Playing in the workplace

Gamification helps motivate employees to stick with otherwise mundane tasks by engaging them in fun ways. According to an article from SHRM, gamification can help employees with skill development and education. Continue reading this blog post from UBA to learn more.


Have you heard of gamification? To gamify an everyday activity, you add the best fun or competitive elements associated with games to help boost engagement, according to G2 Crowd. Why bother and not just slog through your paperwork? The idea behind gamification is that feeling accomplished or engaged in fun ways, whether by earning points, badges, or accolades, can help people stay motivated to stick with tasks they might otherwise abandon.

At the workplace, gamification can boost productivity — such as boosting sales calls or conversions — or help employees commit to a wellness plan through a bit of healthy competition. The approach can also be used before an individual ever joins your company or organization, according to Workforce. Recruiters say using tools with simulations or gamified components can provide insight into how a candidate might perform in new or challenging situations. For current employees, gamification can help with learning or improving skills, according to an article in Society for Human Resource Management. Gamified activities where winning is an all-team effort instead of a competition can help build cohesiveness, camaraderie and improve collaboration within business units or departments.

This all sounds great, right? Be mindful that jumping on any new trend without a plan is rarely a good idea. Gamification has its critics and requires thoughtfully designed programs. When gamification works, it works. When it doesn’t, it can actually decrease productivity and diminish engagement and morale, according to a second article in Society for Human Resource Management.

If the competition is too fierce or the game too difficult, you risk unintentionally demotivating people. Be mindful, too, of individual circumstances, like an employee who is disabled, pregnant, dealing with stress at home, or tackling a new challenging role. In those cases, what may seem like a fun competition may feel like a task now made impossible. The added stress of even the friendliest competition can negatively impact some workers.

To make gamification work, tailor the program to your team and their work. Remind everyone it’s about better overall performance measure through small goals, not about one person winning and “beating” everyone else. Include potential participants in the design process to ensure your gamified activity hits its mark. Offering more than one winner, avoiding publicly shaming an employee for participation or results, and regularly changing what winning is (improvement in an area to closing sales to skill gains). Bear in mind no game can fix a systemic problem or company culture failure. You can expect small gains in some areas, but a game won’t radically or magically rewire your company.

If the caveats have you concerned, it may be a good idea to also bring in experts on learning and behavior to ensure the design will elicit the goals you seek and motivate in the ways you want. And while we may be a more and more online, app-driven culture, not every game has to be a digital experience, according to CEOWorld Magazine. Consider analog activities, as well, that can give individuals opportunities to shine or teams a chance to cooperate in new ways.

While you may be eager to attract Millennial and even Gen Z workers, most of whom are digital natives raised on apps that track and reward, game systems in their pockets, and gamification at school even including university, gut check that you are moving forward with an authentic and well-considered plan. Better to be a bit behind on a trend than dive in and do more harm than good!

Read more:

What is Gamification?

Reskilling: The New Trend in Recruiting

Be Careful: Gamification at Work Can Go Very Wrong

Viewpoint: Is Gamification Good for HR?

Gamification: 5 Surefire Ways to Skyrocket Your Team Productivity

SOURCE: Olson, B. (28 March 2019) "Playing in the workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/playing-in-the-workplace


A 16-Year-Old Explains 10 Things You Need to Know About Generation Z

Generation Z, a cohort that represents one of the most diverse generations in U.S. history, is beginning to graduate and join the workforce. Continue reading this article from SHRM for 10 things the world should know about Gen Z.


Think about what life was like when you were 16. The clothes you wore, the places you shopped. What was most important to you then?

Whenever I speak to an organization eager to learn about Generation Z, I always ask that question. I get responses that include everything from the fleeting fashion trends of the day (bell-bottom jeans, anyone?) to the time-honored tradition of getting a driver’s license.

What I hope to achieve as a 16-year-old in 2018 is probably not all that different from what anyone else wanted when they were my age. It’s the way people go about reaching their goals that evolves over time—and that’s what also forms the basis of most generational clashes.

For the past several years, the world has been focused on understanding and adapting to Millennials, the largest and most-educated generation in history. Born between 1981 and the mid-1990s, this group has inspired important dialogues about generational differences and challenged all industries to evolve to meet their needs. In the workplace, Millennials have helped drive a greater focus on flexibility and collaboration and a rethinking of traditional hierarchies.

Of course, any analysis of generations relies on generalities that can’t possibly describe every person or situation. It’s important to remember that generations exist on a continuum—and that there is a large degree of individual variation within them. The point of this type of research is to identify macro trends among age groups that can help foster workplace harmony. Essentially, it’s a way of attempting to understand people better by getting a sense of their formative life experiences. The generation to which one belongs is among the many factors, such as race, religion and socioeconomic background, that can shape how a person sees the world.

But there’s little doubt that gaps among the U.S. generations have widened dramatically. For example, an 8-year-old boy in the United States who grew up with a tablet will likely have more in common with an 8-year-old in China who used a similar mobile device than he will with his 70-year-old U.S. grandparents.

In thinking about the generations, a key thing to understand is that these groups are typically categorized by events rather than arbitrary dates. Generation Z’s birth years are generally recognized as 1996 to 2009. The start year was chosen so that the cohort would include only those who do not remember the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The belief is that if you were born in 1996 or later, you simply cannot process what the world was like before those attacks. For Generation Z, the War on Terror has always been the norm.

Like all other generations, mine has been shaped by the circumstances we were born into, such as terrorism, school shootings and the Great Recession. These dark events have had profound effects on the behavioral traits of the members of Generation Z, but they have also inspired us to change the world.

Earlier this year, XYZ University, a generations research and management consulting firm where I act as the director of Gen Z studies, surveyed more than 1,800 members of Generation Z globally and released a study titled “Ready or Not, Here Comes Z.” The results were fascinating.

We discovered key characteristics about Generation Z and what the arrival of my generation will mean for the future of work. At 57 million strong and representing the most diverse generation in U.S. history, we are just starting to graduate from college and will account for 36 percent of the workforce by 2020.

Needless to say, Generation Z matters. And it is more important than ever for HR professionals to become familiar with the following 10 characteristics so that they know how to engage with my generation.

1. Gen Z Always Knows the Score

Members of this generation will put everything on the line to win. We grew up with sports woven into the fabric of our lives and culture. To us, the NFL truly does own a day of the week. But it’s more than just professional, college or even high school teams that have shaped us; it’s the youth sports that we played or watched throughout our childhoods. This is the generation of elite young teams and the stereotypical baseball mom or dad yelling at the umpire from the bleachers.

Our competitive nature applies to almost everything, from robotics to debates that test mental fortitude. We carry the mindset that we are not necessarily at school just to learn but to get good grades that will secure our place in the best colleges. Generation Z has been thrown into perhaps the most competitive educational environment in history. Right or wrong, we sometimes view someone else’s success as our own failure or their failure as our success.

We are also accustomed to getting immediate feedback. A great example is the online grading portals where we can get frequent updates on our academic performance. In the past, students sometimes had to wait weeks or longer to receive a test grade. Now, we get frustrated if we can’t access our scores within hours of finishing an exam—and sometimes our parents do, too.

2. Gen Z Adopted Gen X’s Skepticism and Individuality

Generations are shaped by the behavioral characteristics of their parents, which is why clumping Millennials and Generation Z together is a mistake. In fact, when it comes to each generation’s behavioral traits, Millennials are most similar to their parents—the Baby Boomers. Both are large, idealistic cohorts with influences that will shape consumer and workplace behavior for decades.

Members of Generation Z, on the other hand, are more akin to their parents from Generation X—a smaller group with a skeptical, individualistic focus—than they are to Millennials. That’s why many generational traits are cyclical. Just because Millennials and members of Generation Z are closer in age does not necessarily mean they share the same belief systems.

3. Gen Z Is Financially Focused

Over the past 15 to 20 years, HR professionals have been hyper-focused on employee engagement and figuring out what makes their workers tick. What drives someone to want to get up in the morning and come to work for your organization?

As it turns out, workplace engagement matters less to Generation Z than it did to previous generations. What’s most important to us is compensation and benefits. We are realists and pragmatists who view work primarily as a way to make a living rather than as the main source of meaning and purpose in our lives.

Obviously, we’d prefer to operate in an enjoyable environment, but financial stability takes precedence. XYZ University discovered that 2 in 3 Generation Zers would rather have a job that offers financial stability than one that they enjoy. That’s the opposite of Millennials, who generally prioritize finding a job that is more fulfilling over one that simply pays the bills.

That financial focus likely stems in part from witnessing the struggles our parents faced. According to a study by the Pew Charitable Trust, “Retirement Security Across Generations: Are Americans Prepared for Their Golden Years?,” members of Generation X lost 45 percent of their wealth during the Great Recession of 2008.

“Gen X is the first generation that’s unlikely to exceed the wealth of the group that came before it,” says Erin Currier, former project manager of Pew’s Economic Mobility Project in Washington, D.C. “They have lower financial net worth than previous groups had at this same age, and they lost nearly half of their wealth in the recession.”

Before Generation Z was decreed the ‘official’ name for my generation, there were a few other candidates, including the ‘Selfie Generation’ and ‘iGen.’

Employers will also need to recognize that members of Generation Z crave structure, goals, challenges and a way to measure their progress. After all, the perceived road to success has been mapped out for us our entire lives.

At the same time, it’s important to be aware of the potential for burnout among young overachievers—and to incorporate fun and breaks into the work environment and provide access to healthy escapes focused on relaxation and stress relief.

4. Gen Z Is Entrepreneurial

Even though they witnessed their parents grapple with financial challenges and felt the impact of the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, members of Generation Z believe there is a lot of money to be made in today’s economy. Shows like “Shark Tank” have inspired us to look favorably on entrepreneurship, and we’ve also seen how technology can be leveraged to create exciting—and lucrative—business opportunities with relatively low overhead. Fifty-eight percent of the members of my generation want to own a business one day and 14 percent of us already do, according to XYZ University.

Organizations that emphasize Generation Z’s desire for entrepreneurship and allow us space to contribute ideas will see higher engagement because we’ll feel a sense of personal ownership. We are motivated to win and determined to make it happen.

5. Gen Z Is Connected

Before Generation Z was decreed the “official” name for my generation, there were a few other candidates, including the “Selfie Generation” and “iGen.”

I find those proposed names both condescending and misleading. While it’s often assumed that Generation Z is focused solely on technology, talking face to face is our preferred method of communication. Sure, social media is important and has undoubtedly affected who we are as a generation, but when we’re communicating about something that matters to us, we seek authenticity and honesty, which are best achieved in person.

“Gen Z has the power of technology in their hands, which allows them to communicate faster, more often and with many colleagues at one time; but it also brings a danger when it’s used as a crutch for messages that are better delivered face to face,” says Jill Katz, CHRO at New York City-based Assemble HR. “As humans in the workplace, they will continue to seek empathy, interest and care, which are always best received face to face.”

XYZ University’s research found that cellphones and other electronic devices are primarily used for the purpose of entertainment and are tapped for communication only when the face-to-face option isn’t available.

However, successfully engaging with Generation Z requires striking a balance between conversing directly and engaging online. Both are important, and we need to feel connected in both ways to be fully satisfied.

6. Gen Z Craves Human Interaction

Given that members of Generation Z gravitate toward in-person interactions, HR leaders should re-evaluate how to best put the “human” aspect back into business. For example, hiring processes should emphasize in-person interviews more than online applications.

A great way to engage us is to hold weekly team meetings that gather everyone together to recap their achievements. Although members of Generation Z don’t necessarily need a pat on the back, it’s human nature to want to feel appreciated. This small gesture will give us something to look forward to and keep us feeling optimistic about our work. In addition, we tend to work best up against a deadline—for example, needing to have a project done by the team meeting—due to our experience facing time-sensitive projects at school.

7. Gen Z Prefers to Work Independently

Millennials generally prefer collaborative work environments, which has posed a challenge to conventional workplace cultures and structures. In fact, many workplaces have eliminated offices and lowered cubicle walls to promote more interaction. Yet recent studies indicate that totally open offices may actually discourage people from working together. The noise and lack of privacy could prompt more people to work at home or tune others out with headphones. Since different types of work require varying levels of collaboration, focus and quiet reflection, ideal workplaces incorporate room for both togetherness and alone time.

It’s important to be aware of the potential for burnout among young overachievers—and to incorporate fun and breaks into the work environment and provide access to healthy escapes focused on relaxation and stress relief.

The emphasis on privacy will likely only intensify under Generation Z. Unlike Millennials, we have been raised to have individualistic and competitive natures. For that reason—along with growing research into optimal office design—we may see the trend shift away from collaborative workplaces toward more individualistic and competitive environments.

8. Gen Z Is So Diverse That We Don’t Even Recognize Diversity

Generation Z marks the last generation in U.S. history where a majority of the population is white. Given the shifting demographics of the country, we don’t focus as much on someone’s color, religion or sexual orientation as some of our older counterparts might. To us, a diverse population is simply the norm. What we care about most in other people is honesty, sincerity and—perhaps most important—competence.

Indeed, we have been shaped by a society that celebrates diversity and openness. A black man occupied the White House for most of our lives, and we view gay marriage as a common and accepted aspect of society.

9. Gen Z Embraces Change

Compared to teenagers of other generations, Generation Z ranks as the most informed. We worry about our future and are much less concerned about typical teen problems, such as dating or cliques, than we are about becoming successful in the world.

The chaos and unrest in our political system have inspired us to want to get involved and make a difference. Regardless of which side of the aisle we are on, most of us are informed and passionate about the issues facing our society today. Witness, for example, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who organized a political movement around gun control in the wake of a mass shooting at their school.

Social media allows us to have a voice in our political system even before we can vote. This opportunity has forced us to develop critical-thinking and reasoning skills as we engage in sophisticated debates about important issues that might not even affect us yet.

“Gen Z has a strong ability to adapt to change,” says Paul Carney, an author and speaker on HR trends and a former HR manager with the Navy Federal Credit Union. “For those of us who have spanned many decades in the workplace, we have seen the rate of change increase and it makes most of us uncomfortable. Gen Z are the people who will help all of us adapt better.”

According to numerous polls, the political views of Generation Z trend fiscally conservative (stemming from our need for financial stability) and socially liberal (fueled by diverse demographics and society).

10. Gen Z Wants a Voice

Given how socially aware and concerned its members are, Generation Z seeks jobs that provide opportunities to contribute, create, lead and learn.

“One of the best ways I have seen leaders engage with Gen Z is to ask them how they would build a product or service or design a process,” Carney says. “Gen Z has some amazing abilities to bring together information, process it and take action. When we do allow them to share ideas, great things happen.”

We’re also an exceptionally creative bunch. Managers will need to give members of this generation the time and freedom to come up with innovative ideas and accept that, despite our young age, we have valuable insights and skills to offer—just like the generations that came before us and those that will follow.

Josh Miller is a speaker, researcher and thought leader on all things Generation Z. He is the director of Gen Z studies at management consulting firm XYZ University and a high school junior in suburban Minneapolis.
Illustration by Tim McDonagh
SOURCE: Miller, J. (30 October 2018) "A 16-Year-Old Explains 10 Things You Need to Know About Generation Z" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/1118/pages/a-16-year-old-explains-10-things-you-need-to-know-about-generation-z.aspx

More companies flirt with the idea of the four-day work week

How does a four-day work week sound? While many companies have embraced summer hours for years, some companies are now experimenting with "Winter Fridays," according to The New York Times. Read this blog post to learn more. 


Many white-collar jobs, particularly those in creative industries like PR, publishing, and design, have embraced summer hours for years, with shortened workdays on Fridays. Now, some companies are experimenting with “Winter Fridays,” says The New York Times. While clearly seasonal-specific options, both these trends are part of ongoing explorations on the impact of reduced workweeks. Though hardly ubiquitous in either summer or winter, research points to a year-round, four-day workweek gaining some popularity across industries and across the globe.

The reasons for pursuing a reduced work week are usually rooted in improving work/life balance. Longer commutes, an always-on work culture because of email, the cost of childcare and other challenges for families, and general worker burnout are often cited as reasons for adding an extra day off to the week. For companies that have pursued a shorter week, employees report reduced stress and enjoying spending more time with family, exercising, volunteering, or pursuing a passion.

Those may be good enough reasons to pilot a similar program for some companies. If you need more reasons, consider what less time at work might mean for upskilling or reskilling. Employees could use less work time to pursue training or certifications for further education in areas critical to your company as well as their professional development. Giving employees a chance to take courses and improve their skills benefits both employees and companies.

Still not convinced? You could also factor in even loftier goals like improving gender equity and battling climate change. An article in Quartz shows how normalizing shorter work weeks helps women combat career lag and lower pay from taking time off after having babies or are dealing with part-time work for childcare and family reasons. If everyone worked less, the argument goes, there’d be less stigma and financial repercussions for women. It could also empower more men to take a more active role in parenting. In the U.S., where there is no national paid leave policy, enacting a shorter work week could be a game changer for some families.

While these are all desirable outcomes, the concerns around a four-day week are generally related to lost productivity or revenue – legitimate issues for businesses.

Concerns surrounding productivity and performance may be put to rest, if current research holds up. In one trial run in a New Zealand-based company that was widely reported in the news, productivity, in fact, went up 20 percent! Managers also cite improved creativity and problem solving as well as better customer service, according to The Guardian.

If you’re ready to propose or enact a shortened work week, companies that have pioneered the approach have wisdom to offer. To make it work best, experts suggest framing the opportunity as one rooted in productivity with goals and accountability set together. As long as the accountability doesn’t resort to outright policing, this collective social contract, says Thrive Global, is more impactful than highlighting more time with family or to pursue personal projects.

Start that accountability by having your team engaged in deciding how to do it (what schedule works, what metrics of success look like, how to ensure someone is always available for customers) so you benefit from their strategies and they have more agency in the program. Experts also suggest making it a flexible policy, giving employees the option to choose if a reduced work week is right for them.

Is there a social, political, or cultural trend at work in the four-day work week? An article in Salon considers whether it is just a next step in workers’ rights. While the eight-hour day and the two-day weekend were union victories of the past that now seem commonplace, a four-day work week may be the next big political thing. While Americans use and get fewer vacation hours and are perpetuators of hustle culture, the British Labour Party has members advocating that the amount of time people work should go down as technology improves.

As America prepares for the 2020 presidential election in the U.S., the national minimum wage and paid parental and sick leaves are on the minds of campaign advisors. Will any candidate take up the four-day work week? One thing they’d need to consider – citizens would have more free time to engage with politics!

Read More:

How to Make the 4-day Work Week Possible, According to Someone Who’s Done It

Secrets of a Four-day Week, From an Owner Who Wants Every Company to Try It

The Case for a 4-day Workweek

Four-day Week: Trial Finds Lower Stress and Increased Productivity

The “Winter Friday” Off Is Now a Thing

SOURCE: Olson, B. (21 March 2019) "More companies flirt with the idea of the four-day work week" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/more-companies-flirt-with-the-idea-of-the-four-day-work-week


What HR pros should know about clinical guidelines

Clinical guidelines are designed to optimize patient care in areas such as screening and testing, diagnosis and treatment. Read this blog post for what HR professionals should know about these guidelines.


Your employees and their family members frequently face tough questions about their healthcare: How do I know when it’s time to get a mammogram? When does my child need a vision screening? Should I get a thyroid screening? If I have high blood pressure or diabetes, what is the best treatment for me?

For the providers who care for them, the key question is: How do we implement appropriate, science-backed treatments for our patients, testing where needed, but avoiding potentially harmful or unnecessary (and expensive) care? The answer is to seek guidance from and use clinical guidelines —along with existing clinical skills — wisely.

Clinical guidelines are sets of science-based recommendations, designed to optimize care for patients in areas such as screening and testing, diagnosis and treatment. They are developed after a critical review by experts of current scientific data and additional evidence to help inform clinical decisions across a spectrum of specialties.

Based upon this process, guidelines are then released by a number of sources and collaborations, including academic and non-profit healthcare entities, government organizations and medical specialty organizations.

From preventive care to treatment protocols for chronic conditions, guidelines provide a framework healthcare providers use with patients to help guide care. However, it’s important to note that clinical guidelines are not rigid substitutes for professional judgment, and not all patient care can be encompassed within guidelines.

The impact on healthcare and benefits

Clinical guidelines are used in myriad ways across the healthcare spectrum, and providers are not the only ones who utilize them. Insurers also may use guidelines to develop coverage policies for specific procedures, services and treatment, which can affect the care your covered population receives.

To illustrate a key example of an intended impact of guidelines on health plan coverage, consider those issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, whose A and B level recommendations comprise the preventive services now covered at no cost under the mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

As another example, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, which accredits health plans and improves the quality of care through its evidence-based measures, uses the American Heart Association guidelines when creating its quality rules for treating high cholesterol with statin drugs.

Other examples exist among commercial coverage policies. For example, some cancer drug reimbursement policies use components from nationally recognized guidelines for cancer care.

Because science is rapidly changing, guidelines are often updated, leading insurers to revisit their policies to decide if they will change how services and medications are covered for their members. Providers and health systems may modify processes of patient care in response to major changes in guidelines and/or resultant changes in payer reimbursement.

Not all guidelines are updated on a set schedule, making it even more important for providers and organizations that rely on guidelines to stay on top of changing information, as it can have a direct impact on how they work. Attending conferences, visiting the recently established ECRI Guidelines Trust, and regularly reviewing relevant professional association websites and journals can help ensure needed guidelines are current. Lack of current information can affect care decisions and potential outcomes for patients. Those who have access to the most up-to-date, evidence-based information are able to work together to make well-informed healthcare decisions.

Why it matters for employers

As employers or benefits consultants, it’s critical to ensure that your health plan, advocacy or decision support providers, and other partners that depend on this information to guide their practices and decisions understand and follow current, relevant guidelines.

Further, by combining information from relevant guidelines and data from biometric screenings, health risk assessments, claims and other sources, it’s possible for clinical advocacy and other decision support providers to identify employees with gaps in care and generate targeted communications (through a member website and/or mobile app) to help them take action to improve their health.

Clinical guidelines are science distilled into practical recommendations meant to be applied to most patients for quality healthcare. By maintaining current, relevant guidelines, organizations and providers who work with your covered population can ensure that all parties have the key information they need to make the best decisions for their health.

SOURCE: Sivalingam, J. (18 March 2019) "What HR pros should know about clinical guidelines" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/what-hr-managers-should-know-about-clinical-guidelines?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


Do paycheck advance apps improve financial health?

Many employers now allow workers to have early access to their paycheck via paycheck advance apps. Continue reading this blog post to find out more about paycheck advance apps and how these may improve financial health.


Fintechs that let workers draw money from their paycheck before payday through an app are having a moment.

Such apps, including Even.com, PayActiv, EarnIn, DailyPay and FlexWage, are designed for consumers who live paycheck to paycheck — roughly 78% of the U.S. workforce according to one study.

More than 300,000 Walmart employees, for example, use this feature, called Instapay, provided by Even and PayActiv. PayActiv, which is available to 2 million people, announced a deal with Visa on Thursday that will let people put their pay advances on a feeless prepaid Visa card.

Earnin, which lets consumers retrieve up to $100 a day from upcoming paychecks, received $125 million in Series C funding from DST Global, Andreessen Horowitz, Spark Capital, Matrix Partners, March Capital Partners, Coatue Management and Ribbit Capital in December. The Earnin app has been downloaded more than a million times.

In theory, such apps are useful to those who run into timing problems due to large bills, like mortgage and rent, which come due a few days before their paycheck clears. Getting a payday advance from an employer through an app can be less expensive and less problematic than taking out a payday loan or paying overdraft fees.

But do these programs lead to financial health? Or are they a temporary Band-Aid or worse, something on which cash-strapped people can become overdependent?

Volatile incomes, gig economy jobs

One thing is clear — many working poor are living paycheck to paycheck. Pay levels have not kept up with the cost of living, even adjusted for government subsidy programs, said Todd Baker, senior fellow at the Richman Center for Business, Law and Public Policy at Columbia University.

“That’s particularly evident when you think of things like home prices and rental costs. A large portion of the population is living on the edge financially,” he said. “You see it in folks making $40,000 a year, teachers and others who are living in a world where they can’t handle any significant bump in their financial life."

A bump might be an unexpected expense like medical treatment or a change in income level, for instance by companies shifting to a bonus program. And about 75 million Americans work hourly, with unstable pay.

“Over the last several decades, we’ve changed the equation for many workers,” said John Thompson, chief program officer at the Center for Financial Services Innovation. “It’s harder to have predictable scheduling or even income flow from your job or jobs. But we haven’t changed the way we pay, nor have we changed the way bills are paid. Those are still due every month on a certain date. This income volatility problem that many people experience hasn’t been offset by giving the employee control of when they do have access to these funds.”

Where on-demand pay comes in

Safwan Shah, PayActiv's CEO, says he has been working on the problems for consumers like this for 11 years. The way he sees it, there are three possible ways to help: by paying these workers more, by changing their taxes, or by changing the timing of when they’re paid.

The first two seem out of reach. “I can’t give more money to people; that’s not what a Fintech guy does,” Shah said. “I can’t invent money. And I can’t change the tax laws.”

But he felt he could change the timing of pay.

“I can go to employers and say, your employees are living paycheck to paycheck,” Shah said. “They’re bringing that stress to work every day. And you are suffering too, because they are distracted — a Mercer study shows employers lose 15 hours a month in work from these distracted employees.”

Shah persuades employers to let their employees access a portion of the wages they have already earned. His early wins were at companies whose employees frequently request paycheck advances, which generates a lot of paperwork. Employees can access no more than 50% of what they have already earned — a worker who has earned $300 so far in a month could at most get $150.

Employees pay $5 for each two-week period in which they use PayActiv. (About 25% of the time, the employer pays this fee, Shah said.)

PayActiv also gives users unlimited free bill pay and use of a Visa prepaid card. In July, PayActiv became part of the ADP marketplace, so companies that use ADP can use its service.

PayActiv's largest employer is Walmart, which started offering it via the Even app in December 2017. In October, Walmart began allowing employees to pick up cash through the app in Walmart stores, so users who were unbanked could avoid ATM fees.

Shah said the service helps employers reduce employee turnover, improve retention and recruit employees who prefer real-time pay. He also has a guilt pitch.

“I was first in the market to this, in 2013,” Shah said. “People looked at me and said, ‘What? I’m not going to pay my employees in advance. Let them go to a payday lender.’ Then I’d show them pictures of their offices surrounded by payday loan shops. I’d say, ‘They’re here because of you.’ ”

Does early access to wages lead to financial health?

When Todd Baker was a Harvard University fellow last year, he studied the financial impact of PayActiv’s earned wage access program. He compared PayActiv’s $5 fee to payday loans and bank overdraft fees.

Baker found that a $200 salary advance from PayActiv is 16.7% of the cost of a payday loan. Payday lenders typically charge $15 per $100 borrowed, so $30 for a two-week, $200 loan. If the borrower can’t pay back the amount borrowed in two weeks, the loan gets rolled over at the original amount plus the 15% interest, so the loan amount gets compounded over time.

With PayActiv, "there is always a full repayment and then a delay before there is enough income in the employee’s payroll account for another advance," Baker said. "It never rolls over.”

Baker also calculated that the PayActiv fee was only 14.3%, or one-seventh, of the typical $35 overdraft fee banks charge.

So for people who are struggling to manage the costs of short-term timing problems and unexpected expenses, Fintech tools like PayActiv’s are a lot cheaper than alternatives, Baker said.

“Does it create extra income? No. What it does is help you with timing issues,” he said.

Aaron Klein, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, said workers should have access to money they’ve already earned, whether that’s through real-time payments or through apps that provide pay advances.

“I also am on board with the idea that by saving your $35 overdraft and saving your payday loan rate, you’ll be better off,” Klein said.

But he’s not willing to say these tools solve the problems of low-income people.

“If the core problem is I used to make $35,000 a year, now I make $30,000, and because of that shock I’m going to end up accruing $600 of payday loan and overdraft fees, eliminating that $600 makes you a lot better off,” Klein said. “But it doesn’t negate the overall income shock.”

Thompson at CFSI says it’s too soon to tell whether earned wage access brings about financial well-being.

“We’re just beginning to explore the potential for these tools,” he said. “Right now they feel very promising. They could give people the ability to act quickly in an emergency and have access to and use funds in lieu of a payday loan or some other high-cost credit or consequence they would rather avoid, like an overdraft fee.”

What could go wrong

Thompson also sees a potential downside to giving employees payday advances.

“The every-other-week paycheck is one of the few normal structures we have for people around planning, budgeting and managing their money,” he said.

Without that structure, which is a form of savings, “we’re going to have to work hard to make sure we don’t just turn people loose on their own with even less structure or guidance or advice on their financial life.”

Another common concern about payday advance tools is that if you give people access to their money ahead of time, they’ll just spend it, and then when their paycheck arrives, they will come up short.

But Klein, for one, doesn’t see this as an issue.

“I trust people more to manage their money,” he said. “The people who work paycheck to paycheck spend more time budgeting and planning than the wealthy, because it’s a necessity.”

A related fear is that people could become addicted to payday advance tools, and dig themselves into a deeper hole.

Jon Schlossberg, CEO of Even.com, somewhat surprisingly acknowledges this could happen.

“Getting access to your pay on demand is a tool you can use the right way or the wrong way,” he said. “If you offer only on-demand pay, that could cause the problem to get worse, because getting access to that money all the time triggers dopamine; it makes you want to do it more and more. If you are struggling with a very low margin and you’re constantly up against it, getting more money all the time accelerates that problem."

Quantitative and qualitative analyses have borne this out, he said.

Even has granted users $700 million worth of Instapays; they typically use Instapay 1.4 times a month. Schlossberg doesn't see high use of the feature as success.

“You shouldn’t need to be using Instapay,” he said. “You should be becoming financially stable so you don’t have to.”

Baker said addiction to payday advances isn't a danger because they don't roll over the way payday loans do. With a salary advance, “It’s conceivable you could get $200 behind permanently, but it’s not a growing obligation and it’s not damaging,” he said.

Shah at PayActiv said users tend to withdraw less than they're allowed to — about 75%.

“When it comes to usage of their own salary, instead of asking for more, people behaviorally ask for less,” he said.

They see PayActiv more as a headache reliever like Tylenol, rather than an addictive candy or drug, Shah said.

Pay advances are just one of many tools that can help the working poor. They also need help understanding their finances and saving for goals like an emergency fund and retirement.

“This conversation about on-demand pay is a double-edged sword because people are paying attention to it now, which is good, but they’re viewing it as this magic tool to solve all problems,” Schlossberg said. “It isn’t that. It is a piece of the puzzle that solves a liquidity problem. But it is by no means going to help people turn their financial lives around.”

SOURCE: Crosman, P. (14 March 2019) "Do paycheck advance apps improve financial health?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/do-paycheck-advance-apps-improve-financial-health?brief=00000152-146e-d1cc-a5fa-7cff8fee0000

Editor at Large Penny Crosman welcomes feedback at penny.crosman@sourcemedia.com.


Nine Ways To Motivate Employees That Don't Always Involve Cash

Many employers are reporting that the single greatest challenge is recruiting and retaining talent. Read this blog post from Forbes for nine ways employers can motivate their employees.


With unemployment at near historic lows in the United States, employers report that their single greatest challenge is recruiting and retaining talent. The answer for many companies is to throw money at the problem: Bonuses, incentive pay, and out-of-cycle salary increases are often seen as motivators that will entice greater effort and loyalty out of workers.

Turns out, using cash as a carrot isn’t always the best answer, according to new research by Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Ashley V. Whillans. More than 80 percent of American employees say they do not feel recognized or rewarded, despite the fact that US companies are spending more than a fifth of their budgets on wages.

What employees crave even more is to feel that their managers appreciate them and aren’t afraid to show it, not only in paycheck terms, but in other ways such as flexible work-at-home schedules, gift cards for pulling off impressive projects, or even just by saying “thank you” for a job well done.

“Cash matters in people’s lives, but it’s not all that matters,” says Whillans, who researches what makes people happy. “What really matters in the workplace is helping employees feel appreciated.”

Whillans co-wrote a recent article in Compensation & Benefits Review, “Winning the War for Talent: Modern Motivational Methods for Attracting and Retaining Employees,” with Anais Thibault-Landry of the Université du Québec à Montréal and Allan Schweyer of the Incentive Research Foundation.

Rewards that signal to employees that they did a good job and that their manager cares about them will encourage employees to want to work even harder, the research shows. Whillans provides nine tips for business leaders on how best to reward their workers in ways that will bring them greater job satisfaction and motivate them to work harder.

When recruiting, emphasize benefits. Talking up a job’s perks, such as flexible work schedules and skill training, can give companies a recruiting edge. A 2018 study that Whillans and her team conducted of more than 92,000 job ads found that the more benefits an employer described, the higher the application rates.

Cash can motivate workers—in some types of work. Cash rewards are best suited as a motivator for work that is measured quantitatively, Whillans says. But money is less meaningful as a motivator in the complex creative jobs that make up most work in our modern knowledge-based society.

If you give cash, include a meaningful note. It’s best to avoid merely adding a cash bonus to a worker’s paycheck; a separate bonus check stands out more as a recognition of their work. And managers should also include a sincere handwritten note explaining why the employee deserved the bonus.

Reconsider performance incentives. Decades of research confirms that financial incentives can boost effort and performance. But when an employee’s pay is contingent on performance, they can become obsessed with earning more. What often works better is to turn around the timing of the reward, handing it out immediately after an employee excels at a particular task, rather than dangling it beforehand.

Consider thoughtful gifts instead of cash. A 2017 study of 600 salespeople found that when a mixed cash and prize reward program was replaced with an equivalent value all-cash package, employee effort dropped dramatically, leading to a 4.36 percent decrease in sales that cost the company millions in lost revenue, Whillans’s article says. The firm may have inadvertently demotivated salespeople who preferred prizes or discouraged workers who liked having a choice.

Give the gift of time—and other intangible perks. A Glassdoor survey Whillans and her team conducted with 115,000 employees found that providing intangible non-cash benefits, like flexible work options or the ability to choose assignments, led to much stronger job satisfaction than straightforward cash rewards.

Encourage employees to reward one another. Companies can build recognition into their business practices by creating peer-to-peer recognition programs in which employees are provided monthly reward points that they can give away to colleagues for work-related wins. Employees who earn a certain number of points can redeem them for various perks, such as a restaurant gift card or an extra personal day.

Make the recognition public. If employees are receiving a $500 bonus, hold a workplace event to hand out checks, and invite the employees’ peers. Perhaps add a certificate of appreciation along with the check.

Sometimes a simple thank you is enough. Among the happiest employees, 95 percent say that their managers are good at providing positive feedback, Whillans says. A simple, heartfelt “thank you” from a manager is often enough for employees to feel like their contributions are valued and will motivate them to try harder.

Why rewarding employees works

Whillans says these types of rewards work because they tap into three strong psychological needs: Employees long for autonomy, with the freedom to choose how to do their work; they want to appear competent, armed with the skills needed to perform; and they want to feel a sense of belonging by socially connecting with colleagues in a meaningful way.

When these needs are satisfied, employees feel more motivated, engaged, and committed to their workplace—and they report fewer intentions of leaving their jobs, Whillans says.

SOURCE: 


Goodbye, suits and ties. Hello, sneakers

What do your employees wear to work each day? As the workplace evolves, one thing many managers have in common is that they are throwing out their traditional business dress code. Read on to learn more.


Casual Friday? Try casual Monday through Friday.

As the modern U.S. workplace evolves, one thing many office managers have in common is that they are throwing the traditional business dress code out the window.

About 88% of employers today offer some type of casual dress benefit, up from 81% five years ago, according to the 2018 employee benefits survey from the Society for Human Resource Management.

The most recent company to join the ranks of the suit-and-tie-less workplace is banking giant Goldman Sachs. The decision — once believed unthinkable for such a straight-laced organization — comes as the company looks to keep up with “changing nature of workplaces,” according to a Goldman memo last week.

“Casual dress attire at work is just one of the many ways employers are trying to retain and attract top talent in this competitive job market,” says Amelia Green-Vamos, an employer trends analyst with Glassdoor. “The unemployment rate is at a historic low, and casual dress attire is an inexpensive perk creating a more approachable and comfortable culture for new and existing employees.”

All employers want to attract the best possible talent and in today’s job market that talent is younger. Indeed, more than 75% of Goldman Sachs’ employees are members of the millennial or Gen Z generations. When it comes to hiring younger talent the more traditional companies — such as big banks — are competing against tech giants and hedge funds that are offering a different kind of workplace.

Facebook, for example, has had a relaxed dress code since the beginning. “We don’t want our people to have a work self and a personal self,” says Facebook spokesman Kyle Gerstenschlager. “That aspect of our culture extends to our lack of a formal dress code.”

Google is another company with a simple dress policy. “You must wear clothes,” was the response Susan Wojcicki — current CEO of YouTube — gave in a 2007 interview with Bay area media outlet The Mercury News. She was VP of ad services at Google at the time.

But, it’s not just the Silicon Valley tech companies that have embraced a more laid back attire policy. When Mary Barra — current CEO of General Motors — was vice president of global human resources at the automaker, she set out to replace the company’s 10-page dress code exposition with two words: “Dress appropriately.”

It’s a simple idea, but Barra was perplexed when she received pushback from HR and one of her senior-level directors, she explained at the 2018 Wharton People Analytics Conference. But this actually led to what Barra called an “ah-ha” moment, giving her better insight into the company and teaching her a lesson about making sure managers feel empowered.

Office culture has been evolving for decades, with offices with sleep pods and ping-pong tables now commonplace. But it’s practicality rather than entitlement that is leading offices to adapt their dress codes.

“I have a hard time imagining a position where wearing a tie could be considered an essential part of the job’s responsibilities,” says SHRM member Mark Marsen, director of human resources at Allies for Health + Wellbeing. “Even using arguments that it contributes to or enhances corporate image, client perceptions, or establishing a form of respect. What matters at the end of all, for everyone concerned, is that a successful service was rendered.”

SOURCE: Shiavo, A. (12 March 2019) "Goodbye, suits and ties. Hello, sneakers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/goldman-sachs-embraces-casual-dress


Shifting from Employee Engagement to Employee Experience

When it comes to the busy workplace, it is not uncommon for employees to get bogged down in their daily tasks and overlook several key elements surrounding their healthcare and personal needs. Fortunately, there are ways to gather all your eggs in one basket and alleviate stress and surprise.

In this installment of CenterStage, Tonya Bahr, a benefits advisor at Hierl Insurance, Inc., weighs in on three key things employers and HR professionals should keep in mind when establishing their agenda:

  • Offering employees an experience when it comes to their benefits
  • How to sweeten your current coverage options to attract new talent
  • How to control the mental well-being of your employees

How Does Investing in Employee Experience vs Employee Engagement Offer a Leg-Up on Competition?

If customer experience is the total of all interactions that customers will have with your company, then employee experience is your workforce’s relationship with your business. This encompasses all interactions they will have with you, from their potential recruit to their final days as an employee. A happier workforce is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of embracing employee experience rather than simply engaging or “urging” them to comply with the standard company operating procedures. Tonya noted employees forget their benefits if they have not utilized them in a while.

A survey from Gallup discovered 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged, but companies with high engagement outperform their competitors by 147% in earnings per share (HR Exchange Survey). As a result, companies that are looking to gain an edge on the competition should consider the importance of their employees when it comes to getting ahead. For those looking for a place to start, Tonya recommended the following:

About Your Expert:

Tonya has a passion for educating business owners and employees on benefit options, helping them make decisions that best fit their personal and financial objectives.

Tonya Bahr,
Benefits Advisor

01. Creating A Dialogue

Improving employee experience is a two-way conversation – it requires the need to listen to your people and have that conversation regularly. Companies need to look beyond outdated practices and toward annual surveys in favor of creating a community and having regular ongoing dialogue that drives the kind of engagement that employees want.

Gathering employees and visiting topics such as the utilization of telehealth and discounted urgent care visits are two ways to get employees talking. This not only provides the open feedback that thrives within a strong work environment but also triggers other employees to explore their plans and see if they receive the same options.

Sparking conversation within your company will additionally encourage employees to shop around for lower cost alternatives to hospital and doctor visits. Unlike buying a new car or searching for a new TV to purchase, Tonya noted employers and employees just aren’t doing their homework for the best options available – ultimately costing them in unnecessary expenses.

02. Go Beyond the “Feel Good” Offerings

Perks such as gym memberships and free lunches have become common practice for companies looking to brand themselves as a great employer. However, it is important to understand these tactics aren’t the answer when it comes to employee experience but rather an engagement strategy. Modern employees want to work in a great environment and want to know their contributions are valued through benefit offerings like discounted healthcare.

For anyone looking to unlock the power of employee engagement through benefits, the time to act is now. With the number of companies catching on to the importance of customer experience, it will not only help you gain an edge on your competition but make your company a favorable place to work – the definition of a ‘win-win’.

Why Hierl?

At Hierl Insurance, we love what we do, and this includes a partnership with you in mind. We understand the demands of each client are unique, so we craft your options to fit your business perfectly, creating a different story for each client.

We believe it is okay to like your experts, such as Tonya Bahr, who is standing by waiting to greet you with a warm welcome. Together, we can devise a blueprint to turn your company’s dreams into reality.

To speak with Tonya, contact her today at (920) 921-5921 or by email at tbahr@hierl.com.


Pay transparency: A new tool to boost employee engagement

How does your company treat pay disclosure? Generally, employees are free to discuss their pay rates as part of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. Read this blog post to learn how pay transparency could be used as a tool to boost employee engagement.


For many companies, discussing salaries has always been taboo. Some firms even required new hires to sign an agreement swearing they wouldn’t disclose their pay to co-workers. 

This “loose lips sink ships” approach is largely illegal, of course: Employees are generally free to talk about pay rates as part of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

Nonetheless, for years, companies held salary information very close to the vest.

But times are changing. Many firms have now gone to a policy of transparency in matters of compensation.

2 separate approaches

Stephanie Thomas, program director of the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University, writes that pay transparency comes in two flavors: salary disclosure and pay process transparency.

1. Salary disclosure: In this approach, the company distributes a spreadsheet listing employees, their titles and their salaries.

This approach can be tricky. There are always going to be cases where an employee asks, “Why is Stephanie paid more than me? We have the same title and the same duties.”

Whole Foods explains the rationale for adopting its policy in a statement on its website:

“Salary information for all –including the company’s leadership – is available to all inquiring team members. Wage transparency helps promote inclusiveness and ensures our compensation system is fair.”

2. Pay process transparency: The second approach explores how compensation decisions are made, and explains to individuals why they’re making what they are and what they need to do to earn more.

This involves having detailed discussions with employees, either individually or in a group, about the overall compensation plan – salary ranges and midpoints, goals and objectives that need to be met, performance metrics, etc. Most companies prefer this approach because it focuses the conversation away from rankings of employees toward individual performance.

Both approaches signal a new trend in employee engagement – helping workers understand the inner workings of their organizations.

SOURCE: Mucha, R. (15 February 2019) "Pay transparency: A new tool to boost employee engagement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://www.hrmorning.com/pay-transparency-a-new-tool-to-boost-employee-engagement/