Benjamin Franklin is said to have included in the 1738 edition of “Poor Richard’s Almanac” a passage that nails my mission as a ghostwriter of memoirs: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth the writing.”
In 2010 I had the pleasure of being introduced to an octogenarian named Leonard Cordes whose philanthropic activities perfectly captured the latter part of this powerful quote. Two years later I helped him document poignant stories that were well worth sharing with family, friends and strangers – all of whom might be inspired by the memoir I ghostwrote for him (https://www.amazon.com/Discovered-Tikkun-Olam-Through-Philanthropy/dp/1481052233).
Leonard dreamed of one day writing a book about his life, but he wasn’t entirely comfortable with his writing skills. After all, he was a number-cruncher who retired from chartered accounting in Montreal, Canada, where he grew up the son of a hard-working, Borden Milk Co. supervisor. That ambition surfaced during a casual conversation with my sister Caron who kindly referred him my way. His rags-to-riches tale centered around a lifelong practice of giving to various charities, particularly in the area of Jewish-minded philanthropy.
Once I was able to fully absorb Leonard’s legacy, I suggested he actually incorporate it into the title of his memoir. I came up with “How I Discovered Tikkun Olam Through Philanthropy,” drawing on a Hebrew phrase whose meaning is to repair or mend the world. Leonard felt that by funding his favorite causes, he was doing his part to help make the world a better place.
A true believer in the importance of providing scholarships, coupled with strengthening the Jewish people, he was drawn to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a non-sectarian institution whose student body hailed from more than 50 countries at the time of our deeply satisfying collaboration. The school became the centerpiece of his philanthropic life since 1960.
His story is what ghostwriters and publisher call a legacy book, the main purpose of which is to document an individual’s life achievements – not land on a list of best-selling authors, though it would be a welcomed outcome.
Leonard was especially eager to detail his amazing journey for the great grandchildren he and his wife of many years, Mary, adored, as well as young people in general. I worked on landing him speaking engagements at Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world. His hope was to inspire them to aspire to become successful in business and philanthropists like him, doing their part to also help repair or mend the world. It was a noble vision for preserving not only Jewish life, but also improving the human condition.
Recently I was reminded of just how important the notion of legacy is to those who have made an indelible mark on society. The topic arose during an interview with Joe Milam, founder of The Legacy Funds and AngelSpan, Inc., as well as an expert in the psychology of wealth, estate planning, securities and portfolio management.
His work in the family office space is twofold: ensuring that the financial legacy of high net worth families is secure and helping them look beyond traditional philanthropy for vehicles to help burnish their qualitative legacies. One such avenue is impact investing, which he described in one of his thoughtful commentaries as having “a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return.”
I like to think of my book ghostwriting service as a conduit for helping accomplished people spread their legacy and document proud moments or family history for posterity. The beauty of an independently published memoir, with the help of on-demand printing, is that these details can be shared publicly or privately with as many people as the author is comfortable involving in the process. Whatever their decision, Ben Franklin would certainly approve that at least they wrote something worth reading, which more often than not, involves having done something worth writing about.
If my work-from home experience during the coronavirus pandemic is any indication of what others have endured, then the past eight months have been bittersweet.
On the downside, I was furloughed from two of three steady clients – scrambling to find other work. I also was forced to manage remote learning for my kiddos, both of whom were in elementary school in the waning months of the 2019-2020 school year and struggled to work independently.
But there also was an upside. I was able to jump-start my book ghostwriting service, which was dormant for eight years, proving once and for all that necessity is indeed the mother of invention. If not for COVID-19, then I probably would have keep dreaming about ghosting more business books and memoirs. I also was able to spend more quality time with my kids and significant other, as well as catch up with old friends.
All the research seems to suggest that I’m not alone in experiencing these lows and highs. Just 14% of the U.S. labor force worked from home prior to sheltering-in-place orders and business closures, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but then there was a huge spike. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist, for instance, recently estimated that nearly half of the workforce is remote.
As the old adage goes, sometimes familiarity breeds contempt. WFH arrangements went from coveted perk to annoyance in a mere few months, adding nearly an extra day to a typical work week or 26 hours a month, according to Owl Labs, a video conferencing technology company. So much for the convenience of compressed workweeks! They’re now actually expanding. The new normal has erased any line of demarcation between work and life, which has proven to be a double-edge sword.
Frank Weishaupt, the company’s CEO, surmises that WFH newbies probably logged more hours trying to attain a certain comfort level, not to mention juggling more meetings than usual and having children at home. With regard to that last point, Owl Labs noted that employees appreciated being able to spend more time with their families. They also were relieved to avoid work commutes.
Still, these adjustments are having a huge impact on the psyche of American workers in terms of stress and worry. For example, a Martec Group survey noted a significant decline in mental health across all industries, levels of seniority and demographics. The same was true with respect to job and company satisfaction, as well as job motivation.
As many as 91% of respondents to a survey by mental health benefits platform Ginger reported moderate to extreme stress while working from home during the pandemic. Owl Labs also found that nearly half of employees fret that staying remote could hurt their career. Other research indicates that people miss pre-COVID workplace camaraderie and feel lonely.
Once a vaccine is made available and we’re able to return to pre-pandemic life, I fear that the financial, physical, emotional and spiritual toll will be enormous. But the silver lining for businesses is that we now know that WFH is not only feasible on a massive scale, it also results in operational efficiencies and better work-life balance. I believe that a restoration of normalcy will accent the positive traits of these arrangements and WFH will again be viewed as highly valuable. The lesson for management and employees is the same: It’s important to be flexible and nimble through any substantive change.
We’ve all been there at some point: dealing with a boss from hell, someone who instills fear or simply cannot manage. It isn’t surprising considering that most people don’t know how to lead. I’ve seen some estimates as high as 98% in terms of research done in talent management and human resources circles.
In recent weeks, there have been salacious charges of sexual harassment, racism and general workplace toxicity at “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” which sparked an internal investigation by Warner Bros. and led to the dismissal of three producers. The irony, of course, is that these stories have sullied the reputation of America’s Queen of Kind.
A new Gallup poll shows that as many as half of all U.S. employees actually quit a job to get away from a toxic manager. It’s the kind of statistic that makes people stop in their tracks, and I’ve known both family members and friends to whom this has happened. In addition, 84% of respondents to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management say poorly trained managers create unnecessary work and stress. That’s a no-brainer, and I’m surprised it isn’t higher.
That same research recommended five critical skills managers could improve upon: communicating effectively; developing and training team members; managing time and delegating; cultivating a positive and inclusive team culture; and managing team performance.
Two of my supervisors over the past 35 years were intelligent folks who could be pleasant and even engaging, but they couldn’t handle pressure. Sound familiar? That character trait tends to bring out the worst in managers, supervisors or business owners, and the rest of us feel their wrath.
I received a scathing email just a few short years ago from an interim editor at one of the publications I have written for that was so over the top I hardly slept for a week. Left twisting in the wind without a reply to my contrite response one summer Monday, which included revisions to a breaking news story I was working on at the time, I picked up the phone on a Friday afternoon to clear the air.
Much to my surprise, I reached him on the first try and then calmly spoke my mind. First, I apologized for submitting something on very short notice that wasn’t up to my usual high standards, then suggested being unfairly chastised.
My final comment to this easily stressed scribe was that not acknowledging for four days my response to his now-infamous email was unprofessional and the colorful language he used was not only highly disrespectful but unacceptable. I told him no one has a right to speak to me like that over a blip of failure in a successful decades-long career. His response: contrite about leaving me hanging, which he admitted was wrong. But he steadfastly stood by his initial comments. This was the part that left me stunned. In the end, any attempt at an apology seemed half baked.
The irony is that I learned on that call those initial marching orders from his overseer were unclear. I was supposed to contribute a few paragraphs to a timely story rather than write a stand-alone article. If it had been clearly communicated, then I’m confident there would have been a very different result. It wasn’t long after that our paths never again crossed. A permanent replacement was found, and our careers went on.
With the passage of time, the incident serves as a reminder that we all deal with annoying bosses or co-workers. That’s just human nature. Not everyone is a good communicator, though I would have thought that being in the business of communication would have raised the supervisory bar a bit higher at the publication with which I was associated.
This is what happens when bean counters are put in charge of a large operation whose bottom-line focus sometimes may be advanced at the expense of constructive criticism, clarity, understanding and empathy. If there was ever a Management 101 lesson for these strange, challenging and uncertain times, it’s clear that this is one trap organizations will need to avoid as much as possible.
Black Lives Matter, which is at once seen as deeply inspirational and necessary but also terribly misguided and threatening during these divisive times, isn’t just an extension of the Civil Rights movement. It fuels a larger goal, which is to help elevate humanity and reach higher moral ground. But sometimes noble messages are lost in the heat of battle.
Clearly, the only constructive way to racial equality is through peaceful means, which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently advocated more than half a century ago – not any means necessary, which Malcolm X infamously said before renouncing that approach.
To arrive at a point where everyone is truly judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin or other external factors, the path must be harmonious. There’s no room in this burgeoning movement for thugs who’d rather incite riots, loot and burn their own communities. They’re trampling on a just cause and widening the racial divide. In short, they’re part of the problem, not the solution.
What I’d also like to see from BLM is commitment to broadening the scope of its mission to be inclusive and tolerant of others whose plight may be similar. That means acknowledging everyone who has long suffered because of their race, skin color, religious faith, gender, age or sexual orientation. One recent case in point is that a spotlight is again shining on Native Americans over the names of sports teams that are deemed offensive. Whatever side you’re on, these are worthwhile discussions to have.
I say this not just as someone who has long believed that prejudice of any kind is corrosive and horrific, but also because I have a horse in this race. I’m a proud Jewish American whose ancestors have suffered enslavement, oppression and discrimination for millennia. Sadly, anti-Semitism rages on to this day as hate crimes against Jews rise to frightening levels around the world. The worst massacre on American soil of fellow members of my tribe was less than two years ago. Our faith and way of life continue to be attacked by those who are ignorant, envious or feel threatened.
Every Passover I’m reminded of our shared history with black Africans who were also long enslaved in their homeland or brought to the U.S. for the same insidious purpose, but like us, ultimately broke free and made incredible contributions to the world.
But I’m also disappointed that BLM has stayed from its vision to condemn Israel for what it deems to be oppressive acts against Palestinians and ignore atrocities across 194 other nations. While Israel’s government cannot lay claim to a pristine track record, it’s worth noting that critics of the Jewish State don’t acknowledge that it has been under attack by terrorist groups since its 1948 inception to fit their slanted narrative.
They also fail to recognize that it is an oasis of tolerance in one of the most intolerant parts of the world and the only democracy in the Middle East. Moreover, their collective eyes are closed to Israel’s impressive technical innovation, strides in biotechnology and other areas. BLM has caved to placate proponents of BDS, also known as Boycott Divest and Sanction, whose mission unfairly singles out Israel on the world stage while ignoring despotism and depravity in virtually every continent.
From my perspective, Jewish Lives Matter just as Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. I’m a defender of human rights and admirer of different cultures or backgrounds. I believe we should celebrate our differences and come together whenever possible. This ultimately is the best way to advance the agenda of all groups that have endured their share of discrimination and misery, as well as unite rather than divide the world. And until we come around to this thinking, we are doomed to repeat our failures.
Postscript: I'm doubling down on my points since former NBA star and George Floyd friend Stephen Jackson defended horrific anti-Semitic comments by Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson within the context of BLM. Let's call out the ignorance and hypocrisy and hope these yahoos get re-educated. Outrageous! Peace 'n love...
When we eventually recover from the novel coronavirus pandemic, there may be hell to pay for China’s government – and it could be the start of another Cold War, this time with a different dictatorship across the Pacific Ocean. It’s also a golden opportunity to bridge our widening and increasingly ugly political divide and unite against a common enemy.
But first a surreal anecdote from 40-plus years ago to explain my thinking:
I vividly remember a college professor of mine freshman year at Boston University who taught us about the People’s Republic of China. There was a gleam in his squinty eyes when he spoke of Chairman Mao Zedong, despite the fact that his leadership was largely responsible for the deaths of at least 20 million Chinese between famine and the Cultural Revolution. Some estimates place the gruesome death toll as high as 45 million. It made the country’s Great Leap Forward seem like a race back to the Dark Ages with some historians arguing that Mao had more blood on his hands than Hitler and Stalin.
He couldn’t help but hide his twisted admiration for Mao, which wasn’t surprising considering he was the most ultra-liberal professor I ever had short of Howard Zinn, author of the “A People’s History of the United States,” a living legend who was known on campus as the chief Communist in residence.
The irony was his balding appearance and reddish goatee very much resembled another iron-fisted Communist leader, Vladimir Lenin, mastermind of the Bolshevik Revolution that powered the former Soviet Union. His students would snicker about that comparison behind his back, as well as mimic his unusual voice and mannerisms.
At the time it seemed odd that an educator would gloss over atrocities and gush about a cult of personality before such impressionable young minds, however well intentioned Mao’s mission might have been in uncovering the inequities of class warfare. Years later I cringe that such an important piece of history could be presented in such now-comically lopsided and highly irresponsible fashion.
The fact is that Mainland China is a paradox full of hypocrisy – a Communist nation that allowed “Creeping Capitalism” under Deng Xiaoping to flourish. Under Mao’s successor, the world’s largest workforce mastered the art of mass producing products at the lowest possible cost without a hint of innovation. Such cheap labor became synonymous with poor quality. The Chinese government also have for years allowed the stealing of intellectual property.
One consistency since the latter half of the 20th century is that China, a cloistered society once described as the Great Sleeping Giant long been poised for world dominance, has been brutally suppressant toward its own citizens.
Doing business with China during the pandemic can literally and figuratively be hazardous to our health. Many of the roughly 90 companies selling antibody tests that determine whether people built immunity to the coronavirus are based in China, many of which failed. The Chinese government also has stood accused of price gouging not only on diagnostic tests for Covid-19, but also basic medical equipment for a crisis it caused. Another worry has been the government’s complicity in the spread of disinformation about this topic.
If these stark developments don’t outrage people to their core, then we’re in big trouble. The fact is that China botched containment of a regional virus that triggered a pandemic and worldwide recession, the likes of which we haven’t seen on our shores since the Great Depression. There are now 33 million Americans out of work with an unemployment rate of more than 20%. Getting angrier? I sure am. My livelihood and daily routine were disrupted in ways I could never have imagined.
Comedian Bill Maher recently admonished the politically correct police for crying racism over early descriptions of the Wuhan virus and generic references thereafter to the China virus. He pointed out how it’s customary for infectious disease experts to name ailments after regions where they originated, using Lyme Disease as one such example (a small coastal town in my home state of Connecticut). Let’s not get hysterical over how we might feel about labels. Facts are facts.
What I’d like to see moving forward is blanket condemnation of China from around the globe, as well as intensive pressure on that brutally secretive government to be transparent and reasonable. We can apply that same litmus test to the World Health Organization, which critics have lambasted for hiding or downplaying early threats to placate China, which is the largest source of financial assistance to the WHO.
At any rate, let’s start with the threat of sanctions forcing China to end the sale of exotic animals such as bats at so-called wet markets, the widely accepted cause of Covid-19. If those efforts fail, which I suspect they may, we can only hope that there’s another attempt at democracy that mirrors the Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989 – one that finally succeeds. But we also must vastly reduce our dependence on China and outsource work to other countries or find a way to cost-effectively return much of that labor to our country.
In the U.S., the time has come for Democrats and Republicans to stop accusing each other of mishandling this crisis and join forces. Trump needs to stop demonizing anyone who disagrees with him, including the media. GOP leaders must do the same. But in all fairness, the media and president’s political opponents also need to stop demonizing him. We have an election in November. Let the people decide at that time who should and shouldn’t be in power.
Let’s end the Divided States of America, restore the United States of America and cast blame where it belongs: China’s government. Finger pointing during a serious crisis both nationwide and worldwide is a failure in leadership.
We’re all in this together, just like after the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, the Great War, the Great Depression, World War II, 9/11, the Great Recession and now Covid-19. The future is ours to determine. If we repeat mistakes of the past, then we place ourselves in mortal peril. But if we rise to the occasion and embrace common ground, then we will emerge a stronger country.
COVID-19. Social distancing. Sheltering in place. WFH, aka work from home. This is the language of 2020. None of us saw it coming, except for maybe Lawrence Wright whose forthcoming novel, “The End of October,” was supposed to be a work of imagination and not prophecy.
The fact is, we’re all forced to ride out this raucous story arc that appears to have far more in common with science fiction or fantasy than reality. It’s surreal. A serious suspension of disbelief. Maddening. Downright frightening. Pure exhaustion.
For working parents, the 9-5 juggle has never been harder with the kiddos at home on an extended spring break that could stretch into summer – and those are the ones who can actually accomplish tasks in fuzzy slippers. Anyone in blue-collar and service industries aren’t so fortunate. They’re being furloughed or laid off.
Small-business owners are barely staying afloat, terrified by broken supply chains and the prospect of a Chapter 7 filing. A strained health care system is exposed as never before. Stock exchanges are panicking. Nest eggs are cracking. The world economy has nearly ground to a halt as lawmakers and public health officials weigh the impact of their choices on health and business, prudence and prosperity, life and death.
Is this for real? Afraid so. Is it a new normal with more pandemics on the way? It’s anyone’s guess. Are we reacting in such hysterical fashion that the cure is worse than the problem at hand? Some say yes. Are we not adequately adopting a herd mentality, blinded by our obsession with individual desire at the expense of group consciousness? Some also say yes.
What’s clear is a looming epic battle between business and science that, like it or not, has become politicized. Our response to the coronavirus will test us in ways we never thought were possible. At a time when other countries may consider us the Divided States of America, the need to reunite has never been greater than any time since 9/11 and the Great Recession.
Politicians may be in charge, but infectious disease control experts are the ones who know best and should be running the show. And while partisan politics are once again holding up critically important directives, middle-ground solutions are a must before time runs out for mom-and-pop operations and corporate behemoths alike. Bipartisan support has lifted us through other crises. Now is no different.
Democrats may fret that Republicans are more concerned about protecting Wall Street than Main Street, but at least several businesses across multiple industries are stepping up. Here are some examples:
Bank of America is offering homeowners emergency relief on mortgages while major lenders are allowing deferred payments. Retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Nike will continue paying their store workers and taking online orders while they close stores for two weeks. Target will extend access to a backup family care benefit to all its employees. And in the face of massive furloughs and layoffs, Amazon will add 100,000 U.S. employees an unprecedented explosion in demand for online deliveries.
I can only hope in the days, weeks and months ahead that as a nation we’ll strike a better balance between the need for personal sacrifice and pragmatism for the greater good. The need for visionary leadership without divisiveness is nearing an apex. Let’s not miss a precious opportunity to regain control over our lives, preserve the American Dream and show the world that we’re still capable of greatness.
When I learned that basketball legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna and seven others very close to where I once lived, my initial reaction like millions of other sports fans was disbelief. It was a combination of numbness and heart-racing claustrophobia. I cheered for the Los Angeles Lakes during my 20 years in Southern California and even saw the team play at Staples Center.
Kobe was a transformative figure on a number of levels. Not only did he pave the way for other phenoms like LeBron James to transition from high school to professional sports, his legendary work ethic became the gold standard for excellence in the National Basketball Association. This is where he made his mark and it’s clearly his chief legacy.
Borrowing from a self-proclaimed nickname that boldly compared his basketball skills to that of a black mamba snake and stuck through decades, Kobe’s approach to the game he loved morphed into a mamba mentality that spilled into other professional athletic endeavors.
It’s heartening to hear all the tributes during Super Bowl week from football players who internalized his competitive spirit. And it’s equally heart-breaking to process the news of his tragic death at just 41 when his Second Act had barely begun. Even worse: his daughter perishing at 13 and how she was being groomed to take the mamba mantel into the world of women sports.
We all saw Kobe grow up before our eyes soon after he entered the NBA at 17. He wowed us with his ability and relentless dedication to winning and improving. He also broke our hearts with poor choices that led to a rape allegation that was settled out of court. But he owned that mistake in one of the most cringeworthy press conferences ever held, struggling through intense cotton mouth to apologize to his beautiful wife, Vanessa, who was by his side, the Lakers organization and basketball fans everywhere.
He also was roundly criticized for being a ball-hog and too solitary, not socializing with teammates. But that sense of isolation and hard exterior melted away over time as he became an elder statesman and exited the game he loved.
Kobe eventually won back any lost respect from legions of disappointed friends and admirers, repaired his marriage, became a doting father to four girls, went on to win five NBA titles and embraced the next generation of players who would chase his records. Then he earned an Oscar for a short film about his love of basketball, became a mentor to younger athletes and was clearly poised for a lot more greatness off the court.
We can all relate to Kobe because we’ve all made mistakes, though not many of us can bounce back the way he did. But what I love most about his life was a maniacal pursuit of excellence, which as someone who has written about the workplace for 32 years really resonates.
If only more of us would adopt that thinking – from the lowest-level employee and middle-management to the C-Suite and boards of trustees – there’d be a lot more high-fives and less whining or excuses. Imagine working alongside others who share that dedication and philosophy and reaping the benefits of a winning culture. With winning comes respect, mutual admiration, appreciation, gratitude and satisfaction – all essential values in the working world and life in general.
When we think about Kobe Bryant in the future, it would be nice to re-dedicate ourselves to excellence – adopting his mamba mentality in our jobs or careers and never letting go of that pursuit for something better.
There has been a lot of talk about something called load management in the National Basketball Association since earlier in the year when then-Toronto Raptor Kawhi Leonard paced himself during the regular season along the way to a championship title.
The idea is to rest star athletes who grind it out during the regular season so that they have enough fuel in the tank come the all-important playoffs. Imagine for a moment how this concept might translate into other workplaces (more on that a bit later).
“There’s no formula or algorithm” for load management, according to San Antonia Spurs coach Gregg Popovich under whom Leonard played for seven seasons. “You just have to have a feel.” Pop, as he’s nicknamed, is credited with helping develop the load-management concept, which goes hand in glove with the analytics movement sweeping the injury-prone professional sports world.
Fresh legs paid off not only for his team, the first ever to be crowned champs beyond U.S. borders, but also for the star player who was about to become a free agent again and eventually landed with the Clippers in Los Angeles where he commanded a huge salary.
Given how the NBA season is seen as a marathon at 82 games (though it pales in comparison to Major League Baseball at 162), it’s worth noting that Leonard missed 22 games. That’s a pretty significant number for a number of reasons, and Leonard isn’t the only marquee athlete not on injured reserve who is occasionally warming the bench.
Think of the poor fans who shell out hard-earned dollars to see their favorite player in person, and not just the home-town crowd. NBA stars draw attention wherever they go. In Portland, Oregon, where I moved earlier in the year, ticket prices for Blazers games are commensurate with team talent (i.e., it’ll cost more to see the star-laden L.A. Lakers than, say, a largely no-name roster like the Washington Wizards). Also think of how TV ratings must take a hit whenever Leonard or other stars aren’t suiting up. Will viewers still enthusiastically tune in?
Load management is the antithesis of a puritanical work ethic whose athletic roots can be traced to baseball greats Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken, Jr. whose respective iron-horse reputations for consecutive-game streaks won the hearts and minds of rapid fans. I was fortunate enough to see Jr. play with gusto numerous times at Camden Yards in Baltimore in the years leading up to when he broke Gehrig’s record. It was a thrilling sight, and the record he chased is widely considered one of the greatest feats in all of professional sports.
As a long-time fan, I wonder what the implications are for achieving a personal-best performance during every opportunity to compete. As a father of three, I fret about the message this sends to young athletes. Are we so beholden to analytics that we’ve lost our collective heart to compete along the way?
Having written about the American workplace for decades, I can’t possibly wrap my head around the idea of employees, supervisors or executives sitting out beyond their paid time off. An occasional mental health day may be necessary, but isn’t the goal to suit up and show up for your job with pride and do the best possible job each and every day as long as you’re healthy and gainfully employed?
Generous health insurance and a retirement savings plan have long served as pillars of protection, but they’re now considered baseline offerings along the ever-changing employee benefits landscape. Forward-thinking employers realize that traditional ancillary plans such as dental, vision, disability and life insurance no longer serve as window dressing to draw top talent.
So they’re polling the workforce and getting creative, acknowledging mounting interest in more tangible, personalized and flexible benefits that strike a better work-life balance and improve financial wellness. There’s even an emerging category under the lifestyle moniker that grew out of the concierge-services movement that took shape decades ago.
Two of my recent magazine articles examined these developments in greater details.
Corporate America recently acknowledged these developments when nearly 200 chief executives belonging to the Business Roundtable pledged to provide more meaningful benefits, fair compensation, training and education. And in a rare moment of candor, captains of industry admitted that focusing only on shareholder value is a short-sighted strategy when they should be investing more in human capital. It comes when employment has never been stronger over the past century than it is today.
In the meantime, venture capital pours into startups and stalwarts that aim to make the workplace more responsive to the needs of working Americans as part of a holistic approach. One driving force is a demographic shift involving more women entering the workforce and senior-level roles while the population ages. An unintended consequence is that working parents in the so-called Club Sandwich Generation are tied down to both children and elderly parents and need a helping hand as never before.
Savvy employee benefit brokers and advisers who know core and ancillary group insurance products and services have become commoditized are freshening up their portfolios. Unusual and innovative offerings appeal to multiple generations with changing expectations about their employment contract.
One of my sources suggested that while the word lifestyle implies nice-to-have benefits, these offerings have actually become necessary in today’s competitive workplace. The category was built around the notion of employee wellbeing – an all-encompassing effort featuring physical, mental, emotional, social and financial components to pack a more powerful punch. Another expert described the benefits as a tangible way of delivering work-life balance and employee satisfaction.
Key trends include student loan refinancing and financial wellness programs that help people of all ages manage or avoid debt. There’s even a lifestyle spending account modeled after the health savings account, as well as growing interest in plans or apps that promote healthy living. It’s easy to see why: employee health benefit costs represent the largest P&L expense after payroll, while two-thirds of the nation is overweight.
Employers realize that healthier and happier employees are good for business on a number of levels. And the quest to reduce health care costs, absenteeism and presenteeism alongside improving productivity and morale for their most valuable asset (i.e., people) ultimately gives them a competitive edge.