Three Ways to Think About 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 23 and a half BILLION dollars last 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 to be provided with 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?
  • 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 even in compliance?
  • 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.

1. Think big

Safety is about more than just 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 really want to put safety to work for you and your business, you need to think bigger. Create a culture of workplaces safety. Don’t just make it a priority, commit 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 to do list and keep it top of mind.
  • Include workplace safety as a critical part of all business 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.

2. Think small

While you’re building your strong foundation for safe practices, don’t be tempted to let the little things slide. When it comes to workplace safety, little things matter. Workplace safety often lies in the details, where 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, it will show your employees that you care enough to invest in their wellbeing.

3. Think smart

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
  • paranoid

If you’ve run into some or all of these objections at your company, now is the time to refer back to the Liberty Mutual study, which found that disabling workplace injuries cost employers over $55 BILLION dollars last year. That’s right. Billion. With a B. Now which strategy sounds more expensive?

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 Michael Simons 

The How and What of Employee Handbooks

An effectively written employee handbook protects the both the employee and the employer by providing clear, concise terms and expectations on both sides. When done right, this useful HR tool can serve several important functions.

Here are some key things a well-written employee handbook can do for your business:

  • Clarify organizational policy
  • Answer common employee questions
  • Save your HR staff time and headaches
  • Highlight your employee benefits and perks
  • Address legal obligations and employee rights
  • Help make sure your company is in compliance
  • Reinforce company values, mission, and culture
  • Properly set employer and employee expectations
  • Provide a common set of rules and accountability for everyone
  • Make new team members feel good about joining your organization

Who wouldn’t want to put together a document that can do all this?

Plenty of people, actually. It’s not that they don’t want to do it. It’s just that many people aren’t sure how to make it happen, so they get stuck.

How to get started

Putting together a top-notch employee manual may sound overwhelming, but it might not be as hard as you think.

If you have a current handbook, start there. Revisit the content to see what information is outdated and what parts are still a good fit with your current processes, systems, culture, and vision. As you evaluate your existing content, keep an eye out for anything that is missing or needs to be added.

If you don’t have a current handbook, there are resources to help. Employee handbook builders can be a great way to get started. If you don’t know where to find these kinds of tools, talk with your employee benefits broker, commercial insurance agent, or employment law attorney. Anyone in your circle of trusted business advisors should be able to point you in the right direction.

What should be included

What kinds of things should you be looking out for? Here’s a list of common things to include in an employee handbook:

  • Code of conduct and behavior expectations
  • Compensation, timekeeping, and payroll
  • Attendance and remote work
  • Employee benefits and perks
  • Paid holidays, vacation, and time off
  • FMLA and employee leave
  • EEO and anti-discrimination
  • Anti-harassment and anti-retaliation
  • Workplace safety and security
  • Technology
  • Social media
  • Data privacy
  • Employee wellbeing and/or assistance
  • Dress code and appearance standards
  • At-will disclaimers (as applicable)
  • Acknowledgement of receipt (signature page)

Because every organization is different, you will want to base your exact content on your own unique business model and situation. To make sure all of your bases are covered, have an attorney review your manual before you consider it complete. 

Keys to employee handbook success

Your employee handbook can be a powerful document in your business tool box. To maximize its effectiveness, you’ll want to follow a few basic guidelines.

Stay true to your brand – Your employee manual should be consistent with your company voice and values.

Stay away from industry jargon – Use language that is clear and easy to understand.

Pay attention to spelling, punctuation and grammar – Don’t leave any room for confusion.

Format your handbook for easy reading – Use plenty of section headers, bullet points, and paragraph breaks.

Keep it simple – Your employees don’t want to read a novel, and you don’t want them skimming over important information.

Keep it up to date – Set aside time each year to review and update your employee handbook.

Ask an expert – Have your attorney look over the final draft to make sure it has everything that needs to be included and nothing that shouldn’t be.

Once you’ve put together an employee handbook you are proud of, don’t just admire your work of art. Make sure it gets in the hands of everyone on your team so it can fulfill its many missions. Your organizational leaders, your HR department, and your happy employees will all appreciate it.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by OoddySmile Studio

 

Why Getting Rid of Your Annual Reviews Won’t Work

You want to get rid of your annual performance reviews— and rightfully so. Nobody looks forward to those stressful, once-a-year meetings.

But simply getting rid of annual reviews isn’t a good idea. You’ve got to replace them with something better.

The “good” old days

The annual review process is clunky and antiquated, harkening back to the days when job security was the norm, employers and employees were happy sticking together for the long haul, and regular raises were pretty much a given. (Two martini lunches may have also been a thing.)

In this Mad Men environment, stability and consistency were the names of the game. Getting together once per year to review standard processes in a standard format was standard fare. Meeting annually to document last year’s performance and this year’s raise was generally seen as good enough.

But times have changed.

The workforce is much more dynamic and diverse. Business and technology are rapidly evolving and changing. Processes change. Consumer expectations change. Employer/employee expectations change. Technology and markets change. And, perhaps most importantly, employees are more mobile than ever.

If you wait an entire year to discuss employee performance, processes, metrics, needs and expectations, you will be having two completely different conversations. If that person is still on staff.

In the current business environment, stability and consistency can lead to a slow and painful death.

An inefficient model

Let’s think about things we do once a year, shall we?

  • File taxes
  • Cook a turkey
  • Try not to forget Valentine’s Day

Sure, you may be pretty good at some of these things. But imagine how much better you’d be at them if you did them more regularly. Chances are these skills would begin to come naturally and these occasions would be much more pleasant for everyone.

Let’s face it. You’re not going to be great at something you only do once a year, which is all the more reason to ditch the annual review process, right? But simply getting rid of it isn’t a good answer. Moving from awkward, inefficient feedback to no feedback won’t solve your two basic problems.

1. Both you and your employees need to talk about what’s working and what isn’t.

Employers need a workforce that can deliver results, and employees need to be clear about what those results are and how to best achieve them.

You can replace the annual review with a system for delivering timely, relevant feedback on a regular basis. Doing so will make performance management much more effective and much less stressful and intimidating. This is definitely a step in the right direction. It may even be the magic fix on the employer end of the equation.

But there’s a second piece to the performance puzzle that can’t be ignored.

2. Employees don’t just want feedback and kudos. They need to feel valued and appreciated.

Which means you need a plan to address career paths and, more importantly, compensation.

If you want your employees to stick around, they have to be able to see a future for themselves in your organization. Having weekly or monthly check in meetings with employees is great! And it would make sense not to talk about compensation during each of these sessions, because that would be serious overkill. But if you take compensation out of your feedback loop and just never bring it up, you’re asking for trouble.  

Like it or not, your employees expect to be recognized, not just with praise and accolades, but with raises. Sure, they may also want new titles, responsibilities, and promotions. But without an increase in compensation, all you’re doing is rewarding high performers with more work. Even if that’s truly not your intent, it’s how your staff will feel.  

Talking about compensation and pay increases is a natural part of the annual review process. So if you want to ditch the annual review, you’ll need to find a way to work those compensation conversations back into the rotation.

Feedback is great, but it isn’t everything

Creating a culture that doesn’t value employees is a surefire way to kick them out the door. But positive feedback, praise, and heartfelt appreciation won’t necessarily convince them to stay.

Employees associate high performance with increased pay. And many of them think the only way to get a significant bump in compensation is to change jobs and/or companies.

Don’t let this be the accidental message you’re sending your team. As you let go of annual performance reviews, make darn sure to put processes in place that address employee development, career paths, and compensation.

If you don’t, your employees will go looking for these things somewhere else.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by  Antonio Guillem

Healthcare predictions: What’s in Store for This Year and Beyond?

Guest blog content provided to Q4iNetwork consultants by freshbenies freshbenies-Logo-CMYK 2018

Love it or hate it, healthcare changes over time— as do the consequences for employers, employees, providers, and patients.

Each year, freshbenies attends dozens of conferences, speaks with thousands of benefits consultants, and reads hundreds of thousands of words about this industry. After all, we’re in this thing together.

Based on what we’ve learned, here are ten predictions for the coming year.

1. Costs will rise. Again.

This seems so obvious to those of us within the industry. So why even list it? Let alone as number one? Because it can’t be ignored, and it continues to rise. Last year, the annual healthcare costs for a family of four were over $28,000. Bottom line: families will continue to carry higher portions of healthcare increases, and it shouldn’t be overlooked or forgotten.

2. Low unemployment will drive creativity.

While rate increases are a constant, the biggest shift this year is to a 3.7% unemployment rate. Fear of loss is always a better motivator than the desire for gain. A tight labor market will drive employers to try innovative solutions more readily. This includes creative benefit plan designs, perk programs and programs for non-benefitted employees.

3. Innovative benefit plans will gain momentum. 

The pendulum will begin to swing toward less traditional plans, including:

  • Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID)
  • Reference-based pricing models
  • Association health plans
  • Captive medical plans
  • Direct Primary Care (DPC)
  • High-performance centers of excellence

When suggested in the recent past, many companies have declined to install these ideas amid complaints of complexity, employee confusion or skepticism of savings. But given the low unemployment rate and the fact that consultants are getting better at explaining these solutions and pulling them together – these types of benefit plans will increase.

4. Perks will pop.

Perks will continue to gain interest and traction. Services like gym memberships, healthcare navigation experts, telehealth, consumerism savings networks, pet care, identity theft protection, flexible hours, remote work, student loan repayment, car wash services, free snack programs, etc. are often the things people list when they brag about their workplace culture. They’ve become differentiators even among the big expense of health insurance. An employer can lose an employee to another company from the draw of perks that scratch an itch employees didn’t even know they had.

5. “Caring” support for workers will grow.

Every employer says they care about their people. But how do they actively show it? Smart employers are getting significant PR power by touting two specific sets of services…

  • Behavioral Health – The US Department of Health & Human Services estimates that 96.5M Americans live in areas with shortages of mental health providers. Effective tools that offer video visits with counselors and psychiatrists or even text-based guidance with specialists provide employees with new methods of care.
  • Caregiver Support – It’s estimated that 1 in 5 employees care for an adult family member or friend. This significantly affects an employee’s work life by adding stress and taking 15 to 20 hours of their time each week. New solutions are capturing employer interests, such as services that pair employees with a licensed coach whose expertise best matches their specific caregiving situation, as well as secure portals for documentation and collaboration. These benefits bring much-needed help, increase productivity and build tremendous loyalty.

6. Engagement will drive more decisions. 

Continued rate increases coupled with poorly-implemented cost containment tools will draw employers to focus on achieving employee engagement. Stats revealing low utilization will bring cancelation of past programs. A shift will take place from checking the box of offering a service to moving the needle on ROI via higher utilization.

Employers will be driving employees to programs that:

  • reduce in-patient, urgent care or emergency room visits
  • include Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), Centers of Excellence, and wearables
  • help employees effectively navigate the healthcare system, from selecting top-tier physicians, and providing price transparency to medical bill review and negotiation

7. AI growth will not be artificial.

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning in the healthcare app space will surpass $1.7 billion this year, while health data analytics will reach $68 billion. The strongest advancements will be with machine learning in diagnostic imaging, drug research, and risk analytics. On the benefits side, we’ll see AI functions being touted throughout websites and apps.

8. Little help will come from DC (Republicans)

With a divided Congress, we can’t expect significant changes in federal health laws over the next couple years. Rather, most changes to the “flavor” of ACA will come from the thousands of issues inside the law that were at the discretion of the various departments like Health & Human Services.

Hopefully, we’ll see bipartisan agreement with updates to Health Savings Account (HSA) laws. What’s controversial about that, right? Right. Be hopeful, but don’t hold your breath.

9. Lots of single-payer talk will come from DC (Democrats)

Remember when Republicans had one consistent chant of “repeal and replace?” Turns out it was a great slogan, but there was no actual plan to implement it. That’s exactly what “single-payer” is among Democrats this year.

Lawmakers have many different ideas about what these two words mean, but that won’t slow them down. Single-payer was one of the top subjects during the 2018 mid-term elections and it will gain traction throughout 2019, right into the 2020 election. But it’s unlikely that a workable plan will be developed.

10. True employee benefit consultants will be in demand.

Brokers who aren’t consistently improving their knowledge will fall by the wayside. Consolidation will continue and true consultants will be in demand more than ever before.

What does this look like? True employee benefits consultants will stop talking about how many decades they’ve been in business and start talking about how they can deliver results to the businesses they help.

They will separate themselves from the broker crowd by coming up with new ideas and new solutions that deliver better healthcare while keeping costs in check.

And when it comes down to it, isn’t that the future we all want to see?

 

Photo credit Andriy Popov 

Compliance: It’s Not Just About Avoiding Risk

Some businesses think staying in compliance is all about reducing risk and staying out of trouble. But companies that approach compliance as a way to help achieve their overall business objectives will do far more than avoid fines. They’ll build organizations that produce happy and productive employees, loyal customers, and a healthy bottom line.

The relationship between compliance and culture

For business owners, industry rules and regulations are a fact of life, and they can be used in several different ways:

  • As a threat to keep employers in check
  • As a set of rules to keep employees in check
  • As a helpful tool to make your workplace better, safer, and more pleasant for everyone

Now, which one of these three tactics do you think is going to make your business a more enjoyable place to work? Entice new employees to jump on board? Result in a more engaged and productive team?

Yes, you can control your team with threats and rules, micromanage behaviors with fear-based incentives, and rule with a culture of discipline. Or you can use compliance as a way to help you take care of your people and your business.

What’s your motivation?

Let’s think about some of the various aspects of compliance and approaches you may have taken or witnessed in the past.

Harassment

Is your main goal to avoid expensive litigation? Or is it to create a healthy workplace where everyone feels comfortable and respected?

Discrimination

Are you following EEO practices because you’re afraid of being sued? Or are you committed to fostering a diverse workforce with a variety of talents, viewpoints, and experiences?

Payroll

Are you paranoid about compliance because a screw up will cost you back pay plus any added fines and penalties? Or do you value your employees and want to make sure they feel appreciated and get paid correctly?

Benefits

Are you offering health insurance, sick time, and leave options because the law says you have to? Or do you want to invest in keeping your employees happy, healthy, and productive?

Privacy

Do you worry about data security because breaches are expensive and there are fines for releasing confidential information? Or do you truly care about your employees as people and want to protect them and their families?

Licensing

Do you require your staff to have proper qualifications because you don’t want to pay fines or be shut down? Or is it because you want to give your employees the tools they need to succeed and your customers the best service possible?

Safety

Are you checking the OSHA boxes because you’re terrified of the cost of a fine or accident? Or are you genuinely committed to making sure everyone on staff makes it home safely after their shift?

How you view compliance matters

The approach you take to compliance says a lot about the approach you take to running your business and taking care of your employees. If you’ve been looking at compliance as nothing more than a rigid set of rules you have to follow, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

Short-sighted businesses view compliance as a necessary tool to control staff and protect the organization. But merely wanting to avoid claims isn’t an inspiring motivator.

Innovative, big-picture organizations see compliance as a natural extension of their business philosophy and strategy.

  • They will find opportunities to align their compliance practices with their purpose, values, and vision.
  • They will look beyond the rules to see why they are important and how they can support the things that matter to their employees.
  • They will associate good compliance practices with good business.

These kinds of organizations will also involve their employees in their compliance processes, giving them a sense of ownership and accountability. Engaged staff members can then become happy advocates and active participants in the creation and implementation of policies that create inclusive, safe, and healthy workplaces.

Some companies will continue to look at compliance as a set of boxes to be checked off, and they will technically be meeting their obligations. On the other hand, businesses that choose to embrace compliance as an opportunity to live out their people-focused values are those that will build the best cultures and attract the best talent.

Why not be one of them?

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Shopping King Louie