Modern companies are more than just employers — increasingly, they are also gyms, cafeterias and even laundromats. As perks like yoga class, free lunch and complimentary dry cleaning become the norm, companies continue to push the boundaries on ways to attract and retain top talent by providing much more than a paycheck to employees.
The latest in the slew of new workplace benefits? Student loan assistance.
As a benefit, student loan assistance programs are certainly still in their infancy— one survey found that only 3 percent of companies offer such a benefit. But experts say that may soon change as companies seek to differentiate themselves in a competitive hiring environment.
"We think student loan benefits are poised to be the next big benefit; similar to what 401(k) matching was when it was first introduced," says Dana Rosenberg, who leads employer and affinity group partnerships at Earnest, a lender that offers student loan refinancing and works with companies to create loan pay-down programs.
The Burden of Student Debt
Such programs could be extremely attractive to debt-laden Millennials. Around 40 million Americans collectively carry $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and the graduating class of 2015 was the most indebted class in history with an average debt of $35,000 (a superlative they won't hold for long come May 2016.) For employers looking to adjust benefits to correspond to the changing demographics of their employee base, student loan programs hit the mark.
"In 2016, our employees will be 80 percent millennials, and we also hire close to 11,000 employees directly out of school each year," says Terri McClements, Washington Metro managing partner of PwC.
With student debt often preventing young people from participating in 401(k) plans and reaching traditional life milestones, the benefit could potentially make a large impact on employees' financial and personal well-being. A study from the American Student Association found that 73 percent of people with student loans reported putting off saving for retirement or other investments due to their debt, 75 percent reported delaying a home purchase and 27 percent reported it was difficult to buy daily necessities.
"Student loans can be a very stressful thing to deal with, so if we can give our employees peace of mind, that's great," says Caroline Gennaro, corporate communications manager at Chegg.
The Allure for Employers
Student debt assistance programs aren't just attractive to employees, either. Rosenberg says there are significant benefits for the organizations that offer them as well.
"Employers that offer programs to help their employees get out from under their debt load are seeing big benefits: increased retention, more competitive recruiting and, perhaps most importantly, happier employees who have additional cash flow to put towards their life goals," Rosenberg explains.
Rosenberg says happier employees are more engaged employees, who tend to be more productive. Studies show that companies with high employee engagement experience lower turnover and have double the rate of organizational success than their less-engaged counterparts.
Student loan benefit programs may also lead to a more diverse workforce, attracting employees whose financial backgrounds meant they had to take on more debt for their education.
"Diversity and inclusion are also very important to us, so the ability to offer this benefit can help minorities who come out of school with a higher debt burden," says McClements.
A Promising Response
Companies say the response to their student loan assistance programs have been overwhelmingly positive. Chegg has had more than 80 people sign up since they started their program this summer, and they've already eliminated roughly 86 years of collective loan repayments for their employees.
Companies are also finding these programs are a way to differentiate themselves from organizations that may offer more generic benefits.
"As a company in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are always looking to attract the best and brightest in the industry, and this benefit is a big draw," says Gennaro.
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4 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Recruiting Strategy
Social media is ubiquitous, and companies are using it in many different and innovative ways for enhancing their sales, marketing and customer services. So why is it then that many HR departments still fail to see social media as more than a job board? Outside of the office, the same HR people happily engage with friends on Facebook, share news and ideas on Twitter, look at pictures on Instagram and send snaps on Snapchat. But when they put their work hat on they seemingly forget why they use social in the way they (and hundreds of millions of other users) do every day, and resort back to just posting jobs (in a boring way) on social media! Of course there is nothing wrong with job posting, and it's often an effective approach to reaching an audience, but not all of the time. According to LinkedIn, only 12 percent of the working population are actively seeking new employment. So, if all you do is post jobs on your LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook page, you are consciously ignoring the other 88 percent of the working population who might be interested in hearing more about your company in general. Creating and sharing interesting content about your company such as employee stories or volunteer days help bring your employer brand to life. It might even trigger people to reach out to you and find out more about your job opportunities. In truth, mixing up your social media feeds with a variety of content will provide more depth and candidate engagement. Here are four ways to expand your social media strategy and engage with new potential candidates. 1) Candidate Sourcing With people using an average of more than five social networks, sourcing talent via social media makes absolute sense. Branch out from just using LinkedIn and look to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to search for and engage with prospective talent. Try search tools like Followerwonk to search Twitter bios for keywords and job titles, a clever Chrome browser extension called Intelligence Search that easily searches Facebook and using the search bar at the top of Google+. They will help you identify new talent. If you are looking to build social media pipelines then try Hello Talent. It is a great free tool that allows you to build talent pipelines from many different social networks by using a browser extension. 2) Competitor Monitoring Social media is a fantastic source of information and data. By using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, you can monitor the social media activity of your competitors. Both of these tools allow you to set up search columns, where you can enter things like keywords, hashtags, Twitter names and track when any of these are mentioned on sites such as Twitter. You can use the interact or use the insights accordingly. 3) Resources for Candidates Consider your Facebook page (or Twitter channel) as a real-time customer services channel for you to engage and communicate with both new and existing candidates in the recruitment process. Provide links to your social media pages to candidates at all stages in the process and encourage them to visit the pages and ask questions about any part of the process. You can also share useful information about working for the company, including locations, employees and other relevant news. 4) Live Recruitment Events Not everyone can attend the many recruitment events happening every month. But by using social media like Twitter, Facebook Live, Instagram and Snapchat, you can easily provide live commentary for these events you attend or host. Real-time video via Facebook Live and interaction via Twitter chats are superb examples of ways to regularly engage with a live audience of potential candidates. With social media firmly established in our working lives, I question how much more evidence HR departments will need to fully embrace this "new" form of candidate engagement. Photo: Twenty20
Cartoon Coffee Break: Unconventional Recruiting
Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back every two weeks for a new ReWork cartoon. Missed the Recruiting Trends conference? From the state of recruiting automation adoption, to the role that the human element still plays in recruiting, our recap covers everything you need to know. Header photo: Creative Commons
Is Your Google Calendar the Next Data Frontier?
How much time do you spend every day sending and answering emails and calendar invites? While these tasks may seem minute and often mindless, they consume vast amounts of time and energy—13 hours per week, according to research firm McKinsey & Co. At the same time, these daily responsibilities are rarely productive and can cost employers an average of $20,990 per worker per year. For VoloMetrix, a Seattle-based "people analytics" company, these wasted hours represent huge chunks of time just waiting to be optimized. VoloMetrix builds software that monitors employees' email and calendar data to, in theory, give employers a better understanding of how workers are spending their time. VoloMetrix's technology works by communicating with a company's email and calendar server, extracting data, then anonymizing and aggregating it, explains VP of Product Chantrelle Nielsen. "This lets managers see where people in different departments are spending their time," she explains. How can managers put this kind of employee email and calendar data to use? According to Michael Housman, Chief Analytics Officer at Cornerstone OnDemand, there are three major possibilities: predicting employee flight risk, finding ways to save time and mapping out a company's internal social networks. Q: Who's Looking to Leave? Although VoloMetrix anonymizes all the email and calendar information it scans, the data can be useful for identifying teams where employees might be less engaged, and potentially looking to leave the company. "We look at the different levels of insularity, whether it's geographical or departmental," Nielsen says, explaining that less communication between peers, offices and departments, and fewer meetings could indicate lower engagement and, potentially, upcoming departures. It's then up to the manager to decide whether to dive into the data and investigate if something is really amiss. However, Housman warns that simply having that information at your fingertips doesn't mean you can always do something about it. "If someone's already checked out and in the job market, it's really hard to pull them back in," Housman says. "You need to think of a way to engage them more, whether it's with a raise, bonus or something else entirely." Q: Can We Stop Wasting Employees' Time? Long meetings are another notorious productivity killer, as anyone who's been stuck in a conference room all day can attest. Studying email and calendar data can help managers zero in on meetings that go too long for no reason or that tie up too many people at once. "You can look at this data and get a sense of who's a heavy waster of other peoples' time," Housman says. "For knowledge and creative workers in particular, you need undisturbed time to be able to focus and get work done. When you cut back on unnecessary meetings and set aside dedicated time for checking email, you get more done." A heightened sense of productivity is also a good morale boost, says VoloMetrix's Nielsen. "When people are constantly emailing and in meetings, you feel like you're working harder and harder without getting anything more done. It becomes an employee satisfaction issue." Q: Is an Employee Fitting In? One of the least explored—but potentially most valuable—applications of studying a company's e-mail and calendar data is gaining a deeper understanding of how employees interact with each other and the networks that exist at work. "This application has gotten the least attention, but I think it's the most exciting area for people analytics to really take off," says Housman. "We've done a bunch of work that finds that your tenure and performance is highly influenced by the social fabric that exists at work." A commonly cited Gallup study confirms this idea that strong friendships predict productivity—employees who have a best friend at work are 35 percent more likely to report commitment to quality. What's more, according to Gallup founder Donald Clifton, employees with workplace best friends are more focused, more passionate and more loyal to their organizations. For Housman, workplace camaraderie (or the lack thereof) can be one of the most telling signs of an employee's productivity and engagement. "It's not all about talent," he says. "A lot of it is about your relationships at work." Photo: unsplash.com