Don’t Leave Your FSA Money on the Table this Year | Texas Benefits Team

As 2019 is nearing an end, many people are looking at this year’s medical expenses to plan for how much they should set back for next year. In investigating these expenditures, you may notice that you still have money in your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for 2019. FSAs are unique in that any unused money from this plan year is forfeited once the new year begins. You definitely do not want to leave money in your FSA once 2020 rolls around. To help, we’ve compiled a list of some ways to use up your hard-earned FSA money that you may not have thought possible!

  • Acupuncture
  • Acne treatment
  • Breast pump and supplies
  • Chiropractic treatments
  • Dental treatments—orthodontia, medically necessary water fluoride treatments, caps, fillings, x-rays
  • Eyes—glasses, surgery, contact lenses
  • First aid kit
  • Genetic testing—including BRCA gene testing
  • Motion sickness medicine
  • Nutritionist consultations
  • Sunscreen
  • Smoking cessation program
  • Vaporizer
  • Vasectomy
  • Weight loss programs/surgery

There are even some high-tech gadgets that may fall into the medically qualified expenses category:

  • Acne light therapy
  • Electronic stimulation instruments for pain
  • Medically necessary mattresses
  • Smart thermometers

Don’t leave your FSA money on the table in 2019! You have earned this money so make sure you use it to its full potential.

This list is not an exhaustive list of ways to spend your FSA money nor does it guarantee your insurance program considers these to be qualified expenses. Check with your HR department and insurance agent if you have questions about qualified expenses.

 


AI in HR | Texas Employee Benefits Advisors

Artificial intelligence is pushing humans and machines closer together.  It’s exciting!  AI’s influences are being felt across the HR space… being used to automate business processes, enhance efficiency, and reduce bias among other things.  In fact, McKinsey’s latest forecast of AI’s impact on the global economy is that it will generate $13 trillion in economic activity across the globe by 2030.

But, there is room for improvement, and top executives want it yesterday.  A recent survey from PricewaterhouseCooper found 72% of executives believe AI will offer sizable business advantages in the near future.  In another survey from IBM, 66% of CEOs believe AI can drive significant value in HR.  Some are already exploring those opportunities.  Uber, for instance, completed the world’s first cargo shipment using a truck controlled by AI!

State of AI in HR

AI as a Tool

The inclusion of artificial intelligence in the HR professional’s toolbox is not surprising.  When looking for answers, look no further than the iPhone, for instance, or the black, cylindrical Echo tower sitting on the counter.  Whether its Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Echo, people are using artificial intelligence at home in their day-to-day lives.  It makes sense, then, that AI has made it into the workplace.

In most professional settings, AI is not required to do mundane tasks like answer questions about the weather or turn on the lights.  Instead, AI is asked to do much more.

Reducing Human Bias

Humans are inherently bias.  Even when striving for inclusiveness, HR professionals may subconsciously lean toward a particular candidate… for instance, someone who is more like the recruiter.  Another potential bias, language bias; people’s subconscious word associations could indicate a particular preference.

Now, thanks to AI, algorithms can be designed to help employers identify and remove these biases.  That potentially translates to better hiring communications and attracting a more diverse group of candidates.  Those same algorithms can also find candidates who may have been screened out due to human bias.  To put it in context, AI allows managers to go beyond gut feelings and rely on data-driving assessments.

AI Automation

AI is being used in HR to automate repetitive, low-value tasks thus increasing the focus on more strategic work.  AI tools automate common HR tasks like benefits management or handling common questions or requests.

Recruiting through AI

Custom experiences are expected by applicants.  These are tailored to unique needs as they apply for a new job, choose the right benefits or explore development opportunities.

Companies have implemented “AI recruiters” to automate scheduling interviews, provide ongoing feedback to candidates and answer their questions in real time.  This allows human recruiters to spend more time converting candidates to hires.

Retention

Some companies are using AI platforms to single out employees that may be heading for the exit door.  Those platforms track employee computer activity, emails, keystrokes, internet browsing and so on and store it.  Then AI analyzes the data to determine a baseline of normal activity patterns in the organization. Based on that knowledge, outliers are flagged and reported to the employer.  AI is also being used to detect changes in the overall tone of employees’ communications to predict when employees might be thinking of leaving.

AI Makes HR More Human

At some point in the career of an HR professional the question is asked:  how can human resources become more human?  At least one company believes it has the answer.  Best Buy Canada says it’s to add more machines.  Chris Taylor is the chief human resources officer for Best Buy Canada.  He has gone on record saying the embracing of artificial intelligence and machine learning applications in human capital management is a “mandatory investment in the future.”

So, why add more machines to make HR more human?

The automation of tasks through AI technology allows for the freeing of HR professionals to focus on uniquely human abilities such as critical thinking, creativity, and empathy.  While they are involved with the more human tasks, technology, at the moment, can handle the more mundane tasks.

All of that said, in a lot of ways artificial intelligence is still growing and learning itself.

What does that statement mean? AI is able to search a query based on the words you are using and give you a response, but that response isn't contextual.

AI is heading in that direction though.

Instead of writing responses specifically to specific inputs… you just have a huge database of language around a specific knowledge domain and the AI can go into that knowledge domain and answer the questions from the user.

HR professionals interested in pursuing AI want it to do much more than answer questions and rummage through applications. They want to use it as a learning platform.

But it’s not there yet.

AI can teach itself to do something, but it's not at the stage it can replace humans beings as the "drivers of education." In the future, it may be used that way, but it would require a lot of adaptability.

Taylor says Best Buy Canada is embracing as much technology as they can get their hands on.  For instance, the company has started investing in cloud-based solution that uses artificial intelligence, voice technology and machine learning.  All of these technologies, Best Buy Canada hopes, will better the employee experience.

Conclusion

As much as the HR technology landscape continues to be disrupted by AI, HR teams must find ways to balance these advancements with transparency.  It is essential in making sure the implementation of AI technology is successful.  At the end of the day, artificial intelligence is not the end-all-be-all answer to every quandary HR finds itself in.  It is a tool and nothing more.  A tool that can improperly function based on the data it is given in order to work effectively.  Even so, artificial intelligence can be a valuable resource.  Work to embrace it now because it’s likely you’ll be expected to use it in the future.

By Mason Stevenson

Originally posted on hrexchangenetwork.com


Nutrition Tips for Busy Families | FW Benefits Consultants

The typical family in the US looks quite different today than it did 30 years ago. School, sports, church, clubs and activities, and longer work hours have changed the way we allocate our time as well as how we eat.  With families getting busier and busier, how do you make healthy eating a priority? It’s actually pretty easy!

New Look/Old Concept

Do you remember the food pyramid that your health teacher showed you in elementary school? It looked a little something like this:

Grains were depicted as the largest food group, taking up the most room on the pyramid. We were encouraged to eat 6-11 servings a day! Dairy and meats comprised less than ¼ of the recommended foods. Today, the food pyramid has been completely reworked to now look like this:

Gone is the illustration that suggested one food group was more important than another. New guidelines encourage a balanced plate of food and help users visualize what their actual plate should look like. Here are some simple tips for busy families to follow to achieve balanced nutrition.


Make a Meal Plan

Sit down with your family and brainstorm some meals that everyone likes. After you have a good-sized list of family favorites, make a menu of what you are going to make for dinner this week. When you go grocery shopping, buy only the items you need to make these dinners and stick to it. Not only will this cut down on making multiple trips to the grocery store each week (who has time for that?) but it also allows you to plan a balanced meal and ensures you have the ingredients to keep it balanced. Fewer trips to the store also means less money spent on impulse items!


5 Food Groups & Being Sneaky

Instead of placing a greater emphasis on one type of food, like in the old food pyramid, the United States Department of Agriculture now encourages an almost even distribution of food groups. Fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy should be nearly equally represented on your plate. Have a picky eater who just will not eat veggies? Sneak them in! Grate carrots to include in your lasagna sauce or throw a handful of spinach leaves in your child’s breakfast smoothie. Be creative to keep that plate a balanced one.


Meal Prep = Saved Minutes

The number one excuse busy families make for not eating healthy is that it takes too much time to cook at home when they need to be on the go.  It’s just easier and faster to grab a meal in the drive-thru versus making one in the kitchen. That doesn’t have to be so! When you make your week-long meal plan, you can choose the amount of time you can allot to meal prep. Don’t choose labor-intensive meals when you have a short window of time to cook and eat. Also, set aside a couple hours on the weekend and prep as much of the meals as you can for the week. Grill all the chicken you need at one time. Chop all the vegetables for the week and measure them out into baggies for each recipe. Portion out healthy snacks for the week so they are quick to grab on the way to the next activity. By spending a small amount of time planning ahead for the week, you will save yourself from bad food choices when you are at your busiest (and hungriest).


Creativity is Key

Food boredom is real. We are all guilty of saying “nothing looks good to eat” when we stare mindlessly into the pantry or refrigerator while searching for a snack or trying to figure out a meal.  To keep a busy family from getting bored of eating the same old stuff, be creative with your meals! And being creative doesn’t have to mean making flower shaped sandwiches or taking extra time to cook. Creativity is as simple as a Google search for “Grab and Go Breakfasts” or “Quick Healthy Meals.”

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be out of reach for a busy family. By following these very basic and very simple tips, you can cook up a balanced plate of food for your loved ones each week. Your waistband and your wallet will both thank you for adopting some new nutrition habits. Your friends at your favorite fast food drive-thru may miss seeing you everyday, but you can always stop by and drop off a healthy snack to share.


How to Implement an Employee Training Program | Texas Employee Benefits Agency

Employee training programs are beneficial to organizations of varying sizes. Even small companies can improve customer service skills. Large organizations often need training programs specifically targeted to employee development and changing technologies. The Society for Human Resource Management says that offering training programs to employees helps the employee feel more engaged and committed to the organization. Implement an employee training program in your organization to improve job morale and teach new skills.

Step 1

Analyze your organizational needs. Interview managers and supervisors and identify employee performance areas that need strengthening. Review employee performance appraisals to locate common performance problems. Call the human resources department of similarly sized and focused organizations and ask what training programs have been valuable to them.

Step 2

Present your research findings to the committee or the company's leadership team. Prepare a detailed presentation and be prepared to answer questions. Outline the benefits of each proposed program, anticipated costs and time requirements. Demonstrate the need for each program by preparing detailed analysis of problem areas and possible solutions. Ask for input, suggestions and changes.

Step 3

Finalize your plan and determine your budget for the next fiscal year. Request funds using your company's budgeting process. When calculating your employee training budget, include materials, travel, speaker fees, computer access charges and food in the budgeted amount. Ask for funds before the fiscal year begins rather than requesting unbudgeted money during the fiscal year.

Step 4

Take the total budget and allocate the funds by department, per employee or per training program, recommends the American Society for Training and Development. Consider the benefits you expect from each training program and decide if the cost of the program will give you the desired results. Decide if training programs will be required or optional.

Step 5

List the training classes you will offer over the next year. Divide the classes by type and employee attendance. Prepare a schedule and publish it on your company's intranet. If possible, allow employees to sign up electronically to save valuable personnel time. Be sensitive to departmental schedules and work flow.

Step 6

Contract with outside firms or select and internal trainer to provide training. Call the potential trainer's references and verify that his materials and presentation style fit your needs. Ask him to give you samples of his work, a quote of his complete fees and a list of any needed equipment. Outsourcing training can save money when you consider the administrative and program costs.

Select an internal trainer for training programs you will handle. Ask an employee with expertise in the field to teach a class or utilize member of your company's human resources department. Set clear expectations of class content and have a feedback system in place. Consider extra compensation if training is not part of the employee's job description.

Step 7

Evaluate the success of each program immediately after the program's completion. Ask the participants to fill out prepared evaluation forms. Analyze the comments to plan for further training. Follow-up with supervisors during the year to gauge the continued effectiveness of the training programs.

 

by Diane Lynn
Originally posted on Livestrong.com


Volunteering Time Off, Part Two | Fort Worth Benefits Team

Right now our national unemployment rate is 3.7%--edging towards a 50-year low. With this low rate, companies are actually finding it increasingly harder to hire and retain great talent. One way to combat this issue is by increasing employee engagement through volunteering.

 

In survey after survey, employees state that they want to work for companies who care for others.  In fact, “71% of employees surveyed say it’s very important to work where culture supports volunteering,” according to America’s Charities Snapshot. There are different types of volunteer options when looking to begin a volunteer program at a company. For example, entire companies can come together for a big “Day of Service” event.  Or perhaps there is an ongoing need in the community, like Meals on Wheels, and employees sign up to help when needed by the charity. Offering pro bono services to non-profit community groups or donating skills for specific projects are other ways to assist charities in your area.

 

The issue of time worked and pay typically comes up when talking about employer sponsored/encouraged volunteering. There are a couple different ways that companies structure this. One way is to simply pay employees for their usual time at the workplace even though they are not actually working on company business at the time of the volunteer project. This is typical of big “Day of Service” campaigns during the workweek. Another way is to encourage employees to donate their break or lunch time to complete volunteer service projects. Finally, and this is the emerging trend in employee benefits, is to give each employee Volunteer Time Off (VTO) hours as part of their benefits package.

 

The benefits of VTO are numerous. One of the biggest values of VTO is that of employee recruitment and retention.  PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted a survey and the results were that “59% of Millennials gravitated towards companies with pronounced Corporate Social Responsibility programs.”  For retention, the value is even higher, “74% of employees say their job is more fulfilling when given the opportunity to make a positive impact at work.” Companies also see a benefit in camaraderie across departments and company hierarchy. Working together towards a common goal builds these interdepartmental relationships. Also, by playing towards strengths unseen in a regular office setting, employers have a chance to discover untapped leadership skills and completely unknown skill sets of employees. Finally, your company’s brand image is boosted by the view of its involvement in the community.

 

Whatever the benefit that your company assigns to a healthy VTO program, be it retention, image, or team building, the fact remains that there WILL BE a benefit. If you are looking to begin the search for the right fitting program, there are great resources available for you. Check out this quick read on Charities.org and also the great tips on SalesForce.com. Start the conversation today with your leadership and start making an impact in your community!


Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room | TX Benefits Advisors

Let’s say you are getting ready to make your favorite breakfast—avocado toast. You’ve toasted the bread, cut the avocado in half, and are ready to remove the dreaded pit. Of course, your knife slips and you end up slicing your hand—making you the latest victim of “avocado hand.” It seems you cannot stop the bleeding with a simple bandage so now you need to make the decision on where to go to seek help. Do you choose an urgent care facility or the emergency room? What’s the difference?

Urgent care centers and emergency rooms are both great options for times when you are unable to see your primary care physician (PCP). The reasons for choosing these facilities can be because the injury or sickness has occurred outside normal office hours for your doctor or that you are out of town when an emergency hits. As you know, the first choice for non-life or limb-threatening conditions should be your regular doctor—they will have your medical history on file and your medication list at the ready. When this is not an option, you will need to make the choice on what level of care you need.

 

Urgent Care Centers

Urgent care centers fill the gap between when you are sick or minorly injured but cannot see your PCP and when you are in need of hospital emergency care. Most urgent care locations are staffed by doctors or physician’s assistants. These centers can get you in and out quickly and some even take appointments. Since you will not see your PCP at these clinics, it’s always best to bring a copy of all the medications and dosages of meds you take. If you have a special condition, like epilepsy, make sure you disclose that to the urgent care provider you see. In the case of your avocado hand, your urgent care physician may be able to do minor stitches and bandaging at the facility. Most have access to x-ray machines and basic diagnostic tests. The typical range of costs for care at these centers is between $50-$150.

Here are some conditions that typically can be seen at urgent care centers:

  • Fevers, flu or cold symptoms
  • Ear infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Cuts and bleeding that may require stitches
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Minor back pain

 

Emergency Room Care

Hospital emergency rooms provide care for life and limb-threatening situations ranging from heart attack and stroke to car accident injuries. Staffed by physicians, nurses, and specialists, emergency rooms have access to highly knowledgeable and diverse medical teams.  In emergency rooms, care is given to the most serious injury/illness first—not on a first-come, first-served basis. Because of this, wait times in emergency rooms are widely varied and may be into a several hours-long wait. Again, it is wise to bring a list of any medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, with you when seeking care since the ER will not have this information from your PCP. Costs for emergency services can be anywhere from $50 to more than $10,000 depending on the severity of the injury or illness.

Symptoms that are best evaluated in an emergency room include:

  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Weakness/numbness on one side
  • Slurred speech
  • Fainting/change in mental state
  • Serious burns
  • Head or eye injury
  • Concussion/confusion
  • Broken bones and dislocated joints
  • Fever with a rash
  • Seizures
  • Severe cuts that may require stitches
  • Facial lacerations
  • Severe cold or flu symptoms
  • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy

When faced with the decision to visit an urgent care center or emergency room, you have to first evaluate your symptoms. Once you have done this, ask yourself this question, “Does this condition have the possibility of permanently impairing or endangering your life?” If the answer is “yes,” then you have an emergency and should proceed to the nearest hospital ER. If the answer is “no,” then take your towel-wrapped avocado hand to your local urgent care center for stitches or whatever care they recommend. You will save yourself time and money by making a good choice on your care.


10 Tips for Excellent Company Culture | Fort Worth Benefits Agency

When it comes to culture, companies have to walk the walk and talk the talk.

HR professionals have all been there.  A potential new employee comes in for an interview.  Company representatives question the prospect and then ask if the candidate has any questions.  With surety, the first question uttered will be about the company’s culture.  The response has to be real and backed-up with proof.

Why?

In addition to the usual reasons (truthfulness, respect and ethics and so on), look at the current make up of the workforce for guidance.  Companies are dealing with one that’s multigenerational; one that stretches from spectrum to spectrum in terms of what they want and need from their employers.  Take Generation Z for instance.  These workers are very confident and that bleeds into the way in which they approach the interview/hiring process.  They will want to explore the office and talk to current employees.  They are going to test what HR says about the culture.

Having said that, what constitutes an excellent company culture?

Company Culture Tips

An excellent company culture is:

  • Richly Diverse – A company culture thrives on diversity.  This doesn’t just push toward ethnic or gender diversity, though that is equally important.  It must also embrace cognitive diversity; the different ways in which people perceive and digest information.  Leaning on this allows for ideas to be evaluated from multiple angles and can reveal both the pros and cons of an action.  A diverse company culture also looks at all dimensions of diversity including hiring or seeking employees from diverse backgrounds both personally and professionally.  That may include, as an example, hiring a candidate with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD).  Other examples include hiring more veterans or the formerly incarcerated.  These present unique challenges, but given the right action plan, those issues can be overcome and the company can benefit.
  • Innovative – A company culture must always look to the future.  That means embracing innovation.  Employees at all levels need to feel the freedom to posit ideas for consideration.  And those ideas need to be thoroughly discussed and evaluated.  That’s the key to innovation.  Most employees just want their ideas considered.  If it’s not an idea that is feasible or realistic, that’s fine.  The importance lies in that the employee has a voice.
  • Open to dissent – Speaking of employee voices, workers need to feel they can dissent from leadership.  This doesn’t mean protest or rebel against a decision, but that their concerns will be heard and they will not see retaliation from sharing those ideas.
  • Transparent – A company culture that embraces transparency will not, in most cases, fail.  Why?  In a transparent culture, everyone knows the important bits of information, but more importantly, they can take ownership of what’s happening.  Employees who are proud to work for their employers ultimately take more ownership in the company’s destiny.  They will be more engaged and will pour more energy into ensuring success than the average employee.
  • Aligned with company brand – Employees and customers must see value in the brand which helps support the culture.  It has to resonate with them.  For HR, this might include a partnership with the company’s marketing or public relations department.
  • Supported by all, especially leadership – If leaders don’t see value in or support the culture, expect the same from employees.  Leaders have to actively engage in the culture and make it a staple in their normal operations.  Lead by example.  When the CEO cares… the employees care.
  • Aligns with strategy and process – Think about this from a talent perspective.  The culture needs to align with processes like hiring, compensation and benefits, development and hiring.  And don’t forget about succession planning.  How will the culture align in the future?
  • Collaborative – This is a great way to instill the culture for your employees.  Look at ways to encourage collaboration between teams of employees.  This reinforces the idea that everyone is part of a much larger team.
  • Feedback driven – Give employees regular feedback on performance.  This will help in aligning their performance with the goals of the company.  But don’t save this for a once-a-year event.  Any time an employee or team makes progress toward the company’s goals and in doing so supports the culture, it’s time for some P.R.O.P.S. or Peer Recognition of Peer Success.
  • Deliberate – Culture should be deliberate.  It’s not something that just happens.  Values must be known and supported, especially by leadership.  Otherwise, the culture that is trying to be built will slowly pass into oblivion and the process will have to start all over again.

Benefits of an Excellent Company Culture

The tips listed above are just that, tips.  If they’re not internalized and not used properly the company will not benefit.  On the flip side, if those pieces are practiced well, companies will see some huge advantages.

For one, expect to see an improved environment.  It will truly become a pleasant place to work.  It’s pleasing socially and psychologically.  If that’s the case, expect to see the quality of work improve.  That means higher increases in productivity which leads to more business success.

By Mason Stevenson
Originally posted on hrexchangenetwork.com


5 Tips to Beat the Heat | Texas Employee Benefits Team

There’s no denying that summer has arrived. In fact, the news has been abuzz with Alaska’s heat wave in July that sent temperatures soaring between 20 and 30 degrees above average. When you are caught in the middle of a heat wave, it may seem like there’s nothing you can do to keep cool. But, there are ways for you to beat the heat this summer and stay safe from heat related illnesses.

 

Avoid the Heat

It may seem like a no-brainer to avoid the heat to prevent a heat related illness but some professions work solely outdoors. In those cases, there aren’t many options for avoiding the heat.  Be aware of the hottest time of day and limit physical activity outside during that time.

Reduce Activity Levels

Plan the most active job of the day to be in the morning when the sun and heat aren’t as intense. Heatstroke can occur when a person engages in strenuous activity for long periods of time in the heat. If possible, arrange workflows to include times of rest and times to visit a cooling station.

Drink Fluids Regularly

The underlying factor in most heat related illness is the inadequate supply of fluids for your body, in other words, drink more water! Heavy sweating depletes a person’s body of fluid and salt and this in turn can cause heat cramps and heat exhaustion. If this occurs, drink cool water or an electrolyte-replacement beverage like Gatorade. To prevent these two illnesses, drink plenty of water before you know you will be outside in the heat so that your body has sufficient fluids in reserve.

Have a Buddy System

When you know you will working outside or even playing outside in the heat of the day, make sure you have someone with you. If you should experience a heat related illness while alone, there would be no one available to offer first aid or call for help. As in the case of heatstroke, confusion and weakness along with fainting and possibly convulsions could occur. These are all series symptoms and require immediate action for treatment. The buddy system gives you a safety net of someone else who can recognize these symptoms and can act to save them.

Take a Dip!

The best way to beat the heat is by cooling off your body. Not everyone has access to a pool when spending time outside in the heat so if that’s the case, use cold compresses or ice and ice packs to lower body temperature. You can also remove excess clothing and spray your body with cool water. If you do have someone with you and you are experiencing a heat related illness, make sure they are watching you if you jump into a pool.

 

By following these easy tips to beat the heat you can safely be outside when temperatures are at their peak. Enjoy your summer and stay cool!


Top 5 Learning Metrics to Watch | Texas Benefits Consultants

How much job training equates to time wasted:  About 20%, according to one LinkedIn study.  That’s the percentage of learners who never apply their training to their job.  That same study says 67% of learners apply the lessons learned, but in the end, revert to previous habits.  Another study found 45% of training content is never applied.

For HR professionals designing or monitoring the Return on Investment of training programs, those are disturbing statistics, especially when you consider the decrease in productivity this causes and the cost of wasted money.

So, how do you mitigate or address the issue?

Learning Metrics

Gone is the day leaders make learning strategy decisions via gut and intuition.  Arrived is the day leaders look at learning data and statistics to make decisions and provide evidence for an action.

There was a time when the only metrics requested from learning and development officials were the number of people taking part in the training and the cost involved.  In other words:  basic effectiveness and efficiency.

As with everything, however, learning and development has evolved.  It’s now a business critical change agent.  It’s not enough, though, to measure inputs, the number of courses, and attendance.  Learning and development must look at the output and outcomes.

“We’re in the process of trying to become a learning organization, and to become a learning organization you have to be nimble.  You have to have a culture of leaders as teachers.  You have to have a culture of recognizing those things that contribute, and actually those things what lead to success,” Brad Samargya said.  Samargya is the Chief Learning Officer for mobile phone maker Ericsson.

All of the descriptions Samargya is using refer back to the content, specifically how it is delivered and is it of substance.  When both pieces are in concert, HR professionals should see an increase in quality around the metrics gathered.

Delivery

First, let’s focus on delivery.

Samantha Hammock is the Chief Learning Officer for American Express.  Her company employs a learning management system as part of their learning process.  Hammock says measurement is the company’s biggest need.

“If we’re going to mandate training, we had better be robust in tracking and reporting. Is the experience getting better, is the knowledge increasing. We have put it thru workforce analytics to slice and dice some of those metrics,” Hammock said.

Of course, learning management systems are not the only way to deliver learning.  Mobile learning for instance, makes content available on smartphones, tablets, and other devices.  Not only is the content accessible anywhere, but anytime.  Video learning is similar in that the content is available in the ever-popular YouTube format.  Gamification, or education by gaming, again delivers learning in a form much for attractive than your regular classroom format, and microlearning, or the strategy of delivering learning content over a short amount of time.

None of those work without one specific ingredient, however:  the content.  Providing relevant content is key to a good learning strategy, good metrics, and  to ensure your learners are engaged and continue to come back for more.

The modern employee is distracted, overwhelmed and has little time to spare. Catering content to their needs is not only important – it’s critical.

The content presented to employees must be applicable and timely to help them with their daily duties, expand their mind, and provide them with quick takeaways that can immediately be applied.

Metrics to Watch

There are a handful of metrics derived for HR professionals to analyze.

  1. Completion rates – This metric is important because it indicates the level of learner engagement, motivation and participation. Low completion rates indicate employees aren’t investing in the material or how it relates to their jobs.  High completion rates show employees are invested.
  2. Performance and Progress – This particular metric is split into two categories: the individual and the group.  For the individual, metrics will give you a detailed look at how the employee is doing with the learning.  For the group, the metric will include the details around specific trends.  For instance, how the group is progressing through the material.  Both individual metrics and group metrics allow for the tracking of course effectiveness and engagement.
  3. Satisfaction and approval – This metric gives HR professionals some indication of how the employee or employees feel about the content. The is a powerful metric because it allows HR or learning managers to adjust current content or, if need be, create better content based on the needs of the employee.
  4. Instructor and manager ratings – This metric may not always be applicable as, in some cases, material is not presented by an instructor or manager but through a technology interface of some sort. If that is not the case, this will indicate how learners feel about the instructor or manager.  It can also be directly linked to the reason an employee or group of employees are not learning at the level expected.
  5. Competency and proficiency – Competency and proficiency metrics show HR professionals if employees have the knowledge and skills to achieve a desired outcome. If not, this metric allows for learning managers to adjust the material accordingly.  It also allows from some insight into an employee or group’s currently proficiency.

In summation

The challenges facing HR professionals when using analytics to transform the learning and development program are connected.  Before companies can actually engage with the transformation, data has to be present.  Whether it is realized or not, companies do have learning data available.  What may not exist is the ability to evaluate that data.

Data provides invaluable insight into the future learning opportunities of a company’s workforce.  Now, more than ever before, HR professionals have a real opportunity to do what all leaders and C-suite members want to do:  predict the future.  By leveraging and understanding the data generated by learning programs, HR professionals can better evaluate the content and their effectiveness.  It can lead to better outcomes both developmentally for the employee and financially for the employer.

By Mason Stevenson

Originally posted on hrexchangenetwork.com


Volunteering Time Off | Fort Worth Benefits Team

Volunteering Time Off, or VTO, has become a buzz topic for many companies as of late. It involves encouraging employees to take time off from their job to plug in to their community and the nonprofits that support it. Let’s delve in deeper to understand what VTO looks like.

  • Typical VTO policies allot for 8 hours of paid time off to volunteer each year.
  • Just like Paid Time Off (PTO), VTO usually requires advance notice to the employer and approval for time away from the business.
  • Studies have shown that VTO boosts employee engagement and retention.
  • Millennials state they are attracted to companies who offer VTO.
  • VTO builds loyalty and pride for a company with its employees.
  • A recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study states 20% of its respondents now offer volunteering benefits as part of their employee benefits package.

As you look for ways to engage with your employees through VTO, take a look at these resources:

  • VolunteerMatch.org—This website makes the business-to-nonprofit connection possible. Nonprofits post projects and jobs they need assistance with and then the company builds its team to help.
  • Volunteering Is CSR—An arm of Volunteer Match, this blog is for business leaders to educate themselves on best practices and case studies.
  • CatchAFire.org—This site connects professionals with nonprofits using their specific skill sets.
  • PointsofLight.org—Founded by President George H.W. Bush, this group offers toolkits to businesses and nonprofits to maximize volunteering efforts as well as offers products to maximize those efforts.