Sabbaticals Can Benefit Employees and Employers

Have your employees taken a sabbatical before? Sabbaticals are extended breaks from work without an employee actually leaving their position, allowing employees to take time to travel, spend time with family, volunteer, etc. Continue reading this blog post from UBA for how sabbaticals can actually benefit employees and employers.


While many employees may be dreaming of a short summer vacation, others could have a longer block of time off in mind. Sabbaticals, whether paid or unpaid, are extended breaks from work without leaving a position. A sabbatical gives an employee the opportunity to take time to travel, spend time with family, do something meaningful or volunteer, pursue a long-held goal, learn something new, or simply recharge.

Many employers would agree that a recharged employee is a more engaged and productive employee. In fact, some firms require newly promoted senior employees to take a sabbatical before beginning their next role. And one noted example, designer Stefan Sagmeister, closes his studio for a full year every seven years. It might be the most direct modern use of the origin of the word sabbatical, which come from the Hebrew word forrest and relates to the practice of letting land lie fallow for a year every seven years so it can remain productive.

Beyond fallow time for land, the idea of a sabbatical has been around for years, particularly in academia says Fast Company. Still, Workforce reports that in 2017 less than 20 percent of companies offered a sabbatical program. Most offer them to certain employees, like those getting a promotion to senior level, or management who’ve served over five years. It’s interesting to note, though, that the number jumps to a quarter of employers on a list of 100 best companies to work for compiled by Fortune.

A company without an explicit sabbatical policy may want to consider developing one, or can expect to be asked about it, says the Harvard Business Review. For an employee who presents a well-considered proposal and is able to show their value to the company, it may be a wise investment. When weighing the value of the sabbatical for the employee, consider what may be in it for the employer, like the acquisition of new skills or perspectives, that can be brought back to the workplace. Employees who have successfully taken a sabbatical report feeling more resilient, focused, ambitious innovative, and engaged. They’re also more appreciative of their workplace and employer, which can lead to improved employee loyalty and retention.

A sabbatical program would be appealing to new hires, especially in a tight job market or when recruiting Millennials, who value meaning over making money. In order to not miss out on a qualified candidates, consider a gap in a work history with curiosity about a potential sabbatical they’ve taken, says The Muse. If your company is ready to support a sabbatical, just be sure the recipients have a plan for limiting impact on other employees so burnout isn’t simply transferred or resentment created. Be mindful, too, that the employee is aware of whether an extended leave would impact promotion or raise timing.

Not ready to offer a longer-term paid sabbatical? An employee may be open to an unpaid sabbatical. If that’s not an option, encourage employees to take their vacation time since more than half of workers finished 2018 with unused time off. Or, create one day a month or even an hour a week that’s dedicated to non-required tasks or meeting expectations. See what your employees can do with time delegated to freedom to explore.

Read more:

Thinking About Taking a Sabbatical? Here’s What You Need to Know

Should You Take a Sabbatical? 3 Women Weigh In

How to Ask Your Boss for an Unpaid Leave to Travel, Study, or Spend Time with Family

Sabbaticals Help Fight Employee Burnout

SOURCE: Olson, B. (9 July 2019) "Sabbaticals Can Benefit Employees and Employers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/sabbaticals-can-benefit-employees-and-employers


Culture is what employers ‘do when no one is looking’

Culture is one of the primary reasons employees choose to leave a current position or accept a job offer. According to a recent survey, 30 percent of job seekers left new positions after 90 days because of company culture. Continue reading this blog post to learn more.


Employers advertise their values to attract like-minded talent, but if organizations don’t practice what they preach, they risk watching that talent walk right out the door.

Second to compensation, company culture is one of the primary reasons employees leave a company, according to the 2018 Jobvite Job Seeker Insights Survey. A good fit is so important that 30% of job seekers left brand-new positions after just 90 days because they didn’t like the company’s culture, the study said.

“It’s interesting that people think about culture in terms of what they want it to be, not what it actually is,” Mita Mallick, head of diversity and cross-cultural marketing at Unilever, said Wednesday at the Greenhouse Open Conference. “Culture is defined by what you do when no one’s looking.”

Mallick and Jennifer Turner — an HR strategy consultant at Alphabet, Google’s parent company — engaged in a panel discussion on creating an inclusive company culture during the conference. As HR professionals managing large teams, they agreed employers need to take initiative to establish healthy work environments.

“Creating an environment where women and people of color feel comfortable needs to be a priority,” Turner said. “Including their voices is how you make that happen.”

Turner recognized that some marginalized employees won’t feel comfortable speaking up about problems with company culture — especially if they have less job experience. Mallick and Turner said it’s helpful for these employees to find allies in senior level coworkers who can advocate for them.

“Early in my career, I know I didn’t feel comfortable raising my hand and saying, ‘That’s not OK,’” Mellick said. “I’m much more confident now.”

Mallick spoke about a time when she felt she needed to step up for employees who are mothers. Unilever was in the middle of planning a new campus in New Jersey, complete with a mother’s room for nursing. After viewing the plans, Mallick said it was clear the designers didn’t ask any of their female employees what they’d like to get out of the room. From her own experience as a mother, she said it would be most helpful if the room also functioned as a co-working space; the plan she was presented with didn’t have those elements.

“I asked [the men], ‘Have you ever nursed before?’ And, of course, they said no,” Mallick said. “Some of the men were getting grouchy, saying they were just trying to do the right thing. But that’s just an example of failure in not trying to connect who you were trying to serve.”

“If you don’t, it happens organically,” Mallick said. “There are people who will try to fill the culture.”

Turner spoke briefly about Google’s transition from startup to global enterprise, a change that required the company to redesign its culture. She said Google was able to bridge traditional office hierarchies with Google’s original culture by training managers to act like coaches. The founders hoped this management structure would perpetuate their original value — teamwork.

“Our founders felt uncomfortable with the word ‘management,’” Turner said. “But you need it at larger companies to organize jobs.”

Both women emphasized the importance of conducting regular employee surveys to determine engagement levels. Mellick said lower-level employees often feel more comfortable providing honest feedback in surveys. She believes this is the best way to “hold leadership accountable.”

“Sometimes there are some bad actors who continue to slip by without living by your company’s values because they produce results,” Mellick said. “It’s important to listen to employee feedback because these productive jerks can be an overpowering force that creates fear in your workforce.”

Turner said employers who are serious about their company’s core values need to conduct regular performance reviews for managers and take their lower-level employees’ feedback seriously.

“We want our leadership to stand up for us and believe what comes from their mouth,” Turner said. “If leaders don’t live by [the company’s] values, how can the culture be that way?”

SOURCE: Webster, K. (14 June 2019) "Culture is what employers ‘do when no one is looking’" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/alphabet-unilever-discuss-workplace-culture


How to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude Towards Employees

Employees are more likely to trust their employers who recognize their value. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn how you can develop an attitude of gratitude towards your employees.


Many companies plan to boost employee engagement in 2019. With benefits for both employees and employers, the strategy is easy to understand. What’s more, a strong employee recognition program can set your company apart in a tight job market.

Indeed, we find that demonstrating pride in our employees leads them to take pride in our company. A human-centric approach creates a company culture that puts workers first. Employees are more likely to trust (and feel trusted by) companies that recognize their value.

Putting employees first can also pay big dividends to the bottom line– a strong connection exists between employee trust and company performance. Companies with high degrees of worker trust consistently outperform in terms of productivity, innovation and retention. Happier employees also contribute to a positive company culture.

That positive culture can stretch far beyond the office walls. When job seekers research your company on social media and third-party review sites – something nearly everyone does these days – they will see positive feedback from your employees. This sets your company apart from the crowd and can help attract top talent to your organization.

Creative ways to show you care

When you recognize the value your employees bring, you demonstrate the company’s values of gratitude and appreciation. Don’t just assume employees already know you think they are amazing, show them. Here are some ideas to help you acknowledge employee contributions:

  • Reserve a designated “thank you” time during staff meetings – This provides a chance for managers and team members to express gratitude towards each other.
  • Implement a weekly email “shout-out” campaign – Spread recognition of top performers to the entire firm on a weekly basis.
  • Recognize individual successes with quarterly awards – Prizes for notable achievements and employees who consistently give 110 percent cannot be overvalued.
  • Provide special well-being perks to all – Ideas include reimbursing employees for fitness classes, books or purchases of apps that promote healthy living. Provide periodic yoga classes, chair massages or meditation sessions.
  • Plan special team celebrations after wrapping up a big project – Consider generational differences and crowdsource ideas so employees get something they really want.
  • Arrange annual team retreats packed with fun activities.

When companies celebrate their employees, everyone wins. Employees are happier. There is less burnout and turnover. We have seen a myriad of bottom-line benefits from on-going employee appreciation programs at Indeed. Recognition truly transforms workers, teams and companies.

SOURCE: Wolfe, P. (4 April 2019) "How to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude Towards Employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/how-to-develop-an-attitude-of-gratitude-towards-employees


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


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.


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.


In Pursuit of a Better Meeting

Are you in pursuit of a better meeting? While making meetings more fun than your annual office holiday party may be impossible, it is possible to lessen the dread and increase morale. Read this blog post from UBA to learn more.


Groans and sighs often greet the ping of a meeting invite hitting an inbox. While it may be impossible to make meetings more fun than the office holiday party, it is possible to lessen the dread, increase morale, and improve the results of a meeting.

Complaints about meetings are often justified, including wasted time, the same voices dominating the conversation time after time, and no follow-up or action plan after the meeting. Another issue, according to the Harvard Business Review, is that managers often rank the effectiveness of their own meetings much higher than attendees do, 90 percent of whom report daydreaming and nearly three-quarters of whom use the time to do other work.

Despite the challenges, meetings do have benefits beyond getting the to-dos done! They can bring people together for a change of pace, improve communication overall, and create a more cohesive team.

Want to empower your leadership and avoid being one of the almost 8 in 10 who thinks their meetings are going great when attendees beg to differ? Here are some things to consider.

Before

Be sure to set attendance, an agenda, and the tone for your meeting. Consider who is essential and get the meeting on their calendar but spare other people. If you want many opinions, open it up to more people after that. A leaner meeting may be more productive and allow critical voices and ideas to have the time and space to collaborate and percolate.

Sending out an agenda ahead of time not only shows you’re prepared, it helps everyone prepare. Prime the problem-solving pump by putting the topics up for discussion into everyone’s minds ahead of time. Plus, once the meeting is started, an agenda helps keep things on track. In an article on the power of a well-run meeting, the New York Times calls a great agenda a compass for the conversation, helping guide a drifting discussion back on course.

If you are calling the meeting, be sure to make the agenda yourself and take the time to plan for a successful gathering. Don’t delegate crafting an agenda but, maybe, says The Balance Careers, ask for input. A call for ideas or dedicated time to brainstorm helps set a positive, inclusive tone for the meeting. Culture starts from the top, so show you value both the time you’ll spend together and everyone’s potential contributions.

During

Meetings that are a routine part of the schedule can become too routine. Ask everyone to pick a different seat, bring in an outside expert or unexpected snack to mix things up. Try a brainstorming activity, an ice breaker, or a walking meeting outside instead of the conference room. There’s no need to get gimmicky, but a little variety can go a long way.

Consider the pacing of your meeting and always allow for silence. Introverts or team members who prefer to fully process an idea before sharing will be more likely to contribute if some thinking time is offered before diving into the sharing. Remember that agenda? Don’t cram it so full that it removes any time for serendipity. And if no lightning strikes, the team will enjoy a meeting that ends early instead of runs late.

As the leader of a meeting, once you’ve shared the agenda, then it’s time to share the air. If you lead with your ideas, they may be the ones that win even if better ones exist. Rather than dominate the discussion, set some ground rules and let others talk. Facilitation is an art form the best leaders work to master.

After

Follow up with a recap and next steps once the meeting has wrapped. Employees will be understandably frustrated if they feel like their time or ideas met a dead end. Knowing their contributions were valuable and that there is an action plan helps employees invest in the next meeting.

Meeting leaders shouldn’t fear feedback. Sending an anonymous survey, asking for suggestions, and keeping an open mind about ways to improve can help your leadership and your team’s attitude toward meetings.

A regular audit of your meetings and meeting schedule is a smart tip. How much do you talk versus other team members? Were attendees focused? What meetings really need to stay in 2019? What can you cancel and bring back if needed? Trimming the schedule can be a great start, but experts caution against assuming no meetings is the way to go.

Additionally, one coach recommends via an article in Forbes that one meeting always stay on the schedule, especially for new managers. A weekly one-on-one with direct reports is an essential way to hear what they need to succeed and take some time to plan. Face time is important for employees, certainly, but it’s also a chance for meeting leaders to solicit genuine feedback about meetings. That’s one way to make meetings come full circle!

Read more:

How to Run a More Effective Meeting

How to Lead Effective Team Meetings

Ten Things New Managers Need to Know

Why Your Meetings Stink—and What to Do About It

SOURCE: Olson, B. (26 February 2019) "In Pursuit of a Better Meeting" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/in-pursuit-of-a-better-meeting


Free snacks won’t retain workers long term. Here’s what will

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that 32 percent of employers offer company-paid snacks and beverages to their employees. Read this blog post to learn what will retain workers long term.


Free snacks at work can help workers curb late afternoon hunger — but will employees be more inclined to stick around because the office has free food? Probably not, according to a report from recruiting and staffing firm The Execu Search Group.

Offering free snacks at work seems like a good way to attract and retain workers, but it is a misconception that millennials, the largest generation in the workforce, want the benefit, the report says.

The trend of offering free snacks to workers started with big Silicon Valley tech companies — like Facebook and Google — and spread to employers of all sizes across the U.S. According to research from the Society for Human Resource Management, 32% of employers offer company-paid snacks and beverages to employees, up significantly from last year, when 22% offered them.

Free snacks can be a great addition to the office, but only if an employer offers others substantive benefits, says Edward Fleischman, CEO of The Execu Search Group. On its own, he adds, food offers little value.

“[Free food] is great. But some companies are using it as an incentive to keep people there — and that’s not going to keep people there,” he says.

Instead of offering small perks like snacks, the report says that if a company wants to retain millennial workers, it should offer benefits that allow greater work flexibility, more vacation time, training and development, and opportunities to make a difference. In particular, employers should consider instituting benefits like a flexible work schedule and unlimited paid time off, Fleischman says.

“That’s a keyword now — flexibility,” he says. “The flexibility to work from home when they need to, or want to.”

Millennials, in particular, he says, want the ability to work whenever and wherever they want. While there might be initial concern that allowing employees to work from home means they won’t be as productive, this isn’t the case. Millennials are very connected to their devices and will typically respond even after work hours are over, Fleischman says.

“They’ll respond on their iPhone at 11 o’clock at night. They may be at a restaurant, but they’ll respond to you,” he says.

Making changes like adding an unlimited PTO policy or a flexible work schedule could be difficult for legacy companies to institute, Fleischman says. It often requires trust that employees won’t abuse the policy. Additionally, older generations and executives may be used to stricter PTO policies, so it could require an adjustment, he adds.

But more companies are taking the plunge to offer these kinds of benefits. The number of employers offering unlimited PTO jumped from 1% in 2014 to 5% in 2018, according to SHRM. Employers including General Electric, Dropbox and Grant Thornton all offer the benefit, according to Glassdoor.

Fleischman says that in a competitive labor market, benefits are a key factor to recruiting and retaining a solid workforce. If a company is not offering solid benefits, it could mean the difference between accepting a job and looking elsewhere.

“As a company, you have to really set yourself up nicely to recruit that person and retain that person,” he says.

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (28 January 2019) "Free snacks won’t retain workers long term. Here’s what will" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/free-snacks-wont-retain-workers-long-term-heres-what-will?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


Tackling Workplace Bullying

According to recent research, about 75 percent of U.S. employees have been impacted by workplace bullying. Continue reading this blog post from UBA to learn how employers can tackle workplace bullying.


A recent study reports more than half of employees in global businesses witnessed or experienced workplace bullying. While that’s alarming, research focused on the U.S. says closer to 75 percent of employees have been impacted by workplace bullying.

What are some of those impacts? Individuals experiencing bullying report increased stress, depression, lower self-esteem and disengagement. A company culture that allows workplace bullying to go unchecked is a culture that will struggle with overall retention, productivity and worker satisfaction. While the social-emotional and productivity impacts are not to be ignored, studies cited in Safety and Health Magazine also show an increased risk of cardiovascular disease at rates rivaling diabetes and drinking as risk factors.

Given these impacts, it’s not surprising workplace bullying is getting significant attention from both researchers and the popular press. While it would be easy to assume, then, that solutions are being proactively developed, that’s not always the case. Several factors impact HR and other company leadership’s ability to aggressively tackle this hot topic.

One challenge is that workplace bullying can be seen as harmless, unintentional, or a matter of subjective interpretation. To counter that, the Workplace Bullying Institute says to look for deliberate behavior or language that is repeated, harmful, intimidating, insulting, humiliating or sabotages the target according to an article in Entrepreneur. When looking, it’s also important to look up and down the corporate ladder. This kind of workplace problem can come from a coworker or a misuse of power by a manager or leader.

According to an article in The HR Director, while more than 9 in 10 businesses want to make feeling safe a hallmark of employee wellbeing, only 1 in 10 is doing something about it. One reason so few are taking action is due to a disconnect about who should take the lead. Senior management skews toward expecting HR to take the lead, but most employees think management should be leading. A first critical step, then, is determining if employee psychological safety is a priority and then empowering a department or team to do something.

Once your team is ready, here are five steps to take.

Establish policies against bullying and to address allegations if you don’t already have them. If you do have policies, take meaningful time to assess and improve them. Consider your social media policies as well. Not all workplace bullying happens at a physical place of work. Much happens online.

Educate employees on new or existing policies. Employees who know there are clear systems in place are more satisfied and more likely to get help. Consider onboarding education for new employees and how you can let them know you’re a company with a plan in place. Formal training that addresses bullying and how to intercede as a bystander can put everyone on the same team.

Empower employees to report bullying. Many people who experience workplace bullying are unsure if they should report it, worried they’ll get in trouble if they do report it, and aren’t comfortable reporting it because they’re being bullied by a supervisor or manager.

Explore how your workplace works for gig economy freelancers and contractors. It’s important to decide how your HR department will acknowledge and deal with their bullying concerns. Are they less likely to report something you should know about because they have less job security or don’t feel protected by policies?

Exemplify the type of behavior you wish to see, says Forbes. Workplace civility and culture start at the top, and managers set expectations. Take claims seriously, behave in respectful, authentic ways, and you’re on your way to a better experience for your employees.

Read more:

Workplace bullying is not going away

Here Is Why We Need To Talk About Bullying In The Work Place

Five Ways To Shut Down Workplace Bullying

Study shows workplace bullying rivals diabetes, drinking as heart disease risk factor

Effectively Addressing A Workplace Bully

SOURCE: Olson, B. (19 February 2019) "Tackling Workplace Bullying" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/tackling-workplace-bullying


7 employee engagement trends gaining momentum

A recent Gallup survey reports that organizations with highly engaged employees outperform the competition by 147 percent in earnings per share. Continue reading for seven employee engagement trends that are gaining momentum.


Employee engagement is top-of-mind in the HR industry these days. In many ways, it might be one of employers’ biggest pain points. In this tight job market, it’s easier for employees to jump ship — and that’s a big headache for HR. Employers now are working more diligently to retain their key talent who are apt to go elsewhere to seek the working environment they desire.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, it costs a company, on average, six to nine months of an employee’s salary to replace her. So, for an employee making $40,000 a year, that’s $20,000 to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses. Others predict the cost is even more: That losing a salaried employee can cost as much as twice their salary, especially for a high earner or executive-level employee.

Think about it. Salary and benefits are important, sure. But in this job market, employees can find what they are looking for in a compensation package. So, what makes the difference? It’s employee engagement — the extent to which an employee’s personal goals and interests align with the vision and goals of the company.

Organizations with highly-engaged employees outperform the competition by 147% in earnings per share, according to Gallup. More companies are realizing the effect that improved employee engagement is having on employee performance, retention and productivity. A G2 Crowd survey reported that in 2019, companies will increase their spending on employee engagement by 45%.

This year has all the makings of being a pivotal year for employee engagement with retention being equally, or even more as important, as recruitment. HR professionals, and companies as a whole, need to review employee engagement practices to make sure their strategy impacts retention, production and performance.

What’s ahead in 2019 for employee engagement? Here are my predictions.

Employers will put much more focus on employee engagement. An analysis from PwC says the new standard for employee engagement is fulfillment — the feeling people have when their work and their motivations are aligned and they gain a sense of meaning and purpose as a result. Others say it’s the employee experience — that it’s more than better perks and benefits. It’s ensuring that employees have positive, meaningful interactions with the organization at every step. Whether it’s employee engagement, fulfillment or experience, 2019 is going to see more employers, and the industry itself, paying much more attention to employee engagement.

Flexibility will be all-important. Millennials, the largest generation in the workforce, have made it loud and clear that they want more workplace flexibility including the ability to shift work hours (such as starting the day earlier or later) and working from home one or two days a week. Turns out that non-millennials are saying the same thing. Look for companies to incorporate more flexibility into company policies this year.

The annual performance review continues to be on its way out. The trend away from the annual performance review in favor of more frequent, real-time reviews and informal feedback will start to take hold in 2019. Ongoing communication is a much more effective tactic. Millennials, in particular, like at least monthly review format/commentary. In addition, steps for development, growth and mentoring can influence an employee’s satisfaction and desire to stay with the company.

Employee appreciation will move to a year-round activity. Call it what you want — recognition, appreciation, etc. But it’s not about an end-of-year holiday party or an employee of the month recognition. And it doesn’t have to always be about the cost of doing it — a manager’s thanks and lunch brought in at the end of a big project can go a long way. This year will see more attention to demonstrating employee appreciation on a year-round basis and rethinking the ways in which we can show it.

Companies will add benefits that satisfy employee lifestyle needs. Employee engagement no longer is one-size-fits-all. Employees have various lifestyle needs that companies can address that show they care about employee life stages. For example, more attention is being paid today to the needs of nursing mothers, and many companies are providing lactation services. For example, Goldman Sachs last year started paying for nursing mothers to ship breast milk to their homes when they travel. PwC introduced a phased return-to-work program following parental leave. Look for companies to identify and add more unique benefits in 2019 that show their employees they care about their life stages.

Employers will take a much more holistic approach to wellness. Gone are the days when employee wellness meant providing a gym membership and orchestrating an internal health fair. In recent years we have seen companies start broadening their wellness approach. Happy, healthy employees are generally engaged employees and that involves addressing all aspects of wellness. According to the University of Maryland, there are eight mutually-interdependent dimensions of wellness — physical, mental, emotional, social, occupational, financial, purposeful and environmental. They don’t have to be equally balanced, and employers likely can’t address all of them. 2019 will see employers studying the holistic wellness approach and making changes that fit their particular organization and their employees the best.

Gamification will be adopted more widely. Whether it’s for onboarding, benefits communication/understanding, wellness programs or other employee engagement tactics, gamification will be considered and adopted more widely this year. Gamification techniques can be used as well to increase use of intranets, social media platforms and mobile communication. Look for employers this year to create more apps and digital games to increase employee engagement.

Employees who feel their companies care about them are more engaged and dedicated to company success. Those of us in HR need to pay as much attention to employee engagement this year as we do to compensation and benefits in order to succeed with employee retention.

SOURCE: Roberts, R. (13 February 2019) "7 employee engagement trends gaining momentum" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/these-employee-engagement-trends-are-gaining-momentum