with your culture, doesn’t feel a part of the team, and gets lost in the shuffle because they aren’t physically in front of anyone.

Don’t get complacent

However it is you keep your practices up-to-date, make sure you’re paying attention. As job seekers and recruiters alike adjust to the demands of our new world, it’s important to remind yourself not to get complacent. There will always be room for improvement and growth. Remember, the hiring process should be seen as sacred at your company, and treated with the attention and care it (and your candidates) deserve.

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Remote Work: Planning Long Term

As the world begins to settle into the reality of working from home as a long-term strategy, organizations must take the time to think ahead. When the pandemic hit, the world of remote work, which had been steadily gaining more and more attention, was fast-tracked into the right-now. There was (and in many cases, still is) a lot of maneuvering to make this new reality function properly.

Organizations had to grapple with new forms of communication, management, leadership, and company culture. Not to mention a load of new compliance regulations and resources that required some serious attention. But as time has passed, organizations have *begun* to find their stride, identifying new strategies, tools, and solutions to help them navigate this new world.

And as was predicted before the pandemic hit, organizations are starting to see remote work positions as viable options they can offer moving forward. While all the maneuvering and finagling to immediately make remote work happen will continue to serve organizations in the future, it doesn’t necessarily account for all that needs to be considered in the long term.

Here are three things to keep in mind for offering remote work indefinitely.

1. Where is your talent?

While your company may have historically stayed to the talent found locally, it may no longer be a smart requirement. Consider expanding the radius where applicants may be based. While working in different time zones can require some adjustments to how you communicate, it isn’t that hard to make the shift. Just be aware of the of needs within that role and determine how you’ll be able to meet those needs. For example, if checking in with a manager on a day-to-day basis is part of the role, being in a time zone close enough to allow for availability overlap may be a requirement.

The wonderful thing about expanding the radius of the talent pool is the exponential depth of field your hiring managers get to play within. This expansion affords you the flexibility to become more selective in your hiring, while potentially creating opportunities to connect with applicants of more diverse backgrounds, skillsets, and experience.

2. Re-evaluate organizational policies

Remote workers tend to have different needs than on-site employees. Take the time to re-evaluate what you’re offering employees and define what applies to those working remotely and those working locally. Here are examples of some policies you’ll want to consider:

  • On-site, or local perks such as gym memberships.
  • Remote working options often work well with flex time, while on-site work tends to lean away from this.
  • Hours tracking. How do you track time? Is it project-based, by the hour, or both?
  • Work-life balance policies addressing overtime.
  • Data and project tracking information. Is this available to remote workers?

If you’re choosing to offer remote working positions indefinitely, go through each of your practices with a fine-tooth comb. Identify what is and isn’t applicable and adjust as necessary. Not doing so will often leave your remote workers getting the short end of the stick, struggling to get their needs met.

3. Who’s remote? How do you support them?

Whether or not you’re offering remote work into the future, if you are doing so now, then be aware of the different circumstances of your employees. Do you have young parents whose children are home from school? Do you have students who might not have access to a private space? What are the resources available to your remote workforce, and how are you meeting their needs?

Do your research. Consider creating a company-wide survey asking about the challenges your remote employees are facing. Identify trends and find ways to help your employees overcome those challenges.

If you’re hiring for remote working positions for the future, identify your ideal candidate. What requirements do they need to fulfill the position? What are the ways you can support them in their remote role? Determine what all you need and communicate it to your candidates so they can make the most informed decision about whether or not they’ll be a good fit for your remote role.

Keep learning

As we continue to grow and change along with the changing demands of the economy and safety guidelines, businesses must keep a close eye on the inner workings of their organization. Just because you evaluated the challenges your newly-remote employees were facing at the beginning of the pandemic doesn’t mean you can afford to look away for more than a few months.

Needs change. New challenges arise. It’s up to leaders to keep a continual dialog going with employees to be aware of situations as they change and develop (not after they’ve been festering and growing). Keeping up this dialog will help you steadily improve your processes. Be proactive about it and offer space for employees to reach out with their needs. The better the communication is, the more successful everyone will be.

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners