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Life Insurance 101 The true cold hard facts

I have held off writing this blog for quite some time because I simply did not want it to appear self-serving. The truth is there is a lot of fact and fiction out there regarding this simple but powerful product or as I call it contract for money. At the very basic level it can provide your family with money to carry on after you die.  The simplest and least expensive form of Life Insurance is term insurance, but for a young couple with a few kids 10 year renewable and convertible term is the cheapest and best way to go. Once a couple has reached its 40’s the next best approach is to re-examine the need and then determine if it might be required for another 20 years. If that is the case I often recommend that 20 year term renewable and convertible might be the way to go. It is a little more expensive than a 10 year term, but over a period of 20 years will cost less than the renewal rate of your existing 10 term when it rolls over. The next question I am asked often is how much do I need? The simple answer is as much as you can afford without compromising other daily expenses you have to put aside. The truth is that if you are earning anywhere between $50-100,000 one million dollars of insurance is not a lot insurance. How can I defend that position simply because if one were to invest the principle at today’s low-interest rates the annual income would probably not be more than $30,000 gross before taxes. If one were to spend the capital amount of $1,000,0000 it would be gone in 10 years to produce a $100,000 living allowance to a family or 20 years if $50,000 was taken out annually. Just to demonstrate that the cost of $1,000,000 is not as expensive as you think I did a survey on some software I use to illustrate to clients competitive premiums from competing Life Insurance companies. A healthy 35-year-old non-smoking male would pay about $45 a month for $1,000,000 and a health 45-year-old would pay about $92 a month for that same coverage. A more complex but scientific way of calculating insurance needs can be calculated by working out a monthly budget that the family needs to live on and then figuring out the capital that it would take to sustain that lifestyle over certain amount of time. Other things to be aware of that you might or  not need but that a commissioned insurance agent will show you is a waiver of premium rider which simply means that if you become disabled the insurance company will pay the premium of that policy. My take on this benefit is if you already have disability insurance through work or on your own then this additional rider may not be as valuable to you. There are sometime accidental death and dismemberment riders which I don’t have a lot of use for because the majority of deaths are by natural causes, so you are probably throwing your money away on this one. The other favorite rider you will be a small amount of life insurance on your children. I am kind of neutral on this one as the probability of losing a child at a young age is quite low, but the cost of funerals has been quite inflationary, so you may want to give this one some consideration. That is all for today. In a future article I will talk about the upside and downside of permanent insurance and how to use life insurance for estate planning purposes.

You don’t have to spend big to train your employees

Employees also seek companies that support their growth. In a recent survey, PwC Global asked millennials what they look for in an employer. “Opportunities for career progression” was the number-one response, followed by salary and financial incentives. Excellent training and development programs ranked third on the list.

A strong workforce, combined with on-the-job education, can make training less intensive and time-consuming. It doesn’t always require formal seminars or workshops. And it responds to individual needs, which can dramatically slash costs. Here are a few ways to empower your employees to learn and share knowledge without breaking the bank.

HIRE SLOWLY AND SELECTIVELY

Venture-backed companies often use hiring sprees to scale up fast. But if you have the choice, take your time. Look for people who share your values. Watch for kind, curious, knowledgeable applicants—even if they don’t possess every hard skill on your wish list. Hire for attitude, then create internal programs to nurture talent and fill in the gaps.

For example, all our new hires answer at least 100 customer support requests during their first month on the job. We want them to understand our users intimately, what they need, how they struggle, and how we can better serve them. This hands-on training also immerses them in our culture and ensures they’re prepared for any role in the company.

ENCOURAGE IN-HOUSE MENTORSHIP

Effective collaboration can move mountains. According to research from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, organization-wide collaboration—which crosses functions, perspectives, or levels—can boost energy, creativity, and productivity, and lead to happier, less stressed, and more engaged employees. Drawing different people together also keeps knowledge out of silos.

On a tactical level, pair junior team members with more experienced staff, either on a per-project basis or for a set period each week. We call this “copiloting,” and we’ve found that it has helped employees solve problems and hone skills.

Make sure that you check in regularly with your mentors to ensure they’re not overwhelmed and can still tackle the work they love. You still need to make sure that you empower them to say no, direct people to online resources or fellow team members, and minimize unexpected disruptions.

FORMALIZE KNOWLEDGE-SHARING

In addition to off-the-cuff learning, standardized processes can increase training opportunities. For example, we hire at least 100 interns every summer—many of whom become prized employees who know our organization inside and out.

We also offer a New Grad Training Program, where employees who are just beginning their careers spend four days a week doing support tasks and one day working with a mentor. Participants receive homework and feedback as they gain practical skills. Every six months, they can re-interview for any position in the company.

No two organizations are the same, so you need to assess your training needs and look for creative ways to fulfill them. Once you step out of the traditional “training” mindset, you can begin to see new structures and systems that don’t necessarily come with hefty price tags.

SERVE INDIVIDUAL NEEDS

Instead of investing in broad, company-wide training efforts, consider a more responsive approach. Send employees to niche courses, sessions, or events. Bring in specialized consultants to work with a core team. Afterward, ask attendees to share what they’ve learned through presentations or project-specific collaborations. Offer training that serves individual needs, but reinforce and reward a culture of cross-pollination.

“Train people well enough so they can leave,” said Virgin founder Richard Branson, “treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” 

 

You Can’t Do It All or The Reason TO Delegate

In my role as a leader and member of a non-profit organization I wear many hats, but I have also come to the realization that sometimes I take on too many tasks. I am not superhuman, I have some skill sets and I do some things well and others just okay. There are others on the board that possess knowledge and abilities in areas that I just don’t excel at. In recognition of this I have learned to step back and either asked them to step up and do what they do best for the good of the organization of the people we serve. Sometime they just offer to take on a project or task without me or someone on the executive requesting their expertise. In thinking about the positive effects of this kind of interaction and process it is two-fold. One it reduces the stress on the leaders of the group as it frees up some of their time to spend on other initiatives. Second it creates a feeling of trust and positivity in the group as team members are given the responsibility to take on major tasks and use their talents and skills in the areas where they excel. At a recent event our organization planned and executed that went exceedingly well, I stood at the back of room and just enjoyed the moment knowing that it was total team effort that had created magic that had unfolded before my eyes. I know as owners or executives we crave control, but we must learn to trust in the skill and talent of our team and let them make important contributions to the success of our organizations.

Keeping Your Employees Happy Isn’t Always About Higher Pay — Here Are 6 Alternatives

It often takes a small fortune to find someone who’s truly great at what they do.

Yet, many business owners make the mistake of not treating their employees right — and then they pay dearly for it.

There are many reasons why employees leave their companies. Maybe they are overworked, or maybe they can’t stand being micromanaged, or maybe they simply don’t feel challenged enough. One way or another, a valuable employee leaving incurs a tremendous cost, since then you have to spend resources on finding and training his or her replacement. So, how can you ensure that this doesn’t happen to you?

Below you’ll find six ways to show your employees your appreciation and keep them happy.

Verbal praise

fascinating experiment was conducted by Dan Ariely in an Israeli semiconductor factory. Workers were told productivity targets and then allowed to choose between a voucher for free pizza, a $30 cash bonus or a compliment from a boss in exchange for hitting their goals. Which group turned out to be most productive? The one that received a compliment as a reward!

It sounds counterintuitive, but it seems that a lot of employees prefer verbal praise over gifts and cash, which means that it should be your go-to employee recognition tactic. How often do you verbally acknowledge the great work that your employees are doing?

A lot of managers feel weird about giving compliments and avoid praising their employees, which leads to problems. Think about it: If you don’t acknowledge the good things, but tell people off for their mistakes, how does that make them feel? Employees who feel unappreciated are much more likely to leave your company than ones who feel valued and respected.

So, next time someone performs well, give them some praise. It’s even better if you acknowledge him or her in front of the entire team (remember, praise in public, scold in private!).

Non-monetary gifts

Another interesting takeaway from the previously mentioned study is that people seem to prefer non-monetary gifts over cash bonuses. Seriously, who could have guessed that employees would be more motivated by a pizza voucher than by $30, with which you could buy two pizzas?

But, it shouldn’t be so surprising. There’s plenty of research showing that cash bonuses don’t really work.

And people are indeed more motivated by gifts. A study by Swiss and German researchers revealed just that. “The researchers found that gifts were far more motivating to short-term employees than unexpected cash bonuses, effectively paying by themselves with productivity,” explains Ray Fishman in the Harvard Business Review.

So, use gifts to show your appreciation. They don’t have to be expensive. Things like pens, stationery and books make great gifts. Or, if you want to spend a little bit more, watches are still a popular choice.

It also doesn’t have to be a physical thing, either. You can always use services like Tinggly to give an experience (which allows you to gift experiences from making gelato in Italy to exploring a volcano in Hawaii). Or, you can gift someone software or digital products by giving them an AppSumo gift card (AppSumo is like a Groupon for entrepreneurs and features discounts on various tools and resources). This is especially useful when your team is remote and gifting intangible gifts is easier than shipping physical items.

Constant challenge

Have you considered that the reason an employee might be underperforming might simply be that he or she is bored?

You want smart people to work for you, right? Well, here’s the thing about smart people: They need constant intellectual stimulation. It’s great when an employee constantly breezes through the tasks that you assign to them. But, have you considered that they might be getting bored after a while?

How can you provide just the right amount of challenge? So, make sure that you set goals that are realistic but still make your team stretch a little bit. That way, you’ll prevent your employees from twiddling their thumbs, and keep them constantly engaged.

Optimal work environment

Have you ever wondered why companies like Facebook and Google spend millions upon millions of dollars on their work environment?

A shabby work environment can really be a demotivator to even the most motivated employees. Your employees probably spend at least eight hours a day in their workplace. What are they surrounded with?

An easy way to show your employees that you appreciate them is to provide a work environment that is pleasant to be in: clean, comfortable and with plenty of opportunities for recreation.

Is the office clean? Are their chairs comfortable? Do they have all the tools that they need? Are the computers up to date? Is there a kitchenette? Are there snacks? Is there a recreational area? You get the idea.

It has also been shown that employees are happier in a workplace environment over which they have some degree of control. For example, at Facebook, employees can adjust their own desks based on personal preference, and teams can use whatever workspace layout they see fit for their project. All this leads to higher work satisfaction, so don’t hesitate to give your employees more autonomy when it comes to their work environment.

Company retreats

Did you know that Buffer organizes company retreats three times a year and one year Buffer spent $111,874 on a company retreat in Sydney that hosted 26 people?

You might be wondering why a company that prides itself on being lean would spend so much money on something that is seemingly non-essential.

Well, in a company blog post entitled “Why The Buffer Team Goes on Multiple International Retreats Every Year,” Buffer co-founder and CEO Joel Gascoigne explains that, among other things, it allows them to meet each other in real life: “There’s something magical that happens when you meet in person. In a retreat setting it’s even more powerful. We have casual meals together and do activities on off days. We can learn about what makes each other tick and what our true passions are.”

Company retreats are a great way to get some work done while also relaxing, getting to know each other better and doing fun activities.

All this helps employees bond with each other and promotes a positive social environment and a company culture where people are not only coworkers, but also friends. Plus, a company doing something fun like that makes employees feel more appreciated!

Promotions

According to a study from Korn Ferrry, 63 percent of employees would prefer to get a promotion with no raise than a salary increase with no promotion.

Your employees need to feel that they have a direction and that they are advancing in their careers. Are you promoting your employees on a regular basis based on their performance?

When employees are aware that their efforts are being monitored and rewarded, they will be much more likely to go that extra mile. So, make sure that they know that there are opportunities for those who work hard and produce results.

Ask yourself, would you want to work in your company? Would you be happy with the workplace environment, social atmosphere and career opportunities? Would you feel that your efforts were recognized and your contribution appreciated?

You have to treat your employees right if you want them to stay. Make sure that they feel valued and appreciated. Then you’ll have happy employees — and happy employees are productive employees.

A Few Simple Strategies for a Complex World

Over the years I have attended workshops and read books and articles about the complexities of doing busy in our modern and fast-paced world. Every once and a while I step back and take a deep breath and ponder. Sometimes I think we just overthink and create complex models and structures on how to achieve exceptional results. In many instances business is based on human interactions. The need to resolve client issues, to improve client interactions, or to revise product offerings can be facilitated through the simple act of regular and open communication with clients. Too many businesses don’t follow a regular course of talking with their clients on a regular basis to find out how they are faring in the clients’ eyes. They also fail to simply ask what else can we do better or provide that we aren’t doing currently. People want to be consulted and they want their input to be considered. We get caught up in the latest business models and buzzwords, but in essence at the core of every business is the human element. I am not casting aside the importance of business research, I am saying that we often overlook the human element at the core of every business no matter how big or small. The communication between one or more people in a positive and meaningful way can truly be the difference between a successful business or one that fails.

4 Ways to Build a Company Employees Just Don’t Want to Quit

When an employee quits, you don’t just lose the time, money and effort you invested in that person. According to an article published by Vocoli, you also threaten to overwork the remaining staff and lower the productivity of your team. Further, you then need to allocate more funds towards interviewing potential replacements and training them.

To bypass the headache and hidden costs associated with the departure of an employee, take preventative measures by tweaking your hiring strategy, benefits packages, and culture. Here are four tips on how to reduce employee turnover and improve your company culture.

1. Be selective.

Before even thinking about how to retain your staff members, start by imagining what kind of people you want working for you in the first place. Picking the right talent for the job is imperative to facilitating long-term growth for the employee and stability for the company. But what should we look for in the screening process?

Anthony Tjan, CEO of venture capital firm Cue Ball, suggests focusing on character instead of skills or pedigree. He writes, “While skills can be learned, it is much harder to cultivate attitude and character. There is no doubt that over time, institutional character and culture is the simple by-product of individual people.”

By hiring individuals with the best chance of being happy performing their duties on the job, you increase the chances of employee retention and cultivating a positive work environment.

2. Offer stellar learning opportunities and benefits.

Once you have the best talent on your team, make sure you can add value to their careers. Offer professional development via conferences, workshops, classes and team-building excursions. Providing relevant out-of-office opportunities for growth will allow your staff to bring fresh ideas and a sense of camaraderie back to home base.

Additionally, make sure your team’s fringe benefits are fair and up-to-date. Towards this end, utilize your human resources department to its fullest capacity by making sure your employees’ benefits packages get reviewed yearly and updated as needed. Also, consider creating personalized perks for the staff to increase morale and promote better company culture.

3. Establish an employee-oriented culture.

A culture deeply-rooted in employee feedback and two-way communication fosters a collaborative environment where everyone feels they are a part of the bigger picture and not cogs in a machine.

Willis Mushrush, a University of Missouri business development specialist, notes that companies with an employee-oriented culture tend to experience low turnover. Furthermore, they “solicit input and involvement from all employees and maintain a true open-door policy, avoiding closed-door meetings as much as possible. Employees are given the opportunity for advancement and [are] not micro-managed… Employees must believe they have a voice and are recognized for their contribution.”

In addition to promoting transparency and honesty, being employee-centric also means being flexible with your staff’s working schedules. Breaking out of the 9-5 grind and allowing employees to telecommute has been shown to lead to better health outcomes, increased happiness and higher productivity.

4. Stick to your values.

Perhaps the most important thing about developing good company culture is to stay true to your values and consistently lead by example.

On building a business and being a leader, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, said, “Chase the vision, not the money. Passion will get you through the tough times, rub off on employees and have a ripple effect on customers, suppliers and business partners.”

Identify your core values and what your company stands for first and foremost. Sticking to those principles through thick and thin sends the message that you are dedicated to the cause. Your team will then pick up that working for your company means sharing that same gritty attitude, persevering through hard times, and challenging each other to accomplish more.

Don’t Get Stuck In A Rut

Sometimes we just get comfortable with our routine and the systems we use and the way we work. I have had a dose of reality with some long-time clients. I have a process of review meetings to discuss the trends of the usage of their employee benefit plans and once year we meet to review the proposed rate increase or decrease of their benefit programs. I normally give my clients sufficient notice and optional times we can meet. This has worked relatively well for many years. Recently I have noticed it doesn’t work for all off my clients because some of them of them are project driven and if I catch them at a time they are overwhelmed by project submissions and deadlines they simply don’t have the time or desire to meet with me face to face. I have had to accept that although I have worked hard to both negotiate on their behalf and put together an analysis of what has transpired over the past year with their benefits program at the time I would like to meet with them I am simply not a priority item for them. Although I prefer a face-to-face meeting it does not work for them. I can’t take it personally it is about their business and priorities not mine. I have had to learn to do business in ways that work for my clients. Sometimes you simply have to get out of your comfort zone and learn to adapt. I was caught in a rut and was comfortable doing business in a routine that worked for me. Change is inevitable, embrace it.