Coping with stress: Workplace tips

Identifying your stress triggers is just one way you can cope with workplace stress. The workplace is a common source of stress for employees. Continue reading for tips on how to cope with stress.


The workplace is a likely source of stress, but you're not powerless to the effects of stress at work. Effectively coping with job stress can benefit both your professional and personal life. Here's help taking charge.

Identify your stress triggers

Your personality, experiences and other unique characteristics all influence the way you respond to and cope with stress. Situations and events that are distressing for your colleagues might not bother you in the least. Or you might be particularly sensitive to certain stressors that don't seem to bother other people.

To begin coping with stress at work, identify your stress triggers.

For a week or two, record the situations, events and people who cause you to have a negative physical, mental or emotional response. Include a brief description of each situation, answering questions such as:

  • Where were you?
  • Who was involved?
  • What was your reaction?
  • How did you feel?

Then evaluate your stress inventory. You might find obvious causes of stress, such as the threat of losing your job or obstacles with a particular project. You might also notice subtle but persistent causes of stress, such as a long commute or an uncomfortable workspace.

Tackle your stress triggers

Once you've identified your stress triggers, consider each situation or event and look for ways to resolve it.

Suppose, for instance, that you're behind at work because you leave early to pick up your son from school. You might check with other parents or neighbors about an after-school carpool. Or you might begin work earlier, shorten your lunch hour or take work home to catch up in the evening.

Often, the best way to cope with stress is to find a way to change the circumstances that are causing it.

Sharpen your time management skills

In addition to addressing specific stress triggers, it's often helpful to improve time management skills — especially if you tend to feel overwhelmed or under pressure at work. For example:

  • Set realistic goals. Work with colleagues and leaders to set realistic expectations and deadlines. Set regular progress reviews and adjust your goals as needed.
  • Make a priority list. Prepare a list of tasks and rank them in order of priority. Throughout the day, scan your master list and work on tasks in priority order.
  • Protect your time. For an especially important or difficult project, block time to work on it without interruption. Also, break large projects into smaller steps.

Keep perspective

When your job is stressful, it can feel as if it's taking over your life. To maintain perspective:

  • Get other points of view. Talk with trusted colleagues or friends about the issues you're facing at work. They might be able to provide insights or offer suggestions for coping. Sometimes simply talking about a stressor can be a relief.
  • Take a break. Make the most of workday breaks. Even a few minutes of personal time during a busy workday can be refreshing. Similarly, take time off when you can, whether it's a two-week vacation or an occasional long weekend. Also try to take breaks from thinking about work, such as not checking your email at home in the evening or choosing times to turn off your cell phone at home.
  • Have an outlet. To prevent burnout, set aside time for activities you enjoy — such as reading, socializing or pursuing a hobby.
  • Take care of yourself. Be vigilant about taking care of your health. Include physical activity in your daily routine, get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet.

Know when to seek help

If none of these steps relieves your feelings of job stress or burnout, consult a mental health provider — either on your own or through an employee assistance program offered by your employer. Through counseling, you can learn effective ways to handle job stress.

SOURCE: The Mayo Clinic Staff (16 May 2016) "Coping with stress: Workplace tips" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/coping-with-stress/art-20048369


Helping employers start the conversation around suicide prevention

How can employers start the conversation around suicide prevention? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2016 suicide was the tenth-leading cause of death in the U.S. Read on to learn more.


Suicide was the tenth-leading cause of death in the United States in 2016, claiming the lives of nearly 45,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Given recent media coverage of the high-profile suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, employers should be more aware of how these events have a heightened impact on people’s mental health and well-being in the workplace.

Research has shown that the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals increases immediately after publicity of these types of events. This phenomenon is known as suicide contagion or the increase in suicidal behavior following media exposure. While suicide prevention is not an easy conversation to have with clients, it’s an important one. Now is the perfect time to start the conversation with your clients on how they can play a crucial role in creating awareness and supporting employees who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Here’s how benefit advisers and employers can navigate the conversation:

Discuss warning signs

Sharing information about common warning signs of symptomatic behavior can give your clients a greater understanding of how they can help employees get the support they need. Often, typical warning signs can be seen in declining work performance, poor hygiene, sudden weight changes, mood swings and depression.

While discussing these common symptoms, help break down the misconception that behavioral health also can be a sign of suicidal behavior. Explain that more than half of people who die of suicide did not have a known mental health condition. Often, individuals considering suicide cite other issues, including fear that they are a burden to others, stress about finances or struggles to afford or secure a place to live. Discuss these instances with your client so they are aware of other factors that could be contributing to their employee’s situation.

Discussing these symptoms can help ensure your clients have a better understanding of how to play a role in supporting and assisting at-risk employees.

Remove the stigma of behavioral health issues

While it’s true that not all suicides are related to a behavioral health condition, the stigma surrounding these conditions still exists and can prevent many individuals from approaching their employer or seeking assistance. By talking with your clients about this stigma, you can help remove the labels and negative connotations surrounding mental health conditions in the workplace.

Share with your clients the ways in which they can develop proactive open lines of communication around behavioral health conditions. For example, explain how they can reach out to employees to build awareness of the services they offer to those struggling. By incorporating educational campaigns that promote awareness of resources, your clients can help ensure employees get the assistance they need. In doing so, your clients can foster a workplace culture of acceptance and support.

Promote available resources

As you create awareness among your clients about the role they can play in removing the stigma, it’s also important their at-risk employees are aware of the resources available to them. Regardless of what their employees may be struggling with, suicidal thoughts or another behavioral health condition, it’s important for your clients to promote resources available through their employee benefits plan. For example, you can highlight how EAPs typically provide numerous free counseling sessions.

Clients also can work with their disability carrier to address employees’ behavioral health issues. Most disability carriers can assist with integrating existing benefit offerings with other resources to help ensure clients are providing their employees with robust treatment options. Additionally, disability carriers can recommend creative solutions and accommodations to meet employees’ unique conditions and support them staying at work or returning to work sooner.

The heightened attention around suicide prevention presents you with the opportunity to discuss the importance of suicide awareness in the workplace. In doing so, your clients can better support those who may be at risk and play a crucial role in creating an inclusive and supportive environment for their workforce.

SOURCE: Jolivet, D. (24 September 2018) "Helping employers start the conversation around suicide prevention" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/helping-clients-start-the-conversation-about-suicide?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000


How AI can predict the employees who are about to quit

How can artificial intelligence (AI) predict which employees are going to quit? Employers are now utilizing AI to help predict how likely it is that an employee will stay with their company. Read on to learn more.


Tim Reilly had a problem: Employees at Benchmark's senior living facilities kept quitting.

Reilly, vice president of human resources at Benchmark, a Massachusetts-based assisted living facility provider with employees throughout the Northeast, was consistently frustrated with the number of employees that were leaving their jobs. Staff turnover was climbing toward 50%, and after many approaches to improve retention, Benchmark turned to Arena, a platform that uses artificial intelligence to predict how likely it is that an employee will stay in their job.

“Our new vision is about human connection,” he says. “With a turnover rate that’s double digits, how do you really transform lives or have that major impact and human connection with people who are changing rapidly?”

Since Benchmark started using Arena, staff turnover has fallen 10%, compared to the same time last year. During the hiring process, Arena looks at third-party data, like labor market statistics, combined with applicants' resume information and an employee assessment that will give them a better sense of how long a candidate is likely to stay in a role.

“The core problem we’re solving is that individuals aren’t always great at hiring,” says Michael Rosenbaum, chairman of Arena. “Job applicants don’t always know where they’re likely to be happiest. By using the predictive power of data, we’re essentially helping to answer that question.”

Arena isn’t interested in how an employee responds to assessment questions, he says. They’re much more interested in how employees approach the questions.

“What you’re really doing is your collecting some information about how people react to stress,” Rosenbaum adds.

For example, if an employee is applying for a housekeeping role, Arena may give them a timed advanced math question to complete — something they may never use in their actual job. Arena then studies how the candidate responds to the question — analyzing key strokes and tracking how the individual tackles the challenge. The software can then get a better sense of how an applicant responds under pressure.

Overtime, Arena’s algorithm learns from the data it collects. The system tracks how long a specific employee stays at the company and can then better predict, moving forward, whether other employees with similar characteristics will stay.

“Overtime they are able to sort of refine that prediction about those that are most likely to stay, or be retained with our organization,” Reilly says. “They may also make a prediction on someone who might not last very long.”

Reilly says he’s been encouraging hiring managers at the facilities to use the data given to them by Arena to take a closer look at the candidates the platform rates as highly likely to stay in their roles. Although it’s ultimately up to the hiring manager who they select.

“Focus your time on the [candidates] that are more likely to stay with us longer,” Reilly says.

For now, Arena exclusively works with healthcare companies. The platform is currently being used by companies like Sunrise Senior Living and the Mount Sinai Health System in New York. Moving forward, Rosenbaum says, they’re hoping to get into other industries, although he would not specify which.

Rosenbaum says Arena is not only focused on improving the quality of life for employees, but also for the patients and seniors that use the facilities. The happiness of patients, he says, is closely tied to those that are caring for them.

“Is someone who is in a senior living community happy? Do they have a positive experience? It is very closely related to who’s caring for them, who’s supporting them,” he says.

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (15 November 2018) "How AI can predict the employees who are about to quit" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/how-ai-can-predict-the-employees-who-are-about-to-quit?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


DISCOVER THE WELLNESS TRENDS FOR 2019

What is your favorite color? Color therapy is one of the top wellness trends for 2019. Continue reading this blog post for more 2019 wellness trends.


It’s that time of year again when we cast our minds forward and bring you our predictions for the wellness trends that are set to relax, improve and make us feel better about ourselves in 2019. And let’s be honest it feels as if there’s a new trend every week at the moment, so we’ve sifted through the trend trough to tell you ALL about the ones you absolutely need to know about!

Reconnecting With Nature

As a predecessor to the digital detox trend of last year (although heaven knows we still haven’t mastered that one yet!) 2019 is all about shifting our backsides off of the sofa and actually *gasp* leaving our homes to reconnect with nature. The focus is very much on disconnecting i.e. leaving your phones and even your fitness trackers (sorry you’ll have to manage without the steps for this one) in order to reconnect. You see exercising outside is all well and good, but it starts to become detrimental when we begin putting too much pressure on ourselves to hit the next PB or when we become obsessed with comparing ourselves against our friends on the Fitbit leaderboard.

Hey, I’m all for healthy competition and that heady endorphin rush when you smash out an all-time best, but to truly enjoy the benefits of what nature can do for our health we need to unplug and pay attention to what is out there – without the distractions!

From moonlit yoga on the beach to forest bathing in the sensual shadiness of the beautiful English woodland, learning to embrace your inner mother nature is all about fine-tuning the senses. It’s essentially another branch of mindfulness that allows us to break free from the stressful trappings of the modern world and find inner peace and gratitude for the world around us.

Soothing Sounds

You must have that one song that makes you feel amazing? That song that no matter how down in the dumps you are, when you hear those first notes you’re up dancing and feeling as if nothing can stop you. Music’s funny like that isn’t it? It evokes all kinds of emotions in us – from positive uplifting vibes, sorrow and sadness, motivation and drive, right through to silliness and freedom of expression – music has a power over us like no other.

And the sound, of any description, is no different. Think about when you visit a spa, often there will be sounds of the rainforest, birds chattering in trees or that peaceful drift you off to sleep music, floating over the space, creating a calm and serene ambiance and helping you to relax and switch off.

Sound therapy works through the healing power of sound vibration and frequencies. All of us have our own natural frequencies and when we are exposed to the external frequencies of singing bowls, gongs, tuning forks, drums etc. and allow them to wash over us and resonate with us, natural healing of both the body and mind can begin to occur. For example, Tibetan singing bowls can help people to experience a deep sense of relaxation, which can relieve pain, help lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve circulation and blood flow, balance the Chakras, create focus and emotional clarity and leave people feeling at peace and happy with themselves.

Everyone has the ability to connect with the healing power of sound and most important of all it gives us that chance to focus on just one of our senses, which in a world where our senses are continually blasted with information overload, this is one of life’s most simple of luxuries. Sound classes are becoming increasingly popular for this very reason and many also incorporate the practices of yoga and meditation within them to further aid the wellness experience.

Color Therapy

Do you have a favorite color? There’s a good reason why you are drawn to one color over another and it’s all to do with energy and the way it makes you feel.

Color is energy that is transmitted on different wavelengths and frequencies to create different colored light. There are seven shades of visible light, the rainbow colors, then there is white which contains all of the 7 shades, black which absorbs light and therefore appears void of color, and then there are literally millions of invisible colors that our eyes cannot see. Color therapy, or Chromotherapy to give it its official name, is all about using color to enhance our health and wellness in certain ways. Each color has its own vibrational frequency that relates to different physical symptoms and emotions.

BLUE – This is a calming color that is used to ease symptoms of pain, anxiety, depression and can even aid sleep. Yes I know we’re told the blue light emitted from our screens is bad for us, but that’s a synthetic digital light, so I’m afraid scrolling through Instagram in bed won’t have the same effect! Research has also shown that blue light can help lessen inflammation, lower fevers, reduce high blood pressure and relieve migraines, due to it’s cooling almost anesthetic style energy.

RED – The fiery, powerful color that denotes passion and confidence. It’s bold and powerful and will give you balls when you need it most. And as such, it is thought that being exposed to red light will increase your pulse, raise your blood pressure and increase your breathing rate. Doesn’t necessarily sound too good, right? But red is the color to energize, to motivate and to put yourself out there and show people you mean business. Infrared therapy is also used to activate collagen cells, stimulate the skin to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and can speed up the healing process.

YELLOW – This bright cheerful color does as you would expect; it uplifts, invokes optimism and a real sense of self love in a person.

GREEN – The color of nature, green is associated with harmony and it provides a neutral, positive and calming effect.

ORANGE – This color can raise energy levels and help improve mood, I mean who can’t but raise a smile when you see something bright orange!?!

PURPLE – The mean and moody one, the color of royalty, richness and luxury. Purple is the color for tranquility and works well in a detox sense, stripping the body and mind of impurities and can help patients deal with that sense of mind over matter when dealing with chronic pain.

And then there’s Colorstrology – a bit like astrology, but this is the idea that each birth month has its own color, which is a reflection of your personality. To find out yours go to the Pantone website and pop in your birth date.

2019 sure is set to be a colorful one that’s for sure!

Sleep Hygiene

We all need sleep to survive, it’s a chance for our body and mind to rest, recharge, repair and grow. However, there aren’t many of us that are a) getting enough sleep and b) getting good quality sleep. 2018 saw the rise in good sleeping practices, with power naps and sleep yoga hitting the wellness scene. But 2019 is set to move on from this by teaching us the ways in which we can employ these good habits at home. And it’s much more about quality rather than quantity. Because yes we should be aiming for around about 7 hours of shut-eye a night, but surely 4 hours of quality sleep is way more beneficial than 8 hours of disrupted sleep?

Sleep hygiene is about being ‘clean’ with your sleep, which means setting good practices and routines such as the following:

  • Avoiding caffeine late at night.
  • Switching off screens and other devices at least an hour before going to bed – and ideally, you don’t even want them in your bedroom.
  • Get the temperature just right- not too hot and not too cold.
  • Ensure the room is dark – blackout blinds are your new best friend.
  • Keep noise to a minimum, or if that’s impossible due to noisy neighbors or yapping dogs then try listening to white noise which will drown out the other sounds and has a calming, sleep-inducing effect.
  • Comfort is key to ensure you have a good mattress, a duvet tog that you’re happy with and good supportive pillows.

You may well think that you can catch up on any missed sleep during the week at the weekend, but irregular sleep is far more damaging. Instead aim to finish work by a set time and give yourself a deadline to be in bed, even if you’re up there and reading for half an hour beforehand, that will help you relax and unwind from the day.

And if you’re someone who struggles to switch off and get to sleep try having a warm bath, drinking a hot milky drink, meditating, or practicing some deep breathing exercises before settling down for the night. These are all things that help induce sleepiness and should see you dozing off in no time.

Ultimately if you eat well, exercise regularly and keep those stress levels down then your sleep hygiene should be pretty damn clean. If you don’t… then perhaps that’s something you could work on in 2019!

Less Is More

Minimalism, the KonMari method, decluttering… call it what you like, but essentially all you need to know is that a clear space equals a clear mind.

Go on, try it.

Choose just one cupboard in one room of your house, drag everything out and then set to work sorting out what you do and don’t need. It’ll be tough, especially when you start finding long lost treasures or useful kitchen gadgets you’d forgotten about, or that top you wore back in 1992 that made you look like a bohemian princess, but you need to set yourself limits. Marie Kondo, the queen of clutter-free living, theorizes that we should only hang onto possessions that ‘spark joy’, those that don’t only serve to hold us back and bring negativity into our lives. And it’s certainly a good place to start. Can you honestly say that vegetable peeler shaped like a pencil sharpener brings you joy? Or does it annoy you because every time you go to open the drawer it catches and makes the drawer jam? And that book you’ve clung onto from your days at uni, the one riddled with post-it notes and pencil scrawled study notes… does it bring you joy? You can’t ever read it properly again, it’s probably out of date and so therefore no longer suitable as a study guide for anyone else and all it’s really doing is taking up space and gathering dust on your bookshelf.

The thought of getting rid of your belongings is a scary one. Objects become security blankets, but they are restrictive and oppressive and are preventing you from living your best life. Existing in a tidy and clear space, whether it’s within the work or home environment, can help reduce stress levels, conserve mental energy, give us clarity, make us more productive and most importantly of all can make us feel in control. And when you’re in control you can achieve anything!

Clean Air

As much as we’re all for clean air outside, is it actually doing us any good if our home or work environment is riddled with all kinds of chemicals – yes I’m deffo thinking of those plug-in air fresheners!!

Whether you fill your rooms with plants (they’re amazing at purifying the air and look pretty spesh too!), pay more attention to the ingredients used in your cleaning sprays etc. or even download an app that can tell you how pure the air is – yes really! –  2019 is 100% about living clean. We’ve done the clean eating thing, started to adopt the clean sleeping thing, so it was only a question of time before clean breathing became a thing.

Sales of air purifying plants have more or less tripled over the past year as people strive for that natural air in their homes. If you listened to your Biology teacher at school, you’ll know that plants are capable of turning carbon dioxide into vital oxygen, but they are also great at absorbing unwanted nasties such as formaldehyde, benzene, ammonia, acetone etc. which are found in so many of the items we have in our homes and workspaces.

Crystal Clear Water

Crystals were everywhere in 2018, helping us with their energizing vibes and well they just look so pretty don’t they!?! And don’t worry, they’re not going anywhere, they’re just infiltrating other areas of our lives, namely… our water bottles. Yep, that’s right, you’ve seen the fruit, veg and herb infuser water bottles, now it’s time for the crystal infused ones!

Not only does it take a good Instagram picture (these are beautiful things peeps!) but the crystal gets to work its magic by pouring out all of its positive energy into the water you’ll be sipping on. Crystal gurus have been doing this for donkey’s years, but for us newbies, crystal-infused water is big news. It’s basically creating an essence and so it is up to you which crystal to insert in your water bottle for any given day.

One thing you must, must, MUST make sure of is that any crystal you use is safe to be put in water. Certain stones may dissolve, whilst others may contain lead or corrosive chemicals. A quick Google search is all that should be needed to confirm whether a crystal is safe in water or not and it’s worth keeping a list of the ones you can and cannot use and storing them in different places so you don’t get confused.

It certainly takes drinking crystal clear water to a whole different level, doesn’t it!?!

SOURCE: Stafferton, B. (11 July 2018) "DISCOVER THE WELLNESS TRENDS FOR 2019" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://artofhealthyliving.com/discover-wellness-trends-2019/


Give employees time back in an always-on working world

With time being the most precious benefit of all, a growing number of employers are offering benefits designed to save employees time. Continue reading to learn more.


When it comes to employee benefits, what do people really want?

As HR and benefits professionals, we shouldn’t make broad assumptions or generalizations about what benefits our employees need or want. Each employee in any given organization is an individual with different circumstances to be met at every stage in their lives — from those entering the workforce to those preparing to retire, and everyone in between. This is why employers must differentiate their benefits packages to meet the needs of a diverse and multigenerational workforce. And as consumers demand more choice in how they spend their benefits dollars, employers are getting more creative and curating a more expansive set of options for everyone.

No matter how efficient an employee is, work inevitably extends beyond the traditional workday from time to time. Similarly, as the lines between home and work blur with flexible work arrangements and email available 24/7 on smartphones, employees still need to take care of personal tasks, like scheduling family dentist appointments, setting up child care, disputing medical bills or calling the veterinarian … all during the workday.

Regardless of generation, industry, position or title, people are yearning to find the right balance between work and life demand. Time is the most precious benefit of them all. As a result, there are a growing number of employers offering benefits designed to save employees time.

Previously offered predominantly by large, tech companies in Silicon Valley, we’re seeing time-saving benefits spread to employers and industries of all kinds and encompass a variety of conveniences, from on-site dry cleaning pickup, to employer-funded shuttles to get employees to and from work, gym memberships, grocery delivery and services like dog walking and personal errands. This benefits category can also include more significant, personalized benefits like concierge health services, assistance in evaluating elderly care options, telehealth for humans and pets, and emergency childcare services.

Once seen as just perks, these services run deeper. Employers care about their people, and these time-saving benefits — anything people leave work early for, or deal with during the work day — has created a new benefits category that increases employees’ productivity and capacity for work by eliminating distractions and freeing up mental space. While these types of benefits may seem like “nice to have” instead of essentials, they can add up and make a substantial difference in employees’ lives.

Life is complicated. Things go wrong that impact productivity, contribute to presenteeism and the well-being of our workforce; these employee benefits offered through employers are returning valuable time back into someone’s day, helping them focus on work and better balance work and life expectations.

Employees need HR’s help. By not offering a wide variety of benefits personalized to the workforce, employers are missing out on an opportunity to provide great value to employees and make a tremendously positive change in their lives. But many HR professionals falsely assume employees will ask for voluntary benefits directly and proactively make suggestions about what would help them. You may say, “My employees aren’t coming to me asking for things like elder care services, so they don’t need them.” My response is, of course, they’re not asking: they may not want you to know about challenges they’re facing in their personal lives.

Employee’s personal situations are just that - deeply personal. They may be suffering in silence. Americans are now facing the highest housing, education and medical costs in our history, meaning nearly everyone is stressed out about family, work and finances; it’s causing problems in the workplace. If their minds are somewhere else and not focused on work, their productivity could be suffering.

Open Enrollment is rapidly approaching. Don’t wait for your employees to ask you for benefits. Take advantage of OE to ask your employees what they’re looking for, as this is the time they’ll already be assessing what types of benefits they need in the coming year anyway. Use this time to survey the workforce to see what people do or don’t like about their benefits. Be sure to specifically ask “What can we offer you?”

It’s a question, and a gesture, that may matter more to employees than you know.

SOURCE: Oldham, J. (14 September 2018) "Give employees time back in an always-on working world" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/give-employees-time-back-in-an-always-on-working-world?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000


Predictive Analytics Will Be The Silent Game-Changer In Employee Benefits

Have you heard of predictive analytics? Predictive analytics analyzes current and historical data to make predictions about unknown events. Read on to learn how this technology could be used to help fine-tune employee benefits offerings.


Last year’s World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers came down to a seven-game battle based not only on talent, athleticism and coaching but also on data. Just as Sports Illustrated suggested back in 2014 via predictive data, the Astros were the victors.

The publication of Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game spurred not only Major League Baseball teams to deploy predictive analytics, but also businesses to take a harder look at what their data means. It's no longer part of the hype cycle: Statista forecasts (paywall) that the predictive analytics market worldwide will reach $6.2 billion in 2018 and $10.95 billion in 2022.

I believe we are also at a transformational point in improving corporate employee benefits and our employees’ lives by embracing predictive analytics. HR is swimming in rich data. Instead of guesstimating needs across multiple generations of employees, employers can turn to their own data to fine-tune what they are offering as benefits solutions. Companies spend 25-40% of an employee’s salary on benefits. It simply makes strategic and financial sense to get it right.

Bring Employee Benefits Out Of The Dark Ages

Hiring and retaining great talent is at the very soul of almost every company’s strategy. Not surprisingly, more companies have turned to predictive analytics to give them a leg up in recruitment. However, HR benefits have lagged behind. As John Greenwood reported to Corporate Adviser, “More than half of reward and employee benefits professionals see predictive analytics as a game-changer, but 90 percent are still using spreadsheets to manage data, research from the Reward & Employee Benefits Association shows.”

One reason for benefits lagging behind recruitment in adopting predictive analytics is that the way companies choose new benefits varies greatly from business to business. Given that the majority of HR departments keep data in disparate spreadsheets, even if some HR departments conduct employee surveys or historical cost analyses, they often do not integrate the data about their workforce. If a new benefit offering is chosen based on a needs analysis, only some know the “why” behind a request from the workforce. Knowing how many employees are logging into a benefits platform is helpful; market standard benefit utilization reports provide this level of information. Yet they do not give insight into the underlying reason for an employee to utilize a benefit. The user of deeper analytics is required to look deeper into employees' behavior.

We have found firsthand that many HR departments do not have a full understanding of how their employees are utilizing their benefits across the entire offering suite. A one-size-fits-all or a one-off strategy no longer is effective. Companies must understand not only their employees’ needs but also the underlying data related to these needs to provide a valuable benefits offering.

Put Your Existing Data To Use

For the past five years, I have watched our clients glean valuable insights into what the real underlying issues are for their employees and what must be done to address these pressing needs. I also have been watching companies realize that what they thought were the core problems at hand sometimes were not.

For example, one of our national high-tech clients, with over 50,000 benefit-eligible employees, believed that a high number of their employees had children struggling with autism. This belief was initially based on input from some of their employees. After approximately 16 months, the client reviewed the masked utilization data from their benefit platform. The data illustrated that the overwhelming majority of employee families (tenfold) in fact faced challenges associated with youth anxiety, a concern that had never been expressed to HR previously. Once they reviewed what employees were doing within our platform, their results mirrored the National Institute of Mental Health’s report that approximately 31.9% of U.S. children ages 13-18 struggle with anxiety disorders.

Their own data helped them understand much more specifically where their employees’ stress lay, and their HR department was able to focus communications around it.

Getting Started

Mining and viewing use data across all benefits is ideal. This enables an employer to determine if the benefit suite is serving employees effectively. We have found that as quickly as year over year, users' behaviors shift. If a company solely chooses a benefit based on what they saw as most heavily utilized the previous year, they are not being strategic.

For that reason, HR should utilize past and current data to better predict future patterns of need for a truly strategic approach to benefit choice. With this insight, they can make better choices and serve their workforce more effectively.

Given the limitations across many employee benefit vendors today, to start initially:

1. Embrace KPIs. Agree upon them internally, and measure benefit vendors on them.

2. Work with your current vendors to determine what data they provide to support your internal analysis. Ensure you have access to all the data you need, and if not, consider a vendor change.

3. Hold possible new vendors to similar data standards, and create a transparent relationship from the start.

4. Collect current and historical data. Existing vendors can provide this history, so make sure to collect at least 2-3 years of information.

These analytics need to go deeper than basic demographics to show patterns of activity. In order to understand the benefit needs of your workforce, you'll want to analyze trends across multiple data sets: medical, pharmacy, worker's compensation, biometric screenings, utilization patterns, FMLA requests and demographic trends. From there, you can start to pinpoint what your employees need -- and the “whys” behind the needs -- in order to make a measurable impact.

While predictive analytics is still in the nascent phase in the benefits and vendor worlds, the easiest and most proactive thing any employer can do is to focus on other insights vendors can provide related to the workforce and benefit use beyond simple utilization. In doing so, you will be able to support your employees both in their work lives and their personal lives by providing them with the benefits they need to be at their best.

SOURCE: Goldberg, A. (2 October 2018) "Predictive Analytics Will Be The Silent Game-Changer In Employee Benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2018/10/02/predictive-analytics-will-be-the-silent-game-changer-in-employee-benefits/#26648166e182


How to create a strong communication plan for open enrollment

Do you have a communication plan for open enrollment? Once businesses have their plan changes locked in, it’s time to focus on communicating those changes to their employees. Continue reading to learn how to create a strong communication plan for open enrollment.


Ready or not… the Benefits Super Bowl is here! Whether you are a broker, benefits manager or anywhere in between, you have been knee-deep on plan updates, rate reviews and benefit changes for months. Now that the plan changes are locked, it’s go-time! The focus is now on communicating and educating employees about their benefit options.

It takes an enormous amount of planning and execution to provide a productive open enrollment experience for employees. But, it is well worth it as this is often the only time during the year that employees stop to consider their benefit options.

Learn from past wins and misses

Consider previous years’ open enrollment communications and ask yourself the following:

  • What is the feedback you received from employees (the good, the bad and the ugly)?
  • What were the most common questions?
  • Were there key pieces of information employees had difficulty finding?

Learn from the answers to these questions and then craft your content in a clear and concise manner that is easier for employees to digest.

The communication medium is key to your success

Now that you’ve developed the content to communicate, the next equally important step is determining how, when and where you deliver this information. Is there a centralized location where employees can find information for both core and voluntary benefits? Is the information in a format that the employee can easily share with his or her significant other?

It is critical to have multi-channel communications to reach your audience. Some employees may naturally gravitate to a company-wide email and the company intranet, while others lean on more interactive mediums like E-books, text messages, webinars or lunch and learns. Providing a variety of communication avenues ensures you are reaching employees where they want to receive information.

Make sure your communications campaign provides educational materials at each of the key milestones during the open enrollment journey–such as prior to enrollment, midway through enrollment, and right before enrollment closes. Wherever possible, always support employees through the process and give them options to reach out for help.

How to communicate the same benefits to a diverse workforce

You are likely communicating to a group of employees with diverse needs and wants. What may be appealing to an entry-level recent grad may not resonate with a senior-level employee nearing retirement. For example, employees with young children may be especially interested in accident insurance or pet owners might look to pet insurance to help offset the costs of well-visits and routine care. If possible, tailor your communications to different segments of the employee population.

Communicating voluntary health-related benefits

Core medical benefits are what employees gravitate to during the enrollment period. Are you offering voluntary benefits to employees? The most successful voluntary benefit programs are positioned next to core medical plans on the enrollment platform. This shows employees how those voluntary benefits (critical illness, accident insurance and hospital indemnity) complement the core offerings with extended protection.

When voluntary benefit programs are positioned as an integral part of the employee benefits experience, employees are more likely to understand the value and appreciate the support provided by their employer. For example, a critical illness program can help to bridge the gap of a high-deductible health plan in the case of a covered critical condition. Communicate that voluntary benefits can be an integral part of a “Total Rewards Package” and can contribute to overall financial wellness.

Review and refine

Finally, don’t miss your opportunity at the end of enrollment to review how your communication campaign performed. Pull stats and analyze your communication campaign for next year’s open enrollment… it is never too early to start! HR managers can glean valuable information and metrics from the employee experience.

SOURCE: Marcia, P. (1 November 2018) "How to create a strong communication plan for open enrollment" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/11/01/how-to-create-a-strong-communication-plan-for-open/


Creating Better Employee Benefits With Advanced Analytics

Are your employees happy at work? It is important to provide a workplace, employee benefits and payment system that keep your employees happy. Read on to learn more.


Job satisfaction is the most important part of maintaining a happy workforce. If you have a workforce that feels like they could get a better deal elsewhere then they are likely to leave.

It is therefore important to provide a working environment, benefits and payment system, that keeps your employees happy without breaking the bank.

Analytics are being used to make sure that this is being done effectively, seeing where discontent is occurring and helping to suggest how this can be solved.

For instance, there are research companies that can use text analysis tools to analyze hundreds, if not thousands of survey entries that can give a holistic view of employee benefits. Often when survey results are being analyzed by an individual, it is difficult to gauge the overall feeling and there can be bias put on the results.

It also allows for HR to note the frequency of meetings with individuals as well as the frequency and size of any pay rises. If it is flagged that somebody hasn’t had a meeting with HR where they can directly communicate any concerns for a considerable amount of time, then tho scan be rectified.

Analytics can also be used to investigate which teams are happiest, have the highest retention rates or are the most profitable. This then allows companies to investigate in detail what is making these teams happiest or most productive, then create benefit packages to create similar results for other teams in the company.

Analytics and data have allowed companies to collect data to make their workforces happier and more content. This, in turn, creates situations where employees are eager to work and appreciative of the benefits they receive, improving ROI and increasing productivity.

SOURCE: Pannaman, E. (12 October 2018) "Creating Better Employee Benefits With Advanced Analytics" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://channels.theinnovationenterprise.com/articles/202-creating-better-employee-benefits-with-advanced-analytics


When Companies Should Invest in Training Their Employees — and When They Shouldn’t

A recent industry report revealed that U.S. companies spent over $90 billion on employee training and development activities in 2017. Read this blog post to learn more.


According to one industry report, U.S. companies spent over $90 billion dollars on training and development activities in 2017, a year-over-year increase of 32.5 %. While many experts emphasize the importance and benefits of employee development — a more competitive workforce, increased employee retention, and higher employee engagement — critics point to a painful lack of results from these investments. Ultimately, there is truth in both perspectives. Training is useful at times but often fails, especially when it is used to address problems that it can’t actually solve.

Many well-intended leaders view training as a panacea to obvious learning opportunities or behavioral problems. For example, several months ago, a global financial services company asked me to design a workshop to help their employees be less bureaucratic and more entrepreneurial. Their goal was to train people to stop waiting around for their bosses’ approval, and instead, feel empowered to make decisions on their own. They hoped, as an outcome, decisions would be made faster. Though the company seemed eager to invest, a training program was not the right way to introduce the new behavior they wanted their employees to learn.

Training can be a powerful medium when there is proof that the root cause of the learning need is an undeveloped skill or a knowledge deficit. For those situations, a well-designed program with customized content, relevant case material, skill-building practice, and a final measurement of skill acquisition works great. But, in the case of this organization, a lack of skills had very little to do with their problem. After asking leaders in the organization why they felt the need for training, we discovered the root causes of their problem had more to do with:

  • Ineffective decision-making processes that failed to clarify which leaders and groups owned which decisions
  • Narrowly distributed authority, concentrated at the top of the organization
  • No measurable expectations that employees make decisions
  • No technologies to quickly move information to those who needed it to make decisions

Given these systemic issues, it’s unlikely a training program would have had a productive, or sustainable outcome. Worse, it could have backfired, making management look out of touch.

Learning is a consequence of thinking, not teaching. It happens when people reflect on and choose a new behavior. But if the work environment doesn’t support that behavior, a well-trained employee won’t make a difference. Here are three conditions needed to ensure a training solution sticks.

1. Internal systems support the newly desired behavior. Spotting unwanted behavior is certainly a clue that something needs to change. But the origins of that unwanted behavior may not be a lack of skill. Individual behaviors in an organization are influenced by many factors, like: how clearly managers establish, communicate, and stick to priorities, what the culture values and reinforces, how performance is measured and rewarded, or how many levels of hierarchy there are. These all play a role in shaping employee behaviors. In the case above, people weren’t behaving in a disempowered way because they didn’t know better. The company’s decision-making processes forbid them from behaving any other way. Multiple levels of approval were required for even tactical decisions. Access to basic information was limited to high-ranking managers. The culture reinforced asking permission for everything. Unless those issues were addressed, a workshop would prove useless.

2. There is commitment to change. Any thorough organizational assessment will not only define the skills employees need to develop, it will also reveal the conditions required to reinforce and sustain those skills once a training solution is implemented. Just because an organization recognizes the factors driving unwanted behavior, doesn’t mean they’re open to changing them. When I raised the obvious concerns with the organization above, I got the classic response, “Yes, yes, of course we know those issues aren’t helping, but we think if we can get the workshop going, we’ll build momentum and then get to those later.” This is usually code for, “It’s never going to happen.” If an organization isn’t willing to address the causes of a problem, a training will not yield its intended benefit.

3. The training solution directly serves strategic priorities. When an organization deploys a new strategy — like launching a new market or product — training can play a critical role in equipping people with the skills and knowledge they need to help that strategy succeed. But when a training initiative has no discernible purpose or end goal, the risk of failure is raised. For example, one of my clients rolled out a company-wide mindfulness workshop. When I asked a few employees what they thought, they said, “It was interesting. At least it got me two hours away from my cubicle.” When I asked the sponsoring executive to explain her thought process behind the training, she said, “Our employee engagement data indicated our people are feeling stressed and overworked, so I thought it would be a nice perk to help them focus and reduce tension.” But when I asked her what was causing the stress, her answer was less definitive: “I don’t really know, but most of the negative data came from Millennials and they complain about being overworked. Plus, they like this kind of stuff.” She believed her training solution had strategic relevance because it linked to a vital employee metric. But evaluations indicated that, though employees found the training “interesting,” it didn’t actually reduce their stress. There are a myriad of reasons why the workload could have been causing employees stress. Therefore, this manager’s energy would have been better directed at trying to determine those reasons in her specific department and addressing them accordingly — despite her good intentions.

If you are going to invest millions of dollars into company training, be confident it is addressing a strategic learning need. Further, be sure your organization can and will sustain new skills and knowledge by addressing the broader factors that may threaten their success. If you aren’t confident in these conditions, don’t spend the money.

SOURCE: Carucci, R. (29 October 2018). "When Companies Should Invest in Training Their Employees – and When They Shouldn’t" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/10/when-companies-should-invest-in-training-their-employees-and-when-they-shouldnt


8 scary benefits behaviors employees should avoid

Are your employees mishandling their employee benefits? When employees fail to review open enrollment materials, they could be making decisions based on little to no knowledge. Read this blog post to for eight of the scariest benefit mistakes.


Halloween is already frightening enough, but what really scares benefits professionals are the ways employees can mishandle their benefits. Here are eight of the biggest mistakes, with tips on correcting them.

Participants don’t review any annual enrollment materials

Why it’s scary: Employees are making or not making decisions based on little or no knowledge.

Potential actions: Employers can implement a strategic communications campaign to educate and engage employees in the media and format appropriate for that employee class, or consider engaging an enrollment counselor to work with participants in a more personalized manner.

Employees don’t enroll in the 401(k) or don’t know what investment options to choose

Why it’s scary: U.S. employees are responsible for much of their own retirement planning and often leave money on the table if there is an employer match.

Potential actions: Employers can offer auto-enrollment up to the matching amount/percent; consider partnering with a financial wellness partner, and provide regular and ongoing communications of the 401(k)’s benefits to all employees.

Employees don’t engage in the wellness program

Why it’s scary: The employee is potentially missing out on the financial and personal benefits of participating in a well-being program.

Potential actions: Employers need to continuously communicate the wellness program throughout the year through various media, including home media. Employers also should ensure the program is meeting the needs of the employees and their families.

Employees don’t update ineligible dependents on the plan

Why it’s scary: Due to ambiguity where the liability would reside, either the employee or the plan could have unexpected liability.

Potential action: Employers can require ongoing documentation of dependents and periodically conduct a dependent audit.

Employees don’t review their beneficiary information regularly

Why it’s scary: Life insurance policy proceeds may not be awarded according to the employee’s wishes.

Potential action: Employers can require beneficiary confirmation or updates during open enrollment.

Employees do not evaluate the options for disability — whether to elect a higher benefit or have the benefit paid post-tax

Why it’s scary: Disability, especially a short-term episode, is very common during one’s working life; maximizing the benefit costs very little in terms of pay deductions, but can reap significant value when someone is unable to work.

Potential action: Employers can provide webinars/educational sessions on non-medical benefits to address those needs.

Employees do not take the opportunity to contribute to the health savings account

Why it’s scary: The HSA offers triple tax benefits for long-term financial security, while providing a safety net for near-term medical expenses.

Potential actions: Employers can select the most administratively simple process to enroll participants in the HSA and allow for longer enrollment periods for this coverage.

Employees do not use all of their vacation time

Why it’s scary: Vacation allows an employee an opportunity to recharge for the job.

Potential actions: Employers can encourage employees to use their vacation and suggest when the workload might be more accommodating to time off for those employees who worry about workloads.

SOURCE: Gill, S. & Manning-Hughes, R. (31 October 2018) "8 Scary Benefits Behaviors Employees Should Avoid" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/slideshow/8-scary-benefits-behaviors-employees-have?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001