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ParentalLeave_Body.jpgBy Heather R. Johnson.

 

If your small business has fewer than 50 employees you aren’t required to offer paid parental leave, or any leave at all. However, offering parental leave to new and growing families does wonders for employee morale, productivity, and loyalty. While six-plus weeks of paid leave may not be financially feasible for many small businesses, with careful planning, you can design a plan that accommodates parents and employers alike.

 

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) states that businesses with 50 or more employees are required to offer 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for newborn or adopted children. FMLA exempts businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Yet, even unpaid leave costs small businesses money, considering contractor wages and the extra hours involved in spreading the work to other employees. However, experts say crafting a parental leave plan that helps new parents is worth the effort and expense.

 

“When employees return from leave, they have a higher engagement level, which means higher productivity,” says Carrie Ahmad, vice president of People for Turning the Corner LLC, a consulting firm for small businesses and job seekers based in Boulder, Colorado. “They also tend to stay with the organization longer because it stood by them.”

 

To design a plan that works for your business, consider one or some combination of the following benefits:

 

Telecommuting and flexible schedules

Employees appreciate flextime or the option to work from home, Ahmad says. “If the employee can work from home or work half days, he or she can continue to bond with their child and the employer can keep moving forward,” she says.

 

One Turning the Corner client offered eight weeks of partially paid leave followed by a period of telecommuting. The employee gradually eased back into full-time work over a 13-week period. Flextime and telecommuting provide a good compromise when the employer can’t afford to lose an employee for 12 weeks.

 

ParentalLeave_PQ.jpgDisability leave

Short-term disability insurance can cover a portion of an employee’s income during maternity or paternity leave at little cost. Employers can either pay for the coverage themselves or offer plans to employees as an optional benefit.

 

Project Frog, an architectural design startup based in San Francisco, offers a generous paternity leave program that combines company- and state-paid wages (up to 55 percent of weekly wages). When platform design manager Justin Mikecz took leave to bond with his first child, he received 75 percent of his salary for six weeks.

 

Under California’s Paid Family Leave program, Mikecz had up to one year to use those six weeks. “I often worked four-day weeks to take at least some of the burden off my wife,” he says.

 

Paid time off

Some companies allow employees to use their accrued Paid Time Off (PTO) to cover a portion of unpaid leave. Other companies require that an employee exhaust PTO before using any disability benefits or unpaid time. This option comes at a lesser cost to the employer, but leaves the new mom or dad with virtually no paid time off if either parent or child gets sick.

 

Giving employees the opportunity to stay home with their baby is a wonderful benefit that’s becoming more in demand. With financial ingenuity, you can design a family leave plan that both the employer and employee can afford.

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

Advances in medicine mean people today live longer lives, even if they suffer from critical illnesses. Naturally, living longer with a critical illness means paying more treatment-related costs — a possibility that has many Americans concerned. In a recent Sun Life Financial study, 47 percent of participants age 40 to 50 said finances would be their top worry if faced with a critical illness, far more than the 29 percent who named dying as their primary fear.1

 

What is critical illness insurance?

As a benefits decision-maker, you understand the importance of critical illness coverage. And while most workers are well-versed about the need for major medical, home and vehicle insurance, many don’t know that critical illness coverage exists.

 

Critical illness insurance is a way for employees to help themselves stay ahead of the medical and out-of-pocket expenses than can accompany certain medical events. For example, many lump-sum critical illness policies pay benefits when an individual experiences a covered event such as:

 

  • A heart attack
  • A stroke
  • A major human organ transplant
  • End-stage renal failure
  • A coma
  • Paralysis

 

Why consider critical illness insurance?

Critical illness coverage helps provide protection from the financial liability of certain catastrophic health events. Receiving a lump-sum benefits payment helps policyholders worry less about how to pay illness-related expenses and concentrate more on recovery.

 

With new statistics and projections about the likelihood of suffering from a critical illness, there has never been a better time to offer supplemental voluntary insurance at the worksite. As employers evaluate, choose and communicate their benefits offerings to employees, it is important they convey the potential financial impact of being diagnosed with a critical illness.

 

The 2015 Aflac WorkForces Report survey revealed that health care costs have a long-lasting effect on American workers’ creditworthiness. Participating employees said medical costs are affecting their credit scores, keeping them from paying other bills and preventing their efforts to save for retirement or a rainy day. The survey revealed that 52 percent of American workers have $1,000 or less on hand to pay out-of-pocket expenses associated with an unexpected serious illness or accident. What’s more, 44 percent would have to borrow from a 401(k) and/or use a credit card to cover out-of-pocket expenses if they or a family member experienced an unexpected serious illness or accident.2

 

The Aflac report’s findings are echoed by those of the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau, which found that nearly 20 percent of U.S. consumers — or almost 43 million people — have unpaid medical debts. The study also found that more than half of all debt listed on credit reports stems from medical expenses and that the average person with overdue medical debt owes $1,766.3

 

How can critical illness insurance benefit employers?

In addition to playing havoc with employees’ finances, the high price of critical illness affects companies’ bottom lines. The financial distress suffered by workers can lead to absenteeism, on-the-job distraction and a general sense of anxiety that is difficult to leave at the door.

 

When working with a broker or insurance adviser to strengthen their organizations’ benefits offerings, human resources experts should ask for information about how critical illness insurance fits into the picture. In general, critical illness policies work side by side with major medical plans by offering cash benefits that can be used to pay deductibles, copayments and other out-of-pocket medical costs. Because cash benefits can be used as policyholders see fit, they can also be used to pay household expenses, including the rent or mortgage, utilities, credit card debt and any other bill threatening their financial security.

 

 

 

 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a solicitation.

 

1 Sun Life Financial. “Well-placed fears: Workers perceptions of critical illness,” accessed Nov. 10, 2015 – http://www.sunlifesummit.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Critical-Illness-Research-Whitepaper_7.pdf

2 The 2015 Aflac WorkForces Report, “Waste not, want not,” accessed Nov. 10, 2015 - https://www.aflac.com/business/resources/aflac-workforces-report/overview/waste-not-want-not.aspx.

3 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “CPFB spotlights concerns with medical debt and reporting,” accessed Nov. 10, 2015 - http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-spotlights-concerns-with-medical-debt-collection-and-reporting/.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with American Life Insurance Company of Columbus (“Aflac”) to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Aflac Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Aflac. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

More employers are offering wellness programs than ever before. This year, close to half of the 1,977 business decision-makers surveyed in the Aflac WorkForces Report said they offer a company-sponsored wellness program, which is up from 30 percent in 2012. Insurance brokers noted a similar trend, and just over half (53 percent) agree1 they regularly recommend wellness programs to their clients.

 

Not only are more businesses turning to wellness programs, but the study found that employers and brokers may also be becoming more effective when executing wellness initiatives. Over half of employers that offer wellness programs (53 percent) believe their program is effective,2 which is up 7 percentage points compared to 2014. And nearly 4 in 10 brokers (39 percent) agree1 they have helped clients lower health insurance premiums as a result of their wellness programs, which is an increase of five percentage points compared to 2013 and 2014 (34 percent).

 

Wellness programs influence employee satisfaction

One advantage to having a wellness program is the influence it can have on employee satisfaction. Of those with wellness programs, 3 in 4 employers agree their programs improve worker satisfaction. And employees who participate in their companies’ wellness programs are more satisfied3 in their jobs (70 percent vs. 59 percent) and with their benefits packages (66 percent vs. 58 percent) than those who don’t participate in their companies’ programs. What’s more, employees whose companies offer wellness programs are less likely4 to look for new jobs in the next 12 months than those without wellness programs (46 percent vs. 52 percent).

 

What are successful programs doing differently?

Wellness programs come in all shapes and sizes, but not all programs are successful with helping companies offer lower premiums to their employees. Surprisingly, the study found that the most popular program components may not be the most effective. For instance, although few companies with wellness programs offer an on-site doctor or nurse (17 percent), over half of those that do (65 percent) agree5 they are able to offer lower health insurance premiums as a result of their wellness program. On the other hand, over half of employers with a wellness program offer Employee Assistance Programs (54 percent), but just half of these (51 percent) agree5 they are able to offer lower health insurance premiums as a result of their wellness program (see Chart 1).

 

 

Chart 1: An employer’s ability to lower premiums varies by type of wellness program offered

 

Employers with wellness programs that include the following components:

Ratio of those employers who agree5 they’ve been able to lower premiums as a result of their wellness program

On-site doctor or nurse

17%

65%

Wellness screenings

64%

60%

Healthy eating incentives

52%

59%

Smoking cessation programs

56%

59%

Preventive care programs

55%

58%

Company events such as fun runs

34%

58%

Stress management programs

47%

57%

Health fairs

41%

55%

On-site gym or discounted gym membership

45%

55%

Employee assistance program

54%

51%

 

Well-rounded benefits + communications = employee engagement

Wellness programs may boast higher engagement when paired with other work site perks and strong communications strategies. The study found that wellness program participation is higher among employers that offer financial guidance and education, voluntary benefits and flexible scheduling. It’s also higher among companies that have increased the frequency of benefits communications in the past year (see Chart 2). Having multiple options may boost communications opportunities and awareness overall, which can be amplified when an employer works to communicate frequently about their benefits programs.

 

Chart 2: Employee participation in wellness programs is higher among companies with stronger benefits communication

 

 

Employee participates

Employee doesn’t participate

Employer only communicates about benefits at open enrollment and new hire

33%

46%

Frequency of benefits communication increased in the past year

21%

11%

Employer communicates too little about employee benefits

28%

34%

Employer communicates the right amount about employee benefits

71%

65%

 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a solicitation.

 

 

 

About the study

The 2015 Aflac WorkForces Report is the fifth annual Aflac employee benefits study examining benefit trends and attitudes. The study, conducted in January and February 2015 by Research Now, captured responses from 1,977 benefits decision-makers and 5,337 employees from across the United States. To learn more about the Aflac WorkForces Report, visit AflacWorkForcesReport.com.

The Broker Survey was conducted online within the United States between January 20, 2015, and February 10, 2015, among 306 insurance brokers or producers employed at a company with three or more employees. No theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

1 Completely or strongly agree

2 Extremely or very effective

3 Extremely or very satisfied

4 Extremely, very or somewhat likely

5 Somewhat or strongly agree

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with American Life Insurance Company of Columbus (“Aflac”) to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Aflac Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Aflac. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Z150527R                                                                                                                                                                                12/15


Robb-Hilson3.pngBy Robb Hilson, Bank of America Small Business Executive

 

In today’s ultra-competitive business landscape, hiring the right talent is a vital part of growing, running and maintaining a successful business. This is especially crucial for small business owners, who typically have very streamlined organizations. In our daily interactions with small business owners, we’ve seen increased optimism and an inclination to hire, and the numbers support what we’re seeing. According to the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), 67 percent of small business owners plan to hire new employees in 2016, and 78 percent predict business growth over the next five years.

 

Though small business owners are excited about their prospects for growth, bringing in—and hanging on to—top-tier talent can be challenging. As the modern workplace continues to evolve, small business owners must adapt to their environment to avoid falling behind in the technology they use or the benefits they offer employees. Recently, I participated in a Google Hangout with Alexandra Levit, a workplace expert, and USA Today columnist Steve Strauss to discuss how the small business workplace is evolving, and how small business owners are adapting. Here are some of my biggest takeaways:

 

  1. Develop a talent strategy. Hiring should never be done on the fly. Take the time to assess your needs and find employees who can round out your team by building on your strengths and fixing your weaknesses. Consider working with potential employees in a freelance or part-time capacity before you hire them, and make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to your company’s goals.

  2. Be flexible with your employees’ needs. Building the right culture is essential—happy employees create happy customers. You should also keep in mind the different attitudes and priorities of employees from a variety of generations. According to the SBOR, small business owners are now offering all types of creative perks like areas to relax and unwind (20 percent) and pet-friendly environments (11 percent). At the end of day, making your employees feel like their ideas are valued and their opinions are heard is the most important thing you can do.

  3. Make technology your ally. Technology can be a windfall for your business and employees. Giving employees the option to telecommute can make their lives easier and their work better—54 percent of the small business owners we surveyed believe their employees are more productive when they have the option to work from home. And, when it comes to bringing new technology into your business, don’t get overwhelmed with all the technological options out there—speak to your team and find the right mix for your business.

 

For additional insights about optimizing your talent and technology in an evolving small business workplace, you can watch our entire discussion here.

According to the Fall 2015 Small Business Owner Report, more entrepreneurs than ever are feeling optimistic about the future of their businesses. They are hiring more, planning growth strategies and looking ahead in big ways.  In the face of all this growth, however, a continuous concern among small business owners is having good talent – and keeping it. In order to retain the talent that keeps their businesses running, it’s important that small business owners adjust to emerging workplace trends, like adopting new technologies and offering unconventional employee perks.

 

This month’s installment of Bank of America’s Small Business Social Series will discuss how small business owners can increase employee retention and productivity through changes to the workplace environment.

 

 

After years of debate and untold numbers of articles, questions and explanations, health care reform is in full swing. But just when businesses think they understand the ins and outs of the Affordable Care Act, a new wrinkle emerges. Unfortunately, sometimes those wrinkles can result in penalties. Reduce your company’s odds of being fined with these quick tips:

 

1.  Know whether your company is accountable for the Employer Shared-Responsibility Requirement. Breathe easy if your company is very small: Only employers with 50 or more full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees are affected. While larger employers with 100 or more FTEs must comply in 2015, employers with 50 to 99 FTEs have a grace period until 2016.

 

2.  Know the standards coverage must meet to be compliant. There are just two criteria:

  • Coverage must be considered affordable, meaning it can’t exceed 9.5 percent of an employee’s household income.
  • Coverage must have an actuarial value of at least 60 percent, meaning it must pay, on average, 60 percent of the cost of essential health benefits.

 

3.  Understand that employers with 50 or more FTEs are required to extend compliant coverage only to those working at least 30 service hours per work and their dependent children under age 26.  Service hours include hours worked and hours for which an employee is paid but doesn’t work – for example, vacation, holiday, illness or disability, jury duty and military duty hours.

 

4.  Know that two things must combine to trigger ACA penalties. First, an employer with 50 or more FTEs must fail to offer complaint health care coverage. Second, at least one full-time employee must qualify for and receive a premium subsidy in the individual insurance market through a federal or state exchange.

 

5.  Weigh potential noncompliance penalties against the cost of offering coverage. Keep in mind that there are nonmonetary benefits to offering employees health care coverage. These include improved job satisfaction, loyalty and morale.

 

6.  Beware the upcoming Cadillac Tax. Named after Detroit’s luxury automobile, a 40 percent Cadillac Tax is scheduled to take effect in plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2018. Although regulations could evolve before it’s implemented, employers can begin to determine how their plans might be affected when the tax goes into effect. Get the details on the tax, including how it’s calculated, who pays it and what products are involved, by checking out some commonly asked questions and answers.

 



To learn more about health care reform, go to: https://www.aflac.com/health-care-reform/navigating-health-care-reform/default.aspx.

Please note that HCR material  herein is intended to provide general information about an evolving topic and does not constitute legal, tax or accounting advice regarding any specific situation. All readers are strongly encouraged to discuss their HCR situations with their advisors to determine the actions they need to take or to visit healthcare.gov (which may also be contacted at 1-800-318-2596) for additional information.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with American Life Insurance Company of Columbus (“Aflac”) to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Aflac Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Aflac. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

 

HCR15029                                                                                                                                                                                                                        8/25/15

Performance_Reviews_body.jpgBy Heather R. Johnson.

 

Here’s a trend that small business owners should take note of: According to the Institute of Corporate Productivity, 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies have done away with annual performance reviews for their employees in favor of more frequent conversations and guidance. 

 

“Sitting down once a year has never been a very valuable feedback tool,” says Kellie Conn, vice president of human resource services for Paradigm Group, an employee benefits, human resources, and retirement services consulting firm based in Nashville. “It’s difficult for managers to track performance and give accurate feedback for the entire year.”

 

And while employees of all ages appreciate acknowledgement and constructive criticism, the millennials are the demographic group that has pushed for more frequent reviews. “Younger workers place a high value on regular feedback,” says Conn. “Many of them are very comfortable asking for what they need. Finally, they are getting through to employers.”

 

As a result, the annual review has become out of step in today’s work environment. Because of this, many companies have shifted from this yearly event to quarterly or even weekly goal reviews or casual “check-ins.”

 

“These evaluations are still written-down, specific-performance indicators, but are done in smaller chunks,” says Conn. “The annual evaluation then becomes a summary of those meetings. That way, if the salary review is tied to the annual review, it will be a lot more accurate.”

 

Performance_Reviews_PQ.jpgJack Elliott, vice president of operations for Muir Medical Group IPA, Inc., in northern California, supports a quarterly review process coupled with consistent feedback. “Address an issue immediately as it comes up, and be very clear about your expectations,” he says. Elliott also recommends weekly roundtable discussions to maintain ongoing dialog. “Take time each week with the employee to go over what worked and what didn’t,” he says. “You’ll avoid any surprises that way.”

 

Goal review points of discussion

During these more frequent review meetings, employers often set three to five goals with the employee that align with the department and the company as a whole. This adds meaning to the employee’s daily responsibilities. “The small business owner is entrepreneurial in spirit,” says Elliott. “So it may be hard to accept that the employee is more invested in a short commute than your vision or product. As a small business owner, you have to sell that employee, too. She needs to see that she can have some effect on growing the business.”

 

No matter how often a performance review is conducted, managers must continue to document the conversation. “For legal reasons the supervisor still needs to document everything thoroughly,” says Conn. “That’s why the annual evaluation hasn’t died completely—companies would lose their performance documentation system.”

 

In general, performance reviews bring structure to the workplace. Whether you decide to review on a monthly, quarterly, or even on a good old-fashioned annual basis, find a system that keeps employees motivated through the year and highlights their accomplishments.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

 

Crutches.jpgAccidents occur every day and without warning – that’s why they’re called accidents. Small accidents that can be treated with supplies from a standard medicine cabinet are the norm. But sometimes the injuries are much bigger and significantly more expensive to treat.

 

Of course, most people are optimistic and tell themselves that serious accidents, the type that require treatment at a clinic or hospital, only happen to other people. But the truth is they can strike anyone at any time. Sometimes they occur in the course of everyday life: think kitchen accidents, sports injuries, or even tripping and falling. Other times, accidents leave us shaking our heads in disbelief. Just Google “freak accident” and you’ll come up with more than 13 million results.

 

Who pays for that?
Many people believe the Social Security Administration will step in to lend a financial hand if they’re seriously hurt, but that’s often an incorrect assumption. The Social Security Administration received more than 2.5 million applications for disability assistance in 2014 but approved just 811,000 of the requests.1 What’s more, upward of 90 percent of disabling injuries aren’t work-related, so they’re not covered by workers’ compensation.2

 

Adding insult to accidental injury is the fact that many U.S. families simply aren’t good at saving money. Half of all households fall into the financially fragile category: Just 48 percent of participants in the Federal Reserve System’s most recent survey on economic well-being said they could completely cover a hypothetical emergency expense costing $400 without selling something or borrowing money.3 That echoes the results of the 2015 Aflac WorkForces Report, where 44 percent of workers surveyed said they would have to borrow from a 401(k), or another retirement account, to pay expenses related to a serious illness or accident.4

 

How employers can help

The good news? You can help your company’s employees cope with costs stemming from an unexpected injury by providing access to voluntary accident insurance. It’s a smart business decision when you consider that coverage may help them keep their minds on their jobs and not on personal financial issues.

 

According to the Aflac survey, 20 percent of workers have had difficulty paying medical bills. What’s more, 17 percent have been contacted by collection agencies about outstanding medical expenses and/or received dings on their credit reports for nonpayment. With that kind of trouble on their minds, it’s no wonder that 20 percent of employees named personal financial issues as the top non-work-related issue that distracts them on the job or that 59 percent said they’re likely to take a job with slightly lower pay but better benefits.

 

To find out how to help keep your workers more focused and productive – not to mention away from the “help wanted” ads – check out Aflac’s accident insurance.

 

 

 

 

 

1Social Security Administration, “Disabled-worker disability statistics,” accessed June 30, 2015 - http://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/dibStat.html  

2Facts from LIMRA, “Disability Insurance Awareness Month,” accessed June 30, 2015 – http://firstchoicebenefits.com/pdf/FCB_2014-DI-Fact-Sheet.pdf

3U.S. Federal Reserve, “Report on the economic well-being of U.S. households in 2013,” accessed June 30, 2015 - http://www.federalreserve.gov/econresdata/2013-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201407.pdf

4The 2015 Aflac WorkForces Report, conducted in Feb. 2015 by Research Now on Aflac’s behalf, accessed June 30, 2015 – http://workforces.aflac.com

5Likely = extremely, very and somewhat likely, 2015 Aflac WorkForces Report

Bank of America, N.A. engages with American Life Insurance Company of Columbus (“Aflac”) to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Aflac Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Aflac. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Z150618         


4_Day_Work_Week_body.jpgBy Erin O’Donnell.


As American workers place more of a premium on work-life balance, small business owners are discovering that flexible work schedules can help them recruit and retain top talent. In particular, the four-day work week is gaining in popularity among small businesses that promote a flexible workplace.


David Lewis, president and CEO of OperationsInc, a human resources outsourcing firm, often speaks to small business owners about the pros and cons of the four-day work week, and counsels companies on best practices for employee retention and workplace flexibility.


“A flexible work week is becoming more and more part of the norm,” he says. “So, business owners are thinking, what else can we do to be flexible and accommodating?”


Lewis says any business can be a good candidate for a four-day work week. Here are some of the top issues to consider before making the leap:


How will customers be affected? Do your clients expect 24-hour access to your employees or service? Would you still be able to offer the same turnaround time on orders in fewer days? Consider what will happen to customer service or vendors if you are closed one day a week. Or if key people are out on certain days.


Some firms stagger employee’s schedules so that not everyone has the same day off, and the business can maintain a five-day operating week.


4_Day_Work_Week_PQ.jpgWhat’s the tradeoff for employees? A typical compressed schedule is 10 hours a day, four days a week. But at some firms, a shorter week also means shorter hours for employees.


At OperationsInc, Lewis said most of his employees work part-time by choice, because they’re willing to trade off higher pay and benefits for more free time. Many are working parents. Some are commuters trying to save time and money. “I think retention is the biggest driver here,” Lewis says. “You’re trying to figure out ways to attract and retain a wider population of workers.”


If you reduce the number of full-time and/or exempt positions on your staff, remember that may also affect how you calculate holiday pay, sick time, and your obligations under the Affordable Care Act.


Will it improve productivity? Proponents of the four-day work week believe it improves productivity and efficiency by motivating workers to stay focused on the job at hand. Lewis says this may require a culture shift, especially among firms that have mostly hourly workers. “You have to get employees away from the mindset that they’re working to the clock, and instead they’re working to the task,” he says.


Lewis encourages all small business owners to at least investigate the four-day work week. “It becomes a competitive advantage if you have it,” he says. “If it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine. But it shouldn’t be because you haven’t explored it.”

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

 

 

By Dr. Thomas Parry

 

Several years ago, I had a prophetic conversation with an executive responsible for managing all the absence programs for a 60,000-life financial services company. She told me that during the previous week, the CEO of her company had asked her: “What are we getting as a business for all this money we’re spending on health and related benefits?” She said to me that she knew exactly how much the programs cost but had no idea what value they added to the business. But then she added something interesting: “If I can’t answer his question, I look like a non-essential administrative function in my organization.” I am not sure if it was related, but she retired the next year.

 

As employers evaluate the future of health benefits for their organizations, two fundamental truths stand out for every benefits professional. First, health care is changing. Whether employers decide to provide employee health benefits through private or public exchanges, exit the health care system and pay requisite fines, invest in workforce health, or completely turn health decisions over to employees, the approach to health care benefits will never again be the same. Second, senior business leaders need highly-performing, productive workforces so that their companies can remain competitive. The challenge to benefits professionals is how to make the transition from health-as-cost to health-as-business value given these changes.

 

We find that benefits professionals in employer organizations understand these new realities conceptually, but when it comes to engaging in a conversation with senior business leaders in their organizations, they often get stuck for two reasons: 1) They typically lack the data to create a business case for workforce health improvement. 2) Their company is organized in benefit silos with more incentives to shift cost and risk to another internal program area than to work together for the benefit of the company as a whole.

 

So what is the economic impact of workforce health for employers? IBI researchers developed a statistical model that provides such estimates for the employed population.

 

Let’s use as an example a 10,000 life hospital system. Typically, this employer would equate the costs of health with health treatments and pharmacy expense. In this case, we would expect those costs to be about $33.7 million annually. However, when we include all the costs of health — lost work time, reduced performance and the associated productivity consequences — the total economic impact of health jumps to $70 million. We arrive at this figure by estimating wage replacements for absent workers at a total of nearly $13 million, and lost productivity associated with absence and reduced performance at an additional $23.6 million.

 

As benefits professionals proceed they must understand that regardless of their company’s decisions about financing health care, the lost-time and lost productivity consequences of health can never be fully shifted outside of their organizations. They also need to make the business case for health improvement in economic terms to their senior business leaders.

 

With all the focus on the cost of providing employee benefits, it is easy to overlook the potential value of those benefits if they can protect and improve employee health. Better coordination, relevant data and timely information can go a long way toward objectively evaluating the true cost – and value – of employee health to employers.

 

Four steps to get started:

  1. Step 1: Meet with your benefit-program counterparts and identify what data are available across programs to start to make build your business case.
  2. Step 2: Align interests across programs and move beyond compartmentalizing them to demonstrate the collective value of your programs to the business.
  3. Step 3: Put future data collection approaches in place that include leading indicators of health (such as biometric and health risk information); indicators of health care treatment (such as how and where care is delivered); and lagging indicators (such as cost, lost time, performance and productivity) so you can track changes associated with your interventions over time.
  4. Step 4: Let your vendor partners know exactly what data you need and why, and have them work in partnership to support your company’s health and productivity objectives.

 

 

About the Author: Dr. Thomas Parry is President of the Integrated Benefits Institute. He directs IBI’s activities and stewards its research agenda. Before co-founding IBI, he served 11 years as Research Director at the California Workers’ Compensation Institute. His research at CWCI encompassed a wide variety of topics in workers’ compensation, including medical treatment patterns, vocational rehabilitation costs and effectiveness, legal costs and trends, medical utilization, mental stress claims, and physical therapy patterns of care. While at CWCI, Parry was engaged in some of the earliest research and analysis on 24-hour coverage and integrated benefits.



Reprinted with permission from the author and Aetna. For more information see https://news.aetna.com


Aetna is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Aetna group of subsidiary companies, including Aetna Life Insurance Company and its affiliates (Aetna).

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Aetna Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Aetna Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Aetna

Communication made simple…with the Aflac Employee Communications Toolkit

 

As a business owner, you have a lot on your plate. From customer service and worker productivity to keeping up with the competition, there are more than enough worries to keep you up at night.

 

Staying on top of health care and benefits communications should be the last thing you stress about. With easy-to-use templates in the Aflac Employee Communications Toolkit, you can simply add your company’s logo onto ready-to-use articles that you can print or publish in your newsletter or copy and paste onto your employee intranet. You’ll also find posters and tent cards in the toolkit, as well as short messages that you can copy and paste into emails or print on postcards.


What’s in the toolkit?

We’re giving you everything needed to communicate about benefits year-round, from the latest news on health care topics and reform to tips for staying healthy and information about specific types of insurance coverage. You can pick and choose from the toolkit materials, using only those that apply to your workforce or that align with the types of insurance you make available to your employees.


By using the resources in the Aflac Employee Communications Toolkit, you’re meeting a key workforce need: 37 percent of employees at small companies say their HR departments communicate too little about employee benefits.1


In fact, 62 percent of employees who participated in the 2015 Aflac WorkForces Report survey said they rarely or only sometimes understand the changes to their coverage.1 Better benefits communications could help address this lack of knowledge.


If you are like most employers, you’re probably giving your workers more responsibility for their health care decisions, but employees say they want more guidance from their companies. Nearly half (46 percent) agree that they’d prefer not to have more control over their health insurance expenses and options because they don’t have the time or knowledge to effectively manage them.1


Helping workers learn to manage their health care choices gives your company an opportunity to demonstrate that it cares about employees, as well as to curb potential absenteeism, low morale and low productivity. Workers may be responsible for their health care decisions, but the wrong choices can greatly affect their performance and state of mind in the workplace: Fully 20 percent named personal financial issues as the top non-work-related concern that distracts them on the job.1


One last statistic clearly demonstrates the importance of benefits communications – 39 percent of employees completely or strongly agree that a well-communicated benefits program would make them less likely to leave their jobs. 1 In other words, keeping your workers informed about their benefits options is critical to keeping them on board as the economy and job market improve.


Changing seasons, changing employee materials

Make it a point to visit the Aflac Employee Communications Toolkit frequently, because the information and resources there are regularly updated. You’ll find seasonal information as well as materials that reinforce specific health events, such as the Great American Smokeout, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Workplace Safety Month and many other observances that take place throughout the year.



This article is for informational purposes and is not intended as a solicitation.


1 2015 Aflac WorkForces Report, a study conducted in Jan. and Feb. 2015 by Research Now on behalf of Aflac, accessed June 15, 2015 – www.aflacworkforcesreport.com


Bank of America, N.A. engages with American Life Insurance Company of Columbus (“Aflac”) to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Aflac Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Aflac. Consult your  financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

5_Essential_Interviews_Qs_body.jpgBy Heather R. Johnson.

 

Each employee plays an integral role in a small business’s success. When the time comes to hire, it’s critical that the new recruit has the motivation and skill to help move the company forward. “Employees can either help you succeed or create internal roadblocks,” says Ernie McGray, hiring and human resources manager at San Francisco-based startup Meta Co. “At a small company everyone needs to contribute and understand that their work impacts the company.”

 

During the interview process, a few carefully chosen questions, like the ones below, will help you separate A-plus talent from the average job candidate.

 

Why are you looking for a change? Knowing why a candidate applied for the job will help you determine if her goals align with the position and with company values. It also helps determine whether the candidate is serious about accepting a new position. “I want people that are comfortable and confident in sharing those experiences and won’t just say what they think I want to hear,” says McGray.

 

Why are you interested in this company? With this question, a business owner can quickly determine whether a candidate has done his homework and is genuinely excited about the company. “I want someone who’s really done their research,” says McGray. “I’ve interviewed people that didn’t even look at our website.”

 

5_Essential_Interviews_Qs_PQ.jpgWhat goals did you achieve at your last company? Go beyond a list of tasks to find out what the candidate accomplished. Ask for details, such as: Did you lead the project? Did you design the goals? Were other decision makers involved? “Truly understand their participation in the goal and why they are proud of it,” he says.

 

Do you have any questions for us? Rather than save this for the end of the discussion, McGray leads the interview with this question. “I want an unfiltered, honest starting point,” he says. “When you ask this question as the interview process winds down, you have already given clues as to what is important to you.”

 

McGray also steers away from behavioral questions, such as, “Tell me about a situation in which you had to deal with a difficult coworker.” “There are so many variables that are different at your company,” says McGray. “Behavioral questions don’t give the business owner a sense of whether the candidate can do the job. Instead, discuss the company, the role, and what problems the candidate plans to solve by filling this role.”

 

How would you do the job? Give details about the position and what problems the company intends to solve by filling it. Ask the potential employee, “How would you tackle these problems?” Problem-solving questions allow the interviewer and interviewee to brainstorm about how the candidate can fulfill the role. “I don’t expect them to have all the answers, but we get a sense of their experience and they get to understand who we are as a company. It’s a true discussion about what the candidate thinks he can accomplish.”

 

After determining that the candidate has the experience, personality, and critical thinking skills of an A-plus employee, check in with your gut instinct. Says McGray: “You want to be as excited about hiring someone as they are about getting the job.”


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

 

 

 

Counteroffers.jpgNo business owner wants to lose a valuable employee. But if that employee resigns to accept another company’s offer, evaluate the situation thoroughly before making a counteroffer. Some experts say that if an employee resigns, it’s best to look for a replacement. That’s because most of the time, money isn’t the sole reason an employee looks for another job. He or she could have a personality conflict with a direct supervisor, a draining commute, or a stalled career—problems that won’t go away with a raise. Other hiring experts say that counteroffers provide a way to retain employees and avoid the expense of hiring a replacement. Before deciding the best path for your small business, read on to hear what our experts have to say.


Click here to download PDF.

I have a friend who loves to tell prospective employers that he is “as honest as the day is long.” It seems to me, however, that having to announce how honest you are during the interview process is tantamount to declaring that you are probably not to be trusted, after all, isn’t being an honest employee a given? Why feel the need to highlight that?

 

Maybe that’s why he always seems to be looking for work.

 

But, it does bring up an interesting question: Just what traits are most important when hiring new staff? It is not an insignificant question, that’s for sure. After all, a new employee can improve morale, can become a new profit center, and can keep customers content.

 

On the other hand, they could do the exact opposite.

 

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

 

If you let the wrong people in the door, there is no end to the potential havoc they may sow. They can steal from you, anger customers, hurt sales, not complete projects, or even sue you when they are eventually fired (i.e. alleging “wrongful termination”.)

 

So finding the right person or persons is critical. In a recent article here in the community, I shared three tips for hiring the right way, including thinking it through thoroughly beforehand, casting a wide net, and taking your time. Today, I want to drill down a bit more into the type of person to be looking for throughout that process; the type of employee that makes everyone better.

 

Let me suggest that there are three underrated traits that are more important than any other.

 

Of course you want someone who is smart and capable. Like being honest, that is a given. You likely want someone with some experience (although that is not always critical). Being dependable is also an obvious and important trait. These qualities can be easily discovered in the early stages of the hiring process. A person’s work and school history, and how they answer a few key questions can reveal if they have these “baseline” key traits.

 

Though often overlooked, here are three other characteristics that, if you find in a candidate, you can almost assure he or she will be a successful hire:

 

1. Coachability: A key characteristic of a great employee is the ability to adapt and grow. That is, can they not only take direction but can they incorporate that feedback, pivot, and make different and better choices? The ability to adjust and make changes is key to hiring an employee who fits in and does things the way you want them done.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, it’s also true that not everyone is cut out to be an employee (yes, that’s me you see raising my hand.) You want to be sure that the person you hire is able to take direction and incorporate feedback.

 

2. Independence: This may seem contradictory to coachability, but it’s not. Aside from finding someone whom you can easily train, you also want someone who can take the initiative and doesn’t need constant supervision. After all, one reason you are hiring employees is to lighten your load and unless they have the ability to think on their feet and do what they see needs to get done, your load won’t be very light.

 

3. Being a team player: The final piece of the hiring puzzle is finding someone who plays well with others. After all, no matter how coachable they are or how much initiative they may take, if they don’t work well as part of your overall team, they will be of little use to you. In the end, they will be a disruptive force and cause more harm than good.

 

So there you have it. You will know you have a winner candidate if you can locate that trainable, independent, team player, especially if they don’t boast about how honest they are.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

©2015 Bank of America Corporation


Steve Strauss

You’re Fired!

Posted by Steve Strauss Jul 15, 2015

I was once fired from a job because, my manager said, I did not “write well enough.” Given that this was two months before my first book was about to be published (though my manager didn’t know that fact), you can imagine my surprise, but that made it no less difficult. I had a wife and new child at home. What was I going to do? For me, getting fired was one of those “blessing in disguise” moments; it forced me to start my first real business. (And, yes, I must admit that I sent that manager an autographed copy of my book when it came out.)

 

But let’s be frank: Almost always, firing an employee is a tough situation for everyone involved. Of course it’s a life altering moment for the employee on many fronts – financially, ego-wise, with regard to future employment, just to name a few. But firing is difficult for everyone else involved too – for the manager tasked with sharing the bad news, for the morale of the office (usually), and for other employees who worry about their own jobs. Firing an employee can also be seen as a sign of failure on the part of the company; if the person had been vetted properly during the hiring process, firing may have been unnecessary. Firing isn’t easy on anybody.

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

The final thing to note up front about firing someone is that it should be the last action in a fairly formal and very transparent process, the process being:

 

  • Identify the problem
  • Explain what performance / actions / benchmarks are expected instead
  • Provide training, coaching, and resources
  • Have follow-up performance reviews

 

All of these actions must be documented for two reasons:

 

First, documentation puts everyone on the same page: what is wrong and what needs to be righted can be seen in black and white.

 

Second, documentation is critical to the legal aspect of a potential firing – both proving that you were even-handed and fair throughout the process as well as creating a paper trail to prove your case, should you ever need it.

 

If, after documenting the transgressions and the requested course correction, you still do not see the desired results, then it is time to terminate the employee.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

You need to call a meeting and explain to the employee that he or she is being let go, and why. But, that said, if you have done your job right (above) the firing should come as no surprise.

 

One thing to note is that in most states, employees are considered “at will.” This means that they work at the will of their employer and can be fired for (almost) any reason, or no reason. I say “almost” any because you cannot fire someone for a discriminatory reason, that is, because of their race, gender, religion, and so on. You also cannot fire someone out of retaliation, for example, if they legally were required to attend jury duty and missed work.

 

The fired employee will need some practical logistical information that you need to have answers to:

 

  • When is their official end date?
  • When will they receive their last paycheck?
  • What will happen with their benefits?
  • Is there a severance package?

 

It is good practice to have a witness with you when firing the employee. The witness can testify that you followed proper procedure during the termination process, that you shared necessary information, and that you did not fire out of retaliation or discrimination. (And if you think a lot of this advice is to protect you legally should the employee later sue for wrongful termination, you are right.)

 

Final tip: Do not argue. Sure, you can and should explain your decision, but to the extent possible, make it short and simple, and reinforce what your documentation process identified. Afterwards, gather your team, talk about the firing, and what it means for them. Be aware that their emotions may also be running high and reassure them to the extent possible.

 

If you have followed this process and the ex-employee understands why you took the actions you did, it is highly unlikely that you will receive any backlash or legal challenge to the firing (and only in very rare cases will you receive a book from your ex-employee.)

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

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