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23 Critical Tips for Employers in 2023

2023 is already shaping up to be a difficult year for employers.

An uncertain economic outlook, acute talent shortage, and changing workplace norms have created an unusual environment that will challenge business leaders on multiple fronts.

We asked 23 of our workforce strategists for guidance – both strategic and tactical – on how to navigate the year ahead. This is what they told us:

The one thing I have learned is that in order to lead people, you must learn to appreciate your team for who they are as individuals first. Get to really know them; what drives them and what is their “why.” We may be charged with leading them, but they are people first.

– Nancy Grasso, Regional Vice President, Business Development, Mid-Atlantic

As the world begins to increasingly open back up, employers should not be close-minded and think a “one-size-fits-all” approach is the only option. Many employees came to realize the value and importance of remote work and workplace flexibility. In order to attract and retain top talent, employers need to realize the importance of trusting their employees and being flexible in where, when, and how work gets done.

– Jessica Gomez, HR Client Executive, OneDigital Pennsylvania

For or from? Much of leadership success rests on continually asking one simple question. “What would I do next if I wanted more for our people than from them?” Whatever comes to mind, do that.

– Travis Dommert, SVP Talent, OneDigital

Engage with your employees in a way that matters most to them! With political pressures, changes in social and cultural norms and the economy potentially on the brink of a recession, life’s challenges appear to be magnified for many. Leaders at all levels should be intentionally checking in on their people to see how they are really doing. Remind employees of options and solutions that are available to them such as Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services, vacation or PTO timeshare, mental health days off, etc. More importantly, the top of the year is the perfect time to communicate genuine interest in the wellbeing of your employees.

– Angela Harris, HR Client Executive, OneDigital Carolinas

Understand what your team values – and create a total rewards strategy that speaks to those values. Build out a targeted benefits program for your organization by including both traditional and soft benefits that demonstrate your grasp of what your workforce wants from you as an employer. This will allow you to have the most bang for your buck while simultaneously increasing employee engagement and ultimately retention.

– Jenni Bedell, HR Client Executive, OneDigital Tennessee

Over the last two years I’ve seen an increase in management liability claims; from employees alleging emotional distress to employers having to go through the legal process and both parties are frustrated. However, there are a lot of great coverages to protect employers and HR resources to help manage risk and create safer environments. Also, policy premiums are increasing with the rise of construction costs, labor shortages, and a spike in claims from an unprecedented number of natural disasters. Evaluating rebuilding costs, deductibles and credits go a long way right now.

– Jade Drake, P&C Account Manager, OneDigital West Region

People want purpose in their lives – and that includes work. Connecting the dots for employees so they find meaning in their work, their team, and their company's purpose results in an enhanced culture of total wellbeing, improved retention and expanded growth opportunities.

– Elizabeth Chrane, Chief People Officer, OneDigital

Consider offering Lifestyle Spending Accounts (LSA) in 2023. These are non-salary benefits given to employees to improve their overall lifestyle and which go above and beyond standard medical, dental and vision benefits. Employers who offer an LSAs choose what expenses get reimbursed and how much each employee gets. Unlike other spending accounts such as flexible spending accounts, employers fund the LSA with money that is taxable to the employee after they spend it.

– Laura Ahern, Principal, Vice President of Sales, OneDigital Massachusetts

To quote an amazing colleague and friend, "2023 is the year of being human." To me, this simple phrase brings to life what it means to be authentic. If leaders want teams to be fully invested for the long term, they must cultivate an environment where people feel supported in aligning their unique gifts, purpose, and passion with the growth of the organization. I've learned that authenticity is more than simply feeling free to uncover your tattoos, not hide the accent, or wear your hair in its natural state. It's about digging into the deepest parts of yourself so that not only can you live a life of success but of significance. Leaders have to model this. They must be raw and real with their own journey. I encourage you to share the struggles, don't project perfectionism, acknowledge that your people are faced with, ask questions, and meet them where they are.

– Kristen Eskew, Vice President, Diversity Equity Inclusion and Belonging, OneDigital

As an employer, if you are not focusing on your employees 5-9, you are missing out on an opportunity to engage with them outside of work. Let’s be honest, Gen Z does not care who their Medical ID card carrier is. They care about a one, three and five-year growth strategy. They care about corporate social responsibility and they want to know that their company believes flexibility is a core value.

– Scott Solomon, Senior Client Executive, OneDigital, Pennsylvania

Even with all the focus on a dramatically changing employment market, HR leaders can’t afford to take their eye off the ball on routine compliance measures. For example, the IRS has announced possible hefty price tags for errors made while filing Forms 1094/1095 required by the ACA. So, while a host of new compliance updates become effective in 2023, it’s worth reviewing all recurring regulations and requirements.

– Laura Paszkiewicz, Employee Benefits Attorney, OneDigital Los Angeles

People are at the center of every organization. As a potential recession looms, business leaders need to focus on the potential impact on their workforce. The well-being of employees has a direct correlation to productivity, and businesses that emphasize their people will not only be the ones who survive in the near term but ultimately will thrive in the long term.

– Sean Nehlsen, Regional Managing Director, HR Consulting, OneDigital Mid-Atlantic

One trend we’re seeing is employers really focusing on financial wellness. Employers can help employees with all kinds of financial goals like paying for college or student loans, buying a house, and caring for aging parents by expanding their financial benefits beyond their retirement plans. Employers may be able to provide these resources at a cost that is less expensive than many other benefits with the option to also open it up to part-time or non-benefit eligible workers.

– Mary Caballero, Managing Principal, R+W, OneDigital Portland

Be aware of your blind spots. The last two years have taken a toll on people; some of the ways are less visible than others. While it would appear that we have emerged from the worst of it, and it is great to face the future with optimism, don’t lose sight of the fact that people may continue struggling and continue to need additional support.

– Anmarie Gaalaas, Managing Principal, OneDigital Maryland

In this time of seemingly conflicting realities of a difficult economy, yet persistent worker shortages, customers are valuing a unified strategy to tackle their people-related business challenges. And that’s why our approach that solves for the needs of the “whole employee”- from financial, to mental, to physical well-being is resonating so well. Our team philosophy of benefits, retirement, risk, and HR experts creates a better total employment proposition for our customers, and that will never matter more than in the coming years and decades.

– David Hughes, HR Consulting Practice Leader, OneDigital Georgia

If you are seeking a high-performing workforce, you have to invest in hi-test fuel. Fuel the total wellbeing of your people by taking care of their physical, mental, and financial health. The more support you offer your people for coping with life’s challenges, the more of themselves they have to bring to help solve your business challenges.

– Shira Wilensky, National Practice Leader, Health & Wellbeing, OneDigital

Adopt cultural and organizational resiliency. Studies show there is a common denominator within organizations that grow and thrive after health or socioeconomic crisis, political unrest, natural disaster or other business interruption. Hint: it's resiliency. Offer education and training for leaders, managers and employees that build confidence and skills to allow for whatever comes next.

– Sara Shannon-Tarca, Wellbeing Strategy Consultant, OneDigital Connecticut

If you’re offering a terrific benefit to your employees, shout it from the rooftops! Most employees will go weeks, months, or even years without an in-depth review of their benefits. I constantly speak to employees who wish they knew years ago that our complimentary and confidential financial advice was available to them. Additionally, employers need to go the extra step to explain how benefits work. A great benefit is not actually great if employees don’t understand it! I see this most often with clients who are offering a retirement plan match, profit-sharing, stock options, Employer Stock Purchase Plans, non-qualified plans, and other similar, potentially complex, opportunities.

– Keith Huber, Investment Adviser, OneDigital Retirement + Wealth, Mid-Atlantic Region

Prioritize psychological safety. In a society where uncertainty is a norm, clear work expectations, healthy boundaries, appropriate communication channels, and effective efforts to foster a sense of belonging for all employees are all critical for supporting employee wellbeing. High-performing organizations recognize that their employees are people, first.

– Lucy Roberts, Senior Consultant, National Engagement and Wellbeing Practice, OneDigital

Recognize and reward those employees who make a difference. These employees are most likely invested in the organization and leadership should take note of them. When they do, it helps to continue to motivate them, and also aspires others in the organization to achieve higher goals.

– Bob Marino, Client Executive, OneDigital Connecticut

Separate hype from reality. In a recent healthcare survey, large employers stated pharmacy as a significant driver of their healthcare costs. 2023 will be a year of firsts with launches of more-widely used biosimilars, over $3M gene therapies, and heightened concern of the high-cost treatment pipeline. Increased costs will come with increased solutions, but employers should be prepared to make informed, data-driven decisions rather than implement quick changes that could negatively impact their employees.

– Richard Lo, Clinical Services Manager, OneDigital Pharmacy Consulting

Be the squeaky wheel. The benefits industry is an ever-changing landscape. Thought leadership, technology, analytics and customized white-glove service are more accessible than ever. Continue to push your trusted advisers to not just help meet your needs, but to seek to exceed expectations. Ask for consistent communication, clarity and transparency. The answer "…because that's what we’ve always done," is obsolete. Assemble a high-conviction team that will collaborate on your behalf, especially when dealing with critical components that directly impact your people like health, wealth and retirement. Challenge the status quo and push your partners and advisers to deliver 365 days a year.

– Michael Panella, Investment Adviser, OneDigital Retirement + Wealth

Look for the silver linings and extend grace to your team as they are learning.

– Julie Odenwaldt, Senior Benefits Consultant, Virginia

For strategies to create a resilient culture and combat turnover, check out the recent blog on job crafting: How Job Crafting Is Impacting Your Culture and Employee Performance, and You May Not Even Know It.

Investment advice offered through OneDigital Investment Advisors LLC., an SEC-registered investment adviser and wholly owned subsidiary of OneDigital.