In a recent blog, I addressed Communicating Total Compensation and in this post, I dive deeper into the exploration of continuing education and common reimbursement policy criteria as part of the total rewards offering.
Whether it is a component of a company's approach to recruiting or a tactic for improving employee engagement and retention, continuing education and related reimbursement policies are becoming increasingly commonplace in our highly competitive work world.
Continuing education started back in 1907 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was introduced for adult learners who completed their undergraduate degree. Over time, it became evident that continuing education needed to be offered during evening hours and on weekends in order to accommodate the busy schedules of working professionals. Since the 1990s, the number of continuing education programs has rapidly expanded both in the number of academic institutions offering it as well as the number of enrolees.
There are many reasons for employees to go back to school. Some to boost their careers, and others are mandated to keep a license of certification. Many employers now recognize that continuing education is critical for the long term success of the organization as well as for the employee who gains an edge over the competition. Keeping skills and knowledge current and relevant is key. This is especially necessary in professions that require continuing education credits on a regular basis in such fields as: human resources, accounting, engineering and healthcare. Employers are also recognizing that employees who pursue continuing education or CE understand their professions and purposes on a deeper level.
A study by Spheroid Atlantic Enterprises, LLC found that 61 percent of employees who received reimbursement for continuing education were most likely to remain with their current employer for the next five or more years. Retaining top talent makes sense from a productivity and a return on investment standpoint.
Different forms of CE include: weekend or weeklong conferences, webinars, teleconferences, e-learning or classroom learning as well as training centres, university courses and degree programs. Commonly outlined in a CE policies are reimbursement criteria that includes:
* clarification of the course or degree sought and its applicability to the job or future position within the company, (generally a definition of 'job-related' is included in the policy wording)
* the potential of continued employment with the organization, (generally, contract or temporary employees are not eligible)
* a personal commitment or statement from the employee as to why they wish to pursue CE
* a description of the cost-sharing as well as clarification of employee reimbursement if the course is failed or if the employee terminates employment within a prescribed period of time,
* explanation of what the company will reimburse in terms of books, parking and mileage,
* allotted time off with pay for exam study time
* what happens if the employee relocates or becomes disabled and goes on a leave of absence
* requirement that the CE application form must be completed by the employee and his/her immediate supervisor
With regard to CE related to professional training and development that is not part of a degree program, employer criteria often includes:
*employment with the company and generally not within the employee's probationary period,
*prior written approval by the employee's supervisor
*employee attendance at all training classes and seminars.
Some employers place a cap on the CE program or tuition reimbursement levels based on years of service with the company and the amount may vary based on whether the employee is hourly or salaried. There are many aspects to consider when developing or revisiting a continuing education policy as part of the total rewards package. We have the resources and experience with our expanded service model through Gallagher Benefit Services Inc. and we invite you to contact us to explore your needs. We're here to help so you can focus on what you do best.
During the months between October and May, it is fair game to anticipate seasonal flu outbreaks as well as an onslaught of the common cold. While the peak time for flu activity hovers between December and February, there are several easy ways to guard against germ transmission in the workplace.
Did you know that the average work desk has more than 20,000 germs per square inch, which is greater than 400 times the number found on toilet seats?
According to M. Keech's research paper called, The Impact of Influenza on Working Days Lost, the wide-spread and debilitating nature of the flu means that annual outbreaks lead to substantial employee absenteeism. Awareness and prevention tips support the reduction of costs of lost productivity, representing a significant component of the flu's financial burden on employers and society.
Education and prevention enables employees to keep their body's defences in top shape and learn ways to boost their immune system. Here are tried and true tips to help keep germs at bay:
1) Consider getting a flu shot. People have mixed views on the benefits of the flu shot and leaving it to the individual's discretion is wise. Information can be made readily available and depending on the organization's wellness philosophy, there are many online resources available for implementing a flu clinic. In addition, there are several opportunities for employees to get a free flu shot in Ontario. For the first time, children and youth 2 to 17 years old have the option to get the flu vaccine through a nasal spray for free. Details about the options available for Ontarians can be accessed at www.ontario.ca/page/get-flu-shot
2) Wash your hands - a lot. Particularly during the flu season, the office telephone, keyboard and mouse are considered germ hot spots. To rid yourself of viruses from your skin, scrub hard for 20 seconds or more with soapy water (hot or cold) and avoid touching your face, mouth and nose with your hands. Sing "Happy Birthday" twice while scrubbing hands. If you can't use soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to kill cold and flu germs. Remember to sneeze or cough into your elbow or a tissue.
Influenza viruses can remain on hard surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic for up to 48 hours. Hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes should be kept at work stations during cold and flu season. If you can't use soap and water to wash hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to kill cold and flu germs.
3) Eat your veggies (and fruit). Remind employees that fruits and vegetables contain an array of important nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants. Invite them to add immune boosting vegetables like spinach, berries, broccoli and garlic to their weekly grocery cart.
4) Promote sleep and stress management techniques. When feeling stressed, the body builds up cortisol and in healthy doses, it isn't harmful, but when there is excess production it begins to shut down unnecessary functions, like the immune system so the body can direct its energy toward addressing the stress at hand. Dealing with stress is to be be short-lived, but that doesn't always seem to be the case in our today's world. Remind employees of healthy sleep practices as well as services available like an Employee Assistance Program to address chronic stress.
5) Exercise regularly. Exercise for at least 1.5 hours per week to help boost the immune system. Exercise is also a helpful stress management technique.
6) Stay home if you are sick. As the stats in the infographic depict, 67 percent of office workers have admitted to coming into work while sick. If you have a fever, stay home for at least 24 hours and avoid shaking hands or standing close to people.
While it isn't unusual to get at least one cold during the winter season, there are steps to prevent it. Within this post is an infographic listing flu facts. There are several other free infographics on the Internet that are available for reproduction. Printing out a PDF and posting tips for cold and flu prevention is one quick way to remind everyone of ways to stay healthy especially at this time of year. For additional resources, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
The start of a new year is an important time for many to reflect and consider plans for the year ahead. I believe it is also a great opportunity to establish or re-commitment to developing strong time management skills.
I'm reminded of a quote by Benjamin Franklin who once said that time is money. Ben Franklin knew a thing or two about productivity. Born in 1706, he became a scientist, a writer, a diplomat, a musician, a printer, a postmaster, and an inventor. He also created the pros and cons list -- a decision-making tool that is used to this day.
Aside from Ben Franklin, many references to other successful people address the fact that they too are masters of time management. They establish routines and discipline themselves when it comes to the 24 hours that make up their day. Recognizing that time is one resource without an abundant supply, they choose to spend time wisely thereby maximizing efficiency and furthering specific goals.
Whether as a leadership tool for employees or as simple personal reminder, I offer some tried and true time management tips representing a condensed summary of the secrets of highly successful people.
1) Set goals - no matter your role, set goals to work toward. Goals give you direction and they align your sights clearly on where you want to go. A goal acts as a guidepost to help you determine what gets a 'yes', and sometimes, more importantly, what gets a 'no'. Each of us has the same number of hours in a day, yet how we decide to spend them can make all the difference in the world.
2) Manage a task list - having an on-going 'to-do' list acts as a handy reminder system. It isn't helpful to try to imagine you'll remember everything you have to do and keeping a list offers you a visual ability to break down your tasks into more manageable steps. Keep a planner handy and take control of your goals by tracking them on a daily, week and monthly basis.
3) Prioritize goals and tasks - once you've captured what you wish to accomplish, remember that time is a scarce resource and prioritize each item on your list in order of importance. You only have so many hours in a day and it is easy to falsely believe that you can do more than you think. Commit to doing the highest priority item on your list first to ensure you get it done. Surprises happen and sometimes your day may take a turn that you didn't anticipate. Author and successful businessman, Brian Tracy wrote a best-selling time management book called Eat that Frog. He was inspired by Mark Twain who said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that it is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.
It is commonplace to tackle the easy tasks like checking voicemail or email, but that doesn't help move toward the bigger goals. You can trick your mind to say that you'll get to that big ugly frog of a task and although you have high hopes for success, interruptions arrive and soon your day is over and you still haven't tackled the highest priority item on your list. Eat your biggest frog first and get it out of the way early.
4) Avoid multitasking. There was a time when multitasking was all the rage. People still talk about juggling several things at the same time. Multitasking actually slows you down. Michigan psychologist, Dr. David Meyer, conducted a study on the subject and found that switching between tasks of varying complexity added almost 40 percent to completion time as compared to completing one job before beginning another. Along with the problem of multitasking, it is important to avoid tempting distractions. Especially when you are eating your biggest frog, avoid looking at text messages or checking email. Protect your time because each interruption breaks your concentration and it takes on average 15 minutes to get back to your original focus and train of thought.
Starting the new year off with a goal of fine-tuning time management skills will likely have a significantly positive impact on your success and productivity. By developing the habit of setting clear priorities and getting important tasks completed quickly will further your personal results and those of the business. Remember, a good plan well executed is far better that a great plan never fully actualized.
We have a clear sense for our goals and that is to help you achieve yours when it comes to managing your benefits and pension plans. Our own use of time management best practices allows us to drive successful results for our clients year after year. We invite you to contact us. We're here to help so you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.