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5 Tips for Spreading Holiday Cheer to Employees

December 18, 2018

The most wonderful time of year can often be the most confusing for employers looking to bring holiday cheer to the office. It’s usually a busy time for everyone and sometimes it can be a lot of work for not a lot of reward, but no need to bah-humbug. Here are some ideas, including the ever difficult to answer gifts for employees question.

Employee gifts

 

Gifts for employees change with the times because the economy is always changing and people’s preferences for the gifts they want to receive change. Some might think, a gift is a gift, when in fact nothing could be further than the truth. There are parameters. Some gifts may even have the opposite reaction of what you intended. We’ve all had that “gift” from a relative or someone that didn’t seem like a gift at all. It may feel like more like a joke, or worse, a burden that you feel you need to outwardly appreciate, but you really don’t.

 

First off, a gift is a gift. If you’re basing it on performance it’s a performance bonus. If there are no strings attached, it’s a gift. That’s not to say that all gifts must be equal, but they should come from a good place. Forget about giving out company branded SWAG, that always ranks as one of the most hated gifts.

 

What do most employees want? Ask them and they’ll tell you they want cash. They may appreciate the gesture of fruit, gift cards, or motivational books. When it comes down to it when you ask if they would have rather had cash the answer is usually, yes. The great thing about cash is it’s easy. The problem with cash is it’s impersonal. It’s not always fun to give and sometimes easy to forget when it’s from your employer.

 

Education Loan Finance for Business can help out here in a unique way because you can give them something that has the power of cash, with added sentiment and thoughtfulness. You can help pay some of their student loans for the month. By providing a yearly contribution to student loan debt it is the same as giving cash, but it tells employees you understand. It shows that you understand the financial obligations they have and you want them to be in a more financially secure place. They can use the extra money they don’t have to pay loans with, on their holiday gifts, or they can pay down their loans even faster. It’s a win-win.

 

Not every employee will have student loans obviously, but it’s a great option for those that do. For the rest? What employees seem to love most is a choice. That may seem a little impersonal, but really it’s not. Say you offer, cash, a gift card to a nice restaurant or an extra day off next year. Employees who get to choose what they want will be happy because they were involved in the process. Happy employees mean fewer complaints and that can help make the holidays a little happier.

 

Educational Lunch

Around the holidays many people become stressed about finances due to gift-giving and popular shopping days. Something you can do as an employer to ease stress for your employees is to set up a financial education lunch. This type of lunch would be great before the holidays to share some budgeting tips and ideas. Have a local banker, partner, or client come in and share their top tips for the holidays. Cater the lunch and allow employees to ask as many questions as they’d like during the sessions. If you want to make it fun try giving away some surprise gifts for those who attend.

 

Remote Working Days

As the holidays draw near, the workload of employees will continue to get bigger. Consider offering your employees some remote days around the holidays. This will allow employees to work from home saving time on commuting and they can get more of their own personal chores done too. If you cannot permit employees to work from home try offering flexible working hours. Any additional flexibility that can be offered during the holidays will have a large impact on employees.

 

Let your employees share in the giving or not.

 

Whether it’s a secret Santa, white elephant, or a grab-bag, most offices have some sort of gift exchange. This can be an easy way to have fun that doesn’t take a lot of time. Put a strict limit on cost, usually $20 or less and let it be known that you don’t have to participate. No one likes to be forced into a secret Santa or some sort of gift giving organized by their employer.

 

Share the company’s edible gifts and let employees share their treats.        

 

Sometimes vendors, clients, or partners will send gifts to management, often in the form of edible treats. Why not open it up to everyone to share in the goodies? It doesn’t cost anything. Additionally, invite employees to share their holiday treats if they want. You’ll find that a lot of people enjoy sharing their favorite things about the holidays as much as they do getting gifts. You could even host a holiday lunch where employees are invited to bring in their favorite treats.

 

Regardless of how your company chooses to proceed through the holidays, it’s important to keep in mind your employees. It’s best to facilitate an environment where workers like to come to work. Though it may seem counter-intuitive to spend money on educational lunches or remote working days, these can help to ease employee stress. Employees who are stressed less will do better work and be more willing to stay to get work done.

 

Five Things Millennial Employees Look For

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Employer student loan repayment benefits keep employees happy
2020-10-13
How to Help Your Employees Pay Off Student Loans

Traditionally, employer benefit programs are focused on two things: investing and healthcare. Keeping your employees healthy and financially secure helps decrease turnover and increase productivity.   But when employees are buried in student debt, investing in retirement feels fruitless. Before they can focus heavily on planning for the future, they need to decrease their current student loan balances.   As an employer, you have the power to make a significant difference in your employees’ debt repayment timeline. Here are a few ways to do just that - and why helping your employees become debt-free is a smart business decision.  

How Student Loan Benefits Work

Currently, employers offer a variety of student loan repayment assistance methods. These include:  

Educational Support

The least expensive method is offering financial education to employees. This would typically involve hiring an outside expert to offer group meetings or one-on-one coaching. These can be done in-person or online.   These sessions can be helpful, especially if done repeatedly throughout the year. They may be offered on their own or in conjunction with direct monetary support.  

Sign-up Bonus

Some employers pay a lump-sum toward an employee’s student loan balance when they join the company. This is a one-time benefit used to attract new employees, but it can also be seen as unfair to existing employees who never received a sign-up bonus.  

Matching 401(k) Contributions

Many companies offer matching contributions to an employee’s 401(k) account. In these cases, the individual contributes their own money and the employer matches a certain amount.   One way that companies are combining student loan and 401(k) benefits is by matching student loan payments with a 401(k) contribution.   Here’s how it works. The employee makes a student loan payment, and the money comes directly out of their paycheck. In exchange, the employer contributes that same amount to their 401(k) account. This allows the employee to balance student loan repayment with saving for retirement.  

Matching Student Loan Contributions

Employers may also offer a dollar-for-dollar matching payment to the employees’ student loans. If the borrower pays $200 to their student loans, the employer adds an additional $200. This is the most straightforward way to help your employees become debt-free.   Most companies that offer a matching student loan payment option will have an annual and lifetime limit. For example, the office chain Staples pays $100 a month for three years for eligible employees. Insurance company Aetna pays up to $2,000 a year for full-time employees, up to $10,000 total. Part-time employees receive up to $1,000 a year, up to $5,000 total.   Like 401(k) contributions, some companies require employees to work for a certain number of months before they become eligible for student loan repayment benefits.   As part of the CARES Act passed in March 2020, any student loan repayment benefits, up to $5,250, made by an employer between March 27, 2020 and December 31, 2020 will not count as taxable income. Unless this provision is extended, student loan repayment benefits will then be taxed after that date.  

How Student Loan Repayment Benefits Employers and Employees

The total US student loan balance grows at a rate of about 7% every year. In 2019, the average graduate had $35,397 in student loans. New hires often bring mountains of student loan debt with them, and student loan repayment benefits can make a huge difference.  

Decreasing Student Loan Stress

A recent study found that more than 85% of individuals with student loan debt name it as a major source of stress, and 33% call it out as one of their top three stressors. A 2019 survey from Marketplace-Edison Research found that those with student loans had two-thirds more economic anxiety than those without student loans.   “When I was paying off student loans I was very anxious and stressed,” said Melanie Lockert, host of “The Mental Health and Wealth” show. “I don't think it affected my productivity per se, but it affected my quality of life and how I felt while doing the work. Of course, those feelings can indirectly affect work as well.”   Employers reap the rewards when workers have less financial stress. According to a study from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP), about 60% of employers said they noticed workers found it hard to focus because of personal financial problems. Another 34% of employers said they noticed absenteeism and tardiness also related to financial stress.   This isn’t a new revelation - it’s basic psychology. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that humans need to feel physically safe before they can improve their psychological well-being. The same is true with financial stress. If your employee is worried about defaulting on their student loans, they may be too preoccupied to concentrate on work, and too emotionally drained to come up with innovative ideas or brainstorm new solutions.  

Increasing Focus and Employee Retention

When employees feel financially secure, they’ll be more productive and attentive while on the clock. Even if it seems like your employees are producing decent results, they could likely accomplish even more if their attention wasn’t split between work and their student debt balance.   Student loan repayment assistance programs could also improve employee retention. 41% of surveyed companies offering student loan assistance have found it improves recruitment and 38% believe it has improved employee retention rates.   The data backs up those responses. Healthcare company Trilogy offers $100 a month in student loan repayment assistance to both full-time and part-time employees. Employees who utilize this program stay at the company 2.5 times longer than those who don’t.   Since it costs several thousand or even tens of thousands of dollars to train a new employee, it may actually be less expensive to pay their student loans. That’s not even considering the intangible benefits that come from having a roster of experienced, loyal employees.  

Offer Employer Student Loan Repayment with ELFI for Business

If your company is interested in adding student loan repayment assistance as a workplace benefit, they can join ELFI for Business. ELFI will create a student loan repayment program designed for your employees, managing the actual payments so your accounting department doesn’t get bogged down with the details.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.  
Millennial employee working
2020-09-08
How to Attract Millennial Employees in 2020

Millennials have a reputation for job-hopping, always looking for the next opportunity. Research shows that 21% of millennials have changed jobs in the past year, which is three times the percentage of non-millennials who’ve done the same. This trend may, however, may not be exclusive to the millennial generation. Interestingly, research finds that millennial employees are just as likely to change jobs in their 20s as baby boomers were in their 20s.   The trouble for hiring managers, however, remains: how can you hire and keep millennial workers? Recently many companies have started to come upon some answers. Their method of retaining millennials: benefits. Here are some of the most successful:  

Flexibility

One of the easiest ways to interest millennials and younger employees is simply to provide them with more flexible working hours. Many millennials view the classic, nine-to-five office grind as an antiquated way to work. As such, they look for jobs that offer them the flexibility to do other things. They don’t just value a stable job; they want their lives outside of their jobs to be fulfilling as well.   As working from home becomes the norm for many businesses, it's easier than ever to offer employees a variety of options. Programs like Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams have become standard workplace programs, and they enable employers to provide millennials with the flexibility they desire.  

Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is quickly becoming more common among millennial employers. With 82% of millennials saying they’d likely have pets before becoming parents, more and more employers are starting to structure their benefits around the millennial lifestyle.   Around 50% of Fortune 500 companies offer pet insurance as a benefit, and the pet insurance market continues to grow every year. As the number of pet owners continues to increase, this benefit grows even more popular!  

Student Loan Repayment

It’s no secret that student loan debt is more widespread than ever before. Millions of millennials are repaying thousands of dollars in debt after graduation. With that in mind, one of the best and most effective methods of hiring and keeping millennial employees is through student loan repayment programs. There are several ways to offer this benefit:
  • Student Loan Signing Bonuses
  • Employer repayment
  • Contributions to 401(k) plans
 

Student Loan Signing Bonuses

The simplest and most self-explanatory of these options is to offer an employee student loan signing bonus. Some companies, for example, pay $1,000 toward new employees’ student loan payments at the time of hire. This method, while great for bringing new talent in, is not as effective in retaining millennial workers.  

Employer Repayment

Some employers also contribute directly to their employees' student loans. For instance, Nvidia offers employees up to $6,000 a year to a total of $30,000 for student loans.   Notably, Nvidia’s program is one of the most generous, and employees will happily join your company for smaller amounts of support. Even with these smaller amounts, employer repayment is not only a great way to bring in new employees but also to retain them over time.  

Contributions to 401(k) Plans

Some employers offer retirement contributions to employees to attract new talent and decrease turnover. When your employees pay off a certain percentage of their student loans, they may qualify for full 401(k) plan matching.  

Work with Technology

Millennials are tech-savvy and they look for a tech-savvy workplace. Provide digital documentation and accessible benefits. With widespread technology, it’s easier than ever to design benefits around your millennial employees.  

Ongoing Performance Reviews

Millennials operate best with constructive feedback, even more so than previous generations. They want to feel involved in the company, and they want to know how their work is affecting the team as a whole.   Millennials are looking to grow in their careers, and your feedback is immensely valuable to them. The best way to do this is to provide regular performance reviews. There’s no reason to wait for feedback when contacting someone takes seconds.  

Professional Development

Millennial employees value programs that foster professional development. One common reason millennials job hop is to find new opportunities for growth, but if their current employer already supports career growth, they may be more likely to stay. Mentoring, training and professional development courses are highly desirable for millennial employees. They also encourage employees to learn and grow with the company.   These benefits provide effective, budget-friendly ways to keep employees engaged and happy at work. If you’re looking for more tips on how to retain millennial workers, we’ve linked more details here.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no­­­ control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
woman asking employer for student loan assistance
2020-08-05
How to Ask Your Employer to Help Pay Student Debt

These days, employers offer all kinds of benefits to keep employees, from kombucha on tap and innovative new office spaces to ping pong tables and video game rooms. The list of benefits seems to grow all the time.   When you think about it, though, how much do you really need that kombucha on tap? Instead, what many graduates need is help with their ever-mounting student loans. In combination with other methods of dealing with student loan debt, employers can play a valuable role in ensuring their employees’ financial stability.   Additionally, a recent amendment to the CARES Act allows employers to contribute up to $5,250 to their employees’ student loans, entirely tax-free, through the end of this year. If you’re an employee considering asking for loan assistance or an employer thinking about adding this type of benefit to your portfolio, this is the perfect time to make the leap.   While not all loans qualify, as a rule of thumb, most loans that are eligible for federal deferment under the CARES Act are also eligible for tax-free employer contributions. This is a huge benefit for employees, as an employer contribution not only lowers the principal amount owed, but also the lifetime interest they will be required to repay.   If you’re an employer, take a look at our ELFI for Business platform to learn about the benefits of offering student loan assistance to your employees. If you’re an employee seeking this type of assistance, then read on, because in this blog we’ll cover several ways your employer may be willing to help you tackle your student loan debt.  

Financial Education

Employers have begun to understand that their own financial success is tied to the financial success of their employees. As a result, some employers have begun to offer financial education opportunities.   These opportunities come in many forms, including workshops, webinars and even counseling. While many employees already have a firm grasp on financial concepts, these programs can still be incredibly beneficial to those weighed down by student debt as they often cover lesser-known tactics and reinforce familiar strategies.  

Student Loan Repayment Signing Bonuses

Another method of helping employees with student debt is the signing bonus. For example, some companies offer $1,000 towards student loans for new hires. This $1000 can drastically reduce the amount graduates pay in interest over the life of their student loans and is an effective way for companies to hire and keep dedicated, hardworking employees.  

Employer Repayment

The most exciting benefit employers are beginning to adopt is direct assistance with student loans. Now, in addition to savvy fiscal advice, some companies are backing up their support with dollars and cents.   A few companies now offer yearly bonuses to help pay back student loans. One of the most generous of these companies is Nvidia. Employees earn $6,000 a year towards their student loans up to a $30,000 maximum. Several companies offer comparable or lower amounts. Regardless of the repayment amounts, this innovative strategy provides a new way to fight back against student debt.   A variation of this policy is occasionally used, as well. In this variation, employees who don’t take their PTO can trade their PTO days for student loan assistance. With many in the United States not taking their PTO days anyway, this is a compelling option for student loan borrowers.  

Contributions to 401(k) Plans

It may seem strange for 401(k) contributions to go hand-in-hand with paying off student debt. You might even expect to have to choose between them.   If you’re employed by Abbott Laboratories, though, you don’t have to choose. Employees who contribute at least 2% of their pay toward student loans are eligible for the full 5% employer matching in their 401(k), even if they do not otherwise contribute to their 401(k). Abbott Laboratories is the first company to offer this incentive to help employees to pay off student debt, and hopefully many companies will follow in their footsteps.   Sadly, these types of programs are not as commonly offered as they should be, but that isn’t necessarily bad news for you.   If student loan assistance programs are something that you would like to see at your company, then make an appointment to speak with either your boss or to human resources. In this day and age, the competition for the best employees is fierce, and employers are always looking for ways to keep employees happy. In some cases, it may even be cheaper than a raise.   It’s also worth mentioning your interest in such programs while negotiating your salary and benefits package for a new job. They may include it as an additional benefit.   If your employer already provides these benefits, that’s fantastic! You’re already one step closer to being unburdened by student debt. If you're curious about how to finish the job and free yourself from student debt completely, one great way to do that is Student Loan Refinancing. You can learn more here.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.