It has become rare to eat a meal with friends without having at least one person request modifications to their dish. More restaurants offer build-your-own options, from salads to stir-fry to the traditional Korean dish, bibimbap. This desire for customization goes further than food. People are looking for it in their jobs as well.
People want jobs they can customize to complement their lifestyle. For companies to stay competitive in the job market, they need to offer such flexibility.
Many employees have demanding responsibilities at home and at work. Trying to balance it all can become overwhelming, resulting in low quality work or missed assignments. Letting employees choose their own work schedule or work remotely helps them balance their responsibilities. This improves job satisfaction and productivity and reduces absenteeism.
Employees who have workplace flexibility achieve more, are happier at work and are less prone to burnout and psychological stress. Employees want work flexibility.
- 51% of employees would switch to a job that allows them flextime.
- 37% of employees would switch to a job that allows them to work off-site at least part of the time.
- 42% of employees would take a lower-paying job if it offers more work flexibility.
- Some employees are even willing to leave their current jobs for a series of temporary jobs, just to have flexible hours.
Sixty-nine percent of full-time employees are not completely satisfied with their current benefits. With five generations in the workplace, it’s easy to see how one benefit plan can miss the needs of employees who are in different stages of their lives. Tuition reimbursement may be popular with Millennials, but how relevant is it to Baby Boomers who are looking ahead at retirement? How about offering some flexibility with your benefits?
- Flexible Benefit Plans: Employers can offer core benefits (salary, health insurance, and retirement). They can add optional choices like life insurance or dental insurance. Costs for optional benefits can either fully paid by employers or shared with the employees.
- Flexible Spending Accounts: Employers can offer flexible spending accounts where employees deposit pre-tax dollars to spend on child care or transportation. Employers can also contribute to these funds.
- Paid Time Off (PTO): Instead of a division between vacation days and sick days, employers can offer a bank of total paid time off. This prevents healthy workers from getting “penalized” because they are not using sick days and discourages employees from calling-in sick for a day off.
Not every company can offer flexible schedules or flexible benefits to their employees. All companies can create flexible environments to complement their employees’ lifestyle and values. Here are some perks your company can offer to employees:
- Casual dress code
- Pet-friendly office
- Summer hours
- Wellness programs with discounted gym memberships or on-site yoga classes
- Transportation or parking reimbursement
- Volunteer day
Flexibility is important to attract and keep talent in this competitive job market. Remember to keep your company’s culture, values, and operations in mind to balance your with your employees’ wants.
The presence of many generations in the workplace creates its share of challenges for employers. Organizations feature blends of Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials, with the first members of Gen Z joining the team.
It’s tempting to focus your benefits communications on those in the early stages of their careers. Here are three tips to ensure that you don’t forget the needs of your older employees when you communicate about employee benefits.
1. Put the “youth movement” in perspective.
No one can dispute the critical importance of the Millennial generation to the future of the global economy. Researchers speculate this segment of the population could make up 75 percent of the American workforce by 2025. Each day brings us closer to that reality, but there is still a need to speak to the other generations that make up your current staff. It’s a good idea to review your benefits communication tactics to ensure they are an accurate reflection of your workplace. Pay attention to everything from the images you select to the tone of your messages.
2. Match your message to your usage.
In a data-driven age, use the available tools to determine employees’ preferred method to receive messages
. But be cautious about using certain tactics across your company. Social media
is a growing area of benefits communication. An organization that has a high percentage of employees over age 60 may want to stick to more traditional tactics to reach this group, though
As for the message itself, consider which segment of your employee population is most likely to use a particular benefit. For example, if you have a greater number of older employees, you may want to emphasize the highlights of your company’s prescription drug plan.
3. Help older employees reach their goals.
While each generation in the workplace has visions of retiring one day, older employees have the finish line in sight. With a greater number of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age each year, address both their pre- and post-retirement needs. This could include info on how a 401(k) works after retirement or the portability of certain employee-paid voluntary benefits. As employees become eligible for Medicare, you can explain the differences between Medicare and employer-provided health care.
Employee benefits are routinely cited as a key part of a company’s talent retention effort. Make sure your communications deliver an engaging message to both your current MVPs and the rising stars that will one day fill their roles.
As with everything now, there’s a new term that describes what I am: a foodie traveler – someone who travels for food. As such, I value (and take) every one of my vacation days. I have used my vacation days to taste crawfish in New Orleans, crab cakes in Maryland, smoked ribs in Texas, and pasta in Italy, with time for sight-seeing. Even at this moment, I’m researching top BBQ restaurants in North Carolina for an upcoming trip. But, I appear to be in the minority.
According to a study from Project: Time Off, 54 percent of Americans did not use all their vacation days in 2016. That left a total of 662 million unused days. Reasons employees gave related to concerns about their employer’s perception of them, including:
- Fear that taking vacation could make them appear less dedicated at work (26%)
- Do not want to be seen as replaceable (23%)
- Worried that they would lose consideration for a raise of promotion (21%)
However, the managers surveyed in this study agreed:
- Improves health and well-being (82%)
- Boosts morale (82%)
- Alleviates burnout (81%)
- Improves employees’ focus upon return (78%)
- Renews employees’ commitment to their job (70%)
Where’s the Disconnect?
The same study discovered that two-thirds (2/3) of American employees receive none, negative, or mixed messages from their company about taking time off. A majority of managers recognize the benefits of taking time off, but many do not engage with their employees about vacations. This lack of communication creates an unintentional “vacuum where negative perceptions thrive”. In fact, 76 percent of employees said if they felt fully supported and encouraged by their boss, they would be likely to take more time off.
Why Should This Matter to Employers?
“Why should I care if my employees don’t want to take any time off? It’s their decision.”
There are many reasons why employers should care that their employees take time off. There are benefits to both the well-being of the employee and the company’s bottom-line.
- Improved Productivity: Logic says employees are more productive when they’re in the office working and not on vacation. Yet working for long periods without time off hurts concentration, creativity and productivity
- Improved Health and Well-being: Taking a break lets employees recharge, reduce stress and lower the chance of developing depression or heart disease. This can help cut down on sick days and employee burnout
- Increased Job Satisfaction: Project: Time Off’s State of American Vacation 2016 found employees whose bosses supported vacation were more happy with their jobs.
- Reduced Liability on Company’s Balance Sheet: In 2016, there was a $272 billion vacation liability sitting on the balance sheets of American companies. With employees not taking vacation and rolling their unused paid time off to the following year(s), this liability continues to grow.
What Can Employers Do?
Employers and managers have a significant role to play in ensuring that their team members take time off. Here are some things you can do:
- Engage Your Employees About Vacation: Talk to your team. Ask them about upcoming vacations or plans. Discuss the value of taking some time off. Let them know that you are supportive of it.
- Take Time Off: There’s no better way to lead than by example. Start taking time off and your employees will follow.
- Limit Carry-Over of Paid Time Off: A hard deadline for using vacation days may encourage more employees to take vacation now instead of continuing to push it off.
- Reward Employees with a Day Off: After the completion of a huge project or a busy season, reward your hard-working employees with a day off so that they can recharge.
Go Big or Go Home
Some companies have implemented company-wide policies to ensure that their employees take time off. Here are examples of what some companies are doing:
- TED closes for two weeks every summer.
- Salesforce offers seven paid volunteer days a year to employees.
- HubSpot enforces a minimum two-week vacation for all employees. Salespeople are allowed to reduced their quotas twice a year so that they feel comfortable using their two-week vacations.
- SteelHouse offers $2,000 a year for their employees to use for travel expenses for vacation.
If you’re still eyeing that cruise to Bermuda, now might be the time to take it. For me at least, I know there are definitely some Las Vegas buffets in my future.
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.
It’s finally over! I’m not talking about the presidential election, although I’m sure most of us are glad that’s over, too. No, I’m talking about Open Enrollment. My final client’s enrollment window opened this morning, which means all of the dozens of enrollment communications I’ve helped create for my clients are done.
That doesn’t mean, however, that my to-do list is blank. Far from it. My work now focuses on the “after” – that is, post-enrollment communications.
What does that look like? For some clients, it’s a video campaign slated for early January designed to help employees know what to do and expect when the new plan year begins. For others, it’s a wallet card listing vendor contact information so that employees can easily reach out to the right resource for help. We shape each client’s post-enrollment communications around who they are, what they offer, and what kind of support we believe their employees need most.
Whether you engage a vendor like the Trion Communications team, or you handle communications yourself, it’s a growing imperative in the benefits world to do something after enrollment season ends. Going silent the rest of the year is no longer the status quo. As I’ve said in a previous post, if you aren’t regularly supporting your employees in getting the most out of their benefits, you’re missing a huge opportunity.
So what should your post-enrollment communications focus on? These questions can help you get started:
Have you introduced a consumer-driven health plan or moved to total replacement CDHPs? CDHPs require knowledge and buy-in from employees. If you don’t tell employees what they need to know and support them in using the plan effectively, you risk setting them up for dissatisfaction, both with the plan and with you.
Have you changed, added or dropped any other plans or vendors? Have you added voluntary benefits like accident and critical illness insurance? Gotten rid of a popular PPO plan and pushed enrollment into a different type of plan? Changed vendors for dental or vision so that employees may need to find new in-network providers? Tell them what they need to know and do to use the new benefits successfully, and offer a place (intranet, benefits portal, enrollment site, etc.) where they can easily access information anytime they need it.
What were the most common questions you fielded from employees during Open Enrollment? If you got 20 inquiries from different employees about how much they can contribute to an HSA or how often they’re eligible for new glasses under the vision plan, you should take that as a sign. Your communications can be as simple as a list of FAQs that you post to the intranet, or you could turn it into a regular series of brief emails from HR, with each email providing the answer to one common question.
Do you offer benefits or programs that historically have low utilization/participation? Is engagement with your wellness program low? Does no one call the EAP? Do most employees not contribute up to your 401(k) match limit? Actively promoting what you offer year-round is a win-win for you and for your employees.
Need more help crafting a post-enrollment communication plan? Check out the client samples in our portfolio to give you some ideas, or feel free to give us a call to see how we can help!