Saturday August 17, 2019

AARP sues Yale University for discriminatory ‘wellness’ practices

The AARP Foundation announced it has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Yale University employees, alleging that Yale’s employee wellness program violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

The lawsuit contends that Yale forces certain employees and their spouses to either submit to medical exams and disclose personal health information and family medical history or pay heavy financial penalties.

Yale’s employee wellness program, called Health Expectations, requires approximately 5,000 union employees and their spouses to submit to medical tests and allow release of all of their insurance claims data to multiple wellness vendors.

Employees who refuse to disclose private medical and genetic
information must pay a penalty of $1,300 per year.

“This is a particularly important issue for older workers, who are more likely to have disabilities and medical conditions—such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer—that are at risk of being revealed by wellness questionnaires and exams,” said AARP Foundation President Lisa marsh Ryerson, “and it hits low-income workers the hardest.

Violation of civil rights

“Allowing employers to financially coerce workers into
relinquishing their personal health information is a clear violation of medical
privacy and civil rights protections,” Ryerson said.

Both the ADA and GINA are federal laws that protect employee
privacy and allow workers to shield themselves from discrimination in the
workplace. The AARP Foundation lawsuit argues that Yale’s Health Expectations
program puts workers between a rock and hard place: employees either must hand
over sensitive medical and genetic information on themselves and their spouses
or pay a heavy financial penalty to protect their personal health information.

“Under federal law, disclosing medical and genetic information and test results in workplace wellness programs must be voluntary,” said William Alvarado rivera, Senior Vice Preisdent of Litigation at AARP Foundation. “Workers should have the freedom to choose whether to divulge personal health information in the workplace, as Congress intended.”

Allowing employers and others access to private medical
information could lead to people being fired, not hired, or discriminated
against in other ways based on their health history. Ensuring that inquiries
and exams in wellness programs are voluntary is a self-help mechanism for
workers who do not want to risk these consequences.

Yale University had not publicly responded to the lawsuit.

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Employee burnout is costing you: 5 best ways to help

Good HR pros are aware of how much damage burnout can cause — both to productivity and the mental health of employees.

But many may not know just how serious this issue has become. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared employee burnout an “occupational phenomenon” that may require medical attention.

While WHO isn’t going as far as classifying burnout as a disease, it’s calling it a “syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed.”

Identifying burnout

How do you know if your employees are suffering from burnout? WHO defines the top three symptoms:

  • feelings of depleted energy/exhaustion
  • increased negativity about one’s job, and
  • reduced professional efficiency.

Top causes

While employee burnout has been around forever, this is the first time WHO is recognizing it as a direct result from workplace stress only — any personal issues aren’t contributing to this phenomenon.

So what’s causing the big burnout spike? Here are the top five reasons employees are more stressed than ever before, and how you can fix it, straight from HR expert Ross Brooks.

1. Overwhelming workloads

Employees will quickly burnout if they have too much on their plates, Brooks says. Workers tend to get in over their heads when they lack some of the skills needed to complete their tasks.

One way to avoid this is to set clear goals for your employees at the start of the week. Instead of the never-ending to-do lists, encourage managers to give employees one to three manageable tasks at a time. Regular check-ins are a good idea, too, Brooks says, to ensure employees aren’t too overloaded.

2. Lack of control

Nothing causes more stress than rigid work schedules or being micromanaged. Brooks suggests giving employees more autonomy over their day-to-day tasks to reduce some of the pressure.

Managers could try just giving employees the desired result, and allowing them to reach that goal through whichever method works best for them — instead of spelling everything out.

3. Lack of rewards

If employees aren’t fairly compensated or rewarded for their work, they’re going to quickly stop caring.

Of course, raises aren’t always an option. Luckily, studies show recognition can be just as effective as a salary bump, Brooks says.

One way to effectively recognize your employees is to point out specific actions or behaviors that contributed to a job well done. Sharing employees’ triumphs in the form of a story can also help to motivate the rest of your staff.

4. No sense of community

Employees do their best work when they’re surrounded by likable co-workers who support them. When workers don’t have this sense of community with their colleagues, burnout is more likely to happen.

To foster this sense of community, it’s important to focus on team building activities, Brooks says. Lunches and happy hours are great ideas. Friendly competitions like some kind of fitness challenge can also bond colleagues.

5. Unequal treatment

When employees see managers holding workers to different standards or carrying out policies unequally, they’re quickly going to become disengaged with the company and their work.

The best way to address this is to write up clear policies and enforce them consistently, Brooks says. And when employees come to you with concerns about fairness, look into the situation and get back to them.

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Onboarding: The First Day Matters Most! – Infographic

If your business relies on good employees, then you know successful onboarding is an essential first-step. This fun, simple and colorful infographic is a proven guide to getting it right. Share a copy with your staff, or share the link to other HR pros.

WANT TO DOWNLOAD A COPY OF THE INFOGRAPHIC? Get a 4-page PDF that you can print out and share. Click here.

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House-passed green card revamp faces hurdles

The U.S. House of Representatives voted July 10 to eliminate limits on the percentage of employment-based permanent residency work visas (green cards) awarded to immigrants from any one country.

The measure would apply to two types of work visas – EB-2 visas, for workers with advanced degrees or exceptional ability and EB-3 visas, for skilled workers and professionals.

Sponsors hope the bill would relieve backlogs of skilled workers seeking permanent U.S. work permits.

Visa issues worsen skilled labor shortage

Supporters of the measure say that backlogs for skilled workers seeking permanent work visas – which can stretch decades – are making the skilled labor shortage worse and hurting America companies’ competitiveness.

Supporters of the bill include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

SHRM issued a press release saying, “Eliminating employment per-country caps will create a first-come, first-served green card system, putting talent and skills first so we can meet the current and future workforce needs of this country.”

The industry group called the measure “an important first step in addressing workplace immigration issues.”

Tech companies are also backing the measure, since they employ a huge number of H-1B visa workers, whose permits last just six years.

Each year, hundreds are forced to leave the U.S. and their jobs when temporary work permits expire.

Employers say that the turnover, especially among highly-skilled tech workers, is costly and disruptive.

Opponents fear impact on American workers

The bill has widespread backing from business groups and bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

Still, the measure is not guaranteed to pass the Senate and get to President Trump’s desk or to get his signature if it does.

Opponents, including members of the administration, see the measure hurting American workers.

Others worry that if per-country limits on the number of green cards are lifted, almost all residency permits will go to workers and family members from India and China, where the backlog is highest.

And that seems to be guaranteed under the current version of the bill.

Quotas now limit the number of visas awarded to immigrants from any one country to 7% of the 140,000 employment-based residency permits issued each year.

Indian workers would get nearly all green cards after 2020

The bill would increase that to 85% of green cards going to Chinese and Indian skilled workers and their families in 2020, with the remainder reserved for to workers from all other countries.

In 2021 and 2022, the percentage of green cards going to countries other than India and China would drop to just 10% of the total.

Because of the huge number of Indians awaiting green cards, they would obtain the vast majority of permanent visas for about a decade.

If signed into law, the quota changes would apply as of October 1, at the start of the government’s fiscal year 2020.

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California ban on hairstyle discrimination goes into force

California law now prohibits employers from implementing dress and appearance policies that discriminate against employees or job applicants based on how they wear their hair.

Governor Gavin Newsom on July 3 signed into law the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair).

Grooming standards as proxy for race and source of bias

The law, which is now part of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits discrimination in employment and education based on hairstyles that feature “traits historically associated with one’s race, such as hair texture and protective hairstyles.”

All employers with operations in the state should revisit and revise any personal grooming policies that might run afoul of the law.

And employers should quickly train all personnel involved in interviewing and hiring, to prevent bias against candidates who choose to wear “hairstyles [such] as braids, locks, and twists.”

While not restricted to hairstyles most often associated with African Americans, the Act states that hairstyles remain a proxy for race and a source of hiring bias, “especially for Black individuals.”

Discriminatory dress codes

The Act also refers to discriminatory dress code policies that prohibit or discourage religious dress.

It defines religious dress as including “religious clothing, head or face coverings, jewelry, artifacts, and any other item that is part of an individual observing a religious creed.”

The CROWN Act has also been introduced in New York and New Jersey, with other states and municipalities likely to follow.

Indeed, even before the state legislature acts, the New York City Commission on Human Rights in February issued its Legal Enforcement Guidance on Race Discrimination on the Basis of Hair.

Those regulations follow the Crown Act’s language and focus on “eliminate[ing] dress code and grooming policies that prohibit natural hair, which are likely to deter Black applicants and burden or punish Black employees. “

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Courts: Legal pot clashes with zero-tolerance drug test policies

Courts have historically found marijuana-positive drug tests sufficient grounds to terminate an employee or refuse to hire someone. Employers were safe to move forward without worrying about whether the individual was approved to use medical marijuana or if an employee was actually impaired while at work.

Now, however, many states and local jurisdictions are enacting or considering anti-discrimination laws that prohibit employers taking adverse action against employees for failing a drug test, even if the employer has a zero-tolerance policy in place.

In a number of states, medical marijuana statutes laws protect employees whose pot use is legal, does not take place at work, and doesn’t impair their ability to do their job safely and effectively.

And more courts are following that trend when ruling on employee-drug-test-driven employment actions. That is having a real impact on employers’ drug testing policies.

Spike in positive workplace drug tests

Despite remaining illegal under federal law, marijuana is legal for medical and/or recreational use in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

And the changing legal landscape is reflected in employee drug test results.

Testing lab Quest Diagnostics reported in April 2019 that marijuana is the most frequently-detected drug in workplace-mandated urine screenings.

In its report, Quest said, “Analysis of more than ten million workplace drug test results shows increases in marijuana positivity across nearly all employee testing categories.”

With 4.4% of screened employees testing positive for marijuana in 2018, the company says, positive results are up by more than 25% since 2012.

Was the worker impaired?

One reason that employers have taken a hard “use it and lose it” line with even approved medical marijuana use is the difficulty of determining when workers last consumed the drug.

Cannabis metabolites can be detected in urine even 30 days after someone ingests the drug. And that makes it effectively impossible to determine if a positive test proves a worker was high on the job.

Before legalization, that didn’t matter. If a test showed a worker had consumed an illegal substance, zero-tolerance policies mandated they were let go.

And workers typically couldn’t access unemployment benefits after they were fired.

For a long time, judges agreed. Even after medical marijuana legalization California and Colorado, courts in those states ruled that employers could terminate employees who tested positive for the drug.

And that was even if they were using the drug outside of work to treat approved medical conditions and were not impaired while working.

In Colorado, where the legal marijuana business contributes more than a billion dollars a year to the state’s coffers, the state Supreme Court in 2015 ruled unanimously that Colorado’s medical marijuana laws did not preempt an employer’s zero-tolerance policy.

Now, however, even in states where courts have sided with employers in the past, organizations are more and more cautious about making hiring and firing decisions based on drug test results.

Drug test rulings shifting towards employees

And, given recent trends, they are wise to take a fresh look at their policies.

Courts in Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware and New Jersey – all states with medical marijuana laws in place – found for employees who claimed they were fired or had job offers rescinded based on a positive drug test.

Those courts have taken various approaches in finding for employees and applicants.

In Arizona, the court found that the employment decisions in question violated anti-discrimination provisions in state medical marijuana statutes.

New Jerseys medical marijuana law doesn’t include specific anti-discrimination provisions. But a NJ appeals court said firing a disabled worker who tested positive for pot violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).

In Delaware, a court rejected an argument that federal law preempted the state’s medical marijuana rules and allowed an employee to fire a worker who tested positive after an on-the-job accident.

And local municipalities are also getting involved. New York City has banned marijuana testing of job applicants. And, starting in 2020, Nevada employers can’t refuse to hire someone based on a positive test.

Are your policies in tune with the times?

For employers, the message is increasingly clear – this is a good time to revisit your drug testing policies.

Of course, using or even possessing pot while on the clock is grounds for terminating anyone, even a medical user.

But, given the limits of available drug tests, and the exploding number of people with medical marijuana permits, basing any employment action on a positive test alone could result in a lawsuit and, probably, and expensive settlement.

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Recruiting experts’ top 9 strategies to hire the best talent

In a perfect world, HR pros like yourselves would take as much time as necessary to find that great hire.

But the reality is, you have many more tasks than just hiring to focus on, and managers are typically pestering you to find someone ASAP.

The good news? No matter the size of your company or the time frame you have to make a hire, you can still find the best talent out there.

Tony Lee, VP of editorial for SHRM, spoke at the 2019 SHRM Conference and Exposition to share hiring experts’ most effective recruiting strategies that any HR department can implement.

1. Make it known your company is a great place to work.

These days, employer brand is so important. It isn’t enough anymore to just have a nice website.

Nearly every candidate is going to look you up on Glassdoor and read your reviews, Lee says. The first step is for you to read those reviews so you know what you’re working with.

If you see negative posts on Glassdoor, don’t just ignore them — they’re not going away. Lee suggests responding to those reviews in a delicate, professional manner. This way, any potential candidates can see both sides of the story.

Annette Carroll, employer brand consultant for Procon, took an interesting approach to letting candidates know her company was a great place to work. She had her happiest employees make short videos explaining why they loved their jobs.

These videos were attached to job postings, so every applicant could get a feel for the culture and see what the company was all about. Having happy employees speak about their workplace is the best kind of review you can get.

2. Make your employees your best recruiters.

Over 80% of companies say employee referrals are their No. 1 source of new hires, Lee says. Employers should absolutely capitalize on this.

Many will reward employees for successful referrals with a small cash bonus. Lee wants to know why the incentive payment is so low, when professional recruiters would receive roughly $20,000 for doing the same thing your employee did.

Upping the ante will really encourage your people to actively recruit solid candidates.

3. Be honest about compensation.

Of course, you should offer candidates as much as your competitors, Lee says. But that isn’t always an option.

If you can’t match the competition, be transparent about why you can’t. Be sure to play up any unique benefits you can offer as well.

4. Consider hiring part-time or gig workers.

Utilizing gig workers or freelancers is something a lot of companies are starting to embrace, Lee says. And if it’s right for you, it could be the perfect solution to any urgent staffing problems.

This is especially an effective solution for companies with turnover issues, he says. If everyone is on the same page that the worker won’t be around for long, it’ll be much easier to prepare for their departure.

5. Simplify job applications

These days, candidates don’t have the patience to fill out a lengthy application, Lee says. The ideal amount of time is five minutes or less.

He suggests you go online and apply for a job at your own company to see what you’re dealing with.

Try the Red Light Test: Could your application be completed on a mobile device while sitting at a red light? If not, Lee suggests eliminating all the “nice to have” questions and simply ask the essential ones during the first step in the process.

6. Embrace remote employees.

Much like gig workers, more and more companies are taking advantage of fully remote employees. Not only does this expand your application pool considerably, but a lot of top talent are looking for the remote perk and flexibility, Lee says.

7. Build relationships with high schools and colleges.

Another great way to start expanding your talent pool is to turn to high schools and universities. College students are especially eager and anxious to find post-grad employment quickly, Lee says. Focusing your recruiting efforts on them can be mutually beneficial.

If you take time now to start building relationships with schools, you can get the first shot at new grads.

Recruiting at high schools can be just as effective as well. Gen Zers are just starting to enter the workforce, and this generation is seeking stable, well-paying jobs. They’re less likely than Millennials to take on student debt, too.

Recruiters can use this to their advantage and help show high schoolers other career paths that don’t involve college. Nurturing these relationships can ensure these students call you once they’ve obtained the skills they need to work at your company.

Christy Del Regno, talent acquisition manager for CVS Health, had success with this strategy. She worked to partner with colleges in order to reach top students for internship opportunities.

Representatives are sent to schools in order to promote the company and intern program, and any student seriously considering coming aboard are flown out to the facility and given the grand tour.

CVS Health stays in touch with each intern after the program ends, and many of the students end up taking a full-time position after they graduate.

8. Maintain a talent pipeline.

Great recruiters don’t just look for talent when they have a position to fill — they’re always looking for talent. If you take the time now to build a network of talented people, you’ll be set when you have a job opening.

Social media and networking are extremely important when it comes to filling the talent pipeline. It allows potential candidates to learn about your company and see if they’d maybe like to work for you one day, and helps you stay in contact.

Olivia Melman, recruiting operations manager for Digital Ocean, always has a full talent pipeline, thanks to her commitment to staying in touch with past applicants.

Whenever she finds promising candidates that don’t quite make the cut for the position they interviewed for, Melman puts them on a list. Each month, these candidates receive emails with updates on the company, as well as new job listings the person might be a good fit for.

This method has resulted in 4,000 candidates reapplying with the company! Melman has ended up making many great hires from this talent pipeline, in new positions that didn’t even exist when the candidates originally applied.

9. Add a personal touch.

With the vast amount of technology and automation available in the hiring process now, it can be easy to forget to be welcoming and personable, too.

During the hiring process, candidates appreciate personalized messages instead of form emails. Employers should ask about applicants’ personalities as well as their skills and qualifications, to ensure they’d be a good cultural fit.

On-site events for prospective hires can also help feel out if certain candidates would excel at the company, and would make applicants feel like a top priority.

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Lying in the hiring process: How to handle the candidate

Do you know how well your company is protected from false claims on employment applications?

During the hiring process, the ability to disqualify an applicant from consideration for a job, or to fire a candidate who lied on their application, hinges on what you have in writing.

It’s a common problem

A recent study showed 85% of employers have caught applicants lying on their resume or job application.

The common areas to fudge are dates of past employment, credentials, training, degrees, prior earnings and criminal history.

How can you avoid the liabilities that come with application falsification? Here are some steps employers should take, according to Workforce.

Be prepared

Implement a clear, uniform policy about the consequences of providing false information on an application.

Put a disclaimer on your standard job application near the signature line. By signing the application, the applicant acknowledges that providing false, misleading or inaccurate information on the application, on the resume or during an interview is grounds for disqualification, or termination if already hired.

The disclaimer should also expressly waive any liability for the employer if the applicant isn’t hired or is terminated for providing false information.

Be consistent

The best protection for your company is to follow your policy of disqualification/termination every time you find out for a fact that an applicant lied on their application or in a job interview.

Consistency during the recruiting process can protect the employer from legal liabilities and countless headaches down the road.

If a background investigation reveals an applicant or employee clearly lied, the applicant should be rejected or the employee terminated immediately.

If you only suspect falsification, HR should conduct a fair and impartial investigation and document the findings. Disciplinary action should be taken if the findings are conclusive.

Having a strict application falsification policy can save your company from potential legal action later.

Some states have laws prohibiting revoking job offers based on the discovery of a misdemeanor or other convictions with no relevance to the applicant’s suitability for the job.

However, following your company policy of revoking an offer when an employee misrepresents the existence of the conviction would still be allowed.

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Improved recruiting process for a better ‘candidate experience’

This case study is adopted from a presentation by Olivia Melman, manager of recruiting operations, Digital Ocean, as presented at the ERE Recruiting Conference, San Diego.

It’s no secret the hiring process can be confusing and frustrating for candidates. A lot of times they never hear back after submitting an application, or they don’t know what to expect from an interview.

We didn’t want to miss out on interviewing a good candidate because of a clunky process, so we decided we needed an improved recruiting process. So we streamlined everything in order to optimize the candidate experience.

Better recruiting email

The first thing we did was redesign the email we use to
initially communicate with candidates.

The email we had been using was somewhat plain-looking, and wordy.

We edited every sentence to make sure it was as clear and concise, and said what we meant.

Next, we hired a developer to design an email template with our logo to give us a fresh look – we wanted it to be eye-catching and to show people what our brand is.

Next, we embedded useful links such as FAQs and Glassdoor
reviews for the candidates’ convenience.

Before, we used to manually upload these as PDFs, which
created a high chance for human error. Now, everything is conveniently located
in the email template.

Hiring interview preparation

Once we got the email right, we turned our attention to preparing candidates for the actual interview.

Interviews can be stressful and even a little mysterious at times. Candidates just don’t know what to expect. So we wanted to foster a sense of ease by being as transparent as possible.

We developed a candidate resource page, which gives
applicants a line of sight into the interview. It has information on how they
can prepare and how we evaluate them. We want them to know we aren’t trying to
trip them up or make things difficult.

Candidates also can engage with the hiring team and their potential future co-workers on the resource page before their interview to get any questions answered.

Not only that, candidates can see and get to know who’ll be
interviewing them. Our goal is for everyone to feel supported so they can be
their best self.

Scheduling the job interview

We know many of our candidates are traveling from out of
town to come interview with us, so we book all their arrangements for them.

Another thing we wanted to work on was assembling our
interview team. Everyone’s schedules were hectic and we needed to be able to
coordinate better.

We started using Slack to ensure everyone involved gets
interview reminders. Questions to help prepare are sent out as well.

We also track how often someone cancels or reschedules an
interview, so we can hold each other accountable – candidates’ time is

A lot of these changes were small, but as we gradually rolled them out, it has made a big, positive impact. Candidates are coming in more relaxed and confident, ready to help us learn who they really are.

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SHRM 2019: Financial wellness benefits employees want and need

The HRMorning team joined 20,000 other HR pros at the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference and expo in Las Vegas June 23 – 26. Here’s some of what we learned about employee financial wellness benefits programs.

Helping employees achieve and maintain financial wellness was a hot topic at the SHRM conference as employers continue looking for innovative ways to attract and retain top talent.

Many are adding financial wellness and assistance options and increasing efforts to publicize financial wellness programs.

The variety of financial wellness programs offered is growing rapidly as employers strive to offer a collection of benefits that will appeal to the various demographic groups that make up their workforces – and to individual employees.

Education debt assistance

Student loan repayment assistance was the topic of many discussions at SHRM, reflecting the huge cadre of new workers who are starting their careers with unprecedented levels of education debt.

According to SHRM’s 2019
Employee Benefits Survey, however, while trending upward, the percentage of
U.S.-based organizations offering student loan repayment assistance rose to
just 8% as of April 2019.

Many of the HR pros at the conference said debt-burdened employees are putting off investing in 401ks, even where employers offer generous matching contributions.

To help reverse that trend, they are looking at everything from offering low cost loans (directly or through partnerships with third party providers), to adding employer 401K contributions tied to the percentage of salary an employee puts toward repaying student loans each pay period.

Searching for financial wellness innovations

But it isn’t just young workers struggling with student loans that are worrying HR pros.

Dan Macklin, CEO of Salary Finance, which offers salary-secured loans to workers as an alternative to payday loans or raiding retirement accounts for emergency bills, told HR Morning that company research found 48% of U.S. employees are under financial stress.

That’s a big jump from the 28% of workers surveyed by PWC in 2016 who said that financial issues have been a distraction at work.

That includes workers at every pay level — of the 34% of American
workers who aren’t putting anything towards savings, about a quarter earn more
than $160,000 a year.

Employees’ financial stress hurts the bottom line

And, Macklin said, “When employees are financially
stressed, it’s affecting businesses. Our research
showed that employees who are bringing financial worries to work lose about a
month of productivity in a year.”

When combined with the cost of turnover related to financial stress, the company says, that translates into about $500 billion coming off American companies’ bottom lines each year.

The challenge for HR Pros? Designing and managing financial wellness programs addressing the specific needs of workers at every life and career stage and financial position.

Financial benefits workers want and need

Speakers on SHRM’s “Financial Wellness Benefits Your Employees Want and Need” panel stressed that programs should include a mix of prevention, to help employees avoid common financial mistakes in the first place, and support for when they do encounter difficulties.

Those can include providing access to financial education resources, coaching on improving financial habits and direct financial assistance through loans, company-sponsored savings plans, employee-managed pay schedules and other innovative offerings.

Keys to success, according to the SHRM panel — surveying employees to understand what they really need, personalizing offerings as much as possible and making sure you communicate with employees to be sure they know what is available.

Engaging employees

Panelists noted that, while dealing with financial problems isn’t the taboo subject it once was, HR pros need to recognize it remains a sensitive topic.

It can help to frame your surveys as financial wellness assessment tools employees can use to improve their personal finances. Another trategy: include financial questions in other wellness surveys.

And asking employees about what tools they would find useful provides critical guidance for HR pros designing financial wellness programs and increases engagement when they roll out.

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