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Think Positive
Programs that build positive workplaces make business sense

Last month, Durham’s business community was left in shock when it lost a leader, mentor and motivator. Todd Skinner, the vice-president and chief of staff for Whitby-based 360 Incentives, was only 40 when he succumbed to a heart attack, but he left a lasting impression and lessons that will guide many businesses for years to come.

Todd and I only knew each other in passing, through some shared volunteer activities, but everyone who had the fortune to meet him will tell you how they were quickly inspired by his commitment to promoting the value of a positive workplace. In his profile on LinkedIn, he wrote, “I work to create companies with powerful organizational cultures that engage, inspire and ignite people to work (play) above what they thought possible.”

Through his local television show, column and stage presentations during the Day of Hope and Leadership, he introduced us to successful businesses such as Roma Moulding, which boasts core values such as “be different, have fun and deliver happiness”. At 360 Incentives, the company highlights its own corporate culture by declaring: “Work-life balance? Not a chance! You spend close to half of your waking hours at work. Don’t you think you’d like to do more than just balance? ... We believe that life is better when you are happy, and that happy people are more fun, more productive, more creative and more likely to change the world.”

Corporate values like these are particularly timely, especially as employers look for a new generation of workers to replace retiring Baby Boomers. Generation Y, the demographic group born between 1981 and 2000, is more educated and diverse than any previous generation – and both attributes can offer employers a competitive advantage. But the young workforce also tends to place a greater focus on finding a work-life balance.

If you’ll permit me to return to my blog’s traditional focus, this is where I believe benefits plans intersect with the goal of building a positive workplace.

A 2010 study by Ipsos Reid, on behalf of Sun Life, discovered this so-called “millennial” generation was attracted to plans which encourage eating healthy food, subsidize fitness programs, or reimburse training costs. A related white paper highlighted interest in wellness assessment clinics, coaching, and education.

There are business returns to be realized through the investments. Right Management found that employees who believe their workplace promotes health and wellbeing are eight times more likely to be engaged in their jobs, and four times less likely to jump to another job in the next year.

Some of Generation Y’s most valued benefits are not necessarily the ones that carry the steepest costs, either. Older employees who care for dependents gravitate to support such as drug plans, but members of Generation Y in the same workplace might be just as likely to steer toward Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) which help to address stresses that inevitably affect performance. Wellness programs certainly support the activities highlighted in the Ipsos Reid research.

Perhaps there should be no surprise that those honoured through the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For program offer benefits as diverse as yoga classes and the chance to volunteer with non-profit organizations.

It all helps to make a compelling case for creating a positive workplace. Isn’t that the type of place where you would like to work?

Top Tips:

  • Generation Y emphasizes a work-life balance.
  • Employees who believe their workplace promotes health and wellbeing are eight times more likely to be engaged in their jobs, and four times less likely to leave in the next year.
  • Employee Assistance Programs and wellness programs offer affordable ways to create a positive workplace.

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The Buzz Bits
Miscellaneous links to interesting benefits information

Did you miss my last blog on lessons for employees? It was recently republished by smallbizadvisor.

Harness the Potential of Generation Y: Sun Life Financial Group Benefits

Technology is transforming the benefits plan landscape: Benefits Canada

The art of happiness at work: Your Workplace

The most significant employee benefits plan issue: Benefits Canada

14 best practices to contain health and productivity costs: Standard Life

Employers worry about healthcare costs, mental health: Benefits Canada

Workplace absenteeism -- Good data collection is the first step toward controlling costs: smallbizadvisor

Community Ethics, Big City Expertise

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