Benefits news you may have missed: Oct. 4-8

From what to know about Biden’s vaccine mandate to how HRE’s HR Executive of the Year rebooted Microsoft’s culture, here are the week’s top stories.
By: | October 8, 2021

Everything HR needs to know about Biden’s vaccine mandate: Last month, President Joe Biden announced a series of plans to more aggressively tackle the COVID-19 pandemic—including a surprising announcement requiring scores of private employers to mandate their workers get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID testing. The upcoming rule will have widespread implications for employers. So, what exactly will it entail, and how should company and HR leaders prepare? Here’s what to know.

How the HR Executive of the Year rebooted Microsoft’s culture: In the late aughts and early 2010s, as other tech firms began outpacing it in mobile computing, social media and gaming, Microsoft was in danger of losing its status as one of the world’s most innovative companies. And the organization’s huge culture problem, which was wreaking havoc internally, was mostly to blame. Kathleen Hogan, executive vice president, human resources, and chief people officer at Microsoft, helped to lead the company’s cultural transformation. Read more here.

Employers eye new strategies as healthcare costs climb: Employers expect their healthcare costs to increase 5.2% in 2022—a sharp increase from the small rise last year and one that is causing them to more aggressively consider healthcare cost management strategies, according to new research from Willis Towers Watson. Including premiums, the total average employer cost for medical and pharmacy benefits per employee is expected to rise to an estimated $13,360 from $12,501 in 2020, the consulting firm’s survey finds. Employee contributions for premiums will increase slightly, to $3,331 from $3,269 in 2020. Read more here.

Stress is driving workers to the door. Here’s what employees want you to do: With World Mental Health Day approaching on Oct. 10, many organizations will be emphasizing employee wellbeing in the coming days. That’s a needed approach for both employees and the employer, according to a new report from the American Psychological Association. The APA’s 2021 Work and Wellbeing Survey found that 44% of American workers plan to change jobs in the coming year for a multitude of reasons—particularly, stress. In 2019, only one-third of respondents were headed for the door. Read more here.

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9 tips for telling workers about your new vaccine mandate: COVID-19 vaccine mandates have gained steam in recent weeks, as the highly contagious Delta variant causes employers to take more serious action. How can employers that plan to mandate vaccines relay those plans to employees? Here’s what experts say. Read more here.

Mandating vaccines? How tracking tech can help with the next step: With President Biden’s recent announcement that employers with at least 100 employees will soon need to start mandating vaccines or requiring weekly COVID-19 testing—all while companies continue to debate safely having employees return to the office—a new breed of HR technology has emerged to advance workplace safety in the age of COVID: vaccination tracking tools. Read more here.

COVID vaccine mandates surge among employers: More than half of employers already have a COVID-19 vaccine mandate or are strongly considering one, according to a survey from insurance broker McGriff. The survey of 315 employers—which was conducted Sept. 1 before President Biden announced his vaccine mandate plan—reiterates that many employers were already leaning in that direction. Read more here.

Become a superhero with the power of your company’s benefits data: Starbucks, data scientist John Thomas reports, spends more on its employee healthcare than it does on coffee beans. That fact helps put in perspective just how much organizations spend on healthcare and other benefits for their workers. During an HR Tech Conference session in Las Vegas, Thomas, of Benefitfocus, described a problem that he believes data analytics can help solve: the rising cost of employee benefits amid flat or falling budgets for benefits, increasing benefits costs and, of course, the COVID-induced changes in the labor market. Read more here.

HR’s next big investment: employee financial wellness: When it comes to financial wellness, there is no one-size-fits-all. As one expert advised recently, when designing benefits, including relating to financial wellness, HR should think about the whole person, making sure employees feel just as great at home as they do at work. Read more here.

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Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.

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