Human resources and benefits managers have never been more put to the test than they have during this past year.
The pandemic has meant that they were suddenly managing a remote workforce while trying to fill immediate needs for short-term benefits such as emergency savings and child and elderly care support. In addition, economic instability and the racial justice crisis added to employees’ concerns and stresses.
Right now you’re likely in the sorting-out stage, trying to figure out how best to take what you learned in the crisis and apply it to long-term policies and tactics that will continue to support employees as we all enter the new and equally confusing post-pandemic stage.
What can you do to support workers during these–and future–times of uncertainty?
These three steps can help.
1. Make Sure Communications Are Honest and Accurate–and That They Reach Everyone
You’ve likely hit some obstacles as you tried to communicate COVID-oriented policies and protocols among your far-flung workers. In the process, you may have found strategies that work for you and others that don’t. Add to those lessons the following tips to help you move forward.
Research shows employees engage more if they think company communications are honest. That means it’s OK to tell employees management is still looking into a change or isn’t sure exactly when a new policy will be implemented. In uncertain times, it’s better to keep in touch. Employees are looking to you for leadership, but they also want to be in on the process when changes are taking place. What’s more, giving employees honest updates can avoid the need for damage control later.
Be the Voice of Reason and Compassion
Your employees are likely overloaded with news and information, some of which may be contradictory and confusing. It’s important that your communications stay on top of breaking news and add a clear, helpful, and understanding voice to the discussion when events impact the company, the employees, and benefits.
Take a Multi-Channel Approach
While email is still the most common way to communicate with employees, you also want to use mobile and social media to help ensure that all employees see vital communications no matter where they are or what their work situation may be. This will be, literally, reaching out to your employees where they are.
2. Review Your Voluntary Benefits
In times of uncertainty, employees may look to their employer for a shoulder to lean on. Many HR professionals have recognized this through the COVID-19 crisis by offering a variety of flexible benefits that can help employees solve their short-term financial challenges today and assist them in building a stronger future.
More employers are offering or planning to offer voluntary benefits across a wide spectrum of needs, according to the Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey by global advisory, broking, and solutions company Willis Towers Watson. A full 94% of employers find voluntary benefits to be important to their employee value proposition and Total Rewards strategy three years from now. That’s up compared to just 36% in 2018, according to the survey.
The fastest-growing benefits employees are offering include theft protection, hospital indemnity, critical illness insurance, and pet insurance. In addition, some of the most widespread voluntary benefits that employers offer or will offer over the next two years include financial planning counseling, tuition reimbursement programs, onsite fitness centers, backup childcare, and elder care, the survey reports. The range in responses illustrates the holistic approach that employers are taking toward benefit support.
Whatever combination of flexible or voluntary benefits you may be considering, you’ll want to be sure it fits your workers’ demographics and pressing needs. A variety of well-chosen benefits can help your employees face their specific challenges while also reducing stress and calming nerves during any period of uncertainty.
3. Help Employees Balance Short-Term and Long-Term Financial Well-Being
In uncertain times a flexible financial well-being approach that includes the short-term benefits employees need to make it through is more important than ever. That’s why so many employers have introduced the types of benefits that employees feel are most relevant to their current financial concerns. Those may include emergency savings programs, homeownership benefits, and student loan repayment programs, to name just a few.
But this doesn’t mean that the importance of retirement savings and other long-term benefits should be diminished. Far from it. The security of knowing long-term retirement savings is in place can help add to employees’ overall financial well-being, especially during tumultuous times. Through effective communication and education programs, HR professionals can help employees balance short-term and long-term financial needs and goals.
It’s essential in times like these to try to help employees feel –and be–secure. These strategies may help you and your company continue to improve financial well-being during these tumultuous times and during calmer days down the road.
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