Eight Ways to Find Part-Time Elves

As the holiday season rolls around, many companies find they need all hands on deck to handle an increased work load—just when many employees are requesting time off to celebrate with their family and friends. While the current low unemployment rate might make you wonder if you can find extra help, the good news is that plenty of people would appreciate a few extra hours to help pay off upcoming holiday debts.

Whether you run a retail establishment that needs extra workers or an office looking to cover end-of-year vacation absences or an increased December crunch, here are eight ideas for finding and attracting part-time workers in a tight hiring environment.

  1. Look inside first.

Your own employees might be your best source. While some are undoubtedly looking for days off, others might be willing to take on a few additional hours for the chance to earn extra money. Offering a nice pay bump is often worth it—instead of having to go through the paperwork and training involved in hiring a new person, you can instead dedicate that money to paying your own loyal employees more, knowing that they are going to be more efficient than someone just learning the ropes. You also could offer a referral bonus to employees who recommend a part-time candidate as it will save you the time and money involved in looking outside for employees—and will likely result in a great hire.

  1. Pay competitive wages.

This should go without saying, but it’s crucial to remember: Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish when trying to hire part-time help. This group you are trying to attract wants to make a few bucks, fast, and are liable to turn to the highest wage available…even if it’s only a quarter or so more an hour. Remember that most of these temporary employees are not looking to build a career with your company—they just want to make some extra spending money, and thus every dollar counts.

  1. Make quick decisions.

Someone who wants to work part-time wants to work part-time now. If you delay making offers, they are likely to accept a competing position. It’s imperative to shorten your hiring cycle—the average length is currently 42 days, although of course that metric also includes full-time positions. But the fact remains that waiting to see “what else is out there” could result in losing a viable candidate, especially if you are hiring for high-turnover positions.

  1. Provide just the right amount of training—not too much, not too little.

Training can be tricky with part-time positions; after all, they don’t need to know everything about the ins and outs of your company, but they need to know enough to feel successful in the position. Too many times part-time employees quit because they felt as though they were “thrown to the wolves” by being expected to come immediately up to speed on a new skill and interact with coworkers or the general public before they are comfortable. Promise your applicants that you’ll give them adequate training so that they won’t feel out of their element. And, of course, make sure it’s paid.

  1. Offer flexibility.

While full flexibility is probably not possible, since you are trying to hire to fill specific shifts, anything you can offer that gives them some choices—such as allowing potential employees to offer days and times they prefer, giving them the chance to switch shifts if both parties are amenable, etc. will help make your position more appealing.

  1. Promote discounts.

Not every company has a product that’s amenable to discounts, but if you’ve got it…flaunt it! Many potential employees might be attracted to the opportunity to not only make money through a paycheck, but save on their gift giving. You also should see if there are any benefits you offer full-time employees—such as discounts on movie tickets or transit passes—that you can relatively affordably also offer to these fill-in employees. It might make the difference between someone accepting your offer or that of a competitor.

  1. Look to non-traditional groups.

Holiday periods are the perfect time to look beyond your traditional hiring pool. Consider reaching out to local high schools to see if you can hire students for the few weeks of the holiday season; with sports, drama, schoolwork and other regular pressing needs on hold, even those who wouldn’t normally be able to hold down a regular position might want to make some quick spending money. Ditto kids home on college break—which often stretches a month or more. They likely would love the chance to bolster their bank account before they head back for second semester. To reach this group, advertise in the local community paper and on social media sites and post notices in local coffee shops or other local gathering places. Reaching their parents might be the best avenue to get to the returning college student. Finally, in addition to thinking young, think a bit older. Retirees might love the chance to get involved in the holiday hustle and bustle and make a few bucks.

  1. Advertise everywhere.

You never know where your next temporary employee might come from. Make sure you have listed your position on your social media websites and with notices in other places that your potential target part-time worker might be looking. It can pay to get really creative, like going door to door—seriously! One HR exec recently told a business gathering about an enterprising organization that “hired” a youth group to blanket a nearby neighborhood with cards advertising open part-time positions. The company gave a flat donation to the group, as well as an additional bonus for each person that was hired from the effort. She reported that the organization was able to fill nearly 85% of its positions, proving that creativity can pay.

With a little ingenuity, you’ll have all your part-time elves lined up in no time.

How Paid Family and Medical Leave Policies Can Impact How You Choose Your Benefits

Annual enrollment will soon be underway for many employees. During this time, workers choose benefits they feel are most important to protect their health and financial well-being. Understanding the benefits your employer offers and their associated costs are most likely key considerations for you.


In this post, I am going to focus on one type of benefit – disability insurance – that insures your income if you can’t work for a period of time. I’ll also explain how this type of coverage interacts with a variety of paid-leave policies and programs. I hope to unravel some of the mystery and confusing terminology associated with both paid leave and income protection insurance.


Income sources if you can’t work

There are different ways to sustain an income when you can’t work due to an injury, illness or pregnancy. Personal savings, state and employer-paid medical and family leave, Social Security disability benefits, and private insurance are all sources that may be available. How do these sources help, and do they provide enough income to help you live the type of life you want to live?


Do the Research and Weigh the Facts

Disability happens! Even minor illnesses, injuries and pregnancies with a short duration of recovery (such as a knee surgery) can interfere with your ability to work and earn an income. In fact:

  • If you were to keep track of the 20 -year-olds in today’s workforce, you’d find nearly 25 percent of them will be out of work for at least one year due to heath conditions before they reach retirement. (1)
  • Almost half of American adults indicate they can’t pay an unexpected $400 bill without having to take out a loan or sell something. (2)
  • 6 percent of working Americans will experience a short-term disability (six months or less) due to illness, injury or pregnancy on average every year. (3)  


Make the Time to Increase your Knowledge

Where will you find the money to live if you lose your ability to work? Understanding the different income sources available can help you make choices during annual enrollment that fit your needs.


Employer-paid leave benefits can provide you with some kind of a paycheck when you can’t work, however, this income may not last long enough to meet your needs. And it’s up to your employer to (a) provide these benefits, (b) determine how long you can receive them, and (c) decide how much you get paid. Some paid leave programs only pay a percentage of your income – and this income is taxable. Sick leave and salary continuation benefits are examples of these benefits.


State- and/or federal-provided leave programs can give you an income while you’re unable to work. These programs include worker’s compensation, Social Security Disability Income, and paid family and medical leave benefits. Worker’s compensation benefits pay a percentage of your income if you have an on-the-job accident or work-related illness that cause you to leave work. Social Security provides long-term benefits if you’re disabled for at least five months, are qualified to apply, and are unable to work at any type of job. If you are approved, you may receive benefits up to the normal Social Security retirement.


State-mandated paid family and medical leave is emerging in a growing number of states. This short-term benefit provides you with an income while you’re out of work for medical conditions, for the birth or adoption of a child, or caring for a family member. Benefits are typically provided from 12 weeks up to 1 year and can cover from 50 percent to 90 percent of your income.

Oregon is the first state in the United States to offer 100 percent income replacement for low-wage workers taking leave for family, medical or safety reasons. Oregon (and New Jersey) includes victims of domestic violence in its paid family leave law, and defines family broadly to include “any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with a covered individual is the equivalent of a family relationship” – in other words, you get to take time off to care for someone who is like a family member to you.


It’s important for you to check whether you live and/or work in a state where paid family and medical leave is available.


State-mandated disability insurance

State-mandated disability coverage is another source of income available to residents in a limited number of states and territories, including Hawaii, California, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico. These statutory plans generally provide benefits for six months up to one year. They pay you 50 percent to 70 percent of your income with a weekly cap on the maximum amount you can be paid (for example, $1,216 per week in California and $113 per week in Puerto Rico).


Statutory disability plans supplement your income for a short period of time, so you may want to consider adding other insurance products if you want to receive a larger sum while you can’t work, or in case you are out of work for a longer period of time


Voluntary, worksite or supplementary benefits. Many employers provide options for you to participate in short-term and/or long-term disability insurance. These options are offered by insurance carriers and supplement benefits you may receive from your employer, state and/or federal government programs. You pay the premiums for these optional benefits, although you usually pay less than you would if you bought this insurance on your own.


Short-term disability plans provide benefits for three months up to one year (after you satisfy a waiting or “elimination” period).


It may take a long period of time to recover from certain health conditions and complicated surgeries. In order to protect yourself from this risk, you can carry long-term disability coverage. Long-term disability insurance pays you benefits after you’ve been out of work for three months up to Social Security retirement age (again, after satisfying a waiting period).


Make the Choice to Protect Yourself

It’s important to understand the benefits available to you and how they work together to provide you with an income stream when you can’t work. These benefits help you live your life the way you planned to live it should you become pregnant, ill or have an injury. Making decisions about these benefits during annual enrollment is not always easy, but it is important.


Talk with your human resources area, read the materials available to you before annual enrollment begins, ask questions to clarify your benefits and the cost to you, and learn how all benefits may work together.


Most employers provide online access to information prior to annual enrollment that you can read on your own time schedule. Many employers also offer videos prior to enrollment. And meetings with human resources and insurance professionals as well as online chat may be available to help you navigate your benefit choices.


Remember, what you decide today could affect the rest of your life. Protect yourself and plan for unexpected events. This will help you take control of your financial well-being and help you live a happier life.



1. Social Security Administration, Disability and Death Probability Tables for Insured Workers Born in 1997, Table A.
2. Ibid
3. Integrated Benefits Institute, Health and Productivity Benchmarking 2016 (released November 2017), Short-Term Disability, All Employers, Condition-specific results.


Helping New Employees Find a Mentor

Every HR professional aspires to create a happy and engaged workforce. You might be surprised to find that one of the top ways to do so is to encourage a strong mentorship program.

An overwhelming 91% of workers who have a mentor say they are satisfied with their jobs, and more than 40% who didn’t have a mentor said they had considered quitting theirs. These numbers indicate that encouraging mentorship can have a clear positive effect on your workforce retention efforts—not to mention starting your newer employees on a positive path. Here are some ways to create a program that’s beneficial for all.

  1. Decide whether your program will be formal or informal.

A lot of this will depend on the size and demographics of your company. While everyone can benefit from inter-office networking via employee resource groups, a true mentoring effort requires a more involved, committed group. Companies that have a formal mentoring program create a process to explore the interests and experience of both protégé and mentor candidates to determine the best fit. (This sample questionnaire can help you start the matching process.)

While this is an ideal scenario, you need a critical mass of participants to make it work. If you only have a few new people each year, it might be best to hand pick a few executives who could be a good fit and ask them if they’d be willing to meet informally with these new employees as they begin their journey.

  1. Address privacy and confidentiality concerns.

HR is in an ideal position to handle a mentor program because of your ability to handle these very real concerns. To avoid any sexual harassment accusations in today’s environment, require that mentoring activities take place in a public setting, such as a conference room with an open door or a restaurant. Encourage all parties to immediately come forward with any concerns. Also, remind mentors that they need to create an environment of trust so that the newer employee feels confident asking them for advice with certain skills, without fear of repercussions that the mentor may relay private information to a supervisor.

  1. Hold some organized functions to help facilitate connections.

One-on-one relationships can be difficult to maintain, either because of people’s busy schedules or if there isn’t a personality fit. That’s why a successful mentoring program should also include some group activities that can create a more comfortable environment that removes the pressure of exclusively having one-on-one meetings. Consider bringing in speakers for a lunch-and-learn or moderating a panel Q&A.

  1. Share some best practices for successful mentor relationships.

    Many busy professionals might worry they don’t have adequate time to devote to a mentoring relationship. Help ease the burden by sharing some ground rules that will help keep the time commitment reasonable:
  • Have each party discuss times that work for them and remind the mentee to work around the mentor.
  • Suggest ways that they can interact if face-to-face meetings are challenging to schedule. For example, they might have a phone call or Skype session if the mentor travels frequently or telecommutes.
  • Urge mentees to create an agenda before each meeting with key topics they most want to discuss. That helps give each party time to prepare and directs the conversation so that both will feel that the interaction was worthwhile.
  • Remind the mentees to share their progress with the mentors, both to help nurture the relationship and to help the mentor feel their advice is being used.
  • Suggest alternative learning experiences, such as a mentor taking the new employee to industry functions or client meetings, as appropriate. These organic development opportunities can be extremely valuable and help make the most of the mentor’s time.
  1. Help them get off on the right foot.

Any new relationship can feel a bit forced or awkward at the outset, which is to be expected. That’s why the pairs might feel more natural if they start off with a prescribed format and agenda. For example, you might have a kick-off event, then suggest that the pair meet for coffee or lunch within the next two weeks. Supply a list of “get-to-know-you” questions about interests, experience, education and career path and goals to help provide a framework for future discussions. Encourage the mentor to share some personal insights about both successes and failures to help put the mentee at ease.

Then every other week or so, send out some suggestions for questions that can help guide the conversation.

  1. Include a “reverse mentorship” element.

Most workplaces today have multiple generations, and it’s clear that everyone has a lot to learn from each other. While more seasoned employees can impart hard-learned best practices and company history, younger employees typically have their pulse on technology in a way that only a digital native can.

When General Electric’s CEO Jack Welch famously introduced one of the most well-known “reverse mentoring” efforts in 1999, the internet and social media were in a fledgling state. Now, even older generations have embraced the power of tech, and yet, those just entering the workforce still have a grasp on new ways to use technology to increase productivity. They can share ideas for apps and other techniques that can make many entrenched processes more agile or give best practices for more polished presentation tools.

  1. Create some loose parameters but allow relationships to grow organically.

You might encourage the mentor pairs to meet every couple of weeks or so in order to grow the relationship, but remember that not every pair will be a fit—and that’s ok. Some might decide to take it the next level and meet more often, while others might only meet a few times. HR’s goal should be to create the opportunity for relationships to grow and then sit back and let each pair create what’s meaningful to them.

  1. Seek ongoing feedback.

As with any program, there are always opportunities for improvement. Seek candid feedback from both sides on what was valuable and any shortcomings, so you can tweak the program design over time.

What HR Should Know About Gen Z

Move over, Millennials. Today organizations are thinking about Gen Z, the newest cohort joining the workplace. While millennials remain the largest group in the workforce today, they are increasingly being joined by their “younger sibs,” a generation that the Pew Research Center defines as being born from 1997 on.

New college grads fit the bill, as do the high schoolers who will soon be coming on board. Here are five traits to know about this generation and how to create a workplace that appeals to them. (The great news is that most generations will appreciate the new dynamics as well!)

The Trait: Gen Z isn’t afraid to jump ship.

While this can seem like a downside, it’s wise to know this about the generation—and work to keep them happy. There’s a reason they’re more prone to move around, and that’s because they saw the damage done to their parents and neighbors who might have worked long hours at a job, only to see their company fail to offer that same loyalty in return. In addition, they’ve seen their millennial counterparts who presumably did the right thing by graduating from college being inundated with student loans and sometimes unable to find a job commensurate with their education. “The traditional power dynamic that views corporate overlords as holding the keys to job stability, benefits, and great pay isn’t shared by Gen Z. That spells potential disaster for employers that believe they hold all the cards,” explains an article on Quartz.com.

What HR Should Do: Cultivate a work culture that puts them first. Invest in them through proper onboarding, then training and interesting work that will keep them satisfied. Make sure that a full slate of benefits meets their needs. And then realize that they might not intend to be lifers, and that’s ok. When one leaves, hopefully another one will be there to take their place, bringing all the enthusiasm and creativity that comes with a new hire.


The Trait: Gen Z is truly digital first.

While millennials came of age during the digital revolution, most Gen Zers have never known a world without answers at their fingertips or social media impacting their life view.

What HR Should Do: Embrace the fact that they are going to post on social media by offering Instagrammable-events and inviting them to share company content. Make sure you have developed and share a solid social media policy; as in, highlighting confidentiality best practices and letting them know if they need to tag photos with your company name. And, make sure that your own social media and online presence reflects a place this group would be happy to join.


The Trait: Gen Z is eager for leadership and development opportunities.

Gen Z has spoken: The members of the graduating class of 2019 ranked ongoing continuing education as a top priority in their job search. That’s likely because of all the rapid technological change they have seen so far in their lives, coupled with the ongoing discussions of AI and automation potentially changing the dynamics of many workplaces.

What HR Should Do: Make sure that a robust culture of learning and development is prominent in your organization. Whether you offer options for online or in-person classes or focus more on cross-training and apprenticeships, show your newer employees that you are eager to have them grow with you—or you risk having them grow away from you.


The Trait: Gen Z craves flexibility.

Work/life balance has given way to a new concept of work/life blend. That’s because Gen Z has never known an environment where their personal and “other” lives weren’t completely intertwined. While they probably won’t balk at answering an email after hours, they also expect that sometimes they can take a longer lunch for an eye doctor appointment or come in late if they’ve been crunching on a project. That’s why flexible hours are consistently cited as one of the top draws for a job, finds online job site Glassdoor.

What HR Should Do: Of course, sometimes it’s not possible to accommodate all the flexibility an employee might want, but try to find ways that they can have some control over their work hours.


The Trait: Gen Z welcomes feedback.

Forget “annual” reviews. One study found that nearly 60% of the Gen Z cohort want check-ins from their managers at least weekly, and many would prefer daily. That allows them to course correct in the now, rather than taking a “rear-view” mirror perspective about what they could have done. Giving them tangible, actionable insights allows this “video game” generation to measure how well they are doing in “leveling up” to new skills and behaviors.

What HR Should Do: Offering constant feedback can seem daunting but it doesn’t have to be. While HR might have a more formal process in place, equip your managers with best practices on how they can help create a culture of continuous feedback, such as having short weekly check-ins with each employee, giving a five-minute debrief after meetings or presentations and starting each week with a concise team meeting to align on goals and also share quick performance updates in a group setting.

Are You Attracting the Right Candidates? How to Make Your Job Descriptions More Inclusive

With unemployment continuing to hover at record lows, HR is often in a bind—how do they attract not only qualified candidates, but also an inclusive slate of candidates? The answer might lie in your job descriptions. If you are just recycling existing boilerplate copy—a common practice in today’s busy world—you might want to rethink your postings to make them more dynamic in order to bolster your applications. Here are some tips.

  1. Use words that are more inclusive.

Studies show that more diverse workplaces lead to better outcomes, but all too often companies have trouble attracting a diverse slate of candidates. Your job descriptions could be to blame. Here is how to foster inclusivity for:

  • Gender: A LinkedIn report found stark differences in how men and women responded to words in job descriptions. For example, the word “aggressive” turned off 44% of women, but only one-third of men. Other words that women tended to shy away from are “demanding” and “powerful.”
  • Age: The “Ageism and Hiring” report from the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals warns that phrases such as “digital native” and “passionate about social media” can scare off older applicants.
  • People with disabilities: Some job descriptions contain a laundry list of requirements like “must be able to lift 25 pounds” and “must be able to climb stairs.” Sure, some jobs might require that, but often it’s just boilerplate language that can deter candidates. Just for fun, search Indeed.com for “25 pounds” and see the wide range of jobs that include that caveat. Surely, someone else could be called on to lift heavy boxes of office supplies in an administrative position. Take a minute to read through your job posting and see if there is any language that might turn off employees with disabilities.

And for all candidates, consider the words you use to describe your environment. The LinkedIn report offers some replacements that are softer and thus more inviting, such as “fast-paced,” rather than “pressured.” Other words to add to describe your workplace include “supportive,” and “flexible,” which appeals to 60% of women, but also half of men.

  1. Include the salary.

Many companies don’t want to tip their hand regarding salary, but it actually can save a lot of time. After all, if you’re thinking $50,000, and a specific candidate is looking for double that, it’s going to be hard to find a way to meet in the middle. In the long run, it would be better to save your time and energy for sifting through the qualifications of the applicants who are more likely to eventually accept the role if offered.

This is also an important way to show that your company is committed to fair pay practices. Another LinkedIn survey found that nearly 70% of women find the salary and benefits information to be the most important component of a job description.

  1. Don’t worry about longer job descriptions.

One job description that was recently lauded in a story in the Wall Street Journal comes from Basecamp. The lengthy posting gives information about what projects the team has recently undertaken, as well as ideal candidate qualities. For example: “You can expect a mindful onboarding process with ramp-up and time to learn. You can expect a team that listens, and to be heard. You can expect to give and provide direct feedback. You can expect to be counted on. …  A strong track record of conscientious, thoughtful work speaks volumes.”

As you can see, the posting makes the workplace sound engaging, but it also indicates that slackers need not apply to be successful in this environment.

Take the time to give all the information that potential candidates might want in order to save everyone time and frustration.

  1. Don’t rely on job postings to be your only outlet for recruiting.

Today’s candidates have more information at their fingertips than ever before, so it can be challenging to try to erase a poor work environment that’s being discussed online. As an HR executive, it’s wise to pay attention to what is being said about your company at sites like Glassdoor.com. While you can’t delete the postings, you can read them as you would a negative customer review, and determine if you should respond and/or if the problem they are airing deserves addressing. Seeking frequent feedback from your existing team can help make sure that you are handling issues as they arise.

Also spend time actually creating the workplace that candidates will flock to, and use your company website and social media accounts to share the message. Post photos of teams volunteering and make sure your diversity is reflected in the images you choose to post.

And include a spot for information on your alternative benefits from wellness offerings to disability insurance as a way to highlight what you offer.

After all, there is no substitute for the truth in today’s transparent environment.

Open Enrollment Cheat Sheet: Important Terms To Share With your Employees

As “open enrollment” season looms, HR personnel are getting ready to help their employees make a smart choice regarding their health plan. But often even those employees who are nodding their heads like they know all about the insurance plans you’re discussing are really thinking, “Huh?” Often they’re not sure exactly what the terms mean for them—and their pocketbook.


So even though you might be fluent in “medical plan speak,” we thought it might be helpful to take a layperson’s perspective and share some of the confusing terms that your team might be curious about.


Health Plan Costs


It’s important that employees understand the interaction between these different potential costs they will pay. For example, a low premium might bring with it a high-deductible and vice versa. Help them run some scenarios based on their estimate of how much healthcare they typically consume to figure out which of your different plan options might be best for them.


Premium: This is the amount that you pay to your health insurance company for coverage. Often employees have this amount automatically withdrawn from each paycheck.


Co-Pay: This is the part of the bill you are responsible for as the consumer. Often you will need to pay the entire portion until your deductible is met.

Deductible: This is the out-of-pocket amount you will pay for your healthcare costs before your insurance starts to cover it. Your plan will tell you what your deductible is—usually there is an amount for each insured (as in member of the family) and a total for all family members. It typically resets each year.


Health Plan Limits


Covered services: This one seems pretty clear-cut, but not everyone understands that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ushered in a new standard where certain preventative services are covered free of charge—that is, without a co-pay or deductible payment. A list of those services can be found here. Aside from those, health plans can decide what sorts of services to offer so read your plan carefully if there’s something that’s particularly important to you.

Excluded services: These are services that the health plan specifically says it won’t cover. Examples of typical excluded services might be cosmetic procedures and weight-related offerings.


Annual limits on services: Again, pretty self-explanatory; this is how much you can use each service per year. For example, you might be offered 20 chiropractic visits a year and then have to cover the others yourself. Thanks to the ACA, this category can’t cover any “essential benefits,” that include important care like emergency services, prescription drugs and more.


Health Plan Types


This is not exhaustive, but here are some of the main types of coverage you might offer. If your employees understand the differences between them, they can make the choice that is right for their finances and specific health situations.


Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): With an HMO, you will pick a primary physician who is the person who coordinates your care, including providing referrals to specialists. Typically out-of-network care will not be covered in an HMO.


Preferred Provider Organization (PPO): With a PPO, you can see any provider who is part of your “network,” usually including specialists, without a referral. Typically you will want to use a provider within the PPO to get the best rates.


High-Deductible Health Plans (HDHP): These plans require you to pay for all your services before your coverage kicks in (except the preventative care mandated by the ACA). After you have hit your deductible, then the insurance will pay the benefits as specified by your plan.


Most HDHPs are paired with a Health Savings Account (HSA), which allows you to save money tax-free to be used for any medical expenses not covered by your plan. (You will pay taxes and a penalty if you use the money for other purposes before you are 65.) That money is yours…it travels from job to job. For 2019 you can contribute a maximum $3,500 for individual coverage and $7,000 for family coverage to your HSA.


Extra Coverage


Also, take the time to talk through the benefits of other coverage your company offers, such as long-term disability and short-term disability.


And finally, it’s wise to discuss how and when they can change their health plans if they choose, via open enrollment—as you are currently planning for—or, alternately, due to a qualifying event. These include:


  • Marriage (and in some cases, divorce)
  • The birth or adoption of a child
  • A permanent move to an area where your current health plan is unavailable
  • A new job (in most cases)


So since they can’t switch plans on a whim, it’s more important than ever that they have a clear idea of what their coverage will include before they sign up.


Note: These definitions were adapted from the ACA site. Visit here for more terms you might want to add to your own cheat sheet.

Ready for Open Enrollment Season? Three Steps To Getting In Shape for a Great Season

For HR folks, the fall is sort of like their own version of the retail holiday season or the big football final…that’s because it’s open enrollment, the time when employees are able to make major changes to their benefits plans without penalties.

And just like retailers start planning their holiday promotions early, so should the HR team begin planning how they will communicate both the existence of open enrollment and what it means to their team.

Here’s how to make the open enrollment period smooth for you and beneficial for your employees.


  1. Finalize your options.

Chances are good that you have already been working on determining what benefits you will be offering and the rate at which you will cover them. For example, maybe this is the year you add a wellness benefit or pet insurance. You also want to make sure you have a robust slate of health choices that might include dental, vision, and alternative medicine; as well as insurance, such as life and short-term and long-term disability.

With employment rates continuing to be high, benefits are just one additional way that you can strengthen your position in attracting and retaining employees.


  1. Create your communications material.

Even if you have the most admirable benefits plan in the world, it won’t help if your employees don’t know or understand what’s available to them—and one survey found that one-third of them do not!

From co-pays to premiums, the insurance world can be full of unfamiliar terms. Take health insurance—many employees can’t explain how a high-deductible plan might improve their financial situation. And many employees might never take the time to recognize what benefits are available to them. That’s why communication is vital during this time. Here are some pieces you should create:

  • A cheat sheet for common insurance terms: This would be an at-a-glance explanation of what all the terms mean, with examples of how they work in the real world. So, you could give a couple of explanations of how a high-deductible plan would play out for someone who uses little healthcare, compared to someone who has an ongoing health condition.


  • A summary of new insurance offerings: Finally offering massage therapy or financial wellness counseling? This is the time to tout the new benefits you’ll be offering to get employees excited about the package your workplace provides.


  • An explanation of existing offerings: During onboarding, most HR teams make a point to cover the benefit packages. But when employees are being bombarded with so much new information, they might not take the time to really dig in and find out what’s being offered and how they can take advantage of it. Open enrollment is the ideal time to refresh their memory on specifics. They might just end up with a renewed sense of satisfaction, just because you’re more thoroughly communicating what already exists.


  • A summary of total compensation (benefits + salary): Many employees don’t realize the value of their benefits package—estimated at 30% as most HR professionals know—but that disconnect means that they might feel underpaid if they don’t include these perks in their total compensation scenario. So depending on your bandwidth, it can be incredibly powerful to show exactly how much the company is kicking in, in terms of premium cost sharing, retirement program matches, disability insurance, and other programs you offer.


  1. Use multiple communication vehicles.

Gone are the days when HR could send out a big fat packet and hope/expect that everyone would read it. Today’s employees are used to getting their information in multiple ways. But the good news is that it doesn’t necessarily mean a ton more work for you; it just means thinking of creative ways to repackage the existing elements. The best way to make sure your communications vehicles hit their target market is through a strategy you can call COPE: Create once, publish everywhere. Some suggestions for broadcasting the materials you’ve created include:

  • Emails that drive them to your intranet, where materials reside online
  • A video campaign where you cover one type of benefit at a time and send the links to employees to watch at their leisure
  • A webinar where you present the information and they can send in real-time questions, with the option to replay later
  • A town hall style meeting where you can present and answer questions (done virtually if needed, depending on if you have a distributed workforce)
  • A drip campaign that supplements each of these by “teasing” what’s coming and meeting the need for “snackable” content that employees can consume quickly, then come back for more


As open enrollment season approaches, now is the time to prepare for your busy period. The great news is that it will wrap up just in time for you to enjoy the holidays.

What Employees Need to Know About Disability Insurance?

Employers are offering more and more voluntary benefits—and workers want these benefits. A 2017 study showed that nearly one third of eligible employees were signing up for voluntary offerings (that’s a higher participation rate than in earlier years). 

Amy Hollis is the national leader of voluntary benefits for HR consultancy Willis Towers Watson. She recently spoke to Workforce about their recent survey. It shows that 70 percent of employers claim voluntary benefits will be an important part of their value proposition in coming years. “Companies are using voluntary benefits to enrich their offerings without additional cost,” she said.

While there is a win-win element to this—it’s a good economic choice for both employers and employees—the story finishes with a stark warning. Rob Shestack, chairman and CEO of the Voluntary Benefits Association in Philadelphia says that HR teams need to be ready to educate. “The most frustrating thing is when HR makes the effort to provide these programs then does passive enrollment,” he says. “It’s like saying you don’t care if people use them or not.”

When it comes to disability insurance, education is that much more important. James Reid of CDA member company MetLife argues something similar in a story in Benefit News:While employees have a general idea of the benefits they use most often (medical, dental or vision), they don’t always grasp the value or need for some of the other benefits which may be available to them (disability or accident insurance, for example).”

Disability insurance is one of the most critical forms of coverage for working Americans—and one of most overlooked. Part of the problem is that people simply don’t understand how relevant it is for modern life

Here are five questions you can ask as a framework for understanding what disability insurance is: 

1. What Does Disability Mean in This Context?

Many people hear the word disability and assume it only means catastrophic health issues. In fact, disability can refer to a broken leg from a skiing accident, a pulled back while cleaning out your garage, a cancer diagnosis, or a pregnancy that can put an employee out of work for days, weeks, or months at a time.

Share the five most common reasons that keep people out of work for long periods: Pain in the back and neck, cancer, complications from pregnancy, and mental health issues all rank before accidental injuries, which many assume is the leading cause of disability. You can also share infographics.

2. Statistically Speaking, What are the Chances of Becoming Disabled?

Eighty percent of us live with optimism bias. That’s to say we don’t have a realistic understanding of the risk of becoming ill or injured. This is particularly at work with the younger generations who have grown up with some of the most supportive parents in modern history.

These are the numbers: According to the Social Security Administration, more than one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will be out of work for a year or more for a variety of reasons before they reach normal retirement age. This includes common health conditions such as knee, shoulder, or back injuries, cancer, heart problems, or depression.

Add to that the fact that nearly six percent of workers every year will experience a short-term disability due to illness, injury, or pregnancy. Three-quarters of these claims last up to two and a half months, and the rest can last for up to six months or a year.

3. How Would You Pay Your Bills?

Ask rhetorical questions as you educate. For example, will an employee be able to pay their monthly expenses? These are things like a mortgage or a phone bill.  Will they be able to pay their health insurance or retirement plans should a pregnancy, illness, or injury take them out of work for a few days, weeks, or more? This is about laying the foundations for their long-term financial stability.  

Data from the Federal Reserve shows that 40 percent of Americans do not have enough savings to pay for an unexpected $400 bill. Disability insurance pays a portion of someone’s salary when they need to miss work due to an illness, injury, or having a baby. For those who are single, disability insurance is the second most important insurance they can carry after health insurance. And if employees have a family that depends upon them, this insurance gives them an income stream if they need to leave work.

4. Workers’ Comp and SSDI: What Do They Cover?

Employees need a realistic understanding of the various safety nets that are in place should they become ill or injured. With this knowledge, they can make an informed decision.

  • Workers’ Compensation: Workers’ Comp only applies to accidents done on the worksite. Disabling illnesses or injuries are much more likely to be non-occupational in origin, which would rule out that coverage.
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): The Social Security Administration provides Social Security disability benefits for eligible individuals who have a disability that lasts for one year or longer. Many applicants are denied coverage.  This can be due to a lack of work history, medical evidence, and the temporary nature of their condition. The could even get denied because they may still be able to work outside of their profession. There are three important things to bear in mind: 1) workers who become disabled off-the-job won’t always qualify for SSDI, 2) they can face average wait times of 600 days for a hearing (that’s nearly two years), and 3) if they do eventually get benefits, the monthly amount (averaging around $1,200, based on the most recent data) probably isn’t enough to help them keep up with their ongoing expenses.  

5. Starting a Family? What is Your Plan for Maternity Leave?

If your company doesn’t offer paid maternity leave, this is an important point to raise with women in the workforce. Disability insurance is a critical benefit for many new mothers in the U.S. Indeed, pregnancy is the most common cause of short-term disability (STD) claims. Plans typically cover two weeks before and six weeks after a routine pregnancy. 

Here’s an important note: One of the major differences between pregnancy and other types of disability claims is predictability. For a healthy woman, purchasing coverage through their workplace in anticipation of a planned pregnancy can be a fairly easy transaction. The key is that they buy coverage before they become pregnant. This way there is little risk of underwriting issues or denial of their claim due to a pre-existing condition limitation. (Read more on this here.)

By asking these questions, you can broaden the minds of your employees. At the same time, you give them the larger context of how disability insurance works in real life. That way, it isn’t just vague words on a list in a company intranet.  

For more resources please review our website www.disabilitycanhappen.org.

How to Return to Work After A Disability

Returning to work after a disability can be challenging—not only might you feel out of the loop with relationships, projects and changes at work, but you are also dealing with the emotional and physical impact of your condition. (And if you didn’t have long-term disability insurance, you might be dealing with some financial repercussions as well.) But if you are feeling healthy enough to head back, you are probably eager to get back into the swing of things and “rejoin” work life. Here are some tips to ease the transition back to work.


Make Sure You’ve Been Cleared

Talk to your doctor about whether you’re truly ready to return to work and make sure that she has signed off on all the paperwork you need as documentation.


Practice Your Job At Home

Does your job entail a lot of typing? See how it feels to do so at home. Or, do you frequently give presentations? See if there are any challenges you’ll need to accommodate for, such as being able to stand or use the video equipment. Finding the potential pitfalls in advance will help you feel more confident. 


Talk To Human Resources

Chances are good that you’ve been in touch with the human resources department throughout your disability, but make sure that your first stop is to talk with them about any special accommodations you need, such as a quiet room to work in, a different kind of chair, assistance with mobility or an office space that features accessible design. While you’re there, revisit any sort of discussions you need to have about benefits.


Initiate a Chat with Your Supervisor

Whether it’s the same manager you left or someone new has taken the reins, schedule a private meeting with your supervisor to find out what you might have missed while out….new goals, new processes, new clients. Also be open with them about sharing any limitations you might have, whether they are physical or mental. Perhaps you need to take breaks more often, or can’t be on your feet for extended periods of time. If there’s information you’d like him or her to share with your team, this is the time to ask for that.


Communicate With Your Team

Part of the joy of work is the camaraderie you have with your workmates. If the same colleagues are still in your department, they surely have missed you, but they might be hesitant on how to approach you. Sending them a friendly email and then having lunch or coffee with them (as appropriate for your relationship) can be a good way to open the door. They might be unsure what topics are off-limits—be open with them about what you do and don’t want to talk about. Everyone has different privacy limits so consider yours and let your co-workers know. 


Start Slow

As you consider a return to work, plan for a staggered schedule as you get back into the swing of things. Maybe getting up and out the door is more difficult now so a later start is preferable. It could be that coming in every other day is the best you can manage to work efficiently, or you tire easier so you’d rather work five shorter days. Whatever schedule works for you is the right one; you don’t want to rush your return or re-entry. “As frustrating as it may be to spend long boring days at home, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be ready to resume working. A too-soon return could set back your recovery and set you up for failure, creating disappointment both for you and your company,” notes mindfulness and leadership development coach Isabel Duarte, who has experience returning from disability leave. 


Look Into Retraining

If you’ve been out for a while, you might have lost some skills or the rest of your team might have upskilled. You’ll gain confidence by getting up to speed so look into development opportunities for specific areas, whether you seek training from a fellow team member or ask your supervisor to recommend an outside course. 


Take Care of Yourself

No matter what the disability you are dealing with, you have undoubtedly had to relearn a host of skills that used to be second nature. In addition, adapting to a routine with a disability can be exhausting, especially when you have to return to work. Make sure you take time for self-care, whether than entails mild exercise, meditation, journaling or art therapy. And make sure to get plenty of rest so you can wake up refreshed and ready to handle the challenges that come with returning to work after a disability.


How to Help Your NEW Employee Make a Smooth Relocation

In today’s economy, many companies are finding it challenging to attract the talent they need to fill specific roles. Often that can mean finding a new hire or recruiting an existing employee from another city who would consider relocating for a new position. In fact, one study found that more than half of those surveyed said they had moved for a job in the past, with 80 percent saying they had considered it. Most said they wanted:

  • a better career opportunity
  • a change or a fresh start
  • a lower cost of living 

If you have employees relocating to your company—whether they are coming from a different branch or a different firm altogether—there are steps you can take to help them feel welcome.

Learn About Their Needs

The needs of a young single will be vastly different from a married couple with kids. One strategy is to create a questionnaire to find out what the new employee wants or needs in terms of a living situation, whether it’s the best school district in your area, or proximity to shopping and other cultural amenities. Finding out their interests can help you point them in the right direction to hunt for housing, and also can help you pair them with a similar employee, if possible, to help show them around the city.

Be a City Ambassador

Is your region known for outdoor adventures or nightlife? Are there art walks during the summer or fall festivals that everyone attends? Put together a little packet of interesting local information on your town.  It will help the new hire find the best pizza place or be in the know about the exhibits coming to the local art museum.

Connect Your New Hire with Local Specialists

Whether your new employee will be buying or renting, you’ll want to connect them with a local real estate agent who knows the lay of the land. If you have frequent relocations, consider finding a firm that will informally “partner” with you. Building these resources will help you help your new hires find the best neighborhood and situation for them.  Many real estate firms have agents who specialize in relocations or are experts in specific neighborhoods.

You also can help connect them with local services from cable TV and utilities to the nearest DMV to make their move as smooth as possible. You might consider also building a package that provides the details for all of these essential services. Don’t forget the family members—including their furry ones. Having the whole family on board for the move is going to make it smoother for the employee, which is good for the entire company.

Establish and Communicate Your Policies

Companies that regularly help employees relocate might have a robust roster of services. This includes a complete move to a temporary rental.  Companies that relocate employees less often might let workers handle the details (and expenses) themselves. It is important to communicate with the new employee exactly what is covered so there are no misunderstandings down the line.

Give a Special On-Boarding

While every new hire feels a certain amount of “culture shock” and needs to be acclimated, the feeling can be more acute in one who is brand new to the area, not just to your company. That’s why your regular onboarding should also include plenty of interpersonal information. It’s important to make them feel welcome in a place where they might not know a soul. Prepare to have their direct manager work with the team to be proactive about welcoming them.  It is a great idea to have the manager pair them with someone who has agreed to be their “go-to” person.  This is ideally someone who is a good match based on some of the demographic information you collected earlier.

Pay Extra Attention to Local Benefits Information

Programs you offer might be the same no matter where an employee is, but some might be impacted by region. For example, one location might offer gym memberships or public transportation reimbursement. As part of the transition, be prepared to take extra time to discuss the company’s medical benefits. A newly relocated employee might have specific questions about which hospitals are closest or where to find an orthodontist. This is also a great time to talk with them about what they need to know about disability insurance. This includes information about  Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits, if applicable.

An employee who has relocated to your company can add a special layer with fresh ideas and perspective. The goal is to make them feel welcome so that their new town and new company feel like “home” in no time.  The time you and your company take to support a new hire transition now will help in retaining that employee for the longterm.