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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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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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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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Workforce Social Media Guidelines On & Off the Clock

David Rook

At this point, nearly every business, regardless of size, has a social media presence — as does nearly every single one of their employees. Like it or not, social media isn’t an option for your company anymore. It’s basically a must-have.

Customers not only expect you to have an easy-to-use website, but they want to see you on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and plenty of other platforms you probably wish you didn’t have to think about. Of course, this means you need to develop strong social media guidelines for your employees to follow, while they’re on and off the clock.

Social media creates an obligation on the behalf of your company to have trusted, well-trained, and responsible staff representing your business online. It’s so easy for an employee to misspeak or get baited by an annoying internet troll. Social media also provides ample opportunity for your workforce to talk about your business when they’re off the clock. This can be a good thing, but it can also backfire if people believe your employees are speaking on the behalf of your company, even while on their personal pages.

While social media can be a frustrating venture for any business, it also creates an environment where you can interact on a more personal and immediate level with customers (both current and prospective). It expands the reach of your brand while increasing brand interactions.

Social media is here to stay. Because of this, many companies have developed social media guidelines  — both for staff members who work in the marketing and customer service departments (who will be speaking on the behalf of the company), as well as employees outside of those departments who simply engage in social media on a personal level. Social media guidelines don’t tell employees how to use social media in general, but rather describe how it’s appropriate to use social media when talking for, or about, the company. You can download some excellent sample policies here

Why Social Media Guidelines are Important


It’s safe to assume the vast majority of your employees are on social media. Some will be more active than others, but nearly everyone will have a presence on at least one channel — more than likely, multiple social platforms, with the most popular being Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for personal use and LinkedIn for professional networking.

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Topics: Employee Communications, Social Media, Corporate Communication, Culture, Compliance

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Employee Benefits Glossary: Insurance Terminology Defined (with downloadable asset!)

Jeff Griffin

Insurance terminology sometimes makes discussions about healthcare feel like we’re all speaking in different languages. The jargon insurance companies use is oftentimes confusing for the average person to understand, only further exacerbated by the legalese in which everything insurance-related is written. It feels like we all need a translator just to figure out what insurance policies cover and what participants will be responsible for.

The truth of the matter is that people understand less about health insurance than they like to believe. A 2016 survey by PolicyGenius found that just 4 percent of those polled could correctly identify four common insurance terms: copayment, copay (some people think they mean something different), deductible, and coinsurance. And while 83 percent of people believed they understood the word “copay,” only 52 percent could actually define it correctly. To make matters worse, only 36 percent of millennials could define any of the four terms properly.

As a member of the human resources team, the responsibility of bridging this knowledge gap and educating your workforce oftentimes falls to you. An educated workforce will make better employee benefit enrollment decisions, and will be less of a burden on your employee benefits hotline.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a glossary of common insurance terminology that you can easily slip into your employee benefits enrollment guide or your employee handbook. While we’ve included 11 of the most common terms here, you can download another 52 by clicking here.  

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Topics: Employee Benefits, CHRO, Employee Communications, employee communication, Education

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This Past Open Enrollment Season’s Most Frequently Asked Questions

David Rook

If you’re like most HR departments around the country, you’re on the tail end of taking a bit of a breather in Q1, seemingly having just completed yet another fall open enrollment.

Our benefit hotline specialists fielded thousands of calls in Q4 of last year. We thought it might be helpful if we recapped some of the more popular questions and answers, some of which change from year-to-year while others are perennial favorites.

As you might expect, this year we fielded a considerable number of questions about High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). We also took a considerable number of calls on Medicare, Limited Purpose FSAs and other hot topics.

Distributing these FAQs to your workforce or repurposing them in next year’s open enrollment communications and employee benefits guides should go a long way to helping reduce call volume into your HR department.

FREE GUIDE: The Top 55 Open Enrollment FAQs

Listed below are the first 15 on our list. You can access 55 more by clicking here to receive our downloadable guide.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Administration, Communications, Employee Communications, Account Management

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Advice To Give When Employees Need Help Paying Medical Bills

David Rook

When household budgets are already tight, the last thing your employees need is to be overburdened by unplanned and expensive medical bills. Even if they have a persistent cough that won't go away, an injury that just won't heal on its own, or a medical concern they know will eventually land them in the hospital, they may be less likely to see a doctor because they can’t afford to pay another bill.

Unfortunately, health problems often pop up without warning, which may leave some of your employees scrambling to pay the bill — and most likely, at the worst possible time. While most people find this subject embarrassing and would rather keep these matters private, you may have a few employees who confide in you, and seek your advice when it comes to needing help paying medical bills. It goes a long way when you point out to them that they have several outlets to explore before all hope seems to be lost.

Here are some suggestions you can put in your employee benefits guide or send to inquiring employees:

1. Don't Ignore the Bill

This is a really important first step: When you get the bill, don't ignore it. Most companies will bill you again after 30 days, again after 60 days, and then probably once more after 90 days. If you’ve still neglected to pay the bill, you may be sent to collections (the laws can vary, depending on many factors, including the type of medical debt), which will result in agents calling you to demand repayment, negatively impacting your credit history (and therefore, your credit rating).

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Topics: employers, Employee Communications, employee communication

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How Cell Phone Use at Work is Shaping Company Policies

Jeff Griffin

Now that nearly every adult has a smartphone, employers are realizing the need to develop policies that address cell phone use at work. As useful and helpful as our handheld devices are (and we do use them for everything), they can be distracting, and at times, a security risk.

In many ways, employers have helped foster this problem. Many employers expect their workforce to always be available, which makes it hard to tell employees they can’t use their cell phones at certain times or in certain settings at work. It might sound a bit hypocritical of us to make such demands and then tell employees they’re on their phones too much. All of us — from the top of the organization down — have gotten so used to a device in our hands that it gets admittedly difficult to put it down.

Cell Phone Use at Work and How it Affects Productivity

A survey conducted by staffing firm OfficeTeam found that employees spend about 56 minutes per day using their cell phones for personal business while at work. While managers surveyed assumed their employees were looking at social media, many employees said they were actually reading and responding to personal emails. In addition, 58 percent of workers reported using their cell phones to visit websites that were blocked or banned by their employer.

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Topics: Culture, employee culture, Company Culture, Communications, Employee Communications

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What's the Difference Between Health and Wellness?

Dr. Christine Maxwell

The terms health and wellness are commonly thrown together, thanks in large part to the prevalence of wellness programs promoting better health in the workplace. It’s easy to see how the two terms could be interchangeable, but the difference between health and wellness is important.

Wellness programs largely focus on the idea of preventative care, which is primarily designed to save policyholders (and employers) money in the long run (though many employers unfortunately sink a ton of time and money into wellness programs without any strategy whatsoever). The general idea is that if people are getting regular checkups, adhering to their prescribed medication regimen, and getting recommended vaccines, health problems can either be completely prevented or at least managed before they become extraordinarily expensive.

Although it’s fair to say that one of the goals of wellness programs is to make people healthier, there is a difference between health and wellness. So let’s dive into this and why it matters.

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Topics: wellness program, workplace wellness, employee health, wellness, Employee Communications

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How To Best Reach a Digital-Savvy Workforce

David Rook

How to Best Reach a Digital-Savvy Workforce

According to a recent Gallup poll, little progress is being made by U.S. companies hoping to improve employee engagement levels. In 2015, 32 percent of employees were classified as “engaged,” based on a number of measures such as believing their opinions count at work and having the opportunity to do what they do best every day. This figure represents only a 0.5 percent increase over 2014.

The majority of workers, 50.8 percent, were classified as “not engaged,” while an alarming 17.2 percent were classified as “actively disengaged.”

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Employee Communications, Technology

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