How will shared decision making impact your end of year sales?

Unleash the power of shared decision-making, brought to you by Insperity.

By: Kelah Raymond

Shared decision-making is a process that draws on the combined knowledge of many stakeholders to make smarter, more effective decisions.

How does shared decision-making happen? What makes it different from collaboration? And how can you adapt a shared decision-making mindset if you’re used to making top-down decisions?

Shared decision-making is different from collaboration

Shared decision-making and collaboration both involve groups of people working together to achieve a goal. However, the goals for shared decision-making and collaboration are subtly different.

The shared decision-making process brings people together to decide on something. Collaboration brings people together to produce work.

Take the example of a product manager who needs to decide which new features to include in a software update.

In a shared decision-making process, the manager might talk to:

  • The product planning, engineering and marketing people on the team for input
  • Customer service representatives and salespeople who hear directly from customers about how they use the current version of the software and what they’d like to be able to do with it
  • Top customers about what they need
  • Other product managers in different regions to get their perspective and learn how they approach product updates

When it’s time to build the features that will be included, the product manager may collaborate with some or all those stakeholders to produce them.

Shared decision-making delivers multiple benefits

Health care and education are two fields that often use shared decision-making to improve outcomes for patients and students. But any organization can benefit from shared decision-making, because the process brings in perspectives and information that decision-makers might otherwise miss.

Here are some advantages shared decision-making can deliver.

1. Better employee engagement

When employees know that their input matters and see how it can contribute to business goals, they’re more likely to be engaged.

And when decisions are a topic of discussion, employees can share and discuss ideas. That also boosts employee engagement and can lead to more innovative ideas about how to make those decisions.

2. Better customer loyalty

When you’re planning to make a decision that will impact your customers, it makes sense to hear from them.

In a shared decision-making process, like our product manager example, you can gather insights from your sales, customer service and technical support teams and major customers.

You can also survey your customers and use that data to inform your decisions. When customers know you’re listening to and delivering on their needs and wants, they’re more likely to stay engaged with your product.

3. Improved change management

You may have heard the statistic that 70% of change initiatives fail due to poor communication and a lack of buy-in.

But with shared decision-making, communication is more open and frequent among leaders, front-line managers and employees. That can improve buy-in at all levels.

4. Fewer unintended consequences

No one wants to make a business decision that goes badly. When you make a decision on your own, you may not have all the information you need, which raises the risk of making a bad decision. That’s bad for the business and could be bad for your job, too.

When you get more perspectives and information during the decision-making process, you’re less likely to run into problems you didn’t anticipate once the decision is made.

How to put shared decision-making into practice

If you’re new to management, or if you’re used to working in organizations with a top-down decision-making culture, moving to shared decision-making can take some getting used to.

Here are five steps to take to make the switch.

1. Start small

Focus on small changes you can make within your own team or department first.

Trying to make changes that affect groups outside your immediate sphere of influence is too much to take on when you’re just getting used to the shared decision-making process.

2. Start early in the decision-making process

The sooner you gather the information you need, the more likely it is you’ll make good decisions. You’ll also save time.

For example, if you know your employee benefits portal needs an overhaul, it’s better to talk to your stakeholders before you start deciding what elements should be part of the new site.

3. Make it a natural part of your workplace conversations

Finding time to loop people into the decision-making process can be a challenge. And making the discussions too formal can make stakeholders uncomfortable.

One way to ease into the process is to start asking questions related to your upcoming decisions whenever you’re chatting with team members, customers and colleagues.

When you’re always seeking input, people may be more comfortable answering your questions – and they may start coming to you with their ideas.

4. Ask exploratory questions

It’s hard to make a good decision if you don’t know what you don’t know. Asking your stakeholders open-ended questions will give you more useful information than yes-no questions.

For example, do you need to write job descriptions for new roles? Make a point of asking team members who’ve done that job, or one like it, what skills they think are essential and why.

Encourage your stakeholders in the decision-making process to ask you and each other questions, too. They may raise issues you hadn’t considered.

5. Know when to call a meeting

Casual conversations can give you initial information to help you see where your decision-making process needs to go. However, when a decision will affect your entire team, you’ll need to get everyone together to talk about it for the sake of transparency, brainstorming and buy-in.

The leader owns the decision

With so many people contributing to the shared decision-making process, it’s natural to wonder who takes responsibility for the finalized decision.

The leader or manager guiding those conversations is responsible for the decision and the outcome.

In the example of the product manager planning a software update, the manager may get a dozen suggestions for new features from other stakeholders. Based on those conversations along with other factors like budget considerations, it’s the manager’s responsibility to decide which ones to include.

If that decision turns out to be the wrong call, a good manager will take responsibility for it, rather than use shared decision-making to share the blame. However, with all the stakeholder information that shared decision-making provides, a bad call is less likely than if the manager was making the decision alone.

By tapping into the collective knowledge and insights of your employees, colleagues and customers, shared decision-making strengthens your ability to make choices that benefit your company, your customers and your career.

Contact us at info@capital-benefits.com to talk more about how to be a decision maker in your client’s employee benefits packages for 2020.

How will you avoid the political pitfalls in 2020 and remembering “a client is always a client”

“2020 vision: Avoiding political pitfalls in the year to come”

With the 2020 election year just around the corner, brokers shared their insights into managing political discussions.

By Alan Goforth | November 04, 2019 at 10:35 AM

Public speaking can be a valuable way for brokers to build their reputation and recognition as thought leaders in the community. It also can be a potential landmine in these politically charged times, as Ken Stevenson is well aware.

“I was asked to speak to a civic organization about the Affordable Care Act shortly after it passed,” says Stevenson, vice president, employee benefits, for the Earl Bacon Agency in Tallahassee, Florida. “The president of the organization pulled me aside beforehand and said, ‘I want you to know we have a lot of Democrats here, so please be sensitive to that.’

“I laughed and told him, ‘At the end of my presentation, I challenge you to tell me which party I’m registered with.’ I received more compliments out of that engagement than most I’ve done. All I did was lay out the facts.”

Related: How to talk politics and policy with clients 

Not everyone, however, handles these situations with this much diplomacy. Recent elections have shown that the country is divided nearly 50/50 over many political figures and hot-button issues. Every broker at some point must deal with clients who not only disagree with them politically, but often do so belligerently.

With the 2020 election year just around the corner, several brokers from across the nation shared their insights into managing political discussions and how to keep politics from interfering with sound recommendations:

Here is what they have to say about politics and business.

Are you seeing increased political polarization and rhetoric in your client relationships? Has it ever created problems or is it something you have been able to manage?

Suzy Alberts: “The political polarization of our country definitely flows into the workplace and into our client relationships. It is important to watch for signals of a client’s political leanings before taking a position. I am always respectful, even when my opinions are different. But I also think it is OK to have a respectful conversation about how and why my opinion may differ. Most people have a very narrow view, which informs their opinions. My goal is to broaden their perspective with information and facts. If I sense someone is digging in, I look for ways to redirect the conversation.”

Emily Bremer: “That is certainly true. Whether you are connecting with friends on Facebook or talking to clients in a business setting, you cannot avoid the highly charged and polarized political climate in which we currently find ourselves. I think having both awareness of this issue and respect for the views of others is key in managing the political minefield. Our clients run the full spectrum from far left to far right and everything in between. But at the end of the day, they aren’t coming to us for our political views. They are coming to us for help with one of the biggest costs they bear as a business. When we address that need first, solutions drive the politics and not the other way around.”

Eric Kohlsdorf: “In most cases, political views are not something I talk about with clients. If they bring something up that is politically motivated, I usually steer clear unless it has something to do with health care financing; and I’ve never lost a client over a political divide. Saying that, I bring a perspective to the table as a diabetic, a utilizer of the system and as a business owner trying to manage budgets. So I think my clients appreciate what I bring, regardless of our political viewpoints.”

Ken Stevenson: “When working with business owners, you are dealing with strong-minded individuals, because that’s what it takes to own a business. And many have very strong political opinions. It’s never been a problem for me. Politics tend to be very emotional. I stick to the facts and stay clear of emotions. When the ACA passed, I made it my mission to educate business owners on the ACA and how it could affect them. I simply laid out the facts, told them their responsibilities and let them make their own conclusions.”

Debbie Stocks: “I see this sometimes with clients, though not as frequently as we see it in the media. I typically manage political polarization by keeping my focus on my purpose: to help employers attract and retain quality employees by offering a competitive benefits package. When I see that a client is very passionate (for or against) health care law, health care reform, or other political issues, I remain objective and seek to educate the client regarding the law, rules and regulations. I often say, `It’s my job to let you know what is required and where the opportunities lie. It’s your job to decide how you will utilize this information. We may not like any or all of the law; but, we should work to provide the benefits package that is best for you and your employees.’”

Scott Wham: “While I agree that the intensity of the rhetoric around health policy has intensified nationally in recent years, I’ve experienced an inverse phenomenon at the client level. When I entered the industry seven years ago, the ACA fast-tracked consultations into a discussion ripe for political opinion. I think this was likely due to the fact that the ACA had a direct impact on the bottom line for all businesses.

“Whether in agreement with the provisions or not, there was a shared acknowledgment that the ACA changed budgets, revenue and outlays. My consultations benefited from a shared agreement on this fact, and at times, clients would share their direct opinions. Today, there’s more of an awareness in the room that political polarization exists—that the possibility of disagreement is likely. Most people seem to know that the wrong presumption can have significant consequences on a professional relationship. I sense a heightened awareness that the topic should be avoided.”

What are some practical ways for brokers to steer conversations away from hot-button political issues? Or if they do engage in conversation, how can they do so gracefully?

Bremer: “In 2014, I had the opportunity to attend the launch of the SHOP exchange at the White House. An old friend of mine who had been to the White House several times for work in the past gave me two great pieces of advice that I have adhered to ever since. He said, `Stick to logistics and only talk about what you really know.’ I find that when politics comes up, clients more often than not want to vent and be heard more than they are looking to hear what I have to say. I try to listen and understand their point of view, and keep my input squarely in the frame of what is logistically possible within the current laws and regulations, and only comment on what I can speak to with confidence.”

Kohlsdorf: “Certainly political polarization is prevalent in health care, and our industry has been thrust into the political forefront with the passing of the ACA. If and when my clients bring these political issues up, I address them with the facts of the law and stay away from political leanings. For example, Medicare for All or the public option is a big topic now. Regardless of the side of the aisle on which you sit, it affects your opinion. I address how these options will affect the private system that nearly 70 percent of Americans use today. The answer emphasizes the cost, which is obviously the biggest issue in health care. Our conversations usually end with my clients asking, `What is the answer, then?’ which always circles back to the cost of care and the layering of more and more regulations, both state and national, that impact only a portion of the population but increase the costs for everyone.”

Stevenson: “Don’t steer away. The owner has concerns, and they need to be heard. If he or she doesn’t talk them through with you, they will with someone else. Trust me, I have gotten plenty of new clients because a competitor told them, ‘Don’t worry, the ACA will get repealed.’ My strategy was to educate and prepare clients for either outcome. Business owners want to be prepared, not ignored.”

Stocks: “Remain objective. Discuss the rules, regulations and opportunities for the clients. There is almost always something positive he or she can use to help the business. Sometimes, but rarely, a potential client is passionate on an issue and wants my total agreement with his or her opinions. Some can be very argumentative. I can think of a case or two where I’ve had to excuse myself as a potential broker. I just did not want to engage in political debates and arguments.”

Wham: “First and foremost, I start with an agenda. It’s basic, but it does a great deal in the way of directing the conversation away from hot-button topics. I never aim to engage, but I would point out that there are times when polarized topics might assist in understanding the client view. As an example, in 2017, you couldn’t discuss benefits without addressing the likelihood of success of the ACA repeal efforts. Most industry experts knew the probability of repealing the ACA was very low, but some media coverage pushed a different view. As a consultant, I had to acknowledge the client view while ensuring that I did not provide a false sense of security that the measures would pass. It brought me close to the flame, but sticking to dispassionate facts tended to serve me well. Plus, there’s always, `Let’s get back to the agenda.’”

Alberts: “Because of my membership in NAHU, I can bring facts and details into the conversation, which are helpful to broaden their perspective. Many people don’t understand the `why’ behind many issues. My goal is to give them details that broaden their understanding. Sometimes, however, you have to agree to disagree. I am married to a Canadian and lived in Ontario for the first 12 years of our marriage, but still worked in Michigan. During those years, I observed a lot of issues with universal health care. People `fall through the cracks’ in Canada for different reasons. I try to bring those experiences into conversations to help people understand that there is no perfect system. There are limitations in the Ontario Health Insurance Plan that most Americans don’t know exist. And clearly, health care is not free in either country.”

Can personal political views cloud good judgment on client recommendations? How can brokers avoid allowing personal biases to interfere with sound business practices?

Kohlsdorf: “Everyone, even those who suggest otherwise, has political views. I would absolutely say personal views, political or not, can cloud good judgment. However, in business, successful people can separate the two. In our industry, successful agents, brokers and consultants spend time understanding their clients’ concerns and need, not assuming what they need. When you understand a client’s concerns, you can work together on solutions and address them from a business perspective rather than a personal political bias. If you can’t separate the two, my guess would be that client will soon become a prospect again.”

Stevenson: “Yes it can! I missed a speaking engagement due to illness and had another broker fill in. Afterwards, I heard from several people who attended and said they felt they were listening to Fox News. My substitute gave her opinions and trashed the ACA. It turned everyone off!”

Stocks: “Yes. I saw this happen many times just after ACA passed. Unfortunately, many brokers expected the law to fail and did not educate themselves regarding the implementation of the law. By standing with complete obstinance against the law, many lost clients. Our clients needed us in the early days to guide them through the rules and regulations of the ACA. Most clients were fearful and confused. I was able to grow my business exponentially from 2011 through 2015 by walking new clients through the ACA rules and regulations. Once we completed that understanding, they were open to working with my agency for their benefits package.”

Wham: “I don’t typically encounter this in the field. The market is far too competitive to ignore the client’s best interests in pursuit of fulfilling one’s own political manifesto. The best consultants are self-aware and focused on client needs. Furthermore, the best consultants tend to have extensive training, supportive management and seek to continually learn about health care advances, which helps reduce the likelihood of irrational passions infiltrating client recommendations. I sincerely believe that the more one learns about their industry, the more dispassionate they become when providing advice.”

Alberts: “It is always important to step away and assess what is best for the client. A truly independent broker will always look for the solution that is best for the client, rather than for themselves.

“In the early days of the ACA, I suggested to several small businesses that they should give up their group plan and allow their employees to go to the marketplace. I am not certified to sell on the marketplace, so I brought in another broker to assist them. There was nothing in it for me, but it was definitely right for the business. In the process, I lost a client but helped uninsured employees get the coverage they needed, some with major subsidies. Ethical agents will always help clients find what’s best for the client and their employees.”

Bremer: “If a broker is putting the needs of the client first, personal bias shouldn’t get in the way. Whenever I make a recommendation to a client, I always take into account the big picture. For example, a very healthy young group may seem like the perfect candidate for self-funding on paper, but not if they pay their bills late and refuse to adhere to basic compliance requirements. Politics are no different. It is important to challenge your clients and help them see the benefits of something that may be outside of their comfort zone so they don’t miss out on an opportunity, but if they ultimately decide they don’t want a particular type of plan for personal or philosophical reasons, that’s OK, too. Right or wrong, people rarely depend solely on cost and logic for health plan decisions.”

What advice would you give to other brokers for the upcoming election year?

Stevenson: “We get so much misinformation close to election time. I sometimes joke about it with clients. I even had a top-10 list of ridiculous claims. I’ve received emails that were recycled from eight years ago and they all have the same theme: fear. It’s no different from any other scam. If it starts with `You’re not going to believe this, but….’ then don’t! It’s amazing the amount of trust you can build with a client who knows you don’t fall for everything. They appreciate a skeptic.”

Stocks: “The most important point, I believe, is to remain focused on the job that I, as a broker and consultant, have been hired to do for my client. My opinions regarding health care reform and any other law are my issue. My client needs me to compile an excellent, affordable benefits package to attract and retain employees so the business can grow. “ Alberts: “I always respect the client’s opinion and try to understand what is driving it. As Simon Sinek says: `Find their why!’ Only when I understand where they are coming from can I provide insight and facts that may sway their opinion. But sometimes, you have to respectfully agree to disagree.”

Bremer: “I think the real issue around brokers and politics is that not enough of them are stepping up to educate their legislators about what the real issues are and what will and won’t work in reality. NAHU does a tremendous job on the federal level advocating for employers and individuals to make sure that legislation is drafted in the best way possible so it will ultimately function in reality. The state chapters do the same thing on their level. However, not enough brokers and agents feel the need to get involved and support their industry’s professional association with this important work. We have too few doing the work for so many. Our clients and our peers have too much at stake to let legislators who don’t have the depth of knowledge and experience that we do get it wrong. It is imperative that everyone who can engage does. It is time to get off the sidelines and get to work. Our clients and our country are depending on us.”

Kohlsdorf: “I spend a lot of time at the state capitol talking to legislators on both sides of the aisle about health care issues. Understanding how each comes at an issue is extremely important to understand. This translates outside of the capitol as well. Our industry is a highly regulated and politicized environment. The more we can understand opposing views, the more we can work together on a resolution. The more we understand our clients’ views, the more we can work together on the solution. This starts by listening.”

The bottom line

No one—whether client or broker—can fully separate their political opinions from their professional relationships. Perhaps the best advice is to keep in mind the old adage:

The client may not always be right, but the client is always the client.

“As brokers, we can educate and inform them, and as partners try to guide them to solutions that meet as many of their goals as possible,” Bremer says. “I don’t always agree with their decisions, but ultimately, they are the ones who have to live with them.”

Broker Resources to Help Employers Choose Best-Fit Benefits Technology Solutions

Figure 1: Sources Used When Selecting an Integrated Software Solution

Conferences: 51%
Webinars: 37%
Business groups/associations: 37%
Brokers: 36%
Colleagues: 32%
Industry analysts: 17%
Other: 16%

Brokers provide real value by educating employers on their technology options and helping them choose an integrated benefits administration platform that can efficiently manage employee benefits and meet employee needs.

To successfully take on this consultative role, however, brokers must stay on top of technology trends. Consider the following conferences and articles as sources of education on this mission-critical topic:

CONFERENCES

To end the year and start the next

3rd Annual International HR Forum. March 26 to 27, 2020. Radisson Blu Hotel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Human Resource Executive® Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. April 15- 17, 2020. Aria Resort & Casino, Las Vegas.
SHRM Annual Conference & Exhibition. June 28 – July 1, 2020. San Diego.

Articles

Learn and grow your employee benefits business


This HR tech could help employees make better enrollment decisions. Caroline Hroncich. Employee Benefit News.
Top 4 HR trends to watch this year. Midge Seltzer. Employee Benefits News.
Know what you need to select a benefits provider. Dave Zielinski. Society for Human Resources Management.
Personalization is Key to Benefits tech success. Kathryn Mayer. Employee Benefit News.
Empowering employees with tech solutions. Kathryn Mayer. Employee Benefit Adviser.
In review: 21 benefits technology innovators. Kathryn Mayer. Employee Benefit News.

Organizations
Benefit Advisors Network, benefitadvisorsnetwork.com
National Association of Health Underwriters, nahu.org
Society for Human Resource Management, shrm.org

Broker Tip: Because technology is always changing, you need to learn everything you can about employee benefits administration systems — and then learn some more. This will help you support your clients with their benefits technology needs and help recommend ideas that will allow them better serve their employees.

Methodology
In February and March of 2019, SourceMedia Research/Employee Benefit News conducted an online survey of 401 HR professionals. The study, commissioned by AXA Equitable, had the following requirements for participants: manager level or above; benefits technology decision-making responsibility; organization size of 10 to 500 employees; organization 2018 gross receipts of $250,000; and organization usage of at least 1 software solution for HR functions.
For more information on integrated EB solutions, please check out the other content available at:

For integrated technology solutions available from a trusted partner, Contact us – click here .

“AXA” is the brand name of AXA Equitable Financial Services, LLC and its family of companies, including AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company (AXA Equitable) (NY, NY); MONY Life Insurance Company of America (AZ stock company, admin. office: Jersey City, NJ) (MONY America); and AXA Distributors, LLC. All group insurance products are issued either by AXA Equitable or MONY America, which have sole responsibility for their insurance and claims-paying obligations. Some products are not available in all states.
GE-2737419(9/19) (Exp. 9/21)

Remote work can help companies’ talent search, employee well-being

Can’t find enough employees to fill your job openings? Take another look at your remote work policies.

By Marlene Satter | October 29, 2019 at 10:15 AM

A substantial 69.9 percent of people currently lacking jobs or “economically inactive” say that if they could work flexibly, they’d be interested in doing so. 

Companies that want to better their position in a tight job market, as well as those concerned with their employees’ well-being, ought to be looking at how much they rely on remote work.

That’s according to a new survey from The Center for Economics and Business Research, conducted in partnership with Citrix Systems, Inc., which finds that a range of benefits ensue from companies relying on technology to help them adopt a “work from anywhere” culture.

Related: 5 tips for managing remote work arrangements, from an expert

Not only can a remote work model be helpful to new employees or to workers recovering from illness, but it can expand access to job opportunities for potential workers with their own needs. According to the report, this is beneficial to employers because it boosts their profile in recruitment and labor retention, as well as increasing productivity gains across the country’s economy.

This is not nickel-and-dime stuff, either, either to the economy or to workers. A substantial 69.9 percent of people currently lacking jobs or “economically inactive”—such as people who had to give up working to care for children or elderly relatives, or boomers who are retired but would have preferred to stay active in the workforce at least a few hours a week—say that if they could work flexibly, they’d be interested in doing so. That could add up to $2.08 trillion in economic gains across the country, as well as a GDP boost of 10.2 percent.

For people already working, there’s even more interest, with 95 percent of knowledge workers saying they’d choose to work from home an average of 2.4 days per work week. Not only would that save them time—a cut of 5.8 billion hours in commuting alone each year—but it would benefit their bottom lines, with $44.4 billion in commuting costs eliminated annually.

A whopping 93 percent of all workers said that virtual/remote work would let them organize their time and tasks more efficiently, and 68 percent of part-timers, too, say they’d be more productive if they weren’t devoting time to commuting.

And then there’s the benefit of greater work-life balance, with 11.9 billion hours liberated that workers could use for personal and leisure activities. The resulting greater productivity, motivation and job satisfaction workers would experience would pay off for their employers in a happier, and more loyal, workforce.

A change in government policy, as well as in the thinking of employers who don’t currently use remote work, could streamline such a transformation; in addition, the adoption of technology that facilitates “digital workspaces” could to an extent offset its own expense thanks to lower overhead, the need for less desk/office space and lower printing costs. And that doesn’t even take into account reduced expenses from less absenteeism, less need to recruit/replace employees and a wider/better pool of candidates to choose from.

When great dental plans are not enough – 4 perks to make your employees’ lives easier and less stressful

Companies that offer perks that speak to the well-being of their employees are more likely to attract and retain top talent.

As competition for employees intensifies, the race to improve employer-based services is likely to result in better options for employees. 

A 2016 survey from Glassdoor found that 57 percent of people looking for jobs said benefits and perks are among their top considerations when weighing offers. So how can a company stack the deck in its favor when recruiting top talent? Although some companies limit their benefits packages to traditional offerings such as health insurance, 401Ks and paid time off, a today’s forward-thinking employers know they need to find more creative ways to offer benefits that make a genuine difference in employees’ day-to-day work and personal lives.

As competition for employees intensifies, the race to improve employer-based services is likely to result in better options for employees. Unconventional benefits options come in many shapes and forms, but they share one thing in common: the goal of saving time for employees, reducing their stress, and ultimately improving their health and satisfaction at work.

All other things being equal, companies that offer innovative perks that speak to the well-being of their employees are more likely to attract and retain the top talent in their field. Here are a few such perks to consider.

Expectant-parent counseling

You’ve thrown the baby shower, cut the cake, helped carry staff gifts to the car—and you’ve explained the company’s parental leave policy in detail. As you wave Julie from accounting off with best wishes, you’re confident she’ll come back to her desk in a few months’ time.

But the truth is that 43 percent of women who have babies leave the workforce permanently within a matter of months. Many say it’s because they don’t have adequate support at home to enable them to resume their careers. That is why companies like Reddit and Slack use a service called Lucy that provides expectant employees help before, during, and after parental leave, including 24/7 messaging and one-on-one sessions that can be done in the home or online.

As Reddit VP of People Katelin Holloway put it, “It’s not enough to simply offer parental leave; every child and family is different and has independent needs.” By helping expectant parents find resources that meet their specific needs, you’re making an investment in your workforce that pays enormous dividends in retention, productivity, and morale.

Caregiving support

A Gallup survey revealed more than 1 in 6 full-time or part-time American workers has difficulty balancing caring for elderly parents with their work commitments. This results in decreased productivity and frequent leaves of absence. Companies can help their employees cope and stay engaged with their work by providing concierge services that offer amenities such as taking elderly parents to doctor’s appointments and eldercare coaching when choosing between assisted living options.

Dry cleaning at work

Sometimes it’s the little things that save time during the workday that can push the needle in your favor as a potential employer. It may sound trivial, but company-provided dry cleaning is a perk that’s proving to be a big draw in workplaces from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. Service providers pick up employees’ laundry or dry cleaning items from work and return them to a designated employer closet in their office building—one less errand, and no more lost tickets. “People have lives to live, so I try to make it easy for them to deal with any of those personal errands that could take up time for them,” said Experian CEO Craig Boundy, speaking about his company’s employee benefits programs in an interview with the The Orange County Register.

Car maintenance and service

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household owns 1.9 vehicles and spends around 1.5 percent of its annual income on auto maintenance and repairs. Cars are a significant investment for most of us, so the more you can help potential employees save time and money on maintaining their vehicles, the more tempting you’ll become as an employer. Growing numbers of innovative companies provide car repair services to help employees save money, find the best quality mechanics, and reduce stress associated with the entire process.

Some firms also offer on-site car wash services, giving employees peace of mind and a positive outlook as they drive home after work. Several big Silicon Valley corporations —including eBay, SanDisk, Cisco, and Oracle—use BoosterFuels to fill employees’ gas tanks while they’re at work. It saves employees time and protects them from potential accidents or robberies at gas stations.

Effective employee perks tied to company culture The right perks, offered the right way, can strike home for job candidates and please existing employees.

By Marlene Satter | October 28, 2019 at 12:04 PM

Studies have shown that unlimited time-off policies attract higher-quality workers, who not only are happier but produce better.

f they’re just “talking points,” perks won’t do much to woo or keep employees—but if they’re meaningful to prospective or current employees, they can make the difference between winning/keeping talent or losing it to another company.

That’s according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School online journal Knowledge@Wharton, which says that the right perks, offered the right way, can strike home for job candidates and please existing employees. But the wrong perks, offered in the wrong way, can do just the opposite—and sometimes employers fail to recognize the differences.

Related: Forget ping pong and beer taps, this is the perk employees want

While some perks may seem frivolous and even insulting—says the article, “What’s the use of unlimited vacation time, for instance, when employees with stipulated vacation time aren’t using all of it now? And don’t workers who haven’t seen real wage growth over the past decade look upon company-provided yoga lessons or a new ping-pong table with a jaundiced eye?”—others can really make the difference.

According to Wharton management professor Sigal Barsade, a perk that’s “tied to the values of the company, … a living instantiation of the culture, then it can have deep symbolic meaning.” Barsade points toward bereavement days for a pet’s death as an example, which can be “a great representation of a culture of companionate love—that is, affection, caring and compassion,” and possibly very representative of a company’s emotional culture.

Candidates may not be aware of the stakes behind such perks, but according to the report, the top one percent of talent at a company can be responsible for 15 to 20 percent of “value-added,” which means that a company will go pretty far to bring in that top talent. But the wrong gesture can be seen as a sop, rather than something that’s actually meaningful in terms of improving the employee’s life.

Although most employees surveyed say the perk they’d most like is unlimited paid time off, employees themselves often fail to realize the reality that they probably don’t use all the paid time off they already get. Yet studies have shown that such a policy actually does attract higher-quality workers, who not only are happier but produce better.

Still, companies have to beware sending the wrong message with perks on offer, since Barsade points out that “if you sense you are being coerced into staying at work longer and don’t want to do that, then having all these things on site may well be viewed negatively.”

Companies should be asking employees directly in surveys and focus groups how they feel about what they’re offered, and not relying on anecdotal evidence—particularly since they can be exerting other pressures, subtle and otherwise, on employees by sitting on pay increases, freezing benefits and bringing in gig workers—tactics that could negate any benefit they might otherwise derive from offering people perks by delivering an underlying message of not caring about, rather than valuing, the people who work for them.

HR Professionals can help employees stay out of medical debt by electing the right group benefits packages.

It is now more important than ever for employers to help employees save for a medical emergency, including helping them set up a specific savings fund, dental insurance, and disability coverage.

Medical bills drive 530,000 families to bankruptcy each year, as reported by the American Public Journal of Health. Stop and think about that for a moment. The only options Americans have is to declare bankruptcy, or they’d otherwise drown in medical expenses.

It’s no wonder; adequate health care coverage is becoming largely out of reach for the majority of Americans and a hot polictical topic. For the first time in history, the cost of family health coverage in the U.S. now tops $20,000. Many employers share a percentage of the health care premiums, but the average contribution for an American worker is $6,000 for a family plan. And this $6,000 premium doesn’t include co-payments, deductibles and other forms of cost-sharing when a medical emergency arises.

Related: Bernie Sanders proposes writing off $81B in medical debt

Another alarming statistic is disability insurance (or lack thereof). Only one out of five consumers own disability insurance, so it makes sense that one of the top five concerns for consumers is paying for basics if becoming disabled. It’s even more frightening that only 48 percent of American workers indicate they can cover three months of living expenses if they are not earning any income.

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The APJH study concluded that 66.5 percent of bankruptcies were tied to medical issues. Either the individuals couldn’t pay their medical bills because they were too costly, or they had to take time off work and were not being compensated.

The time to plan is now

As challenging as it may seem to put money away in an emergency fund, it becomes nearly impossible to save in the face of a financial disaster. Without an emergency fund already in place, individuals often have little choice but to turn to credit resources. Based on FinFit’s member assessment data, only 27.9 percent of employees are focused on setting up an emergency fund.

It is now more important than ever for employers to help employees save for a medical emergency, including helping them set up a specific savings fund and electing the right benefits in the employee group offerings. Having a specific savings fund dedicated to medical expenses will alleviate the temptation to dip into that fund for other expenses. Employees that have access to an HSA (health savings account) through their participation in a high-deductible health insurance plan is a bonus. Encourage them not only to set up an emergency savings account, but also to contribute to their HSA.

As an HR professional, it often falls on your shoulders to help educate your employees on the different health insurance plans available to them. Health insurance is not one-size-fits-all, and it is important for employees to understand their options and select the plan that works best for them. This often starts with making sure you have a full understanding of each of the options to answer any questions an employee might have.

Employers, especially HR professionals, have a huge opportunity to help employees create overall financial stability and well-being. The good news: your employees want your help with their finances.

  • 57 percent of employees want guidance and coaching to validate their financial decisions.
  • 3 in 5 employees said they would be comfortable sharing financial information with their employer or an appropriate third party for personalized financial guidance.

You can never offer too much when it comes to financial wellness

Employees want access to resources that will help them improve their financial situation and overall quality of life. Sometimes they just don’t know where to start. There are so many excellent financial resources you can make readily available to your employees with little to no administrative burden on your organization.

Financial wellness programs have tangible, valuable solutions and services, like certified financial counselors, whereby employees will see immediate return on their investment. Financial coaches can provide personal recommendations and professional guidance to help employees navigate difficult situations that arise, like medical emergencies. Oftentimes they provide additional resources, worksheets and checklists to ensure employees have a clear path forward and stay the course.

Financial wellness programs can also offer budget calculators and online budgeting tools to assist employees when it comes to how much they can save. Many budgeting dashboards will break down employees’ cashflow so they can see exactly where their money is going, including medical expenses. They’ll be able to track trends and better assess the funds they’ll need to put away to afford future expenses.

The key to encouraging your employees to save, for medical emergencies or otherwise, is creating behavioral change. If you can motivate your employees to get in the habit of saving, it will become easier to put small amounts of money away. Over time, they’ll see their savings build and they’ll want to save more. Many financial wellness programs offer incentives and rewards to create engagement and drive behavioral change. It doesn’t all have to fall on your shoulders, but it is your responsibility to seek out the resources your employees need.

David Kilby has been president of FinFit since it was founded in 2008. He has grown the company from a single idea into a leading financial wellness benefit platform. Prior to FinFit, David led a multimillion dollar financial holding company where he was inspired to find ways to help employees improve their financial health. 

How do you start talking about Life insurance?

An employer’s and agent’s guide to start discussing Life insurance with employees and clients.

Life insurance may be one of those things that people just don’t like to talk (or even think) about. According to LIMRA1, more than 40 percent of Americans don’t have any form of life insurance. A full 84 percent say that most people need life insurance, but only 59 percent have some form of it. Some of those may be your employees – or their dependents.

What can you do to encourage them to talk about it – and enroll?

  • Stress the benefits of having it – Without life insurance, the death of an individual can mean financial hardship for the surviving spouse, children or family. After all, the funeral alone could cost anywhere between $7,000 and $10,000, according to experts.2 But with a life insurance benefit in place, the survivors have access to funds which help provide financial support during a difficult time.
  • Highlight benefits they might not be aware of – Some life insurance policies include an accelerated death benefit, which allows employees who are diagnosed with a terminal or other covered illness to request a portion of their benefit to pay for expenses while they’re still alive. This can make things easier for the employee who is struggling with the illness, as well as the family who supports them.
  • Provide resources to help them decide how much they need – Not everyone who has life insurance has enough. Educational materials and tools can help employees understand how much life insurance is best for their family.
  • Consider how many depenedents rely on the income, If you have employees who are the bread-winners in their families, you may want to encourage them to enroll their spouse in a dependent life insurance policy as well. It’s estimated that a stay-at-home parent works 96 hours per week – doing the work of a tutor, cook, nurse, housekeeper, bookkeeper, etc. If the surviving spouse had to pay for those services, it could cost over $162,000 a year.3

cbg | CONFIDENT is able to facilitate and educate your associates on Life insurance and all the benefits necessary to make an educated decision when purchasing Dental, Vision, std/ltd, and Life insurance. Contact us by completing this form, emailing us at info@capital-benefits.com or calling 1-888-327-8880.