Earlier this spring, I spent a morning as a volunteer at the non-profit Cradles to Crayons. Along with seven of my co-workers, I assembled bags of clothes, shoes and books for children in need from our community. The event was part of Trion Cares, our company’s corporate volunteer program. We can build houses for Habitat for Humanity, cook and serve meals at the Ronald McDonald House and contribute our time and talents in other ways.
A corporate volunteer program shows our company cares about its employees’ well-being, too. Volunteering reduces stress and depression. Regular volunteers even live longer than their peers.
If your organization has a company volunteer program, that’s great! But are employees receptive to it? To maximize success and take advantage of the benefits to your business, spread the word about volunteering early and often.
Plant the Seeds
I first learned about Trion’s corporate volunteer program when I was offered my job. Human Resources explained it to me as part of the total PTO package. The program gives employees eight paid hours per year to volunteer at a certified charity. We can either join a company-organized event or find our own opportunity.
On-boarding communication is a logical place to describe your volunteer program. Include it in the employee handbook. To engage employees, include colleagues’ personal stories of their community service experiences.
But there could be an even better place to introduce this benefit. Describe the program in your recruitment communications. We are currently in a buyers’ market for jobs. Companies need to be creative when courting new and talented workers. A 2016 survey by Cone Communications shows 51% of employees won’t work for a company that doesn’t have social justice commitments.
Engage job seekers and talk about your corporate volunteer program before they send in their resumes. List it as a benefit on job postings. Mention it on public-facing websites and social media pages. Include photos of the most recent event to emphasize the sense of togetherness volunteering provides.
Water the Garden
To encourage continued participation, you need consistent communications about the corporate volunteer program. Promote upcoming volunteer opportunities in email blasts, the intranet and employee newsletters. Reach out to partner community service organizations for their feedback. Quotes from them make for powerful testimonials to punch up your copy.
Vary the dates, places and missions of service opportunities to make the program as attractive as possible. This allows employees with different schedules, office locations and talents to pick what suits them the best. Corporate volunteer opportunities are a great way to promote camaraderie. At my recent event, I got to know co-workers from other locations.
Sign up should be quick and simple. Send periodic reminders and include directions to the service site and other useful information.
Watch it Grow
A corporate volunteer program has many benefits to your business. It positions your organization as a civic leader. As the famous comic book saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” There could be unmet needs within the community that your employees’ skills can address. Connect with area non-profits to ask how you can best serve them. Continue the conversation and check in periodically to look for updated opportunities.
Engage your employees with regular communications about corporate volunteering and reap the benefits. Community service programs are a powerful retention tool.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents to the 2017 Deloitte Volunteerism Survey believe a company that sponsors volunteer opportunities offers a better working environment. Such opportunities foster loyalty and help employees advance in their careers. Another survey shows 80% of participants find active volunteers move more easily into leadership roles.
Corporate volunteer programs have a range of benefits, from employee well-being to positive perception of your organization. Don’t forget the most important benefit of all: The satisfaction that only comes from selflessly lending your time and talents for the betterment of others.
Happy Spring! As we look ahead to warmer weather, is your company looking ahead to a mid-year open enrollment? Then it’s time to focus on ways to stop employee procrastination. A comprehensive communications strategy that uses these 4 “S’s” will ease employee stress in the coming months.
Set a Goal
Begin with the end in mind. What actions do you want employees to take this year? What problem would you like your enrollment communications to solve? Maybe you’d like workers to get a biometric screening? Maybe you’d like people to know you’ve switched dental carriers? Maybe you’d like employees to sign up for benefits through a new website?
Whether the news is big or small, find the reason your employees need to pay attention and stop procrastinating. That reason will be the focal point of interactions.
Spell it Out
What does this mean? Benefits communications is full of acronyms: FSA, HSA, HRA, HDHP, PPO, HMO, STD, LTD, FMLA, PCP and QLE. This alphabet soup is enough to make anyone lose their appetite!
Be careful if, how, and when you use these abbreviations or you risk losing employees’ attention. If they can’t grasp the concepts, then it’s easy for them to ignore the central message. That’s when employee procrastination kicks in.
Effective communications defines these must-know terms and uses them sparingly. Remember, not everyone is surrounded by benefits all day. Try to write as if you’re explaining them to your mom, your neighbor, or anyone outside the industry. State the most important facts in broad terms as early as possible.
Attention spans in this digital age are brief, so don’t bury the lead. Workers will want to know exactly what they need to do and when, so tell them ASAP.
Select the Ideal Reader
If you have different audiences with various plans and needs, you should target communications. The goal for a manger could be different from the goal for worker on the factory floor. Or, the goal for an employee in his first job out of college could be different from the goal for an executive looking ahead to her retirement. If you speak to workers’ specific needs, it makes it less likely they will ignore the message and start that pesky procrastination cycle.
Take a cue from the marketing industry and craft audience personas or profiles of your readers. Get into the minds of employees who will receive your enrollment communications. How can you best convey your messages to these different groups?
Don’t be afraid to try new delivery methods beyond the standard benefits newsletter or presentation uploaded to the intranet. Maybe your workers will respond to a postcard or flyer they can thumbtack in their cube as a visual cue. Maybe on-the-go workers and/or spouses will appreciate a video they can access from their smartphones.
Female spouses are key allies in your fight to end open enrollment procrastination. Women in America make 80 percent of their household’s healthcare decisions. Target them with at-home mailings and online content available 24/7 outside of the company firewall.
Schedule Message Delivery
Consistent communication is important to stop enrollment procrastination. Start communicating before the open enrollment period. Small reminders that enrollment is coming up will stop employee surprise.
Once the season begins, communications is not a one-and-done strategy. Pace the rollout of your messages. Well-timed reminders throughout open enrollment will keep everyone on track.
As much as you try to prevent employee procrastination around open enrollment, some workers will sign up for benefits at 11pm on the last day. A final communications push at the end will keep that date fresh in their mind. After all, one of most common questions workers ask is, What’s the deadline?
These tips apply whether your open enrollment begins in June, October or January. A balanced communications strategy will stop employee procrastination.
February is Heart Health Month. Employee health is an important all year, but this month might inspire you to consider how you can incorporate wellness into the workplace. One possibility is to add on-site fitness programs.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. Workers are busier than ever. After work making dinner, helping kids with homework, and settling on the couch with This is Us bump exercise off the to-do list.
What if exercise was integrated into the work day? The convenience of working out in the office limits excuses and motivates employees to take care of their heart health. There are both small- and large-scale options to build on-site fitness programs for employees. Consider your employee population and budget to roll out a successful initiative.
Walk Your Way to On-Site Fitness
A walking club is the simplest way is to start. Walking is a low-impact activity that shows positive results mentally and physically. If there is safe space to walk near your office, encourage employees to step outside during their lunch breaks. Walking and talking with colleagues creates bonds and fosters employee morale.
Add friendly competition into the mix and organize a steps challenge. Workers compete to earn the most steps with the winner awarded a prize. Trion Group, Inc. hosted our own challenge and the winner earned a gift card.
Beyond rewards, the financial overhead for this style of on-site fitness is low. There is no equipment or instructors. Workers can use their smartphones to track daily steps.
On-Site Fitness is at the Head of the Class
If you want to take on-site fitness to the next level, hire an exercise instructor to teach a class. Start with a weekly class. If interest peaks, consider adding new options. Chose a class that requires limited or no equipment. So, Zumba yes, SoulCycle no.
Some popular times for classes include lunch time, early morning and late afternoon. Early birds might come in for a 7 am aerobics class. Others want to shake off the mid-day slump with a lunch class. An end-of-day class is a strong option for on-site fitness programs for employees as it lets workers go home after to shower.
This option requires open, indoor space, so it may not be available to all companies. Space for the class should be removed from other workers so the noise won’t bother them. Let all employees know class times so they can schedule meetings and phone calls accordingly.
Make sure proper legal protections are in place. Only hire insured instructors, preferably those certified in their specific fitness area. A lawyer should write waivers for employee participants that release the company from liability for injury.
Hit the Gym for On-Site Fitness
For the ultimate in workplace exercise, create a corporate gym. Buying equipment for employees is a hefty price commitment up front. However, the continual costs are low.
A gym would let workers exercise at their own pace at the time that’s best for them. Employees can squeeze in a session on the elliptical to clear their heads before that big presentation. Workers are more loyal to employers that look out for their well-being. 80% surveyed in one study said a workplace wellness program would entice them to stay with the company.
If budgets are a concern, partner with other companies in your building to buy equipment for on-site fitness. Workers would share the common exercise space. A corporate gym is an incentive to convince new companies to come into the building. As with classes, draw up a legal waiver for employees to sign before using the equipment.
On-site fitness programs for employees require an investment of time and money, yet could offer long-term cost savings. For every dollar spent on workplace wellness, employers saved $1 to $3 per employee on annual healthcare costs. Engagement in corporate fitness programs reduces sick days and increases productivity, which affect the bottom line.
One-third of prospective employees said free exercise classes would impact their decision to accept a new job. A little more than one-fifth said the same thing about an on-site gym. In the current employee’s market with its low unemployment rates, any advantage is a smart move.
Welcome to 2018! A new page in the calendar means time to set new intentions. 45% of Americans make a new year’s resolution. The most popular are losing weight, exercising, and quitting smoking.
While those are worthy ambitions, have you thought about making a career resolution instead? This year, devote time and energy to improving your performance at the office. Here are 3 ideas for how to make 2018 your best career year yet.
1. Learn a new skill
Ask yourself: What are the gaps in my skill set? What do I need to know to be more productive in my job?
Once you have your answers, investigate the best way to learn. Consider your time and your budget. Find out if your company offers reimbursement for professional development activities. If not, instead negotiate for the time to learn via low cost or free methods.
Fortunately, there are many platforms to help you meet this career resolution. Industry conferences are the costliest and most time-consuming. However, you can fully immerse yourself and pick up multiple skills from experts in your field. Your local community college is another resource for in-person professional development courses.
If virtual is more your speed, Coursera and EdX offer online classes at a variety of price points, including free. There are also countless YouTube tutorials and TED talks available to stream. If your gaps are “soft skills,” like time management, you might benefit from one of those videos.
Taking initiative to acquire a new skill shows your boss you are serious about improving your performance in 2018. Lifelong learning is a mark of intelligence and commitment.
2. Find or be a mentor
A mentor is a powerful ally as you climb the career ladder. Their feedback can help you make important decisions.
If you are a new graduate, a former professor may transition into the role of mentor, especially if your career lines up with your major. If you are further along in your career, search your professional network. On LinkedIn, look for a second degree connection whose career path you admire. Ask common acquaintances for an introduction.
Live networking events are another opportunity to meet a potential mentor. Your chamber of commerce is a good resource to find such opportunities.
Becoming a mentor and sharing your wisdom is another take on this career resolution. The best mentoring relationships are give and take. You and your mentee should both learn from each other. Providing career guidance to another can grow your self-confidence in your job.
If you want to share what you’ve learned, it’s easy to find a mentee. Many college alumni associations offer mentor match programs, pairing you with a student or young alumni. Your company might also have formal mentoring opportunities.
Technology means you don’t need to be in the same city or country as your mentor or mentee. Skype sessions, FaceTime, and Google video hangouts are free ways to have a conversation across time zones.
3. Vow to unplug
A digital detox can benefit both your mental health and your job performance. Being connected 24-7 gives the flexibility to work anytime and anyplace, which is a blessing and a curse.
Our brains can only handle so much information at once. Have you ever missed important details in a meeting because you were focused on checking your inbox? Interpersonal communication depends heavily on body language. What subtle clues are you giving coworkers in a meeting or friends over dinner if one eye is always on your phone?
There are several ways to temporarily unplug so you can meet this career resolution and improve your productivity. Install internet blocking software to minimize distractions when trying to hit deadlines. Charge your phone outside of your bedroom each night. Try not checking your work email on a Sunday. Use the time you save to engage in good-for-you, analog pursuits like cooking, exercising, and reading.
A mental reset means we face Monday morning better able to handle the challenges of a new work week.
Taking on a career resolution in 2018 can open new doors of professional success. By improving your relationships and your skill sets you increase your value at work. That sets you on the road to making a true impact in your job.
We’ve reached December! Many of your employees are preparing to celebrate Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa/Festivus, etc.
It is also a season of stress, with cooking, gift shopping, and traveling. Adding some joy to the workday can help people forget their to-do lists, even for a little while.
So, why limit the merry making to after work hours? A thoughtful, seasonal celebration can raise office morale. Here are three ideas to make December a month to remember.
1. Give Back
The saying goes, “It’s better to give than to receive.” Channel some of that spirit of generosity into a holiday giving program.
Here at Trion, we collect toys and games for Toys for Tots, which celebrates its 70thanniversary in 2017. In 2016, the charity distributed 18 million toys. Many workers, especially those with kids, are already shopping for toys this month. This program is a simple way to give a child a little holiday wonder.
Another popular option is a sponsoring a family. The Soldiers’ Angels program collects toys and gift cards for military families. Ask your county’s social services agency which local families need extra cheer. Departments could team up to buy wish list items for parents and children in need.
If you’d rather take a more active approach, organize a volunteer event. Serving food at a homeless shelter or visiting elderly residents a nursing home are two ways to spread good cheer around your community. Some people do not have family and a hot meal or a friendly chat are simple ways to brighten their spirits.
2. Friendly Competition
Spark a little good-natured boasting at the office with a friendly, low stakes competition.
Many cultures serve traditional sweets at the holidays. Host an office bake-off. Workers whip up their seasonal favorites. The culinary-challenged serve as judges. When’s there dessert, everyone wins, but consider a small prize, like a gift card to a specialty food store for the winner.
Ugly sweater parties have become a staple this time of year. Bring the fun to the office to see who has the craziest wardrobe. Employees appreciate the chance to dress down and show off their playful side. Staff votes for their co-worker with the wildest ensemble and he or she is awarded a little gift.
Employees with desk jobs spend 40 hours (or more) at their desks each week. At least for a little while, make them festive. A cubicle and office decorating contest lets workers’ creativity shine. From twinkly lights to paper snowflakes, see who has the most style. People can tour the building and anonymously pick their favorite decorations. Consider a gift card to a craft store to honor the winner.
3. Not-too-Perfect Presents
Secret gift exchanges are a fun way to encourage interaction. Each employee gets the name of a colleague and anonymously drops off small treats throughout the month. At the end, workers reveal their identities and give a closing present, within a set budget. Pair employees from different departments to let them get to know people from outside their immediate team.
A white elephant party is another way to create camaraderie. Anyone who wants to participate brings a wrapped present of a set value. Workers draw numbers and number one unwraps a gift. Number two can unwrap their own gift or steal from number one. This continues everyone has a present. With large organizations, consider department-specific white elephants to make the event manageable.
When adding December festivities to the calendar, it’s important to respect all workers’ traditions. These events should always be optional and low-stakes, so employees who wish to opt-out feel no pressure. When decorating, consider a ban on overtly religious symbols. General winter themes are an inclusive way to create a little magic.
Holiday season can be time for team-building and bonding. Special events foster a sense of community among staff. Among the hustle and bustle of December, spreading smiles and goodwill ends the year on a positive note.