HR Elements Bulletin – June 2016 | Kainos Partners
Future Employee Expectation
Today, most new full-time hires expect a company to offer certain standard benefits – health, dental, vision, and life insurance, paid vacation and sick days, and a 401(k) or pension. Some companies go beyond this and provide other benefits such as profit sharing, parking reimbursement, mobile phone reimbursement, wellness programs, and even on-site daycare. So what does the future hold for employees when it comes to their expectations of a traditional benefits package?
In an article titled, “Student Loan Repayment Programs Are ‘The Next 401(k)’” on the website Employee Benefit News, it claims that the next big thing in employee benefits is student loan repayment. In fact, they view this as not just a fad, but something that will stick given the high cost of tuition and its appeal to everyone in the workforce. Yes, you read that last part correctly. You may think that tuition reimbursement would only be an attractive benefit to those who are just entering the workforce, but people older than 39 currently have 35% of all student debt. Plus, graduate programs may be covered and so might be loans taken by parents to help pay for their kid’s education.
As of 2015, based on data from the Society for Human Resource Management, only about 3% of employers currently offer the benefit, but that’s expected to increase sharply. According to the article, the reason is that tuition reimbursement is a concept you don’t have to “sell” to decision makers like you would a complicated health plan. They already know today’s graduates are struggling to repay their student debt.
A side advantage of adding tuition reimbursement to a company’s benefits package is that, by removing the stress of repaying a student loan, employees will be more apt to contribute to their 401(k) or other corporate retirement plan. As companies look for ways to differentiate themselves when recruiting new employees, this benefit appears to have significant traction.
Putting A Lock On Cloud-Based Computing
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
— Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides, Now”
And like that song from 1969, it appears that most employees really don’t know cloud computing at all. In an article on the Society for Human Resource Management’s website titled, “Public Enemy No. 1 for Employers? Careless Cloud Users, Study Says,” a North American IT solutions and managed services provider called Softchoice found that 1 in 3 users of cloud-based apps (e.g., Google Docs and Dropbox) download the app without letting their IT department know. Cloud computing became popular a few years ago because people could store all their documents, photos, and other information and then access that data from anywhere at any time and on any device.
What makes this such a bad situation is not the cloud computing itself, but that the vast majority of employees lack any sense of cybersecurity. That same study found that 1 in 5 employees:
• Keep their passwords in plain sight (e.g., on Post-it Notes on their desks).
• Have accessed work files from a device that was not password-protected.
• Have lost devices that weren’t password-protected.
Complicating this further is that the employees who actually do use passwords usually have weak passwords. That is, they are easy to guess (e.g., “1234,” “password,” or their username). Rather than leave a company and its network vulnerable to attack, some IT people suggest a ban on cloud accounts for work.
Security breaches involving a company’s intellectual property can be very costly. Sometimes referred to as “ransomware,” the important data of an organization will either be stolen or encrypted and will not be released until a fee is paid.
A better solution to a ban on cloud accounts would be to educate employees on the necessity for cyber security, train them to improve their online security habits, and remind them that IT rules are in place to make a company more secure, not make it more difficult for employees to be productive. Cyber thieves are clever and when they can’t break into a system using technology, they often rely on the flaws of human nature.
As we become more and more connected to the Internet, we leave ourselves and the companies where we work more accessible to cyber threats. It’s imperative that employees keep everything locked down.
“Stressed” Is “Desserts” Spelled Backward
Stress eating, sometimes called emotional eating, is where a person feels the need to eat (usually in large amounts) some type of “junk” or “comfort food” in response to an emotional situation rather than due to feelings of being hungry. People often do this because, in the short term, they get some relief.
An article on Employee Benefit News’ website titled, “Workers Blaming Weight Gain On Job Stress” points to a survey by CareerBuilder where 55% of U.S. workers believe they’re overweight and 44% have gained weight in their current job. Of those who gained weight, 25% said it was more than 10 pounds. These statistics are in stark contrast to the 17% who said they actually lost weight.
What’s causing workers to become fat? In the survey, more than 50% said it was because they sat all day, almost half said it was because they were too tired to exercise, and more than one-third said it was due to snacking related to stress.
The stress that’s contributing to employee obesity is the same stress that’s sabotaging an employer’s wellness program. In the same CareerBuilder survey, 25% of respondents said their employer provided a wellness benefit, some of it even on-site, but more than half of them did not take advantage of the benefit offered by their employers due to the stress of their workload and other busy aspects of their lives.
People nowadays are definitely more aware of the importance of being healthy, yet at the same time, spending longer hours at work and overall stress is preventing people from practicing good wellness habits. This stress isn’t just affecting the way people eat, it also affects their sleep, the amount of alcohol they drink, and their ability to relax and unwind.
A corporate wellness program can only do so much. It takes leadership, especially from senior executives, to motivate employees. This doesn’t mean productivity has to drop, but ways to effectively manage stress and workload should be emphasized.
Management should easily see the benefit of a workforce that’s as close to “normal” weight as possible since obesity can cost employers thousands more due to weight-related conditions like heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes, not to mention the absenteeism costs associated with these conditions.
Check The Fine Print
As the saying goes, an oral agreement is as good as the paper it’s written on. However, once it’s in writing, it might as well be written in stone. Such is the case with labor contracts. Management can promise one thing and workers can promise another, but unless those promises are clearly stated in a labor contract, it’s probably not enforceable.
In an article on The Society For Human Resources website titled, “Labor Negotiators Must Pay Attention To Details,” they revealed an issue that came back to haunt a company. There was a proposed change from a pension account to a 401(k) where the company would pay a certain amount per hour worked up to a cap. During the negotiations, the cap was somehow left off. When a representative for the workers asked how the new plan for retirement contributions would be handled, the verbal reply was that it would work like it had always worked in the past. Smartly, for the workers, the representative did not bring up the cap.
When all was said and done, a contract was signed with the new retirement contribution amount in place. It’s unknown how much back-and-forth took place during negotiations, but typically these can take months with many meetings and lots of offers and counteroffers. Details of a labor contract, no matter how small, can make a huge impact, which is why it’s crucial to review everything with a fine-tooth comb. Often, when you’ve scanned a document dozens of times, you tend to gloss over key points and might miss something even when a change has been highlighted.
Once the company realized that the payment cap wasn’t in place, they tried to have the contract voided. Naturally, the workers appealed. Consider the headache facing the company. They have paid people to negotiate and write the labor contract. Now, they will have to pay even more to have one single item settled in court. Even if the company prevails and gets the cap reinstated, they may lose in terms of employee morale.
In the end, the company lost and the contract was validated. The lesson here is that labor negotiators, no matter whether they’re on the side of management or labor, need to pay close attention to every single minute aspect of a contract in order to avoid, or at least lessen, any future problems.