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Three Financially Focused Benefits Your Employees Will Love

In the last two years, employees across the country have had to adapt and adjust to a lot of challenges, many of which organizations had little to no control over. Employee burnout, stress, and wellbeing took major hits, putting more pressure on organizations to come up with solutions to help them face these challenges. According to the 2021 Employee Benefit Trends Study by Met Life, 86% of employees said finances are a top contributing factor to their stress now and into the future. While this may feel like an insurmountable problem for employers to take on, there are many solutions that can make a big impact for both the wellness of your employees and the health of your business.

1. Student Loan Repayment Programs

Today, 47 million Americans are carrying the burden of student loan debt. This year, student loan debt in America reached a staggering 1.7 trillion dollars. Despite the temporary loan forbearance the Biden Administration placed on federal student loan payments, student loan debt remains a top concern for many Americans in the workforce.

Employers looking for ways to help support employees who are paying off student loans should consider offering employee benefits aimed at just that—helping them pay off this debt. In December, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, enabling employers to contribute up to $5,250 in student loan payments tax-free, making it easier than ever for organizations to help.

Supporting employees burdened with student loan debt can be a strong tool for attracting and retaining top talent.

2. Retirement Planning

A 2019 study by GOBankingRates found that 64% of respondents expected to retire with less than $10,000 in their retirement savings. Employers can help employees prepare for retirement and reduce stress by offering benefits designed to enable employees to begin saving for retirement. Some plan options that provide tax benefits to both employers and employees include:

  • Payroll Deductible IRA – For employers who don’t want to implement a retirement savings plan, this plan offers a way for eligible employees to contribute to an IRA through payroll deductions.
  • 401(k) Plan – This plan offers an opportunity to employees to save through salary deferrals with the option of employer contribution.
  • Money Purchase Plan – This plan allows employers to make contributions to employee savings based on their discretion. There is no fixed amount nor requirement to make a contribution by the employer.

There are many types of retirement plans available to organizations, so do your research and choose the one that fits the needs of your business.

3. Education and stewardship

Understanding the basics of investing, saving, and money management is a challenge for many Americans, leading them to avoid this type of planning altogether. If your organization can’t offer benefits to help them save, consider offering a program to empower them through education.

Platforms like Skillshare and financialgym offer online courses to help anyone learn the basics of investing, planning for retirement and savings, and managing money. Knowledge and understanding can make a more powerful impact, in many ways, than simply offering a plan that no one understands.

Their financial wellness is your reward

Helping employees plan for retirement and effectively manage their savings and debt is a sure-fire way to improve their overall wellbeing by reducing stress and creating stability within their lives and futures. You may see an increase in talent attraction, employee engagement, retention, and satisfaction by offering a hand and enabling employees to create financial stability within their lives. What’s good for them is good for business.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by fizkes

 

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

Take the Formality Out of Performance Reviews

Let’s see if this scenario is familiar.

You call your employee into your office. You review their strengths and weaknesses, assess their performance, and set goals. You may even use a rating scale to show the employee if they met, exceeded, or failed to meet expectations.

You’ve just conducted a formal performance review, and when it comes to this process, organizations lose anywhere from $2.4 million to $35 million a year in working hours for employees to participate in reviews. Yet 72% of companies still conduct annual performance reviews.

So maybe it’s the process of conducting performance reviews and not the reviews themselves that need to be changed.

What should be included in a performance review?

You may hear performance review and professional development used interchangeably. But they are two different things. A performance review measures past performance and how well an employee performed in their expected role; professional development looks forward and inspires employees to improve.

Both have their place, but a performance review is geared toward just that: Performance. Consider these things as you’re conducting reviews:

Ask questions 

To ensure there are no surprises, send the review agenda to your team member beforehand, so they’ll know what will be discussed. Ask them to provide feedback about the agenda; doing so gives them co-ownership of the conversation.

During the review, ask open-ended questions to gain the best responses. Close-ended questions that only allow a yes or no answer won’t allow opportunity for insight and make the review unnecessarily formal.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • What accomplishments are you the proudest of?
  • What goals did you meet?
  • What skills do you have that we can use more effectively?
  • What about your role helps the company succeed?

You can also allow employees to do regular self-evaluation. While there are myths surrounding self-evaluations like “Employees only want to explain away their bad performance,” reflecting helps make employees happier and less likely to burn out. When coupled with an open and honest culture, self-evaluations will also be open and honest.

Consider doing a weekly check-in with self-reflection questions that look back at performance and how well team members feel they did over the past week:

  • Did you complete your ONE THING item from last week?
  • What was your greatest success over the past week?
  • What was your biggest challenge over the past week?
  • What did you learn this week through training and insight?
  • What is the ONE THING you must accomplish over this coming week?

You can use/revise this template or any number of templates you can find on the web by searching the term “employee self-evaluation template.” Choose whatever fits your company culture.

Treat performance reviews like conversations

Think of a review like a conversation, and it will remove any stress or burdens on you and your team members. But keep in mind exactly how you word things. Even things you meant as praise could be misconstrued as negative feedback if not worded correctly. Avoid:

  • Definitive terms like always and never
  • Subjective terms like rude, polite, and enthusiastic
  • Vague terms like good and poor

Instead, go further and use phrases like:

  • “I encourage you to continue [doing this action]. It provides good results for the team.”
  • “When you contact a customer after a sale is closed to ask them if they need anything, that shows you go above and beyond.”
  • “I advise you to stop [doing this action]. It results in [this consequence].”

You can also keep the review language and tone conversational by:

  • Not using a formal rating system
  • Making clear what factors of the review are tied to employee raises
  • Assuring employees this is a check-in as opposed to a performance judgment
  • Focusing on creating a culture of listening and growth
  • Having open conversations as opposed to formal discussions

Consider your cadence

Having a performance review once a year is a traditional approach. But that may not work for your organization. Think about what would be the best: Quarterly reviews? Monthly? Weekly? Consider your current framework and process and adjust accordingly.

Also, couple reviews with open feedback. When leaders provide their team with frequent and honest feedback, your team is more likely to be motivated and engaged at work.

Show your appreciation

No matter what kinds of questions you ask and how often you conduct reviews, they aren’t just about formality, ratings, and numbers. They are a way to show your employees appreciation for their work and help both you and them develop a better future. And that is a good thing.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Somsak Sudthangtum

Managing Workplace Conflict Like a Pro

Interpersonal conflict is something every workplace must deal with at some point. When people work in close quarters, there is bound to be some type of friction that comes to the surface and needs to be dealt with.

Sometimes the people in the conflict can work it out themselves. This usually happens if both people are willing and able to sit down and hash things out. However, many people are uncomfortable directly addressing issues and conflicts and will do anything to avoid uncomfortable conversations.

This results in passive aggression, negativity, decreased productivity, and team dysfunction, which can spread and begin to negatively affect other employees. Conflicts like these are best solved quickly, and strategically, and often guided by management.

Unfortunately, if leadership isn’t prepared to handle conflicts correctly, they can have a much greater negative effect on the situation and make it worse for everyone. Here are a couple of leadership practices guaranteed NOT to succeed in solving a conflict.

Evading

We know you’re busy. You’ve got a million things on your plate and goals and quotas to meet. So that argument between Tim and Kathy on the production team just doesn’t seem important enough for you to prioritize today. Oh sure, you’ll get to it, but it not today. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week? You’re hoping that maybe by then, it’ll just go away. Spoiler alert: it won’t.

Avoidance can come in many different forms. For instance, say you’ve talked to Kathy and Tim separately and heard their sides of the story, but you haven’t yet set up a meeting with both of them together. It might feel like you’ve made some progress after hearing them both initially. People often feel better after they’ve had a chance to get their story out and feel heard. This might have even deflated their frustration for the time being. But it won’t last.

No one likes to have uncomfortable conversations, and you’re no exception. Being in leadership doesn’t mean you’re automatically exempt from having the same reservations about confrontation as the rest of humanity. You may be a good problem solver and a good listener, but if you just stop having individual conversations and don’t move forward to confronting the issue together, you’ve halted the healing process.

Disconnection

Separating people when they are fighting might work with children, but it isn’t a sustainable solution for dealing with conflict at the office. Employees must be able to work together and rely on each other as a team. Just trying to give them different projects and hoping they won’t run into something that requires them to work together isn’t going to help you or them in the long run.

Listening to their individual stories and sending them in different directions is setting your team up for failure. Plus, it’s setting an unhealthy standard for how your company handles interpersonal conflict.

Lead them back together

Unless you take the step to get them talking face-to-face, you’ve just put the problem on hold, not dealt with it. Having a functional, healthy team should be a top priority for any leader. The chances of meeting your goals with a robust team working together are much greater than working with a dysfunctional team and their infighting.

Taking an hour out of your day today to solve a conflict will save you hours of cleanup work later on down the road. It’ll also ensure that the conflict doesn’t expand and begin to affect other team members.

Time to get constructive

If you’re uncomfortable with confrontation or not sure how to mitigate the conflict, it helps to go in with a plan:

  • Structure the conversation so both parties have their chance to speak and respond to each other.
  • Encourage them to each take accountability.
  • Set the expectation that they will come to a resolution, creating a clear, actionable plan for how they will move forward.
  • Set a follow-up meeting a week or two down the road to help keep everyone accountable.

You may never be comfortable with confrontation, but fortunately, with practice, you can get better at successfully dealing with it. The more you set the expectation that conflict will be dealt with in this way, the easier it is to do it. Hopefully, it becomes so ingrained in your company culture that co-workers will begin to do it themselves without the need to bring in leadership to help mitigate the discussion.

So next time there’s a conflict at the office, don’t hesitate to deal with it then and there. Don’t put it off, don’t avoid the uncomfortable conversation. Show them you believe in their ability to solve the problem themselves by bringing them together to do so. You’ve got this, and so do they.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by romastudio

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

 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: A Running Start

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has been a major topic for business leaders and HR professionals over recent years. As our cultural landscape is changing and evolving, so are the expectations of employees. Many leaders find themselves overwhelmed by what feels like a whole new world of meanings, labels, boundaries, and expectations. Often, they don’t know where to begin—and they’re afraid to start.

Fear of the unknown, of ‘doing it wrong,’ of offending someone, of looking out of touch, and so much more has held leaders back from taking critical steps towards building a workplace engaged in driving DEI. If employers want to maintain positive relationships with their employees and communities at large, it’s essential they try.

To help you approach what feels like an insurmountable topic, we’ve broken it down into some foundational basics.

Where to begin

It’s important to understand how we engage with DEI. Diversity is passive, meaning it exists on its own, without effort. Within any office, you might have diversity of experience, background, thought, gender, ethnicity, and much more. Equity and Inclusion, however, require action and intentional effort. That’s where you come in. Building a workplace that treats everyone equitably and creates an inclusive experience for its employees takes effort, attention, accountability, and the willingness to learn.

How to approach it

You’re not alone if this feels overwhelming. When you’re looking into the world of DEI and starting from scratch, it can bring up a lot of doubt. But the trick isn’t to be perfect immediately. In fact, the goal isn’t to be perfect at all. Your goal should be to constantly be learning and improving—one small step at a time.

Start by acknowledging your doubt and using it as a path to learn. Not sure about something? Good. Research it. Don’t know if you’re using a term correctly? Great! Look it up. The trick to getting DEI ‘right’ is to always allow for questions, corrections, and changes. We are in a fast-changing environment, so think of DEI as an ever-evolving approach to help you maintain positive relationships with your community as it evolves.

Know the terms

A great place to start is understanding what different terms mean, along with how and when to use them. Especially if you’re a small business owner in a small town, it’s common to be a part of a homogenous community where there isn’t much variation between religions, ethnicity, and economic status. This makes it hard to paint an accurate picture of the endless diversity in the world at large. By starting with some basic terms, you can begin familiarizing yourself with different concepts and communities.

  • Heteronormative – refers to the notion that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality.
  • Cisgender (cis) – refers to people whose gender identity is the same as the gender assigned to them at birth.
  • Transgender (trans) – refers to people whose gender identity is not the same as the gender assigned to them at birth. For instance, a trans woman is a woman whose assigned gender at birth was male but has transitioned to female as they identify themselves as a woman.
  • Non-binary – a person who identifies as non-binary is someone who neither identifies as entirely male or entirely female.
  • BIPOC – an acronym for Black, Indigenous, People of Color. It is used as an umbrella term for all people of color. When using this term, make sure you’re using it when referring to all people of color. If you intend to refer to one specific group, identify that group by name. For instance, if you are referring just to Black people, use the word, Black.
  • AAPI – an acronym for Asian American and Pacific Islanders. This is an important term to know right now as racism and violence against the AAPI community have sharply risen since the start of the pandemic.
  • LGBTQ+ – an umbrella term for anyone who is not a cis-gendered heterosexual. This term covers Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and more.

The importance of representation

Part of developing an inclusive workplace is representing the different types
of people that come into contact with your organization. Doing something as simple as putting your pronouns (He/Him/His, She/Her/Hers, They/Them/Theirs) on your LinkedIn title, name tags, and email signatures sends a signal that you are welcoming to people of varying identities and communities.

Using imagery that depicts people of different backgrounds, bodies, ethnicities, ages, and religions in your marketing content and website helps people visualize themselves working with you and creates a picture of who it is you’re interested in engaging with.

Making sure your forms and surveys that ask for gender or ethnicity have options for everyone (even simply adding “other” as an option) is another active way to participate in inclusivity.

Taking the next step

As you start to build awareness around DEI within your organization, keep in mind that it takes consistent effort. Remember, diversity is inviting people to the table—inclusion, and equity is inviting them to speak.

Keep in mind that it’s never “wrong” to not know the answer. Give yourself the grace to learn and to falter. DEI should touch every aspect of your business, from talent management, to hiring, to marketing—it has its place wherever there are people. Together, we’ll keep learning, keep trying, and keep asking questions. We’ve got this.

 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Andrey Orlov

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

What Marketing Stats Can Teach Us About Human Behavior

Whether you’re in HR, marketing, sales, the C-Suite, or customer service, you rely on people. You need them to listen, to purchase, to follow, to keep coming back to you. And while your audience might be different, people are generally the same.

As the world of marketing has boomed over the past decade, so has its reliance on data and its ability to derive knowledge from it. Some data is too specific, but some data speaks on a grander scale, tying into modern human behavior and sentiment that we can use to inform just about any part of business.

Stat: After a bad experience, 88% of visitors won’t return to a website.

We live in a world of abundance. Customers have seemingly endless choices when it comes to where they spend their money and time. If they don’t like their experience with you, they can return to Google and click the next link in their search.

What can this teach us? That you have to prioritize your customer’s experience—even if your product is the best on the market.

If you work in HR, this correlates to an employee’s onboarding or offboarding experience. If they have a bad one, their entire perception of the organization can be tainted. If you’re in sales, think about the experience your prospects have with you. Are you calling them once and then forgetting about them? Or are you only focusing on trying to sell them the product of the highest value despite whether it’s right for them?

Ultimately, your audience’s experience as they are introduced to you, your website, your product, or your organization, sets the tone for your entire relationship. If you’re not making your best effort to give them a quality experience, they won’t be inclined to stay for long.

Stat: Nearly 100% of first impressions of a website are based on aesthetics and design.

While we’ve all heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover,” these days, that’s how people decide whether you care about them. If you haven’t updated your sales presentation since 2015, no one will take you seriously because they won’t feel taken seriously. If your employee handbook is ten pages of technical language without text breaks, no one will take the time to read it. If you show up to your job interview in an old t-shirt and ripped jeans, they aren’t going to give you a chance.

The way you present your information, value proposition, business, or company values is just as important as the information you’re trying to convey.

Stat: Every dollar invested in user experience results in an ROI of up to $100.

Investing your time, energy, and money into the experience of your audience pays off. While this may be common sense, it’s still one of the most impactful concepts you can learn. If your business sells products online, have you taken the time to walk in your customers’ shoes? Do you know what it’s like to purchase something from your own site?

If you’re preparing for a sales meeting, do you research your lead? Do you know what their pain points are, what their values are, what their goals are? Have you role-played your presentation?

As an HR leader, have you reviewed your employee benefits usage? Do you know what their experience is during open enrollment? Have you tried to seek out ways to improve it?

The success of your venture rests upon the ease of engagement for your audience. The easier it is for them to say yes, make the purchase, and understand what you’re telling them, the more often you’re going to succeed.

The underlying truth

Ultimately, each of these statistics tells us one fundamental truth: it’s not about you—it’s about your audience. Suppose your first concern is impressing your audience with your experience or making sure they buy the most profitable product or hit all the boxes on your compliance checklist. In that case, you’re setting yourself up for building low-quality relationships that won’t last.

If, however, you’re concerned with what they see when they first meet you, if you’re careful about how they receive the information you’re communicating, and if you’re bent on making it as easy as humanly possible to engage with you, then you’re setting yourself up for success. It’s that simple.

 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by rawpixel