By Karen Dybis – June 13, 2019

The numbers don’t lie: Nationally and locally, employees of every level in business are feeling burned out.

In a survey conducted by Robert Half in April, Detroit workers reported their level of burnout to be 6.51 on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being not at all burned out, 10 being completely burnt out). This compares to the national average of 5.6.

Some of the reasons why Detroiters felt burned out included constant interruptions, unmanageable workloads, long hours at the office, career stagnation or a feeling that there is no room for growth as well as toxic workplace cultures.

Burnout is a real and serious issue, said Robin Ankton, regional vice president of Robert Half in Detroit. She believes both sides of the office — employees and employers — need to take responsibility for recognizing and addressing workplace burnout.

“This is so real right now to people. We’re doing more with less every day and we have to take care of ourselves and employers have to be more flexible to help us,” Ankton said.

Q: How do workers know if they’re burned out?
A: People don’t always recognize that they’re burned out. They’re so deep into the treadmill that they keep doing the same things over and over. They don’t recognize they’re not in a good place. They need to look for signs — it starts in your physical body. Some signs can include fatigue, lack of sleep or difficulty sleeping.

Q: How do you know if you’re burned out from work or a busy life?
A: I tell people you need to work backwards — why do I feel this way. There are two areas to consider: Work and home. If you look at work, think about how you’re doing on the job. Are you missing deadlines? Are you making mistakes you never made before? People don’t slow down enough to reflect — you’ll be better off in the long run to take that time.

Q: How do you manage burnout?
A:
I definitely think people need to be more physically active. It could be yoga. It could be gardening. But you need some sort of physical release beyond the normal, like doing dishes or laundry. Get out, go beyond the normal. Get some fresh air. Take a walk. Try to find something enjoyable when you’re not at work to balance that out. But you also need to prioritize your time at work and protect your time. Prioritize your day so you can get things done in a timely fashion. Learn to say no. Ask for help. What can be done today? What could be done tomorrow? Slow down so you can be more productive.

Q: How can you take time to avoid burnout while at the job site?
A: Take a break. Get up from your desk, get outside, take five minutes and get some fresh air. It’s surprising how good that can make you feel, especially with the summer weather and sunshine. Don’t suffer alone. If you feel that burned out or overwhelmed, you have to talk to somebody. Take to your supervisor; open that dialogue. Ask for help. There’s nothing like face-to-face interaction.

Q: What can employers do?
A: The employer too has to pay attention. Look at attitudes. Look for decreased productivity or mistakes. Take those steps of going to employees who never miss a deadline and ask if everything’s ok. Encourage open communication. Don’t assume they’ll come to you if there’s a problem. (Your employees) might need work-balance arrangements like telecommuting, flextime, job sharing, compressed work weeks. There are options you can offer that can really help (and) they’re at no cost! The upside of that can be tremendous.

By Karen Dybis – February 14, 2019

The Michigan Legislature recently enacted, and later amended, a new paid sick leave law – the first of its kind in the state. It goes into effect in March.

The new law was enacted and amended in an unusual manner, which has led to much uncertainty and conflicting information.

Rebecca Davies, a labor and employment attorney at Butzel Long, is an expert on the current status of Michigan’s Paid Sick Leave Act and helps businesses identify the top 10 things all Michigan employers should know about the new law.

Davies has had success both in and out of the courtroom and has received no cause verdicts in the defense of employment and commercial jury trials as well as obtaining numerous summary judgment decisions, dismissals and favorable settlements in a wide range of employment disputes, including harassment, discrimination, and wage claims. She also regularly counsels employers regarding compliance under federal and state employment laws (including FLSA, FMLA, ADA and Title VII), drafts employment policies, and advises on preventative strategies.

Davies and her fellow Butzel Long attorneys Lynn McGuire and Brett Rendeiro gave Corp! magazine a primer on newly enacted Paid Medical Leave Act (“PMLA”) that soon be taking effect. The following is a brief summary of this new law:

Q. How much paid time off is required under the PMLA?
A. The Act requires covered employers to provide 40 hours of paid medical leave to an eligible employee per year.

Q. Must all employers comply with the PMLA?
A. No, the PMLA only applies to employers with at least 50 employees. Further, the Act’s definition of “employer” specifically excludes the United States government, another state, or a political subdivision of another state.

Q. Would all workers be eligible for paid medical leave?
A. “Employee” is defined to include individuals for whom the employer is required to withhold federal income tax (in other words, it excludes independent contractors). However, the 12 exclusions to this definition severely limit its applicability. Some of the major exclusions include:
• employees who are considered exempt under “white collar” exemptions of the Fair Labor Standards Act;
• employees who worked in the previous calendar year an average of fewer than 25 hours per week;
• employees who have worked for 25 weeks or fewer in a calendar year for a job scheduled for 25 weeks or fewer;
• an individual who is not employed by a public agency and is covered by a collective bargaining agreement that is in effect;
• an individual classified by the employer as a variable hour employee during their first year of employment because the employer expects their hours to vary and does not reasonably know if they will average over 30 hours per week for the year; and
• an individual whose primary work location is not in Michigan

Q. Must the employer provide this paid leave time separate and apart from other paid leave it offers?
A. No, paid leave must be available for use for medical leave as discussed below, but the employer can allow it to be used for other purposes too, such as paid vacation days, paid personal days, and other time off.

Q. Is the employee restricted to using this paid time off only for the employee’s personal medical issues?
A. No, an eligible employee may use paid medical leave accrued for any of the following: (a) the eligible employee’s mental or physical illness; (b) the eligible employee’s family member’s mental or physical illness; (c) the medical care and/or time to participate in court proceedings if the eligible employee or his/her family member is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault; or (d) for specific public health emergencies, ordered by a public official or healthcare provider, for the employee or the employee’s child.

Q. Must the covered employer provide all of the paid sick time up front at the beginning of each calendar year?
A. No, a covered employer has two options to provide this leave: (1) accrual method; or (2) frontloading method. Under the accrual method, eligible employees accrue a minimum of one hour of paid leave for every 35 “hours worked,” for a maximum of one hour per calendar week and 40 hours in a “benefit year.” An alternative to accrual, employers may “frontload” 40 hours of paid medical leave to employees at the beginning of the benefit year.

Q. Can eligible employees carry over any unused time to the next year?
A. It depends on the distribution method used by the employer.

If the accrual method is used, the covered employer is required to allow an employee to carry over up to 40 hours of accrued leave per year. Even if the employee carries over time to the next year, the employer is not required to allow the eligible employee to use more than 40 hours per year.

If an employer frontloads the time, then it is not required to allow an employee to carry over any paid medical leave to the next year.

Q. What are the consequences, if a covered employer fails to comply with the PMLA?
A. Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs may impose penalties and grant an eligible employee or former eligible employee payment of all paid medical leave improperly withheld. Penalties may include an administrative fine of not more than $1,000. Also, an employer that willfully violates the posting requirement is subject to an administrative fine of not more than $100 for each separate violation.

Q. May an employee file a lawsuit if he/she believes that the employer violated the PMLA?
A. No. The Act has eliminated the private cause of action and retaliatory personnel action provisions. Any claim alleging a violation of the Act must be made as an administrative complaint, rather than as a lawsuit in court. Thus, an eligible employee who believes his or her rights have been violated must file an administrative complaint with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs within six months.

Q. Can an employer provide more paid medical leave than required by the Act?
A: Most definitely!

With House Republicans proposing a rollback on the sales tax on gasoline as part of their road funding plan, schools and local governments are probably wondering how lawmakers would make up the roughly $900 million in revenue lost as a result.

One potential source: Expand the state sales tax to services, which would yield $10.7 billion in revenue, according to a state report from 2016.

The House budget for transportation and roads proposes dialing back the sales tax on gas and replacing it with the gas tax, with the idea that all of the revenue collected at the pump would go to roads.

But regardless of where it’s collected, 73 percent of sales tax revenue goes to the School Aid Fund, with the remainder going to local government and other spending items from the General Fund.

A Citizens Research Council (CRC) report from earlier this year put the amount of sales tax collected at the pump at $894 million.

It’s also been estimated at between $800 and $850 million, with the School Aid Fund about a $600 million chunk of that.

According to the Treasury report based on Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 data, the estimated loss of sales tax revenue for the state because of the services exemption was $10.7 billion.

The biggest chunk of potential revenue comes from the health care and social assistance services sector, which could generate $3.3 billion. The next biggest sector was professional, scientific and technical services, at $2.02 billion in possible revenue.

But the Treasury report notes that “attempts by states to extend sales taxes to services have been unsuccessful generally,” including here in Michigan, when the Legislature approved a short-lived sales tax on services in 2007 as part of a deal to avoid a government shutdown.

Yet the Treasury report indicated the “expanded tax base was sharply criticized” and the expanded tax was repealed as it was scheduled to take effect a few months later, replaced by a business tax surcharge.

All exemptions in the state sales tax — including food and prescription drugs, as other examples — add up to a total of $15.3 billion in foregone revenue in FY 2014, according to the report.

Treasury noted that eliminating every exemption would allow the state to drop its sales tax to 2.2 percent while maintaining current revenue.

By Carole Valade – June 6, 2019

The number of Michigan public colleges and universities creating shared relationships is increasing, a point made obvious by the posting of continuous updates by Michigan Association of State Universities from across the lower and upper peninsulas.

But someone had to be first and that came in 1986 with a relationship between the Grand Rapids Community College and Ferris State University.

The initiative, the first two-year/four-year link-up, is being credited to Grand Rapids Junior College President Richard Calkins and Ferris President J. William Wenrich as the GRCC Applied Technology Center was amidst funding and construction.

Storied collaboration
The two higher education institutions celebrated the storied collaboration in Grand Rapids in late May when Ferris President David Eisler honored GRCC President Bill Pink during a “partner celebration” punctuated by success stories of recent grads of the dual programs.

While the unique West Michigan collaboration continues to be celebrated almost 30 years later, its most important aspect was underscored by Pink: “The product of that intentionality is an educated citizen.”

FSU President Helen Popovich celebrated the beginning of the collaboration in 1991 when Ferris first opened classrooms in GRCC’s new Applied Technology Center (a project which, itself, brought together several economic development, community investors and leaders in storied Grand Rapids partnership style. Former Cascade Engineering CEO Fred Keller raised cash and in-kind contributions of equipment and furnishings from 173 individuals and companies).

Remarking on his predecessors, Eisler noted, “They did something that had never been done before. … A student can begin their education right at home at GRCC and then — in the same building — continue with their education… still taking GRCC courses and taking FSU courses at the same time. That’s the beauty of this arrangement,” he said. And then he stressed that while the opportunity is commonly used by traditional-age students, Eisler added, “It’s a lifesaver for adult learners,” who budget time and resources between jobs, families and education. “We’re creating an educated workforce for Grand Rapids and West Michigan,” he emphasized.

Pink noted GRCC is the oldest community college in Michigan and one of the oldest in the country. He half-joked that after taking the office of president two years ago and seeing how the partnership worked, he wanted to call former colleagues to say, “Hey, guess what we’re doing!

Being intentional brought results
“It’s all about intentionality,” Pink emphasized, “That follow up must be there and must be sure. That’s what this partnership is all about, intentionality. It was a whole other thing (back then) to move into one’s building and then have people in that (shared) building collaborate.”

Pink pronounced, “The product of that intentionality is an educated citizen. A graduate. Someone who walks across the stage, walks into a job, walks into a career that is meaningful. And that’s why this partnership works.”

In 2001, the institutions signed a concurrent enrollment agreement and 10 years later inked a reverse transfer agreement that allows coursework completed at a four-year university to be transferred back to a community college, satisfying requirements for an associate degree.

The schools have also partnered to offer 2+2 and 3+1 programs that allow students to move more efficiently toward the completion of a degree.

The ATC (renamed in 2008 to honor the financial support of David and Michelle Bottral and Tom and Joyce Wisner) houses labs for a litany of fields, among them CAD; plastics technology; computer applications; electronics; robotics; energy management; machine tooling; air-conditioning, heating and refrigeration; materials testing; hydraulics and pneumatics; the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education; nuclear medicine; molecular diagnostics; respiratory care; digital animation and game design; and digital media software engineering.

Sustainability took a step forward with the 2007 installation of a “green roof” on GRCC’s building.

The two institutions re-signed an agreement in September of 2016, committing to continued learning opportunities for West Michigan students. And in early May of this year, GRCC Foundation campaign leaders celebrated having raised $12 million toward a $15 million community-based fundraising goal. The public-facing effort follows support from the State of Michigan and Foundation for scholarships and a 20,000-foot expansion of the ATC.

“Our work engages partner organizations that in turn make our programming more robust and valuable to students,” said officials from Ferris State. “The celebration showcases how FSU and GRCC work together to have a transformative effect and change lives — the positive difference innovative collaboration makes for area families.”

Both presidents left the podium of the May event, perhaps only rhetorically asking, “What’s next?”

Indeed.

By Dave Ramsey – June 6, 2019

Do meetings at your company sometimes feel like a big waste of time? If yes, you’re not alone. More than 11 million formal meetings are held each day in America, and according to a survey by Microsoft, nearly three-quarters of the attendees feel those meetings are not productive. Add to that the nearly 40 percent who admit to dozing off at some point, or the 90 percent who fess up to daydreaming for a portion of these sessions, and you can see why meetings have earned such a bad reputation.

There are many ways to keep your meetings on-track and worthwhile, however. To get you started, here are a few of the most common meeting-related problems and how to fix them:

Meetings never start on time
Time is money. So, when your staff comes dragging in, even just a few minutes late, it’s costing you. Let everyone on your team know, in writing, that being late to a meeting is not an option. Be kind, but clear. Those attending should be prepared and ready to go, even if it means arriving 10 minutes early. Your meetings should always start on time, no matter how many people are missing.

Nothing gets accomplished, except scheduling another meeting
Set an agenda, and stick to it! If someone goes off track, it’s your job as a leader to reel them back in. If an issue isn’t resolved, assign someone to work on it, to report back by a certain date, then move on.

No one pays attention
In our society, the average attention span is about 10 to 18 minutes. Even a quick, half-hour meeting can cause people to check out. Keep your team engaged by asking for input. Avoid lectures, too. These are sure-fire attention killers. If you must schedule a longer meeting, include one or two breaks.

Also, a meeting scheduled too early or too late can kill its effectiveness. If you plan a meeting near noon, make sure lunch is provided. Nothing gets someone off track as much as hunger.

The meetings run long
Have you ever been in a meeting that just goes on and on, taking twice as long as necessary? We all have, which is why it’s a great idea to set a time limit. Then, if the session gets off-track or someone feels the need to endlessly talk about a situation, you can gently (but firmly) remind everyone that time is limited.

Meetings don’t have to be brain cell-killing, time-sucking gatherings. If done right, they will increase productivity and communication—despite the time they take!

By Rick Segal

Professional athletes often extend their careers beyond their prime. Sometimes they even get to a point known as “punch drunk.” Maybe it’s because of money, celebrity, career goals, or nothing in the “what’s next” column. Regardless, supporters look at those athletes as playing too long to the detriment of their careers and even their legacy.

The comparison of the aging athlete to the family business CEO has parallels. There is one huge difference though – the aging athlete is normally retired by a third party like the president or GM of the franchise. Of course, that’s if the athlete lacks the wherewithal or wisdom to see the writing on the wall and move on voluntarily. If that athlete fails to take voluntary action, it will be done on their behalf and most likely the outcome will be less than desirable for anyone. If they still have some passion for the game, maybe they will wind up coaching or in the front office.

In a family business that aging CEO generally holds all the cards. They are the decision-maker about their own future. Like the athlete, they generally do not see their skills fading, rather they see themselves getting better with experience, expertise, and wisdom. Therefore, they do not see the twilight of their career as being detrimental to the business, or their followers – their family.

At what point are they no longer helpful to the team in their current position, and whose decision is it? If it is time to move on, where do they go and how do they get there?

Using Metrics
Athletes have very clear metrics. Speed, percentages, yards and points are the measurements of performance. Even as the metrics dwindle for the aging athlete, other more subjective measurements can replace them, like mentoring, locker room leadership and team culture development. When the athlete’s value to the organization fades to a point where the Return on Investment no longer makes good business sense, either the career ends, or a “trade” becomes the new reality. But there are no trades in a family business.

What metrics would you impose on a family business CEO? Profitability, growth, family prosperity, market prominence, family harmony, community admiration and sustainability come to mind. Some are easy to measure, like profitability, but even then, the water can get murky. Suppose that potential profits are distributed as bonuses prior to yearend in lieu of retained earnings to fund growth. How would you spin that decision to address the metrics? And, five years from now, when you compare and review financial statements, who will recall that decision and why it was made? That’s why picking the proper metrics is so vital, maybe Gross Profit Percentage is a more accurate metric than Net Profit.

If a family business CEO had something akin to a baseball card, what would the stats on the back be?

Each business needs to develop their own set of performance metrics for their executive team including the CEO. The harder part is applying those metrics to senior family member’s (parents) performance in a positive way. Like the aging athlete, senior family execs still feel that they add value to the team. And they probably do, but not the same value they added in the prime of their career.

Here is a great case for a board of directors. It is far better for a board to develop and apply those metrics. A takeover coup by a sibling team to oust an aging CEO won’t fare well for anyone – no matter how kindly it’s done – and certainly it won’t add to family harmony. On the other hand, a well thought out set of metrics applied by an appropriate group would offer a smoother transition.

Like the pro athlete, sometimes the senior CEO needs to be told when their career needs to shift. That’s why some families set up mandatory retirement rules to avoid potential conflicts.

What’s Next?

The retiring CEO will need to develop a new game plan. Hopefully, they have cultivated interests and hobbies to fill time meaningfully. Certainly, if they saw this coming, they would have begun designing that “third stage of life.” Whether it be travel, tennis, bridge, gardening or grandchildren, having importance to daily activity is imperative for the sole.

While that individual doesn’t necessarily have to be exiled from the business, they do have to step down in a significant way that empowers the next leader(s). I recall a client who gave up title, compensation and ownership, yet still reported to the same corner office daily. They had nothing better to do. If the former CEO is physically in the same place, then it makes sense that people see them in the same position.

Ideally the breakaway will come with a time separation like a big trip, extended winter stay somewhere, or more time at the summer spot. After that, a position that honors their expertise, experience and wisdom should be cultivated by the business. Good Will ambassador, Chair of the Board (without being controlling), maintaining key contacts, becoming a sale “closer,” are all good roles to explore. Formalizing the new position really helps everyone involved see the change.

The Next CEO
No matter what style of leadership you favor, in a family business it is usually considered part of the DNA. While some family firms do look outside for CEO talent, most look to family first. That’s fine if the identified party has the right stuff. That individual has probably been a CEO in training their whole life, but that doesn’t mean they are the right choice now. It should always be about the right person for the situation at hand. We’ve all seen businesses go down by picking the wrong CEO.

Once again, this is a difficult decision, especially if there are multiple siblings involved. Some family firms have a hard time setting aside the “rights of the firstborn son” (“primogenitor” – yep, actually a word for that). This selection should be a process that’s designed and enacted by a committee to make a good choice that creates buy-in. Again, your board of directors, or a subset, would be a perfect fit for this committee.

An outgoing CEO anointing the next CEO is just a bad idea unless this is truly a monarchy. Process is the key to a good outcome.

Summary
1. Establish formal metrics for CEO performance.
2. Apply those metrics using an appropriate committee like a Board of Directors.
3. Determine whose decision it is to fill the vacating position.
4. Use a qualified committee to make key decisions.
5. Develop a process for the selection of a new CEO that will ensure the best choice is installed.
6. Empower the new CEO and their team with the tools and talent need to do the job.

Being proactive about an obvious transition just makes sense. Design a process that will yield the best result with strong buy-in and a minimum of disruption. If you aren’t sure how to do that, reach out to a professional.

By Kristen Cifolelli, American Society of Employers

While the weather recently hasn’t exactly been warm, Memorial Day weekend is right around the corner and it marks the unofficial start of summer.  As the rain will eventually (we hope) start to let up, the attention of many employees will turn to thoughts of getting outdoors, spending more time with family, and having some downtime to unplug and recharge.  One benefit that is dramatically on the rise are employers who have implemented a “summer hours” program.

A “summer hours” program is when employers either reduce normal work hours in the summer months or allow their employees to work compressed weeks or flex their schedules to work more hours on certain days in order to leave work earlier on other days – typically on Fridays.  According to a 2017 survey conducted by CEB (now Gartner) of Fortune 1000 companies, 42% now support a summer hours program, a 20%+ increase compared with 21% in 2015.  In addition, a recent EPTW poll revealed that 32% of readers’ employers offer flexible work hours in the summer.

According to ASE’s data released this year in our Workplace Flexibility survey, overall 18% of employers offer a summer hours program while 28% of employers with over 500 employees offer summer hours programs.   For those employers who have such a program, 38% offered it in a compressed work week format, while 33% offered a partial day off.  Only 5% offered a full day off, and the remaining 33% offered some other type of arrangement. 

Some examples of summer hour programs include:

  • Compressed work week.  Employees can work nine or ten hours Monday through Thursday and take a half or full day off on Friday.
  • One day off every other week.  Employees spread the extra eight hours of work they need to make up in the previous nine workdays. Employees rotate which Friday they have off to ensure coverage.
  • Early closing on Friday or shortened workday (no extra hours to make up)
  • Change in core hours.  For example, instead of working 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., employees can come in at 6:30 a.m. and work until 3:00 p.m.
  • Telecommuting for part of the week.  This allows employees to start and end work earlier by eliminating commuting time.

Without a doubt, a big benefit of a summer hours program is that it is a huge morale booster.  For employers with limited budgets for increases, bonuses, or benefits, it is a low-cost perk to implement that will be highly valued by employees.  These longer weekends allow for employees to come back to work on Mondays more refreshed and recharged, thereby increasing productivity and creativity levels. 

So, while the benefits of these programs for employees is obvious, do these alternative summer schedules actually provide more engagement and productivity in return?  

CareerBuilder in Chicago is one employer that firmly believes their summer hours program boosts morale and retention.  All 2,000+ employees in their North American offices are encouraged to leave at noon on summer Fridays.  While most employers who have summer hours programs require the hours to be made up, CareerBuilder will pay people for 40 hours even if they only work 35.

According to Jade Augustine, Vice President of Human Resources, initially there were concerns about whether employees could meet their work obligations in the shorter hours; but there has been no negative feedback from clients.  Work teams ensure there is coverage, if needed, so customers aren’t left in a lurch.  “We really empower the employees to manage their time” and there is motivation to be particularly efficient the rest of the week to guarantee an early escape. “If at any point it feels as though it’s not being managed properly, the manager is there to work with them.”

Many companies that offer such programs often indicate the return is much greater than the work involved in developing and monitoring the program. These companies also report that employees tend to take fewer vacation days during the summer as a result of having longer weekends and more flexible schedules.  It makes planning for employee vacations much easier, as they are spread throughout the year.

If not monitored appropriately though, there are always employees that will view these programs as a way to slack off and avoid work responsibilities or come dressed on Fridays wearing their beachwear or athletic apparel in preparation for their weekend activities.  One other significant pitfall is that there will always be positions that are not suited for this type of program, such as customer service or other client-facing roles.  Employers need to be prepared to deal with employees who will be disappointed that they can’t take advantage of this benefit.  Other employees may feel frustrated that the perk is offered, but they aren’t confident they can get their work done in fewer days—resulting, ironically, in greater, not less, stress. 

If employers are going to consider implementing a summer-hours program, certainly the first step is to outline the costs involved and the benefits that will be derived, such as higher productivity and more engaged employees.  A must is to ensure that the policy is well written and well communicated so expectations about getting work done are clearly understood. Coordination will be critical to make sure there is adequate staffing.  Ultimately these programs can be a terrific way to show appreciation for employees, and a powerful recruitment and retention strategy for employers, to set themselves apart from their competitors.

By Sara Sosnowski, American Society of Employers

According to MetLife’s 17th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study 2019, 80% of employers agree that benefits play an important role in workplace culture, and 78% say that benefits even help employees to be more productive.  Benefits are also an important factor when it comes to attracting new talent, with 6 in 10 employees citing benefits as an important reason why they joined their company.  But if benefits are so important, why are only 67% of employees satisfied with their own benefits?

As the line between work and life is getting more blurred, employees expect more from their employers to help support them both inside and outside of the workplace.  76% of employees agree that employers have a responsibility for the health and well-being of their employees.  When asked what they need to be more successful at work and at home, better benefits was the third highest request made by employees, coming in behind salary and a positive work environment.  On top of that, 3 in 10 employees reported that they would even be willing to trade a higher salary to get better benefits.  Employees still consider the traditional benefits as must-haves, with the top three being health insurance, prescription drug coverage, and dental insurance, but they desire some less-traditional offerings as well.  Some of the highest rated “nice to have” benefits were legal services, cancer insurance, and financial planning education and tools. 

As employees are now mixing work and life, there is a need for mixing emerging benefits with the traditional ones to support them physically, emotionally, and financially. 58% of employees say that having nontraditional benefits would reduce their stress, and 60% say they would be interested in a wider range of less traditional, non-medical benefits, even if they must cover some of the costs themselves.  93% of employees want the ability to customize their benefits package, something employers aren’t understanding, as only 68% see this ability as important to their employees.

Some of the emerging benefits that interest employees most are:

  • Unlimited paid time off – 72%
  • Wellness programs that reward healthy behavior – 69%
  • Phased retirement program – 68%
  • Paid sabbatical program – 66%
  • On-site free/subsidized services (e.g., meals, gym, dry cleaning) – 61%
  • On-site health/medical care (including mental health) – 59%

Even if an employer does offer a benefits package that addresses most of their employee’s needs, if employees don’t fully understand what is offered, they won’t appreciate them or their potential impact on their lives.  Only 37% of employees strongly believe their employers’ benefits communication is customized to address their personal situations and only 4 in 10 employees strongly believe their employer’s benefits communication is simple to understand.  Employers should concentrate on communicating not only what benefits they offer, but also how those benefits are relevant in the lives of their employees.

According the study, “To meet the changing expectations of today’s workforce, employers need to ensure that they are building benefits plans that meet their employees’ wide range of needs. Equally important, employers should ensure that employees fully understand the value of their benefit options — so they can make the right decisions for their needs and companies can realize the full impact of their investments.”

By Jason Rowe, American Society of Employers

Michigan employers see value in providing their employees flexible work arrangements, with two-thirds offering some form of the benefit. Over half of employers market their flexibility arrangements as an employee benefit to attract new talent, as is shown in ASE’s recently released Workplace Flexibility Survey.  This is the first-ever Workplace Flexibility Survey conducted by ASE.

Some insights uncovered by the Workplace Flexibility Survey include:

  • The most prevalent flexible work arrangement offered by organizations was flexible hours/flextime (83%).  This was followed by telecommuting, with 62% offering the benefit, and 46% allowing part-time schedules.
  • Most organizations that utilize flexible hours/flextime allow employees to have varied start and end times (96%).  Most organizations require employees to be present for core hours (79%).
  • Telecommuting arrangements are most frequently allowed at the discretion of the manager (79%) and are offered on an ad-hoc basis (77%).
  • Technology has made telecommuting more efficient and viable.  54% of respondents indicate using some form of collaboration software and another 52% indicate utilizing some form of video conferencing.  Instant messaging, popularized in the mid and late 90’s, was utilized by 75% of those surveyed. 
  • 11% of organizations offer paid parental leave beyond FMLA, short-term disability, or what is required by law.  For birth mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents, most organizations gave employees their full pay while on the parental leave.
  • 18% of organizations offer summer/seasonal hours, and a majority of them use a compressed workweek (38%).  The most popular form of the compressed work week is a 4/40 schedule where employees work four 10-hour days per week.

Workplace flexibility continues to be a priority in a society that craves a better work/life balance. In time, Michigan will likely see a greater shift away from the traditional 9-5 workplace schedule towards an arrangement that allows employees to feel less constrained by the demands of working inside of an office.