In mid March of 2018, Aon, a global professional services firm, released a survey on global employee engagement results. Aon's data compared opinions from more than 5 million employees around the world. While Canada remained relatively high compared to other countries surveyed, it dropped in employee engagement from 70 percent to 69 percent, which still remains 4 points above the global average.
Exploring the Drop
One of the key triggers for the drop in engagement is believed to be related to workplace disruption resulting from the introduction of new technologies and ways of doing business. In the Aon survey, employees shared that they felt more uncertain about the future of their work and experienced higher degrees of stress as a result. Employees appear to be struggling with the change needed to drive efficiencies and what that might mean to the type of work they are asked to perform.
The Digital Age
Beyond the decline of the industrial revolution, companies face adapting to the digital age where pressure to be more efficient, competitive and relevant means looking at ways technology can enhance the customer experience as well as changes to how work gets done.
Thinking through the longer term digital strategy from end to end becomes more complex with the rapidity of change and the pressure from other organizations who might be seen as disrupting their industry through innovation and digital enhancements and upgrades faster than the competition.
While technological advancements can work wonders for business development, in itself, it can't be the isolated response to solving employee engagement issues. Technology and creating a collaborative digital workplace needs to improve human connections in meaningful ways. Introducing technology without addressing what might be fundamentally broken in terms of organizational design or culture, creates only short term fixes that will fall short over time.
According to Gallup, McKinsey and other engagement survey organizations, worker engagement is declining in our always-on society. When introducing technology or digital enhancements, considering how they might influence employee collaboration is key.
Questions to Ask
In a recent Deloitte white paper, The Digital workplace: Think, share, do. Transform your employee experience, they suggest asking specific questions in order to create a fuller engagement picture:
1) How can I best understand how my employees work and how can the digital workplace support this?
2) How can I best leverage my existing tools to deliver a truly valuable user experience and what other tools do I need to supplement this with?
3) How do I manage cultural change, rollout and adoption?
4) How can I measure success and ensure continuous improvement?
In order to respond to changes in the emerging digital age, answers to these and other questions are an important filter when exploring:
- How to support more transparent working styles and social networks;
- How to provide not just customers, but employees with flexibility, choice and personalization so their personal digital experiences outside of work are aligned with what happens for them at work;
- How to keep employees connected virtually with collaboration tools that work best for them (e.g., instant messaging).
The Bigger Picture
Adapting digital technology for the sake of system upgrades and process efficiencies doesn't automatically equate to higher employee engagement. It includes keeping a pulse on how employees can continue to work better together with the right tools at the right time. We have a pool of resources with a depth of knowledge in this area. We're eager to help you develop the plan you need to support your engagement and productivity goals and invite you to contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
April 2, 2018 marks another Employee Benefits Day. It has been almost a decade since the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) first introduced this special day for industry professionals. As per the IFEBP, it is a day to recognize trustees, administrators, benefits practitioners and professional advisors for their dedication to providing quality benefits and the important role they play in their colleagues' well-being.
The Theme of Behavioural Economics
This year, Employee Benefits Day brings attention to the topic of behavioural economics and driving better employee decision-making. Specific to benefits and financial wellness, understanding how social and emotional biases influence employees is a key learning tool for benefits and retirement planning practitioners.
In essence, the more that is known about behavioural economics and decision-making bias, the better positioned plan sponsors will be to develop and enhance plan designs that help employees improve their finance and health outcomes.
Addressing Irrational Decision-making
Although we'd like to believe that we all make sound and rational decisions, the reverse is often true. Yet, many benefits and retirement services practitioners craft communications as if those reading their messages have a keen interest as well as at least moderate to high knowledge of the subject. Experience, statistics and behaviour patterns show us that we have a greater tendency of making decisions like Homer Simpson rather than Albert Einstein.
If we want better results, it's time to take a closer look at how behavioural economics can help us. While it remains a relatively new science that marries psychology and economics, people's behaviour and inherent decision-making patterns have been fairly easy to predict over time. Yet we continue to make assumptions about employee actions that aren't correct. Although we might not like to believe it, it's more common than not for people to make decisions without considering if its actually in their best interest.
Unconscious Decision-making Bias
Over the years, I've written a great deal about saving for retirement, debt-management and the value of financial planning. As we unpack key elements of behavioural science, its important to examine the effects of unconscious decision-making bias. To help positively sway plan participant actions, here are some decision-making biases to pay attention to:
1) Choice Overload: if there are too many choices, it can stop one's decision-making ability and cause the employee to choose the default option.
2) Illusions of Control: People overestimate that their choice will generate a specific result. Example - if I buy a lottery ticket, I'm going to win. For savings and investment products, the plan member believes they will make better investment decisions on their own rather than with the help of an investment manager.
3) Inertia or Status Quo: People don't like change. The brain thinks of change as pain and seeks to avoid it. When it can't predict the outcome, the brain prefers the status quo as no change is a "reward" not a threat. For savings and investment products, this effect may show up as the decision to remain in the plan's default option.
4) Loss Aversion: People fear loss more than the potential for gain and may consider contributing to a pension plan with contributions taken from their pay seen as a takeaway rather than considering the upside of gaining employer contribution matching.
5) Unrealistic Optimism: This effect plays out when people believe that bad things happen to other people. They don't happen to them. Similar to the illusion of control bias, people believe that if they choose their investments, it will yield stronger outcomes because they are in control of making the investment choice.
Employee communication continues to be a barrier for positive plan results. Why not give consideration to the theories of behavioural decision-making and see if changes the actions employees take have a more favourable conclusion. So on my Resource Page, I've made available the following articles:
1) Stanford Center on Longevity: A toolkit series brief - 10 things you should know about psychological science and behavioural economics to improve financial and health outcomes with employees and customers and;
2) Stanford Center on Longevity: A toolkit series brief - The MORE Design.
3) Benefits Magazine: Designing and Communicating Retirement Plans for "Humans".
Beyond these applicable resources, we invite you to contact us to discuss ways we can apply behavioural economics to strengthen your benefit and retirement program goals. As always, we're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
The push-pull between cost-containment and competitive benefits arrangements.
When it comes to employee benefits, Canadian employers face a complex struggle. On one hand, they seek to attract and retain the best talent and on the other hand, they look to effectively manage what appears to be ever escalating benefit plan costs.
Key cost factors.
For many years, cost containment has been a top goal for employers. While the emphasis may have shifted somewhat as to the culprits applying pressure on expanding plan costs, the primary factors can be attributed to:
- Cost-shifting. When private sponsor benefit plans were first established, they were designed to supplement publicly funded government programs. Over the years, cut backs in healthcare services at both the provincial and federal level meant more costs needed to be absorbed by corporate Canada.
- Chronic disease and mental health issues. Based on a 2015 benchmarking survey conducted by The Conference Board of Canada, the average cost of providing benefits for employees is $8,330 per full-time equivalent. It's likely that this annual figure isn't going to decline any time soon given the rise in chronic disease and mental health issues being reported. The survey also highlighted that 52 percent of organizations reported increases in benefits costs for active employees, averaging 6.2 percent between 2013 and 2014.
- We're aging. As our population ages, so does the workforce and with it comes the potential for an increase in illness, injury and health-care costs.
- New prescription drugs. Fewer drugs are coming off patent while more new, improved or repackaged medications, available in easy to take formats, are driving up consumer demand. Additionally, more drugs are available to treat cancer and other illnesses, such as hepatitis C, carry with them a hefty price tag per protocol.
It's hard to take something away once its been given.
When employees have been offered a benefit package, it isn't easy to modify in a way that reduces employer cost without risking the possibility of upsetting plan members and their eligible dependents. Keeping a close watch on avoiding employee dissatisfaction is important.
Since prescription drugs represent between 60 to 80 percent of most plans health care costs, employers tend to focus more of their attention in this area. Cost containment tactics include (but are not limited to):
- generic drug substitution;
- higher reimbursement percentages for generic drug use;
- changes to annual deductibles;
- encouraging employees to request 3 months' worth of a medication at a time in order to save on paying a per-script deductible every month (as well as the dispensing fee);
- changes to, or the introduction of, annual maximums.
Other non prescription drug related tactics include:
- changing vision care coverage
- limiting specific long term benefits (e.g., retirees or part-time employees)
- grandfathering benefits coverage
- introducing or enhancing health and wellness promotion programs
- introducing or promotion of health risk assessments and early intervention programs to reduce or eliminate absences and disability claims.
Build a strong communication campaign.
Regardless of the tactics considered, employers are well served when there is a comprehensive employee communication plan developed alongside any potential plan changes.
Communication tips to consider:
- tailored messages for different employee groups;
- ensure the change is clearly described including: why it is being introduced and what's in it for the employee (i.e. are benefit dollars being reinvested back into the plan to introduce or enhance a benefit?);
- use data and infographics or charts to illustrate what's happening through examples and simulations;
- start communicating pending changes as soon as possible;
- ensure the communications have a call to action especially if the employee is being asked to modify their role as a health care consumer.
We're here to help.
With the support of a trusted advisor, employers are able to focus more readily on developing and implementing creative plan designs that balance employee value while effectively managing plan costs. Frequent, relevant communication goes hand in hand with the introduction of any change.
With 30 years experience in the benefits industry, we invite you to contact us. We understand the importance of addressing rising costs while still engaging employees. Our goal is to ensure you meet yours. As ever, we're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Why feedback matters.
Seeking feedback can benefit us for a few reasons: 1) we find out what we're doing well and should continue doing, and 2) we find out where we might consider changing course so that we can ensure we're tracking on a path to successful results.
Employers look for feedback from employees for similar reasons. When it comes to employee benefits surveys, the goal is to gain insights by eliminating guesswork.
The "Why" of Conducting Employee Benefits Satisfaction Surveys.
It is never a good idea to base a strategy on hunches. Empirical data comes from surveys and allows employers to find out:
- if employees are happy with their benefits package,
- what they don't like,
- what they wish would be provided;
- and what isn't much of value at all.
Employers know that it is ineffective and costly to provide a benefit that isn't considered a sought-after employee perk. The power of conducting a survey is to reach the widest respondent population possible and gather feedback in a way that doesn't come from other forms of regular employee contact.
So what's the goal?
These days, most employee surveys are conducted online and allow as many employees as possible to provide feedback through scaled responses or through open-ended comments. Survey results help employers learn ways to use their benefits dollars wisely. They also help with the HR or corporate goal of reducing turnover while attracting the best talent.
Communicate what's expected.
Survey completion rates are driven by a few key factors. Higher participation rates are generally a result of employees who are assured that their feedback is kept in strictest confidence with no possible backlash. They also know that their employer is truly listening and will do something with the feedback they gather.
Whenever feedback is sought, it sets up an expectation that benefits many change or be improved. It's important to have a communication strategy to outline the plan of action and purpose of the survey. Employees need to know what to expect and when.
What to look for in the survey.
No matter the size of the company, surveys should:
- be able to provide customized questions that let the employer get at heart of the issues they hope to address;
- include questions about current benefits and any new ones that are being considered;
- the opportunity for employees to rank their feedback and allow for sharing perspectives about trade-offs for current or new benefit options;
- reports that break out meaningful data while not breaching confidentially through granularity of data splicing;
- and if there are open-ended questions, a summary by theme of response type.
The value of benchmarking.
Employee Benefit Surveys allow a company to analyze organizational data to learn what employees value from the current offering as well as what they'd like that isn't yet available to them. Many survey vendors provide reports to benchmark one organization's aggregate survey results against others in the same industry. These results can prove invaluable particularly when looking to maintain a competitive edge and learn where a company may be falling behind.
There is so much that can be leveraged from the results of an employee benefits survey. Based on our years of experience, we see time and again that employees who are happy with their benefits prove to be more productive and loyal to their employer. Gathering feedback is a good way to keep on track and stay ahead of the competition. With so many ideas to share and ways to maximize your benefit dollar spend, we invite you to contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
March means more than spring's arrival.
March ushers in the promise of spring whether any traces of snow remain or not. This third month of the year is also known on the Canadian health calendar as Nutrition Month.
In pursuit of a healthy bottomline.
With employees spending more than 1/3 of their lives at work or 60 percent of their waking hours per day in the office, it is no wonder that employers continue to look for ways to promote wellness through healthy eating in the workplace. Improved health and well-being can give a boost to productivity levels while driving up business performance. A myriad of studies show that healthy employees are 20 percent more productive than unhealthy ones. Additionally, employees who make proper dietary choices and focus on healthy weight management report fewer absences as well as short and long term disability claims.
Feed the gut, feed the brain.
Healthy eating also positively affects the brain. Since both the brain and body are made up of water, air and food, ensuring they are supplied with the right food is key. The body also has a second brain -- known as the gut-- where an entire nervous system exists. The gut and brain send messages back and forth to each other and when the gut isn't supplied with healthy ingredients, it can't send the right messages to the brain, thereby leaving it drained of what it needs to optimize its ability to focus and concentrate.
Brain food takes the form of protein, vegetables from all the colours of the rainbow, fish, as well as hemp, flaxseed, chia seeds. It's also important to avoid dips in blood sugar by eating brain food every 3 to 4 hours.
Feeding a healthy brain means increasing proteins and the key ingredients that fuel its neurotransmitters. The brain doesn't work well after the gut tries to digest non-nutritive, manufactured foods that have been altered through processing, starching and frying. Baked goods, sweeteners, too much caffeine, sugar, pop and alcohol also send the brain the wrong messages. They can make a person more anxious and may even lead to mental health issues such as depression.
What's in your vending machine?
Swap out the pop. Too often, it is easy to overlook what the workplace vending machines offers employees who seek a quick energy boost. The American Academy of Neurology reported that, aside from harming one's physical health, those who drank more than 4 cans of pop a day were 30 percent more likely to develop depression or other mental health problems.
Frequently stocked with a plethora of sugary soft drink choices, one of the easiest and best ways to influence healthy choices is by swapping out pop in the vending machines for water, fruit and/or vegetable juice (no added sugar), and carbonated water. These beverages offer employees an alternative free of calories, sugar and caffeine.
Fruit instead of candy bars. Those looking to help employees be happier at work may look no further than swapping out candy bars for fruit or offering free fruit in break rooms or beverage stations. Making it easy to choose a piece of fruit instead of something fattening from the vending machine not only is an important cancer prevention strategy, but for each fruit or veg portion eaten, there is a 40 percent greater level of protection against heart disease and stroke.
Employees who are healthier are also more productive. They promote a better culture and corporate image too. While making efforts to influence healthy eating at work is always a good thing, making the most of March as Nutrition Month provides ample opportunities to take advantage of many featured nutrition challenges. With so many resources at our fingertips, we're eager to share them with you and invite you to contact us. As always, we're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Anyone interested in the activity of mountain climbing knows that a successful mountaineer doesn't just wake up one morning and decide to climb the same day. It requires doing research, assessing your mental strength, getting fit, acquiring the right gear, preparing for the trip and getting a good guide to help you successfully navigate your climb.
Working with Gallagher Benefit Services (Canada) Group Inc. provides our clients with an abundance of relevant, timely, industry-related data needed to make well-informed HR, benefits and compensation decisions.
From January to March 2017, Gallagher surveyed 400 Canadian organizations in order to highlight how industry trends, the use of data integration as well as strategic planning help make organizations known for being a destination employer or a company at the top of its game. A similar survey was conducted in the U.S. with over 4,000 participating organizations. The results from both reports reveal valuable insights that companies are looking for in order to make smart, informed benefit decisions necessary for today's diverse and multi-generational workforce.
Those seeking to successfully reach the summit understand the value of using a Sherpa, or an elite mountaineer and highly skillful guide who is good at dealing with extreme altitudes. Working with a trusted advisor is akin to engaging your very own Sherpa, someone who has access to and helps you use relevant data wisely. A trusted advisor knows the industry terrain and can help you analyze the right data needed to design a holistic strategy. Making the right choice in terms of who you work with as a guide might prove to be the difference between reaching your HR, benefits and compensation goals or falling short.
Just as mountain climbing isn't something one does in isolation, taking a holistic approach to mapping out a strategic, measurable and customized plan is the game-changer for organizations looking to attract and retain the best talent. They understand that data can be effectively used to guide their ascent and that it can help them reach productivity and engagement goals targeted at surpassing even their toughest competition.
We're excited about the tools and resources we have at our fingertips. We're ready to put them to work for you. We know how to leverage industry data as well as information you have available in order to:
1) Assess the terrain and determine your state of readiness, your pain points and the distance from where you are today versus your goal;
2) Map out the path using data to navigate the best route from base camp to the summit. We'll work with you to build a plan tailored to meet your goals and based on an assessment of your organizational data as well as industry trends and insights;
3) Climb, while taking attainable and measurable steps, in clear pursuit of your goals. Whether your target involves changes to benefit plan design or enhancing employee retirement readiness, we have the data, tools and proven strategic approach to successfully guide and support your efforts.
You're not in this alone. We want to be there to help so that you can focus on what you do best. Contact us to learn more about our approach to data integration and strategic HR, benefits and compensation planning or to discuss the 2017 CNBS Executive Summary & Strategic Insights report.
Just as with the arrival of each new season, an annual deadline looms for any Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contributions to be allocated toward the previous year's income.
And the deadline is...March 1, 2018
This year, the deadline falls on March 1, 2018. It is difficult not to be reminded of this important date as banks, insurance, trust companies, financial advisors, and lending institutions have their RRSP contribution campaigns in full swing. Long before the start of the new year, many savvy employers launched savings campaigns to remind their employees of the many reasons to save for retirement and the benefits of contributing to an RRSP.
Communicate well, plainly and often.
The ultimate RRSP contribution message is two-fold: save early and regularly for retirement and in so doing, lower your taxes for the previous year.
Most, if not all of us, appreciate timely reminders to know when to take action regarding an important deadline. It's human nature to believe we have more time to do something than is true in actuality. The term 'time flies" is never more relevant than when the RRSP deadline approaches. Just after paying off December's credit card bills, we're faced with the reality of not making regular contributions toward saving for retirement because we thought we had more time.
Examples, images, videos with testimonials provide stronger and clearer methods for communicating the key savings message and RRSP contribution call to action. Hearing from one's trusted colleagues likely holds more credibility than a recommendation made from a high ranking senior leader who works in another part of the country and who most junior employees have never spoken to or who probably will never meet.
Need to Know Info.
- What the contribution limit is. For the 2017 tax year, the RRSP limit is the lesser of 18% of one's 2017 gross income or $26,010.
- Employees need to know how to find out their available RRSP contribution room by checking their notice of assessment and that this can be done easily by logging into the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) account or by contacting the CRA.
- They also need to know that unused contribution room carries forward unless the maximum deposit is made every year.
- The big no-no is taking out any funds from one's RRSP early. It means that tax must be paid on the full amount taken out and worse, that RRSP contribution is lost except when a) paying into the Home Buyers' Plan for a first home and b) to help pay for post-secondary education - Lifelong Learning Plan.
- Understanding the value and difference of a Spousal RRSP is important too. Knowing who can contribute and when it is best to do so as well as who owns the RRSP and who is responsible for designating a beneficiary when it is a Spousal RRSP (It is the spouse who owns it and who names a beneficiary). These tips and more can and should be communicated.
Driving at intrinsic motivation.
The idea is not to make figuring out what to contribute to one's RRSP a mad dash on the day before the deadline. Helping employees visualize what saving now can do to build freedom and choice in their future, is a worthwhile undertaking.
There are fun ways to "do the math" and illustrate the impact of what a savings delay of 5, 10 or even 15 years could mean to an employee's potential nest egg. Conversely, empowering employees to see that the success of their financial future is well within their grasp. There are so many creative ways to depict the power of saving early through the magic multiplier of compound interest, investing early and deferring taxes for a time when one's income is reduced.
Ultimately, an ideal and easy approach for RRSP contributions is to let automatic regular deposits take the pain out of making a savings transaction happen. When an RRSP contribution comes right off an employee's pay, the employer can reduce the income tax coming off the employee's pay too. While the tax advantages may appear obvious, they still warrant being regularly communicated.
With over 30 years industry experience, we've worked with employers of every size to implement savings programs and communicate key messages that make saving for the future a priority not to be postponed.
Brimming with pro tips, we invite you to contact us. Let's talk about ways to optimize your employee saving campaigns, now, and throughout the year. As always, we're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Work-related stress takes a toll on company culture and employee engagement. Employers know that unaddressed and prolonged stress leads to increased incidents of employee mental health issues, absenteeism along with dips in productivity and morale. With 1 in 5 Canadians experiencing mental health issues and 30% of short and long-term disability claims resulting from mental illness, more employers are turning their attention to alternate approaches. Top trends in health and wellness best practices include mindfulness-based activities.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness, sometimes associated with meditation and anchored in Buddhists teaching, focuses on the intentional conscious awareness of the present moment. Meditation classes and breathing exercises are designed to help employees avoid burnout, enhance coping skills, greater emotional resilience as well as self awareness of mental health triggers that might lead to anxiety or depression.
Companies are starting to engage mindfulness practitioners to lead employees in ways to practice controlled breathing exercises that help lower blood pressure and improve heart rate.
Time to switch off.
While technology is designed to help people free up more time for themselves, often the opposite is the result. Employees continue to search for ways to achieve greater work-life balance or web-life balance. Feeling constantly connected to technology through smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices, the need to find ways to unplug and let go of accumulated stress and information has become more important than ever.
Mindfulness versus Meditation.
Mindfulness is more about living in the moment and while meditation can be included in a mindfulness practice, it isn't a requirement. More specifically, meditation is the ability to quiet the mind through the silent repetition of a mantra or sound to reach a place of stillness or a gap between one's thoughts.
Mental health training.
Mindfulness, akin to mental health training, can be practiced anywhere. Since a person can think anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts per day, the mind is busy thinking a thought every 49 seconds or so with the majority of those thoughts not being centred on the present moment.
A rest for one's brain.
Enabling employees to develop a mindfulness practice facilitates greater ability to be aware of staying in the present moment and knowing when ruminating and unhealthy thoughts take over. Staying present also allows for greater concentration and the ability to limit or avoid unnecessary distractions.
A study in mindfulness creates a workplace call to action for employers looking to help their employees set aside outside worries, focus on the present moment, and relax. The more skilled a person is at developing self awareness, the greater the ability to enhance their emotional intelligence and step into high levels of emotional self regulation -- traits highly desirable for senior level leadership.
An "always-on" life needs time to reset in the present moment and take deep breaths. Employers are drawn to the fact that mindfulness practices are easy to implement, don't require an investment in equipment or other costly resources. While the mindfulness movement remains relatively new in the workplace, its eastern origins are thousands of years the making and are proving to generate positive results for organizations.
An addition to wellness programs.
Employers looking to help counter-act the effects of prolonged stress for their workers are turning to mindfulness as a sustained approach to promoting one's overall well-being. In time, mindfulness exercises and apps might become a welcome addition to corporate wellness programs in need of a refresh or kickstart.
To learn more about mindfulness in the workplace and what additional resources and apps are available, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that "mental health is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health." WHO defines "health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
Only in the last decade have people been talking more openly about mental illness and it wasn't until September 2010 when Bell Let's Talk began a conversation about mental health in Canada. Still, only 23 percent of Canadians feel comfortable talking to their employer about their mental illness for fear of facing discrimination or dismissal. (source: Mental Health Commission of Canada)
This January 31 marks the next Bell Let's Talk Day. Its website also provides a free toolkit with a conversation guide and a PDF with five ways to create a mentally healthy workplace.
While the annual campaign shines a spotlight on mental health and contributes 5 cents from every text, call, tweet, Instagram post, Facebook video view and Snapchat geofilter to mental health initiatives, the other 364 days of the year deserve equal focus and commitment to this growing issue.
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 21.4 percent of the working population in Canada currently experience mental health problems and illnesses.
The effects on individuals include heart problems, back pain, cancers, infections, impaired learning and memory, substance abuse, aggression and conflict and other injuries and illnesses. Mental illness represents 30 percent of all short and long-term disability claims. By 2020, the second leading cause of disability worldwide is estimated to be depression.
The effects on workplaces are both financial and productivity-related. Mental health problems carry a price tag of $57.5 billion dollars annually in healthcare costs, lost time and work disruptions. They result in an increase of insurance premiums, health and benefit costs, recruitment costs as well as absenteeism and presenteeism
Healthy workplace habits
Each year, it seems employers offer more training, communications and wellness programs to include mental health awareness and for good reason. Mental illness affects 1 in 4 adults where only 36 percent of those reporting a mental illness receive treatment.
Employers can help by establishing and maintaining a supportive work environment where roles and expectations are clearly defined, where conflict resolution practices are communicated and enforced and where mental well-being is integrated as part of the organizational culture and structure.
Strategies to consider.
Along with custom strategies we work with our clients to implement, Bell Let's Talk and PwC suggest specific approaches and resources to consider.
Bell Let's Talk suggests:
- downloading and adopting the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace at www.csa.ca/z1003 to help safeguard employees’ mental health;
- Using the Action Guide for Employers to help put the Standard into action and encouraging executive leadership to make mental health a workplace priority; and
- Training managers and employees in Mental Health First Aid so they can spot problems early and provide initial help (visit www.mhfa.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org)
According to the PwC report, Creating a Mentally Health Workplace, a mentally healthy workplace requires an organization to implement all 5 of the following strategies:
The more employers are willing to develop strategies to support employee resiliency where mental health topics are discussed openly, the greater the opportunity for vibrant, thriving and productive workplaces. The benefits of a workplace focus on mental health awareness and mental fitness programs include increased productivity, employee retention and engagement.
We'd like to start a conversation with you on this topic and invite you to contact us. We're always here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Every year it seems like technology is taking us in new directions and changing how we communicate and do business.
We've experienced the novelty of car phones, cell phones and now, smartphones as well as Google Home, Siri commands, and superfoods delivered to your door. Technological advancements seem to afford us endless possibilities and the potential for a future that is beyond limits. This notion got me thinking about how technology changed the way products and services are delivered and how it affects group benefits as a whole.
Last year, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported on benefit industry changes over the course of the last 20 years. Their survey captured a comparative analysis of benefit plan offerings in 1996 and then again in 2016. This report captured marked differences including "what's in" and "what's out." While these examples reflect the sentiments of US respondents, they are not out of line with the trends reported by Canadian employers.
Telecommuting. In 1996 only 20% of companies offered employees the ability to work remotely. Technology and views of employers shifted significantly in 20 years. In 2016, 60% of companies provide flexibility in terms of promoting work-life balance.
Professional development. In 1996, the emphasis on recruiting and employee retention was not as much of a focus as it is today. In 2017, 86% of companies cover additional training and education for their employees. Costs for memberships to professional organizations and trade unions are up 88% as compared to 65% in 1996.
Focus on Wellness. In 1996, 54% of employer offered health and wellness programs. Comparatively, in 2016, 72% of employers offer wellness programs including discounts on insurance premiums or Health Savings Accounts. Given the increased number of chronic disease conditions related to diabetes, obesity and heart disease seen in the workplace, this increased focus is well placed.
Employee stock purchase plans. Back in 1996, 28% of companies offered employee stock purchase plans compared to 9% in 2016.
Credit union memberships. The buzz around credit union membership has seen its heyday. Today only 23% of companies offer credit union memberships compared to 70% in 1996.
In 2017, we see more examples of providers implementing service experiences using artificial intelligence. Members can find out if their massage claim was processed using Google Home. It begs the question, what is next? Time will tell -- and we can help. Our extensive resources ensure we stay ahead of the curve so that we're at the ready when you are. We invite you to contact us to discuss employee benefit trends and ways to ensure you're staying current with recruitment, retention and benefit plan arrangements to meet your specific requirements now and in the future. As always, we're here to help so that 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.