Image Source: Pexels

How to Spot Workplaces With Safe Working Conditions

Workplace safety has been a growing concern for workers in the modern era. After all, in spite of all of the safety concerns inherently woven into the modern business model, there were still over 5,000 deaths on the job in 2018 in the U.S. alone.

 

Even if you work in an industry where the likelihood of death is microscopic, there are still a variety of concerns even within the safest of workspaces. For instance, nearly a third of the workplace-related injuries in 2013 were directly attributed to poor workplace ergonomics —  a seemingly minor yet important consideration for those sitting in a chair all day long.

 

The point is, everything from slip and fall accidents and mental health to legitimate life or death situations should be taken into consideration. If you’re looking for a job in a safe work environment, here are a few specific conditions to keep in mind while you’re in search of employment.

Feel Out a Company’s View on Premises Liability

While you don’t necessarily want to enter an interview with a list of aggressive questions about a company’s safety considerations, it’s still important to do some sleuthing to that effect throughout the hiring process. 

 

For instance, if possible, try to discover what the company has done to address basic safety concerns like premises liability. If they’re a storefront, do they de-ice their walk regularly in the winter? Even if they’re a B2B operation, do they guard against slip and fall accidents within their offices? If they have a pet-friendly policy, do they have safeguards against dog bites and animal attacks?

 

If you can discover a company’s attitude towards these small yet significant matters, it can go a long way towards figuring out if an office environment will be safe to work in.

Look for Structure

Another way to get a feel for the security measures (or lack thereof) that a company might have in place is by looking for the little signs. For example, if a company has a thought-out, well-developed, and easily understandable employee handbook, chances are they’re genuinely invested in the well-being of their employees. 

 

Another easy giveaway is if an employer ensures that a professional counselor or other mental health resources are available for its employees. Caring for the mental health of employees is a critical responsibility of the modern employer and one that should be front and center in their safety policies.

Inquire After the Silent Killers

In the episode “The Surplus” of NBC’s incredibly successful workplace parody The Office, HR rep Toby Flenderson promotes the idea that the office should use a financial surplus to have the office’s air quality tested. He sites concerns such as asbestos and radon that could be harming the office workers without their even being aware of it, with the thoughtful rep referring to them as “silent killers.”

 

Likewise, when on the job hunt, it’s important to gauge if a potential employer is going to embrace the battle against things like radon, asbestos, and mold. Will they go the extra mile for their workforce’s health or do they mimic Michael Scott, who ultimately rejects Toby Flenderson’s suggestion out of hand by calling him the “silent killer.”

 

It may be humorous when depicted on a sitcom, but long term exposure to hazardous chemicals can be extremely dangerous, and things like mold and even dust can exacerbate allergies. As such, it’s important to keep them in mind when considering the safety of a potential workplace.

Consider Job Security

While tripping at work or suffering from asbestos are legitimate daily concerns, it’s also important to keep general job security in mind, too. This is easy to overlook, but if you move to a city or industry that is atrophying, you may find yourself under perpetual stress before long as you try to survive a toxic, panicked work environment that is simply trying to survive. This kind of scenario is hardly conducive to individual health and safety, as a company in this situation will likely be redirecting resources towards its very survival.

 

Instead, look for jobs in areas that are up and coming. It’s easy to find constantly updated lists of states and cities that are flourishing. By focusing your job search in these areas, you can ensure that you’re positioned in a geographic location that will continue to grow along with your career.

 

In addition, there are many smaller, hidden personal benefits to this kind of move. For instance, if you purchase a home in a growing urban or suburban area as you relocate for work, there is a good chance that your property’s value will naturally increase without your lifting a finger.

Finding a Safe Place to Work

The world is a much safer place than it’s been in the past. However, just because employers are collectively more aware of the inherent dangers in a workplace doesn’t mean they all respond to those dangers in the same fashion.


As you search for a new HR position — or any employee position, really — don’t let logistics, finances, and job descriptions shoulder out the consideration of how safe each place is to work. Both your short and your long term health can be impacted by how safe your workplace is. After all, you’ll likely end up spending upwards of 90,000 hours in that space. So make sure it’s safe.

Interested in working in the IT industry? Tips to get you started

With so many people transitioning into the IT industry, it’s only logical that you’re thinking about following in their footsteps. There are many reasons why you should consider this idea. To begin with, there is an increasing demand for professionals in this field (and the trend is very likely to continue), the salary is decent (to say the least), it won’t take you long to acquire the skills required for working in the IT industry and you will have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world for employers who could be thousands of miles away. So, if you’re stuck in the rut or simply want to make a change, take a look at the following tips designed to help you start a career in the IT industry.

Apply your knowledge

Regardless of what kind of job-related experience you may have, there are some skills and knowledge you can apply when it comes to working in the IT sector. For example, you’ve already developed certain soft skills at your previous job and those might be extremely useful as you try to make a transition. Especially if you start in a help desk position (which is one of the most common entry-level IT roles). You’ll have to communicate and deal with customers and their enquiries. Also, if you’ve already used Microsoft Office or similar software packages, you’ll see that it will come in handy as you learn the ropes. Just make sure you point such things out in your CV.

Get certified

If you’ve already spent years studying and now you realise your job opportunities are limited, you shouldn’t despair. A career change and transition into the IT industry doesn’t necessarily mean you need to spend several years more at college. Luckily, you can get relevant knowledge and certification in a matter of weeks or months if you choose the right institution. Find a reputable institution that offers courses relevant to you. For instance, many people Down Under are now working towards getting online diplomas in Australia, hoping that their investment will be paid back quickly and generously. Chances are, they are right. Prospective employers appreciate candidates who have invested time, money and effort into learning something that is useful for the job they’re applying for. Last but not least, certifications offer a much wider choice of jobs in the industry.

Your degree might be relevant

Don’t reject your diploma too quickly. The IT industry is growing rapidly and looking for individuals from various backgrounds because of their unique perspectives. Even a psychology major can use something they learnt during their studies, such as a deep understanding of interpersonal interaction, to offer fresh insight when it comes to approaching challenges. So, use what you know and what you’ve done to help you make this transition more smoothly.

Be ready to start from the bottom

Patience is the key when you start a career in IT. No matter what position you held before you made the transition, you’ll probably end up at a lower level position and have to roll up your sleeves to work your way up. This is normal and logical, but you have to be ready for the challenge. As you progress up the career ladder, you’ll notice how the number of options is rising, along with your salary. All this comes as a result of your effort, as well as the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired along the way. So, be ready to work hard.

Networking

You are probably aware of the importance of knowing people who can help you. Just like in private life, we often rely on others to provide assistance when it comes to finding a job. You could explore this option and ask people you know to put in a good word for you. However, for that to happen, you need to know those people and they need to believe that you’re worthy of their recommendation. That’s why having a network of friends, colleagues and business partners is vital when looking for a new job. You can even post on social media that you’re trying to find a job in the IT industry and ask your friends for help. They might not be able to help directly, but they may know someone who can. The wider the network, the better your chances of starting a career in IT.

Self-help

No-one can help you more than you can help yourself. Just like so many people use modern technology on a daily basis without any formal training, you can turn to YouTube tutorials, free online courses and other sources of information that allow you to learn the basics of your future job. Feel free to try and experiment. Expect to make a few mistakes along the way, but don’t give up easily.

The IT industry is now open to people with more diverse background that ever, which is a great advantage for someone looking to transition. Still, you should be ready to roll up your sleeves and work hard, be patient, learn and hone your skills. That’s the only way to make progress in your career and the IT industry is certainly one of the environments where professional growth and development are always appreciated and rewarded.

 

Three trends shaping the future of benefits and HR in 2020

A new year is like the dawn of a new era – the start of something fresh as the world transforms once more. This is especially true in 2020 as a shift in HR and benefits enters the spotlight. Now more than ever, enterprises recognize the challenges of the having many-to-many relationships, the importance of employee health and wellbeing, and the need for a new approach to benefits. These are the topics that will shape not only the next 12 months but also the next few years.

 

  1. The many-to-many vendor structure will be replaced

 

Employers have come to recognize the impact benefits can have on improving engagement and performance. In fact, benefits are considered to be more important than job role, colleagues or organizational culture in eliciting loyalty. But that doesn’t change the fact that employees are frequently disappointed by the poor experience of interacting with their benefits.

 

Instead of a smooth and seamless experience with access to everything in one place, employees are often frustrated by the lack of clarity and ubiquity. When filing a claim, for example, they might discover that the necessary information cannot be found within their employer’s benefits administration platform. It could be on a vendor site, creating another hurdle – or worse, it might be lost somewhere in a filing cabinet. This is not good for employees or employers, and it inevitably reduces the positive results that benefits were designed to deliver in the first place.

 

These problems are caused by the typical, many-to-many relationships between companies and vendors. Those relationships often lead to higher operating costs, a higher risk of errors and a disjointed experience for employees. This will change in 2020 as employers begin to not only request but demand a standardized operating model. They will come to recognize the need for a marketplace approach that eliminates the hassle of the many-to-many vendor structure. At the same time, this approach can improve the user journey and provide an unprecedented level of customization and personalization.

 

  1. Employees will take center stage

 

Organizations can’t survive without a strong, dedicated staff. That’s because employees are more than an integral cog in the company machine – they are the lifeblood of the entire enterprise. But if their needs are not being met, the enterprise is likely to suffer.

 

Things are starting to change, however. After years of putting customers first, businesses have begun to realize that it’s time to focus on their employees. Our research found that employee health and wellbeing were among the top benefits strategy objectives for North American organizations. Businesses are striving to meet this objective in a variety of ways. Some are relying on wellness pots that allow employees to decide how they use a wellness allowance. Others are considering a shortened workweek that can be beneficial to both employees and employers, reducing stress while maintaining or improving productivity.

 

By focusing on employees – the very people who create the products and services designed to meet customer needs – enterprises will be better equipped to thrive in 2020.

 

  1. Employers will embrace a next-generation approach to benefits

 

In a world where the largest companies are trying to do more at the local level, businesses still struggle to implement effective benefits programs across their global branches. To get it right, they must understand the benefits practices of each location as well as the competitive environment. Consider Japan and Canada – there are not any common characteristics between these two countries. This is the norm, not the outlier, so businesses must understand that no two regions are exactly alike.

 

Legislation also plays a role, so they must be mindful of that as well. And in this increasingly digital world, enterprises are expected to offer an intuitive digital experience for employees to access their benefits.

 

There are so many different things to consider beyond basic healthcare: short- and long-term disability, life insurance, emergency out-of-country care, and so on. Many companies try to figure this out on their own, but inconsistencies can be found across the processes and procedures. This adds to the complexities enterprises face in deploying benefits programs that meet the needs of each country in which they operate.

 

This will finally change in 2020 as enterprises embrace a next-generation approach to benefits management. By relying on a brilliant, consistent employee and administration experience, multinational corporations won’t have to compromise any longer. With access to steady and reliable data and insights, organizations will be prepared to make better decisions and achieve greater global oversight of compliance requirements. These are just some of the changes that will lead to a truly localized approach for multinational corporations.

 

Big changes are coming

 

Organizations are evolving. They’re recognizing the importance of employee health and wellbeing. They’re frustrated by the costly many-to-many structure of building relationships with multiple vendors. And they’re searching for a next-generation approach to providing benefits. All of these things will begin to culminate in 2020, paving the way for big changes in the months and years ahead.

How Chatbots Can Help You Increase Conversion

Chatbots have evolved impressively thanks to the rise of artificial intelligence. Many brands have recognized the potential of these sophisticated tools and now use them to provide seamless user experiences. Studies predict that 85% of customer interactions with brands will be handled without a human agent by 2020. 

From immediate feedback to humanizing brand presence, chatbots can improve your conversion rates on multiple levels. Here is what to know.

Providing Excellent Customer Support

With the advent of mobile technologies, social networks, and natural language processing, online customers’ expectations have also grown. Being held on hold while trying to connect with a customer support representative is not an option for them anymore. They want brands to provide exceptional customer service 24/7, across multiple online channels. Research says that most customers want brands to address their problems and questions within 24 hours.

This is exactly where chatbots shine. They are available to your prospective customers 24/7, providing them with real-time assistance. Chatbots will ask customers relevant questions to learn more about their needs and problems and provide clear, accurate, and helpful feedback. Precisely because of that, online users often consider them a faster, more convenient, and real-time resolution to their minor problems.

Another great benefit of chatbots lies in the fact that they streamline your customer support assistants’ jobs. By automating many repetitive tasks, they help them focus on more challenging tasks and, therefore, boost customer satisfaction.

Simplifying the Customer Journey

Statistics say that one of the most common reasons why people ditch shopping carts is a too complicated checkout process, as well as the fact that they need to create new accounts. They often need to fill out a lengthy form and then verify their email address before finalizing the purchase. This is a tedious process that may frustrate your target customers and prevent them from buying from you. 

One of the easiest ways to optimize your checkout process is to use chatbots on your website. Use them to simplify buyers’ journeys and provide customers with guided task completion. One such example is Ebay’s ShopBot. It asks customers numerous questions, such as what brands or product features they are looking for. The bot interactively guides users, encouraging them to complete the purchase. Another amazing example of using chatbots to improve sales and user experiences is Lyft that lets users request a ride via their Messenger bot, Slack bot, or Amazon Echo. The bot provides data about their driver’s location and sends the photo of the license plate and the car model to ensure a client’s security.

Evoking FOMO

In today’s oversaturated digital marketing landscape, when your prospective customers are bombarded with different brands and products, getting yourself noticed can be extremely challenging. To engage users and entice them to convert faster, many brands focus on triggering customers’ fear of missing out, or FOMO. For example, they offer time-sensitive deals, exit-intent popups, exclusive offers for VIP customers, etc. Many SaaS brands rely on social proof tools like Cue that displays real-time notifications about new webpage visits or product purchases. 

Combining your most powerful CRO tools with chatbots can also be highly effective. For example, you could use bots to inform users about your brand’s latest news or trends. Chatbots help you promote exclusive content to generate leads and time-sensitive offers to inspire impulse purchases. 

Providing Personalized User Experiences

Research says that 63% of online users don’t know that they’re talking to a bot. While your goal shouldn’t be to deceive your prospective customers, it is still good to know that chatbots can provide reliable user experiences and humanize your brand. 

This is exactly where you need to hire reliable content creators. Their task is to create an engaging chatbot script that reflects your brand’s personality and values. Your goal is to keep users’ conversations with your chatbot more natural and consistent. To humanize your chatbot, consider giving it a human name, such as Ross, Siri, Cortana, or Alexa. 

Apart from using chatbots to make customer conversations more relaxed, you could also provide more personalized product recommendations. For example, Sephora’s bot asks users about their needs and preferences and, based on them, recommends the right products. A user can even upload a photo and try out different makeup products.

Collecting Feedback from Users

Online businesses are continuously trying to understand their customers. They use numerous techniques for collecting customer feedback, such as surveys, online reviews, social media polls, quizzes, website analytics, heatmaps, and so forth. 

This is exactly where chatbots can help. For example, if a user is leaving their shopping cart, a chatbot could ask them why they are leaving. It could offer several options for users to choose from, such as “not interested,” “the price is too high,” or “I want to explore other options.” Or, you could create a one-question survey in your chat to assess users’ satisfaction with your website, products, or brand. 

This sort of feedback is immensely important to any marketer wanting to improve their conversion rates. By gathering honest feedback directly from your customers, you will be able to identify the most common user experience issues and resolve them fast to improve conversions. In the abovementioned scenarios, a chatbot can even help you save the sale. For example, if it finds that the product is too expensive for a customer, it could recommend more relevant products that suit their budget.

Over to You

With the rise of artificial intelligence, chatbots have become an inseparable aspect of your conversion rate optimization strategy. They give you the opportunity to simplify buyers’ journeys, provide personalized product recommendations, and evoke their emotions. Above all, you can collect customer feedback easier and use it to improve user experiences and sales.

 

How do you use chatbots to improve conversions?

How to Plan a Year of Great Content on a Small Budget

In today’s marketing climate, content is everything. People want to consume content that interests them and it’s something that influences their buying decisions significantly. This is why Australian businesses are making strides to improve their content marketing strategies at all costs.

The problem is that content is expensive to make. At least, this is true of quality content. When you want to consistently pump out tons of articles, videos, or webinars, you need to be able to finance it well. However, there are some creative options that allow businesses to improve their content without spending too much. It makes the process a lot simpler.

Use what you already have

If your website has been running for any amount of time, it’s likely that you already have quite a bit of content featured on it. While you should be looking towards producing fresh, new content, it would be wise to take a look at the content that is already present.

Obviously, you shouldn’t re-use the content in a way that resembles plagiarism but rather restructures it. If you have a bunch of articles that deal with a certain topic, why not combine them into a comprehensive super-guide that encompasses the whole topic?

It’s a great way to get more bang out of your buck for the content and to provide a very good learning resource for website visitors. Plus, current SEO trends recommend creating more comprehensive pieces of content, so this would provide you with double the benefit.

Branch out into new fields

You can make countless iterations of any form of content. However, focusing on just one will still limit your business. Not to mention, you need to spend more and more to create innovative and interesting content on a regular basis, especially if you only stick to one form of media.

This is somewhat easier to manage when you branch out into other types of media. It’s a key part of business personalization. If your marketing team deals primarily in written articles and text posts, it might be time to try something different. In today’s marketing climate, videos are all the rage. They can dramatically increase viewer engagement and keep them occupied for quite a while. The only issue is that they tend to be expensive the longer they are.

You don’t have to go all out with your marketing content. Even short videos and other forms of visual content will keep viewers engaged to an extent. Infographics are another very effective form of content, and they’re ridiculously shareable. You’ll get lots of backlinks with a quality visual content plan, so keep that in mind.

Invite contributors

After a while, writing from the same standpoint is going to seem a little stale. For your content to stay fresh and engaging, you might need to bring in some new perspectives. Find someone to create some engaging content for your website and have them on as a guest. There are probably many local Australian individuals or experts that would contribute in the same field. You could also look abroad or check other websites that deal with similar topics. These individuals could add their experiences or expertise and make your content more diverse.

The only issue is that you have to compensate them for their work, and it’s likely going to be more costly than your own content. Nobody is going to contribute to your website unless they have a strong incentive.

Financial compensation is fine, but a more budget-friendly option would be to offer them promotion. If your website is big enough, this won’t be much of a problem. They would gladly take the offer for exposure to their target demographic. Alternatively, you could also offer social media promotion and products or services from your business. If your website isn’t too big, it’s worth a try.

Optimize your website

There are countless businesses in Australia that provide high-quality content to their users, but don’t see adequate results for their efforts. This is because factors like marketing and search engine optimization play a big part in the effectiveness of your content.

If you present a video on your website and it plays poorly, lags behind, or doesn’t work on mobile, it’s likely that it won’t draw in as many users. This is something that a lot of Australian website owners don’t realize, and it hurts their chances of spreading content. Increasing the effectiveness of your website’s content is crucial. There are countless experts in quality web design in Sydney that can help businesses set up their website content in a more efficient way. With expert help, you can make your existing content more effective, while also being able to improve your future posts.

Invite users to contribute

As much as people like listening to the opinions and advice of experts, what they like even more is hearing the perspectives of their peers. Opinion pieces and personal experiences make for great content in a lot of fields. The great thing about them is that they don’t necessarily require expertise in any form.

If you wanted, you could invite your website’s users to contribute content of their own. It’s a tried-and-tested method that gives your website more quality content, while also creating a more open and inclusive environment for people to enjoy. Users will gladly contribute their content to a website that they like, even if there’s no compensation or if it’s minimal.

Conclusion

Content is something you can’t do without in online marketing. To create better content on a budget, you’ll need to get a bit creating. With the above ideas, you should be able to handle the task and reach successful numbers.

New Recruitment & Training Techniques for HR Management

Staffing is one of the biggest employer challenges, especially in the growing healthcare industry, for example. The unemployment rate in the field has dropped to a mere 2.0%, making employee recruitment and retention critical to your organization’s success. Technology can aid your HR department in the process.

Recruitment

It’s important to understand who best fits your company’s culture (and what they’re looking for in return) to recruit the top talent in a competitive market. Ensure your efforts to attract and hire new personnel is well focused and that your organization understands a prospect’s needs.

Consider streamlining the hiring process by requiring prospects to test for the position. Doing so will save you time on meetings and interviews with individuals who may look good on paper but may not be a match. Culture indexing uses technology to assess and qualify top talent for better hiring. These short online tests determine whether or not an organization is the right fit for you and the recruit.

It’s also important to collaborate with other HR staff to understand what ideal hires look for in a new employer. To know what your target talent wants, it’s sometimes best to know what they don’t want. A report by the Work Institute listed the top reasons employees quit their jobs. Retirement and the work environment were among the top 10. While the former is unpreventable, the latter can be altered; use the information provided to find solutions to the main employee complaints and position your organization as one of the top companies in the field.

Career Development

The report found that the No. 1 reason workers leave is to further advance their careers (22%). Does your company offer benefits that allow for staff to train and move up in the organization? If not, start developing a system now. Otherwise, when recruiting, emphasize your company’s commitment to employee advancement and training programs.

Consider including the discussion of career goals as part of the regularly-scheduled employee performance review. Find ways to implement an online training program or on-the-job learning where staff can expand their current skills. The medical field is a busy and fast-paced industry. Asynchronous learning may be the best solution for employees interested in ongoing education because they can study around their busy schedules.

Help employees meet their career goals by assigning a manager or lead who can guide them and document the staff member’s career goals. Your organization may already have a system for HR files. Include a career goal profile in the employee’s personnel file so that HR and other support personnel can stay updated and track their progress. 

Work-Life Balance

Even the best personnel can experience burnout. The Work Institute’s report found that 12 out of 100 people left their job to attain a better work-life balance. Offering staff more flexible work hours using flextime, job sharing, or telecommuting where staff work from home (when possible) are some solutions to address the work-life balance challenge.

Telecommuting or remote work may be the best solution for personnel who may be in danger of burnout. Can your company implement processes and technology so that employees may work remotely from home? Airtasker.com surveyed 1,000 full-time employees and found that remote work made employees more productive and allowed them to have more time for their personal lives. 

Working from home saved employees an average of 8.5 hours per week previously wasted on commuting. And most importantly, remote workers were more focused and productive, with an average non-productive time of 37 minutes while at the office and 27 minutes while at home.

Work Environment

Several of the reasons employees quit their job have to do with the work environment itself. The reasons employees left included:

  • Manager behavior: 11 out of 100
  • Well-being: 8 out of 100
  • Job characteristics: 8 out of 100
  • Literal work environment: 5 out of 100

Reducing conflict and high-pressure in the work environment may be difficult in certain healthcare facilities like an urgent care facility or an ambulatory surgical center. Still, it’s worth the effort if your organization wants to attract and retain employees. The benefits go well beyond team morale — improving the work environment can enhance the quality of care and reduce costly errors. Consider how the following improvements can benefit your company:

Redesign the Office Layout

Improve flow by separating patient traffic from areas where medical staff frequently access. Separate entrances make it easier for staff to enter and exit patient rooms and work with less interruption. Besides separating patients from staff, give management their own area away from staff, so that team members can work freely without feeling overly observed.

Create an Environment With Well-Being in Mind

A calm and inviting environment is ideal for patients, but consider your staff’s needs as well. Repaint walls in a soothing neutral color; there are many options, from soft whites to bolder grays. Simple improvements like natural or improved lighting, live plants, and ergonomic office furniture add comfort and function in the workspace.

Improvements Start at the HR Level

Attracting new hires and retaining existing personnel is essential to your company’s growth. It’s one of the most important tasks of the HR department. Implementing new ideas and technology to create an ideal work environment can better position your company as one of the most sought-after in the job market. 

Prepare for the future of HR with these 3 simple steps

By Chris Bruce, Co-founder and Managing Director of Thomsons Online Benefits

Technology plays a significant role in the way benefits are delivered, selected and utilized. From the way they are accessed by employees, to the way employers are able to use data to personalize benefits to meet the needs of each individual, the future has never been more exciting. There are more opportunities for organizations to support their employees than ever before.

This is not limited to the newest startups or most high-tech industries — every company can take advantage of the benefits evolution. Here are three tips illustrating how your business can do the same.

Step 1: Provide easy access for all

Benefits technology is about more than having access to insurance or gym membership reimbursements. Employees now expect their interactions with enterprise technology to match those of consumer tech, with all the associated ease of use. They want quick and easy access on any device, enabling them to view and engage with their benefits at any time, from any location.

Our Global Employee Benefits Watch report found that loyalty (81%) and pride (79%) were particularly high among employees who can easily access their benefits. Of those who found access to be difficult, just 37% said they were proud to work for their organization. If the benefits experience is not up to par, employees are less likely to engage. This shouldn’t be taken lightly – multiple Gallup polls have shown that engaged employees are much less likely to look for another job.

Step 2: Embrace personalization

When trying to determine which benefits are best, it’s imperative that businesses remember that every employee is unique. Gender, age, culture and geography are among the aspects that shape benefits preferences for each individual. Thus, a single approach may not be the best way to serve every employee within an organization.

But the solution isn’t as difficult as it may appear. Wellness pots, for example, offer a simple alternative to a blanket, take-it-or-leave-it approach. They allow employees to choose how to spend funds allocated to wellness benefits, which can include more than a monthly gym membership.

Employers should also be looking to people analytics to help inform their benefits strategy. By having access to reliable data on which benefits are most popular among which demographic, they can divert spend or create bespoke packages to best meet the needs of these employees.

Step 3: Take full advantage of people analytics

We live in a data-driven world, where the amount and range of data being collected is growing on a daily basis, offering instantaneous results on everything from how and when we work to when and where we use our benefits. By extracting deep organizational insight from data, enterprises can become much more targeted in the types of benefits they offer employees. Our research indicates that 59% of global organizations based in the U.S. have improved their benefits programs by observing workers’ interactions with their benefits platforms.

In just three years, the number of organizations building people analytics teams rose 68% (versus 15% a few years ago). Organizations wholeheartedly recognize that people are their biggest asset, which is why they are so eager to build these teams. And with a wealth of data now available, businesses can ensure they are getting the very best from their people.

Embrace the future

It is now possible for employees to access their benefits from virtually anywhere. At the same time, personalization allows workers to receive the benefits they want most. Additionally, people analytics are improving engagement and productivity while enhancing benefits programs. These are the innovations that will propel HR forward in the years to come. But you don’t have to wait for the next phase – the future is already here. Are you ready?

Ways You Can Develop a Healthy Work Environment for Your Employees

Almost all business leaders realize that the happier and healthier your team is, the better they will perform. And of course, great performance by employees means that your company grows and succeeds more easily.

However, too many leaders don’t put a lot of thought or planning into their work environment. They let it be whatever it is – which is often something not conducive to high productivity and engaged work. 

The good news is that you can create a work environment where your employees are healthy and happy. Here’s what you need to know. 

Provide a Sense of Mission For Everyone

Too many company mission statements are a mish-mash of corporate-speak that doesn’t really mean anything to anyone. It goes on the wall, but it isn’t lived out day-to-day. But your business can be different.

People’s lives at work are greatly enriched if they feel that they are doing something meaningful. It gives them a sense of ownership and encourages them to do their best work. Pay alone doesn’t encourage creativity and engagement. Mission-driven workers are 54% more likely to stay for five years at a company and 30% more likely to become high performers. 

Making your mission the front and center of every day isn’t just good for employees, either – it’s essential to a successful organization. The mission makes your team cohesive.

Patagonia is a great example of this. They have an explicit mission to be a steward of the planet and among other initiatives, don’t make metal pitons that are hammered into rock. Their clothing is made from organic cotton. And it doesn’t stop there. Their headquarters welcomes employees’ children and the company allows surfing breaks, flexible schedules, and volunteering sabbaticals. 

The result? A successful company, 4% turnover, and 9,000 applicants for new openings. 

Pretty impressive!

Offer Health and Wellness Resources

A company that wants a truly healthy and happy environment will offer the resources to make it happen. 

A big part of this is allowing workers time off when they’re ill, and encouraging them to treat their illness rather than being a “hero” and coming to work sick. Using a natural treatment method such as CBD can help employees battle a number of cold and flu symptoms at once, such as aches and pains, fatigue, and even nausea.

You can also offer workplace wellness programs. Wellness programs encourage healthy behaviors, give options for treating problems, and encourage employees to be consistent in their health efforts. 

As a result, your company will save a significant amount of money. The average financial return on these programs is $3.27 in health savings for every dollar spent, along with $5.82 for every dollar spent in lower absenteeism. 

Employees appreciate these programs, both for the impact on health and on the overall culture of the company. In fact, 87% consider these options when choosing an employer.

If you want a happier, healthier workforce, consider offering a variety of health-related programs employees can take advantage of. This may include health educators, counselors, and even massage therapists. Health educators and counselors can provide in-depth education on preventive care employees can engage in to keep themselves in tip-top shape. These educational programs often teach lifestyle changes and choices such as diet or exercise programs or meditation techniques.

Don’t Overlook Mental Health

Americans are among the most stressed populations in the world, and nearly half feel worried on a regular basis. Helping your employees handle these pressures is important. Some of the cause is work stress, but many Americans also feel stressed about finances, their health, and their families. 

Offering access to confidential mental health programs like an Employee Assistance Program can also make a big difference. You can also encourage the use of technology, like mobile apps, to monitor and improve mental health.

Be sure you don’t stigmatize or punish employees — officially or unofficially — who take advantage of these programs. Otherwise, you’re working against the health and happiness you’re spending money to provide.

When you prioritize physical and mental health in the workplace, you’re sending a message that your employees matter and aren’t just a worker to you. You see them as people, and that’s important for a healthy work environment.

Give Consistent Praise and Recognition

Not receiving praise and recognition for good work is a consistent complaint among employees. Too many workplaces focus on correcting mistakes and overlook when people do a good job. It’s simply expected.

Unfortunately, not giving praise and recognition puts your employees on the fast track to leaving the company. Being unappreciated is the number one reason employees look for other jobs. 

Make a plan and include recognition as a regular part of the workday. Whether it’s encouraging employees to brag on each other or getting a thank you from a manager, your staff needs to feel appreciated. Be sure to solicit feedback from your employees on a variety of things — did your team deploy a new product?  How did it go? Have you implemented that new recognition program? What’s working and what isn’t? Great bosses ask for feedback and put it into practice. It’s yet another way to recognize your employees’ contributions.

Healthy and Happy Workers Matter

Why should you bother with employee health and happiness? Because it matters to your business and your bottom line. Companies with happy employees outperform competitors by 20%. Plus, when your employees are happier it impacts how they do their job.

Unhappy employees telegraph their attitude to customers. So do happy ones. So if you want excellent customer service, you want to have a happy, healthy staff.

You’ll also save significant money on health costs, turnover, and absenteeism when your team is healthier and happier. 

Most of all, you’ll be treating employees as what they are – real people who really matter. That, alone, is plenty of reason to invest in a healthy work environment.

Client Communication: How to Do It Right

Communication, they say, is the basis for any healthy relationship. Much like in romantic bonds, family relations, and our friendships, transparency and honesty are necessary for all parties involved to feel appreciated and to know each other’s expectations. It’s not much different with professional bonds, isn’t it? The clients that give you the most trouble are the ones that send you lengthy emails with zero useful feedback, the ones that bombard you with information you cannot use, and the ones that don’t know what they want. 

Whether you’re working as a solo freelancer or you’re a part of a larger agency, if your role involves any amount of client interaction, you know that misunderstandings can cause more headaches than any amount of actual work ever could. Implementing certain rules, sticking to specific habits in client communication, and setting boundaries are all very important ways in which you can ease those headaches and make sure that your collaborations are more effective.

Define the process

Some companies and freelancers still assume that every single one of their clients has the same idea of the services they provide. For example, the field of digital marketing is a vast one indeed, and if you haven’t specified which particular areas your expertise covers, you can expect your clients to either come to you with a slew of questions, or to assume that you do exactly what they need and want. In both situations, you’re already in a mess. 

First of all, make sure that every touchpoint of your communication entails clear information. Your website, for starters, should have a clear page explaining your services in full. When someone reaches out to you, before the collaboration even begins, you should make sure that they know exactly what you can do for them, and what your business doesn’t cover. That way, you’ll prevent many misunderstandings and you’ll be able to qualify client leads more efficiently than ever. This can be done by using proposal software that will allow you access to a variety of client proposals.

Establish boundaries

We’ve all been there: a client sends you emails in the middle of the night, with no regard for your personal time off, expecting you to reply as soon as yesterday, and constantly in need of changes and alterations to your original service. Some clients are needy, others are borderline certifiable, but sometimes you cannot assess if they are a good match for your business until very late in the collaboration. 

In any scenario, setting those boundaries early on can help you manage those complicated relationships better. For starters, you can emphasize your work hours and when you’re available for communication via chat, phone, or email, and how long it typically takes you to respond. You should also let your clients know that when they need changes to your provided service or product, you have a process to stick to, and explain how long it takes. All of these details could be beneficial for letting your clients know how to get the information they want without disrupting your workflow. 

Embrace discovery

Especially when you’re in a creative industry, delivering something that will be in line with your clients’ expectations and needs can be tricky. Creative work is very individual, although based on expertise, and if you’re running a web design agency, for instance, you can often go through several stages of back-and-forth communication before you actually complete the work at hand, by no one’s fault in particular. Those interactions can still take away a chunk of your valuable time, and preventing that can be beneficial for you and your clients.

You can create and send out a customized web design client questionnaire as a part of your discovery process in an attempt to cover all of your bases and prevent all those changes early on. Of course, it’s always possible for your client to send the design back for tweaks, but you can at the very least prevent major, time-consuming changes that can affect your productivity. This is especially handy if your customers aren’t familiar with the industry and wouldn’t know what kind of details you need to begin with, so some guidance is essential.

Ask for feedback to improve 

Some clients like in-person meetings, some love Skype, while others enjoy the email correspondence that comes with clarity and transparency. In any scenario, you might not be perfectly compatible in terms of those preferences with each and every client, but you can find ways to accommodate their needs without disrupting your own process. A great way to avoid conflicts would be to ask your clients for feedback regarding your performance but also your communication and availability. 

Insights collected in that way could be helpful in defining your future relationships and in redefining expectations in your existing collaborations. In a similar manner, you should feel free to provide your own comments and feedback if you feel that your client should give you more space or that they aren’t available enough to the detriment of the project, causing missed deadlines and the like. Transparency in the form of regular feedback is a healthy way to let your client relationships blossom over time.

 

Although it takes time to evolve as a freelancer or even as a part of a team within an agency, you can certainly find ways to improve how you interact with clients. Take these tips into consideration, and you’ll be able to ensure long-lasting bonds and more satisfied clients down the line.

Best Free Conference Call Services for Businesses

Having the right conference call service on your side can help improve your business in so many different ways. First of all, it provides you with a chance to contact members of your team who are far away on a moment’s notice. It also allows you to skip the necessity to go across the globe in order to attend a meeting in person. Sure, a lot of people prefer a face-to-face meeting, however, organizing one in order to resolve an issue in several minutes is a waste of everyone’s time and resources. Fortunately, a conference call service can help you avoid this but which platforms are the best for your business? Here are several worth considering.

  1. Skype

It would be simply unfair not to mention skype at the very top of this list. Why? Well, the first reason is the fact that even today, skype boasts with as many as 1 billion downloads and about 300 million monthly active users. One more thing that sets skype apart is the fact that it’s at the very top of the industry for years now. Keep in mind that this tool is completely free and that it provides you with a simple and efficient conference call service that you can use for both international and local meetings alike.

  1. Google Hangouts

If there’s one thing that we can notice about Google nowadays it’s the fact that it tries to be competitive in virtually every field out there. This ranges from becoming competitive with MS Office, with tools like Google Docs and Google Sheets. One incredible Google tool that you can use for conference call services is the so-called Google Hangouts. The best thing about this tool is that it’s completely browser-based and that, all you need to access it is a Google Account. In other words, it’s a tool that you can always default to.

  1. Zoom

Another amazing tool for conference calls, especially if you have a particularly large team, is Zoom. The only downside of this tool lies in the fact that your calls are limited to 40 minutes, however, seeing as how the majority of meetings don’t actually exceed 20 minutes, this is more than enough. Other than this, by having a limited time for the meeting, you’ll have extra motivation to keep it short and to the point. It is estimated that we spend about 31 hours in unnecessary meetings each month, either way, so avoiding this might be especially important. Needless to say, you have both free and premium accounts.

  1. Redback Connect

When it comes to hosting a conference with a particularly large audience, what you might need is a tool that’s closer to a life event streaming service than an IM software. Redback Connect is a perfect example. As is expected, this is something that can completely erase all geographical boundaries, which makes it ideal even for major industry-relevant conventions. The fact that you can also provide your audience with an on-demand content makes for another major selling point of this tool.

  1. Viber

Another tool that you need to take into consideration is the use of Viber for the purpose of conference-calling. The problem with this idea lies in the fact that Viber’s biggest advantage also tends to be its major downside. Namely, a Viber is a tool that virtually everyone nowadays has installed on their phone. On top of this, it also has a desktop version. The fact that it has a wide personal use makes people available 24/7, however, this also means that they might get distracted by other (personal) messages that they receive while working.

  1. FreeConferenceCall.com

The next tool that’s worth your consideration is the FreeConferenceCall.com. This is a reliable and simple tool with a more than self-explanatory name. The tool itself can be registered for free in a matter of minutes but you also have an option to continue with your Facebook account, thus facilitating this already short process even further. The use of this tool is also quite simple, seeing as how you can set up an online conference in a simple three-steps-long move. You get a free account, you invite participants and you start an audio conference. It really is that simple.

  1. WebEx

One more amazing tool that you should consider using is WebEx. The benefits of using this tool are numerous, the biggest one being the fact that you get to the conference call, screen share and file share within the same platform. Due to the fact that the tool also has a simple and effective whiteboard for quick and efficient messaging, it is more than clear that this is an end-to-end conference tool like no other. This is particularly effective when you’re sharing visual ideas. For instance, in a scenario where you’re trying to design a custom sign for your business. A brainstorming session in WebEx can be quite a sight. Now, the tool itself is not free, however, you do get a trial period. This means that you can always use it as a one-time solution.

  1. UberConference

One of the tools that a lot of people probably expected to see earlier on this list is the popular UberConference tool. What you get is a free conference call tool that specializes in voice calls. Sure, conference call services in 2020 usually imply video support, however, the truth is that audio always comes first. This is especially important to allow various parties to participate in conference calls while driving.

  1. FreeConference.com

Finally, we have one more tool with a self-explanatory name that can provide you with a highly-efficient online meeting room for your staff. The platform has support for any device, which gives you an additional layer of versatility that you need. Add to this the fact that you get support for international dial-in numbers and what you’ve got yourself is an ultimate tool for going global with your business. 

In conclusion

At the end of the day, there are several factors that all of these tools share. First, the registering process is always free and simple and the tool itself has a simple and intuitive interface. In fact, one could even get out of the way to claim that it makes little to no difference when it comes to which of the tools you decide to use. Now, while differences may not be exactly astronomical, they’re definitely present. Also, seeing as how no tool is so clearly superior or inferior to others, you can just pick the one that fits your own personal preference without the fear of making the wrong choice.