employee engagement

This One Thing Can Drive Employee Engagement with Their Benefits

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

Education is a vital if oft-overlooked, portion of any outstanding employee benefits package. Employers may not understand its importance, but education can make a world of difference in the engagement in and effectiveness of, your employee benefits plan.

Per BenefitsPro, many large employers report year-long engagement rates among employees and their benefits plan to be less than 10 percent. One of the biggest reasons for this lack of engagement is that employees are having a hard time understanding how their benefits work.

In 2017, only 52 percent of employees claimed to understand their health benefits. In other words, your employees aren’t educated enough about their benefits plan. Similarly, a Maestro Health survey found 62 percent of employees say their employee doesn’t act as a resource for healthcare-related questions. This lack of education pushes your staff to avoid taking full advantage of their benefits.

book shelves

To get the best bang for your benefits buck, you need to educate your employees. This article will detail the effects of benefits education on both employees and employers. Additionally, we’ll tell you how education can boost employee engagement and the steps you can take to build a benefits education program of your own.


Effects of Benefits Education on Employees

Poor benefits engagement can have a significant adverse impact on your employees. Luckily, education helps your employees by assisting them to understand their benefits better, which allows employees to engage in their benefits and use them more efficiently. Plus, as employees are educated, and better comprehend their benefits better, they’ll begin to engage with their benefits plan more often.

Similarly, education can help team members understand the cost of their benefits. Once employees understand the costs of their plans, they can become smarter healthcare consumers. According to a study by HealthMine, 70 percent of healthcare consumers don’t do any type of price shopping.

benefits education

And, 25 percent of these consumers say they don’t price shop because they either don’t know how or find it too difficult or time-consuming. But benefits education can demonstrate the importance of price comparison shopping for healthcare and remove some of these anxieties surrounding healthcare that keep members from maximizing the effectiveness of their benefits.

Also, the better your company-wide benefits engagement, the healthier your employees tend to be. Per BenefitsPro, organizations with high benefits enrollment are shown to have healthier employees.


Effects of Benefits Education on Employers

As previously mentioned, the more engaged your employees are in their benefits, the healthier these individuals are. The healthier your employees are, the more engaged and productive they are, which has a significant impact on the success of your company. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lost productivity costs U.S. businesses as much as $225.8 billion annually.

Plus, when your staff becomes healthier, your firm pays less in healthcare coverage for employees. And, per Zanebenefits, employers now pay an average of $5,179 annually for single employee health coverage and $12,591 for family coverage. These costs, when multiplied by your eligible employees, can become exorbitant.

Poor benefits engagement can also lead to increased financial stress on your staff’s behalf. According to the Financial Fitness Group, over 80 percent of employees have been affected by financial stress. And this financial stress costs U.S. firms close to $300 billion a year in unscheduled absenteeism, reduced employee productivity and higher employee turnover.

financial stress

A significant factor in financial stress in this country is healthcare. Today, Americans spend more money on healthcare than any other developed country. And, per a report from the Kauffman Family Foundation, more than a quarter of Americans say someone in their household is struggling to pay medical debt.

As you educate your employees about their benefits, they become more engaged with their plans and can become better healthcare consumers. The better your staff understands their benefits program, and engages with the healthcare system, the less likely they are to incur unnecessary, or unreasonable medical expenses.


How Education Can Improve Employee Engagement

Research by Unum has demonstrated the importance of education on your employees’ engagement with their benefits plan. According to the study, there’s a strong, positive connection between the quality of benefits education an employee receives and their perception of their employee benefits package.

Not only do these employees value their benefits plan more, but they also have a more positive perception of their workplace as a whole. Unum’s research also detailed employees who believe their benefits were effectively communicated are more likely to show higher levels of engagement, morale, and loyalty.


Steps to Build a Benefits Education Program

1. Mobile Onboarding/Enrollment

People are using mobile devices now, more than ever before. Global mobile traffic now accounts for 52 percent of all Internet traffic. In the U.S. over 70 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic was through a mobile device. Your company should use this mobile technology for benefits enrollment, and employee onboarding.

social media strategy

Mobile technology lets your employees access their benefits program, and review plan information on their time. So, if you want your workers to engage with their employee benefits, it’s vital you utilize benefits enrollment technology in your workplace.


2. Detail and Outline Voluntary Options

Voluntary employee benefits are crucial in filling potential gaps in health insurance and protecting your employees and their beneficiaries. Also, these voluntary benefits improve recruiting and retention and can enhance your employee’s well-being. Make sure your employees understand what each voluntary option is, and how they can aid your workers and their families.


3. Use Multiple Methods of Communication

Forms of communication for benefits education are like Lays potato chips. You can’t have just one. Leverage different forms of communication to account for differences in individual learning style or familiarity with healthcare terms and preferences, among your employees.

Email, company intranet, face-to-face meetings, social media, and videos are all different forms of communication your company should consider. The more points of contact your business uses, the more likely your employees are to see and comprehend the information they need. Make sure you use different types of communication for different intended audiences to maximize the effectiveness of your communication.


4. Ask Questions/ Know Your Employees

Your HR department, or benefits consultant, must ask questions not merely answer them. Different employees require different benefits, and it’s your job as an organization to make sure all your staffs’ needs are met. And, the only way to meet these needs, is to know precisely what they are.

two men talking

To understand your employees’ needs, you must first get to know them. What are their concerns, interests, and demographics? If you want to build a benefits program tailored for your employees, you must first answer these basic questions.


5. Utilize Gamification

Employees often believe benefits are too complex or tedious to understand fully. So, as an employer what do you do to simplify these concepts and get employees to pay attention? One of the best ways to grab employee’s attention while also educating them is through gamification.

Providing your staff with gamified incentives to learn about their benefits options can spark true engagement between your employees and their benefits. Gamifying your benefits communications can attract interest in topics that would otherwise seem to be confusing to engage with.


6. Educate Year-Round

Your company should share benefits communications year-round, not just around the time of open enrollment, to increase benefits engagement. And this year-round education should include both those enrolled in benefits and those who haven’t. Many individuals choose not to enroll in a benefit due to a lack of knowledge surrounding a particular product.

For example, BenefitsPro, 68 percent of those without HSAs said that knowing more would make them more likely to sign up. Communicate educational materials to all your employees, on a year-round basis to boost the positive effects of benefits education.


7. Invest in Education

One of the more obvious, yet vital, strategies your company can use to improve employee education is to invest in your educational plan. Your firm needs to spend a proper amount of time, money, and focus on educating staff on their employee benefits.

Marketing materials, benefits enrollment meetings, and time with employee benefits advisors can all be costly regarding both time and money. Still, your business has to be comfortable investing this money if you want the maximum, positive return from your employee benefits plan.


The Wrap

Staff engagement with their employee benefits is imperative for a thriving and prosperous benefits program. And, through education, you can inform and empower your employees to fully engage in their benefits. Consequently, the more engaged your employees are with their benefits, the more likely they are to be satisfied with both their benefits and employer writ large.

standard mileage rate

New Standard Mileage Rate and Other Reimbursement Changes You Need to Know

Every year millions of Americans use their personal vehicles to travel for business purposes. There are a variety of reasons employees use personal vehicles for business. Whether it’s to make a sales call or pick-up office supplies, these trips are vital to your organization’s operations. Keep reading to learn the new standard mileage rate and everything else you need to know regarding employee vehicle use for 2019.


New Standard Mileage Rate

In late December 2018, the IRS announced an increase in the standard rate employers should use to calculate deductible expenses for operating company cars and trucks in 2019, through Notice 2019-02. Businesses can use this standard rate, called the safe harbor rate, to pay tax-free reimbursements to employees who use their own vehicles for business.

For 2019, standard mileage rates for the use of cars, vans, pickups, or panel trucks is:

  • 58 cents per mile driven for business use (Up from 54.5 cents in 2018)
  • 20 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes (Up from 18 cents last year)
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations (Unchanged from 2018)

Additionally, Notice 2019-02 increased the portion of the standard mileage rate that is treated as depreciation for cars a taxpayer uses for business. The new part of the rate treated as depreciation is 26 cents per mile for 2019. This rate marks an increase from 25 cents per mile in 2018.

It’s vital that any business owner or manager knows these new reimbursement rates. Under-reimbursement may upset, annoy, or anger your staff. And these under-reimbursements may result in actual lawsuits.


Other Reimbursement Methods

It’s important to note organizations can choose to calculate the actual costs of using vehicles rather than using the standard mileage rate. Notice 2019-02 established the method employers can use to calculate these actual costs, called the Fixed and Variable Rate (FAVR) allowance plan.

cars and a sunset

Through a FAVR plan, employees who use their own vehicles can receive tax-free reimbursements from their employers for fixed and variable vehicle expenses. Examples of fixed costs include insurance, taxes, and registration fees. Examples of variable expenses include fuel, tires, and routine maintenance and repairs.

Under a FAVR plan, the cost of an employee’s vehicle may not exceed the maximum amount, which is set by the IRS every year. For 2019, vehicle costs may not exceed $54,000 for automobiles, trucks, and vans. This total is an increase from 2018 when expenses were capped at $27,000 for automobiles and $31,000 for trucks and vans.

The FAVR allowance plan, in locations with higher automobile operating costs, may be more than the standard mileage rate. Still, employers must weigh this potential advantage against the fact that employers must recalculate the FAVR allowance at least once every month. Because payments to employees, under a FAVR plan, must be made at least quarterly.

There is one other method for organizations to compensate employees for using personal vehicles for business. Employers can use a flat car allowance, a set amount provided to employees over a given period, to cover the business-driving expenses of their staff.

Flat car allowances make reimbursements simple to administer. Still, these payments are taxable to employees unless handled within an “accountable plan.” These plans require substantiation and the return of excess amounts in a reasonable time.


No Personal Deductions

The reach of last year’s tax reform formally called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), extended beyond creating a new set of tax brackets. According to the TCJA, “taxpayers can no longer claim a miscellaneous itemized deduction for unreimbursed employee travel expenses.”

stop sign

In the past, employees who weren’t reimbursed for business driving costs could deduct these expenses from their taxable income. Employees could deduct these costs along with other work-related unreimbursed expenses. But, it’s important to know these expenses have to total more than 2 percent of the individual’s gross income.

Essentially, employees who logged significant mileage on their vehicles but didn’t get reimbursed by their employer could potentially get a deduction for said mileage expenses on their personal taxes.


The Wrap

So, which reimbursement method should your business use? Well, as with most answers, it depends. For low-mileage drivers, a flat car allowance or the standard mileage rate is likely the best course of action. A FAVR allowance plan, on the other hand, works better for higher-mileage drivers. These plans allow you to more accurately and fairly reimburse staff for the exact cost of their work-related driving.

employee value proposition

Which Benefits Impact Your Employee Value Proposition the Most?

There are a seemingly countless number of factors to consider when looking for a job. But, there are a couple of questions every person must ask themselves when considering a job opportunity. Per TalentLyft, candidates need to ask, Why should I work for your company instead of somewhere else? And, what’s in it for me?

The answers to these questions make up your organization’s employee value proposition. In this article, we’ll define an employee value proposition, which employee benefits impact it the most, and how an improved employee value proposition improves your business.


What is an Employee Value Proposition?

An employee value proposition (EVP) is a set of values an employer offers to your employees and job candidates. In addition to acting as a recruiting tool, an EVP can be used to engage and retain your staff. Your firm’s employee value proposition is meant to define your company and how it’s different from your competition.


Which Benefits Matter the Most?

According to Mercer’s Global Talent Trends Report, 9 in 10 C-Suite executives said they expect talent competition to increase in the upcoming years. With this rise in the talent competition, it will become more imperative for organizations to utilize their employee benefits to attract and retain top-quality candidates in your field.

employees working on computers

But which benefits specifically are the most important when building your employee value proposition? The two employee benefits that impact your EVP the most, according to a recent study by Mercer are career development and meaningful work.


Career Development

Earlier this year a WorldatWork study found the most significant increase in total rewards during the next 3 to 5 years will be in career development. Employees no longer want to use their own time and money for career development. They expect their employer to help them achieve their personal and professional developmental goals.

Last year, the Employee Experience Index uncovered what practices are vital for an employer to create an enticing workplace experience. Feedback, recognition, and growth (all part of development) were rated the number three most crucial part of the employee experience.

Also, employees want growth and development opportunities in real-time. They desire these opportunities as performance occurs rather than through a formal or infrequent process. To accomplish greater employee growth, your firm needs to focus on forming a culture of continuous development.


Read more about the benefits career development can bring to your organization.


Meaningful Work

Meaningful work, per the Employee Experience Index, is the single greatest contributor to a positive employee experience at work. Twenty-seven percent of respondents chose meaningful work as the most crucial practice for an attractive workplace experience.

employee writing

Most humans have a natural desire to search for meaning in their job or lives. As an employer, you can’t bring purpose to your staff’s personal lives, but you can describe the meaning behind their work. And detailing the “why” behind your work improves your employees’ performance.

When employer and employee values are aligned, your business benefits. According to Globoforce, employees who clearly understand company values exhibit 17 times more engagement. Like career development, your company must imbibe meaning in every part of your organizational culture.


Read more about the importance of meaningful work.


Why do These Benefits Matter?

Clearly, your staff desires both development opportunities and meaningful work. But, what do these benefits do to improve your organization as a whole? Well, meaningful work helps engage employees, which translates to increased productivity.

According to the Harvard Business Review, workers who create meaning in their work tend to work harder, more creatively, and with more tenacity. Those who find meaningful work are:

– Three times more likely to stay with their organization

– Four times more engaged at work

– Seven times more likely to experience higher job satisfaction

Each of these numbers demonstrate the impact of meaningful work on an employer’s bottom line. When employees experience meaning at work, their employers enjoy higher rates of client commitment and investor interest.

Career development offers similar potential boosts to your business as meaningful work. Investing in the development of your staff improves loyalty and engagement. When an employer invests in the development of their employees, it helps align employee and employer goals.

This alignment helps to grow relationships within your organization and foster employee loyalty and job satisfaction. Multiple studies have demonstrated the tangible, positive impact development benefits such as mentorship can have on your business.

A 2013 survey by MicroMentor, found mentored businesses increased their revenue by 83 percent while non-mentored companies increased their revenue by only 16 percent. Similarly, information from MentorCloud reports mentoring can increase managerial productivity by 88 percent when managers are involved in a corporate mentorship program. This number is a significantly higher percentage than the 24 percent increase for managers given training but no mentorship.


The Wrap

When looking to improve your company’s recruitment and retention, you must first look to develop your employee value proposition. Ensure this development through building career development and meaningful work for your employees.

what is a health savings account

What is a Health Savings Account and How Can it Benefit Your Staff?

2003 was a strange time for the United States. It was a year that gave us a lot of sad news: the invasion of Iraq, the deaths of Gregory Peck and Johnny Cash, and the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia. But, 2003 gave us a lot of happy news too. Beyoncé released her first solo album, the Chappelle’s Show premiered, and SARS was declared officially contained by the World Health Organization.

Also, in December 2003, the U.S. government established health savings accounts (HSAs) through federal law. The creation of HSAs would go on to change America’s healthcare landscape. In this article, we’ll answer the questions of what is a health savings account, what advantages do they offer employees, and how can they improve your business.


What is a Health Savings Account?

A health savings account is a savings account that can be used to cover eligible medical expenses in the current year or in the future. Unlike Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), HSAs have no deadlines and funds roll over annually. There are four federal requirements an individual must meet to be eligible for an HSA:

  1. The individual must be covered by a qualified high-deductible health plan. (A high-deductible health plan is a health insurance plan with lower monthly insurance premiums and higher deductibles than the traditional health plan.)
  2. The HSA enrollee cannot be covered by another health insurance plan, such as a spouse’s plan.
  3. The individual must be under the age of 65.
  4. The HSA enrollee cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s federal income tax return.


What Advantages Does an HSA offer?

1. Triple Tax Advantages

The first, and arguably greatest advantage of HSAs are the triple tax benefits these accounts offer. A triple tax advantage means:

1. Contributions to HSAs aren’t taxed.

2. The balance grows tax-free.

3. The funds are available for tax-free withdrawals if used to pay for eligible healthcare expenses.

Unlike traditional retirement savings vehicles, employees can withdraw money from an HSA at any time between today and their retirement with no tax deductions, provided the funds are used to pay for healthcare.

triple taxes


2. Portability

The second advantage of health savings accounts is their portability. Unlike FSAs, HSAs are portable.  Being portable means the accounts travel with you even if you change employers or exit the job market permanently. This portability means employees don’t have to worry about investing in an HSA and losing it all if they have to change jobs.


3. Savvier Healthcare Consumers

Utilizing a health savings account helps your employees become savvier healthcare consumers. According to a 2018 study by Alegeus HSA, employees with HSAs are smarter and more engaged in healthcare decision-making than their peers.

Health savings account holders are 54 percent more confident in forecasting out-of-pocket healthcare costs. They are 46 percent more likely to research and compare costs. Additionally, they’re 37 percent more likely to seek alternatives. Plus HSA holders are 68 percent more likely to have a savings goal. Finally, HSA users are 80 percent more likely to be saving aggressively for their future healthcare savings.


4. Improves Financial Wellness

In 2017, one in five working-age Americans with insurance experienced problems paying medical bills. So, even with coverage, healthcare is expensive for a large portion of the country. And, every year employers are placing more and more of the cost burden on the individual consumer. This cost shift only increases the chances of medical expenses negatively affecting your workforce.

Per BenefitsPro, employees who reported some level of financial stress, find an average of 45 minutes a day at work managing their finances. Similarly, according to a 2017 Mercer survey, employers are losing up to $250 billion a year due to employees’ stress about their finances.

Mercer found approximately 5 percent of an organization’s total payroll is at risk, at any given time, from time unproductively spend worrying. But, through health savings accounts, your staff can guard against financial stress caused by excessive medical costs.


5. Healthier Employees

Utilizing an HSA can help your staff stay healthier throughout the year. First, having money saved in your HSA allows employees to seek treatment right away instead of delaying a doctor’s visit until they can afford it. Second, HSAs can decrease financial stress, which in turn improves physical health.

As previously discussed, financial stress can have a tremendous, negative impact on productivity, but also has a significant adverse effect on an individual’s physical health. According to a study by Northwestern Mutual, of the 85 percent of Americans who feel financial anxiety, 67 percent say this stress is negatively impacting their health.

Additionally, per the European Society of Cardiology, those with significant financial stress are 13 times more likely to suffer from a heart attack. So, if an HSA can help to relieve financial stress, these accounts can subsequently reduce the impact of this stress on your employees’ physical health.


Building Your Business

As you can see, via the previous section of this article, there is a multitude of ways HSAs can positively impact the lives of your employees. The cumulative effect of this positive impact helps give a boost to your business, overall.

First, the savvier your employees are as healthcare consumers, the more they can save your firm. Integrated Benefits Institute, a health research group recently reported U.S. employers spend a total of $880 billion a year on healthcare benefits for their workers and dependents. Every time an employee picks the lowest cost facility for treatment or a procedure, your company saves.

Similarly, healthier employees can save your company thousands to millions of dollars. Poor worker health costs U.S. employers $530 billion a year from lost productivity due to worker absence and impaired performance. Healthy employees can help reduce this strain on productivity caused by poor worker health.

Finally, the more financially well your staff is, the less stressed they are. An HSA can allow your employees to focus more on their job and less on their financial woes. And, the more engaged your staff is, the more productive they tend to be.


The Wrap

The year 2003 gave us a lot of good and a lot of bad. But health savings accounts are a clear positive for both employers and employees. Use this article to tell your employee what a health savings account is. Also, how it can help them, and your business as a whole.

civic time off

Why Civic Time Off is Good for Business and the Country

Voting in America is more than just something, “you should do.” In the U.S., voting is widely considered an individual’s civic duty. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t vote, especially in mid-term elections like the one yesterday. According to research by Vote.org, around 60 percent of Americans didn’t vote in the last midterm election.

That’s because many Americans must choose between work and family, or voting. Most U.S. households can’t sacrifice a day’s wage, or a day of childcare, just to vote. Voting statistics bear this fact out. Voter turnout, per The Pew Research Center, is directly correlated to annual household income.

According to a 2014 study, 51 percent of households making $100,000 or more a year voted, while only 38 percent of those earning $50,000 or less turned out. Additionally, these turnout percentages drop even further as income decreases.

But, employers can have a hand in changing these numbers. In this article, we’ll tell you what employee benefit employers can use to get their staff to vote and how it can help improve your business overall.


What is Civic Time Off?

Civic time off (CTO) is a form of paid time off which allows employees to engage in a variety of civic activities and duties. Employees can use CTO to vote, volunteer for a candidate, attend a school board meeting, or canvass. Employers typically use a full, half-day, or flexible scheduling to give their employees civic time off.

woman draped in a flag


Why Do Employees Need Civic Time Off?

Civic time off is significant for employees because there is no federal protection for employees taking leave to vote. Some states have voting day protections for employees, but they vary on a state-by-state basis. You can see a list of each state’s voter protection laws, here.

So, unless your company gives it, most employees don’t have the time or access to vote. Granting your staff this access allows your business to be politically conscious without taking a political stance. Through civic time off, your company can support your employee’s beliefs without having to choose a political “side.”


What Are the Benefits of Civic Time Off?

Civic time off helps more people vote. But, civic time off also benefits your business overall. Your employees care about the world outside of your office and strive for a greater work-life balance, especially millennials. This younger generation has demonstrated a propensity for civic engagement.

voting day sign

And, as more millennials enter the workforce, the importance of issues such as voting will only grow for your employees. Civic time off gives your company the opportunity to align its values with your workforce. Aligning employer and employee values makes your staff more engaged.

Similarly, civic time off promotes the idea of employee development. Employers should encourage employee development both inside and outside the office. And, civic time off is a tremendous way for your staff to get involved in civic activities and grow as empowered citizens.

Helping develop your staff as fully-rounded citizens is a tremendous tactic for improving employee job satisfaction. Of course, the more satisfied your employees are the more productive your business becomes.


The Wrap

Whatever your political beliefs almost every American can agree it’s our civic duty to vote. Employers can use this civic time off to ensure their employees are fulfilling this duty on election day without the unnecessary stress of having to plan around their other responsibilities in life.

great boss

Why a Great Boss is the Most Underrated Employee Benefit

When you think of the best employee benefits, what do you picture? Is it health insurance, paid time off, or maybe flexible work arrangements?  One thing you’re likely not imagining is your boss. Even if you’re one of the lucky few with a great boss, most people don’t consider their supervisor a benefit.

But those with a poor supervisor understand just how important a great boss is to positive workplace culture. A bad boss can cause employee stress, decrease employee retention, and impair productivity. In this article, we’ll detail the effects of a bad supervisor on an organization, signs of a subpar manager, and why you should promote your great bosses more.


Effects of a Bad Boss

1. Less Engagement

There are several notable adverse effects a bad supervisor can have on your business. The first adverse effect a bad boss has on your organization is a decrease in employee engagement. According to Gallup’s State of the American Manager report, managers account for at least 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement scores.

This statistic demonstrates how your managers are likely the reason for any specific employee being engaged or not. A bad boss can have the same amount of adverse effect, as a good boss can have a positive one.


2. Lower Retention Rates

The next result of a bad boss is lower employee retention. According to Gallup’s study, one in two employees have left a good job to get away from a bad manager, supervisor, or overall negative work environment. Similarly, a survey by Randstad found 60 percent of respondents said they’ve left jobs or would consider leaving because they don’t like their supervisors.

employee retention

A bad boss is one surefire way to push employees out the door. Even if you fairly compensate your employees, and offer a sound benefits plan, a poor supervisor trumps all.


3. Poor Health

Finally, a bad boss can have an adverse effect on your employees’ health. Per Science Daily, bosses who display psychopathic or narcissistic traits have a significant adverse impact on your staff. People who work for these kinds of bosses feel more depressed and are more likely to engage in undesirable behaviors at work.

According to three different studies, those who work for supervisors who displayed these traits had lower job satisfaction and scored higher on a clinical measure of depression. Similarly, other studies have shown a bad boss raises a worker’s chance of having a heart attack by as much as 60 percent.

blood pressure

Because subpar bosses cause their employees so much stress, it does actual harm to your employees’ physical health. Researchers have found working for a bad boss was more of a risk factor for heart disease than smoking, lack of exercise, or being overweight.

So, having a bad supervisor is a double-whammy for your staff. Employees feel miserable while at work then that misery follows them home which compounds their stress and negatively affects their well-being.



1. Promote/Hire the Right People

There are three significant actions your company can take to avoid the copious amount of adverse effects from a bad boss. The first action your firm should take is to promote the right people to leadership positions. According to Gallup research, only about one in 10 people possess natural talent to manage.

women meeting

And, most of the time, that one person isn’t the one who’s promoted or hired as a boss. The two main reasons people are usually promoted to management have nothing to do with excellent management ability: tenure and mastery of a previous, non-managerial role.

Competent people management is its own skill set. For most people who stood out in a previous role often, the transition to a managerial role can be rough. So, get your organization to focus on promoting individuals based on their leadership ability and management skills, rather than their mastery of non-managerial skills.


2. Recognize the Signs

The second action your firm should take is to recognize the signs of a bad boss. You can’t promote or hire quality leaders with 100 percent accuracy. But, you can train your leadership team to recognize the signs of a poor manager. The quicker you recognize poor management practices, the quicker you can repair the situation.

stop sign

A 2017 study by Bamboo HR found the top signs of a bad boss. These signs include:

  • Take credit for stuff they didn’t do
  • Don’t appear to trust or empower their employees
  • Don’t seem to care if their people are overworked
  • Hire and/or promote the wrong people
  • Don’t provide proper direction on assignments/roles
  • Micromanage employees and don’t allow them “freedom to work”
  • Focus more on employee weaknesses than strengths
  • Don’t set clear expectations

Your leadership team must know and recognize these signs when they see them. According to a Rand poll, one-fifth of Americans find their workplace hostile or threatening. Your workplace will become more welcoming and less intimidating, the better your organization is at recognizing the signs of a bad manager.


3. Advertise

The final action your company should take is to advertise your good supervisors as a benefit. While most people may not think of a great boss as an employee benefit, research says it is. One study found 56 percent of employees would turn down a 10 percent raise to stay with a great boss.

A quality manager is a real benefit that boosts employee attraction, engagement, and retention. Publicize your great bosses as a part of your employee value proposition and make sure candidates understand the real benefits they’ll gain from working with a talented manager.

The intangible benefits and positive day-to-day experiences associated with a quality supervisor are invaluable to your employees’ engagement and retention. As previously discussed, most employees will switch jobs, even if it means making less money, to get away from a bad boss. So, it’s your organization’s job to promote your managers as the significant employee benefit they are.


The Wrap

A bad boss, more than any other one thing, can destroy your employees’ engagement and morale. And unhappy employees are less productive which makes your company less profitable overall. Having a great boss is the most important employee benefit you don’t think about.

pets in the workplace

How to Create a Fair and Effective Policy for Pets in the Workplace

Look around your office or workplace. More than two of every three people you work with own a pet. According to the 2017-18 National Pet Owners Survey, approximately 68 percent of U.S. households own at least one pet. And, these pet owners spent a combined $69.51 billion on their pets in 2017, up almost $3 billion from the previous year.

Not only do people own more pets, but more people also consider their pets family members.  In a 2015 Harris Poll, 95 percent of pet owners said they consider their pets to be a part of their family. So, people are owning more pets, spending more money on them, and believe them a part of the family.

Whether you know it or not, pet ownership is likely affecting your company. As a result, your company needs a clear and effective, written policy detailing your organization’s relationship with pets. Below we’ll go through four pet-friendly benefits, then detail how our furry friends can positively affect your business.


1. Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is medical insurance, for pets. Simple enough, right? If your pet has an accident, illness, or injury and needs veterinary care, pet insurance helps cover some or all the costs of treatment. It’s important to note that, most pet insurance policies don’t include coverage for routine care and exams.

But pet insurance, like other forms of insurance, is becoming more customizable. Pet owners can now choose between different deductibles, co-pays, and annual maximums that best fit their, and their pet’s, needs. Similarly, pet owners can choose between plans that cover accident and illness, and accident-only.

pets at work

Premiums typically cost between $10 to $100 a month. Premiums for dogs generally are more expensive than those for cats. The average cost of coverage for dog’s ranges from $30-$150 a month. Conversely, coverage for cats is usually between $10 and $50 a month.

There are a few fundamental differences between insurance for man and man’s best friend. The first difference is a clear majority of pet insurance plans don’t have an in-network provider. Because of this lack of network, pet owners can choose any veterinarian they want, or what’s closest, without having to worry about paying an out-of-network charge.

The second key difference is a majority of pet insurance policies rely on a system of reimbursement. This system means pet owners will still have to save cash for costly procedures, even if their pet is covered.

After paying for treatment, the pet owner files a claim and is reimbursed after that claim is approved. So, pet owners with pet insurance will still need to save money in case their furry friends experience a medical emergency.

Learn more about the benefits of pet insurance.


2. Pet Bereavement Leave

Pet bereavement leave is paid time off for an employee to mourn the death of their pet. Most employers, who provide pet bereavement leave, give between one and three days of paid leave for pet bereavement. This leave is designed to support employees through their loss without forcing them to use PTO, call in sick, or use unpaid leave.

dog in sweater

As previously mentioned, most pet owners consider their pets a member of their family. The closer your employees are to their pets, the more these animal’s deaths can impact them. Professor Sandra Barker, director of the Centre for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University, has done extensive research on this subject.

According to Barker, this research has shown that “Losing a beloved pet is certainly a significant loss,” she says. When a pet dies is lost or stolen, many of us feel a deep sense of loss and our lives suddenly seem turned upside down.”

Read more on pet bereavement leave.


3. Pawternity Leave

Pawternity leave, also known as fur-ternity leave, is paid time off for those who adopt, rescue, or buy a new dog or other pet. This leave gives new pet owners the chance to care for their new “family member” without burning through their PTO or having to worry about using unpaid leave.


4. Service Animals

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), defines a service animal as an animal that’s been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. These animals are trained to assist their owners with conditions ranging from visual and hearing impairments to PTSD and diabetes.

It’s important to know that service animals differ from emotional support, therapy, or companion animals. While these animals can help their owner, they aren’t trained to perform a specific job or task. So, under the ADA, a request to bring a service animal to work is processed as any other request for a reasonable accommodation. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, don’t qualify as a reasonable accommodation through the ADA.


Benefiting from Pets

Creating a policy that welcomes pets in the workplace, can give your organization a multitude of benefit. Pet-friendly environments can help to attract, retain, and support employees. We know, pet owners, more and more, see their pets as family members. Pet-friendly benefits can align company and employee values.


Additionally, a recent study conducted by Nationwide found 90 percent of workers in pet-friendly workplaces feel more connected to their company’s mission. This number is more significant than the 65 percent of employees in non-pet-friendly workplaces who feel the same.

The study also reported camaraderie and positive relationships between both supervisors and co-workers improved with pets in the office. Fifty-two and fifty-three percent of employees in pet-friendly environments claimed they had positive relationships with their supervisors and co-workers, respectively.

These numbers are a marked improvement over the 14 and 19 percent of respondents, in non-pet-friendly workplaces that said the same. Bringing pets into the office can improve your employees’ engagement and satisfaction with their jobs.

Finally, pet-friendly benefits help your employees, and conversely your business, through finances. Last year, U.S. pet owners spent a combined $17.07 billion on veterinary care alone. Every six seconds, a pet owner faces a veterinary bill of $5,000 or more.

While a $5,000 bill may not seem significant to some people, it is. For the average American, this sum is greater than their entire savings. According to a 2017 GoBankingRates survey, 69 percent of Americans have less than $5,000 in savings. So, for almost 70 percent of the country, a veterinary bill of $5,000 is financially crippling.

An employee benefit, such as pet insurance, can help reduce the financial risk tied to owning a pet. And reducing this financial risk helps your staff avoid financial stress, which can wreak havoc on an employee’s productivity. A 2017 Mercer survey discovered employers lose up to $250 billion a year due to financial stress.


The Wrap

Creating a pet-friendly environment doesn’t have to mean there will be a petting zoo in your office every day. Rather, it’s about implementing a policy, and employee benefits, that align with and support employees who own pets. These creatures are a crucial part of your workers’ lives. Treat them as such, and your business will reap the rewards.

employee benefits survey

5 Numbers That Explain SHRM’s 2018 Employee Benefits Survey [Infographic]

Once a year the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) meets at its annual conference. Every year this conference delivers insights into the latest HR trends. One of the methods SHRM uses to explore these trends is through the SHRM Employee Benefits Survey.

The 2018 Employee Benefits Survey brought a handful of key insights to this year’s conference. Here are 5 simple numbers that explain the 2018 Employee Benefits Survey:

34 Percent

Thirty-four percent of organizations surveyed increased their benefits offerings in the past year. But if costs of benefits are increasing, how are benefits offerings increasing?

The answer is voluntary or enhanced, benefits. These benefits help attract job seekers without raising your benefits’ fixed costs. Through enhanced benefits, your company can support employees in multiple facets of their lives, without breaking the bank.


Read more about the positive impact of voluntary benefits.


62 Percent

Sixty-two percent of employees offer, “health care services such as diagnosis, treatment, or prescriptions provided by phone or video.” This is an increase of 28 percent over last year’s survey. The continued rise of mobile technology has coincided with the rise of telemedicine.

And telemedicine can have a multitude of practical benefits for your business. For example, most employers are able to offer a virtual physician and a 90-day generic prescription, for the same price as one in-person doctor’s visit.


Learn how telehealth can support your employees. 


70 Percent

Seventy percent of employers offer some form of telecommuting option to their employees. The work environment is a critical component of any organization. And telecommuting can help improve your company’s work environment.


In addition to your culture, telecommuting options can improve both your employee retention and productivity. A previous study from SHRM found 89 percent of HR professionals reported an increase in employee retention by implementing flexible work arrangements.

A 2015 Collaborative Worker Survey, found similar results for employee productivity. Out of employees who worked remotely, at least a few times per month, 77 percent reported greater productivity while working offsite.


Read more about the advantages of flexible work.



Six different parental leave benefit categories saw increases in organizational offerings, compared to last year. Maternity, paternity, adoption, parental, foster child, and surrogacy leave all grew in use, last year.

Parental leave, of any sort, is an extremely important employee benefit. According to the Harvard Business Review, 42 percent of job candidates say paid maternity/paternity leave is an important factor when choosing a job opportunity.


Four Percent

Only 4 percent of respondents said they’re offering a company-provided student loan repayment benefit. Student loan repayment, while potentially costly, is invaluable to many employees and candidates. Especially for younger professionals or those who have recently graduated.

Students in the U.S. have now taken out a collective $1.3 trillion in student loans. It will take the average student over 21 years to pay off their student loan debt. In fact, several of your employees are likely struggling with this type of debt, right now. Consequently, student debt loan repayment will only grow in importance.


Read how student loan repayment can benefit your business.


The Wrap

These five statistics show us the state of employee benefits currently, and where the industry will go in the future. Employee benefits are as vital to your business success as they are ever-changing. Come back to The Olson Group to keep up with all the latest employee benefits news.

what is telehealth

What is Telehealth and How Can it Support Your Business?

Let’s imagine you’re sick. Your face is pounding, and it’s impossible to breathe through your nose. You have mucus running down the back of your throat with the steady consistency of the Mississippi River. You know you’ve got a sinus infection. But the last thing you want to do is leave your house. Much less go to the consortium of disease known as a hospital.

Luckily for you, it’s 2018, and the future is now. You no longer have to be in the same physical space as your doctor, to receive treatment. Now, you can pick up the phone, and in a few minutes, speak to a real physician. This is the power of telehealth. But what is telehealth? Keep reading to learn what it is, how it can benefit your business, and some of the negatives telehealth can bring to your organization.


What is Telehealth?

Telehealth, according to BenefitsPro, is the remote delivery of healthcare services and clinical information using the internet, wireless, satellite, and telephone technology. Put simply; telehealth is seeing a doctor or nurse via technology. While telemedicine has been around for several years, it’s still growing in utilization.

looking at x-ray

A study by the National Business Group on Health found that 96 percent of large employers now offer some level of telehealth benefits. Similarly, one telemedicine firm, Teladoc, saw a total increase of 54 percent in 2017. More people are employing telehealth, but what advantages does this technology offer?


How Does it Support Your Business?

There is a myriad of reasons telemedicine can benefit your firm. And as the surrounding technology is upgraded, these advantages are only likely to grow.

1. Increased Quality of Care

One of the primary advantages of telehealth is a potential increase in the quality of medical care. This form of healthcare can drastically reduce patient wait time. Similarly, because you don’t have to visit a physical doctor’s office, you save time commuting to your appointment.

According to BenefitsPro, speaking to a nurse typically takes two minutes from the phone. Similarly, typical responses from doctors occur within hours. Timeliness of care is crucial to a better total quality of patient care.


2. More Convenient and Broader Access

Telehealth can help democratize healthcare for those who don’t have access to top-level providers. For example, if your business is in a geographically remote area, your employees may not live near high-quality specialists. So, if an employee needs to see a nutritionist, for example, but none are in your area, telehealth can eliminate this geographical barrier.

empty road

And in the U.S., there is a real shortage of specialists for those residing in rural areas of the country. For every 100,000 rural patients, there are only 43 specialists available.

A telemedicine system can connect your staff to a global network with access to resources and services that would be unavailable under a traditional health plan. Similarly, it’s easy to see how convenient telehealth is compared to the conventional healthcare service model.

You can skip scheduling and commuting to an appointment, and instead jump straight into seeing a physician. Also, a recent Cisco survey found more and more people don’t need a face-to-face meeting. This study discovered 74 percent of patients prefer easy access to healthcare services over in-person interactions with providers.


3. Healthier Workforce

One of the biggest perks of telemedicine is the effect it can have on your staff. Telehealth can promote a healthier, less-stressed workforce. For starters, telemedicine can help alleviate stress caused by taking time off work for appointments. Nine in 10 Americans stated they would cancel or reschedule a preventive care appointment due to workplace pressures.

blood pressure

Also, as previously stated, telehealth dramatically improves the timeliness of care. And this timeliness is more invaluable than you may realize. One study demonstrated telemedicine patients score lower for depression, anxiety, stress, and have 38 percent fewer hospital admissions.

Additionally, a strength of telemedicine lies in its ability to produce an earlier diagnosis than would otherwise be possible. The quicker you diagnose an illness, the quicker you can treat said illness. Early diagnosis is especially vital for those with chronic conditions. These conditions are typically the most expensive illnesses to treat. But frequent monitoring, that’s possible through telehealth, can reduce hospital visits, for those with chronic diseases, by 50 percent.


4. Cost Savings

Telehealth can save both your business and your employees’ money. As mentioned above telemedicine is excellent for treating chronic medical conditions. And this treatment is essential because of the high costs associated with chronic illness. Diagnosing and managing chronic conditions consumes 84 percent of healthcare dollars in the U.S. alone. So, helping employees with these conditions should be a priority for every business.

Another way telehealth saves money is through a reduction in costs and time associated with commuting to an appointment. Your employees don’t have to pay travel costs to get to their appointment. Similarly, these employees don’t have to take as much time off from work if their appointment is over the phone.

Telemedicine further saves money for both employers and employees by reducing the number of physical doctor’s visits. Without telehealth, under a traditional PPO, your employees would need to see a generalist and get referred before finally seeing the specialist. Now after one simple call, your employees can get a referral to a variety of specialists.

Telehealth further saves on physical doctor’s visits by reducing unnecessary urgent care and emergency room visits. Before your employees go to an ER, they can visit a doctor or nurse on the phone and determine whether an ER visit is actually necessary.

Overall, telemedicine can be an enormous money saver for employers. Some experts, according to BenefitsPro, have determined that telehealth visits for the most common health conditions save employers an average of $472 per episode of care. Also, the American Hospital Association reported similar savings of 11 percent in costs for a telemedicine program.


The Wrap

In 2018 mobile technology is more ubiquitous than its ever been. Ninety percent of adults under the age of 65 have smartphones today. Now that the infrastructure exists, employers can use mobile technology to drive engagement and utilization of telehealth.

So, the next time you have a torrent of mucus flowing out of your body, remember you don’t have to venture out into the real world. Just use your telehealth’s number and call a doctor, maybe.

vacation time

Why You Need to Make Your Employees Use Their Vacation Time

In 2016, Americans left 662 million vacation days on the table, according to Project: Time Off. An increase of four million days from 2015. Out of those 662 million days, an estimated 206 million are forfeited days. Essentially, U.S. workers sacrificed $66.4 billion in 2016 benefits alone. This number means, for 2016, each American employee donated an average of $604 in work time to their employer.

The question is, as an employer, should you care? Does it matter whether your employees are utilizing their time off, or not? Below we’ll detail why your time off policy is crucial to your company’s bottom line.


Why Vacation Time Matters

Employees who use their vacation time tend to be more satisfied, engaged with, and productive in their position. Here are the various advantages time off can give your staff.


Greater Engagement

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor says, “the greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged brain.” Encourage your employees to take leave, to recharge and engage them in the workplace. Everyone’s brain needs a break occasionally.

books on the beach

Employees coming back from the break paid leave affords them, are more engaged in both their position and the organization. A new study from O.C. Tanner demonstrated this phenomenon. According to this study, 66 percent of employees regularly take a vacation that’s at least one week or longer.

Out of this group, 70 percent said they’re highly motivated to contribute to the success of the organization. This number is significantly higher than the 55 percent of respondents who said the same thing and don’t regularly take a week-long vacation. Encourage your employees to take time off, and revel in their renewed engagement upon their return.


Better Recruitment

Most employers offer a few days of paid vacation time; however, it’s far rarer to find a company that actively encourages its staff to take this time off. Use your company’s supportive paid leave policy to recruit top talent.

Workers, especially millennials, are increasingly focused on maintaining a better work/life balance. Yet, millennials can be the most likely to leave their time off unused. According to Bankrate.com, one in four millennials between the ages of 18 and 25 didn’t use any of their vacation days in 2016.


Use a positive vacation policy to recruit younger employees and garner interest from candidates who otherwise wouldn’t have considered your organization. Two-thirds (66%) of employees feel their company culture is ambivalent or discouraging about time off. A positive time-off policy can differentiate your business in the eyes of recruits.


Boosted Creativity

Giving your mind a break from the daily grind of work can free it to be more creative. “Coupled with rest and clarity of mind, vacations offer a sense of newness that serves as an inspiration for new ideas.” An article from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) detailed the impact of taking a vacation can have on creativity.

Aviation firm, SimpliFlying, in 2017, instituted a mandatory vacation policy. Every seven weeks, they forced employees to take a scheduled week off. After 12 weeks of this policy, the company found exciting results. According to their data, creativity levels rose 33 percent. Similarly, a survey of entrepreneurs found that 20 percent said their start-up ideas were thought up while on vacation.


Increased Retention

Satisfied and engaged employees are more likely to stay in their job and with their employer. Encourage employees to take leave to prevent them from seeking employment elsewhere. Time off also helps to increase retention by decreasing burnout.

A 2017 CareerBuilder study found 61 percent of workers are burned out in their jobs. But 33 percent of these employees don’t take time away from work. When given time away from work, individuals are less likely to become burned out from their job.


Improved Productivity

The final, and arguably most important, way vacation benefits your firm is through enhancing worker productivity. Time off from work allows employees to relax and recharge themselves. Research has found that when a person’s brain can relax and think positively, it provides multiple benefits.

Productivity improves by 31 percent, sales increase by 37 percent, and revenues can triple when a person can think positively. In the previously mentioned HBR article, mandatory vacation led to an increase in productivity of 13 percent.


The Wrap

A study by the U.S. Travel Association found more than 40 percent of Americans don’t expect to use all their vacation time. While a mandatory vacation may not be feasible for every business, it certainly benefits your firm to push employees to use this time off.

Utilizing vacation time can lead to increased productivity, retention, creativity, recruitment, and engagement. If your company wants to reap these rewards, make sure your time off policy remains turned on.