Employee wellness programs growing as part of benefits programs

9 Jul

Employers are spending more on health and wellness programs for workers.

When it comes to employee benefits management, businesses are continually rearranging their spending to reduce healthcare costs. According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), a recent report discovered that with increasing benefit costs in the workplace, work-flex benefits could become a low-cost method for companies to stand out among other businesses.

More funding is going toward keeping workers healthy and the new report suggests many organizations are open to the idea of giving up other benefits in the process. Flex benefits could include relaxed dress codes, flex work times and work from home privileges. Flex-work benefits are also cheaper and more attractive to workers.

"Flexible working benefits are a cost-effective way to help employees balance their work and personal lives," said SHRM in its report. "These benefits help organizations attract and retain high-quality talent and are a key factor in employee job satisfaction."

Health and wellness programs taking priority
The SHRM report added that wellness programs help keep employees healthier so their workers compensation costs are lower or injuries and illnesses in the workplace might decrease. Most organizations are focused on dental insurance and prescription drug programs with 95 percent of businesses participating. However, contraceptives and vision coverage are only supported by less than 85 percent of companies respectively.

"Offering health benefits is critical to employee recruitment and retention," said Bruce Elliott, the manager of compensation and benefits at SHRM. "However, the rising cost of health benefits, especially health insurance, has made it challenging for some employers to continue offering it. Because of that, employers are evaluating all their benefits and making adjustments."

The expansion of medical coverage and wellness programs is growing from the need to limit medical costs with healthier employees, the Associated Press reported. One of the major reasons why companies are expanding their wellness programs is due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Helen Darling, the chief executive officer for the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit organization that backs businesses on healthcare issues, explained that as companies look to lower costs and avoid taxes from the ACA, more attention toward wellness programs is indicating a "visible wake-up call to all employers," the AP reported.

"The workforce is constantly evolving, and these shifts influence how employees perceive their benefits plans," said SHRM in the report. "The marketplace is also constantly undergoing change, so benefits programs must be regularly assessed to make sure that employees understand the value of their benefits packages and that the organization is remaining competitive in the marketplace."

Other health-related benefits on the decline
The amount of flu vaccine clinics, CPR and first-aid training and stress reduction programs offered on-site have seen a rapid drop in the last five years, SHRM reported. On the other hand, healthy living and lifestyle coaching has seen a 41 percent growth, while preventive treatments geared toward chronic diseases have seen an increase by 21 percent in 2014.

More companies view adding health and wellness programs as a win-win situation between their employees and employee benefits management spending.

How to Build Strong Relationships with Employees

8 Jul

HR professionals need to build relationships with existing workers.

Human resources doesn't actively manage workers day to day, but the department is crucial to the retention of top performers and key talent at the organization. Without HR professionals' involvement in human capital management, the entire company can see high turnover, lost productivity and unmanaged benefits.

Yet HR departments need to be careful with employee management, as HR professionals who are unable to effectively manage workers' payroll and benefits or who don't speak with employees about their professional development can also be the reason for high turnover and costs. According to Time magazine, many workers don't talk to HR unless they have issues in the workplace. While the article focused on what employees should do to build relationships, HR professionals can make it easy for workers to approach them and build connections early on in the hiring process. From staying informed about a top worker's career expectations to ensuring all employees understand their benefits, HR professionals need to reach out to workers and construct lasting relationships.

Start with Effective Onboarding
If workers don't feel as if they are supported by HR from day one, HR professionals can have a harder time creating relationships with employees. HR representatives need to be involved in the onboarding of new workers to ensure they are gaining the information they require to perform their jobs correctly and be effective members of the workforce. Transitioning into the company needs to be easy as possible for employees, and HR professionals need to be one of new hires' go-to resources, which lays the foundation for a great, rewarding relationship between HR and employees.  

Check in with Workers Frequently
Many HR departments have few representatives available to work with their large workforce, but HR professionals shouldn't be afraid to reach out and speak with workers frequently about their progress at the company, any goals they may have for professional development and how they are feeling about their employment. According to an article in HR.com, HR professionals need to invest time in creating relationships with existing workers rather than simply looking to bring in the next big talent. Each HR representative can be in charge of following up with certain workers throughout their first year of employment, and then a couple of times a year afterward.

Ask the Right Questions
When speaking with employees, HR professionals should ask about certain aspects in the workplace to gauge employee engagement. From how workers are feeling about their careers to issues they see at the company, inquiring about specific parts of their work experiences can help HR professionals show they want to improve workers' satisfaction at the company and value employees' opinions. An article in Inc. magazine provided a list of 25 questions managers and company leaders should ask their workers, and HR professionals should take note. Asking about satisfaction with benefits, need for professional development and even qualities others may not know a worker may have can help HR professionals build a strong relationship with each employee.

Provide Professional Development Opportunities
Even though workers were hired for specific skill sets, that doesn't mean they are happy with their abilities or are fine with not advancing within the company. HR professionals know they need to stay informed about workers' career expectations, but they should also offer the right development opportunities and give workers information about upcoming promotional opportunities to help employees achieve their goals. 

Connect Workers with Mentors
HR professionals can put their networking skills to use by matching employees to people they can learn from. According to the HR.com article, introducing workers to company leaders and encouraging mentorships can help workers feel supported by their HR departments and valued by their businesses. 

Communicate Changes to Benefits
Perhaps one of the easiest and yet often overlooked relationship builders is reaching out about adjustments to benefits and compensation. HR professionals can't construct relationships with employees if they aren't effective at employee benefits management. Communicating about bonuses, new health care plans and the like should be a primary focus of every HR department, and HR professionals should ensure they encourage workers to inquire about any changes if they have questions.

Offer Training on Self-Service Software
Self-service payroll and benefits solutions are made to be user-friendly, yet HR professionals shouldn't leave workers on their own to learn these critical systems. These tools are made to make it easy for employees to take control of their information and benefits, and HR professionals need to provide basic training and resources on this software to ensure workers are using solutions effectively. 

5 HR solutions that attract workers from day one

8 Jul

Retention rates could increase if employers address the issue from day one.

Human resources are constantly striving to increase retention rates and to keep their best workers in the organization, but with a younger generation of employees entering the workforce, it's getting more difficult to hold on to the good ones. While some employers try to work on retention rates long after they hire people, businesses should consider addressing the issue from day one.

Here are five HR solutions that attract workers from day one:

1. Make sure supervisors are welcoming
More often than not, managers simply try to increase retention rates by offering better benefits along with more incentives and rewards. However, according to Grammarly, the most strategic way to improve retention rates is to start improving employer-worker relationships at the hiring process and not when they are already comfortable in their position.

If companies focus on keeping their workers for the long haul from day one, it could show employees the company truly values them in the workplace. According to Forbes, managers have to be welcoming and inviting to their new employees so they do not begin on the wrong foot.

First impressions can last a long time in the workplace, and if managers aren't respectful to new employees, it could automatically hurt retention rates.

2. Understand the company culture through employees
Getting employee feedback can be difficult for companies wanting to know how to improve general operations to keep their top staff longer. According to Grammarly, businesses should ask employees questions that will reveal what employees think about their company culture. Asking questions like why employees like their work environment, what does it mean to work for this company and why aren't they looking for another job, could uncover serious answers  from employees instead of the typical "where do you want to be in five years?"

3. Add flexibility to work environment
Young workers are constantly looking ahead, and the new generation of workers will take any bumps in the road as a sign for a career change. If companies want to keep workers longer, they need to introduce flexibility from the beginning, Forbes reported.

Having too many work rules can damper spirits and drive some of the best workers away. When employees can see the flexibility of a workplace in an interview or their first week, workers will automatically have a much better appreciation for the company.

4. Get new-hires involved immediately
When workers feel closer to the organization they work for, the more thought and care they will put into their work. According to Grammarly, employees that believe in the company brand and the direction it's going, workers will invest their time into making the business unique.

Managers should get new-hires involved in decision-making processes immediately so they quickly feel they are a necessary part of the team. While major promotions and other pay bumps can make employees feel more appreciated, businesses can also ask new employees for their input right away so workers feel welcomed and needed.

5. Clearly explain the company brand
Employees want to work for a business that has a clear company mission and when businesses share their goals with their staff – workers will feel more connected to the firm. According to Grammarly, the company brand is what drives great workers to an organization and when employees understand the brand, they will more likely to explain it to their friends and family, which spreads a positive word about the business and it could attract new workers as well.

If companies can clearly explain their vision, culture and values to new hires, employee retention rates will likely increase since workers will feel more involved.

Survey: Workers believe employers care about health, but could do more

7 Jul

Work wellness programs are becoming more popular, but many employees feel their company could step up their wellness practices.

A survey from Provant, a population health management company, recently polled more than 2,130 adults in the U.S. who were 18 or older. There was a total of 923 employees surveyed working part-time or full-time jobs which asked if the respondents believe their employer cared about worker health and the research found 2 to 3 believed in worker wellness. Employees were asked to rate how much they agreed or disagreed with the statement, "I feel like my employer cares about my health," which 66 percent answered "somewhat agree" or "strongly agree."

However, at the same time, only 25 percent of respondents said their employer provides any sort of wellness program, 21 percent said there are health food options in the kitchen or cafeteria and only 20 percent had on-site fitness equipment available for its employees.

Employees were asked to rate how much they agreed or disagreed with the statement, "I feel like my employer cares about my health," which 66 percent answered "somewhat agree" or "strongly agree."

More attention to human resources
Adding wellness programs to the workplace is something more human resources departments are considering when thinking about employee benefits management. Employers can save money on reduced healthcare costs in the long run by investing in wellness programs. Buck Consultants ran a survey of more than 628 employer groups and found the No. 1 motivator for companies to invest in wellness programs is to lower healthcare costs, Inc. Magazine reported.

Not only will wellness programs create healthier employees, but the employee benefits will attract talent and help retain workers since young workers want healthier options to improve their health along with their benefits, Business Legal Resources reported.

"Harder to quantify, but just as impactful, is the fact that your investment in your employees' well-being will jump-start their morale, loyalty and engagement – all of which is good news for their productivity and your bottom line," said Dr. Carmella Sebastian, a certified expert with the Wellness Council of America, the source reported. "And since the millennials who are driving the wellness movement will be in the workforce for quite some time, think of proactively engaging with them as a smart long-term investment."

Small gestures can improve wellness attention
Many companies that cannot afford to give gym memberships or have professional health coaches can still show employees that they are dedicated to their health and well-being. According to Inc. Magazine, companies should bring in fruit for workers at least once a week or make different activities such as runs, softball recreational leagues and outdoor activities to keep workers exercising.

In the winter months, employers should promote preventative care with vaccinations such as free flu shots for workers, the source said. Companies can also offer free bike storage or secure parking near or inside their building to get more employees riding into the office.

Workplaces should increase their involvement with their workers health to keep employees from missing additional days of work and having more health risks from unhealthy eating.

"We're committed to making the workplace a setting where tangibly improving one's well-being is realistic," said Candice Fioravanti, a health coach for Provant. "Removing barriers to health and wellness creates a dual bottom line for employees and employers. Together, they enjoy lower costs, enhanced productivity, higher morale, more effective talent recruitment and a strong corporate brand."

Micromanagers could hurt work productivity and morale

3 Jul

When it comes to micromanagers, human resources departments have to address the issues before it hurts morale or worker productivity.

When a manager is over-controlling, employees could start looking for a way out of the business. Human resources have a responsibility to make sure employees have a welcoming and productive work environment. When it comes to micromanaging, higher-ups have to realize it could affect business overall.

A new survey was released by human resources consultant firm Accountemps, which surveyed more than 450 U.S. employees who were at least 18 years of age or older and worked in an office environment. According to the survey, 59 percent of the respondents admitted to having worked for or work with a micromanager in the duration of their career.

Not only that, but the survey discovered that continual nit-picking from higher-ups has a negative effect on the majority of workers. The study showed that 55 percent of workers who dealt with a micromanager believe the constant scrutiny reduced their overall work productivity and 68 percent admitted it hurt their morale.

"Bosses micromanage for many different reasons, but no matter how good their intentions, taking a heavy-handed approach typically hurts employee output, job satisfaction and, as a result, retention efforts," said Max Messmer, the chairman at Accountemps, in the press release. "Personally making sure every 't' is crossed might help avoid some mistakes, but the costs associated with failing to trust your team can have a longer-term impact."

Micromanaging and overall business production
While it's known that micromanaging can certainly have a negative impact on retention rates in the office, overbearing bosses can also create problems in the office workflow. According to LinkedIn, micromanaging can cause a higher-up's department to bottleneck when employees' work are too closely examined.

When workers begin spending too much time on their work to appease their bosses, other departments in the company suffer, which hurts the overall business production. Micromanaging can also make workers believe that managers do not trust them, which could lead to a lack of confidence in employees.

Managers need diverse mindset
Workers come in all different forms with diverse backgrounds, experience, education, creativity and performance outputs. According to LinkedIn, managers have to realize all employees cannot be managed the same way.

Many micromanagers have the mindset of "if you want something done, do it yourself," which can lead to over-controlling and demanding requests, the source reported. Instead of relying on their own ideas, managers should try to include their workers in more of the decision-making process.

According to Inc. Magazine, higher-ups who tend to micromanage should have their workers give their ideas if they have a better one than their boss. Encouraging workers to voice their opinion will help keep managers from making their own decisions all the time.

Another great practice for managers who could be overbearing is to make sure check-ins are continually set up with their workers, Accountemp reported in their press release. Employees should be regularly able to speak about their relationship with their manager and the best HR solution is to make sure manager evaluations are maintained.

Employee Retention Starts During Recruitment

2 Jul

Rentention begins at recruitment.

Recruiting and retention shouldn't be separate – they are two sides of the same human capital management coin, and HR professionals need to ensure they are working to retain the workers they are bringing in to the business right from the beginning. According to an article in Business and Legal Resources by Max Lytvyn, co-founder of proofreading platform Grammarly, effective retention starts before people are even hired at an organization.

Yet this isn't always easy. Turnover often comes down to a number of factors, from inefficient managers to low salaries, so it's easy for HR departments to overlook retention strategies that don't take a specific approach to this issue. However, if HR professionals aren't able to find the right workers from the get-go, they face a bigger risk of losing key performers down the line. HR professionals must think about retention when they are recruiting by looking for talented candidates who have the potential to fit in at the organization and by offering salaries that are competitive. Setting the stage for high retention starts with an effective recruitment process.

This may sound like it is too generic of a strategy to be applicable in the business environment, so here are four steps that HR professionals can follow to ensure they adopt the right techniques to make this strategy work:

1. Begin with Big Goals
According to Lytvyn, HR professionals need to remember the big picture during recruitment. Lytvyn recommended HR departments have a clear understanding of the company's long-term objectives and vision to ensure they are looking for new hires who fit these goals. The direction of the business is important to know which types of talent to bring in to interview, and HR professionals need to also recognize which skills are needed for employees to move the company toward its goal. Lytvyn noted that as recruiters, HR professionals must keep their eyes peeled for workers who are engaged in the company's mission and overall vision as well as who have the abilities that will drive the company's growth. Finding these workers and bringing them in ensures that the company is staffed with employees who are more likely to stick around in the long run.

2. Gain a Strong Understanding of Pay and Career Expectations
Certain candidates may have assumptions about salary and benefits, and HR professionals need to know these preferences. During the talent acquisition process, HR professionals should talk to job seekers about their career goals and their salary expectations to understand right from the beginning candidates' professional goals. HR professionals know that bringing in a talented worker to an entry-level job but not providing him or her with professional developmental opportunities may cause the employee to start looking for jobs that do provide training and education and offer a salary increase.

Yet HR professionals shouldn't assume anything about workers' career goals. Dennis Hoffman, CEO of Engage Direct Mail, told Inc. magazine that he's learned that everyone is motivated to stay at their jobs for different reasons, and HR professionals need to understand these needs.

"I never know what's inside people's heads," Hoffman said. "I used to assume everybody's ambitious because I'm ambitious and that everybody's motivated by money because I'm motivated by money, and I've learned through painful experience that that's not the case."

HR professionals who don't know which workers want to advance and have higher salaries may not have the opportunities to keep these employees around. Recruiting is the perfect time for HR professionals to start understanding what will encourage staff members to remain at the company. 

3. Make the Transition as Easy as Possible
An inefficient onboarding process benefits no one, and HR professionals need to have a grasp on what new hires will need to get started at the organization. Many require training and need to have one-on-one meetings with managers to gain a good handle on their jobs' responsibilities and what is expected from them. If workers have a bad experience their first few days or weeks on the job, they may develop a negative attitude or start to look at their other career options. HR professionals can't forget how important onboarding is to retention. 

4. Anticipate the New Hire's Stressors
According to Forbes, one of the best ways to retain workers is to understand what may cause them stress when they are on the job. HR professionals can get a sense of what could drive new hires to experience job strain during the recruitment process by asking them questions about how they handle difficult situations and deadlines. The more knowledge HR professionals have about workers' needs, the better prepared they will be to keep those employees around. HR departments can establish wellness programs and other initiatives to ensure these staff members stay productive and at the organization. 

ACA-Related Updates HR Departments Need to Know

30 Jun

Healthcare reform continues to evolve.

The Affordable Care Act continues to change and evolve, and HR professionals need to continuously update their knowledge of the ACA for employee benefits management. Here are three of the latest ACA developments that HR departments must understand:

Penalties for Moving Sickest Workers to Exchanges
Many employers have chosen to ask their heaviest healthcare coverage users to go on the health insurance exchanges next year to find coverage. According to Kaiser Health News, employers have been asking benefits consulting firms about this strategy for some time, as it can mean lower healthcare costs for employers and can often benefit the workers who purchase their own plans through the marketplace. Many employers have even looked into health savings accounts (HSA) or health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) to help workers purchase plans and pay their premiums.

This was a gray issue for some time, and the Internal Revenue Service has ruled that this strategy is not in compliance with the ACA's mandates. According to the IRS, employers can't dump workers on the exchanges and then provide them with tax-free cash to fund their healthcare coverage because these employer payment plans are considered group health plans, which need to comply with healthcare reforms. In short, the funds need to be taxable. Employers that don't comply with this ruling could receive a $100 a day penalty for each employee. Companies that still want to ask workers to go on the exchanges can instead up employees' pay, which is taxable, according to The New York Times. 

Developments in Reporting Requirements
There are also updates on the reporting requirements for employers. The IRS and the U.S. Treasury Department issued two reporting documents in particular that provide employers guidelines on the minimum essential healthcare coverage that need to be reported. The Information Reporting of Minimum Essential Coverage rule offers information on this for those companies covered under section 6055 of the Internal Revenue Code. The second rule, Information Reporting by Applicable Large Employers on Health Insurance Coverage Offered Under Employer-Sponsored Plans, is for those covered under section 6056 and 4980H of the same code.

New COBRA Notification Requirements
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) remains in effect, and employers need to comply with both COBRA and the ACA. Employers need to provide workers who lose their health coverage through the company with new COBRA general and election notices so they know they have the ability to go on the marketplace to receive health coverage, according to an article in Lexology.

Study: More HR Departments Offering Sign-On, Retention Bonuses

27 Jun

HR professionals are being more strategic with their payroll management.

Many human resources departments are boosting their payroll management by hooking and keeping workers at the company through sign-on and retention bonuses, according to a new study by nonprofit HR organization WorldatWork.

WorldatWork's "Bonus Programs and Practices" survey found more HR departments are using these two types of programs than in the past. There's also been an increase in the use of referral bonus programs and spot bonus programs. Seventy-four percent of 713 surveyed participants have a sign-on bonus program compared to only 54 percent in 2010. Fifty-one percent use a retention bonus program, which is more than double the amount that did in 2010. Likewise, 63 percent now have a referral bonus program compared to 60 percent in 2010, and 60 percent have a spot bonus program compared to 43 percent in 2010.

According to the survey, these programs are strategic approaches to payroll management and talent acquisition. 

Rose Stanley, total rewards practice leader at WorldatWork, said recruiting and keeping talent has become a greater focus for employers, especially now that the recession is over and there may be additional financial resources available.

"The uptick in sign-on and retention bonus programs may indicate that the war for key talent could be heating up as the economy improves, leading to an increased focus on attracting and retaining employees," Stanley said.

HR is Key to Keeping Talent at the Company

26 Jun

HR professionals need to be sure to find and keep top talent by taking on more defined roles in the workplace.

Caption: HR professionals need to be sure to find and keep top talent by taking on more defined roles in the workplace.

Human resources play a vital role in recruiting top talent to the organization, but these professionals are also important to retaining these star performers at the company.

According to the latest Talent Shortage Survey by HR consulting firm Manpower, 36 percent of employers across the world are unable to find the talent they need to fill open positions. This percentage has been slowly growing from year to year, with 31 percent saying the same in 2010, 34 percent claiming this issue in 2011 and 2012, and 35 percent thinking finding talent was a problem in 2013. The hardest to fill jobs are those that require the most skill, such as engineers, IT staff and sales managers. 

HR departments don't have to see the skills gap increase – there are roles they can adopt, according to Manpower, that can help bring in more talent and keep that talent at the organization. Manpower identified three distinct jobs HR can take on: supply and demand expert, marketer and designer.

HR professionals must understand the types of skills and talent the company needs to meet their clients' needs, then they must act like marketers to get the best workers in the door. They can then design a workplace that encourages productivity and collaboration to keep workers at the company. 

Potential Effects of Salary Disclosure in the Workplace

24 Jun

Employers can't stop workers from discussing their wages with one another.

How much each worker makes has traditionally been between that employee and HR. Many HR departments have had a tight hold on their payroll management and have worked to keep discussions about salary out of the workplace. In fact, numerous employers have it set in their employee handbooks that such talk about what workers make is against the companies' rules.

However, a 2012 article that appeared on TLNT noted that any rules that restrict employees' freedom to discuss their compensation is against the National Labor Relations Act. If this isn't enough, President Barack Obama recently issued an executive order stating that employers are not allowed to retaliate when workers talk about their salaries amongst themselves. According to the order, prohibitions against speaking about compensation can allow salary discrimination in the workplace to go unchecked, because if employees aren't able to talk to one another about how much they made, it is much harder for discrimination to be discovered.

Some HR professionals may not think such discrimination happens in today's workplace, but it does. Consider this example from MoneyWatch: A new supervisor of a travel company accidently sent a spreadsheet to a 11-person department that outlined what each worker made. Even though the employees did the same work, there was a $20,000 annual discrepancy between the highest and lowest paid workers. These employees might not have known there was such a difference in compensation despite everyone doing the same job if it wasn't for this mistake.

Avoid the Fall-Out of Not Allowing Salary Disclosure
Wage transparency is becoming commonplace, and HR professionals need to understand that not allowing workers to discuss their wages can lead to negative consequences. For one, prohibiting salary disclosure has been determined by the federal government to be illegal. Employers could find themselves in violation of employment legislation by not following President Obama's order.

In addition, while an article in TLNT noted fairness can be subjective, workers who do the same work should be paid equally, and employees who aren't can become mad to the point of quitting and can even bring discrimination lawsuits against the employer. For instance, the MoneyWatch article noted the employee who wrote into the publication said the morale of his or her team has dropped considerably since they discovered the pay discrepancies, and the worker in particular was angry that he or she was a top producer but wasn't compensated for that level of performance. 

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