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Beyond their outdated structure, today’s widespread ranking- and ratings-based performance reviews damage employee engagement by isolating high performers and costing managers more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


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


Implementing Auto Safety in the Workplace

Driving requires concentration and awareness. It only takes one distraction to lose control of your vehicle and crash. Most drivers overlook the importance of keeping their eyes on the road with a significant number attempting to text while driving. In this article, Cathleen Christensen, the Vice President of Property & Casualty at Hierl Insurance, sheds light on this issue and highlights some measures employers can take to curb such accidents.

After falling from 42,836 deaths in 2004 to 32,744 in 2014, fatalities are on the rise again and stand at 37,133 for 2017. The number one cause of all car accidents is distracted driving. “These crashes are largely due to drivers’ negligence,” Cathleen explained. A car traveling at about 55 miles per hour takes approximately five seconds to cover the length of a football field. Five seconds is also the average duration it takes to read a text. At work zones, the few seconds it takes for a driver to get distracted are enough to have them crashing into the work zone. In fact, distracted drivers are 29 times more likely to crash in work zones.

Insurance Losses

Insurance companies are taking the brunt of the financial consequences of drivers’ carelessness by paying for serious losses. The 2016 industry-wide commercial auto combined ratio reached a 15-year high of 110.4%, and the segment has produced an underwriting loss for six years running after years of underwriting profits. According to Cathleen, “One of the primary causes of the industry losing money is distracted drivers. These are drivers who are either talking on the phone or texting while driving. The real consequences are higher insurance premiums for our business customers.”

Measures Employers Should Take to Avoid Losses

Everyone needs to be aware of these measures to minimize accidents caused by distracted driving:

  • Better public education – Drivers need to be educated on the dangers of using their mobile devices while driving.
  • Implement safety policies and make sure employees understand them. These policies include making drivers aware of speed limits, checking their speed gauges and locking their vehicles when they are away from them.
  • Implement a policy regarding the use of phones while driving. Consider using an app that will help keep this policy in place. Employers should prohibit any work-related activity that requires drivers to text or make calls while driving.

Commercial drivers should not be left behind when developing new safety standards for your workforce. Some great recommendations are the following:

  • Review driving records
  • Review and inspect equipment for commercial drivers on a regular basis
  • Implement a sleep safety policy – truck drivers are especially prone to falling asleep while driving due to fatigue as a result of driving very long distances without rest
  • Educate employees on these requirements

What Can Hierl Do to Help?

At Hierl, we listen to clients’ needs and learn about their business to create programs that meet or exceed their expectations. We continuously work with customers to ensure driver safety and provide them with a matrix to help them have an objective measure to look at driving records. We also provide employers with communication material to keep their drivers aware of issues and concerns related to their safety as a prevention measure.

For more information regarding this issue, you can contact Cathleen Christensen at 920-921-5921 or by email at cchristensen@hierl.com.


DOL’s new fluctuating workweek rule may pave road for worker bonuses

The new fluctuating workweek rule proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) could give employers additional flexibility when calculating employee overtime pay and could potentially make it easier for workers to get bonuses. Read this blog post from Employee Benefit News to learn more about this newly proposed rule.


The Department of Labor’s new proposal would give employers additional flexibility when calculating overtime pay for salaried, non-exempt employees who work irregular hours — and may make it easier for some workers to get bonuses.

The new proposal, released this week, clarifies for employers that bonuses paid on top of fixed salaries are compatible with the so-called “fluctuating workweek” method of compensation, or a way of calculating overtime pay for workers whose hours vary week-to-week. Supplemental payments, such as bonuses or overtime pay, must be included when calculating the regular rate of pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to the DOL.

"For far too long, job creators have faced uncertainty regarding their ability to provide bonus pay for workers with fluctuating workweeks," says Cheryl Stanton, wage and hour division administrator, at the DOL in a statement. "This proposed rule will provide much-needed clarity for job creators who are looking for new ways to better compensate their workers."

Paul DeCamp, an attorney with the law firm Epstein Becker Green’s labor and workforce management practice, says the DOL rule clears up ambiguity surrounding when employers can use the fluctuating workweek rule. A preamble in a 2011 Obama-era regulation suggested that bonuses were contrary to a flexible workweek, DeCamp says.

“The department’s past rulemakings have created ambiguity — paying employees a bonus makes the fluctuating workweek calculation unavailable,” DeCamp says. “During the last administration, some people with DOL took the position that the fluctuating workweek was only available when the compensation the employee received was in the form of salary.”

This new update may make it easier for employers to pay out bonuses or other kinds of compensation to a specific group of workers. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia says the proposal will remove burdens on American workers and make it easier for them to get extra pay.

"At a time when there are more job openings than job seekers, this proposal would allow America's workers to reap even more benefits from the competitive labor market,” Scalia says.

DeCamp adds that the update will make it easier for employers to provide bonuses to these workers, without being concerned they are going to impact their overtime calculation.

“What this does is it makes it possible for employers who have salaried non-exempt employees to pay other types of compensation too — without worrying that in paying that bonus or other type of compensation they’re going to screw up their overtime calculation,” DeCamp says.

But DeCamp warns that employers should not confuse this regulation with the overtime rule that the DOL finalized in September, which raised the minimum salary threshold for overtime eligibility to $35,568 per year.

“These two regulations are not interlocking. They don’t really deal with the same subject,” he says. “They’re both talking about very different employee groups.”

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (6 November 2019) "DOL’s new fluctuating workweek rule may pave road for worker bonuses" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/dols-fluctuating-workweek-rule-helps-with-worker-bonuses


Know your people, know your data: Keys to measuring employee engagement

Does your organization offer a total compensation and benefits package that appeals to employees? According to research, over half of employees believe that health insurance is important in terms of their job satisfaction. Read this post for ways to measure employee engagement.


Offering a total compensation and benefits package that fits employee needs drives morale, motivation and performance in the workplace.

Simply put, people who are happy and healthy are more productive. When an organization offers benefits that appeal to employees (and workers know how to use these benefits) employers should see an increase in total productivity.

On the other hand, if a company is off the mark with the total compensation package, or simply hasn’t communicated the benefits to people correctly, it will either see unchanged productivity or a decline. Organizations struggling to find improvement in productivity should look at their employee benefits offerings for answers.

Providing effective group health insurance and well-being programs is a good way to reduce the amount of sick leave worker's take. If employees promptly get healthcare when they’re ill, they’re more likely to be healthier overall. If an organization doesn’t offer appropriate health benefits, the result can be presenteeism.

Additionally, the cost of presenteeism multiplies when sick staff are contagious. One sick person refusing to take a day off can snowball into multiple people arriving ill to work on subsequent days. When illnesses reach critical mass and it’s harder for people to recover from things like the flu or a cold, organizations may find themselves short-staffed when employees finally pay to see a doctor.

Job satisfaction and morale are also linked to employee benefits. Research shows more than half of employees believe that health insurance is important in terms of their job satisfaction — even more crucial if staff live in an area where medical services are expensive.

Strategies to measure benefits engagement. HR staff have multiple ways of measuring how certain workplace functions are performing. Here are some effective methods organizations can use to measure benefits engagement.

Staff surveys. Questionnaires that seek to understand what benefits your staff know they have, and how they’ll use them.

Pulse surveys. Asking staff short, frequent questions about a benefits platform.

Focus groups. Gathering cross-functional groups of staff members together to have a facilitated discussion about benefits.

Exit surveys. Include questions about benefits and satisfaction levels during exit surveys, and then investigate what their next employer might be offering to have lured them away.

If organizations are not regularly questioning how well their benefits plan is performing, they may be missing an opportunity to get key insights into how employees feel about their packages.

Offering employee benefits isn’t just to support an organization’s staff, it should also support an organization’s long-term sustainability. Employee engagement is one key measure. The challenge for organizations is ensuring not only that they include benefits that will be relevant to staff, but also that they properly educate them in what those benefits are.

The less staff are educated on what benefits exist and how they can use them, the less likely they are to engage with them. Not having an appropriate communication strategy can often set benefits plan performance behind.

Working with analytics and claims data can indicate when specific benefits aren’t being used. Knowing what causes the lack of engagement requires a bit of discussion and investigation, but finding sustainable solutions is completely dependent on understanding whether the issue is the benefits themselves, or the communication to staff.

SOURCE: Rider, S. (1 November 2019) "Know your people, know your data: Keys to measuring employee engagement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/using-data-to-measure-employee-engagement


IRS increases retirement contributions for 2020

Workers who contribute to 401(k), 403(b), 457 and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plans will be able to contribute up to $19,500 in 2020, according to a recent announcement from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Read the following to learn more about this increase in retirement contributions.


The IRS said this week that workers contributing to 401(k), 403(b), 457 and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plans plans can add $19,500 next year, an increase from $19,000 in 2019.

The move could help workers save more for retirement, but it may be inconvenient for employers who’ve already started open enrollment, experts say. Employees are now able to set aside $500 more for retirement.

“Every penny counts when you’re saving for retirement, and the higher contribution limit is definitely going to help,” says Jacob Mattinson, partner at McDermott, Will & Emery, a Chicago-based law firm. “But since companies are in the midst of open enrollment, employers may have to go back in and change the entries for employees who want to contribute the max.”

There are about 27.1 million 401(k) plan participants using roughly 110,794 employer-sponsored 401(k) plans, the Employee Benefit Research Institute says. Ninety-three percent of employers offer a 401(k) plan, and around 74% of companies match workers’ contributions, according to data from the Society for Human Resource Management.

While the vast majority of employers do offer retirement savings plans, employees may still be struggling to sock away money. Around 70% of workers say debt has negatively impacted their ability to save for retirement, EBRI says.

“Thirty-two percent of workers with a major debt problem are not at all confident about their prospects for a financially secure retirement, compared with 5% of workers without a debt problem,” says Craig Copeland, EBRI senior research associate.

The IRS also upped contribution limits on Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees plans, or SIMPLE retirement accounts, to $13,500 from $13,000. The agency did not change the contribution limits to IRAs, which remain at $6,000 annually.

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (7 November 2019) "IRS increases retirement contributions for 2020" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/irs-increases-retirement-contributions-for-2020