Hot Topics in Total Rewards

  • 19 May 2020 8:21 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Imagine that you have a new supply-chain leader starting next week. You hired her to do supply-chain transformation before the crisis took hold. But now she is joining remotely and inheriting a remote team, and her short-term, urgent priorities are very different from what they appeared to be before the pandemic. As her manager, how can you make her onboarding experience a productive one? What can you do to support her so that she’ll hit the ground running?

    Earlier this month we polled leaders about their companies’ current onboarding practices. Of the 125 who responded, 75% said that their organizations were still onboarding leaders, albeit many (45%) at a lower rate than before the crisis. However, only 17% indicated that their organizations had developed systems for onboarding new leaders into remote-work environments. That’s a big gap, given that most onboarding is happening virtually now and that the stakes in quickly getting new talent up to speed have rarely been higher.

    The good news is that it’s quite possible to onboard new leaders effectively into a remote-working environment. The biggest barrier is probably mindset. We are all being tested to adapt to new ways of working, and it’s no different with virtual onboarding. Here are some principles to guide you.

    1. Be crystal clear about short-term objectives.

    Like every leader in transition, your new hire needs to quickly figure out how to create value, and that’s even more important during a crisis. If you hired someone specifically to help with crisis management — for example, with workforce downsizing — their role and goals should be clear from the outset. But if you hired someone before the crisis, as in the case of the new supply-chain leader, they need to understand their role at a greatly accelerated pace. Continuing the example, you should clearly outline what aspects of the original supply-chain transformation role still are a priority and what has changed because of the need to deal with immediate disruptions — ideally before the new leader starts.

    2. Provide a structured learning process.

    To accelerate learning in a virtual context, you need to provide information in a more structured manner. Doing so requires paying much more attention to what you include in the upfront “document dump”: organizational charts, financial reports, strategy and project documentation, and the current crisis response plan. In a recent Savannah Group study of 200 senior interim executives, 95% said access to that information made them more effective in their first few weeks, especially if the organization asked them ahead of time what would be most valuable. Beyond that, you need to help your new hires get a broader and deeper view of the organization and their role in it. For the new supply-chain leader, you could schedule virtual briefings on critical issues related to the existing system and associated challenges along with ones on culture, planning, and decision-making processes.

    3. Build a (more) robust stakeholder engagement plan.

    Your next priority is to help your new hires identify, understand, and build relationships with key stakeholders. When onboarding is virtual, it’s essential to be even more detailed and structured here, too. Start by building a consensus internally about who the new leader’s key stakeholders are and, critically, the order in which the new leader should meet them; these things are often not apparent to new hires themselves. For the new supply-chain leader, there may be people one level down in finance and operations whose support will be crucial. Once you have identified the key stakeholders, reach out and align them on the objectives you have set for your new leader; that will maximize the value of their meetings.

    4. Assign a virtual-onboarding buddy.

    Quite a few companies built buddy systems into their pre-crisis onboarding processes (Microsoft is one example). And for new managers coming into remote-working organizations, a buddy is essential. Good buddies play four key roles: (1) They help orient new hires to the business and its context (2) They facilitate connections to people whose support is necessary or helpful (3) They assist with navigation of processes and systems, and (4) They accelerate acculturation by providing insight into “how things get done here.” Of course, you must take care to choose buddies who have the time, ability, and inclination to help, and you need to brief them on how they can be of most assistance. Typically, they should not be in the new leader’s chain of command; they should be peers or others with the “big picture” understanding necessary to be of real help. For the new supply-chain leader, a peer in operations could be a good choice.

    5. Facilitate virtual team-building.

    Helpful in face-to-face situations, a new-leader assimilation process is essential when onboarding happens remotely. This is a structured process for creating alignment and connection between a leader and their inherited team. A facilitator asks the leader and team members questions to uncover what they would most like to share with and learn about one another. The facilitator summarizes the resulting insights and uses them to guide a conversation between the leader and the team. The good news is that this process can be done effectively through video conferencing.

    6. Consider hiring a coach.

    Well before the crisis, research had established that transition-acceleration coaching halves the time required for new executives to become fully effective in their roles. Given that you, your team, and your new leader’s team are all dealing with the stresses of responding to the crisis, transition coaches can be especially impactful now. They are particularly helpful when they understand the organization, the company culture, and the stakeholder environment. Buddies and coaches play complementary roles in advising new leaders on the challenges they are facing and providing a safe space within which to discuss them.

    As you apply these guidelines, keep in mind that effective virtual onboarding doesn’t just mean helping external hires. Employees making internal moves at a remote-working organization can face challenges that are as tough as — if not tougher than —  those confronted by new leaders coming from the outside. And in the midst of a crisis, it’s just as important to get them up to speed fast. So you should use the same approach to accelerate every new leader joining your team.

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    Source: Harvard Business Review

  • 18 May 2020 9:57 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    FT montage. Please credit Getty, Dreamstimes.

    Patrick Temple-West | 17 May 2020

    Like most high street retailers, UK jewellers H Samuel and Ernest Jones have been hammered by the coronavirus. Amid slumping sales, Signet, which owns the UK store chains as well as US counterpart Kay, has halved salaries and delayed handing out shares to top executives.

    Meanwhile Alan Joyce, chief executive of Australian airline Qantas, will not take a salary this year, while Philip Jansen, head of BT — who has himself recovered from coronavirus — has said that half his annual salary would go to the UK’s NHS.

    But fortunes are notably different at big pharmaceutical and healthcare companies that continue to pay executives millions of dollars. Boston biotech firm Moderna, which is working on a vaccine for Covid-19, paid its chief medical officer Tal Zaks a $1m retention bonus in March.

    The dichotomy underscores the consequences of the pandemic for corporate leaders accustomed to multimillion-dollar pay packages. The remuneration of executives leading healthcare, biotech and life sciences businesses has mostly been maintained, while some peers in hospitality, travel and discretionary consumer products such as jewellery have seen cuts.

    The sacrifice may also be limited for those executives taking pay cuts in gestures of solidarity with employees. Many companies had already awarded shares and bonuses to executives in January and February, before the pandemic set in.

    In a US survey conducted from March 27 to April 7, Semler Brossy Consulting Group found that 84 per cent of businesses have taken no action on executive pay. Two-thirds of companies had already made equity grants to executives this year and 94 per cent do not plan on making changes to these awards, it reported.

    Equity is usually a bigger portion of total compensation than cash salaries, says Amit Batish, a manager at Equilar, a remuneration data provider that has tracked the impact of coronavirus on executive pay.

    LOS ANGELES, - MARCH 14: Six Flags Magic Mountain is closed as the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States on March 14, 2020 in Valencia, California. The World Health Organization declared coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic on March 11th. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)

    “[Equity is] what makes executives their big bucks,” he says, adding that those remuneration packages may now be under review. For example, Equilar found that amusement park company Six Flags is determining new performance goals for bonuses that are usually paid at the beginning of a new year. With its rollercoasters parked and concerts silenced, Six Flags has cut workers’ pay by 25 per cent.

    Companies that have taken government bailouts, notably in the airline industry, have been forced to slash executive pay. Budget carrier Southwest Airlines has indicated that it will limit executive pay until March 2022. Businesses that used the US government’s pay cheque protection programme are unable to cut pay for workers making under $100,000. MannKind Corporation, a California-based biopharmaceutical company that received government aid, has said it will reduce salaries only for employees making more than $100,000.

    LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, CA/USA - MARCH 7, 2018: Southwest Airlines jet shown landing at LAX.; Shutterstock ID 1071033323; Department: -; Job/Project: -; Employee Name: -Other company executives have responded with their own pay cuts to avoid embarrassing headlines.

    “There is a big reputational risk if you are furloughing people or making drastic salary cuts to rank-and-file workers and the executives are getting big pay packages,” points out Alexandra Denniston, a partner at law firm Goodwin Procter in Boston.

    Reputational worry over pay stems back to the 2008-2009 financial crisis, when insurer AIG paid $165m in bonuses to executives after losses that forced a $170bn taxpayer-funded rescue. The bonuses infuriated members of Congress and the House of Representatives in March 2009 raced to pass a bill to impose a 90 per cent tax on bonuses to employees of bailed-out businesses whose gross income exceeded $250,000.

    The legislation ultimately failed to advance but the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act Wall Street reforms imposed several executive pay requirements. These included a mandate that companies disclose the ratio between a chief executive’s pay and the median annual total compensation for all employees.

    Some business leaders are acting now in an attempt to ward off bad publicity. Chief executives at companies that may need to reduce headcount or employees’ pay, “are going to the board or the compensation committee saying ‘cut my pay’,” says Lynda Galligan, a Silicon Valley-based partner at Goodwin Procter.

    But those cuts are in pay. Executives are not handing back bonuses paid earlier this year for their work in 2019, says Marc Hodak, a partner at Farient Advisors, an executive remuneration consulting firm.

    “No, we are not seeing many executives — I don’t know of any — saying ‘I got this award in February I am going to give back some of it now’. That is not happening,” he adds.

    The next pay decision for companies is what to do about bonuses for 2020. Equity bonuses scheduled to be paid in early 2021 are still in flux. Most companies “are waiting to see what happens. A lot of people are bracing themselves for bonuses being pretty poor or possibly nonexistent” for early 2021, says Mr Hodak. “A lot of the boards are saying ‘let’s just see what it looks like’.”

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    Source: The Financial Times

  • 14 May 2020 10:24 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    caregiving child surgical mask

    Benefits providers report surge of requests for caregiving services

    By Stephen Miller, CEBS | May 13, 2020

    In 2019, more employers began offering caregiving benefits and resources to help employees take care of young children, elderly parents, ailing spouses or partners, or friends. Now the COVID-19 pandemic is showing the vital role these benefits can play in employees' lives, which may push employers that haven't offered caregiving services to consider doing so.

    "To safely reopen the country, healthy people need to be able to go to work, and sick people need to be able to stay home," wrote Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We know that will require scaling up testing and contact tracing. We overlook that it will require scaling up caregiving solutions, too."

    She added, "It's also hard to get back to work when you're responsible for children or older adults but have nowhere to turn for safe, affordable care."

    Employers Step Up

    "The challenges for employee caregivers have increased exponentially as a result of the risk for COVID-19 among older and vulnerable people, social distancing requirements, and 24/7 child care responsibilities," said Candice Sherman, CEO of the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH), an employer-led coalition. "Employers are trying to increase support for caregiving employees by providing more backup help, flexible working hours and access to expert resources, and some are providing relief funds to help with expenses."

    In late 2019 and early 2020, NEBGH and AARP surveyed benefit managers at 119 mostly large U.S. employers. The survey, a follow-up to one conducted in 2017, found that more employers now provide paid leave specifically for caregiving—23 percent of respondents do so, up from 11 percent in 2017.

    But while 61 percent of benefit managers said caregiving is a top priority for them, and 45 percent believe they are on par with similar organizations in developing caregiving-friendly benefits, almost a quarter (22 percent) see themselves as below or well below average, "a clear sign there is much room for improvement," Sherman said. 


    Employees Seek Help

    As employees continue to deal with the challenges of COVID-19, whether they're still at home or returning to the worksite, "employers may want to consider offering benefits tailored to employees who are providing care for their loved ones" if they are not already addressing these needs, said Kathy Barber, vice president for benefits and compensation at Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based Ayco, a provider of financial well-being programs.

    "The coronavirus has compelled some organizations to implement relevant crisis plans, but having [caregiving] offerings in place from the get-go is also important," Barber said. Doing so "sends the message that a company is taking into account the stressful circumstances its employees might be facing in their personal lives."

    Adam Goldberg, founder and CEO at Boston-based Torchlight, a caregiver-benefits digital platform company, noted, "With the vast majority of Americans staying at home during the pandemic, many are not only struggling with health concerns and high stress, they are also grappling with elder care concerns, distance learning, working at home, sudden job losses/furloughs, and the death of loved ones." Torchlight has posted the free Caregiving in Times of Crisis Toolkit, with advice and information for businesses and caregivers.

    Given the coronavirus crisis, it's no surprise that providers of caregiving benefits have seen a drastic uptick in service requests since the pandemic hit the U.S. in March. "During normal periods, we generally see a wide range of requests, from help with hospital bills for older adults to navigating the proper care services for children with atypical development," said Lindsay Jurist-Rosner, founder and CEO of Wellthy, a New York City-based provider of employee caregiver support services. "But in recent weeks, we've seen a dramatic shift in the priorities and needs of families."

    These are the most common needs for which families have been seeking help:

    • Securing home delivery for medications and groceries.
    • Arranging telehealth appointments.
    • Finding mental health resources for heightened anxiety.
    • Keeping aging family members safe and helping them stay engaged while in isolation.

    The biggest changes in families' needs during the pandemic, Jurist-Rosner noted, include the need for support as part of COVID-19 recovery. "We're seeing some challenges with limited rehab options and skilled nursing facilities not accepting new patients," she said. The firm has increasingly been asked to give assistance with making funeral arrangements, as well.

    The Dependent Care FSA Option

    Shadiah Sigala, CEO and co-founder of Kinside, a child care benefits provider in Los Angeles, encouraged employers to provide—and fund—dependent care flexible spending accounts (FSAs). Generally, the IRS limits pretax contributions (from employer and employee combined) to $5,000 per year.

    "Between pay cuts and furloughs, many parents will need more affordable care" when they return to work, she wrote in a recent Employee Benefit Adviser commentary.

    Additionally, parents may need to hire at-home caregivers, as many day care centers have gone out of business because of financial losses related to the pandemic. (Sigala expects a 20 percent decline in total available spots when the economy reopens.)

    Funding dependent care FSAs "is an investment in your company's reboot," she wrote. "You need people working, and you want to make sure the expense of child care doesn't get in the way of that."

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    Source: Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

  • 13 May 2020 11:17 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Amid COVID-19, Let's Rethink Workplace Flexibility


    MAY 8, 2020

    Amid COVID-19, Let's Rethink Workplace Flexibility



    • The coronavirus has exposed new fault lines in the workplace
    • Consider how to better accommodate employees' whole lives
    • Increasing flexibility will increase employee satisfaction and productivity

    Here's the deal: There are always problems to be solved.

    The pandemic underscored this on a dreadful scale. It quickly exposed fault lines for teams that weren't previously apparent -- with a gigantic highlighter pen. In other cases, it created new fault lines.

    Whatever the case, the future is standing right in front of everyone, and even as leaders take charge of the problems they face now, they can begin to rethink how things can be even better.

    They can do this by anticipating what's next to ensure managers "don't skip a beat" as they work to continue to engage their teams.

    So, what's next?

    Before the crisis, employees were already demanding a new focus on life.

    Workplaces faced constant change before the pandemic -- and there's more to come. But one thing won't change: human nature -- it doesn't ever change that much. Gallup research shows that, before all of this, people were already demanding a renewed focus on their life anyway.

    Their specific ask? That work not be just a job -- but that their employers consider their whole life.

    In fact, many are literally asking questions about this issue already. In a recent Economist interview, Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, was asked by a reporter whether the bank would "loosen up" after all of this. In reply, she opined about some of the things she envisions could change in the future, such as more online connections and less global travel, and more flexibility in dress codes --"no jeans in the boardroom" rules change quickly when board meetings shift to joining a Zoom meeting from home.

    Just as Georgieva was asked to imagine what might change, leaders can explore that idea now, too. There are some obvious things to anticipate now, like that question of workplace flexibility.

    Leaders should take this opportunity to address workers' needs for flexibility that are now surfacing -- and consider how better to accommodate their lives.

    3 Opportunities for Leaders to Create More Flexibility

    Flexibility will look different in each workplace because culture is as unique to an organization as DNA is to a person. It's up to leaders to identify and brand the pattern of flexibility that works for their employees and their business needs. Leaders should consider the following types of flexibility that many employees are beginning to seek:

    1. Flexibility in work schedule.

    Certain jobs require employees to be physically present. However, there is an opportunity for leaders everywhere to examine policies to determine if they can better incorporate flexibility overall. When working mothers were asked how well their employers met their needs to change their schedule when needed, nearly four in 10 (38%) couldn't say "very well."

    Addressing this problem will not only meet employees' needs but also attract a diverse pool of top talent. Female job seekers are just one example: 60% rated a greater work-life balance and better personal wellbeing as a "very important" attribute in a new job.

    Flexibility will look different in each workplace because culture is as unique to an organization as DNA is to a person.

    2. Flexibility in work location.

    Leaders should prepare now to be asked whether their workforce can continue working from home when public health restrictions are no longer necessary.

    Gallup article published in early April indicated a shift already as, "three in five U.S. workers who have been doing their jobs from home during the coronavirus pandemic would prefer to continue to work remotely as much as possible." And from the same Gallup Panel survey at that time, 41% said they would prefer to return to their workplace or office to work, as they did before the crisis.

    Long before this crisis, Gallup's Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived report pointed out that, among employed women with children, 33% rated their workplaces "very poorly" when asked about "allowing you to work from home when needed."

    Flexibility shouldn't change performance goals, but in addition to the "when," leaders should consider if the "where" for workers can change, too. Full-time remote work isn't the only solution. Leaders should reimagine what work lives can look like for their teams and ask themselves if employees could work from home more frequently if some desire to do so.

    To support leaders, team managers can ask their teams how they can partner together for this effort to be successful. For some teams, this may mean different shifts of people need to be in the office at different times, or they trade off week-by-week, individual-by-individual.

    For other teams, this may mean they primarily follow a work-from-home setup -- but with a regular in-person connect each week. And for other teams still, working from home may not be possible. The point is to consider what is possible as you also strive to ensure the best employee experience for your teams.

    3. Flexibility to dress for the day.

    Jeans in the boardroom may not be appropriate for your work culture. But leaders should consider the who, what, when, where and why relative to casual work attire that may be appropriate for their teams. In just the same way that one's workspace, or having an appropriate physical environment, is a psychological necessity for getting work done -- please note, a supportive work environment should give employees the freedom to work in the ways they feel are best for them, with spaces to collaborate or work privately, depending on the task at hand -- there is also an opportunity to consider things like your dress code. At a minimum, things like your dress code shouldn't get in the way of engaging teams, when they don't need to.

    So, consider: Are there certain teams within your culture that more casual work attire makes sense for? Even in this case, there may still be a need for "business attire" days when clients are in town or for certain celebrations. The "where" a team is matters, too. Policies like this can be flexible, too. For example, when hosting clients, business dress is a "yes," when working with teammates every day it's a "no."

    For still other cultures, formal attire may make sense. The point is to ensure that you are creating an employee experience that is engaging and productive.

    This, by the way, is not an exhaustive list of ways to enhance workplace flexibility, it's just a start.

    In the end, now is an opportunity to consider how you can be flexible within the range of variables that exist for your teams. When you consider how to increase flexibility in your work culture now, your employees (who are yearning for it) will be grateful that you did.

    Ultimately, keep in mind performance outcomes, employee wellbeing and your employment brand as you make final decisions about what's right for you and your teams.

    But also, make sure that "the way you've always done things" isn't holding you back from "the way you could do things" in the future -- especially if it could be even better.

    Now is the time to turn the problems that have surfaced into opportunities and rethink how things can be even better in the future.

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    Source: Gallup

  • 12 May 2020 4:20 PM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    3 Things You Need to Know About 401(k) Distributions | The Motley Fool

    May 4, 2020

    Willis Towers Watson survey also reveals companies are boosting financial wellbeing initiatives

    ARLINGTON, VA, May 4, 2020 — A majority of U.S. companies are making it easier for employees to access their 401(k) plans’ assets even as some companies are cutting matching contributions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings are according to the latest pulse survey by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company. The survey also revealed companies are increasing their emphasis on financial wellbeing resources to help workers cope during the crisis.

    Many employers are making adjustments to their 401(k) plans as a result of the CARES Act, the law designed to help protect American workers from the economic impact of COVID-19. Almost two-thirds of respondents (65%) increased access to in-service distributions from participants’ 401(k) accounts while 16% either plan to or are considering doing so this year. Nearly as many (64%) are now allowing participants to defer loan repayments while 48% increased the maximum amount available for plan loans. Another 17% are planning or considering making either adjustment this year.

    “These are difficult times emotionally and financially for many employees,” said Robyn Credico, managing director, Retirement, Willis Towers Watson. “Making cash available from defined contribution plans is an easy, relatively inexpensive way to provide much needed assistance to employees. This comes at a time when some organizations are having to reduce their own spending on retirement benefits. The more distressed companies cut contributions to their plans in an effort to reduce costs, similar to what we saw during the financial crisis of 2008.”

    Just 12% of employers suspended their matching contributions, but 23% are either planning to or considering doing so this year. Interestingly, significantly more companies in hard-hit industries, including retail and business services, made cost-cutting changes. One-quarter of these companies (26%) suspended their matching contributions; nearly a third (32%) either will or may do so this year.

    Recognizing that the economy may be hitting their employees hard, one-third of survey respondents (33%) cited supporting their employees’ financial wellbeing as one of their top three benefit priorities for the next six months. And many of them are taking action.

    More than six in 10 (63%) said they promoted existing financial counseling resources, including 401(k) vendors and investment advisors for their employees; another 20% will or may do so. About half (49%) raised awareness of emergency cash sources, such as loan products, defined contribution hardship withdrawals and loans, and health savings accounts; another 29% will or may do so. Nearly one in 10 (9%) has introduced new financial counseling resources, and about a quarter (26%) plan to introduce or are considering new resources in 2020.

    “The health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 is prompting companies nationwide to step up their efforts to help employees reduce high levels of stress and anxiety,” said Shane Bartling, senior director, Retirement, Willis Towers Watson. “By promoting their existing tools and resources to manage finances and providing options to get through a period of economic hardship, employers can not only demonstrate their concern for the financial wellbeing of their employees and families but also provide meaningful assistance.”

    About the survey

    A total of 816 employers participated in the COVID-19 Benefits Survey, which was conducted during the week of April 20, 2020. Respondents employ 12 million workers.

    About Willis Towers Watson

    Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.

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    Source: Willis Towers Watson

  • 11 May 2020 8:43 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    New research shows the advantages of offering well-being benefits to the multigenerational workforce.

    By Wendy Edgar

    The rise of the multigenerational workforce brings a variety of opportunities for organizations and employees alike, especially when it comes to benefits offerings. What’s more, amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, people are looking to their companies for tools and resources to support their lives both inside and outside of work.

    In an effort to better understand benefit preferences and how offerings resonate across generations, Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) conducted a survey of 1,000 employed Americans and 1,000 undergraduate college students. While the Better You research was completed before the current crisis, one thing was clear: Dedicated emotional well-being programs are significant priorities for professionals and students alike.

    In light of increased interest and demand, there is an opportunity for HR leaders to provide new offerings to employees to help them better understand and manage their health and overall well-being. In both times of economic prosperity and times of uncertainty, it’s equally important that employees are equipped with knowledge and resources to encourage them to meet their full potential.

    However, the research found that nearly one-third (29 percent) of the employed workforce is not taking full advantage of their company’s benefits offerings. What’s more, 37 percent of this group admit they are not sure they even understand all of the benefits available to them.

    As HR and talent professionals grapple with the pandemic and the “new normal” that follows, they would be well served to recognize the evolving needs of employees today. Here are some of the top research findings that may help guide these decisions.

    1. Mental health and mindfulness matter, especially for Generation Z. When it comes to workplace benefits that matter most, employed adults prioritize a competitive salary (61 percent) and a generous healthcare benefits package (60 percent). Mental health and mindfulness in the workplace have become increasingly important to Americans of all ages, as well. In fact, belonging to a company that supports mindfulness is important to 87 percent of adults.

    As mental health and mindfulness continue to take the workplace by storm, ensuring that benefits are constantly evolving to meet the needs of employees is key to recruiting and retaining top talent. Healthcare benefits packages can include mindfulness practice as well as access to therapy and mental health services.

    EY’s employee assistance program, EY Assist, provides counseling and live support for individuals on topics including financial support and guidance, relationship and medical issues, and mental health and well-being. This tool has been invaluable to employees as they navigate different aspects of the COVID-19 crisis.

    2. Mental health days take precedence, even over traditional vacation days and time off. While almost one-third (29 percent) of employed adults do not use all of their company’s allotted paid time off (PTO), 40 percent have taken a mental health day. More than half (56 percent) of college students have done the same.

    Despite workers not using all of their PTO days—with millennials stating this is because they want to demonstrate their dedication to their careers—mental health does not fall to the wayside. With workers feeling conscious about perceptions and optics in the workplace, organizations can take a top-down approach to reassure their people that taking time off can improve performance at work, instead of impairing it.

    In times of uncertainty, people are less likely to take time off over fear of losing their jobs. Leaders can encourage employees to take time for themselves to focus on their well-being and have an opportunity to recharge to prevent burnout.

    3. Employed adults—even those who have recently graduated college—don’t want learning to end at the classroom. Just over half of employed adults (52 percent) feel they are taking advantage of their company’s professional development opportunities, and 57 percent of employed Gen Z workers are too. Given this, HR leaders can consider providing skills-based training/credentials programs for learning future-focused skills, on-site coaching, formal continuous education offerings, and mentorship programs.

    Not only does this upskilling have a positive impact on the individual, but new learnings can benefit a company too by equipping their people to better serve their clients, advance their skills, and address new business challenges. Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, EY has seen a nearly 40 percent increase in usage of digital learning programs.

    The way businesses ran just one quarter ago is different than how they are being conducted today, and the states of people’s lives are just as variable. As employees continue to look to companies for mental health and wellbeing support, HR and talent leaders have an opportunity to evolve their benefits to meet employee needs. While a challenging exercise, now might be the best time to introduce new offerings as the industry as large evolves into a new normal.

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    Source: HRO Today

  • 09 May 2020 8:44 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    New Model COBRA Notice Released - MyHRConcierge

    May 5, 2020

    The Department of Labor (DOL) and other federal regulators released updates and clarifications related to employee benefits, including updates to model COBRA notices and an extension of certain statutory deadlines intended to minimize the possibility of participants and beneficiaries losing benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. This article highlights the DOL’s recent changes and updates relating to Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

    Updated COBRA Notices

    On May 1, 2020, the DOL released the first updates to its model COBRA Notices since 2014. The models are for the (i) general or initial notice (provided to employees and covered spouses within the first 90 days of coverage under the group health plan), and (ii) the election notice (provided to qualified beneficiaries within 44 days of the qualifying event resulting in a loss of coverage). The notices inform plan participants and other qualified beneficiaries of their rights to health continuation coverage upon a qualifying event. The release of these updated model COBRA notices is an important reminder for employers to ensure that plan participants receive timely and adequate information about their COBRA rights.

    More Information about Medicare:  The primary update to the DOL model notice is a new Q&A section, “Can I enroll in Medicare instead of COBRA continuation coverage after my group health plan coverage ends?”, with similar content in a companion FAQ about COBRA and Medicare options.

    Risk of Noncompliance

    Employers do not have to use the model notices, however the DOL considers using the model notices, appropriately completed, to be good-faith compliance with COBRA’s notice content requirements. Our firm recently discussed the rapid expansion of class action litigation against employers that issued COBRA election notices that failed to follow the DOL model notice in detail. We strongly recommend that employers use the updated DOL COBRA notice forms (or some enhanced version of such notices).

    If the updated model notices are not used, the employer should ensure that their COBRA notices include the most current information from the DOL. Because of the significant exposure for COBRA noncompliance, and because employers retain liability for COBRA compliance even if a third-party vendor is hired for COBRA administration, employers should have their COBRA notices regularly reviewed.

    COBRA Deadline Extensions

    On April 29, 2020, the DOL and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a Joint Notice extending certain time frames affecting a participant’s right to continuation of group health plan coverage under COBRA after employment ends. Normally, a qualified beneficiary has 60 days from the date of receipt of the COBRA notice to elect COBRA, another 45 days after the date of the COBRA election to make the initial required COBRA premium payments, and COBRA coverage may be terminated for failure to pay premiums timely. A premium is considered timely if paid within a 30-day grace period.

    The Joint Notice extends the above deadlines (and many other participant-related deadlines such as HIPAA special enrollments, claim appeals and external review filings) by requiring plans to disregard the period from March 1, 2020, until 60 days after the announced end of the National Emergency (known as the “Outbreak Period”).

    Election Period Extension:  once a participant receives his or her timely COBRA election notification, the applicable COBRA deadlines are now extended until after the Outbreak Period ends. For COBRA election purposes, this means if a qualifying beneficiary receives the election notice on or after March 1, 2020, the 60-day initial COBRA election period does not begin until the end of the Outbreak Period. The participant then has another 45 days after that to make the required COBRA premium payments (that still apply back to the date on which previous employer coverage ended). The more time provided to qualified beneficiaries to elect and pay for coverage retroactive to the date coverage is lost, the greater the opportunity to game the system.

    As an example, if the National Emergency period is proclaimed to end on May 31, 2020, the “Outbreak Period” will be deemed to end on July 30, 2020.  If an employee was provided a COBRA election notice on April 1, 2020, that person’s initial COBRA election deadline will be extended from the original deadline of May 31, 2020 (the 60th day from date of receipt of COBRA election notice) to a new COBRA election deadline of September 28, 2020 (i.e., 60 days from the end of the Outbreak Period).  That individual then has 45 more days to make the first COBRA premium payment for all coverage back to the original date of coverage loss.

    Premium Payment Extension:  Likewise, for individuals already on COBRA, the deadlines to make required monthly premium contributions are extended until 30 days after the end of the Outbreak Period, and the guidance makes clear that an employer or health insurance carrier cannot terminate coverage or reject any claims for nonpayment of premium during this period. Such coverage termination can only occur if the individual fails to make all the required monthly premium contributions at the end of the Outbreak Period.

    For example, an individual previously elected COBRA and has been paying monthly COBRA premiums since March 1, 2020. That individual does not pay applicable monthly COBRA premiums for April, May, June, or July. Under the extension guidance, the Plan must allow the individual until 30 days after the end of the Outbreak Period (or, August 29, using the dates from the prior example) to fully pay all prior months of COBRA premiums to maintain the COBRA coverage.  Health plans and insurance carriers are burdened with holding all claims submitted during the extension period to know whether coverage will or won’t be paid as required.

    Employer COBRA Notice Period Extension:  The Joint Notice potentially also allows plans, plan administrators, and employers to have extra time to provide the COBRA election notice but the guidance is unclear about how that extension period applies. Until further guidance is issued to add clarity, we recommend that employers, other plan sponsors and administrators continue to send the COBRA election notices based on existing law and rely on the extension only if necessary.

    Complications will likely result under this new guidance, and thus we strongly recommend working with COBRA administrators to ensure proper compliance is maintained throughout the Outbreak Period and beyond.

    Participant Options for Coverage

    Lastly, the DOL updated its ongoing FAQ guidance for participants to know and understand their health insurance and other benefit rights and coverage options before, during, and after the National Emergency period ends. While this guidance is directed to participants and beneficiaries, employers may also find it instructive to ensure they are providing proper coverage alternatives.

    More Information

    Employers can find a consolidation of almost all the DOL’s recent COVID-19 related guidance about benefits on its website

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    Source: JD Supra, LLC

  • 01 May 2020 8:47 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Improving performance management processes

    David Rice |  05/01/2020

    A good performance management process is one of the more elusive aspects of employee engagement and development. Research shows that the vast majority of managers and HR leaders don’t believe in the current performance management processes their companies offer, but developing a new one is no small task.

    There is a great deal to consider when developing a new performance management process. Every stakeholder has a different view of the process and something different that they need to get from it, whether it’s documentation which supports personnel decisions for managers, or accountability measures for companies. But at the end of the day, the employee remains the focal point and biggest beneficiary of a good performance management process and it should be developed with that in mind.  

    “Successful products are built by meeting the needs of the customer you’re serving,” Srinivas Krishnamurti, Director of Product Performance at Culture Amp says. “Successful performance management processes are built by meeting the needs of your employees – to know how they’re doing, how they can get better, and what they need to do to have a bigger impact in the company.”

    The Need to Rethink Performance Management

    The shifts in performance management techniques in recent years have been driven by a number of factors, among them demographic shifts in the workforce. As Millennials became the largest segment of the workforce, employer strategies when it came to things like employee engagement, performance assessments and compensation had to change, and so they will again with the arrival of Gen Z employees.

    From a business perspective, shifts are taking place around things like remote work and employee development that will ultimately help companies address the skills gap, but creating a consistent dialogue with employees and understanding what each individual brings to a team will require a more holistic approach.

    “In many cases, and especially as more employees work remotely or in distributed teams, managers don’t see what their direct reports do every day,” David Ostberg, Director of People Science and Performance at Culture Amp says. “Constructive developmental feedback from peers that work with an employee on a daily basis can provide valuable insights.”

    The Challenge of Performance Management

    There are a fair amount of issues when it comes to performance management, be it uncomfortable assessment and compensation conversations or the organization’s overreliance on flawed ratings systems.

    This is not to say that rating an employee’s performance is something to do away with. Quite the opposite, companies simply need to re-examine the content and design of the ratings system to get more accurate data into the hands of decision makers who can use it to make better personnel decisions.

    “Rating scales get a bad rap, but in many cases that’s because they’ve been poorly designed,” Ostberg says. “Well designed ratings systems should harness clearly defined anchors to enhance validity and reduce bias. Work with your team to create more clarity around what each rating means and establish specific criteria for each rating so you can reliably differentiate performance on your team.”

    In keeping with the idea that you’re putting the employee at the center of the process, HR teams redesigning their approach to performance management have to remember what is important to the employee and make the experience a comfortable and transparent one.

    “Companies are distracted by so many challenges around performance management that they often don’t realize how important feedback is to their employees,” Ostberg says. “Capturing real data around what managers and employees are experiencing can be the difference between loosely knowing it’s a problem and clearly seeing where the problem exists – and when you see the problem, you can act on it.”

    As HR teams go about redesigning and rebranding a performance management process, they’ll want to consider things like the elimination of bias, goal setting, implementation guidelines and creating a feedback schedule.

    To learn more about all of these techniques, download Culture Amp’s whitepaper titled “Raising the Standard of Performance Management: How to Align Development and Compensation with Business Strategy.”

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    Source: HR Exchange Network

  • 30 Apr 2020 2:48 PM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)



    Eric Friedman

    Apr 27, 2020

    If you work in the human resources (HR) field, your overarching goals are to provide a safe and healthy workplace and enable your company’s mission. Right now, that means the mitigation of the novel coronavirus. As it continues to spread in the U.S., businesses must put together a comprehensive and people-first response to prevent workplace contamination and calm employee anxiety.

    This pandemic is a wake-up call for employers to carefully review the policies, procedures and strategies in place to protect staff, customers and operations in this and future crises. The good news is that with thorough attention to workforce safety and legal preparedness, companies can reduce employees’ risk of infection and their own legal risks.

    Here are five questions that represent the top human resource concerns as employers prepare for and respond to this emergency.

    1. What should companies communicate to employees?

    Talking to your workforce about coronavirus is no easy feat. Yet now is the time for resolute action, strong leadership and clear communication. Above all, for practical and legal reasons, employers need to be able to prove that they have given employees accurate information about measures to prevent the spread of infection and that they have provided individuals with the means to act on that information. Therefore, companies should provide communications to staff about modes of transmission and symptoms to be aware of by sharing specific public health guidelines and directing employees to the official sources of information on which the company will rely.

    2. Should businesses update sick leave policies?

    Ensure that your company’s sick leave policies are adjusted to be flexible enough to allow employees to follow any public health guidance and communicate any modifications to policies in writing to employees. Policies that give employees assurance that they can afford to take sick leave are critical to encouraging self-reporting and, ultimately, reducing potential exposure. Not wanting to miss a paycheck may motivate staff to come into work even if they are experiencing symptoms.

    To reduce the risk of spread of the virus, the nation’s largest private employer, Walmart, announced on March 10 that it would offer up to two weeks’ pay for employees who become quarantined or if employees work at one of its locations that happens to fall under a mandatory quarantine. Further, if a worker is diagnosed with COVID-19, Walmart said it would provide two weeks’ pay and additional pay replacement for up to six and a half months. Apple reportedly offered unlimited sick leave to symptomatic retail employees. Although not every business can offer such things, employers should examine what they can do to help prevent the spread of disease.

    3. How can companies prepare for workforce shortages?

    Employers should start by determining essential tasks that must be completed from the workplace. Then, as shortages arise, reallocate human capital to ensure those tasks are completed while enabling employees who are quarantined to complete work that can be done remotely. Contracting staffing services and hiring temporary employees is another way to fill necessary on-site roles.

    4. Can businesses be required to facilitate remote work?

    Twitter, on March 2, “became the first major U.S. corporation to strongly encourage its employees to work from home” to prevent the spread of the virus, followed by Amazon, Facebook, Google and many more. The CDC is urging companies to implement workplace social distancing measures, including replacing in-person meetings with teleworking. Now is the time to develop work-from-home guidelines and determine the digital tools that will be available to employees to facilitate communication and productivity when working remotely.

    5. Can employers ask staff to stay home or leave the workplace if they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19?

    The CDC states that individuals should self-monitor or self-quarantine alone for a period of 14 days after showing symptoms of infection, a medium- or high-risk exposure to the virus or traveling from a high-risk region. Companies should also instruct employees to inform their supervisors if they have been exposed to the virus or show symptoms of infection, or if they or a member of their household are particularly vulnerable to the virus.

    Failing to provide this instruction to employees can potentially expose a business to liability should staff become infected in the workplace and it is proven that management did not communicate this policy. To avoid litigation, all policies related to this pandemic should be explicit, and the relevant communications should be documented.

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    Source: Forbes

  • 30 Apr 2020 2:42 PM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)


    Ryan Golden@RyanTGolden


    April 28, 2020

    Dive Brief:

    • Most insurance carriers are making changes to the way they determine benefits eligibility to extend coverage to employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an April 16 survey by LIMRA, an international life insurance and financial services research association.
    • For example, 42% of carriers surveyed are choosing to automatically continue coverage for all employees for a specified period of time, and an additional 22% are extending eligibility on a case-by-case basis to employees whose employment status has changed. More than one-third of respondents have adjusted reinstatement rules to make it easier for those impacted by COVID-19 to regain coverage, and a similar number are extending the timeframe in which employees may elect to pay or continue coverage if separated from their employer.
    • Nearly 7 in 10 U.S. employees rely on their employee benefits to cover insurance needs, LIMRA said. Nearly all carriers in the survey said they’re offering premium grace periods of 60 days on average to workers unable to pay their premiums due to COVID-19, while others said they plan to reassess or extend those timelines if needed.

    Access now

    Dive Insight:

    Preliminary estimates indicate the pandemic could take a considerable toll on employee benefit plans, particularly for self-funded employers.

    A report earlier this month from the Integrated Benefits Institute found that that cost could exceed $23 billion, provided that the U.S. endures a "high range" outcome in which more than 15 million are infected. Self-funded employers could experience healthcare plan cost increases of between 4% to 7% in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 treatment and testing alone, according to a separate analysis by Willis Towers Watson. In both reports, a higher infection rate would lead to higher overall costs.

    At the same time, higher unemployment numbers mean that a considerable percentage of workers have lost their employer-provided benefits, leading to criticism of the industry from worker advocates. Employers might note, however, that an employee's employer-provided health coverage may continue in the event of a furlough, and the employee may be able to continue their coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) if they have lost eligibility.

    Employers are looking into a number of ways to reduce plan costs while maintaining access to care during the pandemic. In many cases, that means shifting in-person visits to telehealth, sources previously told HR Dive. An April 10 survey by Willis Towers Watson found that 86% of employers said they were promoting the use of telemedicine solutions, and more than two-fifths said they would waive out-of-pocket costs for employees who contract the virus.

    Companies that can afford to do so might also look into helping employees who need to provide childcare due to caregiver unavailability or school closures. This may continue a trend that began even before the pandemic. Microsoft announced in recent weeks that it would offer up to 12 weeks of paid leave to all of its global employees who are impacted by extended school closures caused by COVID-19.

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    Source; HR Dive

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