10 states with the most Social Security recipients

Which state economies will face a greater impact when cutting social security payments? Find out in this article for BenefitsPro.

More than 51 million American retirees or their survivors collected Social Security benefits last year, according to the Social Security Administration.

Those payments function as the foundation for their economic security during retirement, providing 90% or more of the income of almost one-third of those beneficiaries and the majority of the cash income for about 60% of them, according to a new report from the Democratic staff of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC).

The report, “Social Security: A Promise to American Workers and Families,” focuses not only the benefits to recipients who depend on those payments but also the broader economic costs of reducing them, which has been a priority for the Republican leadership in Congress.

Democratic members of Congress expect Republicans will continue to push for those cuts especially because the U.S. deficit is expected to grow by more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years as a result of the recent tax cut legislation.

“Slashing Social Security would not only have a negative impact on beneficiaries and their families, but have a devastating impact on the economy as a whole,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., ranking member of the JEC, in a statement accompanying the release of the report.
According to the report, Social Security supports about $1.4 trillion in goods and services in the U.S. economy, accounting for more than 9 million jobs nationwide. Reducing benefits by 25% across the board would cost $349 billion in economic output, 2.3 million jobs and about $83 billion in employee compensation, the report notes, adding that such cuts would also put pressure on the families of beneficiaries to make up the difference.

In the gallery above are the 10 states with the most Social Security recipients and their average monthly benefit.

Source:
Napach B. (7 May 2018). "10 states with the most Social Security recipients" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://bit.ly/2HWmHnt


Student loan benefits more popular with workers than employers

"While a student loan benefit is the most-requested financial benefit, it’s only third on the priority list for HR professionals." Find out more in this article.

If you ask them, 78 percent of employees laboring under a load of student debt will tell you that they want their bosses to provide a student loan benefit that will help them dig out.

Bosses, not so much. While a student loan benefit is the most-requested financial benefit, according to an HRDive report, it’s only third on the priority list for HR professionals.

Related: The problem with student-loan repayment benefits

It’s not just younger workers who want it, either. The 78 percent of employees who wish their jobs came with a student loan benefit includes 65 percent of workers over age 55 who have problems with current or future loan debt.

The report points to a CommonBond study that finds student loan benefits not only help to keep employees on the payroll and even better their job performance, but they also help in recruiting new talent. The study finds that 75 percent of all workers have paid for their own education via student loans, and 21 percent plan to take out student loans for a child or another family member in the next five years.

Oh, and another disconnect between boss and worker: while 75 percent of HR executives think their benefits offerings are innovative, only 50 percent of workers agree.

Money, of course, is a big worry for workers—and it’s not all about salary, with 44 million Americans weighed down by some $1.4 trillion in student debt. Worrying about lingering student loans also cuts productivity at work, in addition to subjecting workers to increasing stress, so it’s really an employer’s problem too.
Not only do students owe an average of more than $25,000 by graduation, figures from The Student Loan Report indicate that the loan default rate and delinquency rates are more than 10 percent and 5 percent, respectively—not exactly conducive to either peace of mind or high productivity at work. So employers are increasingly getting involved, considering tuition payment programs for employees who want to pursue a degree or add new skills.

And that can help both groups as employers become increasingly desperate for a more skilled employee base. It also helps employers as employee stress falls, potentially cutting health care costs as well and making workers more productive.

Source:
Satter M. (7 May 2018). "Student loan benefits more popular with workers than employers" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://bit.ly/2wi9yA0


Resisting Popular Healthcare Trends and Getting Creative

In this article, experts explore the idea that companies need to use the many tools at their disposal, as opposed to relying specifically on one popular trend.

A recent study found that substantial wellness incentives and high-deductible health plans are not the quick fix to improving health care costs they were originally thought to be.

Employers pinned their hopes on high-deductible health plans, but HDHPs only represent 30 percent of medical plans offered by employers, according to the “2018 Medical Trends and Observations Report” released in early March by DirectPath and research and advisory company Gartner.

“Increasingly, employers are realizing that true, long-term cost management will come from a combination of tools and that they need to enlist employees in the effort in a meaningful way,” said Kim Buckey, vice president of client services at employee engagement firm DirectPath.

Employers have explored different options starting with managed care plans and health maintenance organizations the past several decades, moving toward consumer directed health plans years later and considering wellness programs and private exchanges after that, according to Buckey. These solutions could provide short-term relief but not singlehandedly solve the problem, she said.

The logic behind HDHPs was that if employees had skin in the game, they’d be more conscientious about looking for lower-cost options in medical care and become smarter health care consumers, Buckey said. But what this idea did not address the larger issue: employees’ lack of health literacy and little understanding of health insurance comprehension.

“Employees historically just hadn’t had the knowledge or the tools to truly become educated consumers,” she said.

The report, based on an analysis of 900 employee benefit health plans, also found that fewer companies are offering wellness incentives. Some 31 percent of employers offer them today, according to the 2018 report. This number is considerably lower than the 2017 report, which found that 58 percent of employers offered incentives, and the 2016 report, which found that 50 percent did.

“That was surprising because using incentives to drive employee behavior was a big component of most companies’ strategies across the past couple years,” said Brian Kropp, HR practice leader at Gartner. “What companies are finding in a lot of cases is that the incentives were most likely used by healthiest people whose health care costs were already quite low.”

For many companies, incentives have been cutting health care costs for employees who were already spending less rather than making prices more reasonable for people with higher expenses, he said.

This is not the ideal result since the idea behind incentives was, for example, to convince unhealthy people to get an annual physical. This would supposedly help them find health problems before they became serious and more expensive to treat.

“The idea that incentives as currently structured at most companies are becoming of less interest because they’re not as effective as we thought,” Kropp said.

The decline in incentive use may also have to do with concerns about the future legality of these plans, according to the report. A federal judge ruled in December 2017 that the EEOC’s incentive rules — which deem a wellness program voluntary if the incentive or penalty was no more than 30 percent of the cost of the health plan — will only continue until the end of 2018.

Other reports have found different data on wellness incentives. Jessica Grossmeier, vice president of research for the think tank Health Enhancement Research Organization, shared that a Mercer report in 2016 found that two-thirds of employers were using incentives to encourage employee to participate in wellness programs and that 29 percent provided incentives for achieving, maintaining or showing progress toward specific health status targets.

Whether employers will maintain their commitment to using financial wellness incentives will depend on the individual employer and what happens with the EEOC incentive rule. For the time being, employers can take the conservative approach and offer no incentives, take the middle-ground approach and offer modest incentives, or take the aggressive approach and offer up to 30 percent incentives as usual, according to law firm K&L Gates.

Privacy is another concern with wellness programs, Buckey said. Despite generous incentives, some employees may hesitate to participate in these programs because of privacy concerns. Some wellness programs provide employers with aggregate data about the current health status and health risks of their employee population. “With financial and health data breaches increasingly in the news, I think we will see a leveling off or even a lack of interest in participating in programs whether data — even in aggregate — is collected about an employee’s health,” Buckey said.

While strategies such as relying on wellness programs to lower health care costs or using HDHPs to make employees smarter health care consumers have not become the ultimate fix, there are some ways employers can get more creative with their strategy, according to Buckey. She suggested several ways for employers to take a multi-pronged approach to health care cost management.

Employers can offer transparency services, which allow employees to compare pricing for the same service near their home, when they are planning an elective high-cost service like diagnostic tests or surgeries. Employers can also provide better enrollment support in open enrollment so that employees choose the right plan and more carefully manage pharmacy costs by adding measures like mandatary generics or step therapy.

Buckey also mentioned that some of her company’s clients provide patient-advocacy services.

“[It] helps employees identify billing errors and resolve disputes with providers and insurance companies,” she said. “This frees up the employees to focus on their work, rather than financial and medical concerns.”

It’s important for companies to get creative with their health care benefits more than ever before, Kropp said. In the past, employees knew that the health insurance they received at one company was comparable to what they’d receive at many other companies. What the insurance was exactly didn’t matter because most employees felt the plans were more or less the same, he said.

Now companies are starting to realize that better health care plans are a significant differentiator for attracting talent in a competitive labor market, he added. As information for employees and candidates became more transparent and accessible, it became easier as a candidate to understand what health plan offerings looked like at other companies.

“It is a relatively new phenomenon of companies becoming much more vocal about their benefits offerings as a way to compete in a tight labor market,” Kropp said.

This article is from Workforce written by Andie Burjek on April 10, 2018.


10 perks that help attract and retain workers

Job seekers and employees today have more control over their careers than ever before. Leaving current positions for better opportunities, and being more selective when applying for a new job, are now commonplace.

With the war for talent in full effect, companies of all sizes have had to take a close look at their compensation and employee benefits to ensure that they meet, or preferably exceed, expectations.

While keeping up with the latest employee benefits trends is one great way to maximize benefit plans, employers should also explore additional employee and workplace perks to help with recruiting, retention and engagement.

1. Free snacks and coffee

coffee and donuts(Photos: Shutterstock)

 

An often-overlooked way to enhance the workplace is to provide employees with complimentary snacks and coffee. Not only does this help employees save a few dollars each day, but office snacks have shown to increase workplace production. And offering employees healthy alternatives can get people more energized and involved with a company’s overall wellness program.

2. Flexible work schedules

One of the biggest trends in the business world has been a shift away from the traditional 9 to 5 work day. While some positions require such a schedule, more and more companies are enabling employees to have more flexibility with their working hours. As a matter of fact, many businesses are including flexible working schedules in their job descriptions and on career sites to help attract younger job seekers. As work-life balance continues to become more important to employees, flexible working schedules can be valuable perk for employers to offer.

3. Working from home

While telecommuting is becoming more common, not all employees can exclusively work-from-home. However, enabling employees to work at home on occasion can be a great perk for keeping employees happy and engaged. Providing employees with the tools and resources necessary to work from home when needed can greatly assist with lowering turnover, and can also help reduce stress and improve the employee experience.

4. Employee assistance programs

A greater focus on employee wellness – both physical AND mental – is occurring in companies big and small. One way to help with this initiative is to have an employee assistance program (EAP). These programs provide counseling to employees for both professional and personal issues, and can include consultations with licensed clinicians for financial and legal services, grief counseling, and day-to-day support for full-time employees and anyone in their household.

5. Company events

You have probably seen or heard of Fortune-500 companies throwing elaborate and expensive events for their workforce. While small employers can’t do something to this level, having company-sponsored events throughout the year is a great way to boost employee morale and build a culture. These events also present an opportunity to boost employer branding and recruitment marketing efforts. Things like company picnics, holiday parties, and even individual team outings (such as a bowling night) help to boost company morale.

6. Employee referral programs

Hiring the best talent is a mission all companies have in common. But with recruiting more challenging than ever, it can be difficult to accomplish this goal. However, establishing an employee referral program (especially one that provides a cash or bonus reward) is a fantastic way to get your entire company involved with recruiting. These programs also help employees feel more invested in their organizations, especially if they can bring friends or professional colleagues to their organization.

7. Lunch and learns

Learning and development is important to employees. While investing in large-scale programs and bringing in industry experts on a routine basis may not be possible, each company has their own subject-matter-experts who can provide learning opportunities to their co-workers. A monthly lunch and learn session can be a great way to inform the entire company on new initiatives and projects, as well as boost employee engagement throughout the company.

8. Employee discounts

Another great additional perk that employees will enjoy are discounts on certain items or events. Discounts on items like clothing brands, tech, Broadway shows, sporting events, and many others can help employees save money while enjoying things that they enjoy. These types of perks are becoming increasingly popular, even for smaller employers and can be a great tool in recruiting. Not to mention the role they play with employee happiness, engagements, and ultimately retention.

9. Summer hours

We discussed earlier about the value of flexible work schedules. A fantastic addition to an already popular perk, giving employees summer working hours are a great way to boost happiness and morale. For example, many companies let employees leave the office early on Fridays to get a head start on their weekend plans. With work-life balance becoming more important, this simple perk can be a great for current and future employees alike!

10. Employee rewards and recognition

Boosting employee engagement and the overall employee experience are critical objectives for all companies today. An excellent way to help with these goals are to recognize and reward employees throughout the year. Whether it’s completing a difficult or important project, reaching certain milestones with the organization (such as years of service), or completing outside education, these can all be extremely valuable for the individual and the company. Additionally, providing rewards along with recognition can go a long way to building engaged culture and a great employer brand.

Source: Altiero M. (3 April 2018). "10 perks that help attract and retain workers" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from Benefits Pro.


You May Want To Rethink Your 'Cultural Fit' Mentality, and Here's Why

 

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Why achieving diversity in tech requires firing the industry’s ‘cultural fit’ mentality

If you have interviewed for a technology job, there’s a good chance the words “culture” and “fit” made an appearance during the phone-screen phase, or in early rounds of interviews. It is no longer enough for a candidate — especially early to mid-career — to arrive to job interviews with a stellar resume and relevant technical skills. They might also have to come with their best “I’m normal and will fit into the overall team culture of this company” outfit on. Over the past decade, the idea of hiring for “cultural fit” has become as important as, and at times superseded, hiring to fit a job description across forward-looking industries, from tech to transportation.

The nuance of this shift may be a cause for concern — especially for a global tech sector in search of a clear route to workforce diversity. Many of today’s tech human resources teams are tasked with recruiting a diverse group of people and retaining star employees. However, they still tend to supplement those pursuits with cultivating a unified office culture. While the industry has largely moved on from using ping pong tables as a recruiting tool, hiring people who pass the Beer Test — an applicant that hiring managers could work with in the office and hang with at happy hour — remains commonplace. Further, hiring based on a hiring manager’s own narrow set of requirements needed to fit their idea of a relatable person opens the door to all sorts of unconscious biases. Taking this recruiting shortcut also raises the bar for candidates from already under-represented groups, including minorities and women.

The main casualties: the pursuit of diversity and business bottom lines. It is true that research-backed conventional wisdom suggests happy workplaces are productive workplaces. What that line of thinking doesn’t account for is the fact that exclusively hiring talent for interpersonal compatibility can negatively impact the quality of work and focus of employees. In other words, employee camaraderie does not equal workplace compatibility. It definitely does not equal workforce diversity. And while a company may benefit from a general aspect of like-mindedness, there’s a great chance that the actual work is suffering due to the lack of diversity — both in people and ideas. Here in Toronto, hiring managers still focus heavily on likeability, which at times can be seen as more important than technical skills. My team and I recently began to see to potential impacts of “cultural fit” as we started to dive into the findings of our new report on the state of talent in Toronto’s emerging tech sector.

—techcrunch.com


6 Steps to a More Effective Performance Management Program

 

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Traditional methods of managing performance aren’t working anymore. Companies are moving away from traditional performance management tools, like annual reviews, to new techniques that emphasize real-time feedback. You know the drill: managers and employees sit down once a year to review performance. These performance reviews assess an employee’s performance on a scale, or give it a numerical rating. And then, in some cases, employees are given a ranking compared to other employees.

A performance system used in figure skating or competitive cooking shows may not be the best way of evaluating employees in the workplace. When it comes to the traditional performance review process, consider: Traditional performance management approaches aren’t effective because they weren’t designed for the current workforce. Today, with a tight labor supply and the nature of work very different from the industrial past, organizations must focus on developing people, rather than rating them. This requires a shift to performance development. Here’s how you as an HR professional can help your management team create a thoughtful performance development plan.

This is important for two reasons: to make the case to management that there is room for improvement in your current performance management system and, later, to provide baseline metrics to which you can compare your system after the shift to performance development. Your audit should ask the following questions: As part of your evaluation, also assess current organizational performance. A shift to performance development will see organizational performance metrics improve, and you want to be able to quantify this improvement.

Let your senior management team know that performance management may no longer be meeting your company’s needs. Two-thirds of companies are shifting from traditional performance management to an emphasis on developing talent and providing continuous feedback. Then present the results of your audit to senior management. What are the areas that need to be improved? Provide examples of how performance development will help improve these areas. For instance, if your employees rarely receive feedback outside of their annual performance review, show how alternatives to the review, such as consistent coaching or monthly or weekly , can provide your employees with regular feedback.

—tlnt.com


Stress-free approach to reach business goals

It is not uncommon to struggle with setting and reaching your business goals. This article discusses a goal-setting strategy based upon three levels: small, medium, and large-sized goals.


Settling goals is an act in contradiction: Make standards too high and you’ll get frustrated on the climb, yet make standards too low and you’ll be disappointed with your long-term results. As more than one productivity guru has put it, the problem with low expectations is that you’ll actually reach them.

One solid approach to take, though, is to actually do both: Create high expectations while still making reachable milestones. To do that, plan out three levels of increasing goals.

The lowest goals are the ones you can reach based on your current momentum. These intentions don’t require a major strategy shift. The main point is to give yourself credit for your level of progress and to give you milestones to celebrate – and you should be celebrating every victory, no matter how small.

The medium-sized goals are the milestones that require some higher effort on your part. Working harder may get you there, but you may need to reconsider your current approach to your work to meet them. These goals give you a higher ambition that, with a bit of effort, can be reached.

The large goals are the big vision you see for yourself. Don’t hold back here: The goals should make you equally nervous and excited. It also should be big enough to require a major change in your strategy. In other words, working harder isn’t going to cut it – you’ll have to work smarter to get there.

The beauty here is that each set of goals builds on the previous one: Reaching the lowest goal sets you up to think bigger for the medium-sized goal and gives you the momentum necessary to even fathom the large goal. And you are a winner no matter how far you reach.

Read the article.

Source:
Brown D. (22 February 2018). "Stress-free approach to reach business goals"[Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://workwell.unum.com/2018/01/stress-free-approach-to-reach-business-goals/


6 Steps to a More Effective Performance Management Program

 

300x200

Traditional methods of managing performance aren’t working anymore. Companies are moving away from traditional performance management tools, like annual reviews, to new techniques that emphasize real-time feedback. You know the drill: managers and employees sit down once a year to review performance. These performance reviews assess an employee’s performance on a scale, or give it a numerical rating. And then, in some cases, employees are given a ranking compared to other employees.

A performance system used in figure skating or competitive cooking shows may not be the best way of evaluating employees in the workplace. When it comes to the traditional performance review process, consider: Traditional performance management approaches aren’t effective because they weren’t designed for the current workforce. Today, with a tight labor supply and the nature of work very different from the industrial past, organizations must focus on developing people, rather than rating them. This requires a shift to performance development. Here’s how you as an HR professional can help your management team create a thoughtful performance development plan.

This is important for two reasons: to make the case to management that there is room for improvement in your current performance management system and, later, to provide baseline metrics to which you can compare your system after the shift to performance development. Your audit should ask the following questions: As part of your evaluation, also assess current organizational performance. A shift to performance development will see organizational performance metrics improve, and you want to be able to quantify this improvement.

Let your senior management team know that performance management may no longer be meeting your company’s needs. Two-thirds of companies are shifting from traditional performance management to an emphasis on developing talent and providing continuous feedback. Then present the results of your audit to senior management. What are the areas that need to be improved? Provide examples of how performance development will help improve these areas. For instance, if your employees rarely receive feedback outside of their annual performance review, show how alternatives to the review, such as consistent coaching or monthly or weekly , can provide your employees with regular feedback.

—tlnt.com


The decline of the employment drug test

Employers are struggling to hire workers in tightening U.S. job market. Marijuana is now legal in nine states and Washington, D.C., meaning more than one in five American adults can eat, drink, smoke or vape as they please. The result is the slow decline of pre-employment drug tests, which for decades had been a requirement for new recruits in industries ranging from manufacturing to finance.

As of the beginning of 2018, Excellence Health Inc., a Las Vegas-based health care company with around 6,000 employees, no longer drug tests people coming to work for the pharmaceutical side of the business. The company stopped testing for marijuana two years ago. “We don’t care what people do in their free time,” said Liam Meyer, a company spokesperson. “We want to help these people, instead of saying: ‘Hey, you can’t work for us because you used a substance,’” he added. The company also added a hotline for any workers who might be struggling with drug use.

Last month, AutoNation Inc., the largest U.S. auto dealer, announced it would no longer refuse job applicants who tested positive for weed. The Denver Post, owned by Digital First Media, ended pre-employment drug testing for all non-safety sensitive positions in September 2016.

So far, companies in states that have legalized either recreational or medicinal marijuana are leading the way on dropping drug tests. A survey last year by the Mountain States Employers Council of 609 Colorado employers found that the share of companies testing for marijuana use fell to 66 percent, down from 77 percent the year before.

Drug testing restricts the job pool, and in the current tight labor market, that’s having an impact on productivity and growth. In surveys done by the Federal Reserve last year, employers cited an inability by applicants to pass drug tests among reasons for difficulties in hiring. Failed tests reached an all-time high in 2017, according to data from Quest Diagnostics Inc. That’s likely to get worse as more people partake in state-legalized cannabis.

“The benefits of at least reconsidering the drug policy on behalf of an employer would be pretty high,” said Jeremy Kidd, a professor at Mercer Law School, who wrote a paper on the economics of workplace drug testing. “A blanket prohibition can’t possibly be the most economically efficient policy.”

Companies are having a hard enough time hiring, with unemployment hovering around 4 percent. “Employers are really strapped and saying ‘We’re going to forgive certain things,’” said James Reidy, a lawyer that works with employers on their human resources policies. Reidy knows of a half-dozen other large employers that have quietly changed their policies in recent years. Not all companies want to advertise the change, fearing it might imply they are soft on drugs. (Even former FBI director James Comey in 2014 half-joked about the need for the bureau to re-evaluate its drug-testing policy to attract the best candidates.)

Why the change? Pre-employment testing is no longer worth the expense in a society increasingly accepting of drug use. A Gallup poll in October found that 64 percent of Americans favor legalization. That’s the most since the company first started asking the question in 1969, when only 12 percent supported changing the plant’s status. Drug tests costs from $30 to $50 a pop, but the potential costs to an employer are far greater than the actual test.

In addition to helping ease the labor market, eliminating drug testing could have even broader benefits for the economy, said Kidd. Employers could hire the best, theoretically most-productive workers, he said, instead of rejecting people based on their recreational habits. Companies have said they lose out to foreign competitors because they can’t find people who can pass drugs tests, a particularly acute problem in the areas most affected by the opioid crisis.

Some jobs, such as those involving the use of heavy machinery, will always require drug tests. Excellence Health still drug-tests any employee working on a government contract, even in states where weed is legal. Companies are also reserving the right to test after an accident or if an employee comes to work notably impaired.

Not all companies are ready to change course. Restaurant Brands International Inc., which owns Burger King, hasn’t altered its corporate marijuana policy, said Chief Executive Officer Daniel Schwartz. Ford Motor Co. still treats pot as an illegal substance, according to a company spokeswoman.

Weed-averse employers have a notable ally: Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A longtime opponent of legalization, Sessions rescinded in January the Obama-era policies that enabled state-legalized cannabis industries to flourish. The uncertainty caused by the Justice Department’s actions may discourage companies from making changes.

Employers can also get discounts on workers’ compensation insurance for maintaining a “drug-free workplace” by, in part, drug-testing workers. But the types of workplaces forgoing pre-employment tests already enjoy relatively small savings. A job in an office setting, for example, won’t have very many workers’ compensation claims, compared to a factory. The money saved by meeting the qualifications for a drug-free zone isn’t worth it.

“We assume that a certain level of employees are going to be partaking on the weekends,” said Reidy, the employment lawyer. “We don’t care. We’re going to exclude a whole group of people, and we desperately need workers.”

Read the article.

Source:
Greenfield R, Kaplan J. (5 March 2018). "The decline of the employment drug test" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/03/05/the-decline-of-the-employment-drug-test/