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3 Ways to Set Yourself Up For Open Enrollment Success

Regardless of when your benefits package renews, there’s a lot to be said for employers who plan ahead. Undoubtedly, many changes caused by the pandemic have shifted the needs of employees and altered the ‘normal’ approach to open enrollment. However, planning has always (and will always) be a good idea—especially when it comes to group health plans.

Giving your organization time to plan and prepare will help you improve the absolutely critical process of implementing your benefits package, which has *major* repercussions on your return on investment (ROI). Start by following these three steps.

1. Consider changes to your benefits offering

Pandemic or no, employee needs are constantly changing. They have changed significantly over the past year and will continue to change as our country adjusts how we approach work. Since employee benefits are such a significant investment for employers, it only makes sense to meticulously review what benefits are most popular and what benefits don’t hold as much value.

Survey your employees and do your research. Since the start of the pandemic, some benefits have risen in popularity as employee needs have changed.

These include:

  • Virtual healthcare
  • Flex work, childcare, and elderly care
  • Financial wellness
  • Mental healthcare

Talk to your broker about your options and create a strategy that fits the needs of your employee population, as needs and wants can vary broadly. One size does not fit all for an attractive benefits package.

2. Open enrollment planning

Depending on the shifts your organization made since the pandemic, it’s important to consider how you will proceed with open enrollment this fall. Organizing a supportive and education-based strategy to guide your employees through enrollment can make a real impact on the employee experience during the process and increase plan utilization by employees.

  • Consider how to create a system that works for your employees wherever they are (on-site or remote).
  • Provide resources and support to employees as they make their decisions. These can include educational resources (such as this glossary of standard benefit terms), in-person or virtual support, and clear communication around deadlines and qualifications.
  • Get feedback from your employees before open enrollment about their experience last year and their concerns and needs for the upcoming season. Find common trends to help you fill in gaps that you may have missed in years past.

3. Preparing for implementation

Spend time reviewing and improving your plan of execution. This plan should include a detailed communication strategy, employee education, and year-round support. If you want to see significant participation from your employees, you need to engage with consistent support and education strategies. Ask your employees if:

  • They understand the benefits available to them. Do you offer an HSA or self-insured plan? If so, make sure your employees have a proper understanding of how these different plans work and what to expect when they participate.
  • They know where to go to ask for help. Do they have access to a support line? Are there online resources you are providing them?

Consistent and clear communication is a critical part of ensuring your employees participate in and get the most out of the benefit plan you’re offering. Consider which channels you will be relying upon (email, meetings, one-on-one support, a web page, etc.) to get the word out and offer support. Get clear on how and when you’ll use these channels and stay consistent in using them.

Preparation = success

The more you plan, the better you can guide your employees and your organization through the process of open enrollment. This isn’t the sort of thing you want to put off until the last minute or until your broker comes to talk to you.

Employee benefits are a crucial part of your employee engagement, retention, attraction, and ultimately, the business’s success. And as such, they require and deserve careful planning. By starting with these three steps, you’ll set your organization, and your employees, up for success.

 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by rawpixel

Exit Interviews: The Good the Bad and the Ugly

The value of exit interviews is a long-standing debate in the HR world, with people landing on both sides of the aisle. Some argue if an organization is broken, exit interviews are useless and hurt the interviewee’s reputation. Others say they are an excellent opportunity for an organization to learn from its mistakes.

The reality? The answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Every time a valuable employee leaves an organization, it suffers. Not only because of the cost it takes to hire and train a replacement, but also:

  • For the loss of institutional knowledge
  • For the time it takes for teammates to adjust
  • For the potential dip in productivity and team morale
  • For the loss of value to customers

So, it makes sense that the smartest move for an organization is to try everything to mitigate loss.

Where they go wrong

Exit interviews, team check-ins, increased training, and team development are tangible ways to counteract the loss of a valued employee. However, if your organization suffers from a toxic company culture and mindset, or functions under a fear-based leadership style that discourages open and honest conversations about what’s not working, you’ve got a much bigger problem on your hands.

In this kind of culture, exit interviews will likely be ignored and forgotten. Organizations failing to manage these issues will likely experience (at least) one mass exodus of employees. For that reason, it’s worth doing what you can to conduct honest exit interviews.

For example, suppose employee retention is low. In that case, it’s likely at some point leadership will take a keen interest in figuring out the cause, at which time those exit interviews will come in handy. No matter the case, exit interviews can be instrumental if handled correctly. If you’re interested in doing what you can to improve your organization, inform your leadership, and mitigate loss, then exit interviews are a great place to start.

Follow these steps to make the most out of them.

Be proactive

It’s essential to get your interview in before too much time has passed. Everything will still be fresh in the interviewee’s mind, making it easier for them to recall information and offer suggestions. However, be sure to account for heightened emotions as this can be a rather tumultuous time for a departing employee. It may be worth it to schedule another interview a few months down the road when the dust has settled to allow for hindsight and clear thinking. 

Be clear about your objective

Before you start your interview, work out what it is you’re trying to gain.

Do you want:

  • To uncover processes that need a review?
  • An honest assessment of managers, leadership, or team dynamics?
  • To get a picture of the job they’re leaving for?
  • To find out why their new job is more attractive than their current role?

Knowing the goals and what you want to gain will help you frame intentional questions and prepare for the answers.

Follow up

A common misstep is to forget the interviews as soon as they’re done. But there isn’t any point in conducting them unless you’re ready to follow up, analyze the data, and use what you learned.

Apply what you learned

Once you’ve gotten what you can out of an interview, set up action steps for integrating what you’ve learned. If your goal was to see how your company compared to its competitors in talent attraction, your response would look different than if you wanted to uncover issues with leadership styles. Make sure you lay out your goals and how you’ll reach them both before and after an interview; otherwise, all it will do is gather dust and become irrelevant.

A holistic approach

Internal reviews are a critical part of growth and development. While exit interviews are an excellent way to mitigate loss, they aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution to uncovering issues within an organization. If you’re interested in improving the employee experience, work out leadership problems, evaluate company culture, and generally drive your organization in a good direction.

Don’t wait until an employee leaves to get their opinion. Start early and start strong. Set internal reviews throughout the year, with individuals as well as entire teams. Normalize feedback and open, honest communication. Train leaders and managers to respond to and positively integrate constructive feedback. And above all, work to foster a trusting environment where employees feel free to share their experience without fear of retribution.

All of this may be uncomfortable, but the positive impact on your organization makes it well worth the effort.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Antonio Diaz

Non-Insurance Solutions That Make a Real Impact

The world of employee benefits experienced significant growing pains since the pandemic hit a little over a year ago. With all the new challenges employees began experiencing (job loss, loss of childcare, financial instability, mental health, and so much more), employers learned, fast, that ensuring the wellbeing of their employees is essential.

Let’s break down some of the factors contributing to employee resilience and wellbeing that employers can effectively take action on.

Employee Wellness

It’s important to understand that while the term ‘wellness’ is singular, it encompasses a variety of factors that contribute to it. While someone may have good physical wellness, if they are experiencing hardship in other areas of their lives, their overall wellness will be affected. In this way, employers need to approach wellness holistically, focusing on more than one contributing factor in an employee’s overall wellbeing.

Financial stability

A 2018 report by the Federal Reserve found 40% of adults would struggle to pay off a $400 unexpected expense. According to the MetLife Employee Benefit Trends Study 2021, financial stress is both the top concern and the leading factor contributing to poor mental health among employees. A staggering 86% of employees reported financial stress was a leading source of anxiety now and going forward.

These numbers vastly differ between demographics, showing a disparity in the experience of white/Caucasian and Black and Latinx respondents. When asked if they had been worried about their financial health, 53% of white respondents and 70% of both Black and Latinx respondents said yes. These numbers are concerning not only because of the disparity they represent but also because they demonstrate the vast number of people suffering from financial stress.

Many employers function under the misconception that their employees are financially stable, but there is no way of knowing what kind of financial burdens employees may carry. They may be a single parent, a caregiver of a family member with medical needs, or struggling to pay off staggering student loan debts. Whatever the case, employers that offer financially focused benefits can help make a significant difference in their employees’ lives.

Consider offering financially focused benefits aimed at developing financial stability for your employees now and into their future:

  • Student loan support
  • 401(k) and other retirement savings
  • Monthly wellness stipends
  • Financial coaching and education
  • Childcare support

Mental health

One of the positive side effects created by the pandemic has been the increased availability of accessible mental health support. Organizations like BetterHelp and Talkspace provide access to qualified therapists that provide therapy services online or over the phone, and these services have taken off over the past year as more Americans have reached out for mental health help. Offering programs designed to overcome cost barriers that may deter employees from accessing mental health services is a great way to help support your employees’ wellbeing.

Flex time

Another way to provide support to employees is to offer flex time. Many organizations have started to use flex time since the pandemic began, along with remote work. According to the same MetLife study, 76% of workers are interested in continuing alternative working arrangements developed during the pandemic such as remote work and flexible schedules, but 90% of employers who said they implemented these alternative solutions are planning to go back to pre-pandemic working arrangements when possible. That is a concerning disparity that may result in employee frustration when they are forced back into the office, expensive commutes, and less flexibility to manage their personal lives.

68% of employees working remotely want their employers to allow them to make the decision for themselves. Over half of workers in their 20s, including Gen Zs and young Millennials, are happier with their working arrangements now than before the pandemic.

Flexible scheduling, remote options, and unlimited PTO programs allow employees to better manage their personal commitments with less stress, enabling them to maintain their overall wellness with greater ease.

Social justice

2020 wasn’t just the Year of the Pandemic, but a year of great social unrest and change. 42% of all employees say that social justice issues are a source of anxiety for them. These issues reach across demographics, location, age, and economic status. All employers must do what they can to provide support in this area.

Consider offering:

  • Paid volunteer hours
  • Paid holidays or time off during election days
  • Inclusivity training for managers and employees

In it for the long haul

Employee wellness was a critical issue long before the pandemic and will continue to be one well into the future. Employers who are serious about developing a company that can drive growth, attract, retain, and engage employees, and leave a positive legacy behind them need to be considering these issues consistently throughout the years.

What’s good for your employees is good for you: employees who identify as mentally and physically healthy are 37% more productive than those that aren’t. And that’s just one statistic that shows how caring for your employees creates a positive ripple effect within your organization, their community, and the world.

It’s a win-win for everyone.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by fizkes

Three Approaches to Workplace Safety

According to an analysis by Liberty Mutual, the two most expensive causes of workplace injury are overexertion and falls. These two things alone cost employers nearly $24.8 BILLION in 2019. The Workplace Safety Index (WSI) of 2020 also cited the total cost of the most disabling workplace injuries costs employers $59.59 billion a year. But that’s not the only reason to think about raising your workplace safety game. 

Workplace safety is a concern for many people on a variety of levels. Employees expect a safe place to work. Customers expect to have a safe experience in the places they frequent. Banks and insurance companies want to work with companies that aren’t being unnecessarily risky. And business owners have a whole other set of worries: 

  • What happens if an employee gets hurt or sick (think Pandemic)? 
  • Who will cover shifts if an injury causes someone to be out for an extended time? 
  • How will an accident affect our operating costs? Healthcare? Business insurance? 
  • What about expensive fines, penalties, and litigation? 
  • Are we in compliance with federal and local regulations? 
  • How can we protect our employees and ourselves? 

These are all very valid questions and concerns. Let’s talk about how to keep your company and everyone in it as safe as possible.  

A bird’s eye view 

Safety is about more than checking the boxes required to comply with federal and local regulations. If your company is doing the bare minimum to meet workplace safety requirements, you’re going to get the bare minimum when it comes to results.  

If you want to put safety to work for you and your business, you need to think bigger. Create a culture of workplace safety. Don’t just make it a prioritycommit to making it one of your core values. Weave it into your infrastructure, your operations, and your daily reality.  

Here are a few quick ways to get started: 

  • Make time for it. Move safety to the top of your todo list and keep it top of mind. 
  • Include workplace safety as a critical part of all decision-making processes.  
  • Train staff and leadership thoroughly from a safety-first perspective.  
  • Communicate about safety openly and often.  
  • Put your money where your mouth is. Invest in a safer workplace. 

There’s a big difference between talking about safety and actively working to create a safe environment. Employees can tell the difference between an employer who says they care about safety and one who truly does. Be on the right side of that equation. 

Into the details 

While you’re building a strong foundation for safe practices, don’t be tempted to let the little things slide.  

When it comes to workplace safety, details matter. When it comes to workplace safety, little things can become big things in an instant. A loose cord, a slippery floor, or a cracked pair of safety glasses may not seem like a big deal, but in the wrong set of circumstances, it could be.  

If an employee comes to you with a safety concern, no matter how large or small, take it seriously. Better yet, be proactive about finding potential unsafe areas, equipment, and practices. Do a safety audit to determine what tools and processes need to be fixed, replaced, or thrown out entirely.  

Not only will this keep your workplace safe and your business protected, but it will also show your employees that you care enough to invest in their well-being. 

Be strategic 

Everyone wants to work in a safe environment. That’s a no-brainer. So how come so many businesses don’t do what it takes to actually get there? 

Perhaps they think that fully committing to workplace safety sounds way too: 

  • expensive, 
  • complicated, 
  • time-consuming, 
  • unnecessary, or 
  • paranoid. 

If you’ve run into some or all of these objections at your company, now is the time to refer back to the WSI study, which found that disabling workplace injuries cost employers over $59 billion a year. That’s right. Billion. With a capital B. Now which strategy sounds more expensive: committing or not committing to workplace safety?  

Focusing on workplace safety is smart business. It’s not just good for the health of your employees. It’s good for the health of your organization. And that’s good for everyone.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Boonchu Pinkaew

 

It’s Time to Expect More from Your Broker

For most employers, the story is the same every year. They don’t hear from their benefits broker until renewal starts to appear around the corner, and then it’s spreadsheets, rising premiums, and more spreadsheets. The world of insurance is confusing and frustrating, and for many employers, this leads them to seek out second opinions from multiple brokers. Why wouldn’t you? Even if your goal is just to keep your current broker honest, it’s only common sense to get second opinions on a purchase that large.

But here’s the problem. Almost without fail, the brokers you talk to will get the same numbers from the carriers, bring in the same spreadsheets, and will likely tell you about their services, which are the same as every other broker. Benefits admin support, compliance support, HR services—the list goes on, and it’s almost always the same.

You still have to make that gut-wrenching purchase come renewal time, and you still feel in the dark about your options.

So how do you decide which broker to go with if everything they’re offering is the same? That’s where many brokers and employers alike would point to the “relationship” part of the business. They would say it all comes down to who you like the best.

But we disagree. There is a different kind of broker out there—one that doesn’t look the same as the rest and can offer you something different—something better.

What you really need

While every year you feel the same frustration and anxiety around having to make an extremely (and increasingly) expensive investment in your employees, how much do you really understand about why you’re making that particular purchase?

The reality is most employers simply don’t have enough real experience with the world of insurance other than that dreaded yearly renewal process. This leaves them at the mercy of their broker and relying on others to tell them what’s best for their business.

While this makes sense—the world of insurance is increasingly confusing and constantly changing—it’s simply not sustainable. What employers need is to have the power to make an informed and educated decision when it comes to their benefits plan. They need to have the kind of power only true understanding can bring.

How to differentiate

So it’s time to start looking for something different in your broker. Here’s how to spot it. While the benefits broker you’re used to will:

  • Only get in touch with you when it comes time to renew
  • Offer you the same spreadsheet and the same services every year
  • Assure you their service is the best and that’s what sets them apart
  • Hand you their non-insurance solutions and call it good
  • Completely fall off your radar once you’ve renewed

The benefits broker you want:

  • Shows up well before you have to start thinking about renewals
  • Starts off the conversation by uncovering your goals and challenges
  • Focuses on educating you about your options
  • Isn’t interested in forcing you to buy unless their solution improves your business
  • Continues to provide you with advice and education throughout the year
  • Supports the use of non-insurance solutions via training, communication, and education

The first type of broker wants you to buy from them and pick them out among the rest. While the second type also wants that, their first priority is to help you improve your business and make an impact in the lives of your employees. What you need isn’t a benefits broker—what you need is a benefits advisor.

Why?

So you can make the most informed decision for your business without blindly relying on a handful of brokers at renewal telling you the same thing over and over. So you won’t make the mistake of simply sticking to what you know just because you know it, passing over opportunities to make massive savings because you don’t understand them, and thus don’t trust them (yes, this really happens).

The world of insurance is growing and changing, and employers need to be able to grow and change along with it—and that requires employers to become educated about their situation and their options.

Expect more

The bottom line is you don’t have to settle for the same type of broker. In fact, you shouldn’t. You and the people your business supports deserve the best service and the best benefits available—and you can only get that by having the power to make informed decisions yourself.

Start expecting your broker to teach you. Start asking questions and expecting answers. Look for a broker who focuses on education, year-round communication, and who takes the time to help you fully understand all your options. You deserve more than the same old story. It’s time to expect a new one.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Volodymyr Melnyk

You Should Nurture Relationships with Past Employees

It’s a fact that losing good employees is a major pain point for business owners. Not only is it hard (and expensive) to replace a quality employee, but replacing institutional knowledge, relationships, and experience takes a lot of time. But this doesn’t mean employers should avoid thinking about or preparing for the eventual departure of an employee. In fact, employee alumni networks and strong networking communities comprised of ex-employees may make the next step of hiring much, much easier.

While onboarding programs are all the rage among HR professionals and business leaders, it’s sadly common for employees to leave a company in a very different manner. New employees are greeted with training, communication, and team engagement, but an employee leaving a company may be met with an exit interview, a pat on the back, or in some cases, outright hostility, resentment, scrambling and confusion on behalf of their managers.

But this doesn’t make sense for both the business and the departing employee. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average job retention rate in the United States consistently hovers at around four years. In fact, business professionals have been noted to advise against staying in a job for too long to avoid damaging your career. So why do exiting employees so often get ignored or treated poorly?

The short answer? A lack of foresight. Previous employees can have a dramatic impact on a business even after they leave. They may come back in the form of clients, business referrals, vendors, brand ambassadors, and boomerang employees. The fact of the matter is that employees are almost never going to stay with your company for their entire career, so it makes sense for organizations to prepare—well in advance—for their eventual departure and subsequent post-departure impact on the business.

But how do you nurture relationships with previous employees?

Corporate alumni programs

These programs are popular among corporate industries, including legal, consulting, and financial services. They are designed to create a network for former employees to stay connected with their old colleagues and organizations, providing a space for them to continue growing and nurturing their relationships long-term.

According to a report by Conenza Inc. in conjunction with Cornell University, there are four main motivations people have for joining alumni programs:

  • Mission-driven
  • Career-minded
  • Pragmatic
  • Social-focused

With that in mind, it seems like a major loss for organizations to miss out on staying connected with people driven by these traits. After all, they all point to growth-driven mindsets that positively impact both the alumni and the organization.

Offboarding strategies

If you’re a smaller business or simply not a fit for an alumni program, there’s plenty you can do to maintain mutually beneficial relationships with employees after they’ve left your organization. The basics of offboarding aren’t complicated—it’s simply a step-by-step process that allows for clear communication and preparation as an employee arranges to depart, ensuring the employee and the organization have everything they need before the final day. Here are some simple steps you can take to help the process along:

  • Begin preparing for their eventual departure long before you expect them to leave by creating an offboarding program that matches your organization’s values, mission, and culture. You want employees to have a cohesive experience throughout their entire lifecycle. This will help you manage expectations and maintain trust even as an employee begins the exit process.
  • Create an ongoing dialog around career development that starts the moment an employee enters your ranks. Make it clear that while you hope employees will stay forever, you understand most employees change jobs every handful of years and you’ve created opportunities and resources for them to develop within your organization and stay connected with you after they leave.

Offboarding programs will help leaders not to go into chaotic damage control by creating a clear process for each step of the departure. It allows organizations to say, “We’ve prepared for this and made it simple and easy, so we can all continue on without anxiety.” It allows the employee to leave in a measured, calm way, and the organization to be prepared to handle their leaving without confusion or missed steps that would end up frustrating both the organization and the departing employee.

A mutual investment

For both individuals and organizations alike, the relationships developed, both externally and internally, are the foundation of success. They drive investment, engagement, reputation, and networking power. It’s simply common sense to get the best value out of the most intimate of these relationships—with your employees themselves. Remember, how you treat your employees—both current and past—has a determining effect on your reputation within your industry. Handle these relationships with intentionality and care, and reap the benefits of a robust, engaged, and long-lasting network.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by mavoimage

How HR Professionals Can Benefit from Learning the Sales Pitch

Over the past several years, HR’s role has steadily risen in stature, with more and more leaders recognizing the critical nature of HR functions and their impact on business growth and the bottom line. And HR has risen to the occasion by finding solutions to the chaos caused by the pandemic, driving vital culture changes to improve equality within the workplace, prioritizing diversity and inclusion, and developing new solutions to improve the employee experience.

But despite this upward trend, the task of pitching new ideas, plans, or strategies to the C-Suite isn’t without difficulty. While you may understand how the solution you’ve worked hard to develop is right for the business, it’s not exactly easy to convey this—especially when money is on the line.

As more solutions become available and the market for HR solutions grows, HR professionals need to prepare themselves for the inevitable fight for the “right one”. But this can’t be done in a power-play.

As you prepare for your next conversation about an HR solution you’d like to implement, consider approaching it like a “pitch.”

Understand your audience

While you may understand why the solution you’re pitching is the right one, that doesn’t mean it’s clear to the CEO or CFO of the company. As you work to frame the information you’ve gathered, consider each of your audience’s perspectives, and try framing your pitch to fit their specific lens:

  • A CEO generally keeps the grand vision for the organization front of mind. They want to know how any solution will help them reach their ultimate goals. They want to be reassured that each section of the company will engage successfully with the solution. And they’ll want to know why this solution is better than others.
  • A CFO is a different story. They want to know how this solution will affect the bottom line. They may be more interested in hard numbers, data, research, and comparative data between similar solutions.

As you approach these conversations, consider how you might frame the information you have to fit your audience’s specific questions before sitting down with them. Preparing yourself for the decision-makers’ inevitable questions and worries will help you develop confidence and build their confidence and trust in you as your conversation progresses.

Start with small steps

Instead of expecting a decision to be made right out the gate, consider setting up a series of meetings in which you approach your ultimate goal of implementing the solution over time, creating stepping stones that gradually bring the decision-makers to the finish line. Set clear goals for each meeting so they’ll know what to expect. Consider breaking down the conversation into a series of small steps:

  1. Set a preliminary meeting to talk about the current solution (or lack of solution) the organization has. Review how it’s going and identify what issues have arisen. Then take a look at the overall goals of the organization and identify areas that need attention. This meeting is an opportunity for you to uncover their concerns and goals, which will inform how you approach your second presentation.
  2. In your second meeting, frame your solution around the main points and concerns highlighted in the first discussion. This is your chance to explain why you think it’s the best fit. Don’t leave your expert opinion out, but don’t forget to address your audience’s concerns. Before asking them to make the final decision, propose bringing in someone from the company offering the solution or from a similar organization as yours that has implemented it.

By approaching the pitch as a series of small steps that lead to a bigger decision, you’ll remove the anxiety around making the final purchase and help build trust as they learn about the solution.

Practice

As you prepare, don’t forget to practice these conversations. Try roleplaying and writing a list of questions you might expect. While you may think you know everything about this solution, you don’t want to risk giving a sloppy, confusing answer when the moment strikes. Run through your presentation at least three times, and identify areas that can be clarified, simplified, or left out.

Remember, you are the expert in this situation. If you believe your solution will make a difference for your organization, you owe it to your team to be as prepared and knowledgeable as possible. You got this!

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Cathy Yeulet

Battling Ageism Continued: Protecting Senior Professionals

A few weeks ago, we published a blog that covered four ways you can work against ageist practices in your workplace. While it’s a good start to identifying the subtle ways ageism can sneak in, it’s essential to address some more concrete ways ageism takes place.

The numbers behind ageism

Ageism is, without a doubt, a heavy burden on the American people and our country as a whole. Last year, the AARP released a study that calculated the U.S. lost $850 billion in GDP due to ageist practices against older workers in 2018. The same study projects that by 2050, the losses resulting from age discrimination could reach up to $3.9 trillion.

These ageist practices keep older workers out of the job market, impact any dependents they have, and force family members to pick up the slack. The study found 57% of GDP revenue lost was caused by workers forced into involuntary retirement.

Rejecting the practices of ageism

Although the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers 40 and over from being denied work and put at a disadvantage due to their age, a Supreme Court 2009 ruling made it more difficult for plaintiffs to win cases. The new ruling requires plaintiffs to prove their age was the deciding factor in their employer’s decision, removing what’s commonly called “mixed motive” cases from the table.

Last year, in response to the study and following public outcry, a bill (The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act) was introduced to the Senate to amend the Supreme Court’s decision and to make it easier for plaintiffs to make their case. Although this bill is not yet law, it shows a strong push to reject ageism and protect older workers from its destructive impact.

What can you do to ensure your organization isn’t participating in ageist practices?

Empower your employees

A straightforward way to hold your organization accountable? Ensure your employees know their rights and what to do when they feel their rights have been infringed upon. Educate your managers, hiring managers, and leadership team on:

  • Good defining traits to inform their decisions (experience, skills, compatibility)
  • What needs to be left out of the equation (age, ethnicity, gender, etc.)
  • What age discrimination looks like in the workplace (subtleties of language, hiring decisions)

Make sure your employees know they have a right to protect themselves from discrimination, and create the expectation that neither you nor they should tolerate any form of it. Create internal channels for employees to address issues and make sure they know what they can do to protect themselves.

Review your practices

When was the last time you looked at your internal practices to uncover malpractice, out of date approaches, and possible employee rights violations? Does anyone in your organization have this responsibility, or do you cross your fingers and hope nothing comes up?

Or did you do it at the start of your business but haven’t reviewed your practices in years?

Commit to continually reviewing your internal processes for hiring, promoting, and wage and hour decisions. If you have no system to examine these areas, you will be much more likely to find your business in hot water. The key concept here is to be proactive, not reactive.

Take action

There are ways to support older employees and increase their long-term impact and contributions to your organization. Also, keep in mind there are ways to make different roles more accessible to senior professionals. Consider:

  • Offering flexible hours
  • Offering part-time positions
  • Offering skills training

Making quarterly meetings to review benchmarks, wins, and growth areas will help your employees quantify their value to you and provide a record of their contribution and progress within your organization, protecting both their rights and yours.

Take on the responsibility 

In the end, organizations must shoulder the responsibility and duty to ensure they are providing just, equitable, and responsible treatment to their employees. Diversifying your workforce in any direction will allow you to grow and allow your community to grow with you. What’s right for your employees, is good for you, and what’s right for your industry, is good for your country. It’s time to step up to the plate and bat ageism out of the park.

 

Photo by piksel

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Four Ways to Fight Burnout

Even before the pandemic, employee burnout was a top concern for employers. The Mayo Clinic describes burnout as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” It manifests in many ways that are quite literally dangerous for employees. Symptoms of burnout include insomnia, fatigue, heart disease, vulnerability to illness, and death.

So, let’s talk about some simple and practical approaches to fighting burnout in your workplace. First things first, employers need to take responsibility for leading the fight. It’s not your employees’ job to fight burnout on their own. Burnout is often caused by systemic issues in a company’s culture, leading to overworked employees who don’t have the time or resources to manage their workload.

It’s best to approach the fight from all angles and not assume there is a one-size-fits-all solution for your company. Here’s where you can start.

1. PTO and the benefit of benefits

MetLife’s recent study found that 86% of employees considered health insurance a “must-have” and ranked comprehensive employee benefits as one of the most critical drivers of employee well-being. The same study also found that comprehensive employee benefits were a driver for increased employee productivity and loyalty.

Ensure you’re giving your employees the support they need to take care of themselves mentally and physically. Consider offering them a week’s more PTO than you did the previous year and see what it does for employee engagement, productivity, and retention.

If you’re not sure this is the right move for your business, make an experiment out of it. Record your numbers for retention, engagement, productivity, and wellness for the previous year, and compare them after one year of offering your new plan.

2. Workload monitoring

Providing a reasonable workload is a leading factor in decreasing employee stress and burnout. While this may seem obvious, it can be a tricky task to work out exactly how much work is too much (or not enough) for your employees. Do your research and develop a strategy for identifying when workloads are too high and when they need to be decreased and spread out.

Involve your employees in this process. They can help you gain insight into the ebb and flow of their workload and inform you how to best respond to the challenges they face. Make sure to keep an open dialog between employees and managers and encourage honesty.

3. Human management

This leads us to understanding the different causes of burnout and how to address them. While burnout is often a direct result of a failure on the company’s behalf to manage employees strategically, sometimes it results from external issues.

The year 2020 is an excellent example of how employees may deal with the same workload they always have but struggle to keep up due to added stress from their environment, like:

The minute you ask an employee to put aside their needs, you set your company and your employee up for failure.

Design a culture that recognizes productivity naturally ebbs and flows along with our ability to manage stress, workload, and well-being. Allow your employees to be human and open about their challenges. If an employee feels like they can take a day off or ask for extra help on a project without retaliation, their stress level won’t rise, and they’ll be better equipped to get back on track and manage their workload like the dedicated employee they are.

4. Recognition

MetLife found that employee recognition was the ultimate driver in increasing productivity, engagement, and loyalty, and decreasing stress, burnout, and depression. A simple “thank you” or “great job” can be the difference between an employee feeling burned out and feeling accomplished. There are many creative ways to celebrate and acknowledge your employees, so there isn’t a good excuse for not doing it.

Looking forward

This may be an old topic, but it’s never been more relevant. As you move into 2021 and the decade beyond, you must maintain a sincere effort to help your employees lead healthy lives at work and at home. Fighting burnout will save you money, protect employee health and well-being, and give you both stronger legs to stand on.

Photo by ANDRANIK HAKOBYAN

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Kicking Ageism Out of Your Workplace

Ageism is an established problem HR departments battle. Laws and organizations have been founded upon the need to protect workers from ageist practices. A report by Glassdoor in 2019 found nearly half of respondents in the US had witnessed or experienced ageism in the workplace. It also found that younger employees, aged 18-34, were more likely to witness or experience some form of discrimination in the workplace. In the UK, for example, 48% of adults (aged 18-34) experienced ageism in the workplace, in contrast with 25% of employees aged 55+.

You might be thinking, “Wait, I thought ageism was about older employees?”

Here’s the deal.

Ageism is about senior employees, but it also encompasses young employees. It’s as easy to assume an older employee won’t know how to use new technology as it is to assume a younger employee can’t handle the responsibility of important work.

To protect your workplace from ageist policies, attitudes, and culture, take these steps.

Use your words carefully

A lot can be conveyed by how we talk to one another. What feels like harmless turns of phrase can make a considerable impression and convey held biases we may not be aware of. For instance, referring to a younger employee as a “kid” can mean you view them as a child. Think about what you’re saying and why you’re saying it. Words conveying a dismissive, slighting, or negative connotation can pop into our vocabulary without much thought but can do serious harm to an employee’s experience.

Think before you ask 

One incredibly unprofessional, but common experience young employees have is to be given irrelevant tasks. For instance, an employee in their twenties just out of grad school gets called into their boss’s office. Instead of getting a real assignment, they’re asked to pick up the boss’s cat and take it to the vet. Oh, and while they’re at it, pick up some cat food from a store across town.

Passing off personal tasks to young employees, often with the title of Assistant, is unfortunately all too common. These behaviors show a lack of respect for the employee’s experience, skillset, time, and contribution.

Review your demographics 

One way to spot ageism in your workplace is to evaluate the demographics of the people on your team. For instance:

  • Do you have a predominantly young or old team?
  • Do people in your field tend to be older?
  • Do you discount younger professionals because you don’t think they can handle the role’s responsibility?
  • Do you assume older people within the field won’t be as agile or technically capable?

Your workplace demographics are a great place to start when looking for patterns in your hiring practices that might be weeding specific demographics out of your talent pool.

Where you offer opportunities

Beware of assuming the only people who want growth opportunities and new training are younger employees. Development programs, unique and challenging opportunities, new tech, and strategy shouldn’t belong to only one demographic. Ensure you offer these opportunities to your team equally, providing room for growth and development to everyone.

Don’t get complacent 

Ensuring your workplace is both in compliance and a positive environment for people of all demographics takes commitment, effort, and diligence.

This isn’t a conversation you should have once and move on. Diversity, inclusion, and anti-discrimination should be an ongoing conversation and priority for business leaders across industries. Train your managers to catch their own biases, recognize ageist practices and mentalities, and address it when they see it. Teach your employees to do the same and build a system that acknowledges and responds appropriately to employees who speak up.

Creating a safer, more inclusive environment won’t just protect you from lawsuits but protect employees so they can flourish and grow within your organization.

 

Photo by Viacheslav Iakobchuk

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners