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If you’re running a small business, we know you care deeply about your employees. One of the most important roles a company can play in its workers’ lives is providing the appropriate health insurance plans for them and their families. But between ACA regulations, a sea of acronyms, and geographical limitations, it can be extremely difficult to decide which plans to offer your employees. That’s why we’re here to offer our SMB benchmark report– this is fresh Zenefits data, pulled from over 4,000 customers (small businesses with under 100 employees) on what health insurance packages they’re currently offering. Download our full report at the bottom, and browse through some of the highlights below:

PPO, HMO, and HDHP Plans

From our data, SMBs overwhelmingly favor managed care strategies when offering health insurance benefits to their employers and very few choose to offer aggressive cost-sharing arrangements or savings vehicles.


  • SMBs are almost twice as likely to offer a preferred provider organization (PPO) than health maintenance organization (HMO) on a national basis. However, HMOs remain popular in the west, where they were initially created.
  • Just 6% of small businesses nationally offer a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) and health savings account (HSA). The highest rate of HDHPs and HSAs are found in the central states at 10%. This is unsurprising, as the Central regions tend to favor PPOs.
  • A significant increase of HMOs in the Central region (41%) offers SMBs alternatives to large, pricey networks.
  • The Northeast saw a sizable drop in HMOs, about a 17% decrease.

Related: Small Business Health Insurance Report | Premiums and Contributions


According to our benchmark report, the West exhibited the largest drop in health savings accounts at 11%. This is likely because HMOs have become even more popular in this are, and health savings accounts pair with high deductible health plans, usually PPOs rather than HMOs.


  • Health Savings Account options decline 5% nationally.
  • Once again, the western states were the only ones to fall below the national average, trailing behind the rest at just 12%.
Growing Trend

The south is about twice as likely to offer “other” types of health insurance plans (40%) compared to the national average (22%). Those coverages, which reflect efforts to find alternative solutions in the Central U.S., include:

  • Consumer-driven health plans
  • Hybrid plans, which meld the predictable cost of a fully insured group health plan with an ability to self-fund only the costs that are actually incurred.
  • Exclusive Provider Organizations (EPOs)
  • Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs)
  • Localized networks with centers of influence
  • Innovative risk-management insurance arrangement, or “level funding.” This self-insurance hybrid further enables companies to benefit from the regular and predictable cost of a fully insured plan, while only paying for the healthcare costs actually incurred by employees.

It’s a significant category, as well as a clear indicator of market innovation.

Want more information regarding premiums, contributions, coinsurance, deductibles and more? Download our full benchmark report below!

The post Health Insurance Benchmark Report | HMOs, PPOs, and HSAs appeared first on Zenefits Blog.

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The problem of distracted or anxious employees is not new, but recent surveys suggest that the main source of anxiety in the workforce today may not be what employers have traditionally addressed. Several reports from 2017, including the PwC  Employee Financial Wellness Survey and the Center for Financial Services Innovation, conclude that anxiety about individual financial wellness is rampant among the majority of today’s workers.

With striking statistics showing anywhere between 53% and 85% of American workers being impacted by these concerns, employers are wondering how to most effectively address this anxiety and ultimately increase productivity and job satisfaction.

Already many employers, particularly mid- and large-size companies, are recognizing this as a serious issue. As Forbes noted last year, the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments reported that 84% of the companies surveyed within that demographic offered some kind of financial wellness program to their employees, up 8% from the prior year. And while the argument is often made that larger companies possess the capital resources to offer a wider array of benefits, today’s reality is that many of these solutions are within the reach of companies of all sizes.

Here are a few of the top trends to consider if you’re looking to implement a financial wellness program:

401(k) education

So, where to start? The most common step many businesses take towards supporting their employees’ financial wellness is offering a 401(k) plan. Among other benefits, a 401(k) program offers the potential for employers to claim tax credits, and therefore the popularity of this approach remains high.

According to sources such as The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, we’re seeing the trend of employer matching continue to grow in popularity. Matching refers to the arrangement in which an employer contributes to the retirement savings account of an employee, who makes a similar contribution, usually to a 401(k) plan.

As competition to attract and retain employees gets tougher, this benefit becomes less a matter of if and more of a matter of when. Financial institutions continue to show flexibility in what they’re offering companies as smaller sized firms gain more prominence in the marketplace. Consultations are free and knowledgeable advice is usually just a phone call away.  The United States Department of Labor also provides a basic toolkit for businesses who have yet to offer 401(k) options.

Taking 401(k) retirement planning to the next level requires engagement. And while employers should rightfully hesitate in direct financial counseling, plan administrators are typically more than willing to discuss these matters with employees either in group or one-on-one settings. The responsibility of the employer is to help their workforce understand what options are available for their 401(k) arrangements as well as facilitate communication between the money makers and those charged with stewardship of their retirement funds. The simple act of scheduling optional information sessions during the workday can go a long way in showing employees that financial wellness is a true concern and not just a paragraph in the employee welcome packet.

Student loan assistance

Now more than ever, student loan assistance is the at top of many employees’ minds, particularly as the skills millennials bring to a wide variety of companies are held in higher value.

Nationally, seven out of ten 2015 college graduates left school with substantial student loans. The same study found the average national student loan debt to be $30,100– up 4% from just the year before. This is why resources such as Student Loan Hero have gained traction as an offered benefit.

Not only can companies use pre-taxed dollars to help pay employees’ student loans, but many other companies are already beginning to offer these loan forgiveness programs to give them a competitive edge. According to an American Students Assistance Survey, 76% of participants reported that a student loan repayment agreement would be a deciding or contributing factor to accepting a job.

Society for Human Resource Management suggests that this financial wellness benefit may both increase productivity and reduce stress. On top of it all, resources exist to set up the benefit easily and efficiently for most companies.

Finance education

A diverse workforce means a diverse amount of financial concerns beyond just student loan anxiety. Recognizing this, many companies have turned to third parties to provide financial education services for their employees. Often times, organizations can utilize pre-existing partnerships with their financial institutions, who are beginning to offer these classes.

Alternatively, some companies have turned to private financial advisors who possess the expertise to provide advice and support. The result is a highly personalized approach to financial counseling that can address individual concerns that sweeping retirement and student loan programs may not cover.

Considerations for implementing a financial wellness program

Regardless of the focus on student loan forgiveness or individual financial wellness, certain key ideas should be adopted by a company in order to ensure success at any level. CFSI states that it’s essential that the company understand the need for this benefit both by management teams and senior leadership. Another crucial aspect is keeping a pulse on employees regarding their specific financial needs and concerns.

A workforce that consists primarily of millennials will most certainly have different financial goals, desires, and anxieties than a multi-generation workforce and understanding the company demographics at a financial level is critical for success. The CFSI also points out that continued engagement, visible measurement, and a management-wide commitment to improvement were all equally essential in implementing an effective financial wellness program.

Most importantly, employers should find a way to embrace the challenge of developing a financial wellness strategy. Research suggests that anxiety about money matters only increases if left unaddressed. The opportunity to offer support solutions by your company will not only keep you up with trends but may be essential in the competition for attracting and retaining quality employees.

Want more benefit ideas? Check out: Employee Benefits: Here’s what Top Talent Wants

The post Money on their Minds: Financial Wellness as a Benefit appeared first on Zenefits Blog.

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Today’s competitive organizations are quickly learning that implementing wellness programs makes good business sense. Offering services and products to support employees’ mental, emotional, and physical health is becoming increasingly popular as employers strive to keep current staff happy and attract new recruits.

According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans 2017 findings, over 63% of organizations surveyed have budgets for wellness programs and 51% expect to increase their wellness budgets within the next two years.  At the same time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in the past year 39% of private industry employees and 63% of state and federal government employees in the United States had access to some form of wellness programming.

If you’re thinking about introducing or expanding a wellness program, learn about how they can help your staff and your organization before choosing. To be most effective, research the wellness perks and benefits that could best fit your company culture and employees’ lifestyles.

Why Offer Workplace Wellness Perks To Staff?

“Workplace wellness programs have been shown to deliver big benefits to both employees and employers,” says Courtright. “Research shows that health screenings and physical exercise can help people lower important health markers such as their blood pressure, body fat, and stress levels.”

According to the recently published Illinois Workplace Wellness Study, employees who take part in these programs are also more likely to take part in health screenings – a test which may catch potential health issues while they’re treatable.

“Plus, wellness not only impacts workers’ physical health but also their total well-being.

From fitness classes to chair massages, wellness activities help improve workers’ productivity levels, overall moods, and collaboration between teams,” says Courtright.

Related: Running Towards Workplace Wellness Programs in 2018? Here’s Everything You Need

Wellness Programs Benefit Employers As Well

While workers enjoy the most direct benefits of employee wellness programs, the organization investing in these programs will likely see benefits as well.

The Illinois Workplace Wellness Study reported that in just offering wellness programs, employees feel heard and valued by their companies. This positive sentiment only helps to increase feelings of loyalty towards a company.

As Courtright sees it, “Having wellness programs in place is great for company culture — for both current and prospective employees.”  And the numbers support this. The Virgin Pulse survey found 88% of workers say that health and wellness programs give employers a competitive advantage over their peers.

When you’re considering wellness benefits and perks for your team, think about the demographics of your organization. How likely is your team to participate in each program? What’s the typical lifestyle of your employee? Keep this in mind as you review the following four increasingly-popular wellness options.

How to Choose the Best Wellness Program

Taking advantage of programs and services that fall under the “wellness program” umbrella help your workers’ health – but it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the selection.

“There’s a huge variety of interactive and effective wellness programs which companies can offer these days,” says Sammy Courtright, COO and co-founder of fitness wellness corporate program Fitspot Wellness. “On-site wellness services may include fitness classes, ranging from yoga to Zumba to boot camps; chair massages; meditation sessions; educational workshops or seminars such as cooking classes, goal-setting workshops; and biometric screenings,” says Courtright. In addition, some wellness providers such as Fitspot also offer clients virtual wellness services that employees can access 24/7.

“These services may include online health assessments, access to meal-planning apps, mindfulness programs, and online workout video libraries,” she says.

With these ample options, we’ve put together some of the top wellness program trends to help you determine which one might be a good fit for your company:

#1. Offer On-Site Fitness Programs

Fitness programs have always been a part of workplace wellness benefits, but now you’ll find a wide variety of options available for businesses of all sizes right across the country. Options may include on-site fitness classes, workshops, and training sessions.

“Lots of gyms and fitness teams will do this stuff locally for any employer,” says Alexa Baggio, co-creator of Perks, an annual convention showcasing perks, benefits, and services for companies to offer their employees. “Some fun and different options include Inner City Weightlifting, which has a great social mission depending on your location, and Wellable which holds corporate fitness challenges through existing wearables like Fitbit, Apple Watches, etc. for a fixed cost based on employer size available anywhere in the world,” says Baggio. ”Most of these programs are less than $20 per person and see high engagement and appreciation.”

#2. Help Your Staff Make Wiser Nutrition Choices

Making healthy food choices is a crucial component of wellness. Luckily, there are a few different ways to educate your staff on nutrition. Look for benefits programs that include dietician or nutritionist services and offer your team access free or discounted healthy meal planning apps or services, such as The Dinner Daily. “They provide shopping lists and weekly recipes to make food choices easier,” says Baggio. “And the service bases their lists on weekly sales at stores across all 50 states to help users save money.”

Revise your cafeteria menu to include more nutritious meal options. If you don’t have a cafeteria, you can still bring healthy food choices right into the workplace as a perk. Several new companies offer food services to businesses of all sizes in urban areas across the United States.

Baggio says that services like Leanbox provide a modular connected breakroom solution of healthy vending, coffee, cold brew, beverage vending and works as a healthy and flexible option.    

To support your local restaurants and food services, check out programs like those offered through Fooda, which partners with businesses and local food providers to bring food into workplaces. “Fooda and similar groups will do in-office pop-up restaurants and bring healthy options to employees while supporting small businesses,” says Baggio.

#3 Introduce Meditation, Mindfulness and Yoga Programs

Not to be forgotten under the wellness umbrella is mental health and emotional wellbeing. More companies are offering meditation spaces and mindfulness training services in the workplace, including Google, Asana, and yours truly– Zenefits.

According to a recent study published in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal, Preventing Chronic Disease, one in seven American workers say they practice mindfulness-based activities. The study surveyed over 85,000 adults and found that meditation rates among U.S. workers increased from 8% to almost 10% from 2002 to 2012. Furthermore, yoga practice almost doubled from 6% in 2002 to 11% in 2012.

“While this may not seem like a huge shift, this is great news for American workers,”  says Daniel Turissini, founder of meditation and mindfulness studio Recharj. “Work-related stress is common and it is associated with many physical and mental ailments. These problems include high-stress levels, mood swings, decreased productivity, higher risk of chronic diseases and more. Meditation and mindfulness practices have been proven to improve employee well-being.”

As Turissini points out, researchers note that incorporating mindfulness practices into the workplace experience encourages employees to incorporate mindfulness into their daily routine. “These practices can include employee wellness and stress-reduction programs, meditation classes or web-based offerings,” he says.

According to the study, mindfulness practices can increase workers’ resilience, “thereby enabling them to better deal with stress while preventing burnout.” Turissini says workers who engage in mindfulness-based activities on a daily basis experience an increase in productivity, memory, creativity, focus, impulse control, and emotional intelligence. “Thus, taking care of the mental health of employees will create a more productive workforce for any company.”

Look for local meditation, mindfulness, or yoga practitioners that could host on-site workshops or sessions for your team. And check your current benefits package to see if meditation, yoga, and mindfulness are already covered.

#4. Focus on Financial Wellness Benefits

Financial concern has long been recognized as a key stress factor for many people, and employers are taking notice when selecting wellness programs for their staff. The National Business Group and Fidelity Investments most recent Employer-Sponsored Health and Wellbeing Survey reports 84% of companies have “financial security programs,” an increase of 8% over last year’s results. According to Baggio, new financial management programs and perks are popping up all over because they’re inexpensive and easy for organizations to introduce.

“Managing stress is perhaps the main factor in promoting wellness. Luckily, there are a couple options to help manage financial stress that create a lot of visibility and support from the employer perspective but without being financially overwhelming to implement,” she says. Groups like Cognitive Financial will do student loan and tuition payment plans. They’re also launching a new employer product to allow the financing of small, personal, low-interest loans through payroll for employees who may need a small cash infusion to help.

If your staff demographics are more interested in financial education, consider offering workshops, boot camps, or lunch-and-learn sessions on financial topics. For example, MetLife offers something called RetireWise, a free multi-week boot camp program for employees looking for financial education.

Before signing up to offer a new wellness program or perk, it may be wise to survey your staff to see which ones they’re most interested in. This helps show your staff you’re willing to invest in their wellbeing, and that you’re interested in what’s important to each of them. Once the wellness programs and perks become available, remind your organization leadership to participate as well.

Learn More About Workplace Wellness Programs With Our Free eBook: Our Ultimate Guide to Workplace Wellness Programs

The post Wellness Programs: 4 Work Perks Your Employees Will Love appeared first on Zenefits Blog.

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This week, Cigna flagged its interest ($67B worth of interest) in acquiring Express Scripts — the latest push in the ever-changing landscape of incumbent players and private industry to rewrite rules for American healthcare.

If you are an employer, one of your biggest priorities is likely ensuring accessible, affordable healthcare coverage for your staff. And if you’ve been watching the political, business and healthcare headlines so far this year, you might feel relegated to the sidelines, unsure of when and how it will impact your business and your people.

Not anymore– here is what small business owners need to know about this market tug of war and how it could impact their employees.

The ‘historical’ long view of healthcare

Framing the past few months in the context of 20 years as the new models have evolved, there is a marked uptake in activity amongst key players: carriers, investors & employers. However, the reality for small business owners is two-fold: healthcare as we know it is a complex behemoth and will not change overnight (despite the 24-hour news cycles to the contrary). The incremental changes that chip away and reset the foundation of the industry are absolutely worth our attention.

At a high level, this most recent market activity can be viewed from three perspectives:

1. Payors (Health & Pharma consolidation in this case):

Health insurance carriers and related distributors (like Pharma) are aligning to capitalize on economies of scale, and broader consumer reach (like Cigna/Express Scripts and Aetna/CVS).

While investors might see this type of consolidation as attractive from a revenue standpoint, the reality for employers — short to mid-term — is that the complexities of trying to integrate massive organizations of this type, their data and processes, will take some time. Ultimately I expect we will see a streamlining of how consumers can purchase bundled sets of Medical and Drug insurance, of how consumers access their Medical and Drug data, and hopefully of how employers and employees access care.

That above said, technology historians may find some similarities of this activity to their own world: think Michael Dell establishing bundling hardware components and owning streamlined distribution. Think Apple establishing the bundling of hardware components, owning distribution, and owning the software experience. These consolidated models ultimately lead to huge leaps in how better products were brought to market, and how consumers utilized them.

2. Employer Experimentation:

Large employers are evolving their participation in how they offer insurance and care delivery: the Amazon/Berkshire-Hathaway/JP Morgan Chase collaboration; Apple’s onsite healthcare; and even Uber’s healthcare transport. They are actively experimenting with what can work, using their size to take fresh approaches, and proving out what can eventually scale down market, amongst employers who may not have the same revenue base.

3. Insurance Technology Innovators:

“Frothy” investment — more than $3 billion in the past year — has been looking to connect this complex, distributed amount of data, services, consultants, and pricing.

All three of these massive activities are churning right now. At Zenefits, our model lies at the center of all three of them.

Related:  Association Health Plans and What Comes Next

So what’s next? With Insurance Carrier Consolidators:

We are accelerating conversation with the nation’s leading carriers on how to refine and share data to deliver context to employers and employees more effectively. Today we have API connections to hundreds of insurers across the country.

With Corporate Experimenters:

We love to see how Amazon, Apple, and others are working to reinvent what is possible for healthcare using their collective size and weight. Zenefits is the first aggregator for progressive small and mid-sized businesses, and we’ve sparked a conversation and connection between them, carriers, and more than 250,000 employees across the nation. These corporations collaborate with us to push the envelope on better access to better benefits and with better visibility, all at the fingertips of their people.

With Insurtech Investors in Innovation:

We are doubling down on our Ben Connect product, which allows our new preferred benefits broker partners, like One Digital, to access our platform and deliver their strategic insight to customers — all through powerful, user-friendly technology.

What Can Small and Mid-Sized Businesses Do?

Stay aware of the big shifts.

There is more movement and incremental change now across benefits’ cost, compliance, consultation and payroll, suggesting business owners pay attention more frequently than during their annual health benefits review.  

That shouldn’t require a lot of heavy lifting. Business’ benefits, payroll and HR systems of record should be telling them if they are in compliance or might have potential exposure, and what to do about it. If not, there are solutions, like Zenefits, that are now in place to have your attention and have your back.

The most important time in history is — always — the moment you are in.

Change is not unprecedented in healthcare. When healthcare exchanges came out 20 years ago, they were meaningful but didn’t reset the entire American system. The Affordable Care Act of 2015 took on a huge topic of universal healthcare in this country, but truly only about 15 percent of the total employee workforce was directly impacted.

Today, the velocity of change is faster. Triggers like acquisitions, test models, and investments all add up to intriguing notches of change. Will things be starkly different tomorrow? No.

But is it critical to stay tuned and look at the long view? You bet. And your employees are counting on you to have their backs — and their health — on your radar.

The post How American Healthcare is Affecting Small Business Owners appeared first on Zenefits Blog.

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Although healthcare dominated the political conversation in 2017, the year came and went without the sweeping reform so many expected. In the absence of a pending bill or stated agenda for 2018, let’s take a few moments to assess what’s going on in the benefits world.

The ACA Still Matters for Employers

After last year’s on-again, off-again proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act ultimately fizzled, the Tax Reform bill eliminated the individual penalty for not having healthcare but left the reporting and employer mandates in place. That means the ACA is still the law of the land for businesses across America. If you have questions about compliance or filing, check out the Zenefits ACA Reporting tool.

Association Health Plans

In early January, the Department of Labor issued a proposed notice about Association Health Plans to permit employers to join together in an employer group or association to sponsor health plans. The stated goals of the proposal are:

  • To allow employers to form a Small Business Health Plan on the basis of geography or industry;
  • To allow a plan to serve employers in a given state, city, county, or a multi-state metro area, or all the businesses in a particular industry nationwide; and,
  • To allow sole proprietors to join Small Business Health Plans, clearing a path to access health insurance for the millions of uninsured Americans who are sole proprietors or the family of sole proprietors.

There are existing state and federal law limitations that might complicate these efforts. As comments on the proposal have come in, opinions have been divided. Some have argued that, among other downsides, the proposal threatens providers by inviting fraud and collusion of plan participants,. Others note that a path to affordable coverage is otherwise out of reach for more than three million people, with the finalization of the association plan expansion.  

The DOL continues to receive and consider these comments, with no fixed deadline to complete the review and finalize (or withdraw) the proposed rules.

Big Names Tackling The Problem of Healthcare 

Jeff Bezos. Warren Buffett. Jamie Dimon. When the leaders of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan announce they’re teaming up, the world takes notice. Last month, those three leaders announced they’re pooling their resources to see if they can use technology, innovation, aggregation of influence and buying power to deliver cheaper health care options for their employees and drive better health outcomes at the same time. Whether this particular group can make progress in the existing structure is to-be-seen, but the effort itself speaks to the motivation of leaders across industries to exert more influence on their health care spending.

Industry Consolidation

On the administrative side, the move to consolidate influence across the benefits industry continues.  In late December, news that CVS would purchase Aetna sent shock waves through the industry. A spate of smaller mergers in January continued the trend.  More recently, Cigna agreed to purchase Express Scripts, the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits manager, for more than fifty billion dollars.

Each of these deals follows the same formula: huge dollar numbers to bring together separate pieces of the healthcare delivery system under one corporation. CVS and Cigna have each indicated that their acquisitions will benefit consumers and shareholders through the direct influence they can exert over a separate and often opaque line of the treatment and care workstream.  

With regulators searching for answers and non-healthcare industry leaders pushing for innovation and a change to the existing paradigm, the established carriers and service providers have no choice but to continue to examine the playing field for opportunities to become more efficient.

What’s Next?

For business leaders, the first order of business is meeting the upcoming ACA filing deadline.  Moving forward, the ball is in the DOL’s court to determine whether to update the rules on AHPs. As companies confront the challenges of staying competitive in their benefits offerings the work being done by both regulators and private industry should be closely monitored.

Today, an employer’s benefits obligations and the industry relationships on which they rely look similar to how they did yesterday. But with the DOL and business-community leaders searching for new solutions, and the service-provider consolidation, that isn’t likely to be true tomorrow. Stay tuned…

Want to learn more about which benefits packages small businesses are offering in 2018? Download our eBook to find out where you stand in the market.

The post The State of Healthcare | Association Health Plans and What Comes Next appeared first on Zenefits Blog.

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The healthcare landscape is constantly in flux, making it hard for businesses to feel confident managing their insurance plans.  However, political turmoil shouldn’t mean paralysis for your business. In fact, learning about different health insurance packages is one of the best tools to stay competitive in the market for top talent.

Our latest Benefits Benchmark Report shows encouraging signs for small and midsize businesses (SMB), offering clarity to leaders who are deciding whether to offer or amend health benefits coverage for their employees and what their best options are.We’ve gathered data from around 4,000 Zenefits customers to explore different benefits packages for companies under 200 employees. This report is designed to help you make more informed decisions about benefits by better understanding what similar companies are doing, and what’s changed within the past year. This will help you determine where your company stands in comparison to the market.

Note: this research is based on a sample of Zenefits customers, and not all SMBs in these regions will experience these same cost trends. However, we can offer tremendous insight into key cost details. Hopefully, this will enable you to design a more competitive health benefits package. And with that, let’s dive in.

Total Premiums

Following the same pattern we saw in last year’s report, the monthly premiums are relatively standard across the country except for the Northeast, which has noticeably higher premiums than the national average.

Total Contributions

Perhaps the most visible way to support employees’ health is by contributing to their monthly health care premiums. Overall, the national average of employer contribution to individual healthcare plans has risen by 4% since our last report. Here are some of the other developments:

These are the highlights of the contribution data:

  • The average employer covers about 76% of individual monthly premiums while the remaining 24% falls on the employee.
  • The western states still maintain the highest individual employer contributions, where small businesses helped with 80% of costs– 4% above the average.
  • The national average for family employer contribution has not changed since our last report and remains at 38% with employers covering the remaining 62%.
  • For family employer contributions, the Northeast has the highest contribution with 44% toward family premiums. This makes sense given that monthly premiums are highest in this region.
Plan Numbers

In today’s small group health insurance market, there aren’t many choices for employees, although the amount of plans offered tends to correspond with company size and rises with higher head counts. The average number of plans offered this year fluctuates slightly based on the size of each workforce. For example, it’s just 1.64 at firms with fewer than 25 employees compared with 2.37 at companies with 26 to 50 employees and 2.70 at companies with 51 to 100 employees.

When looking at geographic data, only in the West does the number of plans (2.13) exceed the national average (1.94) in 2017. While the Northeast, South, and Central areas of the US offer fewer options than the national average, that average has still increased by 2%.

While these trends are always changing, we will release new benchmarking data every year to keep you up to speed with other organizations in your area. Want to learn more about health insurance? Download our eBook below for more information on the popularity of HMOs vs. PPOs, in-network deductibles, copay vs. coinsurance, and much more:

The post Health Insurance Benchmark Report | Premiums and Contributions appeared first on Zenefits Blog.

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Although your company may be working hard to improve staff retention, sometimes employees leave at inopportune times. So how do you keep your business moving forward when continually faced with employee turnover? Time to ask the experts.

Organizations that struggle in the face of constant employee turnover can learn some valuable lessons from the military and professional sports teams– two organizations that have learned to maximize performance in a high turnover environment.

“Every military leader must deal with constant turnover while maintaining high-level field performance,” says customer loyalty speaker and Vietnam War veteran, Chip Bell.

Here are a few lessons from sports and military organizations to help you maximize performance while dealing with turnover.

#1. Run Superior Training Programs

Whether you call it training camp, basic training, company boot camp, or onboarding, a robust and well-organized welcome program gets new employees up-to-speed quickly. Therefore, they can start contributing to your organization as soon as possible.

“Soldiers are taught in basic training to be mission-focused,” says Bell. “As a soldier, you know you’re interchangeable with any other soldier of your specialty.” Soldiers are constantly rotated to new assignments, frequently separated as their tour ends, or are “tragically removed” from the line of duty.

“Smart military leaders value superior orientation programs aimed at rapid acclimation much like a player joining a game from the bench,” he says.

Take a look at the content of your onboarding and training programs to ensure they include basic training on your company software programs, education on position and company-specific topics, and any industry-specific compliance subjects.

Related: Zenefits Hiring & Onboarding

#2. Build Trust

Quickly building trust between leaders, managers, and team members is crucial to performing well in a high-turnover environment.

In the Oxford Handbook of Military Psychology, Paul Lester describes the basics of a concept known as “swift trust”, where trust is based on transparency and clearly visible levels of status. For example, in the military, uniforms include highly visible badges, medals, or stripes as a means to quickly share an individual’s job-related experience. In the world of sports, teams and dynamics are always changing and this type of background information quickly and easily provides an understanding between the new teammates and the rest of the team.

In the business world, it takes more time to build trust – but in a high-turnover environment, it’s best to reduce that time as much as possible.

Another way to build trust quickly is to empower new employees. Avoid micromanaging, and be intentional about establishing an autonomous workplace. In this Psychology Today article by Dr. Michael D. Matthews discusses the Individual-Relationship-Organization-Context (IROC) model developed by retired Army Colonel Patrick Sweeney, which emphasizes trust across ranks. “Successful organizations and their leaders demonstrate genuine concern and respect for others, maintain clear and open communication across the organization, and are willing to empower and trust others,” Matthews writes.

Related: Harmful Micromanagement: How to Switch to an Autonomous Workplace

#3. Crash Course In Company Culture

Like close-knit families, businesses often develop their own culture, complete with traditions, buzzwords, and unwritten rules. Acclimatize new employees quickly and get them “up-to-speed” on your company culture to boost performance. This trick has been used in the military for years as part of basic training, says Bell, who was an infantry unit commander with the 82nd Airborne, and taught guerrilla tactics at the U.S. Army Infantry School.

“Included were not just the details of the mission, but also the language, codes, signals, and norms specific to a unit,” he recalls.

As Bell explains, soldiers new to a unit were assigned to a buddy of the same rank in the same unit. “The buddy’s job was to be the new soldier’s mentor and friend,” says Bell. “Leaders were taught to meet with a newly assigned soldier at the end of day one, day two, and week one to ensure proper assimilation.”

Bell says company commanders regularly asked platoon leaders how the new soldier was doing, and a platoon leader would ask the same of his or her squad leaders.

“Neglect of new soldiers was considered neglect of duty since the chain of teamwork was only as strong as its weakest link,” says Bell.

#4. Promote Potential, Not Necessarily Performance

Your management team is a key ingredient in not only reducing turnover but also in keeping the business on track when old workers leave and new ones begin. Dr. Kim Turnage is a leadership consultant and co-author of the book Managing to Make a Difference. She says businesses can strengthen management by altering the criteria they use to choose managers. “Too many times, that promotion goes to top individual performers,” Turnage says. “But the best performers are not necessarily the best managers.”

Professional football provides a great example of this. According to Turnage, “Among NFL head coaches in 2016, only one-third of them of them played professional football — and ‘professional football’ includes [the Canadian Football League] CFL and Arena League.” In other words, the best coaches may not have been the best players— the two roles necessitate radically different skill sets.

Turnage encourages business leaders to look beyond performance to spot the potential for coaching, mentoring and leadership. “Hire and promote people with that kind of potential – even if they’re not your top individual performers,” she says.

Promoting individuals with leadership potential has two strong benefits for companies. First, it retains a good employee, reducing future turnover at the management level. Second, it provides a reliable coach to help employees in higher-turnover positions succeed in their new roles faster.

#5. Create and Share Definitive Guiding Principles

In the military and sports worlds, organizations find ways to excel despite unusually high turnover rates. Likewise, companies that want to thrive must find ways to grow in the face of constant change. A strong framework and formal guiding principles help professional teams and military branches succeed– and they can help your company too.

Employees may come and go, but a framework should remain intact. As Matthews pointed out in his Psychology Today article, “high performing organizations maintain excellence despite personnel churn.”

This requires creating a definitive mission and vision statements, precise codes of conduct and clearly written expectations of character in the workplace. It also means promptly rewarding team members when they meet or exceed the stated expectations.

Luckily, in this way, businesses don’t necessarily have to resemble military and sports teams, where turnover and trades are simply part of the job. Your employees can choose to stick around. So when you work through these lessons to boost performance, don’t be surprised if your turnover issue takes care of itself!

The post Surviving Employee Turnover: Lessons From Sports and Military Leaders appeared first on Zenefits Blog.

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Personal taxes are intimidating. The rules are unnecessarily complex, difficult to understand, and many of them will change before you file your next round of taxes in 2019.  However, one document that has stayed fairly consistent, and will most likely continue to do so, is form W2. This form is required by your employers to document your annual wages and taxes from your paychecks. It’s good to understand how your paychecks are reflected in your W2 forms, so in this two-part series, we’re going to take an in-depth look at the information on W2 forms.

The first place to start when you receive your W2 is with your personal information.  It’s important to make sure that your name and social security number (box a) on the form is correct. Next up…

W2 Forms: Box 1 and Box 2

Box 1 shows your Federal Income Tax Wages for the year, and Box 2 shows the amount withheld from those wages for the year.  Based on IRS guidelines, this will include all paycheck dates from January 1st through December 31st of the W2 year. The pay period of the check is unimportant; what matters for W2 forms purposes is the actual check date.

Federal Income Tax wages are determined with each paycheck and are calculated as follows:

Start with gross Pay (Including tips and taxable fringe benefits)

Subtract: Section 125 deductions (medical, dental, vision, dependent care, pre-tax commuter benefits, etc.)

Subtract: deferred income (401k, SIMPLE IRA, 403b, etc.)

Equals: Federal Income Tax wages

Should all Deductions Reduce Taxable Income?

Only those deductions specified by the IRS have an impact on taxes. Items such as 401k loan repayments, garnishments, company loan repayments, and union dues won’t reduce your taxable wages.  

The IRS Publication 15-B – Fringe Benefits document includes a detailed chart of how specific fringe benefits are treated for tax purposes:



Bob is paid semi-monthly. On this paycheck, he earned $8,000 in salary. Bob gets a semi-monthly auto allowance of $1,000. He has a medical deduction of $1,500, and he contributes 10% of his income to his 401k. What’s Bob’s taxable income for federal withholding?

*401k is calculated based on the definition of the specific 401k plan.  Most plans do not include taxable fringe benefits in the calculation.

W2 Forms: Boxes 3, 4, 5, and 6

Box 3 on the W2 forms represents Social security wages and Box 4 are the social security taxes on those wages.  Similarly, Box 5 represents Medicare wages, and Box 6 are the taxes on those Medicare wages.

Social Security and Medicare taxes go hand in hand because the taxable wages for these two taxes are generally the same. The taxable wages for Social Security and Medicare taxes are defined below:

Gross Pay (Including tips and taxable fringe benefits)

Subtract: Section 125 deductions (medical, dental, vision, dependent care, pre-tax commuter benefits, etc.)

Equals: Social Security and Medicare taxable wages

For Social Security and Medicare, deferred income (401k, 403b, Simple IRA’s, etc.) is considered taxable and not subtracted from gross pay.


Bob is paid semi-monthly. On this paycheck, he earned $8,000 in salary. Bob gets a semi-monthly auto allowance of $1,000. He has a medical deduction of $1,500, and he contributes 10% of his income to his 401k. What is Bob’s taxable income for Social Security and Medicare?

*401k does not reduce gross pay for calculating Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Taxes on Social Security and Medicare Wages

Social Security has a tax rate of 6.2% and Medicare has a tax rate of 1.45%. In the example above, Bob’s Social Security taxes would be calculated as follows, and added to Box 4:

Bob’s Medicare taxes would be calculated as below and added to Box 6:

Social Security Tax Limit

Social Security has an annual limit.  In 2017, individuals were taxed only on the first $127,200 of taxable wages, or $7,886.40. In 2018, the wage limit is $128,400. Once you hit the tax limit of  $7,960.80, you will no longer be taxed for Social Security in 2018.

Additional Medicare

There are no tax limits for Medicare, and employers are required to withhold Additional Medicare tax of 0.9% once taxable wages are over $200,000 for the year.  In the example above, if Bob’s year-to-date taxable wages were $200,000 before payment, his additional Medicare taxes would be calculated as:

The $67.50 amount is added to the Medicare tax withheld in Box 6.

W2 Forms: Boxes 7, 8, and 9

Box 7 applies to employees who receive tips; it’s used to record any reported tips that had unpaid social security taxes.

Box 8 shows allocated tips from large food or beverage establishments. If applicable, the tips are based on allocated tips for an individual derived by Form 8027.

Box 9 is for employers that participate in the IRS’s piloted W2 Verification Initiative.  If your employer does not participate, it will be blank. If your employer does participate, it is recommended that taxpayers and tax professionals enter the verification code in Box 9 when prompted by software. Doing so can speed the processing of the return and the issuance of refunds. If one uses an incorrect verification code or leaves it blank, it will not result in a delay in processing the tax return.

So– we survived the first 9 boxes of the W2 forms. Not so bad, right? In my next post, we’ll tackle boxes 11 through 20, and by the end, you’ll be a W2 wiz.

Did you find this helpful? Check out more from Matt, our payroll and accounting expert, here: How Does the New Tax Overhaul Impact Payroll?

The post Decoding Your W2 Forms with a Payroll Expert | Part 1: Boxes 1 through 9 appeared first on Zenefits Blog.

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To celebrate International Women’s Day, we want to shine the spotlight on some of our valued female employees. Why? Because representation matters– specifically the representation of women in traditionally male-dominated fields (Ahem, all of Silicon Valley). Zenefits sits down with female powerhouse Beth Steinberg, who give us some advice and talks of increasing the representation of women in Bay Area companies. To kickstart this initiative, read on to find a step-by-step guide on how to implement a women’s resource group within your company!

Beth Steinberg is Breaking the Status Quo

“Women need to know their power… and use it,” says Beth Steinberg, Chief People Officer here at Zenefits. Beth has been working in Silicon Valley for over a decade, playing an integral role in companies such as BrightRoll, EA, Facebook, and Sunrun. She’s also worked as a startup advisor to countless more organizations, including Mozilla, Lynda, Greenhouse, Reddit– the list goes on and on. Needless to say, she’s had her fair share of working in what has been deemed “a man’s world.”

While she has grown confident in her abilities and earned the respect of her peers, she says it wasn’t always easy. “Back when I started in the workforce, a certain level of harassment from coworkers was unfortunately just expected. It wasn’t ‘will it happen?’ but rather ‘how will you deal with it when it does?’” 

While conditions for women in the workplace have undoubtedly improved within the past few decades, harassment and microaggressions are certainly still rampant, specifically in the male-dominated tech culture of Silicon Valley. In fact, in a 2017 study of over 200 women with a minimum of 10 years work experience in tech, 60% of them reported unwanted sexual advances and 1 in 3 felt unsafe because of work-related circumstances. 87% of respondents said they had received demeaning comments from their male colleagues, and 88% had clients direct questions are their male colleagues that should have been addressed to them.

So, to all the badass working women out there, what can you do to break the status quo? Here are Beth’s pro tips:

  1. Be Authentic. We’re not going to beat them by joining them– being authentic can open up space for a new status quo, and allow others to take the same action. “I find a certain solace and strength in acting on what feels right to me,” says Beth, “and I trust that instinct.”
  2. Do what’s right for others. Wait… but aren’t we supposed to be standing up for ourselves? “In a lot of ways, it’s much harder for me to stand up for myself than for others,” says Steinberg. The first time she was really forced to challenge authority in the workplace was to defend a co-worker who was being mistreated. When she succeeded in creating a culture of respect in the office, she felt more comfortable voicing her own needs and concerns.
  3. Representation Matters. Perhaps most important of all, women need to see other women in the world of tech, in the office, in positions of power. “Seeing people who look like you at a company– whether they reflect your gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or so on– that goes a long way in making you feel welcomed and valued.”
Representation Matters

After recognizing the importance of this last point, representation matters, Beth became a sponsor to Techwomen, a company that inspires, supports, and fosters connections between the next generation of women in STEM. It connects successful Bay Area companies with women from Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East in the form of internships and mentorships.

“I remember when we hosted a young woman from Yemen,” recalls Steinberg. “Both she and the company went through a huge adjustment period. On her first day, she had a hard time speaking in front of others, but on her last day with us, she made an incredible presentation about what she had learned. It was in front of the entire office, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room!”

This program helps women from all backgrounds succeed and ultimately aims to inspire female leaders all over the world, boosting the representation of women in the workplace. With this initial catalyst, ideally girls will grow up with more female role models, fostering a sense of belonging for them in seats of power. It also aims at boosting economic growth for the participants’ home countries.

“It was a great experience for the company as well. We put in a prayer room for her and it expanded our knowledge of her culture.”

Representation of Women in at Zenefits

Upon accepting a job at Zenefits, Beth immediately became an advisor to ZeneWomen, a group that supports and connects our female employees.

ZeneWomen unifies employees who share a passion for learning, offering mentorship, and fostering lasting connections which enhance and support women’s success in the workplace– and they welcome men!

“I joined Zenewomen seeking some career mentorship opportunities from the strong women that were in leadership positions at Zenefits,” says Emily Smith, one of the ZeneWomen leaders. ”Instead of having formal mentorship meetings with the female leaders in the company, I quickly began to work with them on various events and initiatives and learned from seeing them in action. I think that exemplifies what Zenewomen is all about. We want to connect people from all different parts of Zenefits to help support the women in our workplace and foster their personal and professional growth.”

Caitlin Dowling is another member of Zenewomen. She says of her experience, “Zenewomen is one of my favorite peer groups at Zenefits – it’s a great place to garner inspiration, motivation, and collect support from like-minded professionals. Attending events and volunteering together is a great way to get to know one another outside of work, too!”

By carving out a protected space for the women at Zenefits, we hope to demonstrate that we highly value their contributions and want to make them feel heard, supported, and comfortable in their work environment.

Want some tips on how to start an employee resource group to celebrate your female employees? Check out our latest blog, 5 steps to starting your ERG.

The post Representation Matters | Beth Steinberg and the Women of Zenefits appeared first on Zenefits Blog.

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We love our ZeneWomen here at Zenefits. This female-centered employee resource group unifies coworkers who share a passion for learning, offering mentorship, and fostering lasting connections which enhance and support women’s success in the workplace. From booking guests to hosting book club discussions, Zenewomen is always planning something fun and educational. In the name of International Women’s Day (cue the confetti), we’re proud to exhibit one of our most successful employee resource groups and give you some tips so that you can build your own!

According to a recent CWB report, approximately 90% of Fortune 500 companies have employee resource groups– and you should too. 

The Do’s and Don’ts to starting an employee resource group in your company:
  1. Make sure there’s diversity within your resource group. In the case of a woman-centered group, be cognizant of including women from the LGBTQ community, women of color, and women with disabilities. Ensure there is a range of people within your leadership roles– because representation matters!
  2. Don’t be exclusionary. While it’s of utmost importance to include people from all backgrounds, it’s good to keep it balanced. Incorporating majority voices when it’s appropriate helps to integrate your group into the larger office culture, which should be a priority. At Zenewomen, this means welcoming all employees who want to join, including men!
  3. Promote, promote, promote. You want everyone in your office– and your company– to know your employee resource group exists. When first starting your ERG, it’s a good idea to host a launch or kick-off party to make your presence known. Another good way to spread the word early is to incorporate all your resource groups into the onboarding process for new employees.
  4. Don’t be shy about funding. There’s no way around it– you’ll need financial help to succeed. While asking for funds, it’s best to promote the “hard skills” that you’ll discuss within your group. Addressing fluffy topics such as “work-life balance” is not as compelling as quantifiable skills. Think negotiation, productivity, internal communication, etc.
  5. Let others lead. Once you’ve put a good structure in gained and built some momentum behind your ERG, allow others to take positions of leadership and guide the group in new directions. If you keep discussions and themes open to debate, the group will grow and blossom!

Celebrate the women in your office on International Women’s Day by kicking off a new resource group (hint: equal pay day is just around the corner). And don’t stop there; ERGs can be good support systems for those who share a common age, ethnic background, niche interest, or anything else.

Happy Resource Group-ing!

The post How to Start an Employee Resource Group in 5 Steps appeared first on Zenefits Blog.

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