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Via Biz Journals : How to communicate your employee benefits plan to millennials

Is your organization struggling to communicate effectively across the multiple generations in your workforce? Have you tried face-to-face meetings, glossy printed booklets, emails, apps, games – and still feel like you come up short?

Rest easy: you are not alone. I’ve heard repeatedly from senior leadership and benefits managers alike: we’re trying, but we just can’t reach our millennials.

What was once a balancing act with your budget and your time is now a juggling act that takes even more resources and talent to execute effectively. Employee benefits comprise roughly 30% or more of the total rewards package at most companies. It’s vital to help employees understand and appreciate the value of benefits programs that provide financial, physical and emotional security to them and their families.

Not only is it important to you, the employer who is footing the bill. It’s important to your employees as well. Decisions they make today will impact their lives for decades to come. In many instances, they lack the knowledge and experience to analyze benefits offerings effectively and make good decisions. They are counting on you, the employer, to not only provide the needed programs, but also deliver the tools to evaluate them and make the best choices. You face pressure on both sides of the equation – an unenviable position.

Most employers remain befuddled by their millennial cohort. This group, currently ages 24-36, comprises up to 24% of the workforce at present. They embrace technology and crave interaction. They are the most educated and multi-cultural generation in history. Yet they rely on their parents and friends for financial advice and routinely demonstrate their distrust, if not disdain, for financial and other institutions. While they are tech savvy, and very skilled at seeking the information they need, they deeply desire personal relationships – in their families, their communities, and their workplaces. They value authenticity, creativity, celebrity – and connect intensely when all three are merged. They connect to their philanthropic causes and support them in both words and deeds.

Will the real millennial please stand up?

Millennials have been negatively impacted by the turbulent events in their youth: 9/11 and the Great Recession are likely to be enduring memories. The after-effects of these events have been far-reaching for all generations, but particularly so for millennials, who early on struggled to find employment and “launch” their careers and their lives. Now, the economy has strengthened, and the job market has opened up.

Millennials are finding greater opportunities for financial success, as well as the personal fulfillment and meaning they value so much. Their story is still being written, but employers need to carefully consider how to communicate with millennials and address their deep desires for consequence and connection in the workplace, as well as the world beyond.

Millennials report that they save more money than their seniors. 81% of millennials say they save money regularly, compared with 74% of Gen Xers and 77% of baby boomers. But their perceived levels of financial savvy don’t match their actual knowledge base. According to a George Washington University study, only 8% of millennials demonstrate a high level of personal financial education and 25% comprehend the basics. However, 70% of millennials believe they have a high level of understanding of financial products and services.

Think about your company’s retirement savings program. Is half of your millennial population saving for retirement? Nearly 50% of millennials report they are accumulating for retirement. If true, this means more than half are not. These young people state that they are hamstrung by debt: student loans, car loans, credit card debt. How will you communicate with them, motivate them to start some level of retirement savings now, and help them understand the important value proposition your organization provides in helping them to build for their futures?

Millennials don’t trust the mail

To whom do millennials turn for financial advice and assistance? This is a bit of a surprise: Family and friends are their main sources of information and insight. They do not trust information from financial institutions. Their preferred communication channels are, in order: email, text, a website they can interact with, and, of course, a mobile app that functions across multiple devices.

Please do not waste your money sending them materials in the mail. It will most likely end up in the trash. Online apps, text message reminders, games and competitions, these are the tools that resonate with today’s younger population of workers.

One strong advantage these tools offer is the ability to track usage and generate reporting for your senior management. This type of data can show your leadership that your efforts are working and that millennials – and other generations as well – do participate and better engage with your programs.

So how do your providers communicate with your employees? How do you assimilate information from multiple service providers, and then present it, so that all of your employees will understand? Clearly, fancy paper packaging does not appeal to the millennial cohort of your employee population. And the safe, sound financial institutions into whom your silent generation employees place so much confidence will not gain the interest, much less the trust, of millennial employees, without thoughtfully repackaging all educational material into some type of technology interface.

Via The Ladders : How to effectively remove departmental jargon from your work communication

In today’s fast-paced, streamlined workplace, buzzwords permeate the landscape … value-add, deliverable, leverage, take it to the next level, it is what it is. And when you get deeper into workplace departments, the jargon gets even more confusing: internet of things, return on investment, total quality management, bleeding edge, capacity planning.

These are just a few prevalent terms now used at work. And while departmental jargon sometimes works well to communicate ideas and goals inside a single business unit, once it crosses department lines, it’s often vague, confusing, and even offensive. Departmental jargon can hurt both internal and external business if it’s misunderstood.

The bottom line: Workplace communication is hard enough without throwing in departmental jargon!

“When everyone is on the same page, it’s so much easier for everyone to do their job,” according to JobMonkey.com. “A failure to communicate is one of the fastest ways to sabotage your business. A simple comment lost in translation … could all be solved through proper communication.”

So how can you “separate the signal from the noise” at work and speak concisely to individuals outside of your area of expertise?

Keep email, chat, text, and video free of jargon

The best way to make sure your message is clear to anyone not familiar with your department’s specific jargon is to not use buzzwords at all. Use clear and concise wording to get your point across. This helps you avoid confusing those not familiar with specific departmental jargon.

Think of it this way: If you were speaking to your mother about a problem at work and she had no idea what your job was, how would you explain it to her? Use this approach regardless of who you are communicating with and the method used, whether via email, chat, text, or video.

Email: Write simple, direct emails

When crafting an email, avoid using jargon. The reason is simple: You don’t always know who will be reading your email. Plus, you can save yourself some time writing it, because you won’t need to explain any buzzwords or concepts that someone outside your department may not understand. This way, regardless of who reads the email, your message will be crystal clear.

For example, you may write: “Management is changing the market dynamics” compared to “the company is acting as a disruptor in the market.” Someone may consider the word disruptor a negative in this example instead of a positive if they didn’t have a full understanding of the term in a business context.

“Emails, like traditional business letters, need to be clear and concise,” according to MindTools.com. “Keep your sentences short and to the point. The body of the email should be direct and informative, and it should contain all pertinent information.”

If you do use jargon in your emails, then make sure to fully explain it.

Chat: Eliminate jargon to avoid confusion

Chat is another area where departmental jargon often causes confusion. Using buzzwords in a business chat with clients or coworkers could cause your message to get lost amid confusing “business speak.”

When a chat involves just your own department, there usually isn’t an issue with communication because everyone understands the same jargon, whether it is about IT, operations, human resources, etc. Problems can occur, however, when a new coworker joins you and isn’t up to speed yet or if individuals from different departments take part in a chatroom conversation and they aren’t familiar with your work or processes.

If everyone spoke in their own departmental jargon, how many communication breakdowns would you expect? More than likely, at least a few.

And what if you speak with one of your customers through a chat program? While you might know exactly what you are trying to communicate, the customer may not fully understand your message, possibly costing you a valuable business opportunity.

Text: Make it clear and to the point

Another communication method most of us have used over the past few years is text. With text communications, it’s vital that you speak simply and clearly. If you don’t, you risk confusing, or worse alienating, the person at the other end of your text.

Just imagine the amount of time it would take to have to explain a complex, jargon-filled text to someone who doesn’t know what you’re talking about. Using simple terms that everyone understands, to begin with, is the best way to get the point of your text across quickly and effectively.

In addition to avoiding jargon while texting, it’s important to follow common text etiquette rules to make sure that your text is easily understood. For instance, avoid using emojis and abbreviations in a work-related text. The people you communicate with are your co-workers and clients, and they require a more formal method of communication.

“The receiver should not be confused as to what you are trying to say, and if your message is interpreted the wrong way, your miscommunication could cause conflicts and even missed business opportunities,” according to Entrepreneur.com. “Make sure your message is clear, and review it for standalone clarity before hitting the send button.”

Video: Instruct or explain using succinct, crisp dialogue

It’s also critical that your video communication is clear and concise. Not only can confusion run amuck if you use departmental jargon, it’s difficult to come back after the fact and explain what you meant. Use terms everyone can understand when making your video presentation.

This is especially true for videos meant to educate others in a process familiar to employees who are not in your department. Look at it this way: If you were someone completely new to your department, how would you want something explained to you? Maybe you haven’t had time to pick up on all of the common departmental terms. Think of the confusion that would create. Instead, create a video that avoids that confusion using succinct, crisp dialogue.

The ultimate goal

Departmental jargon is bound to pop up when you work with others in the same field or team. Keep in mind, though, that company leaders, co-workers in other departments, and customers unfamiliar with the jargon might find themselves feeling lost and confused.

Your ultimate goal? Craft clear, concise communications that anyone can understand in order to get your message across each and every time.

Via Forbes : 3 Steps To Develop Your Career Plan

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

If you’re anything like the average working person, you can expect to change careers five to seven times in your life. That’s a lot of change… The best way to be prepared for it is to make a plan!

Having a career plan is vital to your career success. The most successful people, such as Tim Ferriss, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, all regularly come up with plans for their career success… And look where it’s gotten them!

Here are the three steps you can take right now to develop a career plan to catapult you to success.

1. Self-reflection.

It’s easy to neglect reflecting on your career when you’re so busy chugging along, but taking the time to think about your current situation and the path you want to be on is crucial to a productive career plan. Research even shows reflection is key to success, and it increases productivity and performance.

Besides reflecting on your career path, you should also reflect on yourself and your values, skills and passions. When you begin to understand yourself and what you want, you’ll be able to more easily create a plan that suits your goals and your lifestyle.

2. Goal setting.

Self-reflection will lead you to identifying what kind of career you want. Now it’s time to figure out how to get there. Setting goals is the key to a successful career plan. But what kind of goals should you create?

You probably already know about SMART goals. These are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timebound goals that all set you up for success in your goal setting and achievement. In fact, studies show SMART goals really do work. But in order to be successful, you need to write them down and share them with a friend or a coworker. Seventy-six percent of study participants who set SMART goals wrote them down and shared them with a friend achieved their goals. Sharing your goals creates a sense of accountability, and writing down your goals cements them in your long-term memory, so they’re always accessible and locked in to your subconscious.

3. Develop a plan.

So, you know yourself and what you want to do, and you have your goals set and written down. Now it’s time to really dig into developing a plan to get there. This is the point in your career planning where you should know your interests and skills, and start figuring out what you need to do to get where you want to go. Yes, it’s time to make career decisions.

Maybe you want to get some more experience before you put yourself on the job market, or maybe it just comes down to a choice between two different careers. Whatever your decision needs to be, this is the time to make it, so you can solidify your career plan and embark on your path. Here are some ways you can make those difficult decisions:

Make a pros and cons list.
Evaluate how each path aligns with your values.
Think about the future consequences of each path.

Where do you stand when it comes to your career? Are you ready to make a change, or start your journey, today? Whether you’re just beginning on your career journey, or you’re considering changing career paths or jobs, developing an effective career plan will help you get to where you need to go. Reflect, set goals and make your decision, and you’ll find yourself on the right path.

Via HR Dive : Planning employees’ life cycles: A blueprint for effective talent management

Establishing a thoughtful strategy from day one will help you maximize each individual’s tenure with your company, writes Greg Shepard, chief strategy officer and chief technology officer at Pepperjam

The days when people would spend decades at one company are long gone. These days, the average time a worker stays at one organization is four years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — and it is even shorter in the tech sector. Though high turnover rates are becoming the norm, it is costing companies a pretty penny: Employee Benefit News reports that, when a worker leaves, it costs employers 33% of a worker’s annual salary to hire a replacement.

This type of hit can make or break a business — and it is especially damaging for startups. Equally detrimental is when companies lose great employees by hiring them at starting salaries that are too high, levels that don’t leave enough room for regular increases. Either the organizations wind up paying too much for one person’s output, or the employee leaves because there’s no room to advance, regardless of performance.

As a veteran of building and running growth businesses, I have seen these situations many times. Fortunately, there are several ways to mitigate the problems, including offering reasonable salaries with room for incremental, merit-based raises.

Planning for each person’s full “employee life cycle” means coming up with the right starting package; setting and clearly communicating the goals that employees are expected to meet; and, ultimately, preparing well in advance for the person’s eventual exit.

Starting off on the right foot

When hiring new staff, employers frequently try to offer attractive starting salaries to attract the best and the brightest. But hiring managers often mistakenly focus on recruiting a person in the short-term without considering a given employee’s longer-term prospects at the company and whether the initial salary offers room and incentive to grow.

Let’s say a software company offers a programmer $90,000 per year to start, but the maximum it can afford to pay someone in the position is $100,000. This gives the company only two long-term options: offering the employee a disappointing raise each year, to the point where the person moves on, or bumping up the person’s salary until the company can no longer afford it.

I have personally made this mistake multiple times. I’ve witnessed employees hit their salary cap early in their tenures and leave in frustration, or I eventually had to let them go because I couldn’t keep paying them more. It was not only embarrassing, but my poor planning cost the company.

Hiring managers should determine in advance the maximum they can pay someone in a given role, based on the candidate’s experience and geographic location. A starting package should leave room to increase with regular raises during the life cycle of the employee’s estimated time in the role — be it two years, three years, or five. And any increases should be tied to reaching the goals necessary to make the employee a profitable contributor.

Align employees’ performance with company metrics

Workers tend to be more engaged when they understand what’s required of them to advance. This is especially true for people aged 20 to 35, according to a report by strategy firm Department 26 about Millennials’ workplace satisfaction.
Millennials may have a stronger desire for more specific goals, but all employees benefit from managers taking the time to communicate key performance indicators (KPIs) they are expected to meet or exceed. For example, a social media manager might be rated on the number of new Facebook followers or retweets on Twitter.

Spelling out those goals — and updating them regularly — can help companies track their efficiency relative to employees’ output. In today’s fast-paced world, meeting once or twice a year to discuss an employee’s performance is no longer sufficient. Managers should have regular check-ins about KPIs and measure progress in milestones.

With regular raises, clear expectations and the potential to advance if an employee keeps hitting or exceeding KPIs, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to retain good workers longer than the average four years. Nonetheless, companies still need to prepare for the possibility of employees’ eventual departures.

Succession planning

Ideally, by the time any employee has been in a role for a while, the company should begin thinking about how to prepare for when the person moves on, either because of a promotion or because the person has found another opportunity.

Cross-training staff gives everyone a better understanding of how a department works, and it can also help employees pick up the slack if someone leaves unexpectedly. One strategy is to have mid-level employees take new people on as protegees, both to train them and to help prepare them to take on more responsibilities as they advance.

At a minimum, managers should encourage all employees to document their work and best practices so that others can fill in for them during vacations, unexpected medical leaves, or if a person resigns. Having employees write training manuals for their jobs on an ongoing basis saves everyone time and money in the long run.

It’s impossible to build a business without recruiting the right people. To make sure you attract and retain the best talent, it’s critical to compensate correctly without breaking the bank. You also need to make sure workers are challenged and motivated throughout their employment and still ensure that you are not left scrambling if and when they decide to exit. It’s a delicate balance, but establishing a thoughtful strategy from day one will help you maximize each individual’s tenure with your company.

Via Trevor-Roberts : 5 benefits of career conversations for employees and organisations

Effective career development practices build healthy organisations (O’Donnell, 2007).

In recent years, research into career conversations has demonstrated the value of career development practices, generally, and the benefits of career conversations, specifically, to organisations and employees, especially when compared with annual performance reviews.

Despite the research, however, many organisations are underutilising career conversations and other career development programs and instead are placing the responsibility for career development firmly on the shoulders of employees.

Research by Kidd on career conversations found that only one third of managers committed to engaging in career development activities to benefit their employees. Additionally, although organisations generally expect their managers to support employee career development, only 5% of managers receive training to do so. These statistics represent a significant missed opportunity for organisations. Relatively simple career development activities, like coaching, providing employee feedback, and raising awareness about organisational needs and plans, can be incredibly effective in connecting employees’ development with the organisation’s goals, increasing engagement and facilitating discretionary effort.

Here are just some of the benefits of career conversations for your organisation and employees.

1. Increased awareness and alignment between employees & organisations

Career development aims to raise an employee’s knowledge and awareness of their own goals, strengths and values, and to identify how the employee can pursue activities with their current employer that are consistent with those goals, strengths and values. The exploration of issues relevant to career development such as promotions, secondments, project work, lateral moves, meaningful work, and work-life balance, allows employees to identify and explore the alignment between their goals and those of their organisation. In turn, this increases commitment, tenure and the pool of internal talent available to the organisation.

Career conversations also allow individuals to become more flexible and adaptable, as the constant setting and resetting of goals helps employees to cope with uncertainty in the workplace and, more broadly, within rapidly changing industries. This is an essential skill for employees in today’s workforce.

Ultimately, continued negotiation and renegotiation of individuals’ career goals facilitates the achievement of organisational goals and can be utilised to shape an organisation’s culture.

2. Development of professional skills & hi-po’s

Taking time to hold career conversations with talented employees allows managers to acknowledge their value to the organisation and helps to map out future career goals and objectives. (Butterfield, Lalande & Borgen, 2009).

Career development initiatives, such as career conversations, help high potential employees to identify and develop the skills that the business requires now and in the future. This is particularly useful for organisations that require highly skilled employees unique to a particular field.

According to Kidd (2004), career conversations result in employee career development goals that can be used to determine professional development activities required for both employee and organisational growth. In turn, professional development activities that have been identified through this process, are likely to be seen as more relevant by the employees and therefore are more likely to result in employee engagement in learning, transfer of learning to the workplace and the workforce capability the organisation is looking for.

Unfortunately, whilst many companies do offer opportunities for training, secondments and career development, it is often done in a sporadic and uncoordinated way that focuses on the skills and capabilities the organisation needs, rather than aligning individuals goals and motivation with the requirements of the organisation.

For an employee who is committed to a role for the long term, career conversations can assist them to understand how their job will change in line with the changing needs of the organisation, and to actively identify and develop skills in readiness for these changes. In this way, career conversations can be a powerful tool for building agile, adaptable and future-proof organisations.

Career conversations, for obvious reasons, also have the added benefit of improving the communication between managers and employees.

3. Improves attraction, retention & motivation

Practices that facilitate employee development have long been linked to increased productivity, decreased absenteeism and turnover, and improvements in an employee’s general dedication to an organisation. In a global market where skilled workers are in short supply, these practices become even more important.

Career development programs in the workplace help companies attract and retain high performing employees. Research by Kidd (2004) suggests that individuals of varying ages, genders, and occupational levels reported that they looked for career coaching and development support, making this an attractive component of any employee value proposition or attraction strategy.

Similarly, Kidd’s study found that employees are more likely to remain with their current employer when offered the opportunity to develop. The degree to which employees received support to develop their careers, through activities such as career conversations, corresponded with their intention to remain with their current employer. Conversely, where career conversations were not happening with managers, employees were more likely to leave an organisation.

Career conversations improve retention by providing employees with an increased knowledge of jobs and career paths within the organisation. If employees can see a clear path for development within an orgainsation they are far more likely to remain with their employer.

4. Assists with growth, downsizing, redeployment and succession planning

In the context of the competitive, global and disruptive marketplace that businesses now operate within, leaders must be vigilant in continually developing the capacities of themselves and their employees to position the organisation to successfully grasp market opportunities (Butterfield, Lalande & Borgen, 2009).

This means that organisations need to foster a performance culture, with the right people and the right skills to effectively execute current and future business strategy. Career conversations help organisations to do this. By highlighting employee competencies, career conversations (and other career development initiatives) inform workforce planning initiatives, support businesses to hit growth targets and enable succession planning activities.

Similarly, when workforce composition or size needs to change in response to changing market conditions, organisations with mature career development practices will be better positioned to identify and redeploy employees with the required skill mix.

5. Increases employee performance

Overall, organisational performance has been positively linked with career development activities such as career conversations, because of their ability to increase employee motivation. Individuals benefit from the insights and learning gained through career conversations, leading to greater fulfillment and professional success into the future. Employees gain increased self-awareness and a realistic perspective of their skills and potential.

Several studies have found that an employee’s performance is positively influenced when their organisation provides relevant career opportunities. It seems obvious to say that from here, if each employee is assisted to reach their full potential, the organisation is more likely to reach its goals.

Summary

As you can see, career conversations are highly beneficial, adding great value to both individuals and organisations.

As organisations continue to compete for talent and customers in a global market, they have the choice to empower employees through the facilitation of career conversations and other career development activities, or to fall behind their competitors.

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