Monthly Archives: September 2016

How Can Be Now Private Healthcare Exchanges Help Your Business

When it comes to benefits packages, both employees and employers know that one size does not fit all. What is right for a younger, entry-level worker might not make sense for an empty nester with seniority. A flexible benefits package based on employees’ unique situations and income levels is essential to retaining top talent. As open enrollment approaches, employees will be hitting the exchanges once more to select their health care packages and other benefits for the coming year. Here’s a look at how some employers are using private exchanges to give employees more options, as well as to better manage benefits-related expenses.

What is a private benefits exchange? Private exchanges are essentially marketplaces where employees can shop online for health insurance and other benefits, including dental, vision and life insurance. Employers first access the private exchange and choose from a variety of carriers the benefits they want to offer, as well as set their specified contribution levels for each offered product. Employees then access the exchange to peruse the products offered by their employer and select the ones that suit their lifestyles and financial needs.

“Think of these exchanges as a store, and each of the types of benefits are aisles,” Steven A. Nyce, director of the Willis Towers Watson Research and Innovation Center, told Business News Daily. “As an employer, you ‘own’ the store and have the ability to decide what products you want to include. So, say, one aisle is medical, [an employee] would have a number of products to choose from in that aisle.” Depending on what products the employer has selected to offer, employees have their pick of the entire “store.” Those employees who need pet insurance can select it, while those who desire supplemental medical coverage, such as hospital indemnity, are able to as well. The aim is to give customizable control to the individual who is selecting the plan while also stabilizing costs to the employer. “By facilitating a shift to a defined contribution … private exchanges offer the potential for cost stability to employers, while giving greater choice to employees, albeit with greater financial risk as well,” a 2014 report issued by The Kaiser Foundation reads. “Because the employer defines up front the amount paid to the employee, employers have greater control over how much they spend on health benefits.” Health benefit costs are a huge consideration for employers. According to a 2015 report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, health care spending grew by $102 billion between 2012 and 2013.  The rapidly increasing costs of health care in the U.S., coupled with employer obligations under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), means keeping health benefits expenses stable is a growing challenge. How are employees using private benefits exchanges? To better understand the emerging private exchange marketplace, the Private Exchange Research Council (PERC) partnered with private exchange Liazon to see how consumers were operating within that exchange, and found that employers are offering more products over time and employees are purchasing more as well. The PERC report found that, on average, employers offer 14 products on their customized exchanges. Medical, dental and vision plans are the most commonly offered by employers: The average company’s benefits package on Liazon includes six medical plans, three dental products and four vision packages from which to choose. Many companies also offer life insurance, legal plans, identity protection, disability benefits and pet insurance. From 2013 through 2015, employees on average increased the number of products they purchased for their individualized plan from 3.6 to 4.4. A number of factors could be responsible, Nyce said, from the growth of the exchanges to more comfortability among those who have participated in the exchanges for several years. “We’re seeing an expansion of benefits and a blurring of the lines traditionally seen between retirement and health care, life insurance and disability,” Nyce said. “Those were traditionally in their own silos, but we’re seeing them come together now in a more holistic approach. It provides employees with a unique experience, and they can use [these benefits options] as a platform to grow to a broader set of benefits in the future.”

Steps Better Employee Performance Reviews

Conducting regular performance reviews is an important and constructive way to evaluate the contributions an employee is making to the company. But the traditional practice of sitting down once or twice a year to discuss what an employee has done well and needs to improve on simply isn’t cutting it anymore.

In a recent study, employee engagement company TINYpulse polled over 1,000 professionals to find out what they thought about their reviews. The results showed that employees are generally dissatisfied with traditional performance reviews: 37 percent said they think the process is outdated, and 42 percent said they think managers leave important elements out of their review due to bias. Nearly a quarter of respondents even said they “feared” their performance review, especially those in the millennial generation.

“Traditional annual performance reviews are inadequate,” said Matt Hulett, chief product officer of TINYpulse. “They’re biased towards recent work, goals aren’t communicated clearly, there’s misalignment in objectives between organizations and employees, and quite simply, the whole process just takes too long. With more and more … workers wanting change, the time for a performance review system upgrade is now.”

In a recent article for The Washington Post, Cliff Stevenson, a senior recent analyst for the Institute for Corporate Productivity, said that, to date, nearly 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies have done away with annual employee performance reviews. Many large companies — such as The Gap, Adobe, Costco, GE and Microsoft, to name a few — have scrapped their traditional review programs in favor of systems that incorporate newer technology and immediate feedback to employees after assignments while still maintaining documentation of performance.

Here are some suggestions to follow their lead in revamping your company’s employee review process.

1. Embrace technology. There is an increasing trend in the development and use of employee engagement apps, such as TINYpulse, Impraise and Workday. These apps give employees and managers a chance to communicate regarding assignments daily, tracking progress, providing feedback and incorporating other business aspects so that each member of the team is on track and on the same page.

2. Institute performance-related pay increases. Sixty-four percent of the people polled by TINYpulse wanted pay increases tied to their performance reviews. Consider quarterly bonuses or increases to positively reinforce good work as well as the employee’s confidence that you value him or her as both an individual and a contributor.

3. Make reviews more frequent. With immediate feedback provided on social media sites like Facebook, people are increasingly used to hearing the good and bad on our thoughts and actions in real time. TINYpulse found that employees are in favor of more frequent reviews, so consider conducting evaluations at key milestones, such as at the end of a major project, or quarterly. These meetings do not have to be long, but they should highlight the highs and lows of the project or time frame. Such reviews give managers a chance to stay engaged with their direct reports, and also provide an opportunity for continuous improvement by receiving feedback from the employee on what could be improved for the next cycle.

“If you put this new generation in the box of the performance management we’ve used the last 30 years, you lose them,” Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme told The Washington Post. “People want to know on an ongoing basis, ‘Am I doing right? Am I moving in the right direction? Do you think I’m progressing?’ Nobody’s going to wait for an annual cycle to get that feedback.”

When giving informal feedback, managers should avoid general comments, such as “nice work” or “good job,” said Brigette McInnis-Day, executive vice president of human resources at SAP. Instead, they should cite specific examples, such as “Great job leading that meeting,” so the employee knows exactly what behaviors to repeat or change in the future, she said.

Another way to provide ongoing feedback to employees is by collecting and sharing a “crowdsourced” review from other staff members, said Eric Mosley, CEO and co-founder of employee recognition and rewards solution Globoforce. The results of the TINYpulse survey support that suggestion, finding that more than a quarter of respondents would like to have co-workers involved in the review process.

“Managers should crowdsource reviews about an employee’s work from their entire staff, so they can get a complete and accurate picture of an employee’s performance throughout the entire year,” Mosley said. “It provides constant feedback to both individuals and their managers, while informing the community at large of progress. It harnesses the wisdom of the crowds to give accurate and specific feedback on individual performance, and it will harness the power of data analysis to connect performance to profits. More than anything, it continuously drives company behavior toward a deliberate, strategic culture.”

Written feedback is an important component of performance evaluations, but many managers find it difficult to complete this task effectively. If positive comments aren’t phrased well, they can sound trite and insincere, and any suggestions for improvement might sound too critical.

Richard Grote, author of “How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011), said that instead of using terms such as “good” or “excellent” in a review, employers should opt for more measurement-oriented language. In an interview with HRCareers.com, Grote noted that action words — such as “excels,” “exhibits,” “demonstrates,” “grasps,” “generates,” “manages,” “possesses,” “communicates,” “monitors,” “directs” and “achieves” — are more meaningful.

Ken Lloyd, author of “Performance Appraisals & Phrases for Dummies” (For Dummies, 2009), offered a range of words and phrases managers could use for each type of employee responsibility:

  • Quality and quantity of work: accuracy, thoroughness, productivity and goal attainment
  • Communication and interpersonal skills: teamwork, cooperation, listening, persuasion and empathy
  • Planning, administration and organization: goal setting, prioritizing and profit orientation
  • Leadership: accessibility, responsiveness, decisiveness, collaboration and delegating
  • Job knowledge and expertise: knowledge base, training, mentoring, modeling and researching
  • Attitude: dedication, loyalty, reliability, flexibility, initiative, energy and volunteering
  • Ethics: diversity, sustainability, honesty, integrity, fairness and professionalism
  • Creative thinking: innovation, receptiveness, problem solving and originality
  • Self-development and growth: learning, education, advancement, skill building and career planning

Proven Ways to Make Motivate Your Sales Team

A motivated sales staff is critical to the success of your company. The relationships they build with your clients and customers create the foundation of your organization — not just in terms of individual sales, but also your overall reputation and growth. Lackluster salespeople slowly erode at that foundation, making it harder to hit goals and move into new markets.

There are many different ways to motivate a sales team. Some companies use quota programs with bonuses and other financial rewards. Others go the “fun” route with contests, trips, tickets, dinners and other innovative rewards.  But sales professionals need more than gift cards or event tickets; they want to succeed in their chosen profession by climbing up the ladder.

You also need to keep in mind that not all employees are motivated by the same things. Develop top performers by combining different rewards that will keep all of your staff motivated.

Cold, hard cash is a tried and true motivator. Many sales teams hold weekly, monthly and quarterly contests on both the individual and team levels. You can set the parameters to fit your business, such as the number of widgets sold, the total sales in dollars or the number of new accounts opened.

But here’s the trick: Everyone is used to the system that rewards the top sales performer. Try a system that rewards the individual that tries the hardest. For instance, Dan McGraw, founder and CEO of Fuelzee, said that one of the best ways his company learned about motivation was by rewarding the sales team for “no’s.”

“Every time someone got a no, we tracked it in our system, and the person with the most no’s received a $100 gift card every week,” McGraw said. “This might sound crazy, but you get a lot of no’s when doing sales. The more no’s you get, the closer you are to getting a yes. The prize of getting a yes is way larger than $100, so you still wanted to get there. This nearly doubled our outbound calls and motivated the whole team.”

For some salespeople, the ability to have a little fun during work time is even more of a motivator than money. Common rewards for reaching sales goals or benchmarks include leaving work early, attending a happy hour or maybe giving a trip to reward success over a long period of time.

But fun in small spurts can be just as rewarding. Rick Hanson, a vice president for worldwide sales and field operations with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Security, said his company uses FantasySalesTeam to award points to “players” (sales reps) for carrying out their daily tasks, like increasing a pipeline or closing a deal. The unique twist is that the reps don’t just compete as individuals, Hanson said; they build teams just as in fantasy football.

“Reps earn points for their FantasySalesTeam based on the performance of their chosen peers and friends, and this creates an environment of encouragement and pressure amongst the players,” he said. “To win the game, they must rely and push on each other to perform. Even more exciting is just how many reps in our sales organization can, and want to, participate.”

Another way to make sales fun is to reward reps with office/desk gadgets and games, said Kevin Baumgart, vice president of sales at Hireology.

“You might not think that a pingpong table for the office would push people and drive behaviors,” Baumgart said. “Try it. From my experience, chair massagers, beanbag chairs, stand-up desk converters, cube art, etc. can all be motivational rewards as well.”

Fun and financial rewards often work, but for some employees, the ultimate reward is the opportunity to get ahead in their careers. Managers should offer incentives that help employees develop skills to move to the next level, including your own time, said Jeff Hoffman, a sales executive, educator and founder of Your Sales MBA.

“Try a sales contest where the prize or a midway bonus is you,” Hoffman wrote on HubSpot. “Work for the leading rep for a few hours, doing whatever they direct you to — calls, demos, presentations, etc. Not only does this motivate your team; it also shows you aren’t afraid to roll up your sleeves and get in the trenches.”

The whole team will see you leading by example, creating an inspirational ripple effect, Hoffman said.

Another reward is lunch with a C-level executive. As Hoffman wrote, “Most sales reps crave one-on-one time with a senior leader to share their thoughts and get an inside look into company strategy.” The chance to impress or relate to an individual on a mentorship level will pay dividends for everyone, Hoffman added.

By offering a variety of rewards, you stand a greater chance of having a motivator for every personality type on your team and developing all of your salespeople into top-tier team players. When your goals and their goals align, only the best things can happen.