Consider these 4 strategies to boost employee engagement

One way HR departments can boost employee engagement is by developing a holistic employee benefits package. Making sure your benefits plan suits a diverse multi-generational staff is essential to keeping employees engaged. Read this blog post for four strategies to help boost employee engagement.


The foundation of any high-performing culture is always a strategic compensation and benefits package. Employee engagement at any company requires the involvement of the HR department — and one way HR teams can boost engagement is by developing a holistic benefits package.

Creating a benefits plan that suits a diverse multi-generational staff is key to keeping staff engaged at every age and in every department. What were once non-traditional benefits are now becoming mainstream. For example, offering student loan repayment plans instead of 401(k) incentives to motivate younger staff, or voluntary benefit choices for employees with specific health issues.

See Also: 5 reasons employers should offer student loan repayment benefits

Even the way an office is ergonomically designed can benefit employees. Adding a walking treadmill or offering a standing desk option helps foster productive work, which directly leads to greater employee satisfaction.

This is a complex equation, and getting it right is challenging. We have hard, candid conversations with employers surrounding what enjoyable, relevant work means. From there, we can establish the purpose behind engagement, creating goals and strategies that offer recognition, growth and the opportunity to voice ideas.

Employees want holistic support for their overall health and wellbeing. Employers are expanding their view of employee benefits to include many more aspects of health and wellbeing — from work environment, convenience services and onsite facilities, to attendance and leave policies, flexible work arrangements and organizational discounts.

See Also: ‘Lifestyle’ choice: An emerging benefit could attract and retain employees

What do employers gain from these benefits? A healthy, adaptable and engaged workforce prepared for the future of work and ready to drive business success.

What we know works

The key to engaging employees with benefits is to apply a strategic design thinking methodology, a planning method that starts with an understanding of an organization’s specific needs.

One size fits one, not all. In the past, efforts were made to make one program work for everyone, but every staff member in the workforce now expects answers for their individual needs, concerns and health risks. Offering flexible benefits or voluntary coverage is a powerful tool — and can help employers gain a productivity boost with a healthier, more engaged workforce.

Align benefits with the whole person. Benefits should align with all aspects of employees’ lives in order to truly support health, wellbeing and work-life balance. This includes the social systems they are part of, their passions, their work habits and personal life events. Nutrition advice, health literacy training and support for personal interests are all possibilities for boosting engagement, physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

See Also: Do I Still Need Life Insurance Once I Retire? Your Questions Answered

Look at the data. Organizations have access to more health data than ever before — and technology makes it easier to analyze — but few employers are fully leveraging this information to design benefits that engage their employees. By analyzing and correlating demographic, health and employee-provided data from varied sources employers can identify which benefit programs workers truly value — and which deliver value.

Use both new and traditional channels to communicate. Organizations must actively market benefits to employees using engaging, relevant and timely communications. Companies can also communicate through technology.

When staff have access to benefits that best support their individual health and wellbeing, organizations will benefit.

SOURCE: Rider, S. (30 October 2019) "Consider these 4 strategies to boost employee engagement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/4-strategies-to-boost-employee-engagement-with-benefits


Strategies to promote emotional well-being in the workplace

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, one in five adults experiences some form of mental illness during the year. Research has shown that 90 percent of employees perform better when they address mental health. Read the following article to learn more about how to promote emotional well-being at work.


Employers are taking a greater interest in their employees’ well-being by promoting emotional wellness at work.

Wellness programs are offered by 58% of employers, according to data from the Society for Human Resource Management. There are mutual benefits to be reaped by the employer and employees when an organization looks to support its workers’ emotional wellness.

About 90% of employees perform better when they address mental health, but only 41% feel comfortable bringing it up during a check-in, according to data from 15Five, a software company that specializes in gathering employee feedback.

One in five American adults experiences some form of mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. Additionally, one in every 25 adults is living with a serious mental health condition such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or long-term recurrent major depression.

Employees are demanding better mental health benefits from their employers and some of them are listening. In September, coffee giant Starbucks announced that it is taking steps to improve its employees’ mental health with a new long-term initiative that includes an enhanced employee assistance program and mental health training for store managers.

Only 25% of U.S.-based managers, across a variety of industries, have been trained to refer employees to mental health resources, according to SHRM. Employers including PNC and Ocean Spray are also investing in benefits to address mental health.

See Also: 5 reasons employers should offer student loan repayment benefits

By investing in emotional and mental wellness benefits, employers are creating a human-centric workforce that drives retention, productivity and engagement, says Heidi Collins, vice president of people operations at 15Five. A key part in achieving this to create a culture that normalizes conversations about mental health.

Collins spoke with Employee Benefit News about how organizations can provide management with stronger training and more open check-ins that enable them to build trusting relationships with their employees to promote productivity.

How is 15Five creating a culture that is more understanding of employees’ mental health needs?

In so many different practices with our employees, both in our manager and direct report programs, but also as a company as a whole. We are normalizing emotions and emotional wellness in the workplace. What it all has, to begin with, is the strategy behind it and your company’s values. It can’t just be a program that HR is sponsoring and promoting but that’s not really attached to the overall company values.

How can an employer create a more mental-health and wellness-focused workplace?

We do automated weekly check-ins between managers and their direct reports. We have a recognition feature called High5, so that people throughout the organization can highlight their peers, express gratitude and also highlight someone for how they may have impacted their day or a project that went really well. There’s a recognition feature, there’s a review feature, there’s a weekly check-in feature. In the weekly check in we have a poll rating and every week we ask our employees: on a scale of one to five, how did you feel at work this week? So we build into our product the practice of managers checking in with their employees about their feelings and about their emotional and mental well-being. We attempt to create enough psychological safety, trust and openness to vulnerability that employees feel comfortable that if they are having a two out of five weeks, it can be okay to share that with a manager and be able to back it up with the reason why. So for example, an employee might say: This week was a two out of five for me because three projects blew up in our faces and at home my kid is sick and I didn’t get any sleep. The employee can just lay it all out there.

How can employers and employees become more comfortable normalizing the conversation around mental health?

It has to be very intentional, deliberate and explicit. It’s the kind of stuff employers may talk about or advertise or promote on their employer branding website...it should be very clear that promoting emotional well-being and mental wellness is part of the employer’s culture and something they value. The executive team and all of the leadership needs to be totally brought into that and that’s challenging because there are many people out there in the world who aren’t comfortable yet with talking about or bringing up those kinds of things at work. That’s the big challenge we’re facing right now, yet so many employees are coming to expect [support for mental health issues].

See Also: Employers can help employees catch some Z's with new wellness benefit

Is there a generational disconnect when it comes to promoting emotional wellness in the workplace?

I would say that those of us who don’t have our heads stuck in the sand, we get it. We realize that there’s a reason this mindset of addressing employees’ mental health is so popular. It’s because it’s way more effective. This is how we want to work. I’m generation X and I have a lot of friends who work in big corporate environments who still think you leave your emotions at the door. But I would say those of us who want to have a more progressive approach are so on board with it. HR professionals and potential employees who follow those old school ways, they won’t even get hired at a company like ours and I bet a lot of our customer’s companies. That’s because we know that doesn’t work anymore.

What specifically has 15Five done to promote this initiative among its employees?

It all starts from our hiring process and what we communicate about our values and what it’s like to work at 15Five. Not only are we assessing candidates on their skills, but we’re also assessing them on their willingness to go to that very vulnerable place in their day to day with their manager or direct report. We have question in our interviews that ask “would you be comfortable talking about emotions at work?” and “if you were a two out of five on the emotion poll for the week, would you be able to share that with your manager and how would you go about doing that?” We will ask questions to make sure candidates we are bringing in are okay with this way of doing things. If somebody is going into a manager position internally, we have just implemented a manager assessment interview to make sure this person really has the skills to be a 15Five manager. A manager in our eyes is not just a taskmaster or somebody who approves your time off. They need to be employees’ coach, cheerleader and champion and they need to be comfortable supporting employees when things aren’t going well. It’s almost like having the skill set of a therapist.

SOURCE: Shiavo, A. (23 October 2019) "Strategies to promote emotional well-being in the workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/strategies-to-promote-emotional-well-being-in-the-workplace


How to Find an Old 401(k) — and What to Do With It

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, there are more than 25 million people with money left behind in a previous employer-sponsored retirement plan. Read this blog post from NerdWallet for information on how to find an old retirement plan and what to do with it.


There are billions of dollars sitting unclaimed in ghosted workplace retirement plans. And some of it might be yours if you’ve ever left a job and forgotten to take your vested retirement savings with you.

It happens. A lot.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that from 2004 through 2013, more than 25 million people with money in an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) left at least one account behind after their last day on the job.

But no matter how long the cobwebs have been forming on your old 401(k), that money is still yours. All you have to do is find it.

Following the money

Employers will try to track down a departed employee who left money behind in an old 401(k), but their efforts are only as good as the information they have on file. Beyond providing 30 to 60 days notice of their intentions, there are no laws that say how hard they have to look or for how long.

If it’s been a while since you’ve heard from your former company, or if you’ve moved or misplaced the notices they sent, there are three main places your money could be:

  1. Right where you left it, in the old account set up by your employer.
  2. In a new account set up by the 401(k) plan administrator.
  3. In the hands of your state’s unclaimed property division.

Here’s how to start your search:

Contact your old employer

Start with your former company’s human resources department or find an old 401(k) account statement and contact the plan administrator, the financial firm that held the account and sent you updates.

"You may be allowed to leave your money in your old plan, but you might not want to."

If there was more than $5,000 in your retirement account when you left, there’s a good chance that your money is still in your workplace account. You may be allowed to leave it there for as long as you like until you’re age 70½, when the IRS requires you to start taking distributions, but you might not want to. Here’s how to decide whether to keep your money in an old 401(k).

Plan administrators have more leeway with abandoned amounts up to $5,000. If the balance is $1,000 or less, they can simply cut a check for the total and send it to your last known address, leaving you to deal with any tax consequences. For amounts more than $1,000 up to $5,000, they’re allowed to move funds into an individual retirement account without your consent. These specialty IRAs are set up at a financial institution that has been federally authorized to manage the account.

The good news if a new IRA was opened for the rollover: Your money retains its tax-protected status. The bad: You have to find the new trustee.

Look up your money’s new address

If the old plan administrator cannot tell you where your 401(k) funds went, there are several databases that can assist:

Search unclaimed property databases

If a company terminates its retirement plan, it has more options on what it’s allowed to do with the unclaimed money, no matter what the account balance.

"If your account was cashed out, you may owe the IRS."

It might be rolled into an IRA set up on your behalf, deposited at a bank or left with the state’s unclaimed property fund. Hit up missingmoney.com, run in part by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, to do a multistate search of state unclaimed property divisions.

Note that if a plan administrator cashed out and transferred your money to a bank account or the state, a portion of your savings may have been withheld to pay the IRS. That’s because this kind of transfer is considered a distribution (aka cashing out) and is subject to income taxes and penalties. Some 401(k) plan administrators withhold a portion of the balance to cover any potential taxes and send you and the IRS tax form 1099-R to report the income. Others don’t, which could leave you with a surprise IRS IOU to pay.

What to do with it

You might be able to leave your old 401(k) money where it is if it’s in your former employer’s plan. One reason to do so is if you have access to certain mutual funds that charge lower management fees available to institutional clients — like 401(k) plans — that aren’t available to individual investors. But you’re not allowed to contribute to the plan anymore since you no longer work there.

Reasons to move your money to an IRA or to roll it into a current employer’s plan include access to a broader range of investments, such as individual stocks and a wider selection of mutual funds, and more control over account fees.

If your money was moved into an IRA on your behalf, you don’t have to — and probably shouldn’t — leave it there. The GAO study of forced-transfer IRAs found that annual fees (up to $115) and low investment returns (0.01% to 2.05% in conservative investments dictated by the Department of Labor regulations) “can steadily decrease a comparatively small stagnant balance.”

Once you find your money, it’s easy to switch brokers and move your investments into a new IRA of your choosing without triggering any taxes.

Unless you enjoyed this little treasure hunt, the next time you switch jobs, take your retirement loot with you.

SOURCE: Yochim, D. (27 February 2019) "How to Find an Old 401(k) — and What to Do With It" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/how-to-find-an-old-401k-and-what-to-do-with-it/


DOL proposes rule on digital 401(k) disclosures

A new rule has been proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) that is meant to encourage employers to issue retirement plan disclosures electronically. This rule would allow plan sponsors of 401(k)s and other defined-contribution plans to default participants with a valid email address to receive plan disclosures electronically. Read the following blog post to learn more.


The Department of Labor proposed a rule Tuesday that's meant to encourage more employers to issue retirement plan disclosures electronically to plan participants.

The rule would allow sponsors of 401(k)s and other defined-contribution plans to default participants with valid email addresses into receiving all their retirement plan disclosures — such as fee disclosure statements and summary plan descriptions — digitally instead of on paper, as has been the traditional route.

Participants can opt-out of e-delivery if they prefer paper notices. The proposed rule covers the roughly 700,000 retirement plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.

"DOL rules have largely relied on a paper default," said Will Hansen, chief government affairs officer for the American Retirement Association. "Everything had to be paper, unless they opted into electronic default. This rule is changing the current standing."

Proponents of digital delivery believe it will save employers money and increase participants' retirement savings. The DOL also believes digital delivery will increase the effectiveness of the disclosures.

Plan sponsors are responsible for the costs associated with furnishing participant notices, and many small and large plans pass those costs on to plan participants, Mr. Hansen said. The DOL estimates its proposal will save retirement plans $2.4 billion over the next 10 years through the reduction of materials, printing and mailing costs for paper disclosures.

Opponents of digital delivery maintain that paper delivery should remain the default option. They have noted that participants are more likely to receive and open disclosures if they come by mail, and claim that print is a more readable medium for financial disclosures that helps participants better retain the information.

"We are reviewing the proposal carefully and look forward to providing comments to the Department of Labor, but we already know that in a world of information overload, many people prefer to get important financial information delivered on paper, not electronically," said Cristina Martin Firvida, vice president of financial security and consumer affairs at AARP. "The reality is missed emails, misplaced passwords and difficulties reading complex information on a screen mean that most people do not visit their retirement plan website on a regular basis."

President Donald J. Trump issued an executive order on August 2018 calling on the federal government to strengthen U.S. retirement security. In that order, Mr. Trump directed the Labor secretary to examine how the agency could improve the effectiveness of plan notices and disclosures and reduce their cost.

The DOL proposal, called Default Electronic Disclosure by Employee Pension Benefit Plans under ERISA, is structured as a safe harbor, which offers legal protections to employers that follow the guidelines laid out in the rule.

Retirement plans would satisfy their obligation by making the disclosure information available online and sending participants and beneficiaries a notice of internet availability of the disclosures. That notice must be sent each time a plan disclosure is posted to the website.

A digital default can't occur without first notifying participants by paper that disclosures will be sent electronically to the participant's email address.

The 30-day comment period on the proposal starts Wednesday. In addition, the DOL issued a request for information on other measures it could take to improve the effectiveness of ERISA disclosures.

SOURCE: Lacurci, G. (22 October 2019) "DOL proposes rule on digital 401(k) disclosures" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.investmentnews.com/article/20191022/FREE/191029985/dol-proposes-rule-on-digital-401-k-disclosures


‘Lifestyle’ choice: An emerging benefit could attract and retain employees

An emerging perk, lifestyle spending accounts (LSA), are one way employers can stay competitive. An LSA is an account that is funded solely by an employer. Employees can use the funds to purchase goods or services as long as they fall into specific categories set by the employer. Read this blog post to learn more about this emerging benefit.


Employers seeking new ways to stay competitive in the employee benefits marketplace might consider an emerging perk, lifestyle spending accounts, whose aim is to broaden employee access range of health and happiness-oriented goods and services.

There’s really no limit to the types of things LSAs can fund, but that endless range of choices can make it difficult for employers to get started.

But first, the basics: An LSA account is funded solely by the employer (and which is taxable as income to employees. The employee can use the funds to purchase goods or services, as long as they fall into the categories of the employer’s choosing. Think investments in physical and mental well-being, environmentally friendly goods or childcare.

The accounts are popular on the West Coast and in Canada. and is gaining traction throughout other parts of the U.S.

Employers can choose to fund a wide range of options, depending on what they think will appeal most to their workforce. For instance, while some carriers reimburse employees for gym memberships, employers can supplement a healthy physical lifestyle by adding workout studios to the options menu; personal or small-group training; workout equipment such as weights, a stationary bike or a treadmill; workout clothes; or nutrition counseling.

And while mental well-being is a new benefits focus of many employers, health plans typically only cover a limited number of counseling sessions. Employers can supplement this benefit by providing funds for therapy or counseling sessions.

Some employers are also using LSAs to help employees with child-related expenses, starting at the very beginning with help with fertility treatments, progressing to doulas and midwives and on to baby gear and then childcare.

But back to the too-much-choice dilemma. To figure out what to fund, start by identifying gaps in your current benefit offering. For example, offering funds toward gym and studio memberships is an obvious place to start if you don’t already have a program in place. Consider what types of employees you want to recruit and retain, and think about what sort of behaviors you want to influence. LSAs can be offered to an entire workforce, or different fund amounts can be offered to different classes of employees.

Other issues to consider: how will you deliver the funds and what happens when an employee leaves or is terminated. These are minor details, but they could leave you with headaches if you don’t address them prior to rollout.

LSAs are typically managed by a TPA that will adjudicate claims and approve purchase reimbursements, removing the hassle of managing a program for large employers.

For employers hoping to encourage employees toward certain healthy behaviors and sweeten benefits packages, LSAs can help round out offerings and act as another recruitment and retention tool.

SOURCE: O'Connor, P. (25 October 2019) "‘Lifestyle’ choice: An emerging benefit could attract and retain employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/lifestyle-benefits-for-attraction-and-retention


Employers can help employees catch some Z's with new wellness benefit

Employers are starting to offer employee benefits that are focused on a long-ignored but crucial aspect of employee health - sleep. Read this blog post to learn more about this new wellness benefit.


Employers are taking a greater interest in employees’ emotional and physical well-being by offering specialized programs focused on mental health, weight loss, financial health, and now one long-ignored yet crucial aspect of health — sleep.

Beddr, a sleep health technology company, has launched a comprehensive, personalized solution to identify and treat the root causes of chronic sleep issues, though a voluntary benefits platform. The program leverages clinical data captured from Beddr’s app that uses an optical sensor and accelerometer to measure blood oxygen levels, stopped breathing events, heart rate, sleep position and time in bed.

About 45% of the world’s population has chronic sleep issues, according to a study in the Journal of Sleep Research. Poor sleep costs U.S. employers an estimated $411 billion each year, according to a report from Rand.

Employees using the Beddr benefit will have access to an expert-led sleep coaching program and a nationwide network of sleep physicians to provide targeted treatment options to help employees improve their sleep health. The program has the potential to save an employer up to $5,700 per employee, per year in productivity improvements, lower healthcare costs and decrease accident rates, Beddr says.

“Sleep is the foundation to every employee’s mental and physical health. High quality sleep has been shown to both reduce healthcare costs as well as improve productivity, but most employers haven’t found a comprehensive program that addresses the primary root causes of sleep issues and that benefits their entire workforce,” says Michael Kisch, CEO of Beddr. “We have seen a dramatic increase among our users relative to the overall population in their understanding of their sleep health and how their choices impact their overall sleep quality.”

Beddr partners with benefits teams to design a customized program specific to each employer and their employees. The company developed a screening process that makes it easy for an employer to engage their employee base, while providing Beddr the ability to identify employees who are a good match for the program.

In some cases, the company heavily subsidizes the cost of the benefit to employees, while in others it is the full responsibility of the employee. In the latter instance, the company negotiates a discount that is passed on to all participating employees. That discounted price is less than what an employee would pay to purchase the program directly from Beddr.

“Beddr was founded on the belief that the most important thing a person can do to improve their physical and mental health is to get consistent, high-quality sleep,” Kisch says. “We see employers as natural partners in fulfilling this mission because the goals of a company and its management are highly aligned with the goals of our program — to improve the health and productivity of employees. ”

SOURCE: Shiavo, A. (23 October 2019) "Employers can help employees catch some Z's with new wellness benefit" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/beddr-app-helps-employees-get-more-sleep


Do I Still Need Life Insurance Once I Retire? Your Questions Answered

Do you still need life insurance after you retire? Going into retirement doesn't necessarily mean that you are financially sound. Read this blog post for more answers to your questions regarding life insurance after retirement.


Do I need life insurance once I retire? Just because you’re retired doesn’t necessarily mean you’re financially sound.

Think of all the different scenarios that may still be applicable: You may have been required to retire early; you may have had investments that have gone sour and haven’t had time to rebuild your nest egg. Additionally, there may be a need to cover final expenses, you may have children still at home who depend on you, or you may have a family member like an aging parent or special-needs sibling that you provide financial support for.

The bottom line is this: If you owe someone, love someone, or someone depends on you financially, you need life insurance. And just because you’re retired or old doesn’t mean those three things go away.

Do I need the same amount of life insurance coverage as I did before? If you bought the life insurance to replace income and have built up your investments, maybe not.

Then again, if you have built up your investments over the years, there may be some state or federal inheritance tax that will have to be paid upon your death. And even if there is no federal tax, there may still be significant state inheritance tax. There are also things like probate costs, administration costs; there might be final debt or a mortgage on house, too. So as long as there is some type of financial exposure, you need life insurance to match up with that.

If I don’t have one, is it still possible to buy a policy in retirement? Absolutely. Just because you’re old or older doesn’t mean you’re uninsurable.

I just got a call from someone doing planning for the family patriarch who’s 85 years old. They realized that right now, the estate is worth more than the combined amount of federal exemption and that there will be tax to pay. That’s where life insurance comes in, at less than a dollar for each dollar of tax.

Another reason to have the coverage is if someone has taken 100% pay-out on their pension, with no survivorship provision. If that person dies, no money gets paid out to the surviving spouse. This is more common than you think. Nor is it unusual to hear that someone remarries and forgets to change the pension beneficiary. Life insurance can ensure that the spouse is taken care of.

What else should I know about having life insurance in retirement? People don’t often talk about the living benefits of life insurance.

Let’s say you no longer need the death benefit, but are living with a lingering, terminal illness and may not have sufficient cash to pay medical expenses. The accelerated death benefit provision means you can go to the insurance company and pull down money from the policy to absorb the costs of that illness and avoid bankruptcy.

A permanent life insurance policy is also a place to put money aside that gives you a better rate of return than a low pay-out CD or putting money in a safety deposit box. It’s a way to have some safe money invested at no risk—it’s just there for when you need it.

SOURCE: Feldman, M. (9 January 2019) "Do I Still Need Life Insurance Once I Retire? Your Questions Answered" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://lifehappens.org/blog/do-i-still-need-life-insurance-once-i-retire-your-questions-answered/


5 reasons employers should offer student loan repayment benefits

Did you know: Currently, American families carry more than $1.6 trillion in student loan debt. Because of this, some employers are now adding student loan repayment benefits to their employer-sponsored benefits offering. Read this for five reasons why employers should offer student loan repayment benefits.


As every employer knows, benefits can be both expensive and difficult to manage. So then, what could possibly be the advantage of adding more expenses to the budget — especially ones that go beyond traditional benefits like health insurance and paid time off?

Candidates have options in the current job market, which allows them to be picky about where they choose to work. With employees in the driver’s seat, we’re seeing a workforce that is increasingly focused on companies that show they value their workforce.

One way some employers are doing this is by adding perks such as student loan repayment benefits. American families currently carry more than $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, the question of providing student loan assistance is not an “if,” but a “when.”

Will your company alone solve the country’s student loan debt crisis? No. But, ultimately, going beyond the standard of offering traditional benefits is a mark of your authenticity and genuine nature as an employer. An investment in student loan benefits demonstrates your investment in the financial wellness of your people.

Luckily, student loan repayment benefits are easy to implement and require very little maintenance once launched. Because this voluntary benefit doesn’t have to align with open enrollment, you can set the new standard for how employees should be treated immediately. Here are five reasons employers should already be offering student loan benefits.

1. Employees are actively seeking this benefit

The amount of student loan debt is staggering — currently, more than $600 billion more than the amount of credit card debt in the United States, according to LendingTree. Considering nearly everyone has a credit card and only some have student loan debt, it’s safe to say the path of higher education can have a negative financial impact for those relying on loans.

Most often, employers think the only way to help employees with their student loan debt is through contributions, but that’s not the case. Contributions aren’t a prerequisite for student loan benefits. As roughly 250,000 borrowers default on their loans each quarter, employees are actively seeking help in managing their student loan payments. With delinquency and default of student loans on the rise, you can still set employees on the right track with a student loan repayment benefit, even if you can’t afford the price tag of contributions.

2. You’ll be the employer of choice for top talent

With a low unemployment rate, the battle for the best talent is fierce. Student loan repayment assistance is a huge advantage when employees have a choice in which company to work for. Nearly three years ago, 86% of workers said they would commit to a company for five years if the employer helped pay back their student loans, according to the nonprofit American Student Loan Assistance. Yet, the Society for Human Resource Management reports only 8% of companies currently offer this type of benefit — which means those who do, may have an edge over the competition.

Today, the most successful companies don’t just focus on seeking out incredible candidates, they’re looking for ways to make the most desirable candidates come to them. Student loan assistance is a very differentiated offering — but it won’t be that way for long.

3. The benefit can help employees reach life milestones

Today, the millennial generation makes up a significant amount of the working population — but, as they’ve continued to enter the workforce over the last decade, millennials have held off on making major life purchases. Why? Because some of the most prominent markets in our economy, such as housing and higher education, have gotten drastically more expensive and salaries haven’t increased at a rate to match these rising costs.

However, if you think student loan debt is only an issue for younger generations, think again. All generations are making sacrifices because of student loan debt. In fact, 57% of Baby Boomers feel student loans are getting in the way of retirement.

Naturally, people with less debt have more money to spend in other areas. When companies help employees reduce their student loan debt, significant life milestones — like buying a house, starting a family, sending their children to college or saving for retirement — are more attainable.

4. Improved employee retention

The smartest companies aren’t just looking to attract the best talent, they’re looking to keep it. Turnover has a negative impact on business — both financially and culturally. The average cost of each employee departure is one-third of that worker’s annual earnings and, in 2020, roughly one in three workers will voluntarily quit their job.

Voluntary benefits like student loan repayment might seem like they will cost your business but, even just for the sake of keeping exceptional employees, they’re a worthy expense. Aiding employees in tackling some of their debt makes a significant difference in whether or not they want to continue working for you. Your workers are human beings. When they’re cared for in such a way, employees are more inclined to stay with a company where they’re valued.

5. Employees will be happier

Happiness is contagious. Happy employees are both more productive and have a positive impact on company culture, which absolutely makes a difference for your business. But, when more than half of people are regularly stressed due to financial issues, it has a personal and professional impact on employees.

Financial stress is one of the biggest burdens a person can face — and not something your employees can simply leave at the door. By offering student loan assistance, you’re not only eliminating some of the stress affecting your employees, but you’re also opening more financial doors for them and creating a company culture they’ll want to shout about from the rooftops.

SOURCE: Grewal, S (17 October 2019) "5 reasons employers should offer student loan repayment benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/5-reasons-employers-should-help-with-student-loans


What would a workplace emergency-savings benefit look like?

Data from a recent survey indicates that a significant portion of American workers could face a financial emergency if they were hit with sudden bills, lost wages or other unforeseen expenses. Read this blog post to learn more about emergency-savings benefits.


An alarming number of workers don't have enough money saved away to carry them through even a short-lived financial emergency, and experts are urging employers to take steps to address that shortfall with changes to their benefits programs.

Survey data indicate that while savings rates vary based on a number of factors, substantial portions of American workers across income levels could face a financial emergency if they were hit with sudden medical bills, lost wages or other unforeseen expenses, such as a major home or car repair.

"Regardless of income we still see a significant percentage of people that do not have a rainy day fund that could cover three months of expenses," Craig Copeland, senior research associate at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, said on a recent online presentation the group hosted.

The AARP has been studying the issue, and recently reported that 53% of all American households have no emergency savings. Moreover, the retirement group reported a direct link between emergency funds and overall financial confidence. According to its recent report, Americans with rainy day funds are 2.5 times more likely to feel confident about their long-term financial prospects than those who do not.

"If people are living on such thin margins that an unexpected bill requires their complete attention and all existing resources to address it, it is extremely difficult to keep the longer-term in mind or to make progress toward longer-term goals," said Genevieve Melford, who helps lead a financial security program at the Aspen Institute.

As employers increasingly come to view emergency savings as a crucial element of their employees' financial well-being, more have been exploring a separate benefit to help encourage workers to put away money for some unforeseen contingency.

Catherine Harvey, senior policy advisor at the AARP's Public Policy Institute, has been taking a hard look at how workplace emergency savings benefits could be structured, what features would make them most attractive, and how, as a practical matter, employees could be moved to actually participate.

"There's a lot of evidence from behavioral science about what makes employer-based interventions effective, and not surprisingly one aspect of an effective program to maximize participation in an employee benefit is to make participation really easy," she said.

"That's true in 401(k)s, that's true in health programming, it's true in marketing -- any time that you get something in the mail or are automatically signed up for Spotify beyond your 50-day free trial you're subject to a default [that works] to make enrollment really easy," Harvey said.

Some employers have offered a feature that allows workers to split their paychecks through direct deposit into separate accounts, one being set aside for emergency savings. But the early analysis of those programs, which tend to rely on the employee proactively opting to set up and contribute to the emergency account via direct deposit -- rather than through auto-enrollment -- has found the results underwhelming.

"That's where we think automatic enrollment, that frictionless enrollment, really distinguishes this from everything else that's on the market right now," Harvey said.

"If split direct deposit were as powerful as it could be, more employers would be doing that and people would be saving for emergencies," she said. "We know that that's just not the case."

But emergency savings programs, executed properly, could become a key component of employers' expanding financial wellness benefits packages, a hot topic in the benefits world, but one where employers are still grappling with the best way to drive engagement.

"We know that information for employees on a website is not going to cut it," Harvey said. "Education alone just doesn't work, and so employers over the years have gotten really savvy and have taken up the behavioral finance tools and concepts to make participation the default."

The AARP also surveyed workers of a variety of income and age ranges about the types of features that would entice them to contribute to an emergency savings plan.

"Not surprisingly," Harvey said, survey respondents cited "the power of the employer match, which speaks to the incentive behind savings as being a very important feature -- one that basically blows all of the other features out of the water."

That held true across the board, as even workers who reported strong savings rates independent of an employer plan said they would welcome matching funds.

"If there's a match on the table, people don't want to leave dollars on the table," Harvey said.

In addition to a matching feature, workers AARP surveyed indicated strong preferences for programs that would protect their privacy, extend them complete control over access to their funds, and generally limit complicating red tape that would make the programs less functional.

"The idea here behind an employer-based emergency savings program is let the employee define the emergency," Harvey said. "Putting up rules and barriers, eligibility criteria, is just going to frustrate people and they won't use the money when it's needed at that moment."

SOURCE: Corbin, K. (11 October 2019) "What would a workplace emergency-savings benefit look like?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/what-would-a-workplace-emergency-savings-benefit-look-like


5 ways employers can make diabetes education programs more inclusive

Employees struggling with diabetes often have to make difficult decisions when it comes to their medications. Often, it can be difficult to manage blood sugar daily and feel healthy enough to function at work. Read the following blog post from Employee Benefit News for five ways employers can make diabetes education programs more inclusive.


Diabetes doesn’t quit. Employees struggling with the disease often have to make difficult decisions about their medications. It can be hard to keep control of blood sugar every day and feel healthy enough to function well at work.

Many workers don’t tell their employer they have diabetes. Some 81% of benefits decision-makers believe employees with diabetes at their companies keep it a secret.

Giving voice to an issue is the first step toward solving it. Diabetes in the workplace is in need of attention: rates are rising in the U.S., as are the associated costs — unplanned missed workdays, reduced productivity and the stress associated with uncontrolled diabetes add up to billions of dollars per year.

To help employers find solutions, Roche Diabetes Care commissioned a survey of more than 200 benefits decision-makers at self-funded companies to learn their perceptions of the human and financial burden of diabetes. What’s clear is that addressing the myriad of concerns related to this condition is a top priority for benefits decision-makers; indeed, 70% say it keeps them awake at night.

Benefits decision-makers say the impact of diabetes on their companies is significant:

  • More than one in four report diabetes results in increased costs to replace workers (28%), increased administrative and other indirect costs of managing absenteeism (29%);
  • One in three believe diabetes results in indirect costs resulting from fatigue and understaffing as well as reduced productivity;
  • One in four feel diabetes is responsible for poor morale among employees who must perform work to cover absent co-workers.

The majority (87%) agree it is vital that employers offer continual support to employees with diabetes. Listening, education and help simplifying everyday diabetes management emerge as ways employers can improve the health of their employees with diabetes and the company bottom lines. The following are five approaches to consider.

Cultivate a collaborative, supportive environment to encourage employees with diabetes to feel comfortable and at ease about sharing concerns.

Four in five (81%) benefits decision-makers surveyed say they believe employees keep their condition a secret. Fear of discrimination is one reason those with diabetes keep quiet along with the general sense that their colleagues and superiors just don’t know or understand what it’s like to live with the condition.

Secrets are also stressful. Employers can address this by including diabetes more frequently in workplace wellness education programs and discussions, and creating safe forums for employees with diabetes to share concerns and express their needs. Listening and making employees with diabetes part of a two-way dialogue demonstrate the company values not only their opinions but also their important contributions to the company community.

Designate private places at the office where employees with diabetes can test their blood sugar during the workday.

Some 90% of benefits decision-makers surveyed think their employees would value company access and time to monitor blood sugar or take injections.

Simplify daily diabetes management so employees have what they need to be in control of their blood sugar levels at home and at work.

People with diabetes have different concerns and different needs at different times. A company-sponsored program to simplify the daily decision-making and management of diabetes needs to be personalized, easily accessible and help the user keep track of their blood sugar levels automatically. Benefits decision-makers believe employers supported in this way would be:

  • Less distracted and less stressed at work (37%);
  • More productive (45%) and have better morale;
  • Take fewer sick days (39%);
  • Feel their employer cared about them (41%).

We have created a program that offers the elements that enable personalized accessible support. Participants say they feel more positively engaged in their daily management and more confident at work.

Demonstrate the value of supported employees with diabetes by measuring impact productivity and absenteeism.

Most of those surveyed say they believe company-supported programs that help employees with diabetes simplify daily management of the condition would have myriad benefits:

  • 89% say it would lead to a higher quality of life and reduced sick time and related expenses;
  • More than four in five say a company-supported program would result in more company loyalty and less turnover (83%) and contribute to increased productivity (84%);
  • 90% believe employees with diabetes would feel more empowered at work if they participated in a company-supported program that helped them keep their blood sugar levels in control.

Consider conducting brief surveys of employees about their perceptions of diabetes. These can be done before or after education or awareness efforts are in place. For companies with support programs in place, surveys can be conducted among participants. Qualitative and quantitative data help demonstrate the value of these investments. Just asking the questions among employees show the company cares.

Show your successes; don’t just tell.

Show the value of educating about diabetes and supporting your employees with the condition. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. Collect and tell their stories. Create testimonials in articles for internal newsletters and videos that can be shown on monitors around the office. Stories are powerful ways to educate, build empathy and understanding, and perhaps most importantly, get the secret of diabetes out in the open.

SOURCE: Berman, A. (30 September 2019) "5 ways employers can make diabetes education programs more inclusive" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/how-to-make-diabetes-education-programs-more-inclusive