Employee Benefits | By Tom Murphy,

What Benefits Do Your Employees Want

To be a successful business, you need to be able to get and keep great talent. And one way to do that is through great employee benefits and perks.

But depending on who you’re looking to hire and what your competition has to offer, your current approach to group benefits may not be giving you the employee recruitment and retention advantage you need.

In a highly competitive market, one size does not fit all. Organizations who put time and effort into their benefits strategy will be the talent winners.

It’s complicated

It used to be that employees were pretty happy with the standard health and retirement benefits offered by their employers. But today’s work/life reality is very different, and both healthcare and retirement have become exponentially complex and expensive.

Gone are the days of 100% coverage and employer pensions. Hindered by the exploding cost of providing these things, many employers have cut back on their offerings. And employees are feeling the pinch— or the punch.

As financial realities and workplace expectations continue to evolve, employees are re-defining what benefits are most important to them, and using these priorities to guide them when making career decisions. Employers who want to give themselves an edge in recruitment and retention should take note.

Employees are worried

According to the Global Benefits Attitudes Survey by Towers Watson, employees have big concerns, many of which are financial. Survey respondents reported being worried about short-term and long-term finances, as well as the viability of retirement.

Data from US workers provided a stark look into this new reality:

  •      36% of employees reported being concerned about the level of debt they face
  •      52% of employees said they were experiencing short or long-term financial worries and/or were currently struggling financially
  •      66% of those who were struggling financially reported higher levels of stress
  •      76% of employees believed they’d be worse off in retirement than their parents

This study also backed up the obvious: Employees with financial worries have higher levels of stress, and higher levels of stress lead to poor health outcomes for employees and reduced productivity for employers.

You don’t need a doctor to tell you that high stress and poor health will also lead to higher claims on your health plan.

Long story short: Having stressed out employees isn’t just unhealthy. It’s expensive.

But you can make a difference

As an employer, you have the power to attract great talent and help alleviate financial anxiety, all at the same time.

Here are some ways you can make a difference, both for your workforce and your organization.

Offer medical benefits at a low cost to your employees can relieve a considerable amount of emotional and financial stress, especially when those benefits extend to partners and family members. They can also improve the overall health and wellbeing of your team.

Paid time off policies also encourage employee wellness. As technology allows work to creep into your employees’ personal time and personal lives, it’s important to give people time off to rest and recharge. Offering sick time is important, but only granting time off when people are sick isn’t a good wellness strategy. Flexible PTO policies will be much more appealing to current staff and potential employees.

Dental and vision plans are often seen as “extras” by insurance providers and employers, but if you’ve ever suffered through a midnight toothache, dental care sure doesn’t feel superfluous. Being able to see seems pretty critical, too. Research shows that employees value dental and vision coverage, and will take these benefits into consideration when making employment choices.

Retirement plans and contribution matching can help ease worries about long-term finances and provide a sense of security. These programs are also an effective way to for employers to demonstrate that they are willing to invest in their employees over the long term, which could make them more likely to hang around.

But far too many energetic, young employees can’t even think about retirement, much less contributing to a retirement plan, because they are still so buried in student debt.

Student loan repayment programs are quickly becoming a coveted employee benefit. According to SHRM, only 4% of employers are offering help with student loans.

Meanwhile, in a survey conducted by American Student Assistance, 76% of respondents said that if a prospective employer offered a student loan repayment benefit, it would be a deciding or contributing factor to accept the job.

If you’re looking for up and coming or highly skilled talent, this is an area where you could gain a serious competitive recruiting advantage.

Moving in the right direction

If you’re having trouble finding great candidates, it’s time to re-think your approach.

The employee business landscape shifts and changes constantly. As an organization looking for new talent, you need to consider who you’re looking for, where you’ll find them, and what benefits they’re likely to value most. And you can’t do that if you’re sitting still.

Employee recruitment and retention strategies that worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. Or even later this afternoon. If your employee benefits broker or strategy is stuck in the past, it’s time to get moving in a new direction.

Recruiting and retaining employees is easier when you can proudly offer a comprehensive benefits plan that makes your team members feel as valuable as they are. At Sonus Benefits, we build cost effective, long-lasting employee benefits strategies to keep your business and your employees in optimum health.


HR Strategy | By Tom Murphy,

Rethinking Performance Management

No organizational investment offers a better potential ROI than the one we make into our employees.

And so we offer great benefits, flexible schedules, and a fantastic working environment. We work hard to attract and retain the best people. But once we have them, we often drop the ball when it comes to managing their performance.

If you’ve built a strong culture of trust and accountability, you might be tempted to think performance management isn’t an issue. But even the best employees can fall into ruts or develop habits that aren’t working. And even some of the best managers can fail to see it happening, or feel unsure about how to handle it.

It’s complicated

As with most issues involving human beings, the reasons employees underperform can be complex and diverse. Arguably, very few people go to work every day wanting to do a bad job.

Most people really want to be high performers, but find obstacles in their way. Here are some common performance roadblocks:

  • ineffective training
  • poor communication
  • lack of accountability
  • confusion about expectations
  • unhealthy workloads
  • unrealistic goals
  • low morale
  • illness and/or personal issues

As you can see by this list, there is no quick fix or silver bullet for addressing any of these issues. But with dedication and follow-through, it can be done.

How to tackle performance management

1.) Improve communication

Supervisors tend to have complete clarity about what is important, but often they haven’t effectively shared those details with their direct reports. For key goals and tasks to get accomplished consistently and well, everyone needs to be on the same page.

Clarify with each employee the 3-5 most important outcomes they are responsible for, why they matter, and how their work fits into the bigger picture. Let them know their performance will be measured against these items on a regular basis.

2.) Track progress and results

It’s impossible to hold anyone accountable if no one is keeping track of what’s happening. Define your indicators of success and make them easily trackable, for both supervisors and employees.

Making managers responsible for all performance monitoring can put team members on the defensive. Besides, no one should be more interested in successful performance than your employees themselves. Allow them to track (or have access to) their own data and report progress to their supervisor.

3.) Address things quickly

Very few people enjoy awkward conversations. And yet we often let things go until that becomes the case. Little things become big things. And before you know it, what could have been an easy conversation becomes a dreaded one.

When dealing with performance issues at work, think about using the airport security motto: If you see something, say something. Don’t ignore red flags. Check-in with staff regularly and have discussions as soon as a potential problem starts to emerge. That way, you can keep your conversations, and your performance management issues, from becoming threat level red.

4.) Make time for it

This might be the hardest thing of all. Busy supervisors often feel like they don’t have time to manage. But if you don’t have time to manage the little things, how will you ever find time to fix the bigger problems and issues that will eventually come of them?

Get out your calendar and start building time into your schedule now. Plan far enough ahead that your performance management time gets booked before anything else. Schedule time with employees to review indicators and data, and discuss potential issues that either of you see emerging. Resist the temptation to cancel or reschedule these meetings due to “more important” things that come up.

After all, few things will drive business more than having a staff full of happy, focused, and productive, employees.


Employee Benefits | By Tom Murphy,

Benefits of Employee Handbooks

Your views on employee handbooks may differ depending on which side of the table you’re sitting on. But love ‘em or hate ‘em, employee handbooks serve several important functions.

For staff members, it can be easy to assume the employee handbook is nothing but a set of rules designed to benefit and protect employers and keep the employees in their places. But there’s more to it than that.

Setting the stage

A well-written handbook not only helps employees understand the culture of the organization, it also lays out the benefits of working in the organization and sets clear expectations for behavior on both sides. Other benefits for employees include:

Introduction to the company culture, mission, and values – Smart employers will use this document to reinforce an employee-friendly culture. Remind your staff what your organization values and how you demonstrate those values to employees, customers and the community.

Explanation of employee benefits – Having this information spelled out in one place helps clear up confusion and allows employees to see the full value of what’s being offered.

Clearly outlined policies, procedures and expectations – Putting a structure in place is one thing, but communicating it is another. Employees value fairness and consistency and will appreciate knowing the ground rules from day one.

Information about where to turn for help – Employees are often afraid to bring up uncomfortable issues at work. Your employee handbook is great place to document procedures for addressing workplace problems and concerns. If your company offers employee assistance programs, you can include that information as well.

Yes, your employee handbook should include company rules and expectations. But crafting them in a way that shows you truly care about your employees can make all the difference in the world – especially on a new hire’s first day.

Making it count

A well-written employee handbook also has many benefits to you as an employer. To get maximum value out of your employee handbook, ensure that it:

Showcases your employee benefits package – You want your employees to be excited about working for you, and providing great benefits is one way to make that happen. But if they don’t know what you’re offering, they can’t appreciate the value. Spell it out so they can see what they are getting.

Ensures compliance – In order to protect your employees, you need to protect your business. Avoid potential misunderstandings, complaints, and lawsuits by documenting your EEO, sexual harassment, and anti-discrimination policies.

Sets behavior standards – From dress codes to drug policies to conflict resolution to pets at work, your employees will only know what you take the time to tell them. Use your employee handbook to explain expectations and guide your team toward behaviors that are in line with your organizational culture.

Documents key company policies and practices – When is pay day? What happens when someone needs to call in sick? How do performance reviews work? Employees are bound to have questions. Writing your policies down in one place makes finding these answers easier for everyone.

Tips for success

Do your homework

Know your Federal, state, and local employment laws. If you have multiple locations, make sure you research the regulations in each state. Depending on requirements, you may need to create multiple versions of your handbook for different locations or business units.

Use plain language

Avoid complicated language and legal-ese. But also avoid being too sparse or vague. Your handbook should be clear and easy to understand. Not only will this make it more palatable to read, it will decrease the risk of misunderstandings.

Cover the bases

Keep your information up to date. Review and refresh your employee handbook regularly. Include information on key policies and topics, such as:

  • Family medical leave
  • Non-discrimination
  • Workers comp
  • Employee benefits
  • Paid time off
  • Pay structure and timelines
  • At-will employment language (where applicable)
  • Code of conduct and disciplinary action

It’s also a good idea to have an attorney go over your final copy to make sure you haven’t left anything out— or included things you shouldn’t have.

Give it some love

Imagine it’s your first day in a new job. What kind of employee handbook do you want to receive? A cold list of rules and a clinical dissertation of what happens when you break them? Or an employee-friendly explanation of what it means to be a part of the team?

Think of your employee handbook as an opportunity that helps you define your organizational culture, put it into practice, and share it with your team.

Struggling with benefits administration and compliance? At Sonus, we’ve got tools to make it easier. Get in touch with Sonus to see how we can help your organization become a local employer of choice.

Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Are You Building Your Company Culture or Letting it Knock You Down?

Even the most noble and well-planned strategy won’t be carried out with enthusiasm and care if people don’t like working in your organization. At best, you’ll end up with a mediocre version of the ideas you envisioned. At worst you’ll end up with a toxic culture that drives employees, clients and supporters away.

Culture happens. Whether you’re paying attention or not.

If you ignore it, the culture of your organization will develop randomly. But if you’re paying close attention, you can be very intentional about building and shaping the kind of company culture you want to live, breathe and work in.

  • When you carefully manage and protect your environment, you will attract people who fit into your culture and who are excited to contribute to your mission.
  • But if you just let whatever happens happen, you will allow people who are in your company to determine your culture.

Culture is more than a fancy mission statement. It’s more than onsite espresso machines, or a dress code that includes flip flops.

Yes, those things can be manifestations of your culture, and good ones at that. But true culture is about your values. It’s about living and breathing your beliefs, and making sure everyone else knows them too. It’s about the care and development you pour into your people. It’s about making sure everyone feels worthwhile and sees themselves as a valuable part of the team. And, it’s about showing your employees the roles they play in making your vision a reality.

Organizations that don’t pay attention to culture:

  • Hire for skill and not for personality fit
  • Have little (or poorly executed) communication
  • Lack performance management, mentoring, and personal/career development
  • Don’t have defined or well-communicated company vision and values
  • Breed employees who don’t trust their leaders and don’t feel connected to their work

Organizations that are intentional about shaping the right culture:

  • Hire for personality and cultural fit, recognizing that skills can be taught
  • Communicate clearly and often
  • Request feedback, ideas, and participation from all team members
  • Integrate regular performance coaching and personal development opportunities
  • Have defined company values that are woven into the fabric of the organization
  • Share the vision of the organization and work collaboratively to make it a reality
  • Foster trust in leadership and commitment to something bigger

Which kind of organization are you?

Regardless of how your culture has developed, chances are it is fairly strong and engrained.

A culture will always rise up to defend itself, be it good or bad. If you’ve got a great culture, this strong defense should be very welcome. But if you’re trying to make cultural change, this defense can be very frustrating and tough to overcome. It takes a leader with a strong will to turn the tide, and some tough decisions and actions along the way.

But great challenges offer great rewards.

Don’t let a happenstance culture drag your organization down. Commit to building the kind of culture that makes your team excited to be part of your vision and you excited to go to work each day.

Recruiting and retaining employees is easier when you can proudly offer a comprehensive benefits plan that makes your team members feel as valuable as they are. At Sonus Benefits, we build cost effective, long-lasting employee benefits strategies to keep your business and your employees in optimum health.

Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

How to Deal With Organizational Change

They say the only constant is change. And like most clever sayings, this one is also very true.

Today’s pace of change is faster than it’s ever been before. But here’s the kicker. It’s also the slowest it will ever be again. Just think about that for a second.

When it comes to change, you have three basic choices

  1. Bury your head (and the rest of your body) in the sand
  2. Wait for change to find you and then react
  3. Get out in front change and take control

We all know people and companies who have gone with option one— and how well that went.

And yet many individuals and organizations are all too willing to ignore impending change, or to embrace a strategy that is purely reactionary.

If you run a business, this isn’t going to help you achieve your goals. Or even survive.

Taking control

If you want to make change work for you, you’ll not only need to tune in to what’s happening around you, you’ll need to adjust your thinking, processes and vision to match. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide what your new future looks like and commit to making it a reality.

Based on what’s happening now, what critical elements will need to be in place to set you up for success? Ultimately, you want to be able to ride the waves of change instead of helplessly watching them roll in and hoping they will spare you.

To make effective changes in your business, you’ll need to evaluate the following:

  • Company profitability
  • Organizational growth
  • Your core value proposition
  • Your marketing and sales process
  • The skills and behaviors on the team
  • What resources you need to be successful
  • And perhaps many other elements of your organization

The key is here is that you and your entire team will need to understand how you must evolve in order to remain relevant and viable.

The vision is just the beginning

Simply defining your future isn’t going to cut it. In addition to coming up with your vision, you will need to follow up by:

  • Communicating – Take the time to explain to the team and why change is necessary.
  • Planning – Establish and share a formal strategy for how you will move from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow
  • Making it happen – Make sure everyone understands not just how they will be impacted, but also how they will be expected to contribute to the execution of the plan.
  • Evaluating and adjusting – Report back to the team on all of the above. Track your progress and results on a regular basis and make corrections as needed.

Way too often when a change initiative is introduced, the team simply grins, rolls their eyes, knowing nothing ever really changes.

And while it’s tempting to blame it on bad attitudes, the truth is that often it’s their leaders who have trained them to react this way. By not committing to past initiatives, and by sidestepping the difficult work and decisions, and follow through that should have happened as a result.

Get committed

Take the time to make sure both your leadership and team understand where the organization is going, why you’re going there, how you will get there, and how they will be impacted and expected to contribute.

Taking this critical step will allow people to feel excited instead of scared, empowered instead of frustrated, and knowledgeable instead of in the dark. When your team understands how they fit into the bigger picture, they will be much more willing to stop fighting your change initiatives and start fighting with you to put them in place.

Yes, it may be difficult. But that’s what makes it so rewarding when you succeed.

Need a better ROI on your corporate employee benefits? At Sonus, we’re not interested in just finding you a policy for this year. We provide strategic employee benefits and human resource management services to help you build a better future. If you’re looking for a corporate employee benefits consultant who is a true business partner, and not just a once a year policy peddler, Sonus Benefits is here for you.


HR Strategy | By Tom Murphy,

It’s Time to Hop on the Employee Training Train

Ever wonder how much time and productivity is wasted because people don’t really know how to use the programs they need to do their jobs?

These days, it’s assumed that everyone has proficiency in basic office software programs. As a result, very little focus or training is invested in teaching staff how to use those programs efficiently and effectively.

While it’s easy to understand why this happens, it’s also important to consider the effects of not investing in basic employee skills training.

My employees know that stuff already

Yes, you’re probably right. To some extent, anyway. But when it comes to on the job tools, the reality is that most people are largely self-taught. In other words, most of your employees learned these programs out of necessity— and on their own.

This system might sound like the ideal situation, until you realize that most people are probably only learning basic functionality and on a need-to-know basis.

Unless you’ve got some really patient people on your team, most of them will figure out a way to do something and then repeat that behavior every time after. Until infinity. Even if the way they learned to do that thing may be the most inefficient way on the planet.

The danger here is that it could be taking these self-taught employees three times as long to complete their work.

Are you guilty?

Think about it. How many “creative” work-arounds have you developed over the years? Do you know if these processes are efficient?

Have you ever had a coworker watch you work and bluntly ask, “Dude. What are you doing?”

Maybe you’ve been the asker of that question, bearing witness to a colleague’s use of unusually cumbersome processes to do relatively simple things.  

Or maybe you couldn’t say anything, because the person in question was well above your pay grade.

It happens

There are business owners who are still doing things the way they did when the business first started. There are CEOs who refuse to learn new technologies and platforms. There are supervisors who have never done the jobs they supervise.

Higher level managers often have the luxury of delegating tasks to others in lieu of improving their own skills or learning new processes and technologies. This may be tolerated for a while, but eventually it’s going to become a point of contention for the team.

Even in our firm, we have purchased various tools that are promised to “make us more efficient” only to find out our team ultimately goes back to what they know.

No matter who is struggling with day to day processes, one thing is for certain: Investing in training your team is money well spent.

It’s time to get onboard

Just imagine if everyone in your organization wasn’t just competent with your operating systems, but using them to their fullest potential and power! Think about how much time and energy you could save! Not to mention cold, hard cash.

Increasing staff training is a surefire way increase skills and productivity. And professional development can work wonders for employee engagement.

Why not do your business a favor? Train yourself (and everyone else!) to be the best they can be.


Is your benefits broker also a compliance consultant? How about a trusted business partner? Are you confident your policies and processes are doing what they need to ensure that your company—and your employees— are healthy and productive? At Sonus Benefits, this is what we do for St. Louis employers every single day.

Culture & Community | By Tom Murphy,

Want Better Business Results? Give Your Employees a Break.

You’ve worked hard to get where you are today. And you expect the same of your employees. But at some point, hard work can become overwork. And overworking can become overwhelming.

If your team never gets a break, you’re going to start feeling it in your bottom line. And not in the way you might imagine.

It’s a fine line…

Perhaps you’ve used words like disruptive, innovative, and revolutionary to describe your company’s product, service, or culture. Many business owners and leaders view these qualities as universally positive. Necessary, even. But from an employee perspective, they can be exhausting.

How many people genuinely look forward to spending extended work days engulfed in disruption, navigating constant change, or leading a revolution?

For a great purpose and over short periods of time? Sure! But non-stop every day until forever? Not so much.

Of course you want your employees to be excited about and invested in their work. But that doesn’t mean they need to live and breathe it 24 hours a day. Your best employees aren’t necessarily the ones hyped up on energy drinks working back to back shifts and staying up all night. They may appear to be overachievers, but in reality, they could be costing you big time.

Stress is money

Workplace stress is real. And real expensive.

Recent research shows:

When employees are stressed out (or tapped out) they are more likely to develop physical and mental health issues. Stress-related health problems can take them out of the game completely. And when they do show up, they’re more likely to be distracted and make mistakes.

Here are 3 keys to making sure your employees are working hard, but not burning out.

1.) Be aware

Recognizing the issue is half the battle. Check in with yourself and your team to assess levels of stress within the organization. Look for specific causes such as:

  • excessive workload
  • outdated technology
  • poor communication
  • workplace conflict
  • unhappy coworkers
  • toxic clients

2.) Take action

Once you’ve identified the causes, work quickly to find and implement solutions. Letting things go might seem less stressful in the short term, but issues simmering under the surface are a breeding ground for increased tension and potential blow ups.

3.) Lead by example

If you tell employees they should strive for work life balance, but they see leadership working 14 hour days and/or rewarding those who do, no one is going to believe you really mean it. Reduce your own stress and you will naturally reduce the stress of your team.

Help your employees help you

If you really want your staff to achieve balance, you can’t just keep talking about it. At some point, you need to give them the tools to make it happen.

Less stress equals happier, healthier employees. And when your team is healthy and happy, your bottom line will be as well.


Running into challenges with employee burnout, turnover, and retention? At Sonus Benefits, we’ve got ideas to help you address these issues and more. Get in touch with Sonus to find out what working with a true employee benefits consultant feels like.


Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Is Your Organizational Leadership What You Need it to Be?

Strong organizations need strong leadership. It’s as simple as that.

If you’re struggling to figure out if your company has the kind of leaders you need to take the organization forward, here are some key symptoms that can help you diagnose a potential leadership problem.

No one said it was easy

The thing about bad leaders is that they aren’t necessarily bad people. In fact, they can be some of the nicest people you know. But if the leaders in your organization aren’t thinking strategically, making tough decisions, getting your team fired up, and empowering them to succeed, they aren’t actually leading. And your organization may be suffering.

If you’ve got managers who seem afraid to commit to true leadership, you’ll need to help them get onboard. Or help them off the bus.

Note: If you are in a leadership position and the thought of doing either of these things scares you to death, you are part of the problem.

If you’re not in a leadership role but want to know if you’re working for a leader who can help you develop your career, you’ll want to start paying attention.

Leadership matters to everyone

Whether you’re at the top looking down or the bottom looking up, you’ll want to assess the effectiveness of the leadership within your business.

Take advantage of team sessions and one-on-one meetings to start asking some questions about where the company (and your future) is headed. Here are some to ask:

  • What is the company vision for the next 3 years?
  • How will you help get us there?
  • Are specific goals in place for the organization? For this department?
  • How will you measure and reward success?

Any great leader would be thrilled to be asked any or all of these questions.

If that’s not the case, you may be dealing with a weak or reluctant leader. And reluctant leaders often have a hard time performing the way you need them to.

Leaders gone AWOL

Great leaders may be ridiculously busy, but they always show up when you need them to. If you feel like your top people are playing hide-and-seek instead of follow-the-leader, you need to take a closer look at what’s going on.

Absentee leadership can happen for a number of reasons. Sometimes, people are just too comfortable. They’ve done their time and now they want to coast. Other times it’s the opposite. They could be overwhelmed by what’s going on in the organization and/or uncomfortable addressing certain circumstances or challenges. Or there could be something entirely different going on, such as a personal situation or illness they may be dealing with.

No matter the reason, an absentee leader isn’t what you or your employees need.

But it is an opportunity to showcase the kind of leadership you want to see in your organization. Don’t ignore the problem. Take action. Once you’ve discovered the root of the issue, then you can come up with a plan to address it in an effective and encouraging way.

Have those tough conversations, make those difficult decisions, and keep moving forward. That’s what leaders do.

But what if I’m just an employee?

You may not have the power to affect change at a company level, but you can make changes for yourself.

If you’re happy in your role but think you could benefit from some additional leadership in your life, start looking for it in other places.

  • Find a colleague you admire to be a professional mentor
  • Seek out opportunities to work with other teams and leaders in your organization
  • Volunteer for or participate in business groups in your community

If you still find yourself craving an environment that will allow you to innovate, try new things, come together as a team, and be inspired on the job, you probably won’t be happy until you’re in an organization with a strong leadership culture.

In other words, you may need to hop off the wrong bus and get on the right one.

And if I’m the leader?

Don’t sit still and watch your people walk out the door.

Start by giving your leaders the skills they need to excel in their positions. Then step up your own game and be the leader your organization needs you to be.

Your team is counting on you.

Recruiting and retaining employees is easier when you can proudly offer a comprehensive benefits plan that makes your team members feel as valuable as they are. At Sonus Benefits, we build cost effective, long-lasting employee benefits strategies to keep your business and your employees in optimum health. Our goal is to take your business where you want it to go.


Culture & Community | By Tom Murphy,

Why Employee Engagement Matters and How to Bring it Back

Studies show that organizations with high levels of engagement have happier employees, happier, more loyal customers, and more profitable businesses.

Many companies are interested in increasing engagement for these reasons and more, but questions remain.

  • How do you build a culture that encourages employees to become more engaged?
  • Can employers do it on their own?
  • Don’t employees also need to shoulder some of the responsibility?

Increasing employee engagement isn’t easy, but it can be done.

Start with the research

Bain and Company found some pretty fascinating information about who has the lowest levels of employee engagement. A few poignant findings:

Finding #1: As tenure increases, engagement levels decrease.

Problem: Those with the most knowledge and experience are actually becoming less engaged.

Finding #2: Lower level employees have lower levels of engagement.

Problem: High level management may be out of touch with employee morale on the front lines.

Finding #3: Engagement levels are lowest for sales and service people.

BIG Problem: These are the same individuals who are most likely to interact with your customers!

These findings are worrisome for obvious reasons, including employees who get less work done, don’t support the company vision, and/or spread their discontent to fellow employees and customers. And that’s not even considering the cost of higher turnover!

Uh oh. Now what?

As an employer, there are ways you can effectively work to engage employees.

Open, communicative environments are the best places to start. Having honest conversations with all levels of staff about what they like about working for you (and what things they would change) can get you on the right track— if you are a.) open to hearing what they have to say and b.) willing to make some changes.

But can you do it alone? Aren’t your employees partially responsible?

The truth is, toxic work environments take a toll on both sides. There’s no question that managers and employees have both been burned by practices that have created an employer vs. worker mindset, with each side feeling like the other doesn’t have their best interests at heart. But when it comes to repairing the damage, it’s employers who have the upper hand.

The balance of power

One of the top reasons employees say they are unhappy at work is because they have little to no control over their tasks, processes, and outcomes. Many of them are afraid to speak up, or have stopped doing so after trying too many times with poor results. Asking these folks to build a better culture isn’t going to get you very far.

Because you hold the cards, you have the challenge (and the pleasure) of changing the game. And of convincing your employees they want to be part of the new culture and team.

In order to get both sides playing nicely and striving toward the same goal, your employees will need to have an open mind, speak up, and also be willing to make some changes. So how do you get them to do their part?

Rekindle the Love

At some point, each and every one of your employees was a brand new hire, thrilled to have gotten a job with your company. They showed up that first day willing to give their best— and expecting great things from you. At the same time, you were excited about the talent and potential they were bringing with them.

Think about your culture change as a commitment to re-hiring all of those awesome new people again. Find out what specifically made them choose you, what things may have gone wrong, and how you can work together to bring back that new job excitement.

Start Where You Are

Openly acknowledge that things aren’t where you want them to be.

Don’t be vague. Address specific signs of discontent and policies or events you believe have negatively affected your team. Admit that you can do better, and commit to doing just that.

Sincerity is very important here. If this message is delivered in an impersonal way, it won’t be convincing. Your employees will be skeptical, and rightfully so.

Listen. And Be Patient.

Employee feedback is critical to this process.

Employers and staff are often oceans apart on what they believe to be the key issues causing disengagement. Openly talking about these things is the only way to find out what’s really going on. Realize that this tactic may not bear fruit immediately, as your employees may be afraid to speak out or be honest.

Commit to a long-term plan that incorporates several different tactics for information gathering. A mix of focus groups, surveys, and one-on-one conversations will allow for various types of people to communicate in ways that are comfortable to them. It also shows your team this isn’t just a corporate whim, that you value their input, and you are genuinely interested in improving.

Follow Through

Talk without change is just that.

If you want your employees to put their faith in you, you will have to actually deliver. Make sure something tangible happens relatively quickly. This will ignite the spark of hope in your most optimistic players.

As you continue to make changes and clearly communicate why and how they are taking place, others will begin to jump back on the trust bandwagon. Over time, those who don’t believe in the new culture you are creating will eventually select themselves out. That’s okay. Sometimes following through means letting go of things that run counter to your new purpose.

Stay Committed

A culture of engagement won’t magically appear overnight, and achieving it doesn’t mean it will be easy to maintain. But it can be done.

Once you’ve settled on your new vision, share it with the team and stick with it. Your future is yours to create— one step, and one employee, at a time.


Running into challenges with employee engagement, turnover, and retention? At Sonus Benefits, we’ve got ideas to help you address these issues and more. Get in touch with Sonus to see how we can help your organization become a local employer of choice.

Culture & Community | By Tom Murphy,

Increase Employee Retention by Improving Company Culture

Worried about hanging on to your employees? So is everyone else.

According to a Korn Ferry study, a whopping 90% of executives said they felt employee retention was an issue. And many of them admitted to losing new hires because of issues with company culture.

In fact, nearly 20% of the executives surveyed said company culture was the primary reason new employees left within the first year.

Research by Right Management backs this theory up. When employee were asked their top motivations for changing jobs, 25% said they were leaving to find a better work culture. Let that sink in for a moment:

Nearly a quarter of all employee turnover may be due to company culture.

Companies can no longer afford to let culture simmer quietly on the back burner. Creating and nurturing a positive culture is critical to attracting and retaining employees. Companies that leave culture and cultural fit to chance are leaving their businesses to chance as well.

Is change possible?

Changing something intangible like company culture might seem overwhelming, time consuming, and maybe even impossible.

When it comes down to it, shouldn’t your main priority be making widgets or providing top notch service?

Yes and no.

Yes, you have to keep your core business running, but if you want to stick around for the long haul, you’ve also got to throw yourself into creating a business model that is actually sustainable— and a culture to match. To continue to be successful, you have to make your organization attractive to current and potential employees.

Making culture happen

When it comes to intentionally building your company culture, there are three basic steps:

1.) Know where you are

To improve on what you have, you must first understand the current company culture, including its strengths and weaknesses. Take a good (and honest) look around. You may also need to take off your rose colored glasses and develop a thick skin. Talk to people at all levels and listen to what they have to say. This is your starting point.

2.) Know where you want to be

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. You’ll need to get your leaders together and define the core values that will drive all of the decisions and behaviors your organization. The clearer you make this, the easier it will be to execute step three.

3.) Start moving

Once you know your starting point and your desired destination, the hard work begins. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that just talking about your culture is enough. Now that you’ve identified the discrepancies between where you are and where you want to be, you’ll have to actually address the issues you’ve uncovered. And it’s going to take real, tangible action.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Launching your culture makeover at full speed may sound like the best plan, but be sure to pace yourself. Tackling a big issue like company culture is a long and ongoing process. And even when you get there, the process of maintaining it never really ends.

Here are some tips for managing the process:

Play the long game. Should you get started? Absolutely! But unless your culture is extremely toxic, you don’t need to try to roll all of your changes out at once. Targeting one specific group, issue, or change at a time can seem much more manageable. And you may even get some quick wins to help build your confidence and resolve.      

Give people a voice. It’s much easier to get your employees behind you if they feel listened to, valued and cared about. Empower your staff to be part of the change. Involve them in the strategy and execution of your culture initiatives. Not only will you get some great ideas and insight, you will quickly see who is on board and who isn’t.

Find the bright spots. Okay. So maybe there are a lot of things going wrong. But there are probably also places where things are going right. Identify those areas and try to replicate that success. Are there particular locations or departments that seem to have a lot less employee turnover, or where the culture seems to be more in line with what the organization as a whole is trying to achieve? Put some effort into figuring out why so you can multiply the desired effect.

Examine your benefits. Employee benefits can be a powerful tool for building your culture. A great benefits program tells your employees that you value them, and that you are willing to invest in them. Not only that, but the benefits you offer are a good indication of your company values.

  • Vacation, flex time and PTO say you value work/life balance.
  • Offering childcare reimbursements screams family friendly.
  • Assistance with student debt repayment says you care about financial stability.

And so on.

Take a look at your newly defined culture and see if and how your benefits package is in alignment with your core values. If these things aren’t in sync, make changes until they are.

Continue the cycle

Company culture may seem like a magical, mystical thing, but the truth is it’s just hard work.

Even once you’ve achieved the culture you envisioned, you’ll still need to reassess your goals, vision, mission, and processes to make sure they all match up.

But all of this hard work will pay off. And when it does, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Because not only will you be able to attract and retain the kinds of employees you need to propel you forward, you will literally be working at the company of your dreams.

Recruiting and retaining employees is easier when you can proudly offer a comprehensive benefits plan that makes your team members feel as valuable as they are. Get in touch with Sonus to see how we can help your organization become a local employer of choice.