4 benefits of positive recognition to boost employee engagement

As both employers and employees are facing difficult times both in their work-life and home life due to the circumstances that the coronavirus pandemic has brought into the world, it's important that the negativity does not take place of the positivity needed. Positivity is powerful and can play a critical role in the workplace. Read this blog post for four benefits of positive recognition.


With all that’s happening, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the negativity in the world. Our emotional state is important at work. Positive emotions transform our minds and increase our ability to bounce back from hard times.

The power of positivity should not be overlooked, and recognition plays a critical role in generating these emotions in a modern workplace. Open acknowledgement and expressed appreciation for employees’ contributions can go a long way.

Improve employee retention
The first benefit of positive employee recognition is improving employee retention. In fact, according to industry analyst Josh Bersin, companies that build a recognition-rich culture actually have a 31% lower voluntary turnover rate.

Gallup research on recognition also shows that employees who don’t feel recognized at work are twice as likely to quit within a year. In today’s current environment where many organizations are driving more productivity with fewer employees, leaders need to ensure that they’re not forgetting to focus on employee retention. You’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that isn’t concerned about retaining top talent right now; top performers will find new opportunities even when they’re hesitant to move.

Creating a workplace where people want to stay isn’t just beneficial for employees; it’s also good for the bottom line. Turnover cost can be difficult to compute, but I challenge you to consider the costs of recruiting, onboarding, training, and the lost institutional knowledge that comes with poor retention.

Increase employee engagement
The second benefit that is particularly important right now is increased employee engagement. Our own research showed that 84% of highly engaged employees were recognized the last time they went above and beyond at work compared with only 25% of actively disengaged employees. We also found that while 71% of highly engaged organizations recognize employees for a job well done, only 41% of less-engaged organizations did so.

Positive recognition is powerful and has a clear tie to engagement. Yet, many organizations still do not adequately measure engagement. When was the last time you measured engagement with your own team? How much opportunity is there to improve through recognition?

Boost employee morale
The third benefit of positive recognition is boosted morale. I already mentioned the transformative effect of positivity, but the simple act of thanking people can make a tremendous difference. When employees were asked about their experience at work,70% said that motivation and morale would improve “massively”with managers saying thank you more.

How did you feel last time you were recognized?

Positivity has an important impact on employees, but it also pays literal dividends to companies that have figured out how to encourage it. Research from author Shawn Achor shows that happiness raises sales by 37% and productivity by 31%. Consider ways you can encourage your team to recognize each other more often.

Leverage peer recognition
It turns out that peer recognition massively outperforms top-down recognition. Peer recognition occurs when individuals give and receive recognition from their peers, managers, and direct reports.

Being recognized by colleagues is incredibly powerful for employees, especially when it’s done publicly. Peer recognition is 36% more likely to have a positive impact on financial results than manager-only recognition, according to SHRM. Managers can’t see every positive action that occurs, so think about how to encourage everyone to participate in recognition of great work across the entire organization.

SOURCE: Crawford-Marks, R. (14 September 2020) "4 benefits of positive recognition to boost employee engagement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/list/4-benefits-of-positive-recognition-to-boost-employee-engagement


U.S. employers eye cutting wasteful drugs worth $6 billion

A group of researchers has found that there are medications that could be less expensive alternatives that could be covered by employers based on the benefits provided to employees. Read this blog post to learn more.


A health plan covering thousands of California teachers stopped paying for a diabetes drug that cost $352 per prescription. In its place, the plan now pays less than $13.

The difference? Instead of getting a 1,000-milligram dose of metformin, members got two 500-milligram pills.

It’s just one example of what some employers call “wasteful drugs,” and a coalition of West Coast employers says there are hundreds more. At a time when U.S. President Donald Trump is pushing to trim drug costs for Medicare by tying them to prices in other countries, the coalition is on a crusade to cut company spending on drugs nationwide by simply noting the cheaper choices already available, drawing the ire of drugmakers.

A guidebook produced by the Pacific Business Group on Health and researchers from Johns Hopkins University identifies 49 medications with less expensive alternatives that could be cut from the lists of drugs covered by employers. The group has pushed its approach to large employers for two years. Now it’s focusing on mid-sized companies at conferences, with webinars and through an online Excel sheet designed to help any company identify savings.

Lauren Vela, senior director of member value at the coalition, said it all comes down to who gains in the end. “There are so many folks making so much money on the existing system that the folks who really know how the system works don’t have an interest in changing it,” Vela said by telephone.

Vela presented at three online conferences this summer, and has at least two scheduled for the early fall, she said.

The medications outlined in the guidebook accounted for more than $6 billion in U.S. retail drug spending in 2019, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from Symphony Health. Drugmakers have long been under attack for how they price medications sold in the U.S., and for their efforts to undermine rules on when their products can be sold generically for less.

On Sunday, just weeks before the presidential election, Trump announced he had signed a presidential order on the “most favored nation” plan, which would try to link Medicare Part B and Part D prices to lower prices paid by other countries. In response, groups representing drugmakers said this could hurt their ability to find and test for new medications, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s action took “no real action” to lower prices.

Researchers aligned with the Pacific Business Group, meanwhile, have analyzed six months of drug use and more than 2.5 million scripts for 15 large self-insured companies. They found that 6% of all claims were for what the report termed “wasteful drugs.”

In the case of just one, the leukemia drug Gleevec, use of generic imatinib could cut the average wholesale price 96%, a savings of $108.28 per pill, according to the report. The group says hundreds of other drugs could be replaced similarly.

“Generic drugs are an important part of the full spectrum of health-care solutions,” said Julie Masow, a spokeswoman for Novartis, the Swiss-based maker of Gleevec.

But the drug, which lost patent protection in the U.S. in 2016, “will remain on the U.S. market to maximize choice for health-care professionals and patients,” Masow said, “and Novartis plans to continue financial support for eligible patients.”

The Pacific Business Group also calls out therapies that combine two existing, cheaper pills into a more expensive single dose. And they urge removing pricey drugs that offer only small changes for the consumer, such as certain extended-release formulations or different dosage concentrations.

Drugmaker pushback
While the Pacific Business Group’s guidebook is gaining support among companies, PBMs — which administer drug plans — and pharmaceutical companies are pushing back.

Drugmakers are taking issue with characterizing drugs as “wasteful.”

“Decision-making power on what medicines patients should take should rest with doctors,” Katie Koziara, a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said in an email.

Koziara said her group favors reforming the rebate system “to help correct PBMs and payers’ misaligned incentives,” boost transparency and share rebates directly with patients.

A trade group for PBMs, meanwhile, disputed the Pacific Business Group’s guidebook, saying it was based on limited data.

Greg Lopes, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, called the reports “dated” and said, “PBMs are the only entity in the supply chain reducing drug costs for consumers.”

Pharmacy benefit managers negotiate with drug manufacturers on behalf of employers, determining which drugs should be covered. But the employers say that the way PBMs’ services are sold makes it tough to tell whether they’re really saving money.

PBMs and consultants will typically present a spreadsheet that shows administrative fees, discount off-list prices, and rebate payments. The rebates flow from drugmakers to PBMs and ultimately back to plan sponsors, like employers or unions.

But Vela says employers often can’t easily tell if PBMs retain a portion of the rebates or other payments that incentivize them to keep expensive drugs on the formulary. “You’re hiring an entity to negotiate on your behalf, and the party with whom they’re negotiating is giving them money you don’t know about,” Vela said.

As the PBM business model has come under more scrutiny, benefit managers have pledged to be more transparent with rebates and pass them back to employers.

After recent mergers, the three largest PBMs are now part of companies that also own health insurers, pharmacies and other medical providers: UnitedHealth Group’s OptumRx; CVS Health Caremark; and Cigna Express Scripts.

None of the three leading PBMs would comment on the guidebook analysis.

The array of discounts and rebates PBMs tout to their clients often obscures the fact that employers are paying for high-priced drugs when lower-cost alternatives exist, according to Thomas Cordeiro, a co-author of the guidebook and president of consultant Integrity Pharmaceutical Advisors.

“Just because you have a high rebate doesn’t mean your cost is going to be low,” Cordeiro said.

SOURCE: Bloomberg News. (14 September 2020) "U.S. employers eye cutting wasteful drugs worth $6 billion" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/articles/u-s-employers-eye-cutting-wasteful-drugs-worth-6-billion


Employers Still Hiring During Coronavirus Pandemic

As many companies begin to temporarily close their doors due to the  COVID-19 pandemic, there are several companies that are beginning to hire mass amounts of employees. Although employers run the risk of hiring effectively, they are in need of employees. Read this blog post to learn more.


When one door closes, even temporarily, another often opens. As people practice social distancing to avoid contracting COVID-19—the disease caused by the coronavirus—restaurants, bars and retailers across the U.S. are closing their doors and laying off tens of thousands of workers. But needs must be met, so online sellers and a host of other businesses are mass hiring for delivery, security, warehousing and distribution personnel.

Amazon announced a push to add 100,000 workers to address customer need. National grocery chains are ramping up hiring for delivery staff, Walmart is looking for more than 1,000 distribution-center workers, and health care providers are ramping up hiring to address the expected surge in patients. Retailers and pizza chains are boosting their payrolls to meet takeout and delivery demand, even as their locations are closed to guests. A security company just announced mass hiring to fill full- and part-time security vacancies to help provide public-safety services.

The challenge for these organizations will be to hire quickly and effectively at scale, without putting recruitment professionals and the public at risk. Technology is driving the effort. Online applications, video interviewing, online onboarding and more are being leveraged to enable fast, effective hiring.

Meeting the Need—Safely

Josh Tolan, CEO of video-interviewing company Spark Hire, said, "Technology gives hiring pros a huge leg up in their processes. Especially during this pandemic, tools like video interviews and online applications achieve the goals of continuing recruitment efforts, learning more about applicants and speeding up the hiring process—all from an appropriate social distance."

Amy Champigny, senior product marketing manager at Deltek, a software provider for project-based work, said that competition for workers may require employers to actively self-promote. "Organizations should focus on posting job requisitions online and focus on boosting their LinkedIn branding, as well as employer presence, during this time," she said. She recommended that employers, along with making sure their brand is visible, move candidates through the hiring process as quickly as possible. "Businesses should consider candidate pools to speed up recruiting cycles for all roles and especially critical, hard-to-fill positions."

Many companies are practiced in mass hiring, said Peter Baskin, chief product officer at recruitment software company Modern Hire. "Similar to mass hiring for seasonal positions, companies should adopt purpose-built, on-demand text and video interviewing tools," he said. "This will allow them to reach a larger audience of candidates, provide candidates with the information needed about the open jobs, allow for both parties to complete the interviewing process quicker, and, in return, roles can be filled at a faster rate."

From Start to Finish

Effectively employing technology in hiring begins with an online application process that's seamless and at scale. Baskin suggested that recruiters work from home whenever possible, utilizing on-demand text and video technology instead of scheduling in-person interviews.

"HR teams must ensure any technology they use—whether for recruitment, prehire assessments or video interviewing—is purpose-built, not only for the task at hand, but also for the specific company and industry in which they operate," he said.

"From home," Tolan said, "candidates can conduct one-way video interviews that they record on their own time and the hiring team can review at their convenience, as well." Further along in the process, he added, "live video interviews allow the hiring team to connect with the candidate face to face without the handshake and any potential exposure to the [coronavirus]."

Good Hires vs. Fast Hires

Even when time is of the essence, quality can't be ignored. Many organizations use prehire assessment questions, which a candidate can answer during the video application process. These allow recruiters to quickly make a determination on moving the job seeker through to the next step.

For some organizations, artificial intelligence is being leveraged to boost hiring metrics. "Data-driven insights can predict hiring success by measuring personality traits and problem-solving skills," Tolan said, "and compare candidates to job benchmarks customized for your company."

Onboarding at Scale

When candidates are selected, onboarding at scale is the next hurdle for organizations. "Onboarding needs to be standardized and repeatable to help organizations onboard a greater number of candidates during periods of growth or at scale," Champigny said. "Comprehensive [applicant tracking system (ATS)] solutions include onboarding portals to help companies provide a consistent experience for new hires, while ensuring that those new hires have a good experience as they come through the door."

SOURCE: O'Donnell, R. (29 March 2020) "Employers Still Hiring During Coronavirus Pandemic" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/Pages/Employers-Still-Hiring-During-Coronavirus-Pandemic.aspx


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What employers are missing in their workforce data

If employers don't analyze their data thoroughly, they may be missing valuable information that could save their establishment of many costs. Read this blog post to learn more.


Employers are missing out on valuable healthcare information and cost-saving opportunities if they don’t analyze their data thoroughly, panelists at the annual Disability Management Employer Coalition digital conference said.

According to professionals from an insurance company in Portland, Ore., many employers have access to three types of data: healthcare, absence and productivity. HR departments are typically tasked with collecting and analyzing this data, but rarely do they use all three together. But maximizing these findings can help employers better inform their benefit decisions, the panelists said.

“Most employers want to know how much they’re spending on healthcare, but they can learn so much more than that,” said Case Escher, managing partner of the insurance company in Portland, “Very few [employers] use it to explore how health of the workforce is affecting productivity.”

“By comparing health data and absence, you can see if a health condition is causing an employee to miss more work than usual,” said Brycie Repphun, account executive at the insurance company in Portland. “You can use this information to help better inform that person about the services available to them to help them be successful at work.”

Employers can also use their productivity data to help determine if individual employees, or an entire team, are struggling, Escher said. Since productivity is measured differently at every company, and in various positions, employers have to exercise their own judgement about how to interpret it, he said.

“Obviously, if it’s a sales position, and one of your top performers is out because of medical issues, or another personal reason, the productivity of that team is going to suffer,” Escher said. “And if that person is going to be out for a while, the data will likely show that the rest of the team is getting burned out faster to compensate for being understaffed.”

Since the majority of the nonessential workforce is working from home due to the pandemic, Repphun recommends that employers start looking at their data to see how employees are coping.

“Health conditions can definitely impact work performance, but we’re finding that this is happening because of the current work from home situation,” Repphun said. “People aren’t working in ideal conditions, and many have children learning at home as well.”

Escher said self-funded employers are better positioned to make use of their workforce data because they don’t have to go through multiple third-party providers to access all of it. But other employers can still benefit from the information if they’re willing to put in the time and effort to retrieve the reports. While employers can certainly survey their workforce to gauge how working remotely is affecting their productivity, Escher and Repphun said they can get a clear answer by looking at all three data points.

“There’s an indisputable link between health and productivity,” Escher said. “As an employer, you can take this information and use it to make smart decisions to help your employees continue to be successful.”

SOURCE: Webster, K. (31 August 2020) "What employers are missing in their workforce data" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/what-employers-are-missing-in-their-workforce-data


How to Evaluate Hiring Assessments

HR professionals and managers need reliable ways to gather and evaluate various assessments. Read this blog post to learn more about how to evaluate assessments.


When faced with a hiring decision, HR professionals and managers have to consider everything they know about the applicants. But that might not be enough information to make a choice. To get more information and add objectivity to the decision-making process, many organizations use assessments.

"When these tools are used correctly, they're tremendously valuable," said Eric Sydell, Ph.D., an industrial-organizational psychologist and the chief innovation officer at Modern Hire, a hiring platform. "There's a level of objective assessment about a person that can be very predictive."

HR professionals and hiring managers don't have the ability to make accurate predictions in the same way assessments can. "Our brains don't work that way," he said.

But buyer beware, Sydell warned, "There are a lot of tools out there that sound great on the surface" but fail to deliver valid and reliable results.

Multiple Options Present Tough Choices

Ryne Sherman, chief science officer at Hogan Assessment Systems in Tulsa, Okla., said he suspects that most large corporations are probably using reliable and valid assessments, while smaller businesses may not be. Unfortunately, he said, "With this industry, there is no regulating body at all—literally anybody can make an assessment tool and start selling it with no background and no science put into it whatsoever."

Perhaps because of the open nature of the field, there are a lot of tools to choose from and many of them are complex, making the selection of one of them a potentially confusing—and even risky—decision to make.

Must-Haves for Effective Assessment Tools

Ryan Lahti, Ph.D., is an industrial-organizational psychologist and the founder and managing principal of OrgLeader, a management consultancy in Newport Beach, Calif. He uses a variety of assessment tools in his work. There are many factors to be considered when evaluating an assessment tool, he said, but the three key ones are validity, reliability and the population that was used to develop it.

Validity deals with how accurately the tool measures the concepts it claims to measure. Lahti pointed to three forms of validity:

  • Content validity indicates how well the tool measures a representative sample of the subject of interest. At a minimum, he said, you want a tool that has content validity.
  • Criterion validity indicates how well the tool correlates with an established measure or outcome—for example, correlation to strong performance ratings.
  • Construct validity indicates how well the tool measures a concept or trait—for example, conscientiousness.

Reliability is a measure of how consistently the tool measures issues of interest. If you were to give the same assessment to the same candidate more than once, how similar would the results be?

Finally, the population used to develop the tool is an important consideration and should be the same as the population being assessed. "For example, you would not want a tool developed on an adolescent population to be used to assess working adults," Lahti said.

Sherman offered the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) test as an example. The popular assessment tool used by organizations to screen candidates was designed for diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions, he said. That can be a risky tool to use for assessing the potential of job applicants.

What to Watch Out For

As HR leaders consider various assessment options, they need to thoroughly evaluate whether the assessments they're considering incorporate the must-haves. Look out for companies that don't publish information on validity, reliability and the population used to develop the assessment.

Some companies, Lahti said, will say that their tools are used by a lot of Fortune 500 companies.

"While this argument shows they have good sales and marketing departments, it does not prove the companies have sound assessment tools," he said.

Sy Islam, Ph.D., an associate professor at the State University of New York at Farmingdale and a vice president at Talent Metrics consulting firm in Melville, N.Y., said employers should ask test companies to show their worth. "Vendors should be able to provide you with a validity coefficient, which is a statistic—a correlation coefficient—that indicates how much predictive validity the assessment has," he said. He warned against accepting "black box" explanations like "the tool is proprietary and cannot be explained." The ability to support your assessment could become an issue if your company becomes involved in a lawsuit, he said.

"What you don't want to do is rely on high-level summary statements, marketing statements or hype that is generated by these companies," Sydell said. "There are a lot of different buzzwords and catchphrases that vendors will throw out there. It's really important to look beyond that and dig below the surface." And, while he says you don't need a Ph.D. to do that, it is a good idea to seek help from someone who is familiar with these types of assessments and can help evaluate their efficacy.

"I would strongly advise finding a local industrial and organizational psychologist who can evaluate different vendors and talk to you about best practices," Sherman said. The proper assessment and selection of candidates is just too important, and potentially risky, to cut corners.

SOURCE: Grensing-Pophal, L. (27 February 2020) "How to Evaluate Hiring Assessments" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/how-to-evaluate-hiring-assessments.aspx


3 ways to support workplace well-being during COVID-19

The coronavirus has created many struggles for employees to deal with, and some of the struggles will continue even after measures become lifted. Read this blog post to learn more.


Personal and professional worlds are colliding in ways that have never been seen before, leading employees and employers to navigate new challenges in uncharted waters. As employees continue to struggle with balancing work and personal obligations at home, they are dealing with emotional, physical and financial consequences from the pandemic. Some of these struggles will remain even after social distancing measures are lifted and the economy stabilizes, and they could have a lasting impact on people’s overall wellness.

While many companies are rightfully focused on the bottom line and maintaining business operations throughout the pandemic, it is equally important that they take steps to ensure their employees are supported throughout this tumultuous time. Employee well-being is directly tied to business health, which is why it is so important for organizations to optimize their benefits and deliver the right health and wellness offerings for their workers.

 Reassess employee benefit programs

The pandemic is raising awareness that total wellbeing, not just physical health, is a key component to success for businesses and the economy. Employees that are facing at home pressures or feeling financially insecure may be less productive or distracted during the workday, which can impact company success. COVID-19 has hit companies hard. Many are looking for places to trim costs, but benefits and wellbeing programs are not an area they can afford to cut.

Diabetes, depression, mental health and financial stress are on the rise with the majority of employees dealing with unprecedented challenges like childcare, caring for family members who are sick or otherwise impacted by COVID-19 and general anxiety about their future. Cutting benefits programs now may save a few thousand dollars today only to spend tens of thousands of dollars on healthcare costs tomorrow.

Employers who understand the value of employee benefits programs will fare much better than those that guess which programs will be effective. This is an ideal time for businesses to re-assess their current well-being offerings to ensure the programs they are investing in align with the needs of their workforce. It’s also essential that employers make sure employees are aware of the wellness offerings available to them and how to use them. Therefore, it’s important for businesses to increase their communications to employees around wellbeing programs that can help provide physical, mental and emotional support through the pandemic and beyond.

Evaluate current and future employee needs

Not all people are the same, which is why one-size-fits-all programs fail. A successful well-being program should be personalized to best meet employees’ current and future needs. This can be difficult, especially when considering environmental and lifestyle factors, but with the right partner it can be done effectively. Many large employers are working with a partner that leverages social determinants of health data such as household composition, purchasing habits, education and income level and more, to identify individual employee needs.

Employers should also evaluate new types of resources to accommodate the “new normal”. Case in point: we have seen double digit increase in engagement with financial wellbeing and EAP resources. Telehealth and remote condition management programs are on the rise as well as stress management and resilience programs. For example, “Linda” has diabetes, so she needs to know the COVID-19 risks associated with her condition. She may also need extra support to ensure she is keeping up with her healthy eating and exercise regimen during quarantine. Connecting her with a remote diabetes program like Livongo or Virta Health can help Linda feel valued and stay on track. Or, “Tom” has been having severe back pain and his doctor recommends he have surgery to correct a spine-related issue. But not all health systems are offering elective surgeries right now, so he is better off with a telehealth pain management program like Telespine or Hinge Health, Physera and Simple Therapy.

This information allows employers to personalize the health and wellness plans they offer to employees and provide them with the right tools to make their healthcare journeys easier as they navigate this new way of life. Employers will also see the benefits in healthier, happier employers, increased productivity and potentially lower long-term healthcare costs.

Have a solid strategy for returning to work

COVID-19 return to work programs will require an increase in spending for heightened safety measures, such as enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices, employee daily temperature checks (which are now required by some states) and developing and implementing policies and procedures that address preventing, monitoring for and responding to an emergence or resurgence of COVID-19 in the workplace.

As businesses begin reopening workspaces, it is critical for leaders to have a solid employee engagement plan in place to keep workers safe. Be sure to clearly and effectively communicate new safety protocols to employees, so they can feel safe going to work as offices reopen. Invite employees to discuss any concerns they may have in an open forum or via a survey and involve them in problem-solving. Listen to their needs both personally and professionally as our lives will be complicated for months, and possibly years to come. It sounds cliché to say that people are companies most valuable assets. However, it could not be more true right now. It’s time for businesses to make employees’ wellbeing a priority and step up to the challenge of evolving their programming to meet current and future needs. Both the business and its employees will benefit.

SOURCE: Hinkle, C. (19 August 2020) "3 ways to support workplace well-being during COVID-19" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/3-ways-to-support-workplace-well-being-during-covid-19


Bad managers are costing employers their workforce

Although poor management can create a difficult work environment, there ways that organizations can create a more effective manager as well as a more engaged and productive workforce. Read this blog post to learn more.


Most employees have had an encounter with someone they would describe as a “bad boss,” a manager who makes things more difficult through bullying and incompetence. These ineffective leaders can cause employees significant stress on top of the pressures they are already facing.

At some point in their careers one in two employees has left a job to get away from a toxic manager, according to a Gallup study. Poor managers aren’t just an issue for employees; a bad boss can have a powerful impact on company cost. Indeed, companies lose about $7.29 per day for each poorly communicating manager in their organization, according to Vital Learning, a management and leadership training program provider.

“Managers have a profound impact on the well-being of employees,” says Laura Hamill, chief people officer at Limeade, an employee engagement company. “That just makes sense — how could you feel good and have a sense of purpose if your manager works against you? We know that our feelings about work can play a huge role in our overall quality of life — it can be a main source of stress or something that brings purpose to our lives.”

A good manager can be identified by three qualities, says Alexander Alonso, chief knowledge officer at the Society for Human Resource Management. First, they are someone who is in constant contact with employees, providing engaging, open and transparent communication. Second, a good manager is focused on performance management, meaning that supervisors need to prioritize evaluating each employee's personal growth, and their role within the team, so there is consistent productivity.

“The third thing is not making a mess and not falling into a hornet's nest of a mess associated with people management,” Alonso says. “There are some basic things that are just absolutely critical. Don't be the person who tells an inappropriate joke or who tells somebody that you don't like them.”

A team leader with all of these qualities can have a significantly positive impact on employee mental health and well-being.

A good manager can empower, challenge, educate, enable employees to feel part of a team, and find opportunities for professional and personal development, says Patricia Elias the chief legal and people officer at ServiceSource, an outsourced go-to-market services provider that delivers digital sales, customer success and renewal solutions to B2B enterprises.

“Of course, a bad manager does the opposite — at best, creating a disengaged team, and at worst, destroying confidence and potential,” Elias says.

While a poor manager can create a difficult work environment for employees, there are steps organizations can take to create a more effective manager and a more engaged and productive workforce.

There are five skills employees say people managers could improve to create a more positive work environment, according to the SHRM survey: communicating effectively (41%), developing and training the team (38%), managing time and delegating (37%), cultivating a positive and inclusive team culture (35%) and managing team performance (35%).

“There is no relationship in the workplace more powerful than the one between people managers and employees," says SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor. "As working Americans challenge organizations to manage and lead differently, those that don't will find themselves left behind. By skilling up managers, HR can spend more time strategizing, cultivating culture and delivering bottom line results.”

Bad managers tend not to recognize that quality in themselves and employees typically don’t report these incompetencies to upper management out of fear of retaliation or of losing their jobs. So it is up to HR to identify and fix these issues.

“Where HR really comes in is their one-on-one interactions with the managers,” Alonso says. “Bad managers tend not to be self reflective, and one of the things that stands out is, they will not hear the things that they say. And HR plays an important role in sort of parroting back what it is that they need to do.”

Another tactic HR can utilize to deal with this issue is interviewing the staff beyond the onboarding and exiting processes, Alonso says.

About 84% of American workers say poorly trained people managers create a lot of unnecessary work and stress, according to the SHRM survey. A further 57% of American workers say managers in their workplace could benefit from training on how to be a better people manager. Half of those surveyed feel their own performance would improve if their direct supervisor received additional training in people management.

“Unfortunately, many of us have had bad managers and have learned how we don’t want to manage others — so we’ve rejected those approaches and embraced a more human management style,” Limeade’s Hamill says. “But it’s hard to be effective without also having positive manager role models and the psychological safety in our organizations to stand up to traditional command-and-control models.”

SOURCE: Schiavo, A. (20 August 2020) "Bad managers are costing employers their workforce" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/bad-managers-are-costing-employers-their-workforce


Personalization helps meet the needs of multiple generations in the workplace

In many workplace organizations, there has been an increase in age demographics. As many generations are beginning to work together, it's necessary for organizations to cater to all generations while catering to their different needs, wants, and styles. Read this blog post to learn more.


Changing demographics are creating more age diversity in the workplace, and this 5-generation age range means employers are increasingly faced with catering to different priorities and communication styles with benefits.

When it comes to health and wellbeing, employees between the ages of 55 and 64 prioritize benefits related to physical health, while younger employees care more about social and mental health, according to a study from Optum.

“The one-size-fits-all approach to communication, benefits and services needs to evolve,” says Seth Serxner, chief health officer at Optum. “The challenges a 35-year-old woman with young kids has is very different from a boomer or an empty nester who are dealing with other issues, so the life circumstances are very different.”

Instead, employers should look towards implementing a personalized communication strategy, or even hyper-personalization of benefits related to life cycles, Serxner says.

“If you think about saving in a health savings account, for example, we like to really target these different groups,” he says. “Once we do that, we see a tremendous increase in contributions and the overall savings averages.”

Wil Lewis, a diversity and inclusion executive and head of global disability strategy at Bank of America, says that since the company functions in several different countries, it emphasizes diversity of experience, culture and generations.

“One of the things that we've done as an organization is focused on how to integrate the wisdom that comes from past experiences and be sure that we leverage some of their ideas and make decisions for the future,” Lewis says.

Bank of America is one of over 1,000 employers who have signed the AARP Employer Pledge Program, a nationwide group of employers that stand with AARP in affirming the value of experienced workers and are committed to developing diverse organizations. They have pledged to promote equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age.

Bank of America also has an intergenerational employee network, with chapters across the U.S. and other countries. The network has, among other things, created mentoring programs where employees in different generations can come together and learn from each other in person or virtually.

“It's actually one of our fastest growing employee networks inside the company,” Lewis says. “We’re really trying to drive connectivity and opportunity for them to learn from one another.”

The company aims to have a broad and comprehensive benefit range that touches on all individual generations, says Ebony Thomas, a global human resources executive at Bank of America.

“We are really thinking about where employees are in their life cycle, and tailoring services, learning, training or benefits to that life cycle,” she says. “It's really thinking ‘are we inclusive of everyone in the organization, in different stages and points in their lives?’ and how a benefit impacts them.”

The Optum data also discovered differences in financial service needs among generations. Younger generations are more concerned about debt, student tuition and how to start saving, whereas older generations may be more interested in things like buying a house, family health or retirement, says Optum’s Serxner.

Technology is another area of great discrepancy among the workplace age gap. Serxner says understanding how millennials or younger generations think about text messaging versus older generations can help employers rethink how they’re utilizing technology and what impact it has.

“There can be mental and behavioral impacts from using technology,” he says. “Employees can start to feel isolated, lonely or left out, based on the way an organization might cater to only one group, or might have a bias toward one kind of technology, whereas some people really feel it's critical to be face-to-face or on the phone.”

It’s critical employers learn and understand the makeup of their workforce, and tailor their communication strategy to their needs, Serxner says. Employers can drive up engagement and participation in their benefit offerings.

“I work with one digital company communications company that’s more than 70% millennial, and all of their outreach, benefits and promotions are phone based,” Serxner says. “I have other older energy and utility companies where they still do big pool meetings, and hand out brochures and packages, where they have individuals explaining the benefits. So the employers tend to have a sense of who their populations are, and tailor their approaches accordingly.”

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (08 May 2020) "Personalization helps meet the needs of multiple generations in the workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/personalization-helps-meet-the-needs-of-multiple-generations-in-the-workplace


Employees say ‘feeling stressed’ is top reason for lying about sick days

Many employees use their sick days for their physical and mental health when they feel as if they won't be at their peak to perform their job. With that being said, employees may also use sick days when they feel stressed. Read this blog post to learn more.


A third of employees have lied to their employer about their reasons for taking a sick day, with the most common reason being stress, according to a new report by international health benefits provider Aetna International.

As the world’s attention turns to the mental health impact of COVID-19, these confessions suggest that the stigma remains in workplaces.

“If employees have physical or mental health problems, then they're not going to be at their peak to be able to do their job,” says Dr. Hemal Desai, global medical director at Aetna International. “When people lie to take a day off, it really hides the problem, and when they are at work, presenteeism is a really big issue.”

The Employee Perceptions of Mental and Physical Health in the Workplace report explores the views of employees in regards to taking sick days, discussing health issues at work and the impact a mental health diagnosis can play in reducing their experiences of stigma.

Out of the employees surveyed in the U.K., the U.S., Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, those in the U.S. are the most likely to lie to their employer about their reason for taking a sick day. While “wanting a day off” was the second most frequently cited reason for lying, the most common reasons overall related to mental and emotional health, ranging from feeling stressed or down to not thinking their boss would understand.

In the U.S., about 40% of people reported a mental health diagnosis, but less than half of adults receive treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The fear of stigma around these mental health challenges is an issue employees must address, Dr. Desai says.

“Employees don't feel that taking sick leave for mental health problems is something that will either be accepted or considered as good practice by their employers,” Dr. Desai says. “It’s important employers address this hidden problem, because it will ultimately drive better productivity and wellbeing of their workforce.”

Creating a culture of acceptance, especially from a company’s leadership team, is a first step employers can take to easing the stigma of speaking up.

“Employers can do a lot to try and foster more transparency and reduce stigma. Making that parity between mental and physical health will create much more transparency and build trust within an organization, especially if there’s an open culture, particularly by senior leaders, where you can talk about mental health issues,” he says.

Employers also need to ensure employees are aware of and are using mental health resources and benefits, Dr. Desai says. A large majority of companies offer mental health benefits through an EAP, but utilization rates for these services are typically below 10%, according to SHRM. Boosting usage is key to supporting employee wellbeing.

“Employers need to be working with health and benefits providers, because the providers will have a lot of support tools that can help employees,” he says. “Making sure that that support is there from the employers is really key, so that you can drive a really happy and healthy workforce that can be productive, which is particularly important during this COVID-19 situation.”

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (11 June 2020) "Employees say ‘feeling stressed’ is top reason for lying about sick days" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/employees-say-feeling-stressed-is-top-reason-for-lying-about-sick-days


Spotlight Value of Benefits Package During Open Enrollment


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of helping employees maintain physical, mental and financial health, making this year's open enrollment period a critical time for employers to think about the benefits they're providing and to communicate the value of these offerings to employees.

"This is not a typical year," said Hope Manion, senior vice president for Fidelity Investments' workplace consulting division. "We cannot simply default our benefits like we may have done in previous years."

She advises employers to encourage employees to spend more time during this year's enrollment period reviewing their benefits, learning about all of their offerings and asking questions. "Given that so many have experienced financial and health crises this year, now is the time to ensure they don't overlook benefits that could impact their future health and financial well-being," she noted.

Employees Rush Through Enrollment

Nearly three-quarters of employees—73 percent—spend less than an hour, and 41 percent invest less than 30 minutes, reviewing their benefits at enrollment time, according to a March study of 1,200 U.S. consumers on behalf of life and accident insurer Colonial Life. Because the pandemic has changed the way millions of workers live and work, simply rushing through their annual benefits enrollment won't do this year.

"If this year has taught us anything, it's the importance of our health and the value in taking every opportunity to protect it," said Richard Shaffer, senior vice president of field and market development at Colonial Life. "As we head into enrollment season this fall, workers across the country need to take time to ensure they're protecting their families, finances and futures against unexpected events."

Surprisingly, those who are the least confident in their knowledge of the benefits available to them are most likely to rush through the enrollment process. Nearly 90 percent of employees who reported not understanding their benefits "at all" said they plan to spend less than an hour on enrollment this year.

"Especially in today's environment, offering benefits isn't enough," Shaffer said. "To make the investment pay off, employers must ensure employees take the time to understand, value and participate in the benefits enrollment process."

Showcasing How Benefits Are Vital

A new Fidelity report, Uncovering the Real Value of the Benefits You Offer, shows that employees are often unaware of their benefits options and frequently don't take advantage of them. The findings are from a survey of nearly 9,500 participants in Fidelity-administered benefit plans.

For instance, only 61 percent of employees could report whether telemedicine was offered to them. "In this case, if you are offering a benefit low in awareness, you may need to go back to basics and increase promotional efforts that emphasize availability, what it is, and how to use it," the report points out.

Health saving accounts (HSAs) are a different story. While 92 percent of employees surveyed knew whether an HSA was available, many chose not to opt for a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), which is a requirement to contribute to an HSA. However, 89 percent of account-holders who used an HSA reported that it had a positive effect on their lives. "In this case, awareness about availability isn't the issue, but employees may not understand the value a benefit brings," the report stated.

Approaching Open Enrollment

Fidelity's Manion suggested that open enrollment communications encourage employees to consider the following when selecting benefits for the year ahead:

  • Health insurance. Consider your finances, family health status, and preferred health care providers and hospitals when choosing health care coverage. Review deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. To take advantage of an HSA, enroll in an HDHP.
  • HSAs and flexible spending accounts (FSAs). Take the time to learn how each of these accounts can be used, reviewing eligibility guidelines and updates to coverage, including services like telemedicine and over-the-counter medications.
  • Retirement savings. Consider increasing your 401(k) retirement savings plan contribution if the company reduced or suspended its match as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other benefits may not require an employee to enroll and so are often overlooked despite their value, Manion noted. Be sure to highlight information regarding:

  • Telemedicine. Among Fidelity clients, 76 percent saw an increase in telemedicine use since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This benefit will continue to be important, and employees should understand how it works.
  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs). As the pandemic caused many people to experience anxiety, mental health and counseling services, such as those offered through an EAP, saw a 39 percent increase in use. This is a benefit that is impactful to employees' overall well-being when offered.
  • Wellness programs. Wellness programs are much appreciated when used, but 30 percent of employees surveyed did not know whether their employer offered them.

With millions of employees still working at home, effective benefits communication is more challenging than ever, Colonial Life's Schaffer said. He advised business and HR leaders to "ensure they're providing opportunities for employees to learn basic information and ask questions, even in a virtual environment."

5 Questions to Kick-Start Open Enrollment Planning

For employees dealing with physical, emotional and economic setbacks due to the pandemic, "this will be the year to reevaluate insurance and financial safety nets, so keep this in mind as you communicate about medical plans, disability insurance, flexible spending accounts and other financial wellness benefits," blogged Megan Yost, vice president and engagement strategist at communications consultancy Segal Benz in San Francisco.

She advised open enrollment managers to ask themselves five questions:

  • What will make this year's open enrollment a success?
  • How will the COVID-19 pandemic impact my goals and outreach strategy?
  • What barriers could prevent my employees from taking action?
  • What might I need to do differently from last year?
  • Who do I need to include to help make open enrollment a success?

"Even if you don't have all your plan design changes finalized just yet, planning ahead can help make everything go more smoothly and minimize unnecessary stress," Yost observed. "Lay your foundation now—and fill in the details when you have them."

SOURCE: Miller, S. (10 August 2020) "Spotlight Value of Benefits Package During Open Enrollment" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/spotlight-benefits-value-during-open-enrollment.aspx