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Five Ways to Support Your Employees This Election Season

Jeff Griffin

Voter turnout in the 2018 election was the highest our country has seen for a midterm election in the last century. Despite this, voter turnout in the U.S. remains lower than in other developed countries. In fact, during the past century, U.S. voter participation has hovered within a 12-percentage point range, from just under 50% in 1924 when Calvin Coolidge won, to over 61.6% in 2008, when Barack Obama won the White House.

While many factors contributed to the record rate of participation in the 2018 midterms, one notable action was that hundreds of companies, including Gap, Patagonia, and Target, encouraged their employees to vote. (Some companies even launched voting programs directed towards their consumers.)

As we've addressed in other blog posts, this dynamic of politics in the workplace requires delicate handling. After all, taking a partisan approach to civic engagement can alienate both employees and customers in today's hyper-partisan environment.

Nevertheless, a Harvard Business Review study suggests a "sweet spot" for companies who want to support the vote: being pro-democracy and pro-voter, without being partisan. Furthermore, there's evidence that companies who support and encourage political engagement derive a multitude of benefits.

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Topics: Company Culture, Paid Time Off (PTO), Social Media, Mental Health

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Five Ways COVID-19 Is Reshaping HR

Jeff Griffin

With fluctuating infection rates, predictions of a second wave, and conflicting official guidance, organizations need to adapt quickly if they want to survive, yet alone succeed in the midst of, and even after, the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

HR teams stand at the forefront of these efforts. For years, HR departments have been tasked with ushering in fundamental workplace changes, and this moment is no different.

While this list could be far longer, here are just five ways the coronavirus is reshaping HR and how departments can adapt to these new challenges.

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Topics: Company Culture, Telecommuting, FMLA, COVID-19

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Cyber Monday Shopping At Work: 4 Ways To Maintain Productivity

David Rook

Over half of U.S. workers will shop online while on the job this Cyber Monday. That's double the number of "work shoppers" from just a few years ago, according to recent research conducted by Robert Half Technology

Once an activity only those with desk jobs could get away with, experts point to the ease in which retailers have now made shopping from smartphones as one of the primary drivers of this dramatic increase in online shopping while at work. 

And while most workers will browse during their lunch breaks, a surprising number will shop all day long, with 44% admitting that their productivity suffers as they surf for the best deals.

Among 28 U.S. cities in the survey, Phoenix tops the list of cities with employees who admit to this hit in productivity, with San Diego and Austin following close behind.

So what can be done about this workplace productivity killer? In a nutshell, not much. Resistance is futile, as they say. In fact, in a separate survey also conducted by Robert Half, 77% of technology leaders said their firms allow "workshopping", but more than half of these same respondents (52%) indicated a preference for employees to not shop from work. (See infographic.)

So here are four ways that you, as an employer, can embrace Cyber Monday in ways designed to minimize workplace disruption and maintain employee productivity.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Education, Employee Productivity

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19 Ways to Improve Open Enrollment Meetings

David Rook

With budgets stretched and attendance down, more and more employers seem to be doing away with face-to-face employee benefits open enrollment meetings. That's a shame, especially since healthcare coverage options are more complicated than ever before.

This drop in attendance and lack of interest in holding benefit information sessions is all the more surprising considering that healthcare literacy is still at alarming low rates. One would think that this knowledge gap would trigger anxieties which would motivate more of the workforce to attend these annual benefit presentations.

So what can employers do to help bridge this education divide? After all, if employees aren't educated on things such as HDHPs with HSAs, Limited Purpose FSAs, or even telemedicine, then how will they ever embrace these benefit options - all of which are becoming more and more popular with employers and employees alike.

Here are some employee engagement ideas you might want to try in an attempt to reengage and educate your workforce during open enrollment season;

1. Go Digital.

For better or worse, mobile devices are in our hands throughout the day. Take advantage of this and reach out to your employees through one (or several) streams.

  • Send a text message telling employees that open enrollment is coming and reminding them to read their product literature and talk to their spouses so they’ll be ready to enroll.
  • Ask them questions via email beforehand, as well as during the meeting. Try a Poll Everywhere, Kahoot, or Google Forms format to engage employees and encourage participation. These tools allow employees to answer questions anonymously while you tally responses. This is a great way to find out, in real time, which topics merit more attention, especially if employees demonstrate a lack of understanding about a particular benefit.
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Topics: Company Culture, Employee Engagement, Employee Communications, open enrollment

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Is Discussing Politics In The Workplace Ever OK?

David Rook

Sex, politics, and religion. That was the list of topics I was taught when growing up to never discuss when we had guests over for dinner. Those were pretty much the ground rules Google set-out to establish last month when it issued new guidelines limiting employee discussion of politics in the workplace.

Google claimed their guidelines were intended to protect a “productive work environment” by corralling what has already become very heated water cooler talk in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. Nevertheless, late last week the National Labor Relations Board ordered Google to stand down. In its ruling, it instructed Google to affirm employees’ rights to express their views, within the workplace environment, on political and workplace issues.

The settlement was born less out of Google’s issuance of new guidelines but rather as a result of recent complaints from conservative employees who claim they were fired due to their political views.

According to a recent New York Times article, accusations of political bias at major tech companies has become a powerful rallying cry among conservatives. This includes accusations by President Trump that engineers in Silicon Valley intentionally skewed the way their systems display content online to reflect liberal positions. For their part, major technology companies deny these accusations of bias.

To be fair, Google’s new guidelines didn’t forbid discussing politics at work, but they did require managers to address conversations that became disruptive. The updated guidelines were an attempt to dial back what has historically been the company’s wide open discourse. In addition to politics, Google also advised employees to avoid name-calling, including making blanket statements about groups or categories of people.

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Topics: Compliance, Company Culture, Risk Management, Employee Productivity

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Employee Benefit Implications for An Upcoming Demographic Milestone

Jeff Griffin

We are about to witness an important change in workforce demographics – one that has implications for virtually every company recruiting college-educated adults.

Women, you see, are about to become the majority of the college-educated workforce in this country. Back in 2007, women surpassed men as the majority of college-educated adults in the United States, but it’s taken 12 years for this change to reach the labor force.

Responding to this change, savvy companies are striving to become more attractive to female job candidates. Some of these new practices include the ways in which companies are redrafting job descriptions with more gender-neutral language, as well as changes companies are making to compensation and culture.

Changes to employee benefits programs are even more widespread, and include;

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Topics: Company Culture, Retention, trends, Recruitment, Women

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Top CEOs Tell Companies To Invest In Their Employees

Jeff Griffin

Employees, customers, suppliers, and even community neighbors all moved in front of shareholders yesterday as the primary audiences publicly held companies should utmost serve in the future.

That’s according to a statement released by the Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs representing 200 corporations around the country. This new vision recasts the prime directive of corporations from first and foremost serving shareholders (e.g. maximizing profits) to serving these new audiences.

The new mission suggests that corporations should; invest in employees, deliver value to customers, deal ethically with suppliers, and support outside communities. “Shareholders ride the caboose in this new code of corporate purpose,” said a dissenting opinion piece in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.

Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase and chairman of Business Roundtable, said yesterday, “Major employers are investing in their workers and communities because they know it is the only way to be successful over the long term. These modernized principles reflect the business community’s unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy that serves all Americans.”

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Topics: Company Culture, CEO

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How You Can Help Your Employees Make The Most Of The July 4th Holiday

David Rook

Many employees feel like they have to check-in with work even when they’re supposed to be enjoying paid time off. More often than not, this is a cultural issue within a company.

Supervisors might be checking-in and sending emails in the evening or on weekends. This leads their direct reports to believe they need to respond immediately, and they may even start adopting these behaviors themselves. 

Yet, research has shown time and time again that workers need frequent breaks and unfortunately, Americans leave a lot of that paid time off on the table every year. It might seem like workers would be more productive if they aren’t using all their vacation time, but in reality, skipping our vacations actually makes us less productive. To keep employees operating in top shape, we need to encourage them to enjoy their downtime — and perhaps it’s fitting to begin with the July 4th holiday. Here are 5 ways to encourage employees to enjoy their independence...and their paid time off this weekend.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Paid Time Off (PTO), Employee Retention

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The Importance of Paid Time Off (PTO)

David Rook

Paid time off is one of the most commonly provided benefits as well as one of the most highly regarded.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that more than 70 percent of employees have at least one form of paid time off, and the rate is much higher among certain types of employers such as large private companies and local, state and federal government entities.

In fact, in a Glassdoor survey, vacation and paid time off proved to be more important for employees than pay raises. Yet despite the desire for it, the United States remains far behind much of the world in both providing and using this benefit.

Even though there’s been a recent uptick in the number of days U.S. employees are taking off annually, they still take very few days off -- and that’s not good for anyone.

The following is an exploration of why paid time off is important to offer and why it's important to take, along with what’s normal in the U.S. and throughout the world. 

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Topics: Company Culture, Paid Time Off (PTO), Employee Retention, workplace wellness, trends, work life balance, Mental Health, Recruitment

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Employee Benefits in the Gig Economy

David Rook

From Uber and Lyft to TaskRabbit and Fiverr, the gig economy is now firmly established as a fixture of today’s workplace. 

Gallup surveys show that about 36 percent of U.S. workers have some sort of gig, and 29 percent rely on an "alternative work arrangement" (as it's sometimes called) as their primary source of income.

With such a strong presence in the labor market, the gig economy is altering the shape of employment. The numbers from Gallup are lower than some respected economists originally reported (and lower than some less established source’s statistics), but they still show that the gig economy is here to stay. Few aspects of employment will remain unaltered by it, and employee benefits certainly isn’t immune to its impacts.

In fact, multiple issues related to employee benefits in the gig economy have already been raised. Moving forward, both government agencies and businesses will need to rethink employee benefits programs so that they adequately compensate independent contractors, online platform workers, contract firm workers, on-call workers, temporary workers and others with alternative work arrangements.

Here’s what’s being done for both the distant and near future.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Recruitment

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