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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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

Take the Formality Out of Performance Reviews

Let’s see if this scenario is familiar.

You call your employee into your office. You review their strengths and weaknesses, assess their performance, and set goals. You may even use a rating scale to show the employee if they met, exceeded, or failed to meet expectations.

You’ve just conducted a formal performance review, and when it comes to this process, organizations lose anywhere from $2.4 million to $35 million a year in working hours for employees to participate in reviews. Yet 72% of companies still conduct annual performance reviews.

So maybe it’s the process of conducting performance reviews and not the reviews themselves that need to be changed.

What should be included in a performance review?

You may hear performance review and professional development used interchangeably. But they are two different things. A performance review measures past performance and how well an employee performed in their expected role; professional development looks forward and inspires employees to improve.

Both have their place, but a performance review is geared toward just that: Performance. Consider these things as you’re conducting reviews:

Ask questions 

To ensure there are no surprises, send the review agenda to your team member beforehand, so they’ll know what will be discussed. Ask them to provide feedback about the agenda; doing so gives them co-ownership of the conversation.

During the review, ask open-ended questions to gain the best responses. Close-ended questions that only allow a yes or no answer won’t allow opportunity for insight and make the review unnecessarily formal.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • What accomplishments are you the proudest of?
  • What goals did you meet?
  • What skills do you have that we can use more effectively?
  • What about your role helps the company succeed?

You can also allow employees to do regular self-evaluation. While there are myths surrounding self-evaluations like “Employees only want to explain away their bad performance,” reflecting helps make employees happier and less likely to burn out. When coupled with an open and honest culture, self-evaluations will also be open and honest.

Consider doing a weekly check-in with self-reflection questions that look back at performance and how well team members feel they did over the past week:

  • Did you complete your ONE THING item from last week?
  • What was your greatest success over the past week?
  • What was your biggest challenge over the past week?
  • What did you learn this week through training and insight?
  • What is the ONE THING you must accomplish over this coming week?

You can use/revise this template or any number of templates you can find on the web by searching the term “employee self-evaluation template.” Choose whatever fits your company culture.

Treat performance reviews like conversations

Think of a review like a conversation, and it will remove any stress or burdens on you and your team members. But keep in mind exactly how you word things. Even things you meant as praise could be misconstrued as negative feedback if not worded correctly. Avoid:

  • Definitive terms like always and never
  • Subjective terms like rude, polite, and enthusiastic
  • Vague terms like good and poor

Instead, go further and use phrases like:

  • “I encourage you to continue [doing this action]. It provides good results for the team.”
  • “When you contact a customer after a sale is closed to ask them if they need anything, that shows you go above and beyond.”
  • “I advise you to stop [doing this action]. It results in [this consequence].”

You can also keep the review language and tone conversational by:

  • Not using a formal rating system
  • Making clear what factors of the review are tied to employee raises
  • Assuring employees this is a check-in as opposed to a performance judgment
  • Focusing on creating a culture of listening and growth
  • Having open conversations as opposed to formal discussions

Consider your cadence

Having a performance review once a year is a traditional approach. But that may not work for your organization. Think about what would be the best: Quarterly reviews? Monthly? Weekly? Consider your current framework and process and adjust accordingly.

Also, couple reviews with open feedback. When leaders provide their team with frequent and honest feedback, your team is more likely to be motivated and engaged at work.

Show your appreciation

No matter what kinds of questions you ask and how often you conduct reviews, they aren’t just about formality, ratings, and numbers. They are a way to show your employees appreciation for their work and help both you and them develop a better future. And that is a good thing.

 

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Photo by Somsak Sudthangtum

Managing Workplace Conflict Like a Pro

Interpersonal conflict is something every workplace must deal with at some point. When people work in close quarters, there is bound to be some type of friction that comes to the surface and needs to be dealt with.

Sometimes the people in the conflict can work it out themselves. This usually happens if both people are willing and able to sit down and hash things out. However, many people are uncomfortable directly addressing issues and conflicts and will do anything to avoid uncomfortable conversations.

This results in passive aggression, negativity, decreased productivity, and team dysfunction, which can spread and begin to negatively affect other employees. Conflicts like these are best solved quickly, and strategically, and often guided by management.

Unfortunately, if leadership isn’t prepared to handle conflicts correctly, they can have a much greater negative effect on the situation and make it worse for everyone. Here are a couple of leadership practices guaranteed NOT to succeed in solving a conflict.

Evading

We know you’re busy. You’ve got a million things on your plate and goals and quotas to meet. So that argument between Tim and Kathy on the production team just doesn’t seem important enough for you to prioritize today. Oh sure, you’ll get to it, but it not today. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week? You’re hoping that maybe by then, it’ll just go away. Spoiler alert: it won’t.

Avoidance can come in many different forms. For instance, say you’ve talked to Kathy and Tim separately and heard their sides of the story, but you haven’t yet set up a meeting with both of them together. It might feel like you’ve made some progress after hearing them both initially. People often feel better after they’ve had a chance to get their story out and feel heard. This might have even deflated their frustration for the time being. But it won’t last.

No one likes to have uncomfortable conversations, and you’re no exception. Being in leadership doesn’t mean you’re automatically exempt from having the same reservations about confrontation as the rest of humanity. You may be a good problem solver and a good listener, but if you just stop having individual conversations and don’t move forward to confronting the issue together, you’ve halted the healing process.

Disconnection

Separating people when they are fighting might work with children, but it isn’t a sustainable solution for dealing with conflict at the office. Employees must be able to work together and rely on each other as a team. Just trying to give them different projects and hoping they won’t run into something that requires them to work together isn’t going to help you or them in the long run.

Listening to their individual stories and sending them in different directions is setting your team up for failure. Plus, it’s setting an unhealthy standard for how your company handles interpersonal conflict.

Lead them back together

Unless you take the step to get them talking face-to-face, you’ve just put the problem on hold, not dealt with it. Having a functional, healthy team should be a top priority for any leader. The chances of meeting your goals with a robust team working together are much greater than working with a dysfunctional team and their infighting.

Taking an hour out of your day today to solve a conflict will save you hours of cleanup work later on down the road. It’ll also ensure that the conflict doesn’t expand and begin to affect other team members.

Time to get constructive

If you’re uncomfortable with confrontation or not sure how to mitigate the conflict, it helps to go in with a plan:

  • Structure the conversation so both parties have their chance to speak and respond to each other.
  • Encourage them to each take accountability.
  • Set the expectation that they will come to a resolution, creating a clear, actionable plan for how they will move forward.
  • Set a follow-up meeting a week or two down the road to help keep everyone accountable.

You may never be comfortable with confrontation, but fortunately, with practice, you can get better at successfully dealing with it. The more you set the expectation that conflict will be dealt with in this way, the easier it is to do it. Hopefully, it becomes so ingrained in your company culture that co-workers will begin to do it themselves without the need to bring in leadership to help mitigate the discussion.

So next time there’s a conflict at the office, don’t hesitate to deal with it then and there. Don’t put it off, don’t avoid the uncomfortable conversation. Show them you believe in their ability to solve the problem themselves by bringing them together to do so. You’ve got this, and so do they.

 

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