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Cyber Monday Slowdown; Four Ways To Maintain Some Semblance of Worker Productivity

David Rook
Long holiday weekends are typically an excellent opportunity for employees to relax and recharge their batteries. While the first day back is admittedly a bit crazy, the backlog of calls and emails eventually subsidies, with one dreaded exception...Cyber Monday. 
 
According to the research firm Robert Haft Technology , nearly a quarter of your workforce will shop online during their work-hours on Cyber Monday. And while 46 percent will browse during their lunch breaks, almost a third of employees will shop all day long.
 

So what can be done about this employee productivity killer? In a nutshell, not much. Resistance is futile, as they say. 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.

Sanction Shopping Time
 
Rather than prohibiting or admonishing online shopping throughout the day (it’s going to happen anyway), bring it out from the shadows. In doing so, you might turn this covert experience into something far more social - an activity which can even perhaps foster some group camradery.
 
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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Education, Employee Productivity

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Black Friday Revolt Continues; Employers Put Family Time First

David Rook
Black Friday has become an enormous "tent pole event" for both retailers and consumers. The day after Thanksgiving has become synonymous with outrageous deals – but also outrageous lines, all-night camp outs, poorly-staffed stores, and sometimes violent confrontations between shoppers vying to be the first to hit the shelves. 
 
For a long time, Black Friday was seen as simply a good day to get a head start on Christmas shopping and save some money. However, in recent years, store openings have crept earlier and earlier, even into Thanksgiving itself, and viral videos of stampeding shoppers, brawls, and even some deaths have contributed to a growing sense that the infamous “holiday” has gone too far. Add to this the numerous complaints from employees on social media and the rise in popularly of online/mobile shopping,  and one gets the sense that the importance of Black Friday is finally waning.
 
As demonstrated by REI for the fourth consecutive year, retailers who take the brave stance of sticking to normal business hours, can not only engender goodwill from their employees by adhering to tenets of their corporate culture, but also, in certain situations, can endear themselves to loyal customers - a true win / win if ever there was one. This year, not only will REI close their physical locations during Thanksgiving and Black Friday, but they also plan to take it a step further by not processing online orders during this time either. Though REI is one retailer willing to push the limits by completely closing up shop on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, countless other retailers have curtailed the practice of opening their doors Thanksgiving evening. In fact, according to BestBlackFriday.com, a record number of stores will remain closed that day.
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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Education

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Three Ways for Employees & Employers to Save Money on Healthcare

David Rook

Recent news that the rising cost of healthcare in America may actually be slowing is being met with resounding elation by those looking for ways to save money on their medical insurance. For those with high deductible health plans (HDHPs) and other forms of consumer-driven healthcare, this comes as especially welcome news.

If sustained, this tempering of rising medical care costs will hopefully begin to curb an alarming trend, that being dangerous cost-avoidance practices by some covered individuals, which sometimes includes such dangerous practices as skipping medications and postponing necessary medical procedures. (Many have also skipped out on preventative care, despite the fact that most all of it is covered at 100%.)  While in the short-term such actions will indeed bring down healthcare expenses, they are likely to trigger larger problems later on, which cost far more money.

There are much safer and more effective ways to curb healthcare expenses, but it takes a bit of effort and education to capitalize on them. Here are just a few we’ve found. Please feel free to use these money saving strategies with your workforce — and better yet — try them out yourself.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Consumer Driven Healthcare, cost management, CHRO, CFO, employers, HSAs, FSAs

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6 Reasons Every CFO Needs to Engage In Employee Benefits Decisions

Jeff Griffin

As one of the largest line items on the P&L these days, employee benefit discussions in many organizations have transitioned from the breakroom to the boardroom, with increased scrutiny from several in the C-Suite and beyond.

If your organization's finance department isn't already deeply involved in the discussion, it's time for them to engage. 

Going into these meetings with little employee benefits experience can seem overwhelming, but it's important for your finance team to be involved and in alignment with human resourcesThere are several reasons it's worth your while to take a more active role in the process. 

1. Employee benefits are consuming a larger portion of your company's budget

Healthcare is a crucial part of any company’s employee benefits package. In order to recruit and retain the best and brightest employees, your healthcare offerings need to be competitive, yet not excessive. Annual year-over-year increases in the cost of healthcare, no doubt outpacing your revenue and profit growth, have made this extremely challenging. 

As the leader of the finance team, you can't afford to ignore an expense that big, and often times that out-of-control. You need to understand what's driving these increases, be they external factors, internal factors, or both. Understanding what's controllable and what's not can also help bring focus to an already complex conversation. 

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Topics: CFO, Employee Benefits

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How to Make the Most of Your Employee Handbook

Jeff Griffin

Many employers understand that an employee handbook can be an invaluable resource for codifying important information. Despite this, a fair number of small businesses choose to forgo this critical training, compliance and communication tool.

Some view an employee handbook as too time-consuming to prepare. Others just don’t see it as a priority. For companies with a lot of tasks on their plate (and who doesn't fit that bill) an employee handbook just never seems to make it to the top of the to-do list.

Be forewarned, however, that failing to put your company policies in writing could cause headaches down the road. Any time you save now by not documenting and circulating policies and procedures is likely to be spent later on the phone answering the same question over and over, or sitting in a crisis management meeting because someone on staff mishandled an situation.

Not only do employee handbooks ultimately save you time, but a well-crafted handbook could help you avoid litigation, thus providing you with invaluable peace of mind. Whether it’s policies, benefit details, or payroll and time off schedules, your employee handbook should be a go-to resource for your workforce. Here’s how to get the most value out of yours.   

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Corporate Communication, Employee Communications, Communications

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Shopping For A New Employee Benefits Broker: The RFP Process

Jeff Griffin

It’s certainly up for debate whether or not an RFP (Request for Proposal) is really the best method of finding a new employee benefits broker for your business. Nevertheless, if you’re planning on issuing an RFP for a new employee benefits advisor, it’s important to do it right. 

After all, a relationship between you and your employee benefits broker can span 10 years or more. Shouldn’t you strive for the best partnership imaginable? The RFP process is a time-consuming one, but when it’s done well, it creates a fruitful relationship with a trusted and highly valued business partner for years (and hopefully decades) to come.

Here’s a complete guide to issuing an RFP for employee benefits — and don’t forget to download our RFP template for additional help with getting started!

Writing an Employee Benefits RFP

First Things First: What is an RFP?

A request for proposal is “a type of bidding solicitation in which a company or organization announces that funding is available for a particular project or program, and companies can place bids for the project's completion.” In the case of employee benefits, a company is saying that they’re interested in hiring an employee benefits broker and that they’re open to new advisors.

In a way, an RFP is a little bit like a job description, stating exactly what the issuing company needs, from resources to reporting to cost-saving initiatives, and will ultimately help them codify the evaluation criteria on which the vendors’ proposals will be assessed. Essentially, the RFP should ensure all parties are on the same page in terms of requirements.

Additionally, RFPs should include background on the issuing organization, such as its lines of business, needs and expectations, as well as a set of specifications that describe the ideal solution.

Why an RFP?

It’s important to ask yourself why you’re issuing an RFP in the first place. Do you have performance issues with your current employee benefits broker? Is it a required diligence obligation? Are you simply canvassing the marketplace to see if there are better options available than your current benefits broker? Or are you looking to hire an employee benefits advisor for the first time?

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Topics: Employee Benefits, employers, employee benefits broker, rfp

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The Role of Social Media In Employee Benefits Communication

David Rook

Today’s workforce spans four different generations and reaching all of them can be a challenge. Employers can no longer solely rely on traditional employee benefits communication materials like email, printed brochures, break room posters, table tents, and payroll stuffers. While those may be effective with certain members of your workforce, younger employees are far more difficult to reach through these traditional forms of communication.

Rather, savvy employers are embracing today’s social media platforms to reach their most elusive workers — millennials and generation Z. Social media was created by millennials and gen Z are digital natives who aren’t likely to remember a time before computers. They spend quite a bit of time online, making social media one of the best avenues to connect with them in a contemporary, timely, and non-intrusive way.

Keep reading to find suggestions on how to integrate social media in your employee benefits communications, and download our free guide on this topic here.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Employee Communications, employee communication

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Practical Issues to Consider in Expanding Benefits Coverage to Transgender Employees

David Rook

Best-in-class employee benefits evolve with the times and our changing values. We saw marriage equality granted to all people in this country after Obergefell v. Hodges, opening employee benefits to many additional spouses and families. Now, we’re seeing more and more employers (including Fortune 100 and 500 companies) embrace transgender-inclusive health insurance plans as gender identity awareness improves. However, medical professionals have been stressing the importance of transgender health for years.

In 2008, the American Medical Association (AMA) first voiced its concerns for the discrimination of transgender individuals when it published a guidance supporting “public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender dysphoria as recommended by the patient's physician.” (This policy was updated in 2016).

In order to truly be an equal opportunity employer, you should have at least one transgender-inclusive health insurance plan in your employee benefits package. It’s not as complicated or expensive as it may sound. In fact, right here in our home state of Arizona, there are quite a few employers already offering such benefits.

Here are some practical issues you should consider when expanding your employee benefits to make sure they include transgender employees and how doing so could help you recruit and retain the workforce of the future — namely, millennials and generation Z, who see inclusivity as an important attribute of prospective employers.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, employers, Plan Design, Culture, PPACA, Arizona, employee culture, Retention, Recruiting, ACA, Company Culture, Affordable Care Act, LGBTQ

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What Does the Average Employer Spend on Employee Benefits?

Jeff Griffin

When we’re helping employers cultivate employee benefits packages for their workforce, we’re often asked to benchmark what their peers are spending on them. The answers vary widely based on multiple factors, including geography, industry, size of the workforce, health plans offered, and the overall health of the workforce population, just to name a few.

Employee benefits benchmarking is one of the best ways to figure this out. The best answer for each employer is determined through public and proprietary information, the latter of which can be quite costly, but it’s also quite necessary. Some of our favorite sources for benchmarking include Truven, Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), Mercer, Windsor, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the International Foundation for Employee Benefits (IFEB), and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, who tracks this information and shares it quarterly).

The BLS report breaks data down into multiple categories, including various components of compensation by sector (public, civilian, government). Let’s take a moment to look at the most recent data from the BLS so you can compare how your employee benefits costs stack up.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, CHRO, CFO, Voluntary Benefits, Ancillary Benefits, Worksite Benefits, Audits, employers

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The Digital Divide – How to Communicate with Disconnected Employees

David Rook

Employers oftentimes worry about how to tailor employee communication for those who are digitally disconnected — meaning they don’t have access to email or the internet — but this concern is largely blown out of proportion.

According to Pew Research, only 11 percent of Americans aren’t using the internet. Research also suggests that “non-adoption [of the internet] is correlated to a number of demographic variables, including age, educational attainment, household income and community type.”

As the numbers suggest, internet adoption is picking up steam, leaving fewer and fewer people disconnected every day — especially among older Americans and those with less education. The research center points out that 86 percent of senior citizens didn’t use the internet in the year 2000, but that the current data shows a dramatic increase in older adults’ online activity (only 34 percent don’t use the internet now). Among those who didn’t finish high school, non-adopters dropped a similar amount during the same time period, going from 81 percent to 35 percent.

Regardless, it’s wise for employers who want to ensure no one in the workforce is overlooked to deploy both digital and more traditional methods of employee communication. In addition, because digital access spans multiple device types (computers, smartphones, tablets) and various ways to attain connectivity (home internet, public internet, cellular data), it’s important to take the following into account when connecting to these audiences:

Employee Communication for the Connection-Challenged

Some employees may be connected, but face some challenges in doing so. They aren’t totally cut off from the internet because they have library access or use the web browser on their smartphone, but they’re not particularly internet-savvy either. Here are some suggestions for making sure these employees can read the communications you’re sending:

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Corporate Communication, Employee Communications, employee communication, Communications, Multi-Generational

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