Why Technology is Key to Financial Wellness Success

Are you trying to help your employees become successful and financial stable? Here is a great article from Employee Benefits News on how employers are figuring out that technology is key to helping their employees achieve success in their financial well-being by Kathryn Mayer.

Financial literacy is an increasingly desirable benefit for employees. But many employers don’t offer budgeting assistance, and a majority of workers are reluctant to let their company get involved in their financial business.

Dean Harris realized that in order to make financial wellness appealing to both employers and employees, he had to design technology that delivered flexible, multi-layered and comprehensive financial education in a way that’s enjoyable for the user — and ensures privacy. The chief technology officer of iGrad — a technology-driven financial wellness education company — created and maintains the iGrad and Enrich platforms, which deliver choices to make financial wellness the backbone of any benefit program. The product aims to offer financial wellness benefits with minimal cost and time to the employer.

“Financial literacy empowers workers to take control of something they feel is out of their control,” says Harris, a 2017 recipient of an EBN Benefits Technology Innovator Award. “By offering more information and knowledge, they are better equipped to make the right financial choices that promise to have far-reaching positive effects.”

By applying data analysis on the behavior of the user both within the platform and with regard to his approach to money, the platforms offer responsive content and recommendations. As the user’s skills and knowledge increase, the algorithm adjusts accordingly to provide newer and more relevant content leading to increased engagement and learning possibilities.

Technology is vital in achieving financial goals, Harris says, in part because it provides employees the privacy they desire.

“Financial literacy is a delicate subject. Most people are not comfortable discussing their finances —especially not with their employer,” Harris explains. “The online financial literacy platform offers the personalized and self-guided learning that will help them without exposing their personal financial information to their employer.”

Furthermore, topics addressed through the platform provide “interest, engagement and learning” for employees, Harris says. And employers “gain the benefit of a newly focused and re-energized workforce without having to drill down into areas that are too personal.”

“Ultimately, technology has made it possible for everyone to gain access to the help they need while maintaining privacy and discretion,” Harris says.

See the original article Here.


Mayer K. (2017 May 9). Why technology is key to financial wellness success [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/why-technology-is-key-to-financial-wellness-success

What it Takes to Make Good Decisions in the New World of Work

With many companies taking employee education and training into their own hands employers must be properly prepared for the changing future. Check out this great article from SHRM about what employers must do to keep pace in the ever evolving workplace by Ross Smith and Madhukar Yarra

We live in a world where phenomena such as the internet, globalization, social media, and mobility are accelerating change faster than ever before. Today’s digital age fed by big data is manifested in new businesses disrupting existing business models, which are remnants of the industrial era. These new models, typified by the Ubers, Amazons, Teslas, Airbnb’s and Facebooks of the world, are fossilizing the older generation of companies.

It is difficult for the education system to keep pace with this kind of change. The education system is a behemoth whose design is evolving to address the need for agility and speed. They change after the fact and therefore almost always take refuge in ‘best practices’. The MBA as we know it, has also fallen prey to this.

The MBA has been designed to provide a pool of mid-level managers for large corporations and questions arise about the future. Armed with an MBA, new hires walk into a large corporation with a desire to prove their worth through a strong knowledge of historical best practices. They may miss the value of ‘first principles’ thinking, and more often than not, face challenges to make an impact. Over time, this can create a disconnected or disillusioned workforce.

The question then becomes – if emerging and disruptive business models no longer subscribe to historical best practices, and by extension, to business schools, as their source for leadership, where should they look? What is that institution or model that allows individuals to build decision making capabilities in today’s world?

The reliance on irrelevant frameworks, outdated textbooks, and a historical belief in “best practices” all run counter to how a leader needs to be thinking in today’s fast paced digital world.  There are no established best practices for marketing in a sharing economy or creating a brand in a digital world. The best practices might have been established last week. The world is moving fast, and leaders need to be more agile. Today, Millennials are leading teams, calling the shots in many corporations, which means that the energy created is one that leaves little time for rules and structures to effectuate and/or create impact. Making good decisions in today’s business world requires a new and different kind of thinking, and there are tactics that can help grow these new types of leaders.

Importance of questions: most leadership and business programs today evaluate and assess students based on answers, not the ability to ask good questions. Thoughtful and incisive questions lead to innovation and as business problems become more granular and interconnected, this skill will help leaders arrive at better decisions.

Experimentation over experts: Students are encouraged to seek “expert advice” rather than formulating their own hypotheses that can be tested as low cost experiments. While consulting with those who have walked the same path has its benefits, relying on the experiences of others may hinder growth, particularly when change is accelerating. The shift to globalization, digitization, social, and agile are changing rapidly, there is no “right answer”, so experimentation is a crucial skill.

Interdisciplinary perspective: Disciplines and industry sector models are glorified at a time when discipline barriers are being broken to create new ideas. A conscious intermingling of disciplines creates more fertile minds for innovative thoughts to occur.

In today’s management programs, outdated content and old-school delivery mechanisms are limiting  students and businesses alike. There is a dire need to help business and young talent alike embrace a new art of problem solving, essential for the realities of today.

Many companies are starting to take education and employee training into their own hands. The advent of online courses, MOOCs, and other innovative programs in employee education are supplementing traditional education.

HR professionals can learn from companies who have set up their own deep technical training programs. With the work they do to augment decision science skills, Mu Sigma University is a great example of a modern day tech company, building skills across technology, business, analytics, and design. The workforce is changing. Many traditional jobs are being replaced with automation, robots, cloud-based machine learning services, and artificial intelligence – while at the same time, the demand for high end engineering, analytics, business intelligence, data and decision science is booming. Many companies, such as Mu Sigma, are spinning up advanced technical training investments to ensure their employees are equipped for a rapidly evolving future.

See the original article Here.


Smith R. &  Yarra M. (2017 March 15). What it takes to make good decisions in the new world of work [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/what-it-takes-to-make-good-decisions-in-the-new-world-of-work

Is industry coming around to robo-advisor concept?

Have you ever thought about the future of employee benefits advisors? Take a look at this interesting article from Benefits Pro about the growth of robotic employee benefits advisors by Caroline Marwitz

LAS VEGAS — Some advisors see robo-advisors as a competing force.

At the NAPA 401(k) Summit, you might expect some hostility to the concept. After all, the market for algorithm-based, non-human decision-making robo-advisors is expected to grow.

Business Insider’s research service, BI Intelligence, forecasts that by 2020, robo-advisors will manage $8 trillion in assets.

But the questions for two executives at two robo-advisor firms during a technology panel demonstrated more curiosity than hostility. Betterment for Business’s Cynthia Loh and blooom’s (yes, three Os) Chris Costello fielded them and got in some marketing in the process.

The questions ranged from whether advisors can get data and metrics about results (yes), how good is the security and encryption of participant information (as good as a bank’s), whether rebalancing is participant-driven (no), whether there was a process to update employee risk tolerance and other information over time, as it changes (yes), to whether these robo-advisors partner with advisors to offer compensation (Betterment: yes, we have a separate arm of the business for that; blooom: ten dollars per participant doesn’t make a partnership conducive, though advisors can offer this service to differentiate themselves to plan sponsors).

The common wisdom is that robo-advisors, at least in the retirement industry, are aimed at people with fewer assets.

However, in the wider investment industry, the BI Intelligence research report noted: “Consumers across all asset classes are receptive to robo-advisors — including the wealthy. 49% of this group would consider investing some of their assets using a robo-advisor.”

For blooom, its market is not intended to be the wealthy, CEO and cofounder, Chris Costello, said, but rather “the people who don’t understand stuff.”


“All the way up the food chain, people are messing up their 401k plans,” Costello said. “We are targeting a segment of market most advisors aren’t targeting, most are well below 250,000 dollars.”

The stereotypical user of a robo-advisor is, of course, a millennial. But now, said Betterment’ for Business GM Cynthia Loh, “Everyone expects technology.” Even the clients have changed, she said. Where in the past it might be a tech company, within the last year companies of other kinds have come on board — medical, legal, and financial services firms.

Taking aim at the traditional, minimalist way many employers offer information on retirement plans, Costello noted that there are always going to be employees who like to study their options and do their homework. “But that is not most Americans. Most Americans need this to be done for them. When I had wealthy clients, I didn’t tell them to go home and study up. We did the work for them. This brings the services that wealthy people have been getting for decades.”

Still, Loh added, Betterment embraces both the technology and the human side.  “We recognize there’s always going to be a place for human advice.”

Because ultimately it comes back to the human side, not the technology side. Of course, the technology behind the algorithms is important. But something as warm and fuzzy as the participant questionnaire is also crucial.

In fact, recent guidance on robo-advisors from the Securities and Exchange Commission concerns itself with a robo-advisor’s questionnaire.  Which makes sense, as it’s the information the algorithms use to make their decisions and the basis of their advice. Garbage in, garbage out. And the ability, which both firms offer, to consult with a human advisor, whether it might be by phone or by chat, is also important, at least to what we know about what plan participants want.

And the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule has made many in the retirement industry feel that knowing as much as possible about a participant or client is key to successfully helping them as well as being in compliance.

See the original article Here.


Marwitz Caroline (2017 March 19). Is industry coming around to robo-advisor concept [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/19/is-industry-coming-around-to-robo-advisor-concept?ref=hp-top-stories

Target employee financial needs by finding the right technology

Are you looking for new ways to help improve your employees’ financial needs? Take a look at this interesting article from Employee Benefits Advisors about how the use of technology can improve your employees’ financial needs by Mark Singer

We have seen how a large percentage of the American workforce has an inadequate degree of financial literacy, and how the lack of basic financial knowledge causes personal problems and workplace stress. We have also seen the importance of financial education and how raising employee literacy directly benefits the bottom lines of companies.

The financial health of employees can vary greatly between companies, as can employee numbers. Work schedules and available facilities are other issues of variance. There is also the interest factor to address. Employees must find programs interesting and beneficial, or they will not attend or glean maximum results. Financial wellness programs that may be beneficial and successful for one company may be burdensome and unsuccessful for another. To meet pressing personal financial problems effectively, cutting-edge technologies need to be applied that both address immediate employee issues and limit company expense.

There are numerous new technologies that can be utilized in a mix-and-match fashion that successfully target employee financial needs. This age of the World Wide Web brings a host of financial education tools directly to the audience. Informational videos, virtual learning programs, webinars, training portals and other virtual solutions are easily accessible over the Internet and most are quite user-friendly. This mode of education is significant. For example, 84% of respondents to a survey conducted by Hewlett-Packard and the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship said that e-tools were valuable. The study went on to show that modalities containing some degree of online training were preferred by 56% of respondents.

Gaming and data
One form of online educational technology that is gaining momentum as well as results is known as game-based learning. This method of learning is particularly popular with the millennial generation that has grown up with an ever-increasing variety of online gaming. In 2008, roughly 170 million Americans engaged in video and computer games that compel players to acquire skills necessary to achieve specific tasks. It has been found that well-designed learning programs that utilize a gaming sequence improve target learning goals. Such games teach basic financial lessons in a fun and innovative way that requires sharpened financial skills to progress through the programs.

Technological tools not only benefit those that are utilizing them directly, but they also assist the entire community through the collection of key data. Many of the mentioned tools embed surveys within programs or collect other data such as age, income and location, which can be used to create even better educational materials or better target groups in need of specialized services.

Employers need to realize that they benefit when they utilize these new technologies in their financial wellness programs, since these tools assist workers in taking control of their financial lives. Thereby reducing their stress levels, which in turn leads to happier and more productive employees. Sometimes it is best to meet the employees where they are, with tools that are easy and fun to use.

See the original article Here.


Singer M. (2017 February 02). Target employee financial needs by finding the right technology [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/target-employee-financial-needs-by-finding-the-right-technology

Why technology is not just a ‘thought but a necessity’

Are you utilizing your technology to its advantages? Check out this article from Employee Benefits Advisors about the importance of technology in today’s marketplace by Brian M. Kalish

More than half of all brokers nationwide are still using paper and have no online database of their clients — but the industry is about to reach a tipping point, where those still using old processes will be left behind.

According to a recent survey of 10,000 brokers by hCentive, 54% still use paper and 53% have no online database.

Having no online database is the most challenging part, Lisa Collins, director of business development at hCentive said a recent event for brokers sponsored by the company in Reston, Va. Those brokers, she said, lack a central place for their resources.

But for brokers still using these old processes, the industry is reaching a tipping point, she said, where “technology is not just a thought [but] a necessity.”

It will become necessary, she explained, because the industry is demanding technology solutions as employers look to their brokers to provide more services with less commissions. On top of that, HR broker tech startups, such as Zenefits, Namely and Gusto are taking business away. These firms offer technology solutions for free and become the broker of record — and they are moving upmarket, Collins added. The tech startups, Collins added, are taking business from more traditional brokers.

These tech startups are directly approaching adviser’s clients, she said. Clients are responding to these HR tech startups because of challenging and changing requirements of HR, including Affordable Care Act compliance.

“Clients are asking for more than ever,” she said. “It used to [broker’s] sold insurance. Now they are a true consultant and risk mitigator.”

“Clients want more and more and it is challenging with less commission dollars to work with,” she added. “You have more competition than you have ever had.”

Advisers need to provide value, as benefits are likely to be a top three expense for an employer, added Brian Slutz, regional sales manager at hCentive.

The future
Looking toward the future, many questions still remain about President Donald Trump’s plans for healthcare and employee benefits, but a few things are likely to be consistent, which can be streamlined with technology, including:

  • Consumer-driver healthcare is staying, Collins said, and with that comes the growth of health savings accounts. As a result, more voluntary products can be sold. Technology enables that through decision support tools that suggest these products to employees.
  • Cost transparency tools: “A really critical tool,” Collins said. Viable systems are hitting the marketplace now and technology provides answers employees are seeking on healthcare costs
  • Personalized communications: With more choice and more complication comes the need for education, Collins said. Technology solutions are becoming more customized to speak to an individual employee with targeted communication to a particular generation.

See the original article Here.


Kalish B. (2017 January 31). Why technology is not just a ‘thought but a necessity’ [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/why-technology-is-not-just-a-thought-but-a-necessity?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000

Robo-advisers play increasingly important role

Are you reaching all of your employee’s for financial advising? Robo-advisers allow employee’s to review materials in their own time but it’s important to find the right balance. See the article below from Employee Benefit Adviser by Nick Otto on the potential perks of Robo-advisers.

Original article posted on EmployeeBenefitAdviser.co

Posted on September 29, 2016

Technology is increasingly evolving: from miniature scanners that monitor a cancer patient’s chemotherapy treatments right down to financial advice being offered to more than just the 1%.

The retirement landscape should no longer be a one-size-fits-all approach, said Andrew Wank, director of business development at Bloom. From the DIY to the HENRYs (high earners not rich yet), there is a middle group of employees that can be a challenge to reach in providing retirement advice, he added.

Robo-advisers lend themselves to helping employees in all aspects of life, Wank said Wednesday at EBA’s Workplace Benefits Summit in Nashville, Tenn. “Plan sponsors recognize the limitations of what they’re already doing,” he said. “How can we provide a service or solution?”

Robo-advisers can be that solution, panelists agreed, because they reach all kinds of employees who don’t have easy access to financial advice. It combines technology with a human touch to most benefit employees, Wank said.

“Selecting a robo-adviser is going to be the same sort of process as picking your adviser,” added The Wagner Law Group’s Tom Clark, in agreement. “Make the decision in the best interest of your plan participants.”

And with the DOL’s effects coming into play in April, Betterment for Business’ General Manager, Cynthia Loh, added that while the final rule is widely talked about, it still isn’t very well understood.

“Explore all your options out there,” she advised. “Employees are more likely to engage with digital tools they can look at on their time. But given where we are today, it’s prudent with the DOL rule coming, on what’s out there. Make sure you understand what your fees are and what your employees are getting and what your employees’ needs are.”

See the Original Article Here.


Otto, N. (2016, September 29). Robo-advisers play increasingly important role [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/robo-advisers-play-increasingly-important-role

Automation making huge retirement plan impact

Paula Aven Gladych gives great insight on how automated retirement contributions are helping increase participation. See the full article from BenefitNews.com below.

Retirement plan participation has increased 19% in the past five years because of design features that make it simple and quick for employees to participate in their workplace retirement plans.

Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust examined the savings behaviors of 4 million defined contribution plan participants from 5,000 companies and found that features such as automatic defaults into diversified investments, target-date funds and automatic escalation have had a huge effect on employee savings rates.

The company’s Plan Health Index is a retirement plan health measure that includes a plan’s participation and savings rates and its diversification as a measure of employee retirement readiness.

Employees “have to join the plan, be saving at an adequate rate and be adequately diversified for their time horizon. If they are doing all three of those things well, they have a good chance for a good outcome, assuming they started saving early enough,” says Joe Ready, executive vice president and director of institutional retirement and trust at Wells Fargo.

To score well on the Wells Fargo Plan Health Index, employees need to participate in their workplace plan, save at 10% or higher, including the employer matching contribution, and have their retirement savings in diverse investments.

“Plan health across our book of business increased 37% from five years ago,” Ready says.

Participation increased 19%, contributions were up 7.3% from five years ago and diversification improved 26%, according to Wells Fargo research.

Generationally, millennials are reaping the biggest benefit from this industry shift toward automatic features. They have essentially grown up with these options, Ready says, and they have the highest increase in participation in the last five years. They also are the most diversified generation, taking advantage of target-date funds and other managed account options.

Millennials are also taking advantage of Roth 401(k) features at a higher rate than other generations. Wells Fargo found that 16% of millennials are taking advantage of a Roth option, compared to 12% of other participants.

“They are engaged,” Ready says. “They are thinking about their future taxes and tax diversification. That’s pretty good.”

The key drivers of plan participation are income, automatic features, tenure and age, Ready says. Wells Fargo analyzed tenure and found that once a company’s employees are hired and with the company for two years, their attrition rates tend to drop off dramatically.Ready encourages employers to design their retirement plans so that loyal employees, those who have stayed longer than two years, are eligible for the employer matching contribution. It’s a balance between helping employees achieve their retirement goals and wanting to invest in those who are invested in their company, he said.

Ready encourages employers to design their retirement plans so that loyal employees, those who have stayed longer than two years, are eligible for the employer matching contribution. It’s a balance between helping employees achieve their retirement goals and wanting to invest in those who are invested in their company, he said.

The way the matching contribution is designed can also have a major impact on how much employees save for retirement. If a company switches from contributing 50 cents on the first 3% to 25% on the first 6%, it automatically gets employees saving an additional 3% they wouldn’t save otherwise. Automatic increase is another feature that is underutilized, according to Ready.

Many companies set their automatic increase at 1% per year with an opt-out option. Ready says that whether the auto increase is 1% or 2%, the opt-out percentage is the same, so why not make the auto escalation 2% per year, bringing employees closer to that 10% savings rate sooner?

“It makes a material difference, especially at a younger age, to get to a higher savings rate quicker. It makes a big difference in outcome,” Ready says.

Two-thirds of Wells Fargo’s clients use an auto increase program, but “less than 30% of those plans implemented it on an opt-out basis,” the research found.

Having an opt-out option — meaning employees have to make the effort to opt out of the increase – takes advantage of participant inertia, Wells Fargo reported. Even with an opt-out option, 79% of plan participants stayed with the automatic increase on their retirement savings accounts.

Millennials tend to be more diversified in their retirement investments than older generations, due in large part to by the increase of automatic features in plans. Because of that, Wells Fargo found that 78% of millennials are on track to replace 80% of their pay in retirement, compared to 62% for Generation X and 50% for baby boomers.

“Some of that has to do with the fact that millennials are getting into the plan at an early age, saving early and diversifying appropriately with managed products,” Ready says.

That said, only 28.6% of millennials are contributing to their retirement account at the 10% level, compared to 35.2% for Generation X and 44.5% for the boomers.

“I’m very bullish on millennials, the way they are participating and the way they are engaging in the Roth
and leveraging diversification products in their plans,” Ready says. “If they keep increasing their savings rate, they have the power of time.”

Ready says he expects the trend toward automatic features in retirement plans to continue. He also sees a future rise in technology with a purpose. Wells Fargo has a mobile app that gives employees a one-click option to sign up for their company retirement plan. The company will send a text to all new employees with a link to the retirement plan sign-up page. It might say, “You are eligible to join our 401(k) plan.” When the participant clicks on the link, it takes her to a pre-filled screen that tells her what the default saving rate is and the default investments. If the employee is happy with the defaults, all she has to do is click the enroll button.

“We have seen a material increase in the number of people enrolling because of that,” Ready says.

See Original Post from BenefitNews.com Here.


Gladych, P.A. (2016, July 21). Automation making huge retirement plan impact [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.benefitnews.com/news/automation-making-huge-retirement-plan-impact

Rethinking the Modern Accumulation of Technology

In an article from SHRM.org, Natalie Kroc addresses how technology is impacting security measures.

Original post from SHRM.org on June 16, 2016.

It wasn’t the latest gadget or platform or program that the speakers discussed at a recent conference session on how to keep teleworkers and remote workers connected. Instead, it was the most basic of modern technologies that kept being stressed:

E-mail. An Internet connection. Maybe a webcam (though this proved controversial).

“I am a Millennial, and I … primarily communicate through e-mail,” said Greg Caplan, founder and CEO of Remote Year, a year-old startup that has brought together a group of 75 people to travel the world while holding down various remote jobs. Caplan believes that, for work purposes, e-mail is still king.

The other panelists at the Telecommuting, Remote and Distributed (TRaD) Works Forum, held June 9-10 in Washington, D.C., agreed that the simplest of technologies can successfully keep offsite employees connected. TRaD refers to the different kinds of offsite employees: Telecommuters are those who work from home sometimes, remote workers do their entire jobs from home and a distributed workforce is when an organization doesn’t have a physical location so its employees all work remotely.

Employees who work offsite only need “an Internet connection. Anything else we can work around,” said Carol Cochran, director of people and culture for Boulder, Colo.-based FlexJobs, a job search site that focuses on telecommuting, part-time and other flexible work opportunities. FlexJobs was a co-host of the forum.

Organizations may want to consider providing their remote workers a cellphone with Internet capabilities as a backup. This all but guarantees that employees will be able to work—even if they are having difficulties with their home Internet connection.

A chat function can be useful as well, if the work that employees are doing would benefit from the ability to reach out and have real-time conversations.

Many organizations that employ remote workers have the routine of a “daily huddle” or something similar, wherein employees are expected to check in at the start of the day, whether in a brief meeting or by writing their day’s plans in a shared document.

When an organization’s workforce is made up of remote or teleworking employees, or a mix of offsite and onsite workers, it’s especially important to use the time when everyone gets together effectively. Meetings should be “30 minutes, if not 15 minutes, instead of an hour,” Cochran said. If certain employees are inclined to speak for long periods of time, establish a time limit—and then stick to it.

Video: Love It or Hate It

“I hate video,” Cochran said. “I’m really reluctant to put it on, it’s so awkward.” FlexJobs uses it only rarely, and even then it’s often for social occasions. Cochran said she has found that workers become preoccupied knowing they are being viewed on screen, and worry about their hair and clothes and background surroundings.

This was a point of fierce contention among the panelists and forum attendees alike, though. Some organizations believe that video is essential, and that any initial awkwardness that employees may feel will disappear with habitual use.

Alex Konanykhin, CEO of Transparent Business, a platform that aims to help companies that employ teleworkers and freelancers, offered a solution: Get the organization’s leaders to work from home—and to exercise right before the meeting. When they dial in, they should be in full post-workout gear, including messy hair or a baseball cap. “All it takes is one time” of seeing that, he said, to have a workforce that can be comfortable with being on screen.

Video is a way of giving voice to remote workers and “making them feel part of the organization,” he added.

For those organizations that decide to incorporate webcams into the remote-worker experience, the panelists had some advice:

  • Don’t keep the webcams on all day—turn them on at specific times, such as for meetings or training sessions.
  • Suggest to employees who express reluctance that they may want to purchase a simple screen or backdrop to place behind them so that their home surroundings will not be visible on screen. This also may help to convey a more-businesslike feel.
  • Consider making video an option, not a requirement, for meetings.
  • Finally, if the organization’s video capabilities prove to be less than ideal—and repeatedly involve technical snafus such as the video shutting off or freezing, then stop trying to make video happen.

Adopt New Tools Cautiously

The speakers had their individual favorites among newer technologies, such as messaging app Slack, electronic signature platform DocuSign, Google Drawings for collaborating on charts and diagrams, and Zoom for streamlining remote communications. However, the panelists also derided many new offerings as being unnecessarily confusing and others for seeming to be more about entertainment than practical application.

Tools that are adopted by an organization need to be fully embraced by both remote and onsite workers, the speakers agreed. “When you take on a tool, you have to have a very clear expectation of how it is to be used,” Caplan said. “And that’s just culture.”

That said, it’s important for organizations to pick their tools wisely. Each new tool should represent an improvement from whatever employees were using before to accomplish a particular task. And while entertainment shouldn’t be a priority, each new tool should make employees’ jobs easier, the panelists said.

“Why do people love Facebook?” asked Konanykhin. “It’s instant gratification.” Employees expect the same ease of use and sense of satisfaction with the tools they use for work.

Natalie Kroc is a staff writer for SHRM.

See the original article here.


Kroc, N. (2016, June 16). Rethinking the modern accumulation of techonology [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/technology/Pages/Rethinking-the-Modern-Accumulation-of-Technology.aspx

Put Down Your iPhone! The Biggest Hurdles to Employee Engagement

David Goldstein digs into what are the biggest challenges in getting employees engaged. See what his findings are in the article below.

Original Post from SHRM.org on July 5, 2016

As a company that works with HR leaders and executives who are looking to build stronger teams within their organizations, naturally, employee engagement is a topic that is near and dear to us. It’s a term that’s been buzzing over the past couple of years as organizations search high and low for the perfect formula to decrease turnover, increase enthusiasm and maximize productivity amongst employees.

With countless views on ways to increase employee engagement abound, we wanted to take a look at the other side of things and identify specific barriers that business owners and managers are facing. We surveyed 500 small-mid sized business owners and managers across the US and asked them to identify the number one challenge when it comes to getting employees engaged. These respondents either own or manage a business with fewer than 100 employees. Here’s what they said.


Turns out, when it comes to small businesses, forget the more complex problems of increasing engagement amongst virtual workers or getting multigenerational workers to integrate into cohesive teams. Owners and managers at small businesses face a much simpler problem: getting employees to put down their phones! Is it really a surprise that the majority of respondents reported this as their biggest challenge?

Mobile devices have turned us into screen-addicts, averting our eyes and attention at a startling rate. This is an especially big problem when we begin to look at low wage jobs and positions in rural areas. Small business owners and managers that are making less than $24,000 themselves a year, or those living in rural areas, were the most likely to list it as their biggest employee engagement problem (44%).

Young business managers also find it most difficult to get workers off their phones with 34% of 18-34 year olds reporting it as their largest roadblock to employee engagement. Workers phones are consistently integrated into both personal and work life so it’s hard to incentivize workers to step away from the device and into a conversation with fellow employees. Especially when 74% of employers report that their organization use or plan on using a BYOD program (bring your own device), the odds of getting distracted with social media or unrelated apps get higher and higher.

Finally, women managers and small business owners (34%) were more likely than men (28%) to note that getting employees off their phones was the biggest challenge in getting them engaged. One potential solution to this problem that HR teams can leverage? Embrace employees’ device addictions rather than trying to cure them. For example, utilizing mobile scavenger hunts or mobile-friendly engagement surveys can help build a compromise and solution to the over-used phone issue. And if that doesn’t work, you can always just create a policy.


Losing employees more frequently in the worker-friendly job market and having to get new employees engaged more often is also a considerable issue for small business owners and managers. It’s most pressing in rural areas (29%), where it’s probably harder to find new talent that fits with an organization.

Turnover rates as a barrier to employee engagement were of most concern to managers and business owners in the midwest and south regions, and of least concern to those in the northeast.

That’s one reason it’s important to factor company culture into the interview process to ensure the fit is right. Then, get creative with the flexibility options for your employees. In other words, give your employees reason to stay. Then work on their engagement from there.


The third most pressing issue for small business owners and managers is the battle between Boomers, Gen X’ers and Millennials being waged within multi-generational workplaces.

Generational differences can be a stumbling block that hinders employee engagement within an organization. On one hand, you have 45% of Baby Boomers & Gen X complaining about millennial’s lack of managerial experience while, on the other hand, you have millennials who just want flexibility and fun.

It was interesting to see that getting multigenerational employees engaged was actually the most pressing employee engagement issue (28%) for respondents that were 35-44 years old. These folks find themselves toeing the line between the two diverging generations in the workplace.

So what’s the best thing to do in this situation? Find common ground. Satisfy both sides by creating activities that everyone can partake in. Food and laughter are pretty effective across generational lines. So is getting outdoors in the summer!


While the trend of remote working was the least pressing challenge for respondents, there were groups that found it more challenging than others. Managers and owners that earn more than $150,000 a year (presumed to be working within larger organizations) found it to be the biggest hurdle to achieving employee engagement (43%).

While sweet in the sense that it breeds more freedom for workers around the world, its lack of in-person interaction can become a bitter challenge for many companies seeking strong employee engagement. In fact, 65% of remote employees report that they have never had a team-building session.

To address this issues, owners and managers may want to embrace the small talk and chit-chat online. When workers aren’t in the same office they don’t have the interactions that allow them to truly relate to each other on a personal level. Opening up internal communication platforms like Slack and HipChat, and encouraging workers to express themselves outside of work dialogue (hello GIF’s!) is important.

Another idea? Coffee Shop Days! While remote workers and work-from-home freelancers may appreciate their time outside the office, they can become bored and lonely. If you have workers on your team working remotely, consider suggesting a Coffee Shop Day once a month where you have managers work alongside the remote team members for the day. Finally, there are actually virtual team building and engagement activities out there that stimulate a day in the life of a virtual team.

See the full article and infographic here.


Goldstein, D. (2016, July 5). Put down your iPhone! The biggest hurdles to employee engagemet [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://blog.shrm.org/blog/put-down-your-iphone-the-biggest-hurdles-to-employee-engagement.

3 keys to creating an employee-centric wellness plan

Interesting read by Rae Shanahan highlighting how technology can be incorporated into your wellness plan. See the full article below.

Original Post from BenefitsPro.com on July 14, 2016

As smartphones become more entrenched in our daily lives, the wellness technology industry has exploded to more than $8 billion, driven largely by wearable devices and more than 160,000 wellness-relatedmobile apps.

Employers are capitalizing on the tech advances, making workplace wellness programs more digital, social, and connected.

Particularly as more mobile-focused millennials enter the workforce, companies are expanding web-based competitions and incentives for getting physically healthy.

Programs that allow employees to track FitBit data and awarding prizes for workers with the highest monthly step totals are becoming much more common. Even savvier companies are tying wellness to their overall benefits offerings, offering employees the chance to compete for an extra vacation day by reducing their body fat percentage.

Wellness plans encourage employees to live healthier, happier lifestyles. With perks like these, sign us up.

While these incentivized programs are developed with the best of intentions to encourage employees toward better health habits, the unintended consequence is backlash from employees who are wary of revealing personal health data — especially on the internet.

Also, those employees who find themselves at the bottom of the online leaderboard may feel discouraged and demoralized, the opposite of an employer’s objective. Moreover, there is a concern that incentivized wellness programs tend to penalize those who don’t participate or are less successful.

Obviously, employers don’t want to disregard employees who don’t feel comfortable sharing sensitive health information. If employees don’t feel comfortable sharing these personal details with their employer, they should still have the opportunity to chase the incentives, and ultimately benefit from the wellness program.

Keeping all employees in mind, there are three keys to creating successful, employee-centric wellness programs that increase engagement while respecting privacy concerns.


A simple but effective first step is to survey employees on their thoughts and concerns around wellness programs. Providing employees a platform to voice their opinions allows employees to feel heard and for employers to empathize with their workforce while developing wellness programs. This step conveys the care and effort behind creating employee-centric programs that give everyone the opportunity to participate.


According to Businessolver’s Workplace Empathy Monitor, 1 in 3 employees would switch companies for equal pay if the other employer was more empathetic. The research reveals that embedding empathy in the workplace operations, such as wellness programs, is a key factor aspect of building trust and loyalty with employees.

At the end of the day, workplace wellness programs are designed to encourage a healthy lifestyle — not win points or prizes — and it’s important to keep that end goal in mind.

For example, rather than a competition to lower employee body weight or BMI, employers can instead offer employees a free yoga class once a week. This allows employees to participate in a healthy activity while connecting with colleagues, without having to worry about revealing personal and private information.

Being flexible with wellness programs is an empathetic behavior that broadens the circle of those wanting to participate, maintains the end goal of improving health, and ultimately benefits a company in recruiting and retention.


Of course, the most fun, effective, and empathetic program does no good if employees don’t know about it and aren’t engaged.

So, the most beneficial step employers can take in creating a wellness program is effectively communicating with all employees that the program is open, what is necessary to participate, and keeping feedback channels open.

Make sure employees are completely briefed — maybe develop and share one-pagers for employees to quickly reference. Also, it’s imperative to provide an onsite contact who can be a champion for the program and answer any employee questions or concerns. With this, trust is built between employers and employees, and a wellness program has a stronger chance of succeeding right from the start.

Read original article here: http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/07/14/3-keys-to-creating-an-employee-centric-wellness-pl?ref=hp-in-depth&page_all=1


Shanahan, R. (2016, July 14). 3 keys to creating an employee-centric wellness plan [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/07/14/3-keys-to-creating-an-employee-centric-wellness-pl?ref=hp-in-depth&page_all=1