Did you know that offering employees the opportunity to bring their pets to work is a current trend? It’s true! According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), nine percent of employers already have an office policy allowing pets. This includes some well-recognized employers-of-choice such as Google, Amazon, Salesforce and Workday.
The fact is that the percentage of workplaces with a pet-friendly policy has more than doubled in the past four years. Benefits experts believe that this percentage will continue to increase in the future.
Why you may ask? According to a business magazine called Chief Executive, the next generation of business professionals want it. A survey conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital found that more than 66 percent of human resource decision makers said that potential candidates asked if the workspace was pet-friendly during their interview process.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. A pet-friendly environment can benefit both the employer and the employee. The employer may see increased retention, loyalty, productivity, and morale in their staff. On the other hand, the employee may experience decreased stress and absenteeism, according to a recent study from the Virginia Commonwealth University. As an added bonus, when you allow pets in the office, employees may be more engaged and willing to work a full day. The policy eliminates their need to worry about rushing home to check-in on their pet.
If you already have a program like this or are looking to start one, consider effective communications a key element of its success. Here are some ways to make sure you’re engaging employees appropriately:
Make Sure Every Employee’s Voice is Heard
In order for a pet-friendly workspace to be successful, employees need to feel included. With this in mind, be sure to remember everybody might not have a pet or feel comfortable around animals. That’s why it’s important to find out where people are. Do this by talking to coworkers who might be worried about this implementation, are allergic, or have any questions or concerns. Engage them in a short online poll, focus groups or informal meetings to get their thoughts. Use what you learn to inform not only the program, but communications strategy. Arm managers with talking points so they know how to approach people on their teams who may be skeptical.
Design a “Frequently Asked Questions” Document That Lays Out Program Guidelines
One of the most important steps in creating this type of policy is making sure that the guidelines are clear. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are a user-friendly tool for distributing information in a way that can be scanned, easy to revisit, and quickly updated as questions come your way. Start with the questions you expect you’ll get the most. Write them in the way employees would ask them to make the information intuitive for search. Update often to aid in eliminating any confusion.
Get the Word Out Through the Appropriate Media
How you decide to spread the word to your employees is crucial. Are you going to send out a mass email? Post a flyer in the break room? Hold a company-wide meeting? Post it on your company’s intranet? There are many different ways to tell your employees about this new policy, but some may be more fitting for your company than others. The goal is to meet employees where you know they go most. This ensures that you are reaching as many people as possible. Even though younger workers tend to value this pet-friendly program most, not all want to receive information on line. Because we all learn differently, the best approach is to use a mix of approaches, from online to traditional. This guarantees that you connect with everybody somewhere.
Create Clear Messaging That Includes the Ground Rules
No matter how you decide to share information, remember that consistency is key. Reiterate the ground rules and key aspects of the policy often and through a variety of media so employees always know what to expect. If your message is direct, concise, and clear, employees are more likely to be receptive. Something to keep in mind is that when you begin to tire of the information, employees are just starting to get it.
Communicating the Pet-Friendly Policy in Recruitment
Your current workers aren’t the only ones who should know about this new policy. Promote it to job-searching millennials who, as we now know, are looking for pet-friendly offices. Talk to your Human Resources team to see how you can best communicate this policy in the recruitment process. That may include adding it to job postings on sites like Indeed or Glassdoor, putting it in the employee handbook and promoting it at job fairs. This could be a real deal maker for some candidates and in a tight job market, that counts!
As you can see, there are a lot of things to think about when educating your employees on how to embrace a pet-friendly office. Note that your communications strategy is crucial when explaining any new policy. Communicate well so you can set employees and your program up for real success.
A keystone of President Trump’s campaign was getting rid of the Affordable Care Act. Even before he took office last week, speculation about what might happen to the law was ubiquitous in the media.
For most employers, it’s probably too early to address the ACA within your organization. But if ACA gossip is spreading among your employees, you might want to consider some proactive communications. After all, nothing dispels water-cooler rumors as effectively as clear and honest information.
You might be thinking, “What is there to say? We are still trying to understand the current landscape and have not made any plans to change anything so far.”
Well, that’s exactly what you want to tell your employees. Here are a few tips to create an effective communication:
Start with a clear statement about what’s happening. You know there has been a lot of talk in the media, and you know the President signed an executive order on January 20 to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation” of any provision of the law (see the latest Trion HCR Alert for more on the executive order). However, Congress has not yet acted to repeal the law, and there’s no clear replacement on the table.
Next, tell employees where the company is. Say what you are doing – are you’re sitting tight and waiting for Congress to act? Are you working with your broker, legal counsel, etc., to understand the implications?
Say what you’re not doing, too, especially if you’re hearing specific rumors (e.g., “We’re not going to have benefits through the company anymore.”). If you are not currently planning to make any changes to your benefits strategy as a result of what’s happening now, state that clearly.
Be careful, however, that you don’t create misconceptions. For example, just because you’re not planning to change anything right now, doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. In fact, depending on what happens with the ACA, you may have to. And you will still do your due diligence at renewal time and may make some changes, like you always do – as of right now, the ACA’s fate won’t change that.
At the end of the day, employees want to know whether the rug will be pulled out from under them. Employer-provided benefits pre-date the ACA by decades, so pretty much all of your current workforce has known that world, even if they haven’t always worked in a job that offered employer benefits.
To assuage concerns, re-state your commitment to the health and well-being of your employees, to be executed in a way that is sustainable for the company and compliant with all applicable regulations. That’s what you do now, what you’ve been doing for years (long before the ACA), and that’s not changing.
Gratitude: That’s what I’m feeling right now. We come to the office every single day in the hopes of working with great people, doing meaningful work, and making a difference. And I’m delighted to say, in 2016, we did it! Thanks, in great part, to all of you.
Which is why, as we bring this year’s Open Enrollment and holiday season to its festive close, I want to give a big THANK YOU to those who’ve touched our practice, helping us do what we do. Thank you for entrusting us with your business, your time, your challenges, your opinions, your faith, your support, your ideas, and your collaborative genius. Thanks for sharing with us all the things that make you uniquely YOU. We look forward to doing it all over again next year!
Until then, have a very happy holiday season. Enjoy. Sleep in. Eat a lot. Give presents. Read a book. Hug your friends, shop the sales, and get your fill of holiday movies. Do your thing. And we’ll see you in 2017!!!
Consumerism. I’m not a fan of the word. I’m also not a fan of being deemed a “good consumer.” It’s odd praise to me. However, I am a fan of making good decisions—which to me means those that affect me or those I love in a positive way. So when I think about this buzzword “consumerism,” I really just think about it as the power given when presented with a choice.
As a mother of two small children, it’s a careful balancing act for me to help my kids be independent while guiding them toward good decisions, and telling them what to do while creating opportunities for them to decide for themselves. Honestly, it can be exhausting – after all, choices are all around us, every day. Do you want milk or water? Are you going to wear your jacket or not? Do you want the applesauce or slices of apple today?
Yet guiding my children to make their own choices is important, so I do everything I can to set them up to be successful. I think about the information I need to share and, most importantly, how I need to share it so that they receive it in a way that will enable them to make good decisions.
If, for example, I give the choice of wearing a jacket, I need to present the right information – what the weather is like, whether they will play outside in the afternoon, whether I think will they be too cold without one if they decide to leave it home (or should they play it safe and put it in their school bags).
I also think about how to share the information they need. If, for example, I tell them about the weather when they’re just waking up, or as I’m helping them get dressed, it’s too hard for them to process.
The same is true for our clients and their employees. Most people need time to consider what information has been shared, and then think about their options so they can make their choice and accept the outcome. It’s not enough to just toss benefits information at employees. Rather, employers need to paint the picture with the right context.
This morning, it was cool – not cold, but cool. So I told my son, “It’s a little cool and it’s raining, so you’ll need your umbrella, but you won’t have recess outside. It’s up to you if you want your jacket.” He emerged from his room wearing a long-sleeved shirt, fleece pants, socks and shoes, and got his umbrella from the spot where we keep them beside the door. I gave him the “are we all set?” look and he smiled and said, “No jacket, I’m not cold.”
Just to be certain, I opened the front door and said, “Want to double check?” He peeked his head out, decided he was all set, and off we went to school.
Whenever we present someone with a choice, context is critical. With enough information, making a good choice (remember my definition of “good” being relative to affecting the person in a positive way) becomes easier, and we’re more likely to accept the outcome of our decision.
Without enough information or the right context, well, let’s imagine what would happen if I hadn’t told my son it was cool and raining, and he just assumed that since it was light out, it was warm: a sad, wet, 5-year-old who blames his mommy for sending him out unprotected.
Instead, I gave him the pertinent details, in a way he could absorb the information. I let him choose, and then gave him a chance to confirm his decision. He got the power to choose, and made a choice that felt positive to him: he didn’t have to carry his jacket, he stayed dry, and got to show off his cartoon character-branded umbrella. A true kindergarten win!
So, the next time you have the ability to create choice for someone, ask yourself: Did you share enough information, in the right context? Or will someone blame you for sending them out uninformed?
The past several months have had me operating in triple time. There has been:
- preparations for my big debut on the TEDxWilmington Women stage,
- arthroscopic knee surgery the day after, and
- leading my team through the busy Open Enrollment season.
It’s probably no surprise that, with all three in the hopper, I’m feeling a bit down this week, which is why I’m taking the time to indulge myself in writing this blog – to help you and me, truthfully, find our way through it.
Here’s a six-step plan I’ve come up with as an antidote for living in the “after” – the gray space that happens when [that big thing] is over. Perhaps it can help you too!
- Just enjoy. Take a moment to smell the roses and bask in the afterglow of your achievements. I should be embarrassed to tell you how many times a day (15 to 30) I relive the standing ovation I got after I finished my TEDx talk, but the endorphin release has got to be good for my body. I worked hard for that moment and I’m proud of it. So, I’m going to milk it for all it’s worth until everybody is super sick of hearing about it (probably happened already) – including me (not there yet)!
- Reconnect to your peaceful and, if appropriate, spiritual self. The day after my talk and surgery, I spent a lot of time on the sofa binge-watching Doctor Foster on Netflix, reading People magazine (my version of pop rocks candy), and just breathing. While it helped that I couldn’t move around too much without crutches, I still would’ve taken the time to sit, think, process, and breathe.
- Imagine big. Ahhh, here’s the fun part. What comes next? I’ve just done my first TEDx talk. My knee is finally on the mend. I’m no longer worried about finding a team member on the window ledge during Open Enrollment. It’s time to paint a picture of what’s on deck next. I say challenge yourself and go for it! (Tedx talk number two? Maybe a book? Or a fun run?)
- Manifest. People, I’m here to tell you this works! I spent an entire year picturing myself in the red circle on the TEDx stage while listening to my theme song (yes, go ahead and laugh). And viola, I applied and they accepted. Just give it a try. What we give attention, we give power. So manifest away: your employees managing their health care spending like financial whiz kids, being fluent in the language of benefits, and thanking you for such a great benefits package and clear communications.
- Let go of anything that may be standing in your way. Letting go is, in fact, the subject of my talk. (I’ll share when it’s available!) That means problem-solving around whatever external obstacles may be in your way. And, doing the internal work necessary to have the life you want.
- Make it happen when you’re ready. That does not mean waiting for all conditions to be perfect. Rather, it means that when you’re equal parts exhilarated and terrified by the thought of doing something, you’re there. And if you need the kind of help the Trion Communications team offers, we are too!
As an organizational leader, how do you keep yourself engaged in your day-to-day tasks? Do you find that you sometimes want to mix things up a little and bring something new to your daily work process?
People depend on you for your skills and knowledge you have of your job and the company, so keeping yourself motivated is very important. With the busy months of open enrollment, it’s easy to get burned out and even lose focus. If we’re not motivated everyday by something, we may fall off track. Here are some tips to help you stay motivated, gain focus and keep you engaged in the daily demands of a busy work environment.
Remind yourself that it’s worthwhile. Recognize that you are helping your employees, peers or staff, by educating them on their benefits and helping them choose the right coverage for their families. Health insurance can be a tedious subject, but the knowledge that you bring can be both enlightening and invigorating.
Keep yourself and your employees informed. Not only do you want to keep your employees motivated about enrolling in their benefits, but you also want to make sure you are well informed about what your company offers. Learning more about your company and discovering hidden perks and programs that may be offered will keep you in the know – and to know is to believe.
Practice what you preach. When communicating good health and wellness behaviors to your employees, make sure you are taking your own advice. Stay motivated by choosing more healthy snacks during the day and making time to fit in an exercise or two. Take a walk with a colleague, or just stretch at your desk a few times a day. If you’re encouraging your employees to set goals to live a healthier lifestyle, show them that it’s not all talk.