4 Ways Inflation and Higher Costs Impact HR

4 Ways Inflation and Higher Costs Impact HR

U.S. President Joe Biden recently laid out his plans to combat inflation and the high cost of living. The average family is spending an additional $327 per month compared to pre-pandemic costs, according to a CNN broadcast May 10. At the time, the national average price of gas was $4.37. While the Federal Reserve can do more to influence inflation than the President, his announcement is welcome because people are suffering and some economists believe a recession is looming.

Under normal circumstances, the economy can cause burdens for HR leaders. In this case, businesses are still confronting uncertainty that comes from an ongoing pandemic, war in Europe, and a labor shortage. This is not to mention a mental health crisis and increased obligations for employers when it comes to employee engagement and experience.

The first step in addressing the negative impact of the economy is being realistic about the current situation and understanding how it impacts HR:

Some Can’t Afford RTO

Many companies are finally deploying their return to office (RTO) plans from 2020. Employees and leadership are at odds, in many cases, about whether to return or continue to work from home. One of the arguments workers have about WFH is that it is cheaper.

Some employees are quitting because they cannot afford the commute or lunch costs that come with returning to the office. Childcare, which has always been a problem for working parents, is another huge expense. In some cases, people end up paying to work, and it becomes more affordable to quit. HR must keep this in mind when considering wages and salaries.

Compensation and Benefits Packages

During this time of historic labor shortage, HR leaders are reassessing their compensation and benefits packages because they want to be competitive. Employees have leverage and higher wages has been one of the most requested benefits for obvious reasons.

“The talent shortage has boosted pay, but not enough to keep up with inflation,” according to The New York Times. “Wages grew 5.6% in the last year.”

Another obstacle for HR professionals is that increasing offers for new hires ended up creating an uneven divide between them and their veteran counterparts. Now, in some cases, loyal employees who stayed with their employers are earning less than new hires. With this kind of inflation, they may be lured by the prospect of higher pay elsewhere, which could continue the cycle of the Great Resignation.

Budget Concerns

Money is obviously not going as far as it used to go. Therefore, HR professionals should worry that this economic reality could cause budget cuts. For now, 79% of corporate finance executives say their budgets will be larger in 2022 than in 2021, according to Billing Platforms annual 2022 Trends in Finance Survey. With inflation as high as it is, they should prepare for cuts at some point. This could mean fewer resources for learning and development, employee engagement and experience initiatives, compensation and benefits packages, and more.

Travel Constraints

At the moment, most headlines point to Americans’ desire to get back on the road and see people face to face for personal and professional meetings. However, with gas prices and inflation this high, many budget conscious employers may pull back on travel budgets.

The United States is also preparing to confront another surge in COVID-19 cases. RTO poses risks, especially for vulnerable employees with comorbodities or those who live with at-risk people. In addition, parents of children under 5, who are not yet eligible for vaccination, have expressed concerns about both RTO and having to travel for work.


Every department in every business must face the reality of inflation and higher costs. HR is no exception. In the case of HR leaders, rising costs is a people problem. Employees will need more money to support their families and to make work valuable to them. In addition, the business itself will have to constrain spending in areas like travel and perks. Maybe those free lunches will have to stop.

Still, there are some solutions available to HR. Promoting people from within the company as opposed to hiring new employees is a way to save money and improve retention. Being transparent about the limitations on wage increases and offering other less expensive benefits to compensate are other ways to address the problem.

Of course, travel can be replaced with videoconferencing and digital events that can be conducted from home. HR leaders have had to stretch resources before and will certainly have to do it again in the future.

By Francesca Di Meglio

Originally posted on HR Exchange Network

5 Tips to Save Money on Health Care: Part 2

5 Tips to Save Money on Health Care: Part 2

Smart spending can keep your health care from costing an arm and a leg.  With costs rising on everything from gas to food, every penny counts. It pays to shop smart – that is why it helps to learn how to take steps to limit your out-of-pocket health care costs.

  1. Save Money on Prescriptions
  • Go generic – Always ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can switch to generic medicines. They have the same active ingredients but cost less than brand name drugs.
  • Split pills – ask your doctor or pharmacist if your prescription comes in a higher dose that is safe to split. You may be able to get a 2-month supply of medicine in double the dose that you need for the price of a 1-month supply, cutting your prescription cost in half.
  • Use a preferred pharmacy – A preferred pharmacy has pre-negotiated lower prices on prescriptions for a particular insurance plan. You can also sign up for home delivery on prescriptions that you take on a regular basis.
  1. Tune in to Telehealth

With telemedicine, you don’t have to drive to the doctor’s office or sit in a waiting room when you’re sick.  Virtual visits can be easier to fit into your busy schedule and you may not even have to arrange for childcare.  Doctors also can use telehealth appointments to lessen exposure to other people’s germs.

  1. Brush Up on HSA & FSA Eligible Expenses

You can withdraw HSA and FSA money tax-free to pay for deductibles and co-payments or coinsurance, as well as for a variety of other expenses including vision expenses and orthodontia.  You can also use it for everything from sunscreen and contact solution to baby monitors and over-the-counter medicine like Ibuprofen or cold medicine.

  1. Save for Retirement with Your HSA

HSA funds don’t expire which makes an HSA a great way to put away money for medical expenses in retirement.  An HSA offers a hat trick of tax advantages:

  • Contributions to your account are made pre-tax, lowering your taxable income today
  • Investments grow tax-free while they are kept in the account
  • Withdrawals are free of income tax, as long as you use the money for qualified medical expenses.

Age 65 is when you can use HSA money to pay for non-medical expenses – including day-to-day costs or for home renovations.  Those payouts aren’t tax-free but are taxed at the same rate as distributions from a traditional IRA.  You’ll simply owe income taxes on whatever you withdraw.

  1. Review Bills and Insurance Explanations of Benefits

Billing mistakes can happen.  In fact, did you know that up to 80% of medical bills contain at least one error?  Billing mistakes happen easily when dealing with large numbers of patients, ever-changing medical codes, and payments crossed in the mail and health insurance companies.

The portion of your budget devoted to medical care is always on the rise so it’s never a bad idea to find monetary shortcuts where you can.   Knowledge is POWER and when you spend time finding ways to save money on health care, you are empowering yourself!  Exercising due diligence to plan for you and your family’s medical needs will save you money and give you confidence in your decisions for care.

Benefits Education 101 for Employees

Benefits Education 101 for Employees

Companies spend a large amount of time and money creating valuable benefits plans for employees.  But after all that work, they often get low participation.  Good benefit choices require an effort from employers to ensure that employees have help in understanding their benefits options.  To make things even more complex, employers are having to consider options for a span of 4 generations in the workplace which can look very different.  Providing benefits for a multigenerational workplace can be challenging but it is important for employers to simplify the process by delivering education through the right channels while avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach.

Understanding your audience and how to effectively communicate with them is the first step in creating your benefits messaging. For example, what are the demographics of your workplace? Do you need to provide multiple messages across various channels? Does your workplace speak English, or will you need bilingual messaging?

A recent survey indicates that 83% of employers believe that communication, employee education and engagement are key for employee participation.

Here are 5 tips on educating your employees about their benefits to encourage benefits participation:

  1. Break Down Health Insurance Options
  • Distribute a simple guide that explains the key things employees should know about their health insurance and basic terminology
  • Explain in simple terms about provider network, covered prescriptions, monthly premiums, deductibles, and additional plan benefits, if applicable
  • Have an efficient way for employees to manage benefits and ask questions
  1. Automate the Process
  1. Make Plans Customizable
  • Provide plenty of benefits options including medical, dental and vision from leading carriers
  • Offer a lifestyle benefits program that allows employees to personalize their plan according to their needs
  • Consider offering perks like commuter benefits or health club memberships to reduce financial burdens and encourage a healthy lifestyle
  1. Provide Multiple Communication Strategies
  • Offer educational tools and channels preferred by employees so they can stay informed year-round to make better purchasing decisions
  • Utilize effective benefits education tools that include in-person and virtual meetings, digital communication or print media
  • You can utilize a short video to explain key concepts; use graphs and images or create short quizzes for employees to ensure they have read and understand the material
  1. Make it Easy to Sign-Up
  • Invest in updated HR and Benefits technology that includes easy message capabilities such as email, text message alerts, video support, and live chat integration
  • Provide a Benefits mobile app
  • Offer a benefits website which houses benefit information, HR information, and enrollment material such as “BenefitsEasy

Although you may use one or more of the tips above, it is vital to keep the information flowing throughout the year. A fun way to do this is to pose a monthly trivia question to your staff related to the benefits and wellness programs you offer and award a prize to the person who submits the correct answer. Highlighting different features of your benefits or wellness programs each month will keep your employees engaged and informed!


Generational Myths Part 3: Gen X

Generational Myths Part 3: Gen X

Today’s offices potentially span five full generations ranging from Generation Z to the Silent Generation. A coworker could just as easily be raised with a smart phone in hand as they could have used a typewriter at their first job. Some see differences between generational colleagues as an annoyance (“kids these days!”) and many rely on generational stereotypes as fact. Truth of that matter is that generational stereotypes have about as many holes in them as a piece of Swiss cheese. Current research questions the validity of generational stereotypes. This series uncovers top generational myths as a strategy to support a diverse and healthy employee population.

Next, we analyze the smallest generational group, born between 1965 and 1980: Generation X.

The top three myths of Gen X include:

  1. They are “risk takers.”

Some believe that this group is characterized as being reactionary and rebellious. In fact, Generation X keeps a much lower profile at work. This group was called “the forgotten generation” by Pew Research. Why? Because they are a smaller group smashed in between two larger generations (Millennials and Baby Boomers). Additionally, they are the generation least likely to be promoted at work. A 2018 Harvard Business Review study concluded that Millennials and Baby Boomers had received two or more promotions in the same period that 66% of Gen X received one or less. Gen X was raised hearing their parents complain about “work-life” balance. Truth is, they are the group most likely to be helping their children and parents in addition to work. This group is a reliable bunch who values loyalty.

  1. Gen X has a hard time relating to other generations in the workplace.

While some say that Gen X alienates other generations, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Nielsen research called Generation X the “most connected” generation. Technology adaption played a huge role in their ability to bridge the generations above and below them. Most were not introduced to technology until adulthood. This lack of computer access in their youth helps them relate to boomers in the office. At the same time, they share an excitement for technology with Millennials and lined up alongside them to get their first iPhones. Generation X are natural collaborators and often play the role of connector in the office.

  1. Their pessimism hurts them in the workplace.

Gen X has worked through several hefty recessions and watched their retirement accounts take devastating hits. Experian reports that Generation X carries more debt than other groups and data from the National Association of Realtors showed this generation more likely to be declined for homeowner loans. So, can you blame them for being cynical? However, a closer look uncovers a different story in the way this shows up at work. Generation X is savvy because of these hardships and surprisingly content. In fact, a Better Hire survey concluded that more than 50% of Generation X participants are happy at work. They show up with an entrepreneurial spirit, owning their own destiny.

In sum, Gen X values stability rather than risk in the workplace. They play an important connector role at work with colleagues and at home with their families. Gen X has “been there, done that” and uses these lessons to make work enjoyable. They are an important piece in the generational puzzle.

© UBA. All rights reserved.

What is Mental Health and Wellness in HR?

What is Mental Health and Wellness in HR?

Mental health and wellness in HR are becoming top priorities for employers. In fact, HR leaders named mental health and wellbeing as their third biggest problem, behind the labor shortage and retaining talent, in the latest HR Exchange Network State of HR report. In addition, those surveyed also said burnout was the top consequence of the pandemic. “Blurring of work and personal life” and “burnout” tied, with 28% of the vote each, as the biggest challenges to employee engagement. And 30%  of respondents said employee engagement and experience was their top priority.

Clearly, mental health and wellness is related to the employee experience, and the expectations in the new normal require HR leaders to provide support, empathy, and guidance for helping those who need it. To begin, they need to understand the nuances of mental health and wellness.

Defining Mental Health and Wellness

A first step for HR leaders is to breakdown mental health and wellness to understand the differences, so they can best address “mental health” and “wellness.”

What Is Mental Health?

The U.S. government defines mental health as the emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing of an individual. Obviously, one’s mental health contributes to how he thinks, feels, and acts, and it relates to his resiliency and relationships with others.

Considering this definition, HR leaders can focus on insurance that covers mental health conditions and connecting people to appropriate specialists just as they would for employees with physical ailments, for example. Tending to mental health needs is slightly different than those of wellness.

What Is Wellness?

On the other hand, wellness refers to the totality of health – both mental and physical – of an employee, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. When employers focus on wellness, they are aiming to provide employees with preventative solutions to avoid illnesses and long-term health problems. For example, gym memberships, yoga classes, and meditation sessions are among the ways HR leaders may support the wellness of workers.

Mental health refers to the condition of an employee’s state of mind, whereas wellness refers to his or her general health. Sometimes, even those in HR use the word wellbeing interchangeably with wellness, but there is a distinction. Wellbeing refers to job satisfaction or one’s contentment at work. Certainly, wellbeing is related to mental health and wellness. If employees are experiencing anxiety, high stress, or burnout, which are associated with both mental health and wellness, they may experience negative feelings at work. Therefore, their wellbeing also will be at risk.

HR’s Responsibility for Mental Health and Wellness

The pandemic revealed the need for mental health and wellness programs at workplaces. Both mind and body needed soothing, and HR professionals took the lead in providing solutions to workers. More than two years after the start of the pandemic, they are continuing to enhance their offerings.

Here are some relevant benefits that employers may provide, and HR leaders can consider:

Medical Insurance that Covers Mental Health

This first benefit is the most obvious one, and it refers to the employer choosing insurance options that cover mental health as robustly as they do physical health.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)

The U.S. government defines an EAP as a “voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems.” These programs may address stress, substance abuse, or family discord, for example.

Mental Health First Aiders

This is a professional who works on staff or on call for a business, so employees always have someone to support them with any mental health concerns, according to verywellhealth.

Training for Managers, Leaders, and Peers

Some companies are training their teams to recognize potential mental health issues in their colleagues and to develop empathy and emotional IQ.

Yoga, Meditation, Workshops, Zen Rooms, etc.

These are a few examples of programs designed to help employees relieve stress and stay focused.

Mental Health Days

Some companies are including mental health days in their paid time off menu. This allows people the chance to stay home as they would for a sick day.

Parameters around Work Hours/Flexibility/Respecting People’s Time

Many employers are sharing guidelines about allowing employees flexibility around when and where they work or during what hours they can communicate with them about work, etc. The idea is to help people better balance work and life to give them the time and space necessary to recharge.

Why Should HR Leaders Care about Mental Health and Wellness?

The answer about why any leader should care about employees’ wellness seems obvious. It’s the right thing to do. But it also relates to business outcomes. Poor mental health and wellness among employees can pose grave risks to an employer. These are the threats:

  • Decreased Productivity – People are not as interested in getting the job done if they’re dealing with mental health issues.
  • Resignation – Mental health and wellness is clearly connected to job satisfaction and wellbeing. People might quit if they are suffering.
  • Negative Impact on the Bottom Line – If employees are not productive or engaged, the company will not be as successful. If there is much turnover, the company will lose money in recruiting, hiring, training, and patiently waiting for new hires to get up to speed. All these consequences can influence revenue and business outcomes.

How Work Can Affect Employee Wellness

Employees spend a large amount of time working. Toxic workplaces obviously can damage one’s mental state, whereas a psychologically safe environment can motivate people. Anyone experiencing bullying or harassment at work may feel more anxiety or stress. That’s undoubtedly true. But having heavy workloads, tight deadlines, and other stressful personal situations can lead to burnout. Potentially, these factors cut into the psychological contract between employee and employer. This is concerning to HR leaders.

The Mayo Clinic says job burnout is a type of work-related stress that results in a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that can influence an employee’s self-worth and sense of identity. The pandemic and consequential labor shortage put burnout in the spotlight and forced employers to confront it. Now, HR leaders are working to combat and prevent burnout as part of their overall mental health and wellness strategies.

Taking steps to reduce hours and workloads, managing expectations, and training managers to be better, more empathetic leaders are among the ways they are addressing the problem. HR Exchange Network recognized this new obligation of Human Resources in its recent talent management report:

Companies that show they truly care about the mental health and wellness of their employees will get noticed. Those who are flexible and understanding when people are having a tough time personally will win hearts. “Companies need to switch their focus on engagement to experience. Maya Angelou said it the best, ‘People forget what you tell them. They don’t forget how you make them feel,'” says Sebastien Girard, Chief People Officer at Centura Health.

HR leaders are helming efforts to address mental health and wellness of employees. They are confronting these issues to improve employee engagement and experience and the work culture. Employers recognize the link between the mental health and wellness of their employees and the success of their business.

In addition, they realize this is the right thing to do, which is vital at a time when employer brand is of the utmost importance, and everyone is trying to better maintain work-life balance. The pandemic was the spark for employers giving attention to these issues, but the focus on helping employees maintain their mental health and wellness will continue.

By Francesca Di Meglio

Originally posted on HR Exchange Network