It’s Time to Give Your Performance Review… a Performance Review

Fifty-eight percent of executives believe that their current performance review processes neither drive employee engagement nor high performance, according to a recent survey from Deloitte. These findings have many organizations looking into how they are conducting reviews. Read this blog post from UBA to learn more.


If you’ve felt the itch to reimagine your company’s performance review structure, your head is probably in the right place.

According to a recent Deloitte survey, 58 percent of executives believe that their current performance management processes neither drive employee engagement nor high performance. If engagement and performance are low, it’s time to start addressing how you’re conducting performance reviews.

History of Performance Reviews

The modern performance review originated during the Industrial Revolution, when a laborer’s performance could be accurately measured by their product output: the number of railroad ties installed, textiles produced, for example.

In today’s economy, there are more “knowledge workers” than ever before: people who are paid to think and produce ideas rather than material goods. In this type of work model, that traditional approach to performance reviews is no longer suitable.

The Problem

Beyond their outdated structure, today’s widespread ranking- and ratings-based performance reviews damage employee engagement by isolating high performers and costing managers more overhead evaluation time. Only eight percent of companies report that their performance management process drives high levels of value, while 58 percent said it isn’t an effective use of time.

Tips to Improve Your Performance Review Model

Consider an Ongoing Conversation vs Yearly Review

Many employees find that annual check-ins are simply not enough to gain a big-picture understanding of performance over time. Instead of waiting until the end of the year to evaluate, consider bi-weekly or quarterly check-ins with all direct managers. Accenture—one of the largest consultancies in the world—recently scrapped annual performance reviews in favor of a system in which employees receive timely feedback from their managers immediately after a completed assignment.

The big takeaway is that leading organizations are ditching the annual evaluation cycle and replacing it with ongoing feedback and coaching. By opting for a continuous review model, organizations can promote more gradual, holistic employee development.

Decoupling Yearly Performance from Compensation

Several years back, the separation of pay from performance was making its way into corporate playbooks. In 2015, General Electric actually abandoned its merit pay model.

The most common method for decoupling salary and performance (in a linear way), is to instill more continuous, instant feedback per project, while still retaining a single annual conversation about money.

This approach fosters a 360-degree view of compensation and gives employees more time to think about their performance and ways to improve throughout the year.

SOURCE: Olson, B. (19 November 2019) "It’s Time to Give Your Performance Review… a Performance Review" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/its-time-to-give-your-performance-review-a-performance-review


Why using a 401(k) to pay for emergencies is hurting employers and employees

Are your employees financially stressed? According to HR leaders, more and more employees are withdrawing $1,000 or less from their 401(k) retirement accounts to help pay for emergency expenses. Read this blog post from Employee Benefit News for more.


More than ever, HR leaders at Fortune 500 companies are reporting that employees are withdrawing $1,000 or less from their hard-earned 401(k) retirement accounts to pay for emergency expenses. These employees — often living at the brink of being financially unstable — are using the funds for unexpected emergency expenses like car repairs, medical bills or even to purchase books for their college-age children.

Corporate leaders are now, more than ever, concerned that many of their employees live under a high degree of financial stress that can affect their productivity, creativity and even their health, resulting in absenteeism and drops in productivity that ultimately impact the bottom line. HR managers are especially feeling the pain as they are called upon to handle the excessive paperwork needed for the 401(k) plan withdrawals, causing extra work that could be spent more productively on other projects that benefit all employees.

The fact that more Americans than ever are dipping into their 401(k) accounts for emergency funds reveals that many are living above their means or working below their needs financially. While it’s important to have an emergency fund, for many people savings is a luxury they simply can’t afford. According to a Federal Reserve survey, nearly 40 percent of Americans said they don’t have enough cash on hand to cover an unexpected $400 expense. The quick fix for many is to use credit cards or ask family or friends for a loan when an emergency arises, but when those are not options, tapping into the 401(k) accounts is becoming increasingly common.

Some companies are partnering with payday loan companies so employees will refrain from tapping into their retirement funds. This is actually a worse idea because they’re setting their employees up to fail by enabling a vicious cycle of debt employees may never be free of.

Financial education could be the key to helping employees gain control of their financial lives. Companies that promote financial literacy courses and attendance at financial seminars or conferences offer the first step toward a better path for future financial stability. Offering or subsidizing the cost of continuing education courses help inspire employees to begin a lifelong journey of education for higher salaries and career advancement. Companies that promote education and career advancement attract, engage and retain employees longer than companies that don’t.

Flexible benefits can help

Companies can help their employees refrain from using their 401(k) retirement accounts as a bank if they offer flexible benefits. Employees get to choose how to use their earned benefits, like utilizing the monetary value of their unused paid time off (PTO) for other priorities such as paying for an emergency expense, paying down student loan debt or funding a vacation, among other things. Companies that offer flexible benefits are giving workers the ability to finally be in the driver’s seat of their careers and lives. When companies empower employees in this way, job satisfaction, productivity and creativity go way up.

Flexible benefits are a no brainer to organizations that want to attract, recruit, engage and retain top talent. Salary isn’t the only factor in determining a good career move, and companies that want to win the talent war will offer some type of flexible benefits. Every employee should have the ability to choose benefits based on their individual needs, avoiding the damaging financial practice of using 401(k) accounts for emergency expenses.

SOURCE: Whalen, R. (25 November 2019) "Why using a 401(k) to pay for emergencies is hurting employers and employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/employees-are-using-401k-funds-for-emergencies


District Court Vacates Parts of ACA Section 1557 Nondiscrimination Rule

Any programs administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or any health program or activity administered by an entity established under Title I of the ACA falls under Section 1557 of the ACA. Recently, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (District Court) vacated portions of the current rule implementing Section 1557. Read this blog post from UBA to learn more about this compliance update.


As background, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) Section 1557 provides that individuals shall not be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any health program or activity which receives federal financial assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. The current rule applies to any program administered by HHS or any health program or activity administered by an entity established under Title I of the ACA. These applicable entities are “covered entities” and include a broad array of providers, employers, and facilities. On May 13, 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule (current rule) implementing Section 1557, which took effect on July 18, 2016.

On October 15, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (District Court) vacated portions of the current rule implementing Section 1557 that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and pregnancy termination. The District Court remanded the vacated portions of the current rule to HHS for revision. While those portions of the current rule have been vacated, covered entities subject to Section 1557 may still face private lawsuits for discrimination based on gender identity and pregnancy termination.

Employers who are subject to Section 1557 should stay informed on this litigation because it is anticipated that the District Court’s ruling will be appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

SOURCE: Hsu, K. (21 November 2019) "District Court Vacates Parts of ACA Section 1557 Nondiscrimination Rule" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/district-court-vacates-parts-of-aca-section-1557-nondiscrimination-rule


Key factors in choosing your benefits during open enrollment

Even if your employees are veterans when it comes to open enrollment, the employer-sponsored benefits landscape is shifting. With the number of benefits that are now available to employees, how do employees select the right benefits for them? Read this blog post from Employee Benefit News for a few key factors to consider when choosing your benefits during open enrollment.


Even if you are a veteran in choosing employer-sponsored benefits, the landscape is shifting. Over the past years, we’ve seen changes to mental health counseling stipends, extended maternity/paternity leave and family building. Companies across industries are realizing that in order to attract and retain talent, they need to provide best in class benefits that save employers unforeseen costs in the long run, and shows employees that their employers are invested in their well-being — in and out of the office.

With all these available options and only a short window to select what’s right for you, here’s what should you look out for during open enrollment.

Which benefits matter to me?

The beauty of a diverse workforce is that employees may represent various walks of life. However, this means that not all benefits make sense for every person. Perhaps your boss is prioritizing childcare for his toddler while your colleague is looking to refinance student loans. Whatever your life circumstance, ask yourself, “Which benefits are most pertinent to my life and life goals in the coming year?”

For instance, fertility benefits may not be immediately attractive at first glance, even if you’re actively thinking about starting a family. But 1 in 8 couples will be impacted by infertility and treatment without coverage can be wildly expensive. It’s important to make sure you’re thinking critically and getting all the necessary information when browsing for your benefits. Rule of thumb: if this could impact you in the coming year, even if you’re not 100% sure, opt-in for coverage.

What’s actually covered?

During open enrollment, be sure to ask your benefits team about how robust each offering is and what’s included. A particular benefit may look like it has a lot to offer, but after further investigation, you may uncover restrictions, unforeseen out of pocket costs and other obstacles that may make it harder for you to utilize the benefit.

With fertility benefits, many conventional carriers offer coverage with a dollar maximum, meaning you’d max out on coverage before completing a full IVF cycle. Plus, there are additional costs outside of the basic IVF procedure, like diagnostic testing, medications, and genetic testing which may come with a hefty price tag you’d have to pay for. Without adequate coverage, many people have to make cost-based decisions, forgoing the technology they need to reach a successful outcome.

As an alternative, Progyny’s coverage is bundled, meaning your entire treatment event is covered and you do not have to worry about what is or is not included, or fear running out of coverage mid-way through. Many vendors have similar disruptive solutions to ensure they’re not leaving their members high and dry during difficult times.

When sifting through options, be sure you’re asking what’s covered and not covered under your plan. A lot of benefits may seem expansive, but make sure you’re getting the most out of the coverage that’s available to you. Ask: Are the best clinics in your area included in your plan as “in-network”? Do you have to meet medical necessity requirements before being allowed to access your benefits?

Which benefits are supported?

Once you’ve opted in for benefits during open enrollment, how do you access your benefit? How do you move forward with treatment? Does your benefit provide access to the doctors in your area? Since many of these offerings are complex and without proper onboarding, how can you be expected to understand the next steps?

With the growing emphasis on mental health and concierge member experience, companies like Progyny try to eliminate some of the member’s burden and create an easy to use benefit model that provides member support. For example, our dedicated Patient Care Advocates — a concierge-style fertility coach — helps members navigate the clinical and emotional aspects of your fertility treatment, making a difficult process a bit easier.

Another important factor to consider when shopping for benefits is access to care where you live — are the doctors that your insurance covers close by and easy to get to? When choosing your benefits, look out for any information about access to support. The goal of a benefit is to make your life easier, not leave you feeling confused and stressed in times of need.

What do I do if I’m unhappy with the benefits offered during open enrollment?

Often times, employers are unaware of what an employee wants until it’s brought to their attention. If you are unhappy with the benefits offered, raise the issue with your HR team! You are your own best advocate and change begins with you.

Not sure where to start? If you are comfortable, speak with your colleagues. Seek out a company resource group to see if others have similar needs. This way you can help form a plan or a way to approach HR. Once you have an idea of what you need, talk to HR to explain why the proposed benefit would be pertinent to you and your colleagues. Employers understand that the key to keeping good talent is making sure they’re happy.

Open enrollment can be overwhelming but take advantage of the resources you have. Ask questions, do your research, and discuss the options with experts in your office. With an arsenal of helpful information at your disposal, open enrollment should be stress-free and get you excited for all of the incredible employer-sponsored benefits in your future.

SOURCE: Ajmani, K. (25 November 2019) "Key factors in choosing your benefits during open enrollment" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/how-to-choose-benefits-during-open-enrollment


Improving your employee experience during open enrollment

Often, employers struggle with employee participation during open enrollment season. Switching company enrollments online is one way to increase employee participation. Read the following blog post for more tips to help ease this open enrollment season.


For HR professionals, open enrollment is one of the most stressful and demanding times of the year. Many employers struggle with employee participation and expensive, time-consuming roll-outs. They also have to provide resources to help employees make the right plan selections for themselves and their families. As we head into another open enrollment season, consider these tips to ease the process.

Switch your open enrollments to online platforms.

If you’re still relying on paper enrollment forms, you are likely spending more money and time than you need to in pursuit of your manual work process and its many inconsistencies. Online platforms provide optimum efficiency, accuracy and convenience for your workforce, offering employee self-service options that encourage employees to take initiative in selecting the best plan for their situation. Not only will members of your workforce benefit from the convenience of being able to explore their options on their own time, but you’ll be able to offer them multi-lingual enrollment materials and have more time to assist them than ever before.

Prioritize and diversify communication.

One of the top ways to ensure a smooth open enrollment period is to use multiple communication channels, including frequent reminders regarding open enrollment deadlines. Without consistent outreach on the part of your HR officers and general managers, you will likely find yourself hunting people down to meet your enrollment and extension deadlines. Using an online self-service portal as well as traditional in-person meetings allow you to remind your employees of critical dates and changes as enrollment closes in.

The robust benefits administration system you choose should offer enrollment tracking and reporting features so you can see at a glance who still needs to begin open enrollment, who has left enrollment documents incomplete, who has made changes to their benefits (such as adding a dependent) and more. You can arrange for the system to send automatic reminders to signal the employee that further actions are needed. Providing multiple reminders will improve participation and the completion of on-time enrollments.

Help employees choose the best health plan for their situation.

In order to have the most successful open enrollment period possible, educating your employees on the different plan options available will go a long towards ensuring employee satisfaction. Studies have shown that most employees don’t have the necessary understanding of terms like “deductible” and “coinsurance,” let alone the tools to know which plan is best for their individual needs. Incorporating at-a-glance comparison tools and charts into your online or print enrollment materials can help employees make the most informed decision possible. It can also be helpful to provide educational materials like videos and simplified plan charts or cost calculators.

Keep Up with Benefit Trends and Voluntary Offerings.

Given the current labor shortage and competitive talent market, you’ll want to make sure your company is up to speed on which new benefits your competitors are looking to add, as well as which ones are appealing to specific roles, locations or generations within potential candidates from your hiring pool.

Voluntary benefits, for example, are playing an increasingly important role in employee benefits portfolios and they don’t cost you anything. Some of the most popular voluntary benefits right now include identity theft protection, pet insurance, long term care insurance and critical illness protection. If you aren’t currently offering these types of additional benefits, they could be a cost-effective way to boost employee morale, increase participation in enrollment and attract more workers to your business.

SOURCE: Smith, M. (2 December 2019) "Improving your employee experience during open enrollment" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/improving-your-employee-experience-during-open-enrollment


DOL, HHS, and Treasury Release Final FAQs on Mental Health / Substance Use Disorder Parity

The DOL, HHS and Treasury have released final FAQs regarding mental health and substance use disorder parity implementation and the 21st Century Cures Act Part 39. Read this blog post from UBA to learn more about these FAQs.


The U.S. Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury (collectively, the “Departments”) released final FAQs About Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Implementation and the 21st Century Cures Act Part 39. The Departments respond to FAQs as part of implementing the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA), as amended by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act). The FAQs contain a model disclosure form that employees can use to request information from their group health plan or individual market plan regarding treatment limitations that may affect access to mental health or substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits.

The DOL also released an enforcement fact sheet summarizing the DOL’s closed investigations and public inquiries regarding mental health and substance use disorder during the 2018 fiscal year.

SOURCE: Hsu, K. (14 November 2019) "DOL, HHS, and Treasury Release Final FAQs on Mental Health / Substance Use Disorder Parity" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/dol-hhs-and-treasury-release-final-faqs-on-mental-health-/-substance-use-disorder-parity