It’s Time to Expect More from Your Broker

For most employers, the story is the same every year. They don’t hear from their benefits broker until renewal starts to appear around the corner, and then it’s spreadsheets, rising premiums, and more spreadsheets. The world of insurance is confusing and frustrating, and for many employers, this leads them to seek out second opinions from multiple brokers. Why wouldn’t you? Even if your goal is just to keep your current broker honest, it’s only common sense to get second opinions on a purchase that large.

But here’s the problem. Almost without fail, the brokers you talk to will get the same numbers from the carriers, bring in the same spreadsheets, and will likely tell you about their services, which are the same as every other broker. Benefits admin support, compliance support, HR services—the list goes on, and it’s almost always the same.

You still have to make that gut-wrenching purchase come renewal time, and you still feel in the dark about your options.

So how do you decide which broker to go with if everything they’re offering is the same? That’s where many brokers and employers alike would point to the “relationship” part of the business. They would say it all comes down to who you like the best.

But we disagree. There is a different kind of broker out there—one that doesn’t look the same as the rest and can offer you something different—something better.

What you really need

While every year you feel the same frustration and anxiety around having to make an extremely (and increasingly) expensive investment in your employees, how much do you really understand about why you’re making that particular purchase?

The reality is most employers simply don’t have enough real experience with the world of insurance other than that dreaded yearly renewal process. This leaves them at the mercy of their broker and relying on others to tell them what’s best for their business.

While this makes sense—the world of insurance is increasingly confusing and constantly changing—it’s simply not sustainable. What employers need is to have the power to make an informed and educated decision when it comes to their benefits plan. They need to have the kind of power only true understanding can bring.

How to differentiate

So it’s time to start looking for something different in your broker. Here’s how to spot it. While the benefits broker you’re used to will:

  • Only get in touch with you when it comes time to renew
  • Offer you the same spreadsheet and the same services every year
  • Assure you their service is the best and that’s what sets them apart
  • Hand you their non-insurance solutions and call it good
  • Completely fall off your radar once you’ve renewed

The benefits broker you want:

  • Shows up well before you have to start thinking about renewals
  • Starts off the conversation by uncovering your goals and challenges
  • Focuses on educating you about your options
  • Isn’t interested in forcing you to buy unless their solution improves your business
  • Continues to provide you with advice and education throughout the year
  • Supports the use of non-insurance solutions via training, communication, and education

The first type of broker wants you to buy from them and pick them out among the rest. While the second type also wants that, their first priority is to help you improve your business and make an impact in the lives of your employees. What you need isn’t a benefits broker—what you need is a benefits advisor.

Why?

So you can make the most informed decision for your business without blindly relying on a handful of brokers at renewal telling you the same thing over and over. So you won’t make the mistake of simply sticking to what you know just because you know it, passing over opportunities to make massive savings because you don’t understand them, and thus don’t trust them (yes, this really happens).

The world of insurance is growing and changing, and employers need to be able to grow and change along with it—and that requires employers to become educated about their situation and their options.

Expect more

The bottom line is you don’t have to settle for the same type of broker. In fact, you shouldn’t. You and the people your business supports deserve the best service and the best benefits available—and you can only get that by having the power to make informed decisions yourself.

Start expecting your broker to teach you. Start asking questions and expecting answers. Look for a broker who focuses on education, year-round communication, and who takes the time to help you fully understand all your options. You deserve more than the same old story. It’s time to expect a new one.

 

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Photo by Volodymyr Melnyk

You Should Nurture Relationships with Past Employees

It’s a fact that losing good employees is a major pain point for business owners. Not only is it hard (and expensive) to replace a quality employee, but replacing institutional knowledge, relationships, and experience takes a lot of time. But this doesn’t mean employers should avoid thinking about or preparing for the eventual departure of an employee. In fact, employee alumni networks and strong networking communities comprised of ex-employees may make the next step of hiring much, much easier.

While onboarding programs are all the rage among HR professionals and business leaders, it’s sadly common for employees to leave a company in a very different manner. New employees are greeted with training, communication, and team engagement, but an employee leaving a company may be met with an exit interview, a pat on the back, or in some cases, outright hostility, resentment, scrambling and confusion on behalf of their managers.

But this doesn’t make sense for both the business and the departing employee. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average job retention rate in the United States consistently hovers at around four years. In fact, business professionals have been noted to advise against staying in a job for too long to avoid damaging your career. So why do exiting employees so often get ignored or treated poorly?

The short answer? A lack of foresight. Previous employees can have a dramatic impact on a business even after they leave. They may come back in the form of clients, business referrals, vendors, brand ambassadors, and boomerang employees. The fact of the matter is that employees are almost never going to stay with your company for their entire career, so it makes sense for organizations to prepare—well in advance—for their eventual departure and subsequent post-departure impact on the business.

But how do you nurture relationships with previous employees?

Corporate alumni programs

These programs are popular among corporate industries, including legal, consulting, and financial services. They are designed to create a network for former employees to stay connected with their old colleagues and organizations, providing a space for them to continue growing and nurturing their relationships long-term.

According to a report by Conenza Inc. in conjunction with Cornell University, there are four main motivations people have for joining alumni programs:

  • Mission-driven
  • Career-minded
  • Pragmatic
  • Social-focused

With that in mind, it seems like a major loss for organizations to miss out on staying connected with people driven by these traits. After all, they all point to growth-driven mindsets that positively impact both the alumni and the organization.

Offboarding strategies

If you’re a smaller business or simply not a fit for an alumni program, there’s plenty you can do to maintain mutually beneficial relationships with employees after they’ve left your organization. The basics of offboarding aren’t complicated—it’s simply a step-by-step process that allows for clear communication and preparation as an employee arranges to depart, ensuring the employee and the organization have everything they need before the final day. Here are some simple steps you can take to help the process along:

  • Begin preparing for their eventual departure long before you expect them to leave by creating an offboarding program that matches your organization’s values, mission, and culture. You want employees to have a cohesive experience throughout their entire lifecycle. This will help you manage expectations and maintain trust even as an employee begins the exit process.
  • Create an ongoing dialog around career development that starts the moment an employee enters your ranks. Make it clear that while you hope employees will stay forever, you understand most employees change jobs every handful of years and you’ve created opportunities and resources for them to develop within your organization and stay connected with you after they leave.

Offboarding programs will help leaders not to go into chaotic damage control by creating a clear process for each step of the departure. It allows organizations to say, “We’ve prepared for this and made it simple and easy, so we can all continue on without anxiety.” It allows the employee to leave in a measured, calm way, and the organization to be prepared to handle their leaving without confusion or missed steps that would end up frustrating both the organization and the departing employee.

A mutual investment

For both individuals and organizations alike, the relationships developed, both externally and internally, are the foundation of success. They drive investment, engagement, reputation, and networking power. It’s simply common sense to get the best value out of the most intimate of these relationships—with your employees themselves. Remember, how you treat your employees—both current and past—has a determining effect on your reputation within your industry. Handle these relationships with intentionality and care, and reap the benefits of a robust, engaged, and long-lasting network.

 

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How HR Professionals Can Benefit from Learning the Sales Pitch

Over the past several years, HR’s role has steadily risen in stature, with more and more leaders recognizing the critical nature of HR functions and their impact on business growth and the bottom line. And HR has risen to the occasion by finding solutions to the chaos caused by the pandemic, driving vital culture changes to improve equality within the workplace, prioritizing diversity and inclusion, and developing new solutions to improve the employee experience.

But despite this upward trend, the task of pitching new ideas, plans, or strategies to the C-Suite isn’t without difficulty. While you may understand how the solution you’ve worked hard to develop is right for the business, it’s not exactly easy to convey this—especially when money is on the line.

As more solutions become available and the market for HR solutions grows, HR professionals need to prepare themselves for the inevitable fight for the “right one”. But this can’t be done in a power-play.

As you prepare for your next conversation about an HR solution you’d like to implement, consider approaching it like a “pitch.”

Understand your audience

While you may understand why the solution you’re pitching is the right one, that doesn’t mean it’s clear to the CEO or CFO of the company. As you work to frame the information you’ve gathered, consider each of your audience’s perspectives, and try framing your pitch to fit their specific lens:

  • A CEO generally keeps the grand vision for the organization front of mind. They want to know how any solution will help them reach their ultimate goals. They want to be reassured that each section of the company will engage successfully with the solution. And they’ll want to know why this solution is better than others.
  • A CFO is a different story. They want to know how this solution will affect the bottom line. They may be more interested in hard numbers, data, research, and comparative data between similar solutions.

As you approach these conversations, consider how you might frame the information you have to fit your audience’s specific questions before sitting down with them. Preparing yourself for the decision-makers’ inevitable questions and worries will help you develop confidence and build their confidence and trust in you as your conversation progresses.

Start with small steps

Instead of expecting a decision to be made right out the gate, consider setting up a series of meetings in which you approach your ultimate goal of implementing the solution over time, creating stepping stones that gradually bring the decision-makers to the finish line. Set clear goals for each meeting so they’ll know what to expect. Consider breaking down the conversation into a series of small steps:

  1. Set a preliminary meeting to talk about the current solution (or lack of solution) the organization has. Review how it’s going and identify what issues have arisen. Then take a look at the overall goals of the organization and identify areas that need attention. This meeting is an opportunity for you to uncover their concerns and goals, which will inform how you approach your second presentation.
  2. In your second meeting, frame your solution around the main points and concerns highlighted in the first discussion. This is your chance to explain why you think it’s the best fit. Don’t leave your expert opinion out, but don’t forget to address your audience’s concerns. Before asking them to make the final decision, propose bringing in someone from the company offering the solution or from a similar organization as yours that has implemented it.

By approaching the pitch as a series of small steps that lead to a bigger decision, you’ll remove the anxiety around making the final purchase and help build trust as they learn about the solution.

Practice

As you prepare, don’t forget to practice these conversations. Try roleplaying and writing a list of questions you might expect. While you may think you know everything about this solution, you don’t want to risk giving a sloppy, confusing answer when the moment strikes. Run through your presentation at least three times, and identify areas that can be clarified, simplified, or left out.

Remember, you are the expert in this situation. If you believe your solution will make a difference for your organization, you owe it to your team to be as prepared and knowledgeable as possible. You got this!

 

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Photo by Cathy Yeulet

Battling Ageism Continued: Protecting Senior Professionals

A few weeks ago, we published a blog that covered four ways you can work against ageist practices in your workplace. While it’s a good start to identifying the subtle ways ageism can sneak in, it’s essential to address some more concrete ways ageism takes place.

The numbers behind ageism

Ageism is, without a doubt, a heavy burden on the American people and our country as a whole. Last year, the AARP released a study that calculated the U.S. lost $850 billion in GDP due to ageist practices against older workers in 2018. The same study projects that by 2050, the losses resulting from age discrimination could reach up to $3.9 trillion.

These ageist practices keep older workers out of the job market, impact any dependents they have, and force family members to pick up the slack. The study found 57% of GDP revenue lost was caused by workers forced into involuntary retirement.

Rejecting the practices of ageism

Although the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers 40 and over from being denied work and put at a disadvantage due to their age, a Supreme Court 2009 ruling made it more difficult for plaintiffs to win cases. The new ruling requires plaintiffs to prove their age was the deciding factor in their employer’s decision, removing what’s commonly called “mixed motive” cases from the table.

Last year, in response to the study and following public outcry, a bill (The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act) was introduced to the Senate to amend the Supreme Court’s decision and to make it easier for plaintiffs to make their case. Although this bill is not yet law, it shows a strong push to reject ageism and protect older workers from its destructive impact.

What can you do to ensure your organization isn’t participating in ageist practices?

Empower your employees

A straightforward way to hold your organization accountable? Ensure your employees know their rights and what to do when they feel their rights have been infringed upon. Educate your managers, hiring managers, and leadership team on:

  • Good defining traits to inform their decisions (experience, skills, compatibility)
  • What needs to be left out of the equation (age, ethnicity, gender, etc.)
  • What age discrimination looks like in the workplace (subtleties of language, hiring decisions)

Make sure your employees know they have a right to protect themselves from discrimination, and create the expectation that neither you nor they should tolerate any form of it. Create internal channels for employees to address issues and make sure they know what they can do to protect themselves.

Review your practices

When was the last time you looked at your internal practices to uncover malpractice, out of date approaches, and possible employee rights violations? Does anyone in your organization have this responsibility, or do you cross your fingers and hope nothing comes up?

Or did you do it at the start of your business but haven’t reviewed your practices in years?

Commit to continually reviewing your internal processes for hiring, promoting, and wage and hour decisions. If you have no system to examine these areas, you will be much more likely to find your business in hot water. The key concept here is to be proactive, not reactive.

Take action

There are ways to support older employees and increase their long-term impact and contributions to your organization. Also, keep in mind there are ways to make different roles more accessible to senior professionals. Consider:

  • Offering flexible hours
  • Offering part-time positions
  • Offering skills training

Making quarterly meetings to review benchmarks, wins, and growth areas will help your employees quantify their value to you and provide a record of their contribution and progress within your organization, protecting both their rights and yours.

Take on the responsibility 

In the end, organizations must shoulder the responsibility and duty to ensure they are providing just, equitable, and responsible treatment to their employees. Diversifying your workforce in any direction will allow you to grow and allow your community to grow with you. What’s right for your employees, is good for you, and what’s right for your industry, is good for your country. It’s time to step up to the plate and bat ageism out of the park.

 

Photo by piksel

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Four Ways to Fight Burnout

Even before the pandemic, employee burnout was a top concern for employers. The Mayo Clinic describes burnout as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” It manifests in many ways that are quite literally dangerous for employees. Symptoms of burnout include insomnia, fatigue, heart disease, vulnerability to illness, and death.

So, let’s talk about some simple and practical approaches to fighting burnout in your workplace. First things first, employers need to take responsibility for leading the fight. It’s not your employees’ job to fight burnout on their own. Burnout is often caused by systemic issues in a company’s culture, leading to overworked employees who don’t have the time or resources to manage their workload.

It’s best to approach the fight from all angles and not assume there is a one-size-fits-all solution for your company. Here’s where you can start.

1. PTO and the benefit of benefits 

MetLife’s recent study found that 86% of employees considered health insurance a “must-have” and ranked comprehensive employee benefits as one of the most critical drivers of employee well-being. The same study also found that comprehensive employee benefits were a driver for increased employee productivity and loyalty. 

Ensure you’re giving your employees the support they need to take care of themselves mentally and physically. Consider offering them a week’s more PTO than you did the previous year and see what it does for employee engagement, productivity, and retention.

If you’re not sure this is the right move for your business, make an experiment out of it. Record your numbers for retention, engagement, productivity, and wellness for the previous year, and compare them after one year of offering your new plan.

2. Workload monitoring

Providing a reasonable workload is a leading factor in decreasing employee stress and burnout. While this may seem obvious, it can be a tricky task to work out exactly how much work is too much (or not enough) for your employees. Do your research and develop a strategy for identifying when workloads are too high and when they need to be decreased and spread out.

Involve your employees in this process. They can help you gain insight into the ebb and flow of their workload and inform you how to best respond to the challenges they face. Make sure to keep an open dialog between employees and managers and encourage honesty.

3. Human management

This leads us to understanding the different causes of burnout and how to address them. While burnout is often a direct result of a failure on the company’s behalf to manage employees strategically, sometimes it results from external issues.

The year 2020 is an excellent example of how employees may deal with the same workload they always have but struggle to keep up due to added stress from their environment, like:

The minute you ask an employee to put aside their needs, you set your company and your employee up for failure.

Design a culture that recognizes productivity naturally ebbs and flows along with our ability to manage stress, workload, and well-being. Allow your employees to be human and open about their challenges. If an employee feels like they can take a day off or ask for extra help on a project without retaliation, their stress level won’t rise, and they’ll be better equipped to get back on track and manage their workload like the dedicated employee they are.

4. Recognition

MetLife found that employee recognition was the ultimate driver in increasing productivity, engagement, and loyalty, and decreasing stress, burnout, and depression. A simple “thank you” or “great job” can be the difference between an employee feeling burned out and feeling accomplished. There are many creative ways to celebrate and acknowledge your employees, so there isn’t a good excuse for not doing it.

Looking forward

This may be an old topic, but it’s never been more relevant. As you move into 2021 and the decade beyond, you must maintain a sincere effort to help your employees lead healthy lives at work and at home. Fighting burnout will save you money, protect employee health and well-being, and give you both stronger legs to stand on.

 

Photo by ANDRANIK HAKOBYAN

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