Employers: Make small talk with your remote workers

Working remotely is becoming a trend across many companies, and with that may come a lack of communication between employees and employers. Being intentional with communication strategies is necessary, especially to overcome different challenges that may arise within the working remotely environment. Continue reading this blog post to learn more regarding practices for managing and communicating with remote workers.


Technology makes it easier than ever to work from home, but it’s not the most important ingredient for managing a productive remote workforce.

While full-time remote work is still uncommon, employers are using the benefit to help their workforce achieve better work-life balance. Last year, 69% of employers allowed employees to work from home as needed, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2019 Benefits Survey. And 42% of employers agree to let workers do it part-time, or select days of the workweek. As this perk continues to trend, it’s crucial for employers to adopt a strategy for managing people they don’t see every day.

“As a manager, people skills are crucial when your team isn’t working in the same space,” says Melissa Marcello, associate vice president at Champlain College Online — a Vermont-based employer with a large remote workforce. “When you’re relying on technology to get the work done, you really need to be intentional about your communication strategy to be successful.”

Marcello spoke with Employee Benefit News about best practices for managing remote workers.

What are some of the challenges of having a remote workforce?

While working from home gives employees the flexibility to live wherever they want and maintain better work-life balance, it can be challenging for managers to monitor everyone. Communication has to be more proactive when you can’t walk over to someone’s desk to talk about a project. Teams also need to be more organized and set clear deadlines when team members are working in different time zones.

What strategies do employers need to manage a remote workforce?

Good management skills need to be even more pronounced when you’re managing a team scattered all over the country. Managers need to have a clear vision and set clear goals to make sure everyone on the team is successful. They also need to put effort into developing relationships with individual team members and the group.

How do managers foster relationships with remote workers?

By checking in with them regularly, whether it’s by instant messaging, video conferencing or phone calls. And don’t just talk about work; ask them about what’s going on in their personal lives and about their interests. Send them funny videos over instant messaging. None of these things are wasting time. It’s what you’d do if you saw them every day in an office setting. These are the little things that build strong teams.

What tools do you need to successfully incorporate remote workers?

You need to have a space where everyone can participate in projects even when you’re not all together at the same place, or time zone, working on something. There are many digital platforms that accomplish this; our organization has been successful using G Suite.

It’s one thing to have the tools. It’s another thing to set expectations on how we use those tools and when to provide feedback. A good manager is able to harness digital tools and set the norms for a team, even if they’re in different locations.

How can remote employees ensure they remain productive?

Creating a sacred, designated work space in the home is really helpful. Claim a room in the house where you can shut the door and be dedicated to work, so everyone in the house knows you need to focus. If that’s not an option, coworking spaces are becoming increasingly popular — and you don’t have to worry about keeping your personal life and work separate.

SOURCE: Webster, K. (10 February 2020) "Employers: Make small talk with your remote workers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/employers-communicate-with-your-remote-workers


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Top Challenges for Managers in 2020

Technology and rising trends are creating new challenges for managers to handle. Different situations regarding employees from Generation Z and gig workers, mental health and vaping are creating new ways for managers to interact with employees. Read this blog post to learn more regarding how managers are facing these trials.


Managers in 2020 will face some new challenges, many having to do with their youngest workers. Among those challenges: leading employees from Generation Z and gig workers, addressing mental health issues and helping vapers kick the habit.

Understanding Generation Z

Generation Z workers—generally, those born in 1995 or later—should be on every manager's radar. "Within the next two or three years, they will become the fastest-growing percent of the workforce," said Jason Dorsey, a Generation Z researcher and co-founder of the Center for Generational Kinetics, a research and solutions company in Austin, Texas.

"They don't remember a time before smartphones or social media," he said. They live on their phones, not their laptops, and that's the way they want to communicate—on and off the job. "Gen Z expects to go through the entire application process on a mobile device."

Dorsey said managers often tell him that they don't remember young adults asking about retirement plans, but today's young workers do. "It's the aftershock of the Great Recession, when they saw their parents struggle," Dorsey said.

And Generation Z considers flexible scheduling to be a given, not a perk, Dorsey said. He advises managers who want to attract and retain young workers to offer not only flexible schedules but also flexibility on a start date and the ability to work remotely.

Finally, employees from Generation Z want to have access to their pay beyond the typical twice-a-month paycheck. Platforms such as Instant Financial, which allows workers to access a portion of their pay after every work shift, are appealing, Dorsey said.

Holding on to Generation Z employees may take some coaxing, said Cheryl Cran, founder of NextMapping, a future-of-work consultancy headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. "They are far more entrepreneurial than any other generation," she said, noting that many are gig workers by choice because they value their freedom. Hence, she said, "managers need to think about how to give them freedom" in a traditional job, whether that means offering remote work, flexible scheduling or another solution.

Understanding Gig-Worker Laws

An estimated 15 million adults in the U.S. have alternative work arrangements, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, concerns about whether employers should classify these workers as employees has spurred states to propose task forces or legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Congress, meanwhile, is assessing H.R. 2474, Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019. The aim of these efforts is universal: to stop the exploitation of nonemployee workers.

But that goal can misfire, contend some gig workers who are worried about losing their livelihood. California's AB 5, which took effect Jan. 1 and requires businesses to reclassify many independent contractors as employees, has already triggered controversy, including lawsuits challenging it on constitutional and other grounds and pushback from independent journalists, photographers, interpreters, musicians, truckers and others the law doesn't exempt.

Many of these independent workers tend to be young adults who value the flexibility that comes with freelancing. But that flexibility can make traditional employees at the same company resentful. Inspiring teamwork will be no small task, said Alec Levenson, Ph.D., senior research scientist at the USC Marshall Center for Effective Organizations.

"We are at the tipping point of employers hiring people from all different [work] arrangements," he said. "There is not enough focus on productivity, how to get people to work together as a team."

Destigmatizing Mental Health Issues

Mental health disorders, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are among the most burdensome health concerns in the workplace. Nearly 1 in 5 adults reported having some type of mental illness in 2017; stress symptoms, such as headaches or feeling overwhelmed or anxious, are also common.

Adults from Generation Z report the highest stress levels, according to the American Psychological Association's 2019 Stress in America survey. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest level of stress, Generation Z reported an overall stress level of 5.8. Generation X averaged 5.5, Millennials 5.4 and Baby Boomers 4.2.

In a tight labor market, where there is stiff competition for talent, managers who show concern about their workers' mental health will stand out to applicants and existing employees, said LuAnn Heinen, vice president for well-being and productivity for the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), a nonprofit headquartered in Washington, D.C., that represents large employers' perspectives on health policy.

In a 2019 NBGH survey, 43 percent of managers said they had a formal mental health strategy in place, including strategies to address depression, anxiety and stress; opioid and other substance abuse; sleep disorders; and workplace bullying.

The managers said the most important components of those strategies are making employees aware of the importance of mental health; hosting mental health awareness events; and training managers on what mental health is, how to recognize trouble signs and how to refer workers to mental health resources.

Even the best mental health programs won't succeed, however, if people don't feel comfortable accessing them, Heinen pointed out. Managers who need help talking with workers about mental health issues can turn to programs such as MakeItOK.org.

Helping Vapers Quit

As of Jan. 7, 2020, a lung illness tied to vaping nicotine or products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in marijuana responsible for the high, had resulted in 2,668 hospitalizations and 60 deaths. Employees who vape—many of them young adults—may need help to end their habit.

Programs to help people quit need to be tailored to the generation of workers you're targeting and that cohort's preferred communication style, Heinen said.

Truth Initiative, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., devoted to eliminating tobacco use, has fine-tuned its decade-old digital tobacco-cessation platform developed with the Mayo Clinic. "We launched a program specifically to address the needs of vapers," said Amanda Graham, Ph.D., chief of innovations for Truth Initiative. The quit-vaping program uses text messages, preferred by many younger adults, and includes instant message support if users feel they are slipping.

SOURCE: Doheny, K. (06 February 2020) "Top Challenges for Managers in 2020" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/people-managers/Pages/Top-Challenges-for-Managers-in-2020.aspx


Even HR executives have to reinvent themselves to survive

New trends, technology, and modern changes are creating concerns for the trained level of HR professionals. With different changes continuously entering companies, HR professionals are having to go through different pieces of training. Read this blog post to learn about HR professionals having to learn about new and modernized paces.


HR chief executives by and large are ill-equipped to meet the needs of the modern workplace, according to a new report of 500 top executives.

The irony is the HR profession is perhaps entering a golden age for HR leaders, as the role shifts beyond administrative and process-related functions to work that is at the very core of a company’s business strategy to keep top talent.

And yet because the workplace is changing so fast to adapt to technological and demographic shifts, the study by SHRM and another insurance company found that the role of HR hasn’t been able to keep pace to train the latest generation of HR leaders.

Because work functions are constantly in flux, training and development can no longer be considered episodic events but instead will require perpetual reskilling to stay relevant. The study noted that between 2003 and 2013, more than 70% of the Fortune 1000 companies changed and were replaced by nimbler firms.

Most HR executives or chief people officers, or CPOs, will need to reskill to stay relevant — and do so quickly, according to HR People + Strategy, the group’s network of business and thought leaders in human resources.

“As the pace of innovation and technology in the workplace accelerates, CPOs will need to reinvent themselves,” says the study’s co-author Suzanne McAndrew, the global head of talent of another insurance company. “With disruption on the horizon, organizations will require strong, visionary people leaders who can think through the people and talent strategy, and work with management on the business strategy.”

Most executives “are not prepared,” McAndrew says.

“We’re only going to get things done if we have the right people, the right talent in the right functions with the right goals,” Upwork CEO Stephanie Kasriel says in the study. “That to me is the role of HR, to ensure that we have the right people strategy in order to inform the business strategy.”

The study reviewed key changes shaping HR functions for human resources leaders and also found:

•Virtually all respondents (99%) believe HR executives must have the agility and courage to change, yet only 35% said today’s leaders are prepared to respond.
•More than nine in 10 respondents (94%) say it’s important to explore the development of future HR leaders, but only about a third (35%) agree that future staff are receiving the training they’ll need to succeed.
•Only one-third of respondents (36%) are prepared to think about how technology can be used to execute work in the future; only a quarter (26%) say they have the technical acumen to evaluate new technologies.

HR leaders can do five things to help drive change, including acting as an advocate for change and agility, developing digital technology to improve HR functions, using automation to foster new skills and reinvention for staff, focusing on workplace culture and leadership and elevating HR decision-making to include more analytics, the study found.
Alexander Alonso, chief knowledge officer at SHRM, noted that HR executives have the greatest potential to foster the evolution of enterprises by building up their own expertise to meet future workforce demands.

Respondents also recognize much progress is still needed with digital enablement and understanding how to apply digital technology and automation in the workplace. Only 42% had a favorable opinion of their organization’s progress when it comes to embracing technology that builds a consumer experience for employees.

“While CPOs don’t need to be technology experts, they must understand how changing technology can impact work and the workforce,” says Ravin Jesuthasan, a managing director at another insurance company and co-author of the study.

SOURCE: Siew, W. (08 January 2020) "Even HR executives have to reinvent themselves to survive" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/even-hr-executives-have-to-reinvent-themselves-to-survive


What will Workplace Wellness Look Like in 2020?

What will 2020 have in store of workplace wellness? Currently, all indicators are pointing toward a rapid evolution of the workplace wellness industry. Read this blog post to learn more about what wellness will look like in 2020.


As we look toward 2020, all indicators point towards a rapid evolution of the U.S. workplace wellness industry characterized by innovative solutions for managing health care costs that serve the increasing need for proactive ownership of well-being. However, are advances in related disciplines being leveraged optimally, cohesively and creatively to provide for maximum benefit to both the employee and employer?

The corporate model of wellness programs ranges from education programs, to a more evolved model of on-site fitness facilities, incentive programs and HR driven wellness initiatives as part of an overall health and benefits offering. The 2014 SHRM Survey of Strategic Benefits - Wellness Initiatives shows that 76 percent of all surveyed companies had some form of wellness programs/resources. Among those companies two-thirds offered some form of incentive or reward program.

The results of these types of programs have already demonstrated the positive impact of a collaborative responsibility partnership between employer and employee in implementing a wellness approach and the reduction of medical costs.

Several key performance indicators have been used for evaluation, including reductions in monthly medical cost spend, hospital admissions and employee absenteeism. According to SHRM, of the 30 percent who conducted a cost analysis of their wellness programs, 93 percent noted their programs were somewhat or very effective in cutting costs.

This certainly demonstrates a return on investment (ROI) to the employer. In addition, the positive qualitative effect on the organizational culture cannot be understated, with direct impact on talent and team spirit as well as other variables that are incremental to the quantitative benefits measured.

This is particularly important given that variables such as an increasingly aging workforce (by 2020, the number of Americans in the 55 to 64 age group will have grown by 73 percent since 2000), an increase in predominant disease states (by 2030, 40.5 percent of the US population is expected to have some form of cardiovascular disease) and rapidly changing regulations added to the equation, employers are evaluating best and "next" practices to determine if these programs are truly optimized to realize their full potential of impact.

For the next iteration of workplace wellness, the lessons learned can be leveraged from the evolution of the traditional health benefit offering to a health exchange model or to the advances and learnings in personalized therapeutic medicine. The current opportunity requires a creative and innovative approach to health and wellness ownership. Coupling a predictive, proactive and fact-based wellness management approach with employee-owned and led wellness decisions can provide a powerful and personalized platform.

By maintaining this initiative in a structured and sustainable manner, employers are able to provide a more targeted approach of spending proactive wellness dollars for maximum ROI and decreasing the reactive spend on medical costs.

These personalized programs will enable companies to better track and monitor costs and ROI with the goal to have more than 30 percent of the companies properly monitoring cost efficiencies. This is further supported by the fact that 90 percent said they would increase their investment in wellness programs if they could quantify the ROI.

Targeted Wellness

Traditional medical treatment has evolved significantly from standard diagnostic evaluations to increased utilization of scientific advances, specifically in terms of personalized medicine. Medical decisions and treatments are tailored to an individual patient through a data-based approach to drive the efficiency and effectiveness of patient treatment.

Similarly, there is an opportunity for the employee - within the framework of privacy regulations - to leverage this fact-based approach to optimize the value derived from a wellness offering. Two-thirds of employers involved in wellness initiatives typically provide some type of defined contribution or incentive towards wellness (e.g., fitness rebate); however, an opportunity exists to focus this spend on the desired health outcomes. This would provide the maximum benefit to the employee from a well-being standpoint, as well as to the employer for its investment.

While the powerful combination of data analytics and segmentation analysis allows a human resources team to facilitate a fact-based decision-making approach to right-fit an organization with the right individual in the right role at the right time, an organization can effectively manage the time and money dedicated to workplace wellness by creating a tailored program based on the individual employee's current needs and critical influencing factors.

Wellness Exchanges

Employers have made the journey from self-funded managed health care to the growing trend of providing employees with a "shopping mall" of health insurance options, and on to formal health exchanges - gradually increasing the patient-centric involvement of employees in managing their own health care choices.

The value drivers for this organizational transition include increased price competition based on the marketplace model as well as cost savings influenced by employers not overbuying health care coverage for their employees. This is exemplified by the vast majority of participants switching to cheaper plans in their first year of choice coverage.

This undertaking by an organization is by no means a small effort, and it requires a good amount of diligence and change management - not only in creating the road map for the transformation journey, but also in properly structuring, executing and sustaining this approach. In a well-planned and structured implementation journey, the return on investment can be well recognized.

Similarly, a workplace wellness exchange can offer a suite of proactive health program choices designed to give the employee the responsibility to make an informed and impactful decision that is tailored to drive specific health outcomes.

A marketplace approach can also drive competitive offerings from wellness solution providers and encourage a spirit of innovative and cost-conscious platform options - further maximizing use of wellness dollars. This model will encourage individuals to leverage their own personal health ecosystem information (e.g., current state baseline, lifestyle, environmental factors and disease state predisposition) to choose a solution that may help reduce reactive health care dollars spent based on disease state prevention and risk factor reduction.

According to SHRM, year-over-year employee participation has remained flat. An innovative and personalized approach could help motivate and boost participation and would also continue to ensure that the individual employee's wellness responsibility is shared in partnership with the employer. This would require an independent review of the process, structure and plan design, specifically as it relates to patient privacy and the impact to the holistic benefits offering.

Regardless of a company's ability to track ROI, an overwhelming majority (72 percent) think their wellness initiatives are very or somewhat effective in reducing health care costs and 78 percent thought they improved the overall physical health of their employees.

As the impact of reactive medical claim costs on employers continues to increase due to a variety of influencers, proactive workplace wellness will likely evolve and become an inherent component of an organization's benefits offering.

This presents an opportunity to leverage recent learnings from other initiatives in the life sciences vertical to create an effective and efficient workplace wellness platform that is data-driven and tailored to the needs of the employee - providing a marketplace for choice and competition, and reinforcing the shared partnership responsibility between the employer and employee.

SOURCE: Pervaaz, V. (Accessed 01 November 2019) "What will Workplace Wellness Look Like in 2020?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.corporatewellnessmagazine.com/article/workplace-wellness-in-2020


10 trends that will shape HR in 2019

HR professionals across many industries have common challenges to face this year. Some of the biggest headlines of 2018 involved HR-related topics such as discrimination, harassment, diversity and workplace culture. Read this blog post from HR Dive to learn more.


As HR executives turn the page on a new year some will pause to reflect on just how much — and how little — has changed in the span of 12 months.

Increased attention on topics traditionally considered the realm of HR — discrimination, harassment, diversity, workplace culture — made workplaces the convergence point for some of the biggest storylines in 2018. Calls for equal pay, worker protections and better solutions for harassment and discrimination swirled through the boardrooms and shop floors of Google, Tesla, Amazon and CBS, among others.

In the U.S., political figures debated the historic number of people finding work and the policies driving that trend. Experts warned about the opportunities and consequences of artificial intelligence, robotics and other technologies. HR wasn't just an observer in all these developments — it had a lead role, both when things went wrong and when experts searched for success stories.

And through all that turbulence, some elements of the industry remain unchanged. "We're still the stewards of information and our people," Jewell Parkinson, senior vice president and head of human resources at SAP, told HR Dive in an interview. "That is going to be our role."

HR executives and teams across many industries have common challenges to face in 2019. Below, we've recapped what real HR practitioners and industry observers seeing on the horizon.

  1. The talent acquisition panic

    For Ceridian's Chief People and Culture Officer Lisa Sterling, this year's challenging recruiting scene will haunt her into the new year. "The thing … that literally keeps me up at night continues to be the focus on attracting world-class talent to our organization," she told HR Dive in an interview. Sterling isn't the only one vexed by the talent acquisition panic.

    "I've been in the industry 22 years, and I've had the most interesting year in 2018," said Scott Waletzke, head of enterprise recruitment strategy at Adecco Staffing, USA. "The utilization of technology is going to make it that much better."

    Applications and resumes flooded recruiters' inboxes at alarming rates last year and technology has emerged as a much-needed solution to the deluge. "Tech is allowing our recruiters to have more valuable conversations with those candidates," Waletzke said. With these tools, hiring managers can place candidates in the positions where they are the best fit, according to Waletzke.

    Of course, with hordes of candidates and low unemployment comes heavy turnover. And, as Sterling said, organizations need to find and lock down not just any workers, but the best talent for their business. This means companies need to provide a top-notch employee experience, starting with the application process.

    "People are sharing on social media what those experiences are like, and in a tight labor market, retention is top of mind," said Jodi Chavez, group president, Randstad Professionals, Randstad Life Sciences, Tatum. Organizations can improve retention rates by amping up company cultures, offering training and creating a robust HR department to manage such initiatives, Chavez said.

  2. AI as a partner, not a threat

    As Waletzke monitored conversations about tech throughout the last two years, he observed a radical shift. "The overall temperature of conversations completely changed. 2017 was robots are going to steal our jobs … now there is starting to be this embrace of technology," he said.

    For HR, technology has transformed recruitment, in particular. "We're really looking at ways we can use AI or machine learning to automate the talent acquisition experience so we can dive deeply into the one-on-one relationships," Sterling said. Job search platform CareerBuilder has used machine learning to add a touch of personalization, CEO Irina Novoselsky said in an interview. Those searching on CareerBuilder for jobs at Disney might see the word "client" replaced with the term "guest," a standard swap of lingo for the entertainment company.

    "It really is early in that curve of HR users having to become technologists," Novoselsky said. "That really shifts the conversation they're having and what they're looking for."

    While these developments may speed up what can be slow, painstaking work, Triplebyte Co-founder and CEO Harj Taggar pointed out that the tech may make the process more efficient, but it does not address everything. "It doesn't help with bias — and in fact, it exacerbates [it]," he told HR Dive in an interview.

    That's perhaps why some practitioners endorse a more steady, careful approach to new technologies. "It takes time to figure it out, so I think as recruiters and HR professionals we have to really embrace this change, go with it, try things, fail at times, figure it out, but be comfortable with it," Larry Nash, director of recruiting at EY, told HR Dive.

  3. Data insights continue to evolve

    HR is by now familiar with the calls for data-driven insights — but those insights have to keep people at their core and can't just focus on financial or other success measures.

    "It's not good enough to just reduce cost anymore," Art Mazor, human capital practice digital leader and the global leader for HR strategy and employee experience at Deloitte, told HR Dive in an interview. "That's old-school thinking."

    Employers have learned the hard way that while working toward a metric may feel modern and effective, the results can be anything but if the focus is solely on improving the number and not on making real, substantive improvements or addressing the underlying issues.

    More employers have opted to use data in an effort to better track their workforces, Sam Stern, principal at Forrester, told HR Dive in an interview. "But the problem is, usually the shortest path to success on that metric is to game the system. And to me, to be surprised by that is to be delusional. That's human nature."

    Data has its limits, too. An employer can only slice and dice the numbers so many ways, and insights alone don't lead to a lot of change, Jim Barnett, CEO at Glint, told HR Dive in an interview. It's about what HR leaders do with those insights; change happens at the manager and individual team levels. For example, employers can monitor the employee lifecycle from onboarding to exit to get a clear view of why people leave — but without a deeper understanding of who is leaving and why, HR could miss key insights.

    "Fundamentally, it comes back to understanding how your team is doing," Barnett said. "These fundamental things haven't changed over the decades."

    The pendulum will likely swing back toward qualitative analysis partly to avoid the "paralysis by analysis" that some companies are experiencing, Chavez said.

    "You could have all the data in the world and still have high turnover," she added. "There's still a human element. Do exit interviews. You won't see that on a data point."

  4. More pressure to become 'agile'

    Organizations are increasingly being asked to shape internal operations in a way that mirrors external business trends. To that end, executives have taken to terms like "agile," with more than 80% of C-level executives in one survey calling agility the most important characteristic of a successful organization. But what exactly does that mean?

    The term can lend itself to many definitions, but Cecile Alper-Leroux, vice president of HCM innovation for HR technology company Ultimate Software, said in an interview with HR Dive that in an HR context it's closely related to another idea that became popular in the HR world last year: flexibility. Agile organizations embrace contingent work forms, like contracting, to cover particular gaps that employee models may not be able to address. Ultimate Software has experimented with "flex teams," for example, that address business problems as they come up rather than focusing on one specific task.

    There's an element of the gig economy in these arrangements; "People want to control their own destiny," Alper-Leroux said, explaining that an agile organization allows workers to do that to some extent, which means it also points to a new way to measure worker satisfaction. "We have to embrace a new set of metrics other than traditional results."

    But teams don't always form organically. "There's a push to ensure the work can get done with the fewest barriers and how best to onboard people alongside their new counterparts in the workplace," Mazor said. Those "counterparts" won't always be people, either. "What can we do to influence positively that drive to productivity of the enterprise?"

  5. The role of culture in employer brand

    Consumers are value-driven — meaning employees are now, too, Stern said. Employees and applicants are aware not only of an employer's advertising campaigns and brand communications, but the charitable giving an employer does, the messages it sends and the way it treats its partners and contractors. That info is simply more available now, Stern added, and people want to align with companies that share their values.

    Societal shifts have partly enabled the rise of the employer as an "institution of trust," as well, Stern said. Some institutions have betrayed that trust in high-profile incidents, meaning employees are looking to companies to be less passive and to "show up" to certain moral events.

    "The contract used to be an employer gives a job for life and a pension, so employees give their heart and soul and expect nothing else. And employers broke that contract," he said. "And employees have wised up. 'I need you to support my lifestyle because who knows how long we will have this relationship.'"

  6. A new focus on where the work is being done

    As employers turn their focus to employee experience, more are considering exactly how and where employees do the work that needs doing, Mazor said. Do workers gather on a campus or at multiple, scattered locations? Do people use virtual tools, like video, to connect and collaborate? HR pros must keep these questions in mind as they design culture.

    "It's no longer about redesigning process. It's really around reimagining the work," Mazor said. "How do we blend this mix of workers from so many different sources and blend those with the varieties of tech that are available to us in the HR space and more broadly?"

    But that means HR may be held accountable for more aspects of the employee experience than it may have been in the past, including a functional tech experience — something more traditionally the purview of IT.

    "Is it needed for the day to day and is it current? Is it glitchy? Does it shut down every three days?" Chavez said of employee tech. "Those are things people are leaving their organizations for." In other words, HR would be remiss to overlook the day-to-day tasks of the frontline employee.

    And more employers are keeping an eye on the challenges facing their frontliners, from the work environment, to the tools used and beyond. HR managers will put themselves in workers' shoes in 2019 to ensure no part of the experience is overlooked. Because for all the fancy tech a company can employ — "if it doesn't work right, it won't matter," Chavez said.

  7. Potential for wage growth, but recession fears loom

    The wage conversation will continue into 2019, Waletzke said. While employers may remain conservative concerning wage increases, some industries may “flex their wages up” because they are heavily competing for talent; either way it will be a topic of discussion in 2019.

    "I think ultimately the focus then will shift to creating potentially other ways to attract talent, be it through different benefit packages or vacation time — alternative benefits to help attract people to the workforce," Waletzke added.

    But as more outlets begin to speculate about a potential coming recession, that instinct to keep wages steady in the face of upheaval may feel justified, especially as automation and tech adoption enable some industries to phase out certain jobs entirely. Recession remains speculation, especially for 2019. The real question for employers is how they will approach the talent market in a potential economic downturn.

    Some organizations will double-down on ensuring their employees will be more resilient and productive, Stern said, but "I think that will be a minority." A large cohort may instead go after automation and incorporate AI to streamline the work — and reduce the need to hire at all.

    "It's less about people losing their jobs to robots and more people never getting jobs because robots already have them," he said.

  8. Leveling the playing field for women and minorities

    Certainly, the push for gender equality was a dominating theme within the overall employment conversation of 2018. As that dialogue continues in 2019, that theme will likely extend, but may take on different forms. "I think you're going to see more on that," Sterling said. "Not so much on the #MeToo piece, but in neutralizing, leveling the playing field."

    With this may come the continued examination of the C-suite. In 2018, the number of female Fortune 500 CEOs plummeted by 25%, according to Fortune. Addressing this disparity may cue the change Sterling predicted. Many experts have recommended that organizations with systemic gender bias or ongoing incidences of sexual harassment trigger a cultural revamp starting at the top. The theory goes like this: If the board of a company features a diverse set of executives who are compensated fairly, teams are more likely to imitate the example.

    Even as the #MeToo movement fades, the impetus it gave to issues surrounding sexual harassment and gender parity will likely continue to spark discussions and change. One report found that closing the worldwide gender gap will take 108 years, but initiatives like equal pay laws, better parental leave policies and stricter sexual harassment laws may zip up that gap more speedily.

  9. Empowering managers to help employees

    In 2019, HR execs can't afford to overlook one of their biggest tools in building an engaging culture: front-line managers. Employers will be looking for ways to put insights in managers' hands so they can lead to their teams to greatness. This shift in perspective is one reason why performance reviews have moved away from annual affairs and toward consistent, forward-looking talks, Barnett said.

    "Now companies have really realized, it isn't about surveys or getting the number up. What this is really about is empowering managers to have thoughtful conversations with their teams," he added.

    To ensure success, managers must be trained to have the right conversations. It's easy to tell employees they are doing well; it's considerably harder to get a problematic employee to change their ways, Barnett said. HR has an opportunity to educate and create real transformation in an organization through management personnel.

    In turn, businesses are "really shifting [their] approach to workforce experience and how HR runs to drive those business outcomes. Not to support. To drive."

  10. Development and training to fill important gaps

    Skills gaps have spurred employers, non-profits, universities and even local governments to enter the business of upskilling talent. Such efforts are essential to keeping demand in check and may even involve bringing those who once left certain areas of the job market back into the fold.

    "What we are also seeing, too, is this idea of what we would call 'encore careers' — people who exited and want back in," Waletzke said, "those individuals will also need to be reskilled, and I think that is a huge topic that we need to stay at the forefront of. Those jobs can't be left vacant."

    The focus on employee development has also changed the way managers talk to workers, Taggar said. Those in charge are pressured to provide increasingly continuous and structured feedback. "I think in general everyone wants that, but people aren't happy getting a standard review anymore. People want access to coaching… and all these things to develop their skills more than ever."

    But skills deficits also mean recruiters can't rely on the same criteria to fill out their payrolls in 2019. That's a lesson Nash believes has been crucial to staying competitive."In addition to having some of these hard, technical backgrounds, it's really important [candidates] have certain mindsets that will enable to them to grow and change," Nash said. "Just having a growth mindset that things aren't static — they constantly change, and you have to embrace that change."

SOURCE: Moody, K. Golden, R. Clarey, K.  (27 August 2019) "10 trends that will shape HR in 2019" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/10-trends-that-will-shape-hr-in-2019/545343/


Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2019

During this year's SHRM's Annual Conference & Exposition, Dan Schawbel discussed the importance of looking forward three to six months or even a few years for new and emerging trends. Factors such as technological developments, economic changes, globalization and automation, all affect how companies do business and attract top talent. Read this blog post to learn more.


LAS VEGAS — HR professionals and organization leaders have a lot to keep up with: technological developments, economic changes, globalization and automation. All of these factors affect how companies do business and attract and retain talented workers.

"If we don't keep up with all the changes going on around us in terms of the tasks we do every day, we become obsolete," said Dan Schawbel, partner and research director at New York City-based Future Workplace, an executive development firm dedicated to rethinking and reimagining the workplace.

It's more important now than ever for business professionals to look forward three or six months or even a few years, he said during a mega session at the Society for Human Resource Management 2019 Annual Conference & Exposition.

Conference attendee Jessica Whitney said she hoped to learn about any new trends for the workplace so she could compare what's discussed to what her company is currently doing—to see what it's doing right and if there are any new ideas she can take back to the office. Whitney is a people partner at Unum Therapeutics in Massachusetts.

These are the top 10 trends that will impact HR departments in 2019, according to Schawbel's research.

1. Fostering the relationship between workers and robots.

One of the biggest trends of 2019 is the partnership between robots and humans. "The human element will never go away," Schawbel said. HR will continue to manage the human workforce, and information technology (IT) teams will manage the robots. "The big opportunity moving forward is for HR to partner with IT and even other departments … in order to collaborate and manage the human experience," he said.

2. Creating flexible work schedules.

"Flexibility is something that we want because we're working more hours than ever before," he said. Regardless of age or generation, employees want to have a life outside of work.

3. Taking a stand on social issues.

Younger workers, especially, want to work for companies that are making a positive difference in the world, Schawbel said. Companies that take a stand on social issues will be unpopular with some people, he noted, but if they want to attract the right talent, they have almost no choice.

4. Improving gender diversity.

Compared to men, few women hold executive positions. The New York Times reported that "fewer women run big companies than men named John." That's the bad news. "The great news," Schawbel said, "is that countries are getting involved, companies are getting involved, and it looks like changes are on the horizon."

5. Investing in mental health.

Many people either have mental disorders or interact with someone who does, and mental health is becoming less stigmatized as more people speak publicly on the topic. Britain's Prince Harry, for example, is partnering with Oprah Winfrey and Apple on a series about mental health and has also asked employers in the United Kingdom to sign a pledge to take a stand on this issue. Schawbel noted that employers who sign the pledge signal to employees that they take mental health seriously.

6. Addressing the loneliness of remote workers.

Many employees today can work from wherever they want. Remote work is great—and employers need to promote flexibility—but there is a cost, Schawbel said. The isolation employees feel when they don't interact enough with co-workers may cause them to check out. Investing in offsite and team-building events can help. Connecting with remote workers in person even once a year can make a huge difference and build trust, he noted.

7. Upskilling the workforce.

There are 7.4 million open jobs in the U.S., and the unemployment rate is 3.6 percent. So employers need to find creative ways to close the skills gap. Companies are starting to hire more older workers, workers with disabilities, workers who were formerly incarcerated and veterans. "The [talent] pool is getting wider and wider, which is great," Schawbel said. "It's great because talent can come from anywhere." Companies are less focused on age, gender and other factors and more concerned with whether the person can do the joband work well with others, he added.

8. Focusing on soft skills.

"Soft skills are the new hard skills," Schawbel said. Ninety-one percent of HR professionals surveyed by LinkedIn believe soft skills are very important for the future of recruiting. "You can train for hard skills, but soft skills take a long time to learn," Schawbel noted. "If you hire someone who has a positive attitude, good organizational skills, is able to delegate work … they're going to be incredibly valuable in today's world."

9. Preparing for Generation Z.

Employers need to understand Generation Z, the demographic born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. Many in this cohort identify anxiety as a major issue that gets in the way of their workplace success, which relates to addressing mental health, Schawbel said. And even though Generation Z workers self-identify as the digital generation, they say they want more face-to-face interaction at work. Additionally, they tend to expect quick promotions, so employers should set realistic expectations, he noted.

10. Preventing burnout.

Employees must grapple with an "always on" work culture, and many employees leave their companies as a result of being overworked. Employers should recognize what causes burnout and aim to fix it, because it may cost them more over time if they don't, Schawbel said.

"We have to think about work differently," he added. "The future is uncertain … but we can make changes today that will give us a better tomorrow."

SOURCE: Nagele-Piazza, L., J.D., SHRM-SCP (27 June 2019) "Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2019" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/Pages/Top-10-Workplace-Trends-for-2019.aspx


Millennials and money — How employers can be a financial literacy resource

Recent reports show student loan debts reached a $1.5 trillion crisis in 2018, leading many to believe Americans need a little help with money. Read on to learn how employers can help with financial literacy.


It’s clear that Americans need a little help with their money — in 2018 student loan debts reached a staggering $1.5 trillion crisis, employees continue to retire at a later age every year, and studies have shown that 65% of Americans save little to nothing of their annual income.

One subset of the American population that has even greater troubles with their finances is millennials, or those aged 23 to 38 as of 2019. This age group has lofty goals — 76% believe that they’re headed for a better financial future than their parents and 81% plan to own a home — but many millennials aren’t saving money in a way that actually leads them towards that future. In the last year, 43% of young adults had to borrow money from their parents to pay for necessities and 30% had to skip a meal due to lack of funds. Where’s the disconnect between millennials’ financial optimism and the reality of their financial circumstances?

Part of the problem lies in a lack of financial literacy. A study conducted by the National Endowment for Financial Education found that only 24% of millennials answered three out of five questions correctly on a survey looking at financial topics, indicating only a basic level of literacy. This same survey found that only 8% of millennials who took the test were able to answer all five questions correctly.

That’s not to say that understanding the intricacies of financial planning is easy. Everything from taxes to investing often requires professional advice. It’s no wonder that millennials are struggling with their finances: only 22% of those in this age group have ever received financial education from an educational institution or workplace. Millennials are struggling to pay for basic necessities and financial advice is simply not a priority. Many avoid seeking the help they need because they perceive it to be too costly.

This is an opportunity for employers that want to provide valuable resources to their employees, as financial wellness programs are likely to be the next employee benefit that millennials ask for.

Right now, millennials are the largest segment in the workforce, and by 2030 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that this age group will make up a staggering 75%. In a tight labor market, current job seekers can be more selective when deciding where they want to work. For employers, studies have shown that 60% of people report benefits and perks as a major deciding factor when considering a job offer.

To stand out from competitors and provide true value to young employees, companies should consider including financial wellness plans in their overall benefits package. The most comprehensive financial wellness plans generally include access to advice from a certified financial planner in addition to legal, tax, insurance and identity theft support. For millennials trying to get in control of their finances, these types of programs can be invaluable. For example, young employees can get assistance setting up a 401(k) account, dealing with taxes for the first time or learning to save and invest.

In 2019 and beyond, millennials are going to be looking for employers that support them not only in the office but outside the office as well. By providing financial planning tools in the workplace, companies can be a valuable resource to younger employees who will appreciate early and frequent conversations around how to manage their money.

SOURCE: Freedman, D. (19 February 2019) "Millennials and money — How employers can be a financial literacy resource" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/how-employers-can-be-a-financial-literacy-resource?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


7 employee engagement trends gaining momentum

According to a Gallup survey, organizations with highly-engaged employees outperform the competition by 147 percent in earnings per share. Read this blog post for seven employee engagement trends that are gaining momentum.


Employee engagement is top-of-mind in the HR industry these days. In many ways, it might be one of employers’ biggest pain points. In this tight job market, it’s easier for employees to jump ship — and that’s a big headache for HR. Employers now are working more diligently to retain their key talent who are apt to go elsewhere to seek the working environment they desire.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, it costs a company, on average, six to nine months of an employee’s salary to replace her. So, for an employee making $40,000 a year, that’s $20,000 to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses. Others predict the cost is even more: That losing a salaried employee can cost as much as twice their salary, especially for a high earner or executive-level employee.

Think about it. Salary and benefits are important, sure. But in this job market, employees can find what they are looking for in a compensation package. So, what makes the difference? It’s employee engagement — the extent to which an employee’s personal goals and interests align with the vision and goals of the company.

Organizations with highly-engaged employees outperform the competition by 147% in earnings per share, according to Gallup. More companies are realizing the effect that improved employee engagement is having on employee performance, retention and productivity. A G2 Crowd survey reported that in 2019, companies will increase their spending on employee engagement by 45%.

This year has all the makings of being a pivotal year for employee engagement with retention being equally, or even more as important, as recruitment. HR professionals, and companies as a whole, need to review employee engagement practices to make sure their strategy impacts retention, production and performance.

What’s ahead in 2019 for employee engagement? Here are my predictions.

Employers will put much more focus on employee engagement. An analysis from PwC says the new standard for employee engagement is fulfillment — the feeling people have when their work and their motivations are aligned and they gain a sense of meaning and purpose as a result. Others say it’s the employee experience — that it’s more than better perks and benefits. It’s ensuring that employees have positive, meaningful interactions with the organization at every step. Whether it’s employee engagement, fulfillment or experience, 2019 is going to see more employers, and the industry itself, paying much more attention to employee engagement.

Flexibility will be all-important. Millennials, the largest generation in the workforce, have made it loud and clear that they want more workplace flexibility including the ability to shift work hours (such as starting the day earlier or later) and working from home one or two days a week. Turns out that non-millennials are saying the same thing. Look for companies to incorporate more flexibility into company policies this year.

The annual performance review continues to be on its way out. The trend away from the annual performance review in favor of more frequent, real-time reviews and informal feedback will start to take hold in 2019. Ongoing communication is a much more effective tactic. Millennials, in particular, like at least monthly review format/commentary. In addition, steps for development, growth and mentoring can influence an employee’s satisfaction and desire to stay with the company.

Employee appreciation will move to a year-round activity. Call it what you want — recognition, appreciation, etc. But it’s not about an end-of-year holiday party or an employee of the month recognition. And it doesn’t have to always be about the cost of doing it — a manager’s thanks and lunch brought in at the end of a big project can go a long way. This year will see more attention to demonstrating employee appreciation on a year-round basis and rethinking the ways in which we can show it.

Companies will add benefits that satisfy employee lifestyle needs. Employee engagement no longer is one-size-fits-all. Employees have various lifestyle needs that companies can address that show they care about employee life stages. For example, more attention is being paid today to the needs of nursing mothers, and many companies are providing lactation services. For example, Goldman Sachs last year started paying for nursing mothers to ship breast milk to their homes when they travel. PwC introduced a phased return-to-work program following parental leave. Look for companies to identify and add more unique benefits in 2019 that show their employees they care about their life stages.

Employers will take a much more holistic approach to wellness. Gone are the days when employee wellness meant providing a gym membership and orchestrating an internal health fair. In recent years we have seen companies start broadening their wellness approach. Happy, healthy employees are generally engaged employees and that involves addressing all aspects of wellness. According to the University of Maryland, there are eight mutually-interdependent dimensions of wellness — physical, mental, emotional, social, occupational, financial, purposeful and environmental. They don’t have to be equally balanced, and employers likely can’t address all of them. 2019 will see employers studying the holistic wellness approach and making changes that fit their particular organization and their employees the best.

Gamification will be adopted more widely. Whether it’s for onboarding, benefits communication/understanding, wellness programs or other employee engagement tactics, gamification will be considered and adopted more widely this year. Gamification techniques can be used as well to increase use of intranets, social media platforms and mobile communication. Look for employers this year to create more apps and digital games to increase employee engagement.

Employees who feel their companies care about them are more engaged and dedicated to company success. Those of us in HR need to pay as much attention to employee engagement this year as we do to compensation and benefits in order to succeed with employee retention.

SOURCE: Roberts, R. (13 February 2019) "7 employee engagement trends gaining momentum" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/these-employee-engagement-trends-are-gaining-momentum


More part-time workers getting access to benefits

A new study by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that more employers are moving toward extending more benefits to part-time workers. Continue reading this blog post to learn more.


Gone are the days that new talent might come to work for a company part-time in exchange for some extra cash and the promise of discounted merchandise.

Employers are moving toward extending more benefits to part-time workers, according to a new study by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. The Flexible Work Arrangements: 2017 Survey Report found that 78% of organizations employ part-time workers, and 90% of those organizations define part-time work as fewer than 30 hours a week.

And part-time workers can thank the tight labor market for the increase in benefit offerings.

“In order to attract and retain key talent, employers are seeing the need to broaden the scope of work from the traditional ‘40-hour per week model,” says Julie Stich, CEBS, associate vice president of content at IFEBP. “They’re also seeing that benefit offerings and other workplace perks are essential for growing any talented organization, regardless of the number of hours employees work per week.”

The most favorable medical benefits among employees working fewer than 30 hours a week were healthcare coverage (54%), prescription drug coverage (53%), dental and vision care (52%), flexible spending accounts (47%) and health savings accounts (33%), according to the report.

In addition, paid leave benefits offered to part-timers saw an uptick to include holidays, bereavement leave, sick pay, short-term disability, maternity leave, parental/family leave and personal leave.

Clothing retailer H&M recently announced its plan to offer six weeks of paid leave to the company’s 18,000 employees — including part-timers.

In addition, Eataly, said in September its new paid parental leave policy — eight weeks of time off for both mothers and fathers following the birth or adoption of a child — is available to all employees who have been working at the company for at least a year, regardless of hours worked per week. Dollar General also introduced a new paid parental leave benefit in March, offering two weeks of paid time off for all eligible full-time and part-time employees, and eight weeks of paid time off for birth mothers.

“U.S. organizations are not required to provide paid leave to part-time workers, but many do for several reasons: to retain high-performing workers, attract high-quality applicants, build worker loyalty and provide work-life balance,” Stich adds.

Paid time off and healthcare were also key benefits identified in the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual survey, with a 10% increase in companies offering healthcare benefits and more than half saying they offer some sort of paid time off to part-time workers.

More employers will likely offer benefits to part-time workers as the workforce shifts toward more flexible work options, Stich says. “Certainly, each organization is structured differently, and company cultures vary, but if offering part-time work arrangements and benefits is appropriate, they can be a vehicle for attracting top-tier talent while providing additional flexibility for current employees.”

SOURCE: Otto, N. (12 December 2018) "More part-time workers getting access to benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/more-part-time-workers-getting-access-to-benefits?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


4 trends in employee wellness programs for 2019

Employee wellness programs will be impacted by intelligent personalization, social recognition, virtual wellness and smarter analytics, according to a white paper by MediKeeper. Read on to learn more.


Employee wellness programs will likely be transformed in the coming year by intelligent personalization, social recognition, virtual wellness and smarter analytics, according to MediKeeper’s white paper, “Four Emerging Employee Wellness Trends for 2019.”

“Embracing change and knowing what organizations need to keep driving wellness offerings forward in the next few years will help them lay the groundwork for building stronger employee wellness programs and increasing employee engagement,” says MediKeeper’s CEO David Ashworth. “With health care costs on the rise, companies that pay attention to these key trends will have the greatest success investing in their employees’ overall well-being.”

Intelligent Personalization

Intelligent personalization allows companies to make more informed decisions based on understanding risks and their causes and identifying what is driving present and future cost, according to the white paper.

“Every person is different, so it only makes sense that everyone’s wellness portal experience should also be different — this includes personalization, targeted messages and offerings.,” the authors write. “Adding business intelligence/data mining capabilities delivers the ability to take data captured within the portal, manipulate it, segment it and merge with other sets of data to perform complex associations all within each population groups’ administration portal will be the key to truly managing the population’s health.”

Social Recognition

In the coming year, workplace wellness programs will also implement a multitude of ways to include social recognition that fosters a team-oriented atmosphere intended to encourage people to perform to the best of their abilities, according to the white paper.

“Through social recognition, which can include posting, sharing, commenting and other virtual interactions, employees can help motivate each other to reach their goals,” the authors write. “These interactions foster both a competitive and team-oriented atmosphere that encourages people to perform to the best of their abilities.”

In addition to support from coworkers, managers can also promote their employees’ achievements by offering praise in an online public forum or even further boost morale by handing out incentive points that can be redeemed for tangible rewards.

Virtual Wellness Programming

In 2019, the importance of offering virtual wellness programming will grow as more employees work remotely or set flexible hours, according to the white paper.

“Since employees may work variable hours or work in several locations around the world, it simply doesn’t make sense to solely rely on lunchtime health seminars that may not be accessible to much of the workforce,” the authors write. “Instead of providing physical classes, consider hosting virtual programs that can be viewed at any time or any place. By making your wellness program available online, you’re able to reach a broader audience and make more of an impact within the entire working population.”

Smarter Analytics

Smarter analytics will also be at the forefront in 2019, according to the white paper.

“Now you can generate reports targeted specifically to the information that you are seeking, as well as layering various reports including biometrics, incentives, health risk assessments and challenges, to see what is working and what is not,” the authors write. “You can use these results to inform and better customize the intelligent personalization side of your wellness program. You’ll also be able to send messages from the reports, making them actionable instead of just informative.”

As employers continue to evaluate the effectiveness of their wellness programs, they should keep these four emerging trends in mind in order to ensure that their business is providing all the tools necessary to keep their employees both happy and healthy, according to the white paper.

“Remember that just because you’ve seen success in the past, you can’t just sit back and relax now,” the authors write. “Continual advances in wellness technology mean that you need to stay on top of the trends and adjust frequently in order to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive workplace environment.”

SOURCE: Kuehner-Hebert, K. (28 November 2018) "4 trends in employee wellness programs for 2019" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/11/28/4-trends-in-employee-wellness-programs-for-2019/