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Employees

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By Heather R. Johnson.

 

EmployeeFatigue_Body.jpgAmericans work longer hours, take less vacation time, and retire later than ever before. Our overstressed, overburdened, overconnected society also doesn’t get enough sleep, which makes those extended hours less productive.

 

A recent study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than a third of American adults don’t get the recommended seven or more hours of sleep each night. Regularly sleeping less than seven hours a day is associated with increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

 

In the office, sleep-deprived employees have a harder time concentrating and learning and retaining information. These same employees miss work more often due to illness and injury than their rested colleagues. Harvard research shows sleep deprivation costs United States businesses $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.

 

To keep employee engagement at its peak, it makes sense to ensure employees arrive to work rested. “There's nothing worse than feeling exhausted,” says sleep expert Christopher Lindholst, CEO of Restworks, which provides napping installations for businesses. “Showing your employees some understanding and providing a support solution will reduce both absenteeism and presenteeism,” the condition where employees are at the office but doing less than optimal work.

 

Following these simple solutions can help to promote restfulness among your employees. As an added benefit, you may improve your own sleep habits.

 

1. Offer flexible schedules

Allow employees to occasionally work from home or work around rush-hour traffic or school drop-off or pick-up times. This helps reduce stress and creates more opportunity for productivity-boosting rest.

 

EmployeeFatigue_PQ.jpg2. Limit overtime

Small business owners usually work long hours. Your employees don’t always have to. “Working more than a ‘regular shift’ on a long-term basis can be hard on people's physical and mental health, particularly if it means they aren’t getting sufficient sleep,” says Lindholst. Set a cap on the amount of hours employees work each day and discourage weekend work.

 

3. Create a nap room

A 20-minute nap boosts alertness and performance according to the National Sleep Foundation. Create a private space for employees to catch a quick nap during lunch or break time. An unused office or storage room with a couple sofas can suffice if space and budget are tight.

 

4. Get the team moving

Physical exercise counters the effects of sleepiness. Start a lunchtime walking group and consider holding walking or outdoor meetings when the weather permits. Encourage employees to stand, stretch, and walk throughout the day.

 

5. Use an app

Provide a sleep-enhancing app such as Sleep Cycle, which analyzes your sleep patterns. Sleepio uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help improve sleep. Restworks’ new app provides audio tips and tools to support healthy sleep habits.

 

6. Set a good example

Be a healthy-sleep-habits role model. Don’t send emails at odd hours. Save correspondence as drafts and send in the morning. Share your healthy sleep practices with staff. Also, notice your employees’ physical states. “We have employees with young children,” says Lindholst. “When I see employees who were obviously up most of the night, I encourage them to use our napping pod.”

 

If you notice your employees reaching liberally for the coffee, consider healthy sleep practices as part of your wellness plan. A more rested team is a more productive team, and that’s good for business and the bottom line.

 

 

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

TeamBuilding_Body.jpgBy Robert Lerose.

 

It's one thing for employees to do their jobs competently but without deep commitment. On the other hand, if you can spur them to reach beyond themselves, support one another, and feel a shared sense of achievement that benefits everyone, then you'll know how a cohesive team of workers can ignite and transform your business.

 

Xero, an on-demand global company that provides cloud-based accounting software, recommends these actions for growing and nurturing creative, success-driven teams.

 

1. Define your vision for the business

Share your goals for the business with your employees. When you let them in on your future plans, the kind of culture you want to create, and their role in what you want to achieve, they will feel included and begin to find ways to make your vision a reality.

 

2. Involve your employees from the start

Make your employees part of your business by giving them useful, responsible work from day one. Assign them projects that challenge their abilities and help them grow. Giving new hires a mentor will accelerate their progress. Praising employees for satisfactory results will build loyalty to each other and to your business.

 

TeamBuilding_PQ.jpg3. Designate their roles clearly

Let every employee know what they're responsible for—and what they're not—and hold them accountable. Spelling out their jobs in straightforward terms can keep things on track and reduce disagreements among employees about job functions. 

 

4. Set up team-building activities

Doing assigned work is certainly necessary, but allot some time for non-work related activities that foster relationships. It could be anything from outside group activities such as company softball games to more low-key events like serving soft drinks and snacks every Friday afternoon. Asking employees what kinds of activities they would like to do binds them more deeply to your business.

 

5. Show team members that you value them

Getting to know your employees one-on-one—such as finding out about their family life or hobbies—is a sure way to bond with them, as long as you respect their privacy and comply with the law. Find ways to help your employees grow and develop their skills. If you help them achieve their career goals, they will help you achieve your vision.

 

6. Give your team freedom

Once you set a goal, don't micro-manage your workers. Instead, state the goal, set the guidelines—then step back and let your team figure out how they will accomplish it. Show them that you trust their abilities, and they will work hard not to disappoint you.

 

Establishing an environment that respects and fosters team building can lead to faster, long-range success for your business.

 

 

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

Touchpoint

Hiring Seasonal Help

Posted by Touchpoint Nov 4, 2016
Retailers, restaurants, and other service businesses bring in up to 30 percent of their sales during the holidays, according to the National Retail Federation. Other businesses may experience a midyear surge or an unexpected sales boost from a new client or a merger.

 

To find quality employees that will help you make the most of a b usy season, think creatively and plan ahead. That means taking stock of the employees you have now—both full- and part-time—and determining where and when you’ll need additional help. Here are some of the items to start thinking a bout now, so you’re prepared when your busy season hits.

 

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Sources:
1: https://nrf.com/resources/consumer-data/holiday-headquarters
2: https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/90-percent-of-holiday-shoppers-still-have-lists-wrap
3: http://research.nrffoundation.com/Default.aspx?pg=9004#.V7txHlefREw
4: http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2014/ted_20141203.htm

 

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

By Erin O'Donnell.

 

SuccessionPlan_Body.jpg

More than six out of 10 small business owners have no succession plan in place. That means they don't know what's going to happen to their company when they are no longer running it, according to a recent survey of 500 small business owners by Securian Financial Services.

 

Succession planning for your business is just as important as having a will for your family. Without it, your company's future, assets, and legacy are at risk.

 

What happens when the founder retires, or is disabled or dies? Planning today for these situations will ensure that your partners, employees, clients, and other stakeholders are not left at loose ends.

 

We spoke with Larry Grypp, president of the University of Cincinnati’s Goering Center for Family and Private Business, about the importance of a succession plan and what it should include. Read below for his recommendations:

 

First steps

Grypp says founders should be planning for their exit from the beginning. "Most people have done some thinking about it, but very few have a really organized, comprehensive plan," Grypp says.

 

Ideally, business owners should have the plan in place two to 10 years before they want to exit, to achieve a good transition, Grypp says. According to the Securian study, 33 percent of owners planned to sell to a third party, 25 percent expect to close up shop, 20 percent plan to transfer to a family member, and 20 percent plan to sell to a partner or key employee.

 

Choosing a successor

Succession plans should address both company ownership and leadership: who will make decisions and carry on the firm's vision and strategy. Many, but not all, family businesses are still taken over by the founder's children, other next-generation relatives, or a trusted employee.

 

Grypp recommends that businesses find an objective facilitator. Someone without an emotional stake will be able to guide conversations such as how the purchase will be financed, what the terms of the buyout will be, and how to transition from one leader to another. This could be an attorney, a business specialist, or someone else in your industry that has made a successful transition.

 

SuccessionPlan_PQ.jpgThe facilitator can also help determine whether the chosen successor is ready and capable of taking the reins. "If the founder's retirement is dependent on that business doing well after they leave, they want to make sure that the next generation has the ability to run the company competently," Grypp says.

 

Selling the business

If there is no successor inside the family or company, a small business can position itself to sell to a strategic buyer. Look for a competitor who would find value in acquiring your company. Another option is finding an investor. But be wary of pursuing investment if your company is very small, or highly dependent on you as the face of the business or the main point of contact for customers. An investor probably won't want the difficult task of finding a new leader who can fill your shoes.

 

Alternatively, you can set up an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan), which gives your workers shares in the company trust. According to the National Center for Employee Ownership, ESOPs are often used to buy the departing owner's shares. According to the site,  "The company can make tax-deductible cash contributions to the ESOP to buy out an owner's shares, or it can have the ESOP borrow money to buy the shares."

 

Value your company correctly

It's critical to determine the true worth of your company, Grypp says. Bring in a valuation expert and work closely with your accountant to get an accurate financial picture to ensure a fair sale or buyout price.

 

Communicate the plan

Who should be the first to know? Will you hold meetings or issue a press release? Decide how and when you will tell family members, partners, employees, vendors, clients—and possibly legislators and regulators—about the plans for transitioning your company's ownership and leadership.

A succession plan should be a living document that is periodically reviewed to make sure it fits the company's current needs. Just like a personal will, a business succession plan should clearly define the owner's intentions for the future and leave nothing to chance.

 

 

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

 

Jon-Dowst.gifHiring the right talent to grow your small business is an ever-present challenge filled with nuances and complexities – whether you’re a zealous entrepreneur running a brand new start-up, or a well-established organization experiencing exponential growth.

 

Last week I was on a Google+ Hangout panel along with Stephanie Bevegni from LinkedIn and Steve Strauss from USA TODAY, for the latest installment in the Bank of America Small Business Social Series: “Strategies for Navigating the Small Business Hiring Process.” Carol Roth from CNBC moderated our lively discussion, and you can view the full video replay here. Below I’ve provided a recap of several strategies and tips we shared, to help you attract skilled and experienced candidates that have strong potential for making substantial contributions to your small business:

 

1. Know What You Are Looking For

One of the first and most important steps for you to take is to identify the criteria and background you are looking for in candidates. According to the spring 2016 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, nearly half of small business owners nationwide believe skill level is the most important factor when hiring a candidate. Twenty-four percent said the candidate’s fit with their company’s culture is the most important, and an additional 24 percent cited previous work experience. Only 3 percent rated educational background as the most important factor they consider when hiring a candidate. Take some time upfront to decide what specific factors and background will make a potential employee the right fit for your company, before you begin looking for candidates.

 

2. Screen Soft Skills and Do Your Homework on Potential Candidates

Once you’ve decided what you’re looking for – whether it’s a highly specialized skill set in computer programming, five years of experience managing a restaurant, or simply the right personality to greet clients and answer phones – it’s understandable that “soft skills” may not be top of mind when you’re hiring. Qualities such as leadership, collaboration, creativity and fit with company culture can be tough to screen for. One way to screen for soft skills is to ask behavioral questions during the interview such as “Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you have never done before. How did you react? What did you learn?” Alternatively, ask an unexpected question such as “What is your favorite book, and why?” These types of questions will tell you a lot about a candidate both as a person and as an employee, about how they think on their feet, and if they will fit with your company’s culture. It is also important for you to do your homework – call past employers, check out their profiles on social media, and follow-up on references to make sure your potential hire possesses the qualities and characteristics they say they do. By looking at a candidate’s past behavior, you can more easily determine what they will be like to work with.

 

3. Perks, Benefits and Culture Win Over Candidates

When speaking with small business owners, we often hear that they experience challenges attracting top employees due to competition from larger companies. However, according to results from a LinkedIn survey, 87 percent of professionals said they wanted to work at a company of 200 employees or less. To attract these professionals to your business, it is important to offer competitive wages and benefits and to have a culture that makes your company a great place to work. While these types of offerings are critically important to attract and retain top talent, they also cost money.  A “free” way to attract and retain top talent is to simply be a great boss; make your business a comfortable and fun place to work.  If you are concerned about how you can grow your business or offer competitive wages, reach out to your small business banker as a resource. Your banker is available to offer advice and solutions for effectively managing growth.

 

4. Understand the Implications of Employee Classifications

The spring 2016 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report found 22 percent of small business owners plan to hire more employees in the year ahead. It’s a mixed bag among the various employee classifications – part-time employees, full-time employees, freelancers or independent contractors. There are pros and cons to hiring different types of workers. A full-time employee will give you more of a commitment, but it is more expensive to hire them – you will pay workers compensation insurance, unemployment insurance and match social security payments, not to mention the benefits you should offer to attract top talent. Independent contractors are less expensive, but it’s important to understand that you are not their boss and they will have other clients besides you. Regardless of approach, make sure you are hiring to meet your business needs and that you understand the full tax and financial implications. Small business bankers, accountants, mentors and peers can offer advice to help navigate the pros and cons.

 

Want to learn more? Click here to watch the full video replay of the Bank of America Small Business Social Series’ Google+ Hangout on “Tips for Navigating the Small Business Hiring Process.” Once again I’d like to thank CNBC’s Carol Roth for moderating our panel, as well my fellow panelists Stephanie Bevegni (Small Business Content Lead at LinkedIn) and Steve Strauss (Senior Small Business Columnist at USA TODAY) for offering tips and strategies that we hope will help you find and hire top talent for your small business.

 

Similar Content


Managing a Year-Round Intern Program

Welcome Aboard: Smart strategies to bring on new employees

Can’t Afford Raises? Consider these 5 alternatives.

Video Discussion: Strategies for Navigating the Hiring Process

6 Low Cost Ways to Encourage Employees to Keep Learning

By Robert Lerose.

 

ManagingInterns_Body.jpg

Internships are no longer limited exclusively to the summer months. Today, businesses are recruiting interns throughout the year and seeing long-term benefits. For example, hardworking or talented interns can become a rich source of future employees for your business. One study found that 67.7 percent of interns in a given year received offers of fulltime employment. Interns are an effective form of labor that can boost your company's productivity and provide new, youthful viewpoints that can energize your business.

 

Internships.com, which runs an online marketplace for students and employers to find each other, has these suggestions for establishing and managing a year-round intern program.

 

1. Evaluate the needs and assets of your business

Before you put out the word that your business might be looking for interns, poll your internal departments to see the feasibility of bringing interns on board. Among the things to consider are the type of compensation you can afford; the number of interns you can realistically recruit; the type of work they will be assigned; and even whether you have the space or equipment to handle interns.

 

2. Look into the legal requirements

Compliance issues—such as a minimum wage, workers' compensation, safety and harassment enforcement—vary state by state. Check with your company's lawyers or a lawyer skilled in employment law to see about your responsibilities and obligations.

 

ManagingInterns_PQ.jpg3. Get the whole company on board

For your intern program to succeed, make sure you have the full support of key members of your team. Interns that are viewed as a threat, an unnecessary expense, or in some other negative light, will negate any benefit they can bring onboard. Giving your interns a welcoming work environment and the proper company resources can lead to rewarding results.

 

4. Map out a program

Once you have the buy-in of your management team, establish some concrete guidelines or answer book that your staff can turn to about critical issues. For example, you should have clearly stated policies about the types of projects that will be assigned, the daily responsibilities of interns, evaluation procedures, and the content of an orientation program for interns.

 

5. Pick your team and a start date

Select the supervisors who will manage the intern program and give them specific tasks and responsibilities for making it run smoothly on a daily basis. Once everything is in place, put the word out that your business is looking for interns. Internships.com recommends giving your company 7 to 10 weeks between the time an intern position is posted and when the intern will begin.

 

6. Interview and hire

Invite promising candidates for an interview. Follow up with background checks and investigate references. Treat this as any other type of fulltime hire. Include your supervisors in the decision-making process. After a candidate is selected and accepts, begin their orientation program and put them to work.

 

Having interns throughout the year can keep a steady stream of bright, industrious, and potential fulltime employees at your disposal, and bring fresh ideas to your business.

 

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

Onboarding_Body.jpg

For small business owners time is a precious commodity. Yet when it comes to helping a new employee get acclimated to their role and environment, it’s timewell spent. By planning ahead and allowing the newcomer to gradually adjust to their new position, you can reap long-term productivity and revenue gains.

 

A thought-out company introduction helps increase employee retention, improve productivity, and enhance morale. Leslie Lerude, a human resources consultant based in San Francisco, calls this process the “welcoming experience.”

 

“Statistics show that a successful welcoming experience leads to greater tenure with the company,” she says. “Employees build a stronger emotional connection to the company, which enhances their loyalty to the employee brand.”

 

Employee longevity makes good business sense. A study from Society for Human Resource Management estimates that it costs six to nine months’ of an employee’s salary to replace them. High turnover can also damage morale and productivity. “Employees can’t help but wonder why there’s so much turnover,” Lerude says. “It’s far better to be proactive and focus on welcoming than react to turnover.”

 

Onboarding_PQ.jpg

To ensure your company creates a positive, productive experience for bringing on new employees, keep the following practices in mind:

 

Prepare in advance

As soon as you hire a new employee, start preparing for her arrival. Lerude suggests that small business owners create a detailed welcoming checklist. Include everything from ordering business cards, organizing a workstation, and acquiring and setting up a computer and other necessary equipment. “It’s a financial and cultural loss when an employee shows up and nothing is set up for them,” says Lerude.

 

Focus on culture first

During the first week, let your new employee get acquainted with the people and surroundings. Give them a tour of the facility, schedule meetings with management, and treat them to lunch with the team. “A small business should culturally invest in candidates during their first week,” says Lerude. “Give them time to connect with the company’s mission, values, and people. The company will get a different level of productivity back in spades.”

 

The new hire’s direct manager should also discuss general work processes such as email and communication protocol. The manager should give the new hire the tools necessary to learn any proprietary software, scheduling tools, and internal communications platforms.

 

Assign an ambassador

A new employee can disrupt the existing team’s routine. Some staffers may not want to take time out of their day to train a new employee. Others need time to warm up to a new person. To ease tension among the team, Lerude suggests designating a “cultural ambassador.” Appoint the employee that enjoys helping and training others, or who simply wants to expand his role in the company. “Encourage and reward the person that wants to be part of the welcoming experience,” she says.

 

By investing extra time on the front end to fully acclimate new employees, you’ll gain a more productive, motivated team. “Don’t see welcoming as a policy,” Lerude says. “See it as a great practice.”

 

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

Hiring talent is an ever-present challenge filled with nuances and complexities – whether you’re running a brand new start-up seeking the best talent to grow your business, or you’re a well-established small business owner experiencing exponential growth. This Bank of America Small Business Social Series Hangout is a panel discussion on small business hiring, moderated by Carol Roth from CNBC. Join panelists Jon Dowst (Bank of America Small Business Executive), Stephanie Bevegni (LinkedIn Small Business Content Lead) and Steve Strauss (USA TODAY Business Columnist) as they guide you through tips and strategies for navigating the hiring process, helping you to attract skilled and experienced candidates that have the highest potential for making substantial contributions to your company.

 

Employee_Learning_Body.jpgBy Cathie Ericson.

 

Adapt to survive. That’s the mantra for today’s small business, and an important component is continuous learning. And while ongoing education helps strengthen your business, it can also be a key factor in employee retention. In fact, most employees, especially millennials, consider it an essential job component: A survey from EdAssist, a continuing education company, found that nearly 60 percent of respondents would choose a job offering regular professional development over one with regular pay raises.

But let’s face it; most small businesses don’t have a lot of cash to invest in expensive conferences or educational courses. Here are some ways you can incorporate continuous learning on a budget.

1. Institute regular stretch assignments

New employees are often energized by the learning curve when they come on board, but then begin to stagnate. Employers can help keep jobs fresh by offering a project that is one-third or more outside an employee’s expertise, so that they have to learn a new skill to complete it, advises Leigh Steere, co-founder of Managing People Better in Boulder, Colo. “Choose an assignment that relates to a pressing business issue so you both benefit,” she says. “The employee has a new experience and expands their thinking, and you glean a potential business solution.”

2. Customize the training

Generic training can cause most of your staff to tune out, says Bob Hewes, senior partner at Boston-based Camden Consulting Group. When you tailor learning to an individual and their existing level, you can ensure they are learning something new and relevant. For example, when training for presentation skills, take into account the experience of the group and hold one-on-one sessions that are customized to each person’s specific job function and current mastery.

Employee_Learning_PQ.jpg3. Extend conferences to those back in the office

It’s often not feasible to send a whole team to an industry event, even if most team members would benefit. Tasking participants with teaching the rest of the staff shares the wealth, and also ensures attendees are attentive at the sessions, knowing they have to present key ideas on their return, says Kean Graham, CEO of MonetizeMore, a virtual ad optimization firm.

4. Hold a book club

Choose a book that impacts your business, but also inspires your employees, suggests Austin, Texas-based business strategy consultant Joshua Schall. After the team has read the book, order in food and convene to discuss insights, and then reinforce them regularly in future meetings. Schall recently recommended The Lean Startup by Eric Ries to a client, who then successfully introduced a new product using the book’s concept of “build-measure-learn,” a departure from traditional consumer packaged goods ideologies.

5. Make it a regular event

Learning activities become a priority when you incorporate them into your employees’ weekly schedules, finds Rasheen Carbin, co-founder and CMO of nspHire.com, a job-posting site based in Oak Brook, Ill. He advocates using online learning sites such as Coursera, Udemy or Skillshare and also suggests his employees allocate 10 percent of their time to side projects sparked by what they are learning. “Send a message to your employees that improving their skill set is highly valued by allocating company time,” Carbin says.

6. Encourage chances for cross-pollination

Offer employees an hour or two to periodically shadow people in other functions says Stan Kimer, founder of Total Engagement Consulting, a career development and diversity management consultancy in Raleigh, N.C. For example, he suggests sending a customer service representative to shadow a salesperson to hear how the help desk support is framed in a sales call. “This will give the help desk person an appreciation for how important their role is in winning new clients, and possibly ignite their interest in a future sales role,” he says, adding that it also allows a small business to develop possible backfills in case key people depart.

 

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

Aflac

What employees really want

Posted by Aflac Jul 13, 2016

The Spice Girls once asked you to tell them what you want, what you really, really want. Fast-forward a few years and employees are following suit by telling their companies what they desire – and need – to be happy at work.

 

Some of their wish-to-haves are unusual: nap rooms, company-paid lunches and bring-your-pet-to-work days, for example. But when it comes down to it, they’re looking for the things employees have always yearned for, including more vacation days, better 401(k) matches and flexible work schedules (although the very optimistic would like to pay no health care premiums).1

 

Altogether these wants point to an underlying issue. After years of increasing premiums and copayments, many workers are tired of shelling out more and more of their hard-earned dollars for health care benefits. That’s really not surprising given that worker contributions for family coverage increased by 83 percent from 2005-2015.2

 

Since there’s no indication that premiums and deductibles will decline in cost anytime soon, wise employers are looking for ways to enhance their benefits plans in ways that provide value. One simple solution is the addition or expansion of voluntary insurance options. Because premiums are paid by employees who elect to enroll, these benefits can bulk up a company’s list of health care offerings at no direct cost to the company itself. And while the benefits aren’t free, employees can choose from an array of plans that may meet their families’ needs and budgets.

 

To learn more about voluntary insurance and what employees want, check out “Nap rooms, coffee bars and free lunches.”

 

 

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

1Mass Mutual Financial Group. “2015 Mass Mutual Generations@Work Study.” Accessed March 6, 2016. https://www.massmutual.com/~/media/files/2015-MM-Generations-at-Work-Study.pdf

2 Kaiser Foundation. “HRET Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Benefits, 2005-2015.” Accessed March 4, 2016. http://kff.org/report-section/ehbs-2015-summary-of-findings/ .

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.

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Employee_Wellness_Body.jpgBy Cathie Ericson.

 

From noon yoga breaks to kale smoothies in the breakroom, employee wellness is all the rage. And with good reason: According to the 2015 Strategic Benefits Survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, more than three-quarters of respondents rated their wellness initiatives as “somewhat effective" or “very effective” in reducing health care costs. 

 

“Promoting wellness in the workplace is vital for an employee’s health and overall satisfaction. Most employees are looking for ways to feel better during the day so they don't leave work and return home feeling exhausted and depleted,” says Katie Bressack, a Los Angeles-based nutrition and wellness coach who creates corporate wellness programs.

 

Of course, not every small company has the resources to reimburse gym memberships or hire on-site masseuses. Here are four low- to no-cost ways that small businesses can encourage employee wellness.

 

Upgrade your snacks

You might not be able to host a full salad bar or made-to-order sushi lunches, but you can make sure that the food you do offer is healthy. Replace the traditional Monday morning meeting muffins with a fruit plate or make your happy hour “healthy hour” with hummus and veggies. If you have a vending machine, ask your supplier to add in healthier fare, such as nuts, granola or baked snacks, suggests Bressack.

 

Employee_Wellness_PQ.jpgLeave for lunch

Ditch the sad desk lunch, consumed while you’re on a conference call or triaging emails. “When you encourage employees to leave the office during their break, they’ll return with improved energy and focus to be more productive,” Bressack says. Suggest they take a walk, soak up some sun, or even run an errand to cross something off their to-do list and lighten their after-work load. One study found that lunchtime walks improved mood and decreased stress, a major contributor to poor health.

 

Just move

Have you heard that sitting is the new smoking? Studies have found that being sedentary can lead to an increased risk of a host of conditions, from Type 2 diabetes to cancer and heart disease. Sure, you could invest in standing desks, but you’ll get the same benefit for free when you hold standing meetings or encourage your employees to actually leave their desks and visit their coworkers rather than communicating via a messaging app or email. Hit with a mid-afternoon slump? “A stand-and-stretch break will give everyone a little more energy to make it to the end of the day,” says Bressack, without relying on a caffeine or sugar fix.

 

Host a healthy challenge

Sign up for a 5K as a group or have everyone track their steps for a month. You don’t even need a pricey pedometer since most smartphones have a step-tracking app. Bressack recommends her clients ask a local yoga studio or gym if they will donate free passes as prizes. Sometimes “carrots” in the form of incentives are just as important to a successful wellness program as the orange kind.

 

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

StudentDebt_Body.jpgBy Cathie Ericson.

 

Health insurance. Vacation. A 401(k) program. Student loan debt repayment. Wait, what? Believe it or not, student debt repayment programs are increasingly a benefit offered by some larger companies.

 

When you consider that the class of 2015 graduated with an average of $35,000 in student debt, it’s clear that younger employees are increasingly bowing under the crushing weight of student loans. In fact, The Department of Education has reported that approximately $1 billion in loans has been collected in each of the past few years through wage garnishment, a 40 percent increase from 2006. Given that recent graduates often start their careers at smaller firms, the potential collection burden to small businesses is significant.

 

Here are some ways that small business owners can help them with their burden, while earning the continued loyalty of these valued younger employees.

 

Consider offering assistance as a benefit

Seem like something only a larger company can offer? Not if you swap it out for another benefit. Consider that a study from Student Loan Hero, a website that helps borrowers tackle their student loan debt, found that nearly half of the workers it surveyed would prefer student loan repayment assistance to a 401(k) retirement plan match. Student Loan Hero took the results to heart; it offers a three percent match of an employee’s salary and allows each to choose if they’d like it to go toward student loans or a retirement plan.

 

Another small business having success with a student loan repayment option is Little Newtons Early Childhood Education Centers in Minneapolis. Owner Alise McGregor finds it’s a way to build loyalty among her younger workers, which helps keep her clients happy, since these younger workers are caring for their children all day. “Children benefit from consistent caregivers, so it’s important to us to invest in our team," she says.

 

StudentDebt_PQ.jpgAdvance money to allow employees to pay off their student loans early

AJ Saleem, director of Houston-based Suprex Learning, a private tutoring and test prep company, employs this unusual tactic to help his employees minimize interest fees. As a recent graduate who was able to pay off his loan thanks to family assistance, he started the program to help those who lack similar support. About two-thirds of his workforce is comprised of college graduates with student loans to pay off. Loans for part-time workers average around $1,500 a year; full-time employee loans are around $3,500 per year. “I intend for this loan to be a long-term benefit, so I allow them to delay paying me back until either they resign or they finish paying off their loans,” he says. Of course, if they leave they have to pay him back immediately, a condition they agree to prior to taking the loan. “I find their hard work and subsequent loyalty more than make up for the interest-free loan I’ve provided,” he says.

 

Teach them money management skills

As the owner of boutique consulting firm CDJ & Associates in Southfield, Mich., and the mom of five millennials herself, Camille Jamerson understands the need to help this group with money skills. One of the programs she offers her employees is a series of workshops on personal finance to help them with basic money skills many have never learned. She also developed a “Biggest Loser” contest that had participants compete to see who could pay down the largest percentage of their debt, given specific parameters. “These programs have been cost effective and have helped tremendously in garnering millennial loyalty,” she says.

 

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


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


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