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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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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

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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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Four Traits of Powerful Remote Teams

Learning new things is always a challenge. And they’re even more of a challenge when everyone has to learn them all at once. Imagine working for a company where everyone was hired within a week. No one would have any support or experience. It would be chaos!  

That’s the way many companies felt when they had to make the switch to remote work at the beginning of the pandemic. Everyone was scrambling, very few were prepared, and there were many mistakes, followed by halted projects, increased frustration, and uncertainty.  

 As with many things, it helps to model yourself after those who have been successful in doing what you’re attempting to do. And while you may have worked out the major kinks in the first few months of working remotely, it pays off to delve deeper and take a look at the foundation of how you’re running your remote team.   

Here are four traits that successful remote teams have in common. 

1. Individual empowerment 

For remote employees to be their most effective, they need to have a fair amount of freedom to take the lead on their work. Managers and team leaders aren’t as available to hop on issues and get questions answered as they would be in an office. Allowing your team members the leeway they need to find the answers to their own questions, create direction for themselves, and take the initiative whenever they can will help them in more ways than one. Having the ability to take the initiative will: 

  • encourage employees to take more ownership over their tasks 
  • motivate employees to become self-sufficient, creating room for professional development 
  • urge team members to reach out to one another (instead of the boss) for direction and help, increasing collaboration and team involvement  
  • create a more efficient team that only brings challenges to the boss once they’ve run out of ideas and solutions, freeing up time for the team leader to focus on their own work

2. Time for fun  

Like any on-site team, your remote workers need time to relax in a social environment with each other. Creating a virtual happy hour, end of week check-in meeting, or virtual games can help your team feel more connected and engaged with one another.  

People working remotely who say they struggle with it often point to feeling isolated and disconnected. Successful remote teams take this seriously and make efforts to create time for employees to connect. Even if you don’t have a weekly happy hour on your calendar, consider encouraging your team to take a minute or two to chat about non-work related things before a meeting begins, just like you would do in person. This practice creates a critical moment of social connection and mental break from an otherwise quiet and focused day. 

3. Strong core values 

One of the most effective ways to help your team stay aligned and engaged with your company is to develop them around a set of core values that your company holds. Integrating your company values into your onboarding process, your communication, your goals, and your employee (and customer) experience is a wonderful way of creating a mental foundation for your employees to work off of.   

When your employees are familiar with your company’s core values, they can make informed decisions around how they should approach challenges and problems, meet their own goals, and set expectations around how they should be working on their team. Strong core values create a roadmap for employees to follow that provides clarity and a sense of understanding around their function within your organization. This is particularly important with remote employees who need a strong connection with your company to feel connected in their roles while working from home.  

4. Work-life balance 

While working from home can lead to increased productivity and engagement, it can also mean that employees struggle with creating boundaries between work and their personal lives. Without the physical distance between home and office, there is a literal lack of separation between work and life that remote workers experience daily. Employees who can’t step away from their work while at home may start to burn out.  

Set very clear boundaries around when employees should be available. Encourage your team leaders not to answer or send emails after 5:00 pm and to discourage their team members from doing so. Work a healthy work-life balance into your core values and set the expectation that your employees don’t work on their days off or in their free time. Boundaries will help employees feel more comfortable stepping away from their work and allow them to take the time they need to lead a healthy life.  

Keep on keeping on 

As you continue down the road of remote work, check in frequently with your team to find out what is and isn’t working. Keep a running list of the challenges your employees come across and check back with them about their progress. Keep tabs on what other companies are doing and look for new solutions and ideas to keep your team fresh, engaged, and happy. Like anything, it takes practice, patience, and perseverance. Keep working at it, keep talking to your team, and keep trying new things. Eventually, you’ll find your swing. 

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

How to Effectively Manage a Team of Quick-Starts

In the world of company culture, what makes an individual employee effective doesn’t necessarily translate to what makes a team effective. If you have a group of people who all share the same strengths, your organization will suffer because successful teams need different experiences and strengths to balance the dynamic.

If your team consistently has issues with project completion, work overload, and loss of ROI on projects, then you might be dealing with a team of quick-starts. Or, in laymen’s terms, people who thrive on quick, future-oriented thinking, innovation, urgency, and generating a lot of ideas.

Quick thinkers, with high energy and enthusiasm, they don’t shy away from a challenge. But they may end up with too many projects and ideas to complete in an orderly way and may allow essential things to get lost in the chaos.

If this sounds familiar to you, there are few things you can do to help create that essential balance your quick-footed team needs to work efficiently and effectively. 

Consistency is key

 

If your team is made of fast-paced, quick thinkers and even faster do-ers, you may find they resist what feels too slow for them. The problem is that many activities that are essential to growing a healthy company need consistency and deliberate, steady action.

 

Marketing, for instance, requires planning, persistence, and patience. While your team may get through the planning part, they may begin to itch for something new before they’ve given the activity enough time to be effective. You can address this kind of urgency and impatience in a few ways:

  • Create a system of accountability and team engagement where team members have time to check in on one another’s projects, uncovering areas of collaboration and gaps to be filled. This will bring new energy into a project and help team members keep themselves on track.
  • Have your team members outline personal goals and goals for their role within your organization. Set up quarterly reviews to evaluate their role and the projects they worked on in the context of the bigger picture of the organization. It will help them maintain a consistent vision for their role within your company and stay on track and aligned with company goals.

Creating much-needed consistency will help keep your team’s feet on the ground and moving at a steady, sustainable pace.

 

Ideas, ideas, ideas

 

People with a high capacity for creativity and idea generation tend to be excellent assets to any company. They push innovation and help organizations stay competitive. But new ideas are only great if they aren’t eating up the time you need to accomplish your previous ideas.

 

If someone comes up with a new idea, before any work is done on it, take these three steps:

  1. Evaluate current projects to identify if they still need work, and if so, how much needs to be done before the lead is ready to move on to something new.
  2. Define exactly how this idea/project connects to your company vision, brand, and goals. If it doesn’t hit every mark, put it aside until it does.
  3. Reference similar ongoing projects and evaluate whether this idea adds value by itself or is redundant and unnecessary.

Rethink your next hire

While you may not be hiring now, it’s essential to evaluate where your current talent is lacking in strength and plan for your next hire. Hiring for diversity in thought, experience, and talent is the surest way to build a capable team. If your team seems to be struggling with the same types of issues, it’s worth rethinking your hiring process and identifying where you might be going wrong.

We all have biases and tend to want to surround ourselves with people like us. This can be a detriment to your company culture and effectively stifle your team’s potential to grow and evolve into a more efficient, powerful group.

To identify gaps in talent, consider having your current employees take assessments such as Predictive Index or Kolbe A Index to determine what types of strengths you should look for in a new hire that compliment what you already have on your team.

It’s in the people

Whatever strengths or weaknesses your team possesses, do your best to be as objective and aware as possible. The best leadership comes from an honest place that can accurately identify and maximize strengths each person brings to the table. Remember, your team members are human and need your support and guidance. With the right nurturing, leadership, and culture, you can turn your team into the powerhouse you know it can be.

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

 

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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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners