Benefits

A Healthier Benefits Strategy

By leveraging technology and research, HR can demystify the open enrollment process. By John Hull Benefits enrollment happens around the same time every year. But even with the same tune being sung, the same instructions being given, and the same procedures being followed, many employees never feel comfortable or familiar with the process. According to the 2017 Aflac WorkForces Report, when respondents were asked about their understanding of overall policies, deductibles, copayments, and providers in their network, only 24 percent of employees surveyed could say that they understood everything. This lack of confidence can lead to holes in employees’ coverage. The same Aflac survey revealed that employees’ lack of comprehension is a costly problem. More than half of respondents—55 percent—said
they waste up to $750 per year by making mistakes during open enrollment. The common theme is clear: Employees need more information, more guidance, and more confidence in their benefits decisions.

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Bye-Bye Financial Burden

Organizations that help workers eliminate student loan debt earn a greater payoff: increased productivity, loyalty, and retention. By Michael Fenlon  With outstanding student loan debt at a national high of over $1.3 trillion, more than 44.2 million Americans are burdened with student loan debt. Along with increased stress, debt is having secondary impacts on many professionals and affecting when they are starting families, buying homes, and how they’re saving for retirement. These obstacles have a negative impact on overall workplace wellness by decreasing productivity, leading to disengagement, and even undermining physical health. Companies must recognize that the needs of staff evolve over time, and the workplace must transform to meet them. It’s no longer enough to match the benefits of competitors--organizations need to stand out and demonstrate an understanding of what is important
to the workforce. And helping to alleviate the stress
of student loan debt is clearly important to millions of workers.

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Compensation Considerations

Research reveals five trends that help guide best practices in payroll.

By Mollie Lambardi

Payroll continues to be one of the top services that is outsourced to a third-party provider. In fact, Aptitude Research Partners’ recent study on workforce management found that four out of five organizations are using payroll software solutions or payroll services. When looking at large enterprises—those with more than 1,000 employees—that number is nearly nine out of 10. As organizations struggle to find and keep great talent, creating a positive payroll experience is increasingly important. And as HR organizations seek to position themselves as strategic leaders, the last thing they want is to be bogged down by payroll errors. But an increasingly complex regulatory environment is quickly complicating the world of payroll.

Fortunately, today’s payroll solutions are moving beyond the commoditized marketplace, charging pennies per employee to cut checks.

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Beneficial Strategies

Organizations need to adapt their approach to benefits to suit today’s changing demographics.

By Randy Stram

With the gig economy rapidly expanding, employers are focused on retaining and engaging employees. According to MetLife’s 15th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS), more than half (51 percent) of employees today are interested in contract or freelance work. Not surprisingly, gig work appeals to millennials most, with nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the generation interested, followed by Gen X (52 percent), and baby boomers (41 percent). Workers are drawn to freelance roles due to the flexible hours, the ability to work from home, and project variety. This is causing organizations to have a laser focus on retaining their talent—the top priority among employers, according to EBTS’ findings.  In fact, 51 percent of respondents plan to leverage benefits as a retention strategy in the next three to five years.

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Outside-of-the-Box Benefits

Seven perk-driven strategies to engage and retain employees. By Jeanie Heffernan A company’s greatest asset is its workforce, and that is why it is vital to equip workers with the best tools and resources to do their jobs. But today’s employees are also looking for benefits that help maintain a positive work-life balance. While traditional benefits such as medical, dental, and vision insurance might be what initially come to mind, many organizations are beginning to think outside of the box to foster a more engaged, productive, and healthier workforce. Recent iCIMS research found that 92 percent of full-time employees believe that companies offering non-traditional benefits are more likely to recruit top-tier talent. These benefits also serve as retention tools; a comprehensive benefits package gives employees a reason to stay with a company other than the paycheck. Outside-of-the-box benefits come in a variety of forms: from helping employees live healthier lives to providing opportunities for them to save money or remove some of the stress of daily life.

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Flex Up

Organizations can achieve benefits by offering employees sought-after flexibility, but best practices should be followed. By Greg Besner Work-life balance is more important than it used to be. While previous generations didn’t question the nine-to-five workday format, modern job seekers are willing to forgo higher paying positions based on company culture alone, according to research from Fidelity. Whether telecommuting, working four 10-hour days, working part-time or simply adjusting the start or end times of a workday, flexible work schedules can increase commitment and retention. As more companies offer flexibility, they reap the rewards. According to the Harvard Business Review, the benefits of flex time go both ways, offering employers increased coverage hours, a recruitment edge, less use of paid leave and results-driven management. Employees, in turn, experience higher satisfaction and morale, reduced stress and often more efficient and productive use of their time.

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Three Game Changers

Flexibility, data, and personalization are shaping the way organizations deliver employee benefits. By Chris Bruce In years past, employee benefits were seen as the status quo elements of HR. Employees and employers alike grew accustomed to the same list of standard benefits—from healthcare to retirement options. However, in recent years, this mentality has shifted as employees have demanded more of the companies they work for—not only in terms of the benefits they receive, but also in how they are able to interact with their benefits packages. In response to this heightened awareness from today’s workforce, HR professionals have put a renewed focus on benefits schemes when it comes to attraction and retention strategies. A new report from Thomson, Global Employee Benefits Watch, finds a clear disconnect between employees’ demand for personalized benefits and the employers’ ability to deliver those benefits. This reveals a missed opportunity for HR professionals to leverage employee data to drive relevancy.

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Making Cents

Choosing the right reimbursement program pays off. By Craig Powell By 2020, mobile workers will account for 72 percent of the total U.S. workforce, according to a recent report by IDC. Given this anticipated growth, it’s imperative that employers fairly and accurately reimburse their employees for any business-related driving expenses. Radio Shack, Walgreens, and Starbucks (see sidebar) are just a few of the organizations that have been involved in reimbursement-related lawsuits, which proves that no business—not even a high-profile one—is exempt from ensuring employees’ business-related expenses are covered. Lawsuits like these show that many of today’s employers don’t fully understand how to accurately and fairly reimburse mobile employees for business mileage. Many choose to use cents-per-mile programs, which have long been used to because they are easy to administer and can oftentimes be paid tax-free. But many employers don’t have the full confidence that they’re providing the most accurate and cost-effective reimbursement program.

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The Mercer Report: Are You Ready For Change?

By Sharon Cunninghis A perfect storm is brewing in the healthcare benefits market. Be prepared. Employers are pivotal players in today’s healthcare system, but their role has remained remarkably passive. Yes, organizations absorb much of the cost of coverage, ensure that they are in compliance with the complicated requirements of the Affordable Care Act, and provide many of the tools their employees need as insurance consumers. However, a transformation is long overdue. Regardless of the fate of the ACA under a new Republican administration, nearly two-thirds of all insured coverage in the U.S. is provided by employers, who collectively spend nearly $1 trillion annually on health benefits for their work forces. Benefit cost increases outpace overall inflation, and 14.2 percent of payroll is allocated to healthcare benefits, according to Mercer’s National Survey of Employer Sponsored Health Plans. Healthcare is at the center of impending change. New tech-based entrants are adding more pressure to health plans, which are also facing consolidation pressures.

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Watching the Clock

FLSA’s new overtime pay regulations are set to have major organizational and financial implications. By Rosemarie Hill A major change to the Fair Labor Standards Act, originally slated for December 1, 2016, has been put on hold – but don’t forget about it altogether. While a federal district court in Texas has issued a nationwide preliminary injunction prohibiting the Department of Labor from implementing its revised overtime rule, it does not mean that the DOL’s new overtime rule is invalid. The final rule was poised to double the salary level required for employees to be exempt from overtime under the FLSA, but a consolidated lawsuit originally fi led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 21 separate states triggered an injunction. Judges generally do not issue such injunctions unless they think the underlying case has a substantial likelihood of succeeding, and this court admonished that the rule change “is contrary to the statutory text and Congress’s intent” and that “Congress, not the (DOL) should make (the) change.

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