INSIGHTS BLOG

Discover how to help your employees achieve personal success.

  • Three Qualities Required for Every High-Performing Team


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    Developing high-performing teams of employees is the goal of every business leader. It can be difficult to get individuals with different motivations and personalities to all work well together, but there are three qualities you can focus on help hep your employee teams perform at the highest possible levels. No matter what size your team is or what industry you work in, these three things must be present:

    Open communication
    Any close relationship requires open communication. Trust and transparency are vital, so that all members of the team coordinate their work. The team must also be prepared to address any conflict immediately in order to keep the team cohesive.

    Shared goals
    The team must understand what they are working toward and why it is important. They also need to understand how their individual goals and the team’s goals are aligned with the businesses’ goals. People like to feel like they are working toward something bigger and that their work has a greater impact on the business and the community as a whole.

    Defined roles
    When everyone knows who is responsible for what they can hold each other accountable for their work. This is a motivating environment to work in. It also helps each individual see how their own work is contributing to the team’s shared goals.

    Teams can be difficult to manage. Conflicting personalities, communications styles and work ethics often lead to challenges. Keeping the three qualities above in mind when managing a team can help to ensure success.

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    A Plus BenefitsThree Qualities Required for Every High-Performing Team
  • Global Ransomware Attack Reminds Us of the Importance of Cyber Security


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    The Wannacry ransomware attack has many companies once again looking at not only steps they can take to help protect their business from a cyber attack, but also ways to protect their business and its assets in the event of a cyber attack.  Most businesses should consider purchasing Cyber Insurance to help protect its business assets in the event of a cyber breach. Our sister company, A Plus Risk & Insurance works with several carriers that are experts in writing cyber insurance.  We can help your business identify what type of cyber insurance is right for your company.

    Every day, more than 1 million people become victims of cyber crime, according to a study by Symantec, a computer security software company. With such heavy use of and reliance on computers and the Internet by both large and small organizations, protecting these resources has become increasingly important. Learning about cyber attacks and how to prevent them can help you protect your company from security breaches.

    Cyber Attacks Compromise Your Company
    Cyber attacks include many types of attempted or successful breaches of computer security. These threats come in different forms, including phishing, viruses, Trojans, key logging, spyware and spam. Once hackers have gained access to the computer system, they can accomplish any of several malicious goals, typically stealing information or financial assets, corrupting data or causing operational disruption or shut-down.

    Both third parties and insiders can use a variety of techniques to carry out cyber attacks. These techniques range from highly sophisticated efforts to electronically circumvent network security or overwhelm websites to more traditional intelligence gathering and social engineering aimed at gaining network access.

    Cyber attacks can result directly from deliberate actions of hackers, or attacks can be unintentionally facilitated by employees—for example, if they click on a malicious link.

    A breach in cyber security can lead to unauthorized usage through tactics such as the following:

    • Installing spyware that allows the hacker to track Internet activity and steal information and passwords
    • Deceiving recipients of phishing emails into disclosing personal information
    • Tricking recipients of spam email into giving hackers access to the computer system
    • Installing viruses that allow hackers to steal, corrupt or delete information or even crash the entire system
    • Hijacking the company website and rerouting visitors to a fraudulent look-alike site and subsequently stealing personal information from clients or consumers

    Cyber attacks may also be carried out in a manner that does not require gaining unauthorized access, such as denial-of-service attacks on websites in which the site is overloaded by the attacker and legitimate users are then denied access.

    Securing Your Company’s Mobile Devices
    Gone are the days when contact names and phone numbers were the most sensitive pieces of information on an employee’s phone. Now a smartphone or tablet can be used to gain access to anything from emails to stored passwords to proprietary company data. Depending on how your organization uses such devices, unauthorized access to the information on a smartphone or tablet could be just as damaging as a data breach involving a more traditional computer system.

    The need for proper mobile device security is no different from the need for a well-protected computer network. According to computer security software company McAfee, cyber attacks on mobile devices increased by almost 600 percent from 2011 to 2012 with no signs of slowing down. Untrusted app stores will continue to be a major source of mobile malware which drives traffic to these stores. This type of “malvertising” continues to grow quickly on mobile platforms.

    The Vulnerable Become the Victims
    The majority of cyber criminals are indiscriminate when choosing their victims. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asserts that cyber criminals will target vulnerable computer systems regardless of whether the systems belong to a Fortune 500 company, a small business or a home user.

    Cyber criminals look for weak spots and attack there, no matter how large or small the organization. Small businesses, for instance, are becoming a more attractive target as many larger companies tighten their cyber security. According to the industry experts, the cost of the average cyber attack on a small business is increasing exponentially and shows no signs of slowing down. Most small businesses don’t have that kind of money lying around, and as a result, nearly 60 percent of the small businesses victimized by a cyber attack close permanently within six months of the attack. Many of these businesses put off making necessary improvements to their cyber security protocols until it is too late because they fear the costs would be prohibitive.

    Simple Steps to Stay Secure
    Following are suggestions from a Federal Communications Commission roundtable and the DHS’s Stop.Think.Connect. program for easily implemented security procedures to help ward off cyber criminals. These suggestions include guidelines for the company as well as possible rules and procedures that can be shared with employees.

    Security Tips for the Company

    • Install, use and regularly update anti-virus and anti-spyware software on all computers.
    • Download and install software updates for your operating systems and applications as they become available; if possible, choose the automatic update option.
    • Change the manufacturer’s default passwords on all software.
    • Use a firewall for your Internet connection.
    • Regularly make backup copies of important business data.
    • Control who can physically access your computers and other network components.
    • Secure any Wi-Fi networks.
    • Require individual user accounts for each employee.
    • Limit employee access to data and information, and limit authority for software installation.
    • Monitor, log and analyze all attempted and successful attacks on systems and networks.
    • Establish a mobile device policy and keep them updated with the most current software and antivirus programs.

    Security Tips for Employees

    • Use strong passwords (a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters), change them regularly and never share them with anyone.
    • Protect private information by not disclosing it unless necessary, and always verify the source if asked to input sensitive data for a website or email.
    • Don’t open suspicious links and emails; an indication that the site is safe is if the URL begins with https://.
    • Scan all external devices, such as USB flash drives, for viruses and malicious software (malware) before using the device.

    Most importantly, stay informed about cyber security and continue to discuss Internet safety with employees.

    Don’t Let it Happen to Your Company
    According to the DHS, 96 percent of cyber security breaches could have been avoided with simple or intermediate controls. Strengthening passwords, installing anti-virus software and not opening suspicious emails and links are the first steps toward cyber security. In addition to the listed tips, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides a tool for small businesses that can create and save a custom cyber security plan for your company, choosing from a menu of expert advice to address your specific business needs and concerns. It can be found at www.fcc.gov/cyberplanner.

    Contact A Plus Risk & Insurance today for a free, no-obligation quote for Cyber Insurance at (801) 443-1194.

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    A Plus BenefitsGlobal Ransomware Attack Reminds Us of the Importance of Cyber Security
  • Best Practices for Managing Social Media in the Workplace


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    Social media is one area that causes a lot of confusions and frustration for employers. Here are some of the most commonly asked question we receive about social media in the workplace.

    What laws do I need to understand when it comes to employees posting on social media?
    One of the biggest misconceptions that employees hold is that the First Amendment grants them free speech rights in their private sector workplace. In reality the First Amendment provides the right to free speech and allows people to express themselves without interference from the government. It provides no protection to employees working in the private sector.

    The agency that does provide some protection for employees in this case is the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB is an independent federal agency that protects the rights of private sector employees to join together, with or without a union, to improve their wages and working conditions.

    In past cases, the courts have found that a violation of a social media policy constituted a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for firing an employee. However, there are several recent decisions by the National Labor Relations Board that hold an employer liable under the National Labor Relations Act for terminating an employee related to social media if the actions are related to Protected Concerted Activity under the National Labor Relations Act.

    Protected Concerted Activity is a legal term used in labor policy to define employee protection against employer retaliation in the United States.

    The National Labor Relations Board has made a point of protecting employees who discuss their working conditions, complaints and terms of their employment with other employees through social media.

    What does this mean to you as an employer? Before making the decision to terminate an employee because of a social media post, employers need to ask:

    • Was the employee discussing issues with another employee that may be interpreted as protected concerted activity?
    • Was the employee criticizing a management policy or complaining about compensation or other terms and conditions of employment?

    If the answer to either question is yes, employers and their legal counsel should know that these types of postings are likely protected under the National Labor Relations Board, regardless of whether a union is involved.

    When is it ok to move forward with disciplinary action or termination in relation to an employee’s use of social media?

    • If an employee makes complaints or threats against customers
    • If an employee posts content that could be considered harassment towards a co-worker
    • If an employee reveals confidential information about the company or client relationships or other information that may harm the company’s reputation in the marketplace
    • If an employee shares information that shows the employee engaging in deception or violating company rules.

    Keep in mind that a progressive discipline process should be followed whenever possible.

     What should I do if an employee is posting negative things about me online?
    Prevention in your best weapon when it comes to negative social media posts by employees. Don’t wait until there is an issue to put a social media policy in place. Make sure you employees understand what is acceptable and unacceptable when it comes to social media. Also consider that there is likely a larger issue with employee experience at your organization if employees are going to social media to air the grievances. Open up the lines of communication with employees. Conduct stay interviews or short employee engagement surveys to get a feel for the perception employees have of your organization before an issue arises.

    Should I friend or follow my employees on social media?
    There are no laws against befriending and following employees on social media, but it is not advised. Employers who befriend or follow employees on social media may subject themselves to discrimination claims, as they may have access to information an employee’s medical history, religious affiliation or other information that would place an employee in a protected class that the employer would not have access to otherwise. Further, co-workers who friend one another may compromise workplace morale if they are exposed to one another’s political views, personal lifestyle and other personal views and do not agree.

    Though there may not be immediate repercussions, if an employee is later terminated, he could claim it was because of information the employer had access to on social media.

    Can I look at a potential employee’s social media account prior to hiring them?
    Employers who use social media in the hiring process must be aware of the associated dangers. Employers may be opening up the door to discrimination claims if social media competence plays a part in hiring decisions or if they run across information on an employee’s account that cannot be unseen. We recommend that employers do not use social media as a part of their hiring process.

    For answers to even more frequently asked questions, check our our on-demand webinar- Managing Social Media in the Workplace.

    If you have questions about how to tackle social media at your organization, contact our HR experts at 1-800-748-5102 or humanresources@aplusbenefits.com.

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    A Plus BenefitsBest Practices for Managing Social Media in the Workplace
  • US House of Representatives Votes to Pass American Health Care Act (AHCA)


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    On May 4, 2017, members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA), after it had been amended several times. The AHCA needed 216 votes to pass in the House. Ultimately, it passed on a party-line vote, with 217 Republicans and no Democrats voting in favor of the legislation.

    The AHCA is the proposed legislation that is intended to be the vehicle to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The AHCA is budget reconciliation legislation, so it cannot fully repeal the ACA. Instead it is limited to addressing ACA provisions that directly relate to budgetary issues—specifically, federal spending and taxation. A full repeal of the ACA must be introduced as a separate bill that would require 60 votes in the Senate to pass.

    The AHCA will now move on to be considered by the Senate. It is likely that the Senate will make changes to the proposed legislation before taking a vote. The AHCA would only need a simple majority vote in the Senate to pass.

    If it passes both the House and the Senate, the AHCA would then go to President Donald Trump to be signed into law. If the AHCA is not passed by the Senate and signed by President Trump, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will remain intact in its entirety until new legislation is passed.

    Much of the ACA would not be affected by the AHCA. For example, the following key ACA provisions would remain in place:

    • Cost-sharing limits on essential health benefits (EHBs) for non-grandfathered plans (currently $7,150 for self-only coverage and $14,300 for family coverage)
    • Prohibition on lifetime and annual limits for EHBs
    • Requirements to cover pre-existing conditions
    • Coverage for adult children up to age 26
    • Guaranteed availability and renewability of coverage
    • Nondiscrimination rules (on the basis of race, nationality, disability, age or sex)
    • Prohibition on health status underwriting

    Age rating restrictions would also continue to apply, with the age ratio limit being revised to 5:1 (instead of 3:1), and states would be allowed to set their own limits.

    We will continue to provide updates on healthcare legislation and help you understand how it affects your business and your employees.

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    A Plus BenefitsUS House of Representatives Votes to Pass American Health Care Act (AHCA)
  • Jumpstart Your Commitment to Safety with Safety Week Activities


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    Companies across America will be celebrating Safety Week this week, May 1-5, 2017. While a commitment to safety must extend beyond one week, participating in Safety Week activities is a great way to refocus and reenergize your commitment to reducing injuries in your organization.

    The purpose of Safety Week is to:

    1. Thank employees for supporting safety and recognizing their efforts to be injury free
    2. Increase awareness of the importance of being committed to safety every day.
    3. Inspire all companies to share best practices and to work together to strength overall safety culture.
    4. Celebrate the need to be injury free.
    5. Conduct on-site safety awareness activities to support education.

    One great way to recognize Safety Week in your organization is with a short Safety Toolbox Meeting at the beginning of each day, highlighting a common safety issue.

    Here are some resources to get you started. Across the construction industry and among our clients, falls including slips and trips on the same level as well as falls from elevation are the most common injury.

    • Reviewing the Fall Factors handout with employees can be a great way to start a discussion about preventing these common injuries.
    • OSHA recently released updated their rules regarding General Industry Walking Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards. These standards do not apply to the construction or agriculture industries, but do impact workers in all other industries from painters, to janitors, to window washers, and warehouse workers. If you are a general industry employer, now is a great time review these updated standards and share them with your employees.

    In addition to falls, back injuries resulting from improper lifting and material handling practices are common among our clients. Here are some tools you can use this week to help prevent back injuries.

    We encourage all employers, to take this opportunity to jumpstart your safety program and demonstrate your commitment to a safety workplace by participating the Safety Week. Even more resources can be found at www.constructionsafetyweek.com or contact our Safety Director, Reed Balls for even more ideas at rballs@aplusbenefits.com or (801) 443-1090.

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    A Plus BenefitsJumpstart Your Commitment to Safety with Safety Week Activities
  • Providing Health Insurance to Employees is Good for Business


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    Being a small business owner is not easy. Small business are severely disadvantaged when it comes to the time, money and resources needed to compete with large corporations. Finding the best places to spend and save money is crucial to success. We often come across business owners who believe they can’t afford to offer health insurance to their employees, or that the ROI for offering benefits just isn’t there. A recent article from the Harvard Business Review makes a great business case for offering benefits to employees.

    Regardless of your opinion on this issue of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or your political stance, you can;t deny that right now there is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to health insurance. Especially for individuals relying on Marketplace plans. If you are not currently offering a group health plan to your employees in favor of them obtaining their own coverage on the exchange, you likely have some anxious employees. The stability offered by an employer-sponsored health plan has a number of business benefits.

    Health insurance is linked to lower stress
    Research shows that employees who have health insurance are less likely to be stressed. This is easy to imagine given that the medical debt is the source of the majority of collection agency calls. Stress can be detrimental to your workforce. Employees who report high levels of stress are more likely to burn out and less likely to be high performers. Stressed employees negatively impact your bottom line, and anything you can do to alleviate that stress will improve it.

    Health insurance improves long-term decision making
    Employees who are struggling to make ends meet often have a difficult time making log-term decisions. Often these individuals are so focused on getting through the next week or the next pay period, that they lack the attention to long-term goals needed to be a high performer. Reducing an employee’s financial stress helps them be a better long-term decision maker and offering health insurance is way employers can do this.

    Not having health insurance hinders cognitive ability
    When financial stress weighs on a person’s mind, they are less likely to be able to pay attention to much else, including the work they do for your organization. If you are looking for innovative, bright employees, you need their focus and attention on their work. And is not just about the “what if” scenarios. Over 1/3 of employees have chronic ongoing medical issues that don’t just go away. The peace of mind provided to employees who know they will be able to go to the doctor or get the medication they need, allows them to perform at higher levels in your organization.

    The uncertainty in the current healthcare market makes this the perfect time to consider whether offering health insurance may be what you need to take your company to the next level. Not only will you be able to attract and retain the best employees, but you will also get higher levels of performance out of your employees who are able to focus their attention on their work.

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    A Plus BenefitsProviding Health Insurance to Employees is Good for Business
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