Technology | By Tom Murphy,

Harnessing the Power of Technology. And of Ignoring it.

Technology is an amazing tool, especially when it comes to communication. It can make us faster, more accurate, and more efficient.

We’ve happily replaced phone calls with emails and emails with texts. And in-person meetings? Forget about it! A quick conference call, webinar, or online chat is just as effective.

Or is it?

The other face time

Regardless of what business you’re in, the relationships you have with your employees and customers are critical to your success. But no matter how great your writing skills are, no text or email will ever connect with someone like you can— live and in person.

Of course, no one is suggesting you throw your devices out the window, but be honest with yourself: Are you so focused on technology-driven efficiency that you’re missing out on opportunities to personally interact with your staff and clients?

Maybe you’re relying on technology to do the heavy lifting when tough issues are involved. Yes, sending a well-crafted email to handle a delicate situation may be a good enough solution. But having a face to face conversation with someone when there are real problems to discuss? Now that’s an opportunity!

So, how can you tell if you are using technology as a security blanket? If the thought of making that phone call or having that face-to-face meeting gives you a sick feeling in your stomach, that’s a pretty clear sign. And that’s exactly when you need to pick up the phone or get in the car.

There are times when putting the right words in a letter, e-mail or text will work perfectly fine, but there are also times when you should really go old-school. Talk in person. Ask for a meeting. Be empathetic. Show that you care.

At the end of the day, your clients won’t remember all of those carefully crafted emails you sent, but they will definitely remember how you made them feel.

Sometimes you have to unplug to connect

Ever had your Internet go down at work? At first, people get flustered. Frustrated. Uncomfortable. Everyone looks around awkwardly. What on earth are we supposed to do now?

And then they start to talk. Make jokes. Maybe go for coffee. Talk about Game of Thrones. This is the stuff relationships are made of. You couldn’t pay someone to come up with a better team building exercise.

Should you use all of the technology available to you at your job? Yes! By all means. But you should also commit to connecting on a more personal level with one client or coworker at least once a week. Heck, once a day if you’re game! You may be surprised at where it takes you. And all without a GPS signal.


Tired of working with insurance salespeople who only think one year at a time? Wonder what it would be like to have a broker who looks beyond your annual policy? At Sonus Benefits, we’ll provide a corporate employee benefits strategy to help you achieve your long-term your vision. Get in touch to find out how.

Culture & Community | By Tom Murphy,

How to Build a Culture of Collaboration

Finding and hiring the right people is integral to the success of your organization. But no matter how capable each staff member may be, if your teams aren’t working together, you won’t get the results you’re hoping for.

Yes, you want to have high value contributors on staff, but successful companies also need successful collaboration, communication, and teamwork.

Wondering how to build a great company culture, even as you add new employees to the mix? Take a look at your current team strategies and practices to see what’s working and what isn’t. Then get brave enough to make the changes you need.

Here are several ways to ensure you’re building the kind of team you need, and the kind of team your employees want to be part of.

It’s all about the “why”

When you’re the one creating the company vision, it can be easy to fall into the trap of assuming everyone in the organization understands why  you’re doing what you’re doing, and why it’s so critical.

This isn’t necessarily the case. The truth is, you can never explain in too much detail what gives you your fire and drives your organization. You can never tell that story too many times.

Bottom line: Once you help your team understand the “why” behind your vision, you may be shocked at how quickly and efficiently they will be able to execute on the “how.

Stay focused

You have a vision for where you want to go and how you want to get there. But creating and communicating that vision isn’t enough. You’ve got to commit to it 100%. Or more.

Recruit, hire and promote with this vision in mind.

Unfortunately, sometimes you’ll have to let people go with this vision in mind as well. If you have team members who aren’t willing or able to help execute the vision, cut them loose. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re taking care of your people by hanging on to employees who are no longer a good fit. Doing so destroys your leadership credibility and weakens the team, and that’s not fair to anyone.

Bottom line: The sooner your entire team is aligned, the sooner you can get moving in the right direction.

Keep your best and brightest

As you begin let go of those employees who are no longer a good fit for the organization, be careful that you don’t inadvertently lose some of your golden nuggets. Change is disruptive by nature, and it can test employee confidence and loyalty. Never assume your best employees will easily pass that test.

Look for opportunities to reinforce your confidence in your top performers. Let them know you recognize and appreciate their capabilities, and help them see how they fit into the changing picture.

Be sure your compensation program is designed to motivate and incentivize, not deflate and desensitize. Realistic goals, genuine appreciation, and healthy dose of positivity will go a long way here.

Bottom line: The more valued your employees feel, the more secure and loyal they will feel.

Get connected

Horizontal connections are often ignored in companies ripe with silos. There are silos that separate departments, teams, and even individuals.

More importantly, there are silos separating leadership from everyone else.

Make sure your leadership team remains in touch with people at all levels in the organization. Every great employee and incredible leader had to start somewhere. Ignoring certain segments of the organization can cause you to miss out on innovative ideas and future stars. Today’s entry level staff person could be tomorrow’s CEO.

Build bridges between teams and individuals to allow the transfer of knowledge, ideas, and confidence.

Bottom line: Whether your employees have been with you a week or a decade, they will appreciate feeling connected and being part of something bigger.

Inspire communication

Keep communication channels open, not only between leadership and staff, but across teams and between employees.

This should be a top priority and part of your overall company culture and commitment to employees. Make communication part of your onboarding process and embed it into everything you do.

Bottom line: Transparency is one of the best ways to build trust. Establish clear communication patterns and lead by example.

Admire your work

The kind of team and culture you create will determine the kind of employees and customers you attract— and how loyal they will be to your brand.

Make sure your organization embodies your values from the ground up. If you’ve built a solid framework, more people will willingly jump onboard.

And that is a thing of beauty.


Need a better ROI on your corporate employee benefits? At Sonus Benefits, 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. Get in touch with Sonus to find out what working with a true employee benefits consultant feels like.

Culture & Community | By Tom Murphy,

So You Want To Be A Truly Innovative Business

There’s a big difference between telling the world you’re an innovative organization and actually being one. And just because you’re hiring creative people, coming up with clever ads, and encouraging your team to wear flip-flops doesn’t mean you’re doing it right.

True innovation takes more than just lip service. It takes commitment, an open mind, and a healthy dose of risk tolerance. To be successful, you need to create an environment that encourages new ideas, promotes calculated risk taking, and rewards people who try new things— even when they don’t work out as planned.

Looking to foster real innovation at your organization? Here are 4 keys to making it happen.

Make time for it

If employees feel crushed by deadlines and projects and aren’t given the time to think creatively, innovation has no space to happen. Make sure your team isn’t so overloaded with tasks that they literally don’t have time to think.

Ask about workload issues in your one-on-one meetings, and make creativity part of your company culture. Encourage daily breaks and walkabouts so staff can step away from their desks and into a new frame of mind. You could even do what one of our clients did and put puzzles, toys and coloring books in your breakroom to provide creative outlets.

Reward it

Recognition makes your employees feel valued, but it also serves an important role of helping to clarify what innovation looks like.

Many people assume innovation is about big thoughts and bold strategies, but sometimes little things can make a big difference. Any time you avoid the dreaded “But we’ve always done it that way!” mentality, you’re innovating.

Did someone come up with a sleek new spreadsheet, process or template? Call them out for it. Not only will that person feel valued, everyone will get to see a real example of innovation in action— and an organizational appreciation for it.

Cultivate it

Fear of failure can be crippling for company creativity. This is where innovation goes to die.

Truly innovative companies must be comfortable taking risks. If management balks at every new idea suggested, employees will quickly get the message that it’s not worth the effort to pitch anything new.

Creating a culture of innovation requires all levels of leadership to be very clear about their willingness to take new ideas and run with them. Nurture creative thinking by welcoming it, recognizing it, and most importantly, following through.

Keep at it

Innovation is like science: a constant process of trial and error that often leads to incredible discoveries and advances.

When it pays off, celebrate! When things don’t go as planned, take advantage of the opportunity to learn from your mistakes, but don’t let it stop you in your tracks.

Fear didn’t start your company, so don’t let it drive your decisions. Share valuable lessons with your team, and then move on to the next great idea.


Need a better ROI on your corporate employee benefits? At Sonus Benefits, 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.

HR Admin | By Tom Murphy,

Are Your Employees Failing? Examine Your Hiring (and Firing) Processes.

Ever hired someone who seems to have the right skills, attitude and desire to succeed only to watch them flounder in their new position?

This can be super frustrating for managers, coworkers, and HR. Not to mention your underperforming employees, who may not only be taking up vast amounts of time and energy, but also quietly thinking about hitting the road. Talk about wasted resources!

Ensuring employee success is critical to the health of your business. The good news is that there are ways to help increase your employee success ratio. And it all starts with you.

Let’s talk about hiring

If you’re looking to fill positions, it probably means you’ve got more work than you can handle. This can make rushing, delaying, or winging the hiring process seem really tempting. Don’t do it! This is one of those areas where taking the shortcut won’t get you where you want to go.

What’s your hiring process like? Do you have a detailed plan or are you flying by the seat of your pants? Do you involve people from the team or leave it up to hiring managers? Are you primarily focused on hard skills, soft skills, or cultural fit? How will that affect your search?

Let’s face it. When you have a well-designed plan to follow, you’re much more likely to find the right people for the right positions. Take the time to develop a strategy for who and how you want to hire by:

  • Rethinking roles and tasks
  • Rewriting job descriptions
  • Reassessing how you determine who is a good candidate
  • Reexamining who is involved in interviews and decision making
  • Restructuring your hiring processes to align with your new goals
  • Revamping your onboarding program

No, these things aren’t necessarily quick and easy, but investing your time wisely on the front end can save you huge amounts of time, frustration and money in the long run.

And Firing

Even with the best hiring practices in place, you will occasionally discover an employee who is stuck in the wrong position and unable to live up to his or her full potential. This doesn’t mean you have to fire that person and start all over again.

Once you’ve determined the problem, you may be able to address it through cross training activities, adjusting job functions, or considering that person for other positions as they become available.

What about hiring from within?

Let’s talk about internal moves and promotions. They’re great, right? Absolutely! Not only can they help put people in the right seats, they can also provide career paths for motivated employees and increase retention rates. Just beware of promoting your top performers away from their core strength areas.

If you’ve got a salesperson who excels at bringing in new business, think carefully before “rewarding” her with a Sales Manager position. These are two very different skill sets, and being good at one doesn’t mean she’ll automatically be good at the other. If you move a high performing rock star into a position that’s a struggle, the effects can be devastating, both for that individual, and for your ROI.

Yes, by all means, promote your best people. Just do it in a way that continues to allow them to excel.

Can firing be good?

It happens, even in the best of companies. Perhaps you’ve got a few people who just aren’t feelin’ it. They don’t buy into your mission. They’re just punching the clock. They’re sabotaging your efforts and spreading ill will. Clearly these folks hopped on the wrong bus. The thing is, you’re the driver. You let them on, and now it’s your job to help them off.

A few tips to make this process go smoothly:

  • Document what’s not working
  • Have a meeting to discuss current performance and future career visions
    • Who knows? Maybe there’s an easy fix!
    • Set realistic goals and agree on measurements for success
  • Document again
    • If all is going well, great!
    • If not…
  • Set that person free

Often, unhappy employees want to leave their jobs. They’re just too scared to do it. Meanwhile, the negative energy they emit brings the whole team down. Letting these individuals go can set them on a path to where they really want to be. And set you on the path to building a more consistent and positive company culture.

Paving the path to employee success

When you have an employee who isn’t working out, it’s easy to place the blame squarely on that person. And sometimes you’ll be right. But if you have consistent problems with turnover or want to improve your overall success rate, it’s time to take a look at the big picture.

Are you hiring the right people? Are they in the right positions? Are you hanging on to people you need to let go?

Your HR processes should be moving you forward, not holding you back. Maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at yours.


Running into challenges with employee engagement, turnover, and retention? At Sonus Benefits, we’ve got ideas to help you address these issues and more. There’s so much more to employee benefits than policies and premiums. Are you confident your policies and processes are doing what they need to ensure that your company—and your employees— are healthy and productive?

HR Strategy | By Tom Murphy,

Why Bad Job Descriptions Are Dangerous

A great job description performs several important functions. It provides appropriate criteria for new hires, structure for current employees, and a basis for conducting performance reviews. And yet how many of us have worked in positions with outdated, inadequate or non-existent job descriptions?

Just about all of us.

Why are job descriptions such a challenge?

One of the challenges of keeping up with job descriptions is growth, both at the corporate and individual level. When business is booming, we often put the focus on production over process. We expand our teams rapidly, while telling ourselves we don’t have time to document all of the details. We’ll get to that later.

Meanwhile, when we hire the right people, they naturally tend to grow their positions over time. Once they have the basic job down, they start learning new skills and taking on more responsibilities.

And while this kind of professional growth can keep the team and leadership happy, it can leave individual job descriptions looking pretty sad. HR Managers may also be quite sad when the time comes to fill a position that no longer has an accurate description attached to it.

What happens if you let things go?

In addition to making it harder for your Human Resource team to recruit the right people, inaccurate job descriptions make it difficult to assess employee performance and determine appropriate compensation structures. On occasion, it could even lead to litigation.

Accurate job descriptions help promote proper FLSA job classification, facilitate ADA and OSHA compliance, and reduce the risk of company liability issues.

How to stay on top of job descriptions

If regularly updating job descriptions isn’t making it to the top of your weekly or monthly to-do list, try conducting an annual job analysis for each position in your organization. If this idea strikes terror in your heart, don’t worry. By no means do you have to analyze all of your positions every January or December.

A more manageable approach would be to use employee anniversary dates. With each passing year, ask your staff a few key questions about their job functions and how they may have changed.

Examples of Job Analysis Questions:

  • What are your major job responsibilities?
  • Which of these take up most of your time?
  • Has anything changed in the last year?
    • New tasks?
    • Tasks you are no longer responsible for?
  • Which of these responsibilities are most critical? Least critical?
  • What specific skills and tools do you need to be good at your job?
  • What education and/or personal qualities are necessary to be successful in this role?

Instituting the process will help you maintain an accurate record of each position in your organization, and establish the skills you need to look for when recruiting and hiring. The bonus here is that you can also tie this exercise in with any self-evaluation and/or performance management processes you have in place.

Don’t wait… Update!

Now is the perfect time to ask yourself, “Are our job descriptions out of date?” If the answer is yes, it’s time to get to work. Help your job descriptions help you. If they’re well-written, accurate, and up to date, they’ll deliver.


Is your employee 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—you’re your employees— are healthy and productive? As Sonus Benefits, this is what we do for St. Louis employers every single day.

Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Forget About Ping Pong! Employees Want Career Development.

Not every employee on your team is interested in taking on more responsibility, moving up the food chain, or even learning new skills. But you can bet your best and brightest are.

Often, these are the same people you worked really hard to get and have invested a significant amount of time and resources into. So how do you make sure those career-driven employees view your company as a viable, long-term option rather than a short-term stepping stone or resume booster? If you have clear and visible career paths in place, you’re definitely on the right track toward better employee retention.

Make sure your new hires know about these opportunities from the get-go. As time goes on, discuss where and how your team members fit into the bigger picture and ways they can work toward selected goals. Even better if you talk about these things outside the context of review time.

Tip: The more you get people thinking about the possibilities available to them within your organization, the less likely they will be to start looking for opportunities elsewhere.

If you’re running a smaller company, or one with very low turnover, new positions and promotions may not be readily available. That’s okay. You can still give your employees some exciting personal and professional development options through one or more of the following:

  • Create a career mentorship program
  • Offer cross-training across departments
  • Support employee education and skill building
  • Provide opportunities to work on new projects
  • Solicit input and participation on company initiatives
  • Encourage informational interviews and job shadowing
  • Allow staff to attend professional conferences and events
  • Consider tuition reimbursement for career-related classes and degrees

Research shows that employees rank career development and growth high on their priority list. If it’s not high on your priority list, maybe it’s time you moved it up a notch.

Bottom line: A dead end job isn’t going to entice career-motivated individuals to come on board or stick around, which will eventually end up affecting that other bottom line. Yours.

Running into challenges with employee engagement, turnover, and retention? We’ve got ideas to help you address these issues and more. At Sonus, we build cost effective, long-lasting employee benefits strategies to keep your business— and your employees— in optimum health.

Culture & Community | By Tom Murphy,

What Does Leadership Have to do With Employee Turnover?

Good employees are hard to find. Great employees are even harder to come by. When one of them leaves, it hurts. And we’re not just talking about your feelings.

Employee turnover hurts productivity, morale, and your bottom line. Busy Human Resource managers end up with more work on their already full plates in addition to dealing with the cost and effort that goes into hiring and training someone new. All of this can be even more aggravating when you thought you’d hired that perfect fit.

The thing is, even the most dedicated employee will consider leaving under the right circumstances.

It’s often said that employees don’t leave bad positions. They leave bad managers. If you want to hold onto your most creative and capable team members, you need to provide them with one critical incentive.

Inspired Leadership

Go-getters like other go-getters. If you hire someone for their awesome skills, outgoing personality and can-do attitude and then place that excited new hire with a negative boss or in a stagnant department, the honeymoon won’t last very long.

Even if they truly love the company product, goals and/or mission, your gold-star employees will soon feel disillusioned if they aren’t given the tools and the leadership necessary to succeed.

So what does inspired leadership look like? Let’s break it down to 10 key leadership attributes. Effective leaders:

  • Lead by example
  • Are open to new ideas
  • Empower staff to succeed
  • Make themselves accessible
  • Create an inspirational vision
  • Provide guidance and support
  • Communicate openly and often
  • Trust their teams and processes
  • Recognize and reward hard work
  • Value their employees as people

In this kind of environment, most employees will feel supported and successful. In addition to giving you their best and sticking around for the long haul, they may even refer other fantastic people to your team.

If there’s a lack of organizational or team leadership, the very same people in the very same jobs will have a very different experience. Instead of being excited about working for you and inspiring talented friends and colleagues to join them, they’ll be asking their friends about their workplace cultures and leadership styles. And potentially jumping ship.

Don’t let lackluster leadership be the reason your hard-earned hires leave. Commit to great leadership and your employees will be more committed to you.


Already have great leadership in place? Awesome. Do your employee benefits live up to the same high standards? 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, this is what we do for clients throughout the Midwest every single day because we believe Happy Teams are Productive Teams. Get in touch to see how we can help your organization become a local employer of choice.


HR Admin | By Tom Murphy,

2 HR Policies You May Want to Kick to the Curb

Company Culture. Employee Engagement. Managing Millennials. These hot topics have been getting a lot of press lately, and with good reason. Workplace processes, recruitment, and demographics are changing rapidly. Things that worked fine in the past simply aren’t cutting it today. Even more frightening, what works well today might not work tomorrow.

If you want to be successful in an ever-shifting business world, you have got to be willing to see, accept and facilitate change. Whether it’s adjusting to new technologies, finding and keeping the right people, or effectively overseeing a diverse workforce, clinging to old HR policies simply won’t do.

Of course, every business has its own unique set of needs, and workplace policies should rightfully reflect them. Retail and manufacturing companies can’t necessarily offer work-at-home options. Banks and insurance companies might not be able to say yes to jeans and flip-flops. But chances are good that you have at least one HR policy or practice that’s worth re-visiting in order to make your company more appealing to current staff and potential new employees.

Not sure where to start? Here are two things to quickly eliminate if you’re interested in attracting and retaining top-notch talent.

1.) Harrowing hiring

Your hiring process says a lot about who you are as a company. An ineffective, unprofessional or exhausting interview process will send fantastic candidates running. Away, that is.

If you require five years of experience, three separate interviews, and a 1,500-word essay for an entry-level position, chances are you’re going to do one of two things:

  1. scare applicants away, or
  2. build an expectation that the job is more lucrative or significant than it actually is

Yes, you need to find highly capable people, but the last thing you want is a top pick candidate who turns you down— or an over-qualified new hire who feels bored and disillusioned two months into the position.

Tip: Keep your skill requirements and your interview process properly geared toward the position to make sure you get a generous pool of appropriately qualified candidates.

Employers can also miss out on awesome future employees by not moving applicants through the process in a timely manner and/or failing to keep them in the loop. Hiring should never be rushed, but taking too long to conduct interviews, check references and make a decision will only hurt you in the long run.

You may be convinced your company is the gold standard and your position is amazing, but that doesn’t mean you have an infinite amount of time to find that right person. Today’s job seekers are smart, savvy, and driven. And you can bet they’re not just talking to you. By the time you finally get around to calling your top choice back, they could already be putting their enthusiasm and talents to work for someone else.

Tip: To avoid losing out on great candidates and hires, institute a short, but effective process and keep people informed and updated as it moves along.

2.) Vacation vs. sick days

This system probably seemed logical at some point, but in today’s working world, it just doesn’t make sense. Employees aren’t interested in being sick; they’re interested being well. And that means achieving a healthy, manageable work/life balance.

According to the 2015 Workplace Flexibility Study, 75% of employees surveyed chose workplace flexibility as the most important benefit their employer could offer them. Meanwhile, research from Morneau Shepell found that 52% of incidental employee absence is not actually due to illness.

When your employees need to be out of the office, does it really matter what the exact reason is? Whether a staff member has intestinal distress, a sick toddler, or playoff tickets is irrelevant. The point is, that person either needs to deal with a personal situation or they need to rest and re-charge.

Not being flexible when it comes to employee time off will only cause resentment and ultimately reduce employee engagement and productivity.

Don’t force your employees to call in “sick” from the stadium. Scrap your vacation policy and come up with a Paid Time Off system that allows for maximum flexibility and discretion. Even better, design it so that paid time off can be used in hourly increments instead of in all-or-nothing eight-hour blocks. That way, your employees will feel free to take only the time they need, when they need it, whatever they need it for.

Switching your outdated sick policy to a PTO program is an inexpensive way to make current employees happy, recruit new talent and, according to Workforce, significantly reduce the number of unscheduled absences at your business.

What outdated policies do you have?

We’ve worked with clients to help implement a variety of operational solutions designed to ensure a happier, healthier workplace (Optional: Insert client example here).

The only question now is: What can we do for you?

At Sonus, we build cost-effective, long-lasting employee benefits strategies to keep your business— and your employees— in optimum health. We help clients all over the Midwest identify organizational challenges and put customized solutions in place.

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 is here for you.