I was pumping gas and reading the news on my phone this morning when I almost dropped my phone – “UPS Drops 15,000 Spouses from Insurance.”
My mind was reeling at the news. The first article I read sensationally left out the word “spouses” to make it even more salacious—as if 15,000 employees were losing individual benefits. However, as I read through various other news sources, the picture got a LOT clearer.
So let’s back up and regroup now that the initial fit of hysteria is settling.
Yes. UPS IS planning to eliminate coverage for 15,000 spouses. But only those spouses who are eligible for coverage through their own employers. No one is getting left completely in the lurches or sent packing without healthcare coverage! That’s just media hype and sensationalist journalism.
Many large employers already tack on an increase in fees for employees whose spouses are covered by their plan instead of one provided by their spouse’s own employer.
UPS has taken a difficult stance to help cover increasing costs for providing healthcare to their employees. With a significant part-time workforce the company will be faced with an increase in costs to either provide coverage to those employees or pay the fees for failing to do so—all new provisions that go into effect with the ACA in 2014.
It’s a controversial decision, but UPS is not alone in this trend.
This year 4% of large employers surveyed by consultants Towers Watson excluded spouses if they had similar coverage where they work. Another 8% planned such a change for 2014, according to the survey. (source USA Today)
It’s never easy to tell your employees that benefits costs are rising, or worse yet—that benefits are going away. Proper timing, planning, and communications are key to helping employees weather these storms. Reportedly, a memo was issued to the 15,000 employees who will be impacted by this decision.
We don’t know what other forms of communication were distributed, but here’s what we would advise:
- Create a comprehensive communications plan to help guide employees and their spouses through this transition.
- Know HOW you’re going to deliver those details—email, meetings, online, print, or a combination of all of these.
- Issue an Employee Memo to those affected by the change (good move UPS). Explain why the company is making this decision. Don’t JUST blame external factors like the ACA. Map out a clear support strategy that employees can follow. When will they get more details? How? Where?
- Issue a Managers Memo with best practices, talking points, and a schedule of upcoming opportunities for managers and employees to learn more about the pending changes.
- Set up an Employee Hotline/Inbox dedicated exclusively to this topic. 15,000 people are bound to have tons of questions. The sooner you answer them, the sooner they can get back to work.
- Schedule employee town halls/webinars – sharing information about the pending changes in a group forum allows employees an opportunity to voice their concerns directly to managers. It also allows them a chance to see who else is affected by these changes and lean on one another for additional support.
- Mail a postcard home – yes, it’s a little odd to still receive snail mail from your employer – but that’s precisely why it still works. And since spouses bear the brunt of this bad news, we have to advise that at least ONE mail piece be sent directly to the homes of your employees with a link to online resources or a hotline they can call about the pending changes.
The cost of a communications campaign like the one above far outweighs the damage done by isolating and confusing employees who will be hit hard by the pending changes in their benefits. Engaging employees with support resources and key information about next steps helps alleviate the stress of uncertainty so they can focus on priority number one – their work.
Ultimately UPS is just like any other business right now. We’re all being forced to make some tough decisions about the future of our companies’ healthcare benefits. But are we making hard-lined business decisions based on dollars, or are we doing what’s right for our employees and their families? We think it’s important to remember that ultimately its your PEOPLE who drive your company’s success.
UPS may have found themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place—covering all of their part-time employees or covering spouses who have alternative options. Regardless of the decision they’ve made and what we think about what a business should do, we hope that UPS is working closely with their employees (and their spouses) to make the next steps clear.
And if they’re having any trouble staying ahead of the message, we’re sure they’ll give us a call. Lab Monkeys are standing by…
This year, we started a practice at Lab Monkey Communications that had our team scratching their heads a bit at first.
We kick off our weekly production meetings by going around the room and sharing “what’s new and good.” On Tuesday mornings, we share everything from getting engaged, to the discovery of keyboard shortcuts that have revolutionized our lives. Whatever’s new and good just comes up and gets us laughing before we dive into the hiccups, problems and pitfalls we need to resolve during the week ahead.
Some days it’s like shock therapy for us when we stop and force ourselves to dream up something new and good about our day. Which is precisely why it’s a mandatory part of our team meeting. We spend countless hours troubleshooting and looking at the challenges in our work lives, but precious few are spent appreciating the good.
This weekend while holed up and hiding out from Atlanta’s unusually dreary summer weather, I discovered a TEDx Talk by Shawn Achor all about zeroing in on happiness.
We know that happy employees are more productive at work. But we struggle with just HOW to make people happy. External factors only account for a shocking 10% of what contributes to our happiness. In this TEDx Talk, Shawn Achor races through some mind-blowing insights that could transform your workforce. He also shares some interesting best practices that could re-wire your employees’ brains and help them reconnect with happiness.
Lab Monkeys be warned—we’ll be discussing this at our next meeting! Are you ready for a 21-Day Happiness Challenge?
Take twelve minutes to watch this. I guarantee you’ll feel happier when you’re finished.
Is it just us or does it seem like everyone has a few extra questions about their healthcare plans this year? We’re in the early stages of drafting open enrollment communications for our clients and we’re beginning to notice a few trends.
One, in particular, is taking the lead as the number one problem for 2013. It’s the epic saga you’re trying to call a FAQ Flyer.
And it’s not really doing anyone any favors.
We get that you’re anxious to provide some sort of answers to employees this year. We get that a lot is changing as you onboard more employees, move towards consumer driven health plans, and focus on leading employees to become their own best healthcare advocates. There’s a lot of ground to cover.
But we think you’ll get further by taking a step back, regrouping and committing to these basic communications principles as you prepare to lead your employees through some of the biggest changes our healthcare system has ever seen.
Keep this year’s FAQ’s from becoming useless information graveyards by following these 4 Fundamental Principles of Fabulous FAQ’s:
- Divide and conquer – rather than having one FAQ document to address all things benefits related, we’ve seen better results by lumping your questions and answers together by topic. So if you have a question about your medical plan, head over to the Medical Plan FAQ’s. And if you have a question about your prescription plan? Start with the Prescription Plan FAQ’s. Naturally, there will be some overlap between documents. You wouldn’t want to ignore prescriptions under medical, but you may not need to go into as much detail there.
- Re-organize as you go – this is the biggest mistake we see. It’s tempting to dump every question you get from an employee into your FAQ’s. But it’s a huge mistake. We advise that you wait until you’ve heard the same question at least three times before you weave it into your FAQ’s. As the content expands, you must be mindful of where you’re adding new questions. They may flow more logically in the middle, near a question addressing similar concerns. Do not just tack every random question onto the end of your FAQs! No one will read through every question in a desperate attempt to glean a tiny nugget of wisdom from your 32-page FAQ’s. They will bail on you and they will ultimately bail on your next communications piece – no matter how beautiful, well-written, or high-priority it may be.
- K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) – It’s tempting to go into great detail in an effort to answer a question as fully as possible. But you need to bear in mind the purpose of a FAQ document — simple Q and A’s, that’s it. Inevitably, any question related to healthcare plans or benefits will entail a lengthy and complex answer. Whenever it’s possible, you should use links to other resources that more fully answer your employee’s question. This keeps your FAQ’s more succinct and helps employees scan the content quickly to discover the resources they need to resolve their issues and get back to work.
- Format it!!! – We’re not saying that you need to have photos, charts and adorable little infographics to make your FAQ’s legible. But we are saying, use that little “B” in the toolbar (you know, the one that makes things “bold”)! Increase the point size of your “question” and group your questions under logical headlines. Don’t just throw 23 questions into a word document and think someone’s going to read it. With a few simple tweaks, you can make a drab word document into a very user-friendly guide that actually delivers information and helps employees solve many of their own problems—without making a call to HR!
Keep these basic principles in mind as you’re drafting communications to guide your employees through the complex changes headed their way this year. A little forethought up front always makes it easier in the end. Your employees will be able to grab the bits of information they need and get back to work without interrupting your day with the same old questions again and again.
We couldn’t help but watch this video a few times this week.
It was like therapy for the office. How did this elude us for so long?
If I had a dime for every time I said, “So…the purpose of this call is…” or “Thanks for jumping on the line, everyone…” Well, you know, I wouldn’t be blogging about my business right now. I’d be retired and living in my dream home overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
But until that day comes, I thought we should all kick back and share a good laugh at our own expense.
Watch the video below, then email us and share some “Sh*t HR Managers Say.” We want to pull together a little video for you guys. Don’t worry – your identities will NOT be revealed!!!
Yesterday, we were working on our Monkey Manifesto—our guiding principles as a team of people (note: we do not call each other “employees,” because…well, we’re people). We had a good laugh when my assistant pointed out an error in one of my bullet points:
“We do not believe in following lemurs off of cliffs—if you don’t have a vision, stop running! Vision is everything.”
Apparently, I confused lemurs with lemmings. It turns out, many people do. It also turns out that Walt Disney might be perpetrating a big fat lie about the poor little buggers.
Tragic “documentary” mishaps aside, what we were actually doing in the office yesterday was fleshing out our internal brand. Our agency has experienced pretty significant growth this past year. For us that required getting clear about who we are as a team, stating our collective values, and developing a common understanding of how we best serve our clients.
It has been eye-opening to take a dose of our own advice as we hash out our agency’s bigger vision. We’ve led clients through these same worksheets, conference calls, and strategy sessions time and time again. But now, the shoe’s on our foot.
Ironically, I started having the exact same questions our clients have: why am I agonizing over mission statements, vision statements, team-building, etc? Is it worth it to dig this deep or can we just go back to winging it like we used to when the company was smaller?
So I thought it would be the perfect time to remind myself of, and share with you, the Big Fat Breakthroughs that you get when you create a visionary internal brand as the basis for ongoing authentic conversations with your people (aka, your employees). Here’s what you get when you get clear about your internal brand:
- Employees who LISTEN!!! – Imagine that! Those little buggers read your newsletter! You just reduced calls about the new HSA to your service center by 50% by sending out an email that your people freaking opened and read!!! It’s not a pipe dream. This really happens. But it only happens for businesses who take the time to learn about their peoples’ needs and then support them. If your newsletters aren’t being read, your employee meetings aren’t being attended, or your workplace programs have miserable participation—you might have a branding problem.
- Employees who give a $#!t! - we actually call these engaged employees, but you get my point. Right? Engagement remains that coveted elusive blue bird of happiness for many companies who are doing just about everything right by the HR playbooks. But even if you offer the best benefits packages, competitive compensation, and a beautiful work environment, it’s often not enough. Employees who feel heard, valued, and cared for require a certain amount of transparency and vision from their employer. If you’re not communicating effectively with your people, they will never be engaged – no matter how many benefits and dollars you throw at them.
- Resumés that don’t SUCK - That’s right! No more rolling your eyes at all those under-qualified morons who send headshots in with their resumés. Engaged employees make your job in HR easier by spreading the gospel of your super sweet workplace. That means less time entertaining dolts at job expos and faster placement of key talent in critical areas for your Company’s growth.
- More “Get ‘Er Done” - with boosts in engagement and a better talent pool comes an upswing in productivity. When you have smart people willing to expend more effort for a company they believe in, you’d better brace yourself—because you’re about to blaze a trail. That vision you’ve always had out there in the distance? Get ready to give it a big ol’ hug! You’re headed straight for it!
- Bigger Fatter Bottom … Line - Don’t worry, branding only increases your bottom line (not your booty). As top talent begins to get more work done, and memos are read and understood, something begins to shift in your workplace. Employees who feel valued and have a solid understanding of their Company’s direction will work harder and smarter towards achieving that vision.
Ultimately, many of us look most closely at that last one—the bottom line. But it takes a while to get there. Bottom lines don’t spike or dip overnight. But over time, your internal brand does impact your bottom line by opening the avenue for ongoing and compelling conversations with your employees about your Company’s vision and their place in it.
If you would like to see greater returns on your communications investments, we can help. We help HR Managers create internal brands and map out comprehensive communications strategies that boost their bottom line by creating a culture of engaged and productive employees.
I was stopped dead in my tracks this week by a commercial for Walmart. Yep—Walmart.
Were they advertising low low prices on grills or hot dogs for Memorial Day?
They were showcasing something EVEN MORE SPECTACULAR!
Something that could really change the future of WalMart as we know it—and his name is Nathaniel (click here to see his story).
In a move that totally made my week, I was thrilled to see a company shining light on its employees and benefits program in their external advertising. I spend a lot of time teaching companies about the value of communicating employee benefits. Most of the time, these efforts are focused internally. But as the talent pool narrows (yes, it IS narrowing), it has become increasingly important to market your company’s value to potential external job candidates in the field.
In thirty short seconds, Walmart brands itself as a workplace loaded with promise—where sales associates become managers, earn degrees with the aid of tuition assistance, and even earn quarterly bonuses! Sign me up!
No stranger to scandal in the public eye, Walmart smartly showcases its employees in a series of new spots that position them as an employer that cares about its workforce. The message does double duty—building goodwill among customers, and boosting engagement among employees. Gone is the message of “always low prices” (conjuring images of Black Friday stampedes, American greed, and the exploited workers in third-world nations), and in its place is the beaming image the enterprising American spirit (practically synonymous with the Walmart brand and the legacy of Sam Walton).
Well done Walmart.
Monday was my first day back in the office after a ten day vacation in France. We spent the weekend and Monday in Dordogne. We knew the region was rural and it might be slim pickings for dinner options and souvenir shopping, but we were completely baffled by the fact that no businesses seemed to be open – EVER.
Later, in Paris, a very special scarf caught my eye in the window of a shop near the apartment we had rented. But the shop was closed – at 10:30 a.m. on a Wednesday. I kept a keen eye on the shop for the rest of the week—plotting my victorious return to the states with the world’s most beautiful scarf. But every time we walked past the shop, it was closed. It was either too early in the day, too late at night, or conveniently some time during the traditional two hour lunch breaks that the French are notorious for.
The lack of opportunities to throw away my hard-earned-dollar-turned-€uro was beginning to tick me off. When we were in Dordogne, it was literally an issue of survival. If you can’t buy a baguette, then how is your ignorant American @$$ going to eat?!?!?
The whole experience left me wondering just when the French people actually DO work!
So I did a little research into the standard French work week when I got home. A little Googling quickly revealed that the French:
- MUST take 5 weeks of vacation per year;
- work a 35-hour week;
- are not ALLOWED to work overtime; and
- typically take a leisurely two-hour lunch break.
Remind me why I came home again?
While I pondered adopting this new better way of life upon our return to the states, my partner quickly pointed out that the French economy just recently slid back into its third consecutive recession since 2007. I won’t ignore that our economic systems and governments are completely different, thus setting the stage to allow for such remarkable differences in our work-styles – but I can’t help wonder what the happy medium might be between these distinct approaches to work.
Because the fact remains that the French GDP ranks 5th in the world (teetering neck and neck with the UK for the spot). Why? Because when the French people actually ARE at work, they are HIGHLY productive.
It seems the secret to productivity lies, at least in part, in spending LESS time at work!
It about killed me, but I forced myself not to grab lunch and bring it back to my desk yesterday. Instead, I holed up at my favorite lunch spot and played Candy Crush Saga on my iPhone for thirty minutes. Hey, it’s a start! Maybe some day I’ll get to that enviable 35-hour week. In the meantime, I’ll try to commit to more leisurely lunches.
So, take a break today. And if your boss gives you crap about it, tell them you’re just trying to boost your productivity.
This week, a couple of articles about women in the workforce have caught my attention.
First, the “1943 Guide to Hiring Women,” from Transportation Magazine found its way into my hands. The article offers up such ridiculous advice as:
- “general experience indicates that “husky” girls…are more even tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.”
- “when you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside of the home at some point in their lives. Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting themselves and are incline to be cantankerous and fussy.”
- “numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them, but that they lack initiative in finding work for themselves.”
- “A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick, and wash her hands several times a day.”
Needless to say, I felt cantankerous and fussy after I read this. But I tidied up my hair, re-applied my lip balm and washed my hands of this stupidity.
Later this week, Warren Buffet offered a refreshingly modern perspective on the topic of women in the workplace. In the May 20 issue of Fortune magazine, he expresses his optimism for the recovery of the American economy, noting that “Our secret sauce has been a political and economic system that unleashes human potential to an extraordinary degree.” He goes on to note that we have succeeded in spite of our efforts to fully empower both genders. And he believes that we are now learning to effectively engage women as leaders in the workforce.
I was raised by a somewhat understated Feminist. Mom is a pretty fierce lady in her own understated and Southern way. When I was growing up, she worked two jobs to help make ends meet in our household. But they were jobs where she could still spend time with her kids. We tagged along after school where she was the Director of an after-school program. It was there that I got the rare experience of seeing my Mom juggle her role as Mom, teacher, social worker, bread-winner and leader.
Later, when I was in high school, I remember coming home and moaning about my boss wanting me to work an hour later. When my Dad caught the pronoun “she” in my whiny teenage rant he stopped me and said, “SHE?!?! Your boss is a woman?!” I laughed at him, of course. “Yes, Dad, my boss is a woman.” There we stood—two men with completely different worldviews. Where I stood, it was a non-issue that my boss was a woman. Where my Dad stood, it was completely foreign.
My professional experience and background have been completely different than my Dad’s generation. I grew up in a class of 27 kids – 20 girls, 7 boys. I went to college at a former’s women’s school where the ratio of girls to boys is still 3:1. Half of the bosses I’ve had in my career have been women. My business coach is a very successful woman. And I’m in a mastermind group where I’m the lone male in a sea of 25 very enlightened and successful women (pictured below).
So I can’t help but think that Warren Buffet is right—the true empowerment and engagement of our female leaders has the potential to unleash unprecedented greatness for the world. But it doesn’t just happen. We have to commit ourselves to it. I’m proud that my business employs women at every pay band based on their experience – not their gender. I couldn’t have built my business without them.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I can’t help but think that many of these changes in our society are due in great part to the women of my mom’s generation. So thanks Mom, for leading the way for your son. Knowing how to work with women has been and will continue to be a huge contributor to my success. And I have you, Mom, to thank for that. Happy Mother’s Day.
Probably not everyone walked away from the recent SHRM Conference in Atlanta thinking, “I should just get out of these clothes.” And certainly no one went back to their offices to do so. At least, I hope they didn’t.
So, even though it looks like I’m probably HR’s biggest nightmare – the pervy CEO – I promise you the video IS SFW (Safe for Work)!
Check out the video below and let us know what YOUR biggest takeaway was from this week’s SHRM Conference! I showed you mine, after all.
Before I get all suited up and start looking like a professional businessman tomorrow, I wanted to share a quick tip with my fellow SHRM Atlanta Conference attendees. Check out the video below and prepare your minds for a fun conference here in Atlanta.
I spent the morning looking through the sessions and presenters and I’m really looking forward to reconnecting with our clients, and meeting some new and interesting HR leaders at the conference this week! Get some rest this afternoon, and save me a seat at the cool kids’ table!