AI And The Secret To Employee Happiness

When I started working as a mainframe operator in IT in 1988, I felt like I was part of a secret club. None of my family understood what I was doing; my friends would ask, “what’s a mainframe and why do you have to work nights?”

My onboarding took months, and a typical workday began with staring at a blank screen. Since mainframes didn’t come with a mouse, I would enter memorized commands like “=3.4” and “Sys3.AF*” to navigate the data sets I needed to find.I don’t think many workers today would put up with that.

Any manager who has tried to hire an employee today will agree the war for talent is real. Job perks like free lunches and on-site laundry just don’t cut it anymore. To recruit talent today, there’s really one thing that every enterprise needs to do: Make work better.

Make work easy

I’ve found that companies invest in digital transformation for three reasons: To work faster, to work more efficiently, and to change or expand their business models. But the end result of any digital transformation should be a better experience, and leaders often neglect the everyday experience of the workers who actually achieve these goals.

Consider this. Outside of work, most people have grown used to finding a new home, getting pet care, and organizing travel all with just a swipe of their finger on the touchscreen. They expect the same level of ease when it comes to the technologies they use at work. It’s no coincidence that the latest release of the Now Platform invested so heavily in improving user experience.

Sure, the interface looks beautiful. But the experience goes deeper than the surface by making the usage more intuitive. Good user experience is about simplifying and hiding complexity so that using it comes naturally to anyone. Make work easy.

Flex on flexibility

Many workplaces have returned to on-site or hybrid work, but I don’t think we’ll bring back the rigid workday schedule. The last two years have taught us that, while face-to-face and real-time interactions are invaluable, many other tasks can be done just as well, if not better, asynchronously.

Yes, it wasn’t fun to work from a makeshift standing desk in the kitchen while keeping one eye on a freakishly fast toddler. It’s no wonder why some employees have eagerly returned to the ergonomic office stocked with free snacks. But some of us love attending a meeting without sitting in traffic, having lunch without navigating a packed cafeteria, or taking a two-hour afternoon break to compensate for that evening call with Tokyo. You have to accommodate both types—and everyone in between.

Leaders learned the hard way in 2020 that you can’t just flip a switch and change the way a business is run. You have to stay ready with workplace technology that can support various—and changing—work models.

Flexibility, supported with a solid digital foundation, is no longer a choice. Clearly communicate what your employees need to deliver and let them decide where, when, and how. Or you can try to force a rigid work model and watch your talent flock to another employer.

AI and human intelligence aren’t mutually exclusive. They work best when they work together.

Automate the mundane

Automation has freed employees from many repetitive tasks, making work more fulfilling and creative. The digitization of work can go a step further by tapping artificial intelligence that effectively sorts through massive amounts of data and makes prescriptive recommendations. AI can even be used to make it easier for employees to be promoted internally—a huge factor in retaining and rewarding your workforce.

There’s a misconception that AI is designed to replace human workers. But for me, artificial intelligence is actually about the interface between people and machines, making lives more interesting by automating the mundane, removing friction, and presenting the right information and insights.

Better together

Knowledge workers thrive when they can harness technology to make more effective decisions. These decisions aren’t only reactive but also proactive—something that AI enables through its predictive power, which can anticipate and adjust to a world full of constantly changing variables.

When it comes to digital transformation, we think of how it impacts the bottom line by improving speed and efficiency. But how do we improve speed and efficiency? By empowering our talent with the delightful and intuitive experiences they deserve.

AI and human intelligence aren’t mutually exclusive. They work best when they work together.

Dave Wright is ServiceNow’s chief innovation officer and acts as an evangelist for how to improve workplace productivity. He has worked with thousands of

Source: AI And The Secret To Employee Happiness

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Digital Transformation Strategy in 2020 »

Where to Start with a Digital Transformation Strategy »

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What happens to businesses that don’t have a Digital Transformation Strategy? »

What are the top 5 Digital Transformation Strategy Frameworks?

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What is Digital Transformation?

The Difference Between Digitization and Digital Transformation

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Six Tips To Retain Key Employees And Prevent High Turnover Rates

High turnover is a nightmare for HR personnel and the owner of a company. The loss of a valuable employee can be detrimental to growth. Not only can the loss lead to lower productivity, but it can also cost the company financially.

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, in July 2021, about 4 million people quit their jobs and about 10.9 million positions were declared open. This year, the UK reported an employee deficiency that has had a crippling effect on its economy. In the tech industry, managers have said that the increase in turnover is at an all-time high.

As a business owner, when employee turnover is high, it is time to re-evaluate the business. You first have to determine why your employees are leaving before you know how to stop it. Some of those reasons could be a lack of one or more of the following: flexibility, support, growth, appreciation, vision and engagement.

There are many reasons why your employees could decide to leave your company. Now while one or two employees leaving may seem negligible, a large number of employees, especially important ones, is cause for alarm. Here are a few strategies you can implement to help prevent high turnover rates.

1. Have flexible work options.

One thing many individuals have realized since the pandemic hit is that they can have flexible work hours and still be productive. According to a report by Beqom (download required), over 70% of American workers would take a job with flexible working hours over a higher-paying one. Flexibility does not have to be in the number of hours alone. It may also be start time, vacation days or day-to-day regulations in the organization, among other things.

Most employees do not want to work in a harsh environment where rules are set in stone with no possibility of flexibility whatsoever. Rules in the workplace are important to ensure that everything runs properly; however, when the rules are too rigid, employees can start to feel smothered.

2. Offer your employees support.

Many employees value empathy in their employer and will likely seek out and stick with an employer that cares about their well-being as a person instead of just the value they add to the company. Ask your employees what area of their job they find unnecessarily taxing and how you can make it easier on them; an immediate solution may not be possible but making an effort is the first step. This could also help solve or prevent burnout. And according to a Microsoft report, 54% of employees say they are overworked.

Support employees in learning a new skill for their current role — it would ultimately serve both you and the employee. While it’s almost impossible to solve all the problems of your employees, offering support goes a long way.

3. Help employees reach their career goals.

This is one of the main reasons employees leave. If they feel as though they are not growing in their careers, they could be tempted to look elsewhere. An organization that promotes career-driven goals can help employees achieve those goals to the benefit of everyone involved.

If an employee is steadily growing at an organization and they see a good prospect for them there, they are less likely to move on. Help your employees attain this by creating avenues for growth; this includes networking programs, seminars, mentoring opportunities and so on.

4. Acknowledge and appreciate your employees.

A good way to motivate your employees is to always acknowledge when someone does a great job. Everyone wants to be recognized for their hard work, and if an employee isn’t feeling appreciated, it could cause them to consider leaving your company. Believe it or not, many employees value this more than salary. Appreciate employees when they do a good job in the way that most suits them.

5. Communicate your vision.

No one wants to work at an organization that doesn’t have a clear vision or is left out of the loop. As employees grow, your business must also grow in scope. Have a clear vision for the future of your business, and be committed to communicating it. Feelings of being left in the dark, or low/poor communication in general, can make employees consider leaving. Employees can’t share in your vision if it doesn’t exist or is unclear.

6. Involve your employees.

No matter how good you are at running a business, not seeking your team’s input before making decisions could have devastating effects. When all the decisions are made without the input of employees, the work environment starts to feel like a dictatorship where ideas and input are not welcome. This can lead to employees moving to other companies where they feel like their opinion matters. Involve relevant stakeholders for each decision where it’s appropriate; there’s a balance to strike between stalling all decisions and authoritarian management.

As an HR professional or a business owner, you can help prevent high employee turnover or keep that star employee happy by keeping the above tips in mind. The most important thing is to recognize dissatisfaction in your staff and react in a timely way to offer solutions so they can continue being an active and productive member of your staff.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Marketing Consultant/Franchise Owner of Sylvan Learning Center of Murrieta, CA. Read Chastity Heyward’s full executive profile here.

Source: Six Tips To Retain Key Employees And Prevent High Turnover Rates

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How To Choose The Right Employee Benefits For 2022 During Open Enrollment

For employees, it’s not pumpkin spice season right now, it’s Open Enrollment season. That means it’s time to make the health and retirement plan choices that will be right for you in 2022.

It isn’t easy, and many workers feel uneasy about choosing wisely. In its 2021 State of Work in America survey of 1,500 U.S. employees, the professional services firm Grant Thornton found that 36% of workers weren’t confident they’d chosen the best medical plan. And 80% of employees surveyed by Lincoln Financial said they wish they better understood some aspect of their retirement plan.

Employees can expect to see rising out-of-pocket health costs through their employer coverage in 2022, including premium increases of 4% to 5%. Some higher-paid workers will be asked to pay more for their health insurance than lower-paid workers. Roughly a third of employers surveyed by the benefits consulting firm Willis Towers WLTW +0.1% said they’d consider narrowing the network of doctors and other health care providers available to patients.

But you may be in for a few pleasant surprises.

“As employers continue to compete for talent, many are adding a number of new benefits to their lineup for next year including resources and additional paid leave for caregivers, surgery Centers of Excellence [more on this below], financial planning and expanded mental health benefits, virtual physical therapy and other digital health programs,” says Erin Tatar, senior vice president of workplace consulting at Fidelity Investments.

Some employers have added an emergency savings account option through payroll deductions, too. About 23% of employees are currently offered one, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Tatar’s advice: “Take time to attend virtual benefits fairs to review the growing list of health, wealth and other benefits from your employer this fall.”

Getting the Right Health Coverage

For many older workers, access to affordable health care coverage is the No. 1 employee benefit they seek. Before you enroll in a health plan for 2022, ask yourself: How much did I pay in premiums this year? How many trips to the doctor, hospital or emergency room did members of my household make? What else did we spend out-of-pocket for health care in 2021?

Then, start comparing the features and prices of your options, since they can vary significantly. Compare the benefits, rules, restrictions and costs such as co-pays, annual deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. You may well need to deal with Alphabet City, deciding among a high deductible health plan (HDHP) with a health savings account or HSA (an HSA lets you save money in a tax-advantaged account and then withdraw cash tax-free to pay for qualified medical expenses), a health maintenance organization (HMO) plan and a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan.

Don’t assume that whatever health plan and benefits you had in 2021 will be the best for you in 2022. Your plan may have changed. Your circumstances may have changed; for example, if your last son or daughter is now in college, it might make sense to buy a university plan for that child while you and your spouse change from family coverage to “employee + 1” coverage.

And don’t miss out on the panoply of health benefits in your plan choices, especially new benefits that can save you money.

“An often-overlooked benefit for older workers is a surgery Centers of Excellence program,” says Tatar. Here, if you are planning to have surgery — such as spine, knee, hip or bariatric surgery — the company will arrange for you to receive care from a Center of Excellence to receive top notch and affordable treatment.

“They will often provide more generous benefits coverage for patients who participate and will cover any upfront travel costs for you and a companion if the best care is outside your community,” Tatar notes.

If you’re in good health, says Seth Mullikin of Lattice Financial in Charlotte, N.C, “an HSA (with a high deductible plan) generally makes sense. From a financial planning perspective, it gets better if you can fund these costs from personal savings and let your HSA money grow tax-free over time.”

The HSA also lets you pay for health expenses in the future, even into retirement, adds Mullikin. In 2022, employees with high-deductible health plans will generally be allowed to contribute up to $3,650 in an HSA; as much as $7,300 for family coverage.

Time for a Second Opinion?

You may also be able to sign up to get a second opinion as part of your health coverage. Some employers have even expanded eligibility to receive a second medical opinion for an employee’s parents and grandparents.

“As we get older, the risk of having a serious health event increases. If this happens to you, it’s natural to seek a second opinion. Some employers we are working with now want to give employees better peace of mind, so they offer ‘second opinion’ benefits,” notes Tatar. “Then they can provide an entire medical diagnosis and treatment plan as an option for you to discuss with your doctor. And it is usually covered one hundred percent.”

Mental Health Coverage

The pandemic and revelations by star athletes including tennis’ Naomi Osaka and gymnastics’ Simone Biles, has made taking care of our mental health a priority.

More than three-quarters of large employers surveyed by the nonprofit Business Group on Health say access to mental health care is now a top priority. In 2021, 62% of employers this group surveyed added mental health benefits.

To that end, check to see if your employer is incorporating resiliency and mindfulness training and mental health options such as telehealth counseling into its benefits offerings.

Disability Coverage

You may also want to look into getting disability insurance coverage through work.

“Your chance of being disabled is much greater than the risk of premature death,” says wealth adviser Graham Ewing of Financial Consulate in Hunt Valley, Md. “If your employer is offering disability insurance, consider it.”

But, he adds, “you need to understand how disability is being defined by the insurance company. For example, some policies will pay out benefits for only two years if you can’t do your current job. Others won’t pay beyond two years if you are not completely incapacitated. So, find out what’s covered and what’s not.”

Group disability coverage typically pays up to 60% of salary if you can’t keep working at your job or switch to another position and you expect to be disabled for a year or more.

Care Giving Benefits

If you are caring for an aging loved one or someone with a serious illness, inquire about work/life balance or employee assistance programs. Some companies are now offering caregiver navigation benefits which connect you with experts to help find local elder care resources or options for assisted living or nursing homes.

If you’re a caregiver, you’ll likely need some give and take with your schedule, so see what HR will do for you.

Says Tim Glowa, a principal and leader of Grant Thornton’s employee listening and human capital services offerings: “Everyone has a unique set of responsibilities outside of the office. As companies return to the office, it will be more crucial than ever to give people the time they need to take care of what’s important at home.”

Financial Wellness and Retirement Planning

Open Enrollment season may also be a good time to revisit your retirement plan and do a “financial check-up,” similar to getting an annual wellness physical from your doctor, says Ewing.

“You may want to revisit your risk tolerance, especially if you are concerned about gyrations in the stock market,” he adds.

Mullikin notes that many of his 50+ clients are worried about having enough money to retire comfortably. “So, our first order of business is to find out if they can increase, or max out, their 401(k) contributions,” he says.

Another way to save more for retirement when you’re over 50 is to make catch-up contributions to your retirement plan.

These let you put in up to $6,500 more than others can in a 401(k) or 403(b) plan or up to $1,000 in an Individual Retirement Account. “Plus, you and your spouse (if they are also enrolled) can make catch-up contributions of up to a thousand dollars to your HSA at age fifty-five,” notes Mullikin.

Reimbursing Your Remote Work Expenses

If you’ll be working remotely in 2022, even part of the time, check with your HR department about getting reimbursed for home office expenses like a standing desk, a Wi-Fi extender, a headset and any ergonomic equipment designed to keep you healthy and productive.

About a fifth of employers the benefits consulting firm Mercer surveyed said they’d be adding or enhancing reimbursement for off-site workers in 2021, including subsidizing ergonomic furniture.

Some firms pay for setups of $200 to $300. Others offer partial ongoing reimbursement for an employee’s home internet service and cell service.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Next Avenue is public media’s first and only national journalism service for America’s booming older population. Our daily content delivers vital ideas, context and…

Source: How To Choose The Right Employee Benefits For 2022 During Open Enrollment

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Employers Need To Tread Carefully On The Road Back To Office Working

Open plan office

In some ways the coming weeks and months are likely to be more difficult for organizations and employees than the past year or so has been. With governments increasingly intent on opening up economies effectively closed down by the pandemic, uncertainty is rife.

Employers and staff alike are caught between wanting to go back to something like normal and not wishing to take too many risks, especially since the Delta variant of the coronavirus is pushing spikes in new cases even in countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. where significant proportions of the population have been at least partially vaccinated.

One factor that could be behind the unease about rushing back to normal working habits is a feeling that, just as governments made mistakes in the handling of the crisis, so too did organizations. According to a survey just out from the finance comparison platform NerdWallet, a third of the U.K.’s business leaders are dissatisfied with the way that staff have been managed through the pandemic.

A similar proportion said that financial stability and business productivity was put ahead of staff safety. Unsurprisingly perhaps, more than half of the nearly 1,000 decision-makers questioned said they planned to carry out a review of how they had handled things. However, nearly half have already invested in new equipment designed to improve health and safety and to facilitate social distancing, while more than half have introduced greater flexibility to working hours.

Employers’ definitions of flexibility appear to be, well, flexible. An insight into the current situation is provided by the consultancy Mercer in its latest survey of working policies and practices among nearly 600 employers in the U.S.. The key findings were:

  • Hybrid working — a blend of in-person and remote working — was favoured by vast majority.
  • Predominantly office-based working was the preference of a fifth of employers.
  • Fully remote or virtual-first working was the choice of just 6% of employers
  • A distributed model making increased use of satellite campuses was likely to be adopted by just 4%.

Mercer’s research and analysis suggests that, across all industries, the proportion of the workforce working on-site full-time is likely to be about 40%. The hybrid category will probably be split, with about 29% of the workforce working remotely one or two days a week and approximately 17% doing so three or four days a week. About 14% of workers are expected to work remotely full-time.

The challenge for employers will be deciding how they can retain the employee experience and hang on to talent. Lauren Mason, principal in Mercer’s career business, and Ravin Jesuthasan, global leader of Mercer’s transformation business, suggest five principles to consider:

  1. Empower teams but set guidelines:  Nearly all employers plan to bring in changes to working policies as a result of the pandemic. Nearly half are already actively developing a strategy, while nearly a quarter of employers are in the process of implementing or have already implemented plans. Employers can and should empower teams to continue to work flexibly but they should also establish guidelines to maximize business outcomes and ensure a consistent employee experience.
  2. Keep a pulse on the market and your competition: Flexibility will likely have a high impact on an organization’s ability to retain talent. If employees are unhappy about employers’ flexible working plans, they will be likely to consider other workplaces that might better meet their needs.
  3. Don’t rush to get employees to the office: Employers should focus on returning employees in a way where co-working benefits can be maximized immediately. They should concentrate on making workers feel energized, empowered and engaged to be back together with their colleagues. This may entail phased transitions, where employees may only initially come in one or two days a week, planned team meetings or on-site social events and celebrations to make those early office days more purposeful.
  4. Stay agile: Workers do not want or need a standardized solution. Employers can demonstrate a continued trust and sense of partnership that was so valued during the pandemic by providing options that are appropriate for the work being performed. The key is to give employees some control and flexibility.
  5. Don’t limit flexibility to remote work: Flexible working is about more than remote working. Inclusive flexibility ensures that all jobs can be flexible when needed. Given the massive challenges employers are facing in attracting and retaining workers, options such as flexible schedules or compressed workweeks can be a huge differentiator. Progressive companies are not just challenging “when” and “where” work is done but also how the it is done, who does it and what the work is.
Check out my website.

I am a U.K.-based journalist with a longstanding interest in management. In a career dating back to the days before newsroom computers I have covered everything from popular music to local politics. I was for many years an editor and writer at the “Independent” and “Independent on Sunday” and have written three books, the most recent of which is “What you need to know about business.”

Source: Employers Need To Tread Carefully On The Road Back To Office Working

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Why Your Return to the Office Requires Two Workplace Safety Policies

Operating amid the pandemic has entered a new phase of difficulty–particularly for employers of both vaccinated and unvaccinated workers. Shortly after the CDC updated its guidelines on May 13, noting that vaccinated individuals no longer needed to wear facemasks indoors, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency that oversees workplace health and safety, updated its Covid-19 guidance.

On June 26, OSHA updated guidance in compliance with the CDC to help employers protect workers who are still not vaccinated, with a special emphasis on industries with prolonged close-contacts such as meat processing, manufacturing, seafood, and grocery and high-volume retail. The guidance includes protocols for social distancing, mask wearing, and other health procedures meant to keep both parties safe.

Considering that just 52 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, chances are some of your employees have yet to get a jab. That means if you’re planning a return to the office, you’ll also need to create two separate workplace health policies.

These policies will be different from business to business, depending on the level of community spread in a given location and the level of contact employees have with the public. But acting is a must, says David Barron, labor and employment attorney at Cozen O’Connor. Failing to address a stratified workplace–or even just relying on the honor system–could lead to legal trouble, a loss of morale, turnover, and employees falling sick.

Founders like Dominique Kemps aren’t taking any chances. Her business, GlassExpertsFL, a commercial glass repair company, is located in Miami. Florida overall has been particularly hard hit by the Delta variant, a more contagious strain of the coronavirus. Daily, about 10 in 100,000 people are contracting the coronavirus by way of the Delta variant. As of July 2, only 46 percent of the population of Florida was fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Kemps has devised two separate physical workspaces: one for vaccinated employees and another for those who remain unvaccinated. Also for unvaccinated employees, meetings are held virtually, while vaccinated employees can wear a mask and attend if desired. Vaccinated employees can also eat lunch together, while Kemps has asked unvaccinated employees to eat in a designated area. “Frankly,” she says, “it hasn’t been easy.”

Here’s how to ease the transition:

1. Request vaccination information.

Before you make any decisions regarding which policies to enact, first ask and keep track of who is vaccinated and who isn’t, says Dr. Shantanu Nundy, chief medical officer at Accolade, a benefit provider for health care workers. An employer can request a copy of an employee’s vaccination card or other proof, which should help you determine how much of your workforce falls under one policy or another.

If you opt to review vaccination information, note that anything you collect must be considered confidential information that has to be kept private in files that are separate from personnel files. A failure to do so may result in anti-discrimination violations under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, two laws that protect workers from health status discrimination.

2. Overcommunicate any policy changes.

It’s also crucial to communicate any change in policy openly. Robert Johnson, founder of Sawinery, a Windsor, Connecticut-based creator of woodworking projects, divided workers into two shifts, the first for vaccinated individuals, and another for unvaccinated workers. He’s made it clear to his staff that he’s waiting until everyone is vaccinated before returning to the original schedule.

“The structure won’t compromise anyone’s safety and everyone can work without any worries in mind,” says Johnson.

3. Stay flexible.

If anything has been true about the pandemic, it’s that things can change rapidly. As such, Nundy recommends clarifying that policies are flexible and may be subject to change. Some unvaccinated folks may want to leave if they feel they’re being treated differently, such as not being allowed into the office. Some smart wording can easily allay these concerns, he says. Instead of telling unvaccinated employees that they’re not welcome in the office again, make it clear that the policies are temporary–if that’s the case, of course–and that you’re open to feedback, adds Nundy.

The occupational safety and health policy defines the goals for the occupational health and safety work in the workplace and for activities that promote the working capacity of the staff. The policy also describes occupational health and safety responsibilities and the way of organizing the cooperation measures. The preparation of the occupational safety and health policy is based on the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The policy is employer-specific and applies to all employers.

By: Brit Morse, Assistant editor, Inc.@britnmorse

Source: Why Your Return to the Office Requires Two Workplace Safety Policies | Inc.com

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Critics:

Workplace wellness is any workplace health promotion activity or organizational policy designed to support healthy behavior in the workplace and to improve health outcomes. Known as ‘corporate wellbeing’ outside the US, workplace wellness often comprises activities such as health education, medical screenings, weight management programs, on-site fitness programs or facilities.

Workplace wellness programs can be categorized as primary, secondary, or tertiary prevention efforts, or an employer can implement programs that have elements of multiple types of prevention. Primary prevention programs usually target a fairly healthy employee population, and encourage them to more frequently engage in health behaviors that will encourage ongoing good health (such as stress management, exercise and healthy eating).

Secondary prevention programs are targeted at reducing behavior that is considered a risk factor for poor health (such as smoking cessation programs and screenings for high blood pressure). Tertiary health programs address existing health problems (for example, by encouraging employees to better adhere to specific medication or self-managed care guidelines).

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