Our Latest Blogs

A new look at America’s pet project

A new look at America’s pet project In the United States, we cherish our pets. It’s reflected in the time we spend with them and the comforts, conveniences and care we provide them. According to the American Pet Products Association, expenditures on pets totaled $103.6 billion last year, up from $90.5 billion in 2018. That includes $31.4 billion in vet care and products. The North American Pet Health Insurance Association says that more than 3.1 million dogs and cats were covered by pet health insurance in 2020, with pet owners spending nearly $2 billion, a 27.5% one-year increase. In the US, the total premium volume was $1.99 billion as of 2020, while in Canada, total volume reached $188 million. Nearly 3.4 million pets in USA and Canada are insured. Since 2016, the number of pets covered has grown by 18% in the US and 12% in Canada. US owners paid an average $49.92 per month to provide coverage for dogs and $28.44 per month for cats. Canadian owners paid monthly premiums of $52.84 and $25.42 for dogs and cats, respectively. Last year, we saw the stay-at-home and work-from-home measures introduced during the pandemic create even closer bonds between pet owners and their pets. These strong human-animal relationships are driving pet owners’ desire to address financial uncertainty by mitigating unexpected veterinary costs, contributing to record 2020 results. Millions of Americans adopted pets during the pandemic. As those dogs, cats and animals worked their special magic — becoming beloved members of their human families — savvy employers took notice. Employers have seen the impact pets can have in relieving employees’ stress and increasing their happiness and productivity. With many employees welcoming new family members into their households, there are bound to be implications for new pet-parent finances. According to MetLife’s study, employees are more concerned regarding finances. Millennials and Gen Zers, who comprise the majority of dog parents, have been hit hard by the financial fallout from the pandemic. Many pet owners view their animal as more than a friend. Pets are considered family. 78% of pet owners view their pet as a member of the family, and 34% say their pet is their favorite child. While owning a pet can be expensive, with annual costs of dog parenting running as high as $2,455, taking care of a furry family member is of utmost importance. A recent survey from Pets Best Insurance found that 83% of their customers considered themselves a pet parent. There’s no doubt we’ve always loved our pets, but in the wake of the pandemic and ongoing economic turmoil, the narrative is shifting. Pet parents have had to rethink how they feed, provide medical care for and protect their pets. Why should a pet owner carry insurance on their animal? Because emergency pet care can climb as high as $8,000 for a single treatment. Pet insurance can offer owners some protection when it comes to veterinarian bills for illnesses and accidents — and it can also come in handy during times of uncertainty. Most pet parents (67%) primarily pay out-of-pocket for vet expenses, and 1 in 5 (22%) pet parents say they are “not very comfortable” financially when it comes to veterinary expenses. By covering accidents, illnesses, surgeries, exam fees, and medications, pet insurance can make sure that these expenses do not strain financially stressed employees. With many employees grappling with financial stress due to the pandemic, having available cash on hand may be difficult. Pet parents can customize deductibles and reimbursement rates, making their pet insurance affordable and manageable. Pet insurance comes with the peace of mind that claims will be addressed in a timely manner. Businesses of all sizes in diverse industries are adding pet health insurance to their benefits packages. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management estimates that 15% of employers offer a pet insurance benefit to employees. Affordable plans are available for a variety of income levels, providing tremendous peace of mind to pet owners. With companies continually vying for the best people, a pet insurance offering can help differentiate your business from competitors – especially for many Millennial and Gen Y workers. Adding pet health insurance to your voluntary benefits strategy or offering is a great way to let employees know you recognize their pets are part of their family too. As the employment market gets more competitive, companies should review their benefits programs to make sure that they are also staying competitive. Adding a pet insurance option could prove to be a great move. Pets are part of the family, and the companionship and love they bring to our lives has never been more important.

01 Dec 2021
Taking DEI initiatives to the next level

Taking DEI initiatives to the next level Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is important for human progress. Of course, it’s critical because of the inherent need for more equality, fairness, and representation. But diversity isn’t just a social good, it’s a must-have for businesses that want to stay competitive. The term DEI often conjures images of a workplace consisting of people of different colors, sexual orientation, cultures and genders. While those things certainly explain a component of diversity, it’s only part of what diversity includes. Physical and social aspects only make up half of diversity. The remainder lies in diversity of thought construct. Numerous studies have shown a clear correlation between companies with diverse teams and business success. It’s pretty simple: diverse companies are more likely to financially outperform their peers. Research has shown a significant correlation between company financial outperformance and diversity, on the dimensions of both gender and ethnicity. Employers expect to put greater emphasis on DEI in their workplace culture and policies, as well as their benefit programs. The number of employers promoting DEI in their benefit programs and workplaces is expected to jump sharply during the next three years. Four-fifths of employers will take steps to promote DEI in their workplace culture. Additionally, seven in 10 employers indicated they would promote DEI-related aspects of their benefit programs (72%) and well-being programs (69%). Half of respondents have acted on their maternity benefits, family planning, and fertility programs; another 33% plan to do so this year or are considering doing so within the next two years. 46% have acted on transgender benefits; another 30% plan to do so this year or are considering doing so within the next two years. 55% have addressed employee resource groups and 53% have addressed leave of absence programs; one in four plans to do so this year or is considering doing so within the next two years. 27% have evaluated the affordability of benefits, and another 29% are planning to do so. DEI is among the top five priorities for employers surveyed. They are committed to finding the top strategies to implement DEI measures, evident in diversity recruiting efforts. And employers are thinking outside the 9-to-5 box — flexible policies and accommodations stood out as a significant change employers made. To achieve greater diversity in hiring, the most common tactic is using an online platform to evaluate applications at scale (45%), followed by eliminating bias in job postings (43%), besides posting jobs via non-traditional outlets (37%), replacing educational requirements with core competencies (36%) and standardizing interview questions (34%). Six in 10 employers said they provided accommodations, opportunities and tools for employees based on their specific needs, and more than half said they introduced flexible policies. 52% also worked to make sure employee pay was equal across titles or positions. More than half have formalized a DEI strategy for their organization, while 47% have created or reviewed their existing DEI policies and communicated them to employees. In addition, 44% have made actionable changes to hiring policies. To convey their ongoing DEI initiatives to employees, employers are adding descriptions of their DEI efforts to their homepage (64%), making changes in companywide channels (51%) and updating their employee handbooks to reflect changes (45%). Most employers reported that managers and HR teams are splitting the burden when it comes to DEI inquiries from employees. 67% of organizations instruct employees to discuss questions with their direct manager, and 73% urge employees to reach out to the HR team. Organizational leaders play a critical and often underestimated role when it comes to fostering an inclusive workplace. Management buy-in is essential and senior leadership and HR must authentically commit to building a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion. This includes setting the example for the rest of the organization to follow. Having diversity in leadership doesn’t just mean hiring a Director of Diversity. It requires that all relevant stakeholders – from finance to HR to operations – be treated with equal respect. A diversity and inclusion committee works together on creating a code of conduct, cultural programming, employee education, and management training. Many companies believe they already are providing a diverse and inclusive culture, but that may not be the case when it comes to benefits. Benefits also need to be looked at through the lens of DEI. Unfortunately, not all benefits programs are created equal, and it’s not just what is offered, but how information is communicated. There is never going to be a day when a company can “check DEI work off a list” – instead, better DEI practices need to be woven into the fabric of a company’s culture by the right habits and reflection. As Alexis Herman stated: “Inclusion and fairness in the workplace… is not simply the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.”

15 Nov 2021
No child’s play

No child’s play The COVID-19-induced childcare crisis continues to weigh on businesses as many working parents proceed with the dual role of teacher and employee. While some schools currently offer full in-person learning, most are still under hybrid or 100% virtual learning plans. Coupled with the surge in COVID-19 cases, there is no sign the demands of a working parent with virtual and hybrid learners at home will be reduced anytime soon. This strain is having a negative impact as two-thirds of working parents say that their productivity has suffered while trying to manage both work and childcare duties. The disappearance of full-time schooling and conventional childcare options during the pandemic is forcing employers to reassess the belief that employees should be expected to balance their responsibilities at home and at work by themselves. In fact, 40% have already quit or reduced their hours because managing that balance proved to be too difficult. If employers don’t step in to provide better support, they will continue to lose this population of talent, especially working mothers. An analysis by the National Women’s Law Center found that women left the labor force at four times the rate of men. More than 2 million women have dropped out of the workforce since the virus hit. More than one-third of parents — mostly women — have yet to return to jobs they lost, largely because there’s no one to look after their kids, according to a report. Economists call the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on women the first female recession. 42% of working parents feel it would be a risk to their employment to take advantage of childcare benefits available to them through their workplace. As a result, 41% of mothers and 36% of fathers are hiding their caregiving struggles from their employer. Employers may consider allocating additional budget to offer them benefits that provide greater support. The cost of child care is overwhelmingly borne by parents — and, at a price that in 21 states exceeds 20% of the household income — it isn’t cheap. Child care expenses have spiked by more than 40% during the pandemic, increasing from $10,000 annually per child to more than $14,000. Care also isn’t guaranteed in most of the US, for kids who aren’t school-aged. The minimum employers can do is give parents the flexibility to build a working style that suits their needs. This means normalizing ‘do-not-book’ times on calendars, encouraging teams to work remotely when needed, and giving them the autonomy to adjust work hours. For roles that don’t provide this kind of flexibility, consider offering leave or time off. Flexible work schedules allow employees to arrive in the office or join a Zoom call at times that work around their care recipients schedule. For example, as schools partially open and close, employers need to accommodate shifting school schedules such as pick up and drop off days and times. Nearly one-third of employees are working with children at home so a more flexible schedule means that work and life can be balanced. Paid time off of 10 weeks or more with 75% of pay can reduce turnover risk by 50% or more. However, 10 weeks is just a starting point, and longer is not only better for the employee, but further reduces the risk of turnover, increases productivity of returning parents, boosts employee satisfaction, and for fathers, lets partners return more effective. Studies show that even with a return to work, companies still lose out on a mother’s talent as she’ll very likely reduce her hours or pause her career – resulting in a large output gap compared to female counterparts without children. The hit to long-term output caused by the current approach to working motherhood costs companies vastly more than its solution. More than three quarters of mothers with young children feel childcare is one of their top challenges during this pandemic, as opposed to just half of fathers. On average, mothers have been managing three times the amount of domestic labor than fathers. Mothers are working 20 hours more per week than fathers because of childcare responsibilities. One of the most effective ways to understand the needs of parent employees is to start a parent employee resource group run by parents within the organization. Fund and empower the group to run initiatives with the goal of making the biggest impact on productivity and retention. Besides founding an employee parenting resource group, start a channel for parents to offer each other support and suggest helpful resources. The reality is that arranging for childcare is hard enough for employees under normal circumstances, let alone during a global pandemic when regular options like daycare, grandparents, and school aren’t reliably available. If employers don’t step in to provide support, they can expect more working parents to take a step back from their careers.

28 Oct 2021
To poke or not to poke…

To poke or not to poke… On September 9th, President Biden announced an action plan to combat the current surge in COVID-19 cases. In addition to requiring most federal workers and contractors to get vaccinated with no testing alternative, the plan calls for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to issue a rule mandating that health care workers in most health care facilities get vaccinated. All private-sector employers with more than 100 employees have to vaccinate their employees or have them submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. The costs for non-compliance are steep, with fines of up to $14,000 per violation possible. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is being directed to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this requirement. The growing politicization of vaccinations has put companies at the centre of a squabble that can’t be won. There are those who believe vaccination is strictly a matter of choice, and there are those who believe vaccination is a duty to preserve both individual and public health. For some workers, even the testing concession will reek of government overreach and an infringement on individual freedoms. But what of the individual freedoms of every other employee? Shouldn’t they have the right to show up every day to a safe working environment? In fact, they do: It’s simply common sense for large companies with teeming workforces – often operating in close confines – to protect their workers’ health. Nearly one-third of employers are considering making vaccination a requirement to gain access to the workplace, and almost a quarter are planning or considering vaccination as a condition of employment for all employees. Nearly six in 10 track their workers’ vaccination status, and another 19% are planning or considering doing so. A majority (62%) of those require proof of vaccination, while 36% rely on employees to self-report. Nearly two in 10 organizations offer financial incentives for getting vaccinated, with another 14% planning or considering doing so. Cash payments from $100 to $199 are the most common financial incentive. Only 2% of employers currently offer a discount to vaccinated employees or impose a premium surcharge on unvaccinated employees. Another 18% are considering one or both approaches. Eight in 10 respondents require employees to wear masks indoors at any location. Another 13% are planning or considering doing so. Three-fourths of employers use workplace exposure tracing to alert employees to potential exposure. Another 8% are planning or considering doing so. Nearly four in 10 employers now expect their organizations won’t reach a new normal in terms of returning to the workplace and ending pandemic-related policies and programs until the second quarter of 2022. Those who are against getting the vaccine are responding by seeking exemptions from mandatory vaccination based on their religious beliefs. Given the cost of challenging an individual employee’s religious beliefs as well as the need to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act and mitigate risk, an employer’s only reasonable option may be to claim that heeding a request for accommodation would cause it “undue hardship”. Companies have hoped to avoid alienating workers, some of whom begin looking for other work, quit or even file lawsuits based on their stance against the vaccine. On the other hand, workers upset at the idea of sharing office space with unvaccinated co-workers will hold employers responsible. The result: disgruntled workers, an employee exodus, possible litigation. How does a company satisfy both sides? One approach threads the needle: Humbly accept Biden’s new corporate policy. Explain, with clear messaging, that while the company is legally bound to follow federal guidelines, workers still have a choice. No one will be forced into vaccination. Although it is encouraged and is understood to be the best defence against further outbreaks and future viral variations, employees’ individual right to choose will be respected. Employers should also decide who will cover the cost of testing, whether incurring the entire cost, sharing the cost with an employee or placing the full payment responsibility on the employee. The cost for a COVID-19 test is $127. Assume an employer with 125 employees permits 50 of those employees to utilize weekly COVID-19 testing. That could cost the employer’s self-funded group health plan $6,350 per week, or $27,000 per month. A cost of tens of thousands of dollars per month will be an enormous burden for employers. However, it makes more sense to spend on preventive measures like testing than paying for expenses after getting COVID-19, even in the case that one eventually recovers from it. One also has to take into account the hours of lost productivity and subsequent loss in revenue to the company as a result. Taking all this into consideration, companies would do well to encourage their employees to get vaccinated. After all, health is wealth!

05 Oct 2021
Business is booming!

Business is booming! Millions of baby boomers are retiring every year and with them continuing to reach retirement age at 10,000 per day, preparing for income needs and expenses in retirement is always at the top of mind. During the pandemic, an additional 1.7 million Americans retired earlier than what would have been expected. Many workers are struggling with financial security, but still 82 percent continue to contribute either to their employer-sponsored plans or an outside account. Baby boomers (84 percent), Gen Xers (84 percent) and millennials (82 percent) are more likely than Gen Zers (70 percent) to be saving – though the younger generation started saving earlier. The median total household retirement savings among workers is estimated to be $93,000. As expected, baby boomers have the most retirement savings, estimated at $202,000 on average, compared with Gen Xers ($107,000), millennials ($68,000) and Gen Zers ($26,000). Still, there is a need for more financial security, exacerbated by the pandemic. More than four in 10 workers (43 percent) have experienced one or more negative impacts to their employment due to the pandemic, including reduced hours (27 percent), reduced salaries (14 percent), furloughs (10 percent), layoffs (eight percent) and retiring early (4 percent). Gen Zers (59 percent) are more likely to have been negatively impacted than millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers (51 percent, 39 percent and 30 percent). Six in 10 people have made adjustments due to pandemic-related financial strain, including reducing day-to-day expenses (32 percent), tapping into savings accounts (24 percent), accumulating new credit card debt (17 percent), reducing or stopping contributions to retirement accounts (14 percent), forgoing health care (14 percent), borrowing money (13 percent), moving (nine percent) and stopping rent or mortgage payments (seven percent). Workers have only $5,000 on average in emergency savings to specifically cover the cost of unexpected major financial setbacks. Emergency savings increase with age: Gen Zers have saved $2,000 on average, millennials, $5,000; Gen Xers, $6,000; and baby boomers have saved $10,000. Millennials (44 percent) are more likely to have tapped into retirement savings than Gen Xers (33 percent), Gen Zers (30 percent) and baby boomers (17 percent). Forty-nine percent of workers expect to work past age 65 or do not plan to retire. Seventy-two percent of baby boomers either expect to or are already working past age 65 or do not plan to retire, compared with Gen Xers, millennials, and Gen Zers (51 percent, 37 percent and 36 percent). One in five workers (22 percent) expect to retire later because of the pandemic, with millennials being more likely to expect to do so (28 percent). Four in 10 middle-income baby boomers are financially supporting other family members, which affects their own retirement plans. These impacts included: not being able to save as much for retirement (75 percent); delaying moving plans (65 percent); and re-evaluating finances and expenses for retirement (51 percent). Spending time with family and grandchildren now replaces focusing on financial stability as their top non-negotiable. More than twice as many women (55 percent) as men (23 percent) said having enough money to last throughout retirement is a big concern. Still, more than twice as many women (61 percent) as men (26 percent) said they have been able to save more for retirement than they expected. More men than women participate in retirement savings plans at 61 percent versus 55 percent. Married employees are more likely to enroll in a retirement savings plan at 74 percent compared with 62 percent of single employees. Men have a higher average account balance of $98,000 than women, who have $62,000. Most Americans (69 percent) describe themselves as planners, and 64 percent either have a plan or have thought on how to afford their lifestyle in retirement. 82 percent report that their retirement plans have been affected negatively. Millennials are slightly more likely than their older counterparts to report having a plan to afford their desired lifestyle in retirement (35 percent), compared to Gen X-ers (34 percent) or boomers (32 percent). Retirees on average have $179,000 in retirement funds, far less than the $465,000 recommended by experts. 60 percent of retirees retired earlier than expected. Sixty-five percent of those who retired early did so because of health issues, while 22 percent left the workforce before they planned to due to job loss and 10 percent to care for a family member. Only 35 percent of retirees feel they are prepared adequately for retirement. And here is where Secova can help. Secova provides a single point of contact and accountability for all transactions between our clients, their retirees, and benefit carriers without it being a resource drain on companies. We believe in making the silver years a golden opportunity for our clients!

28 Sep 2021
Make way for Gen Z!

Make way for Gen Z! We now have four generations in the workforce, each with very different perspectives on their futures, their relationship to their employers and the role of work in their lives. While it has always made sense that we cannot deliver universal ‘one size fits all’ workplace well-being programs to an age-diverse employee population, it is particularly relevant in 2021, as employees emerge from the challenges of living and working in a pandemic. We now have four generations in the workforce, each with very different perspectives on their futures, their relationship to their employers and the role of work in their lives. While it has always made sense that we cannot deliver universal ‘one size fits all’ workplace well-being programs to an age-diverse employee population, it is particularly relevant in 2021, as employees emerge from the challenges of living and working in a pandemic. The effects of the pandemic on well-being have been particularly pronounced for employees in Gen Z (ages 18-25), with 90% reporting a negative impact on health and well-being. Older generations also have experienced challenges but to a somewhat lesser degree. Gen Z and millennial employees are generally three to five times more likely to make use of mental and emotional well-being programs than Gen Xers or boomers. Eight in 10 Gen Z workers think employers should offer mental and emotional health support, 11% more than millennials and Gen Xers. More than half of Gen Z workers and 48% of millennials want employers to address the social isolation of working from home with virtual programs supporting connectedness, compared with fewer than a third of Gen Xers. Additionally, Gen Zs want employer well-being programs to embrace greater inclusivity, with more than half (56%) expecting employers to offer resources specific to the LGBTQ community, compared with only one-third of Gen Xers and boomers. Considering these generational shifts, a traditional benefits package will likely fall flat with younger employees. Gen Z and millennial employees may expect a different kind of well-being package than older generations, but once offered, they are far more likely to use it. Specific benefits that matter to Gen Z include: medical coverage, as 40% of respondents said mental and emotional health was a top concern; 401(k) match, which might be a financial strain that some companies can’t take on; flexible hours, which might include remote work. Education costs have skyrocketed in recent years, meaning millennials and Gen Zers are graduating college with high student loan debt. To appeal to millennials and Gen Zers, organizations can focus on benefits like student loan repayment assistance. In addition, retirement plans, especially matching plans, are popular among younger generations. Respondents between 18 and 35 chose more money going toward student loan repayment, ahead of all other benefits, including health insurance, retirement, childcare, and PTO. Members of Gen Z have different expectations from older generations— they want benefits that help make their lives easier. Motivated by more than a paycheck and inspired by dynamic cultures that value employees as individuals, these workers want a more connected relationship with their employer. They want to know they are genuinely cared for, especially while working from home and physically disconnected from others. Sometimes called ‘digital natives or ‘centennials’, Gen Z is the first generation to not know life before the internet. As such, they are extremely tech-savvy and are often seeking out careers that meet their skill sets and earning potential. Gen Z is more diverse, better educated, tolerant of differences, driven, competitive and pragmatic, more so than those in the millennial group. They are rejecting the linear career path that tells them to put the hours in, get promoted, repeat. Instead, they are looking for fulfilment. Voya Financial found Gen Z reported the highest levels of engagement in their employer-sponsored benefits. Generations generally agreed they wanted more information on their benefits outside of the enrollment period: from 70% of boomers to 82% of Gen Z. When asked if they will spend more time reviewing benefits, 83% of Gen Z agreed, followed by 70% of millennials and Gen X, and 63% of boomers. Three-quarters of Gen Z respondents said they plan to make changes in their elections, followed by 60% of millennials and 53% of Gen X. Just over a quarter of boomers — 28% — said they will make changes. Standard benefits, like medical and dental insurance and paid vacation, only scratch the surface of what younger employees want today. They want convenience beyond just virtual care, as they eye non-traditional care like retail clinics and digital engagement tools. Younger employees have expanded past a physician-only approach and towards a digital-first attitude that focuses on convenience and preventative health. Continued education, training, mentorship, and advancement opportunities, as well as social impact programs and volunteering, are benefits that resonate with this group. If we enable Generation Z to do what they love and love what they do, then this could be the biggest productivity driver of the 21st century. And here is where Secova can help. Secova offers a comprehensive benefits administration solution for every employee with a program tailor-made for your company, specifically. We believe you are never too young to make a difference in people’s lives.

21 Sep 2021
Navigating the hybrid work scenario

Navigating the hybrid work scenario There’s no doubt that remote work has proven to have many advantages for both employers and employees. And it’s unlikely that we’ll return to a fully in-office arrangement anytime soon. The future of work is hybrid: some employees fully remote, others in the office full-time and the vast majority likely splitting their time between the two. As Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom noted in a recent article, 32% of workers never want to go back to the office, but another 21% never want to work from home again. Companies are evaluating the effectiveness of the hybrid work model, and the jury is still out. Pew Research says that 83% of respondents feel that the hybrid work model will be the future of work. In February 2021, JPMorgan COO Daniel Pinto told CNBC that he saw a zero per cent chance of 100% of people going back to the office, 100% of the time. Theoretically, workers could spend the summer months at a lake house in Minnesota, extend their vacation to Florida by a couple of weeks and work from the beach or even move to a lower-cost city or state. But in practice, this can be a nightmare for payroll and compliance professionals. In fact, some companies have already learned the hard way that there are serious tax and compliance risks involved on both sides of the spectrum. How can you give your employees the flexibility they demand without putting your company at risk? Some companies may have overpromised on the idea of ‘work from anywhere'. Even Spotify’s seemingly wide-open policy comes with some asterisks - specifically, limitations on the jurisdictions in which employees are permitted to work, presumably those where the company has already evaluated and planned for the tax and compliance risk. In addition to establishing a location-based policy where appropriate, there should also be rules for who qualifies for remote work and how. There may be reasons why it’s necessary to have certain roles or individuals in-office, so setting a policy that specifies who can work remotely and under what circumstances can provide a guidepost and avoid ad hoc decisions that can cause issues. Once a policy is in place, it’s imperative to implement a workflow by which employees can request remote work. Often, staff will ask their direct supervisor who may give permission based solely on the impact it may have on productivity, team collaboration and work output. They may not be aware of the payroll and corporate tax implications and, therefore, inadvertently put the company at risk. Companies cannot rely on employees to accurately report their remote work locations. Despite 78% of HR pros saying they were confident their employees would self-report when working in another state or country, the reality is only a third reported all those days to HR. It turns out that the biggest risk is not the employees who are asking for approval — it is those who take the ‘anywhere’ comment literally and jet off to new locations. The only way to accurately track employee location is with technology that’s purpose-built for helping companies maintain compliance. Doing so not only gives finance and HR a much more reliable way to comply with accurate payroll withholding and immigration risk, but also eliminates the burden of reporting for employees. With length-of-stay thresholds for payroll tax withholding that vary from 14 to 30 days or more across jurisdictions, you need to track not only current location but also historical data to validate against those thresholds. Fortunately, 94% of employees are comfortable with being tracked at the country, state and city level. With many employees now working from home at least part of the time, the question of paid time off (PTO) has become more complicated than ever. PTO requests are surging as workers, exhausted and burned out, are scrambling to take the vacations they’ve had to table for more than a year. One survey from management consulting firm Korn Ferry found that 79% of professionals vowed to use more vacation days in 2021, and 46% said they’d take longer vacations than in years past. Even with the clear advantages of remote work, without the right tools and guidelines in place, the risks could quickly far outweigh the benefits. Companies that aim to leverage the flexibility, productivity and diversity of hybrid work must mitigate the compliance nightmare with sound policy, procedures and solutions that allow them to protect themselves, while also keeping employees happy. And here is where Secova can help. Secova provides comprehensive solutions to make sure that your company complies with current regulations and fulfils IRS reporting requirements, besides helping with leave administration by tailoring a program specific to your company’s size, scope and complexity of leave issues. Hybrid work has never been more productive!

14 Sep 2021
Retaining your employees during the Great Resignation

Retaining your employees during the Great Resignation By now, you’ve probably heard of — or experienced — the ‘Great Resignation’, a term coined by Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, to describe the wave of people rethinking or quitting their jobs post-pandemic. Some 4 million people quit their jobs in April, the highest reported number since 2000. More than 3.6 million people voluntarily left their jobs in May. Prudential posits one in four US workers will look for a new job when the pandemic eases up; Microsoft research finds that 41% of the global workforce is weighing leaving their current employer this year; Monster reports as many as 95% of workers are currently considering changing jobs. There are 9.2 million job openings, but employers can’t fill them. Employees will resign for a number of reasons. A key driver for employees leaving can be feeling undervalued. According to a recent survey, 63% of employees feel that they don’t get enough praise. And 83% of employees think it’s better to give someone praise than a gift. Making sure employees are valued and recognized can be a key driver of retention. But there’s another reason people might quit their jobs: burnout, which disproportionately affects working mothers. One in four women with children under 10 say they considered leaving the workforce during the pandemic, compared with only 13% of men with younger kids, according to research from McKinsey & Company. Women told researchers that they were exhausted from taking on more household and child-rearing duties. A recent Microsoft study confirms employees want the best when it comes to workplace flexibility, with more than 70% of workers desiring flexible remote work options to continue. As organizations get real with remote and hybrid work, they learn that those able to provide workers with the flexibility to work where and when they want to enjoy significant competitive advantage. Research shows 85% of US employees who worked remotely during the pandemic prefer to work either remotely or in hybrid arrangements permanently. According to one study, approximately one in five employees reported leaving their jobs in 2020 due to pay and benefits concerns, with unsatisfactory pay being the top reason. Research shows 72% of companies are updating pay and benefits programs in 2021 to address multiple challenges. They continue to modernize and personalize their health benefits and recognize savings and retirement are a top priority of employees, increasing their focus to further strengthen employees’ financial security. During 2020 and 2021, employees and organizations demonstrated resiliency in light of significant challenges. At the same time, research shows a decline in physical, emotional, financial and social well-being. Employees reported feeling disconnected and the deterioration of workplace social connections has created productivity and stress challenges that can hamper performance. Employers focused on efforts to drive resiliency through efforts that consider workload, time off, counselling, behavioural and mental health assistance, as well as financial well-being support and continuous skilling and development. Unlike 40 years ago, lower-paid employees cannot afford to buy a home or pay for college tuition on their income. College benefits are becoming more popular among all types of employers, including those in the restaurant and retail industry. Some of these programs are even geared to the children of team members instead of workers themselves. Providing access to free or discounted higher education can help improve recruitment and retention efforts. Employers are not only considering solutions such as free college benefits but are also considering matching contributions. While some people welcome going back to an office environment, the reasons for those who dread it are varied and personal. Some are experiencing sadness on missing out on dinner with their families or the freedom to take a walk in the middle of the day. Women and marginalized people may fear experiencing more microaggressions in the office setting. There’s also no denying the increased polarization of political and social views amplified during the pandemic. Creating a work culture built on trust, transparency, and empathy is what makes employees feel safe to show up as their authentic selves. This is the state in which we are all able to contribute our very best, and so directly in the company’s best interest. When employees feel seen and heard, their performance and productivity increases. They feel able to grow, and so will stay, leading to the retention of top talent that is more vital – and more difficult – than ever. At Secova, we’re committed to researching and providing the best services and resources customized for your business. Our data technology, expertise, and education provide tailor-made solutions for every company. We provide a 24/7 benefits administration solution for all employees to make sure they stay. After all, it’s the employees who define the success of a company!

07 Sep 2021
Best ways to track employee time

Best ways to track employee time In addition to the number of other responsibilities on their hands, companies also have to maintain records of employee time off. Sick days, leave, vacation and daily time punches are crucial for businesses to keep track of, as they directly affect budgets and overall efficiency within the organization. This task can be difficult without a set plan in motion. Let's look at the best ways employers can document a worker's time: Spreadsheets are your friend                         Every organization has its own process that works for tracking. Some businesses utilize manual entry. Although time-consuming, companies with a small number of employees often find this practice to be the most beneficial. Employers could utilize a spreadsheet to record time off in an inexpensive way, according to the Houston Chronicle. With these documents, payroll teams can keep track of a worker's starting balance and enter information as time goes on. To make the practice even more efficient, company leaders can enter the appropriate formulas so the spreadsheet does the majority of the work for them. With manual entry, it's crucial for businesses to have a paper trail, so companies should keep record of time off requests and more. Institute an unlimited vacation policyTracking time can be complicated, especially with so many elements to keep record of. To simplify that process, companies could eliminate strict documentation of employee vacations. Many businesses today have implemented unlimited time off practices, as they reduce work for payroll teams and are a strong reward for workers, according to Entrepreneur. These options give people open-ended access to time off and take the pressure of monitoring accrual off the hands – and minds – of company leadership. Although unlimited vacation may not work for all organizations, it can help those with a large pool of employees. Implement helpful softwareBusinesses looking to streamline their payroll process further than manual recording should look into a digital solution that is able to integrate with their current system. These time and attendance applications give employees a username and login so they're able to document upcoming vacation days, sick days and other occasions that require paid time off. These systems aren't relegated just to organizations with a set vacation policy. Those employers who have instituted an unlimited PTO policy can ensure employees are taking advantage of the benefit with the help of this software. HR and payroll teams can request that all workers place their future absences into the software so proper management of responsibilities can be taken. Documenting employees' time off can be a difficult task, especially for companies with a large number of workers. In addition to utilizing spreadsheets for manual entry, testing an unlimited vacation policy and implementing time and attendance software, businesses can also work with a leave administration partner. These third parties can help organizations keep track of employee absences and ensure all necessary government regulations are met. Secova provides a wide array of benefits services from ACA management, online benefits enrollment, eligibility audits and leave administration assistance. Dedicated to providing the highest level of customer service while ensuring companies are compliant with all state and federal standards, Secova is a strong choice for all employee solutions. 

17 Aug 2021
How to prepare for open enrollment

How to prepare for open enrollment The fall season is upon us, and for internal Human Resources departments, this means that preparations for open enrolment must soon begin. As the Society for Human Resource Management noted, some HR professionals dread open enrollment due to the “administrative headaches” it can create. There are numerous considerations to make during this time of year, and it’s important to make sure that employees are aware of their available benefits and understand how to take advantage of them. Thankfully, there are a few key strategies that HR professionals can leverage to prepare themselves and their workforce for the open enrollment season. Provide materials ahead of time and prep for questions Robert Miller, an SHRM member and HR manager for Chapman/Leonard Studio Equipment, recommends circulating benefits materials ahead of open enrollment to make sure employees have a baseline understanding of the available packages. After all, enrollment is a time to delve deeper into options, and it’s important that the HR team use their time efficiently. “[Employees] shouldn’t be asking basic questions about their coverage options in open enrollment meetings; that should happen before open enrollment occurs,” Miller noted. In addition, as materials are disseminated, HR stakeholders can ask workers to review the information and formulate their questions. In this way, the HR team can be more prepared to provide accurate answers. Often, these questions involve things like why coverage is needed, which benefit features will fit employee needs, the value programs provide and how much will be deducted from each pay check. Having this information on hand ahead of time can streamline open enrollment meetings and ensure that employees’ come away feeling informed. Establish an “active” enrollment strategy Employee engagement can be an uphill battle during open enrollment, particularly when workers have the option to simply continue with their previously-selected benefits options. In these cases, staff members may not fully participate in open enrollment meetings and may even be overlooking important benefits available to them. In order to avoid this, Meredith Ryan-Reid of MetLife told SHRM that crafting a more active enrollment strategy that helps side-step passive employee engagement. “Active enrollment makes a huge difference,” Ryan-Reid explained. “Having employees reapply each year requires them to reassess whether they’re making the right choices for themselves and their families. It also helps ensure that you’re getting up-to-date information about your employees and their dependents.” Consider incentives for wellness programs If your business supports wellness programs for health or financial improvement, now is the time to think about providing incentives for participating in these initiatives. Getting these perks ready ahead of time is important, as it enables HR to publicize them during open enrollment. This can be a particularly helpful strategy for organizations that want to boost the impact of their existing programs. Open enrollment can be complex for HR teams, but it doesn’t have to be. A little forethought and planning can go a long way, as can assistance from an expert like Secova. Connect with us today to learn more.

30 Jun 2021
The importance of dependent audits: School district saves considerably on healthcare costs

The importance of dependent audits: School district saves considerably on healthcare costs Many employers provide healthcare coverage for their employees as part of a benefits package, and some take this a step further by extending coverage to the spouses, children and other dependents of its workers. Such a benefit can be considerably advantageous and help attract and retain top talent. However, when a dependent’s status changes and he or she is no longer eligible for this coverage, it’s important that organizations are able to identify and remove these individuals, and keep their health insurance costs in check. One public school district completed an eligibility audit of its workers’ dependents, and was able to identify more than 100 individuals who were actually ineligible for the coverage they were receiving, NBC CT reported. This instance, which could help the district save hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run, is a reminder of the critical importance of eligibility audits, and helps showcase the benefits of working with an expert, outsourced human resources solution provider. Ineligible dependents: A larger issue than many realize While each company has its own qualifications and definitions outlining eligibility for healthcare coverage – particularly when it comes to dependents – extending coverage to workers’ family members has become a common practice. By the same token, though, as more employers provide this attractive benefit, the issue of ineligible dependents – and the associated high costs – becomes more prevalent as well. In fact, according to New York Times writer Lesley Alderman, dependent audits are not only more common, but more important, as healthcare costs continue to rise by 5 to 10 percent each year. And as EBN reported that it isn’t uncommon for audits to reveal 5 to 15 percent of a dependent population being ineligible for coverage, employers’ healthcare costs can considerably add up. The issue here is larger than many realize, as dependents can become ineligible for many routine reasons. A child of a worker turning 26 or the divorce of a spouse can cause a dependent to become ineligible for coverage. John Fazio, a senior consultant and benefits administration industry expert, told Alderman that an audit of a 10,000-employee company will usually identify 200 to 500 ineligible individuals. “Dependent audits have been around for more than a decade,” Alderman wrote. “But they have become popular in the last few years, as employers desperately sought ways to trim their health care budgets. From an employer’s perspective, audits make good business sense.” If your organization has yet to complete an eligibility audit, now may be the time. Such a process is critically important, and is best undertaken with the help of an expert like Secova. To find out more, connect with us today.

14 Jun 2021
Secova and TASC Partner for Benefits

Secova and TASC Partner for Benefits June 2, 2021 – In this time of change, Secova and TASC (Total Administrative Services Corporation) have joined forces to make benefits feel like benefits. Through this partnership, employers will now be able to sign up for all their benefits on one platform. Secova’s online, comprehensive benefits enrollment platform makes it easier to process elections, complete life events changes, educate employees, reduce paper transactions, and enable expansive flexible benefit accounts by bringing them all together. Too often, the experience of signing up for and utilizing multiple benefits is so difficult, frustrating and time-consuming that employees simply don’t use them. With TASC’s Universal Benefit Account®, Secova adds secure and comprehensive benefit offerings to the BenAssure platform, thus making it easier and offering a world-class customer experience for employers and their employees. “A unified platform is the key to increasing flexibility in all aspects of benefits administration,” says Ron Lupi, Secova executive. “We are impressed with the more than 50 different benefits offerings that TASC’s Universal Benefit Account can provide our clients. In today’s ever-changing work and benefit environment, employers need the ability to adapt benefit offerings to work for their business and employees.” The importance of increasing engagement through benefit enhancement can’t be ignored. A study by the Workplace Research Foundation found that employees who are highly engaged are 38% more likely to offer their employers above-average productivity. A successful benefits program requires more than a strategic selection of the benefits themselves. “A benefit is only as good as the experience an employee has in accessing it — and that’s where many company benefit programs fall short. This includes not having a platform that brings all benefits together. That’s what we see in partnering with Secova, a single platform where all employer offerings are together — how you present benefits does matter,” shares Dawn Mortimer, Chief Innovation Officer. “The expectation today, for most employees, and particularly millennials who are tech savvy, is a seamless digital user experience; the expectation is one platform with one portal, one password, one card, and a user experience that’s the same across all devices.” About Secova Founded in 1989, Secova is a results-oriented third-party administrator with a track record of delivering cost savings and customer-satisfying solutions. Secova provides customized solutions for the administration of employee benefits and human resources, resulting in more efficient HR operations, increased data visibility, and comprehensive auditing capabilities. The Secova solution offers 24×7 Health & Welfare services without requiring our clients to choose between quality and breadth. Secova processes more than 80 million eligibility records, $1 billion in healthcare premiums, and manages over 450 vendor/carrier relationships annually on behalf of its clients. For more information, visit http://www.secova.com or email at info@secova.com. About TASC TASC started in 1975 with a simple, yet innovative idea of enabling small businesses to reap the same tax advantages as larger companies. As the nation’s largest privately-held third-party benefits administrator (TPA) with new innovations every two years since 2001, TASC now serves over 80,000 small, medium and large customers. In addition to being the only TPA that offers hold harmless agreements or audit guarantees for your protection, TASC is blazing new trails with a one-of-a-kind, industry first, instantly configurable benefits cloud platform. For more information, visit www.tasclargemarkets.com/sso or call toll free 1-800-422-4661.

03 Jun 2021
How to make dependent eligibility audits run smoothly

How to make dependent eligibility audits run smoothly There's no doubt dependent eligibility verification is important. Employers can save their companies thousands of dollars by conducting regular dependent eligibility audits. This is a process where employees submit documentation to verify that the people covered on their health insurance plan still qualify for coverage. Ineligible dependents who do not meet the requirements for health care coverage are removed from the employer's plan. This process saves employers a lot of money on employee premiums. Audits can also help companies avoid the risk of violating IRS regulations by providing health coverage to ineligible dependents, the Society for Human Resource Management reported. In fact, third-party providers of eligibility audits report that as many as 10 percent of people receiving coverage have been ineligible in the past few years, SHRM reported. But this process can be confusing and intimidating to some employers who might not know what to do when verifying benefits coverage or how to communicate its purpose to workers. Here are some pointers to ensure employers don't encounter any problems as they go through this important process: When should my company conduct an audit?How often a business owner should consider a dependent audit depends on a variety of factors, including the rate of company turnover, the size of the business and the type of health care plan it offers employees.  For those with a low turnover, it shouldn't be necessary to conduct an eligibility audit more than once every three years, according to Employee Benefits Adviser. But companies that have people coming and going at an above average rate should consider implementing audits on an annual or every other year basis. This will ensure new employees and their dependents are in compliance with coverage guidelines and help reduce costly coverage for those who don't qualify for it. During this stage, it's also crucial to convey why this process is important for the company. In certain cases, employees can be resentful of the verification process because they see it as employers not wanting to offer health insurance to their significant others. It's critical for business owners to communicate that these audits are in the best interest of the company and further business and employee well-being for the long term. For instance, employers should say that if ineligible individuals are no longer covered, health care premiums will go down, which means less out-of-pocket expenses for both employers and employees. Before an audit begins, employers should look over any company health plan documents – such as the summary plan description – in addition to any other relevant enrollment materials, according to Smart Business. What do my employees need for an audit?To start the process off on the right foot, employers need to clearly communicate what is expected of workers while an audit is being completed. During this process, employees will be asked to turn over documentation that verifies the employee's relationship to their dependents. Employees might be asked to procure documents such as marriage certificates, mortgage or lease agreements or birth certificates among other paperwork depending on who is considered a dependent on the worker's plan. The clearer an employer is about what documentation is needed to conduct the audit, the more streamlined the process can be for everybody involved. The amount of time it takes to complete dependent eligibility verification will vary company to company, but employers should prepare for the process to last  up to several months. Business owners also need to decide if they are handling the audit internally or if they will need to contract with an outside vendor to get the job done. What happens after the audit?Once the results of an audit have come in, employers can determine who is still eligible for coverage and who will be taken off the company's health insurance plan. Dependents can be found ineligible for a number of reasons, and often it's simply because an employee didn't fully understand the requirements for coverage. It's important to communicate the overall benefits of conducting an audit and to educate employees so they understand which dependents are eligible going forward. Although there are clear cost-saving benefits to audits, business owners need to take special care to ensure that audits are done as efficiently and accurately as possible. Secova offers companies of all sizes a team of experienced professionals who can lead business owners through the audit process should they decide their business needs one.

27 May 2021
Graduates are on the search for employment: Here’s how you can attract them to your business

Graduates are on the search for employment: Here’s how you can attract them to your business   Summertime is upon us, and that also means that school is out and there is a brand new crop of recent graduates holding advanced degrees, hungry for their first professional job opportunity. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 20 million students attended American institutions of higher education this past fall, meaning there is a considerable population of young professionals getting ready to enter the job market. However, recruiters looking to attract these recent graduates must do more than create a few job postings across different websites – competition for this young workforce is fierce. Let’s take a look at a few ways Human Resource teams and their recruitment experts can provide a compelling and attractive working environment for new college graduates. 1. Establish, live and sell your company culture Every company has its own unique culture and brand image. And while not every organization will be the next Google – with a casual dress code, gourmet meals and napping areas – your organization should look to create its own culture, and leverage it as a way to attract new employees. Gallup researchers found that one-third of young professionals view company culture as an important aspect in employment, but businesses must do more to help workers connect with their organization’s mission and culture. Creating a mission statement that employees can believe in, and reinforcing these values through top-down leadership buy-in and clear communication can help stakeholders create a culture that the company can be proud of – and one which will help workers strongly connect with the business and do their part to fulfill its mission. 2. Understand and appreciate their needs As Entrepreneur guest writer Dan Lauer noted, millennials and the younger workforce have different needs and style of ambition than their predecessors. Currently, many individuals entering the job market have high degrees, but seek out opportunities that will provide them with a beneficial work-life balance. Recent graduates are looking to climb the career ladder, but not at the expense of fulfilling their other personal goals and pursuits. In this type of landscape, enabling flexibility is key. In fact, a recent study from Qualtrics found that 37% of young professionals would accept a lower pay rate in exchange for more flexibility in their working schedule, CNBC reported. 3. Provide unique benefits and support them with innovative technology Flexible working hours are just one example of the kinds of distinctive job perks that recent graduates are seeking out. Another option that’s especially helpful for targeting recent graduates is student loan assistance. Decision-makers can consider partnering with an organization like GotZoom to provide this benefit. Because many young professionals are entering the workforce with more debt, offering this kind of support could be just what’s needed to help your business stand out with job-seeking young professionals. No matter what benefits you elect to provide, it’s important to support these with technology that speaks to the young generation. Mobile access and online enrollment, for example, is especially advantageous and enables employees to interact with benefits administration services in a familiar and easy-to-use portal. Some of these capabilities and strategies will take time to implement, while others will be more immediate. However, all will require robust support from the executive suite, down throughout the company. To find out more, connect with the experts at Secova today.

10 May 2021
Top 3 reasons to outsource eligibility audit services

Top 3 reasons to outsource eligibility audit services It’s difficult for businesses to keep track of all eligible dependents currently on their healthcare. Regular record inspection is necessary to make sure the company isn’t providing benefits for people who are no longer qualified to receive coverage under new regulations. Organizations can choose to outsource the responsibility and have third-party experts conduct these audits for them. Let’s take a look at why businesses choose this approach: 1. Cost efficiency Healthcare coverage for ineligible dependents is a costly problem that requires immediate action from employers. According to a study from Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company and the Government Finance Officers Association, 8% of people enrolled in a business’s medical plan are not qualified to receive the coverage based on the plan’s criteria. These ineligible dependents could drive the cost of healthcare up for both employers and their workers, according to Modern Healthcare. Outsourcing the obligation to perform eligibility audits and other services will allow a team of experienced professionals to take a closer look at company records. These third parties can pinpoint ineligible participants quickly and provide a more systematic dependent verification process. 2. Reduction of time Similar to the added monetary costs of covering ineligible dependents, performing research into company and employee records can cost businesses valuable time. Utilizing an outside organization to complete eligibility audit services allows employers to focus on more important and relevant responsibilities. Third-party providers can also offer unqualified participants the resources to help them find alternative means of healthcare coverage, taking even more of the stress off employers. 3. Understanding of appeals process People may want to appeal the findings of the analysis, so companies must be prepared for these events. Unfortunately, not all employers have the necessary knowledge to complete this process in a streamlined and detailed manner. Also, the appeals procedure is just another time-consuming step for businesses that already have too many obligations to contend with. Organizations that provide eligibility audit services are able to assist with these disagreements. Third-party companies will likely already have a system for reviewing audit results and deciding whether or not certain cases should be reinstated. According to the Colonial Life and GFOA study, re-entry of once-ineligible dependents usually occurs when missing documents are found or submitted by workers. Employers have a variety of responsibilities to take care of on a regular basis. Since providing healthcare coverage to employees has become one of the largest obligations for businesses – failure to do so could result in expensive penalties – it’s important for companies to be as prepared as possible. These benefits can cost employers a lot of money, especially if costs are increased due to dependents who are technically not eligible. It’s crucial that organizations offering health insurance perform regular eligibility audits to ensure no unqualified participants are flying under the company’s radar. Outsourcing these services to a third party can save businesses time and money while also providing enterprises with an experienced team of experts who truly understand each step of the process.  To learn more regarding Eligibility Audit Services, connect with Secova today. 

29 Apr 2021
The role of Artificial Intelligence in healthcare

While it’s true that the healthcare industry is witnessing a record-breaking year in digital health investments, the AHA simultaneously projects healthcare’s financial losses at more than $300 billion in 2020. Due to the pandemic, healthcare institutions are increasingly turning to digital and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that streamline behind-the-scenes functions and alleviate administrative and operational spending. Many hospitals are seeing immediate results from such investments in departments and functions that involve error-prone, repetitive, time-intensive tasks. And one function fraught with such tasks is claims processing and reimbursement. It involves a myriad of stakeholders and steps, such as validation, justification, authenticity, and payment. Each step of the process is just as crucial as the last, making efficient and accurate communication critical for success. It is no surprise that the reimbursement and claims processing work stream primarily consists of high-volume and repetitive tasks, such as collecting and inputting patient and provider data. When a mistake in the process is made, such as incorrect billing or erroneous patient documentation, the process is further delayed. Payers, providers, and patients alike are faced with extra back-and-forth communication to reconfirm details for the medical claim. This issue transcends the billing cycle and can directly impact payers, as well. Continually delayed claims can make hospitals leery of accepting certain plans or even entire carriers. A lower number of accepted plans results in benefit brokers only being able to offer a small range of options to their clients. Ultimately, this leads to employers providing health plans for their employees only having a limited number of options to choose from. As more and more hospitals understand the magnitude of these issues, they are implementing AI solutions to help streamline the claims processing and reimbursement process. AI automates these critical but repetitive tasks to reduce mistakes, enhance workflows, and let hospital staff focus on tasks that require a human touch. AI is also being used to minimize the hefty costs associated with insurance claim denials. With AI, providers are able to identify and mitigate erroneous claims before the insurance company denies payment for them. Not only does this streamline the process, but it also saves hospital staff the time it would take to work through the denial and resubmit the claim. With faster payments and greater accuracy, hospitals are more willing to accept a wider number of plans, which means benefits brokers can offer a broader range of options to their clients. Hospitals are continuing to reimagine the claims process, with AI in mind. In fact, recent research indicates that 61% of hospital leaders are looking to implement AI/RPA within the next two years. Hospitals will continue leveraging AI solutions to streamline backend functions to reduce operational costs, alleviate administrative spending, and allow employees to focus on more important tasks. Just what the doctor ordered Also, when searching for the best surgeon, consumers may get a major assist from AI, a new study says. The report in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) compared healthcare decision-making based on a range of choices: consumer ratings; quality stars; reputation rankings; volumes and outcomes; and precision machine learning-based rankings. That last category looked at a type of AI that uses data to determine whether a hospital is a good fit for a potential patient. The study found that the machine-learning approach to picking a surgeon delivered better outcomes than choosing surgeons by other methods. The AI approach allows a more personalized choice—the algorithm matches the patient to the hospital that has the best outcomes for patients with similar profiles. Benefits in administration AI offers employers and brokers an opportunity to maximize the impact and efficiency of their offerings and human resource programs. In 2021, and in the wake of COVID-19, the role of AI will grow as companies continue to transition to long-term remote work, tackle COVID-19-related expenses, educate employees on their health benefits, and introduce benefits platforms to address individual needs better. In 2021, we’ll likely see AI play a more significant role in helping employees avoid burnout through tools that encourage real-time engagement, provide individualized recommendations on how people can do their best work, and robot coaches. For HR teams, AI-powered solutions will quickly flag employee roadblocks and prioritize those most at risk. Greater use of remote teams also means more integration of HR and day-to-day collaboration tools. HR data analytics’ power is in how it can proactively assist in more accurately predicting annual benefits costs—a tool that will become crucially important for families, employers, and health plan providers as they plan for this year. This emerging, critical decision-making data will play a key role for brokers, employers, and health plan providers as they navigate both expected and unexpected changes. With COVID-19-related fraud also on the rise, health plan providers and employers who use HR data analytic tools to spot and flag outliers could save themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars. In 2021, health plan providers and employers expect employees to prioritize flexibility and personalization in their healthcare coverage to meet their unique needs and challenges. With budgets top of mind in 2021, employers and employees will continue to use these financial tools to save money and lower medical plan premiums. Brokers, health plan providers, and employers will continue to leverage AI to educate employees on their medical costs and personalize their benefits based on their current and projected future needs. Insight-driven benefits administration relies on automated platforms to collect, aggregate, streamline, and analyze data from multiple systems to produce actionable steps to drive value. These platforms will only become more essential as companies continue to adapt to the changes seen in 2020. As priorities continue to shift in 2021, the demand for employee data to evaluate workplace wellness programs, retention, and benefits will grow. But seamless interaction with personalized benefits program offerings will likely provide the most significant avenue for growth of modern benefits platforms. Modern benefits platforms will become an even more essential tool to health plan providers and brokers in the coming year as they allow them to reach the end consumer more effectively. AI will continue to drive evolution in the benefits space. While many things changed in 2020, data is still the most dependable way to understand what is happening now and predict the future. As everyone adjusts to the changes on the horizon, we will continue to rely on the data and insights AI provides to support the healthy growth of the benefits ecosystem. At a glance: * Healthcare industry’s financial losses projected at more than $300 billion in 2020 * 61% of hospital leaders are looking to implement AI/RPA within the next two years * AI automates repetitive tasks to reduce mistakes, enhance workflows * AI is being used to minimize the hefty costs associated with insurance claim denials * AI uses data to determine whether a hospital is a good fit for a potential patient * HR data analytic tools can be used to save hundreds of thousands of dollars * Benefits administration relies on automated platforms to collect and analyze data

20 Apr 2021
The Millennials: A new generation of employees

Now that millennials make up the largest portion of the American workforce, chances are good that almost every company has at least one member of this generation within its staff. According to Pew Research, 56 million millennials are earning a living, and the post-millennial generation – those born after 1996, known as Gen Z – are now entering the workforce, with 9 million currently at working age. What does this mean for the typical HR professional? Now that older generations are retiring and younger professionals are entering the workforce, HR teams must make sure that they have crafted the right benefits package to support these employees. What’s more, it’s imperative that HR administrators are clear when it comes to enrollment, benefits administration and overall management. This critical generational juncture provides an ideal opportunity for HR teams to re-evaluate their existing benefits package, and to add or subtract items to align offerings with workforce needs. This important review won’t just help support the existing staff, but can serve to attract young professional employment candidates as well. An essential factor to keep in mind here, however, is that those within different age brackets will have a variety of needs. Just as workers that are part of the Baby Boomer generation or Generation X had specific focuses and benefits needs, requirements will differ when it comes to millennials and Gen Z. HR professionals will need to develop new engagement models to take into account the generational differences between baby boomers and millennials. Managers accustomed to using certain practices to engage boomers will have to change their ways – and practices – if they hope to engage and retain the newest heavily scrutinized employee cohort, the millennials. As Emily Bailey of OneDigital told HR Dive, these differences extend, particularly, to the ways in which employees engage with and consume details related to employee benefits. “It really does cause us to take a step back and better assess how we’re putting information out there,” Bailey said. “[Younger generations] may not put as much value on certain benefits that the boomers and other generations that have been in the workforce for a while do.” Top considerations: Appealing to Millennials and Gen Z In this way, as HR teams work to review and improve benefits resources for young professionals, there are a few key essentials to keep in mind: A goal-oriented generation: As Stephanie Penner, senior partner at consultancy firm Mercer, told the Society for Human Resource Management, young workers tend to be more goal-focused, and appreciate opportunities for personal and professional growth. In this way, training programs, certification workshops and other career development programs will be advantageous. Financial support: Many young professionals are dealing with significant student loan debt – in fact, SHRM reports that 80 percent of employees would value a student loan repayment assistance program, but only 4 percent of businesses offer this benefit . Any efforts companies can make to help support new graduates and their financial situation – including financial planning guidance, or automatic deductions for loan repayment – will be a considerable boon for attracting and retaining young professionals. Decision-makers can consider partnering with an organization like GotZoom to provide this benefit. Digital consumers: A key thing to keep in mind regarding Millennials and Gen Z workers is that much of their life has revolved around the use of computers and advanced technology. In this way, young professionals expect to be able to utilize these resources at work. Providing an online employee portal for benefits enrollment and administrative management can help workers engage with benefits information and make use of the resources a company offers. To find out more on how an online, accessible benefits portal can support your HR team and workforce, connect with the experts at Secova today.

07 Apr 2021
College grads: Are you prepared for professional employment?

"Congratulations!" is a word you've probably been hearing a lot lately. And it's not unwarranted – after all, you worked extremely hard through classes and assignments to earn your degree. You deserve a little recognition! But, the hard work isn't over yet – in fact, it's just begun! Those loans are going to be due soon, and now's the time to seek out a position that will allow you to put all the skills you learned during your college courses to the test. Professional employment: It's much different than college Work life will bring stark changes in comparison to what you've been used to during your college days. Not only will new responsibilities emerge, but you'll also be expected to act and carry yourself in a more mature and professional manner. Here are a few factors to be aware of as you head into professional employment: It may take you a little while to get going – and that's okay. According to a survey conducted by author and Harvard Business Review contributor Jeffrey J Selingo, 33 percent of all recent grads "press pause" after college, and spend most of their twenties working toward starting their professional career. Thirty-two percent spend half of their twenties getting going, and only 35 percent jump right into a career after graduation. Time management and scheduling matters. As Live Career noted, if you treat a job like that dreaded 8 AM course you took in your freshman year and continually show up late , you'll be unemployed sooner than you think. Personal accountability is important. Whereas in college, where a wrong answer or misstep would earn you a bad grade or a slap on the wrist, professional employment calls for more responsibility. Clients and co-workers rely on you to further your company's mission and complete important tasks on time. Flex your skills, but remain humble and be ready to learn. College has taught you a lot regarding the career field you're aiming for, but there will be much more to learn and experience on the job. Recent graduates: Are you ready to enter the professional job market? Interviewing and onboarding As a recent college graduate, chances are good that you'll go on plenty of interviews before landing a position. Don't be discouraged – this is all good practice, even if you don't receive a call back. It's important to be prepared and professional in the interview process. This includes creating a resume, cover letter and other important documents and being ready to talk of your experiences, skills and accomplishments. And once you've successfully achieved employment, you'll go through the onboarding process. While it's not the same for every job, your employer's HR team will walk you through your new responsibilities, the overall company and the business's culture. A few words of advice here: Pay attention and ask questions. As College Recruiter noted, some orientation and onboarding may seem dry, but the information is important. Don't glaze over, and be sure to ask questions on whatever you're unsure of or need clarification on. Get to know your HR team. This won't be the only time you interact with the HR team, so use this time to get to know your representatives and the types of benefits and services they direct within the company. Secova is a leading benefits administration service provider, and is popular with HR managers. Congratulations and good luck on the road to professional employment!

25 Mar 2021
ACA reporting and deadlines: Top mistakes and how to avoid them

When it was first introduced, the Affordable Care Act offered advantages for employees and employers alike. However, it also created added complications for businesses that continue today and into the future. HR stakeholders, in particular, must make sure that their organization and its staff are observing requirements for ACA reporting, and are doing so in a way that matches stated deadlines. Despite understanding the importance of ACA, many businesses are still making mistakes with their ACA reporting and other associated HR and benefits processes. These mistakes can be time-consuming and costly – a report from Accounting Today found that between 2017 and 2018, the IRS had issued more than 30,000 notices  to organizations that failed to comply with ACA standards. The penalty assessments included in these notices add up to a staggering $4.4 billion  for noncompliance. It's best for HR teams to work proactively to avoid them. Here, we've rounded up some of the top missteps companies make with ACA, as well as best practices for making sure that these issues don't impact your organization. Not filing according to ACA requirements One problem with ACA emerges when stakeholders don't observe ACA requirements for report filing, and therefore don't properly complete these tasks. It's important that HR leaders determine whether or not their organization is required to file, noted FitSmallBusiness. Companies that align with the following are required to file reports for ACA: Businesses that have 50 or more full-time staff members, or employees that work 30 hours per week or more. Organizations that have parent or subsidiary organizations that, when combined with their staff, create a total of more than 50 full-time employees. Companies that utilize self-insured employer plans. Incomplete reporting There are two required elements involved in ACA filing that revolve around Form 1095 C. A common mistake that many companies make is completing the proper filing of this form with the Internal Revenue Service, but failing to send copies of the form to employees. On the other hand, providing form copies for staff members and forgetting to file them with the IRS occasionally takes place as well. It's imperative that HR leaders complete both required steps. Failing to observe deadlines The ACA includes specific deadlines, and any late reporting or filing can result in penalties for the employer. In this way, HR stakeholders must be aware of all the important ACA deadlines, including due dates for reporting and the beginning and end of open enrollment. Avoiding ACA mistakes: Prepare accordingly In order to maintain compliance and guarantee alignment with the requirements of ACA, HR leaders must make sure that their organization is prepared. Partnering with an expert human resources administration solution provider and incorporating systems that can help streamline ACA reporting, tracking, eligibility and overall compliance is one of the best ways to prevent making common ACA mistakes. To find out more, check out our website and connect with Secova for a demo of our ACA Management solutions today.

12 Mar 2021
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