Faced with Record-Low Unemployment, More Employers Are Investing in Employee Benefits Rather than Reducing Costs

ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill., November 1, 2018 – Attracting and retaining talent remains the number one operational priority of 60 percent of employers according to the forthcoming 2018 Gallagher Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey. That figure has increased two percentage points from 2017, and is in sharp contrast to the 37 percent of employers who ranked controlling benefit costs as the top priority, a figure that declined six percentage points from 2017. And nearly half (45 percent) of employers chose not to increase employee cost sharing of healthcare benefits.

“While keeping a lid on costs is always important, we are seeing a clear shift in the market as employers are having to compete more aggressively for talent in the face of the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 50 years,” said William F. Ziebell, President, Gallagher Employee Benefits Consulting and Brokerage. “Today’s workforce is comprised of five very different generations, meaning it is no longer good enough to simply offer standard medical coverage and a competitive retirement plan. The 2018 Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey uncovered best practices that address employees’ total wellbeing, which will positively impact organizational retention and recruitment efforts.”

Employers Taking a Holistic View of Employee Wellbeing

The Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey found forward-thinking employers are taking a more holistic view of employee wellbeing and developing strategies that both engage and appeal to their team. For example, more than half of employers (55 percent) now provide a telemedicine component, allowing employees to virtually connect with clinicians. That is an increase of more than 100 percent from 2016, when just 24 percent of employers utilized telemedicine. In addition to saving employees time, telemedicine has been shown to reduce expenses for both employers and employees.

The report also found employers are looking for ways to reduce medical expenses by encouraging their employees to live healthy lifestyles. The most popular physical wellbeing benefits include flu shots, tobacco cessation programs, health risk assessments and biometric screenings.

Because financial stressors can negatively affect productivity, financial wellbeing proved to be another area of interest for employers. More than six out of ten employers (62 percent) now offer employees access to financial advisors and nearly half (47 percent) provide financial-literacy education to help employees make better saving and spending decisions. The research also showed 43 percent of employers are taking steps to gauge employee retirement readiness, compared to previous years (33 percent in 2016).

Identifying and Changing Benefits Based on Employee Preferences

Because the tightening labor market has made it easier for top employees to leave their jobs voluntarily, more employers are tweaking existing benefits or adding new offerings. The goal is to provide employees with more choices that will better fit their own lifestyles and needs. Examples include:

• Health Benefits Choice: More than one in five employers (22 percent) now offer employees three medical insurance plans, and 13 percent offer four or more options.

• Tuition Assistance: Nearly half (46 percent) of employers provide tuition assistance, which is up from 42 percent in 2017. The most common tuition reimbursement amount totaled $5,250 annually per employee.

• Life Insurance: Nine of ten (89 percent) employers said they now offer employees life insurance, which is a five percent increase from 2017.

• Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): 70 percent of employers provide access to EAPs, which is an 11 percent jump from 2017.

Small Segment of Employers Fully Engage Employees around Workplace Benefits

Given many employee rosters include a multigenerational workforce, it has become increasingly important for employers to offer benefits that appeal to each segment of their workforce. Surprisingly, just 13 percent of employers said they have a comprehensive communication strategy to guide how they collect and share benefits information with employees, and most (74 percent) noted they have a communication strategy for just some of their benefits and wellbeing offerings.

“More than half of employers (59 percent) expect to increase their headcount over the next two years. That will be a challenge considering there are currently more job openings than individuals to fill those positions,” Ziebell said. “As a result, employers must get smarter about working within their budgets to offer benefits and compensation packages that engage their teams. At the same time, it will be imperative for organizations to clearly communicate the offerings and measure their effectiveness. The days of ‘set it and forget it’ in regards to compensation and benefits are over.”

For more information about the 2018 Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey, visit: www.ajg.com/NBS-2018.

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ABOUT GALLAGHER
Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. (NYSE: AJG), a global insurance brokerage, risk management and consulting services firm, is headquartered in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. The company has operations in 34 countries and offers client service capabilities in more than 150 countries around the world through a network of correspondent brokers and consultants.

ABOUT THE BENEFITS STRATEGY & BENCHMARKING SURVEY
Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc., the employee benefits consulting and brokerage operation of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., developed the Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey to provide employers with insights into how their peers are addressing benefit and human capital challenges. The 2018 survey, conducted from January to April of this year, aggregates responses from 4,241 organizations across the U.S. Additional survey results can be found at www.ajg.com/NBS-2018.

Digital Marketing Boot Camp: Lessons Learned to Connect with Your Online Audience

By Nick Mattar

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s inaugural Digital Marketing Boot Camp, held on Feb. 15 at the College for Creative Studies’ A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education, brought together more than 200 attendees for a half-day of dialogue on improving the digital marketing footprint of their businesses.

Keynote speakers and panelists provided attendees with recommendations and to-dos that could be implemented immediately.

View key takeaways from the event below and check out the Chamber’s recap of the day.

The Evolving Social Media Landscape and What It Means for Your Business

  • Before embarking on a major social media campaign, consider the overarching “why” as much as the tactical “what” and “how.”
  • Don’t fall for “shiny object syndrome,” which is the desire to have the latest and greatest tech or social media capabilities (i.e. don’t rush your company onto Snapchat if you cannot answer the “why.”)
  • Your company’s website is its home – it must facilitate the campaign’s end goals, so it needs to be user-friendly and mobile responsive.
  • Instagram is the social media platform with the highest engagement rate, whereas Facebook reaches the lowest percentage of followers.
  • Email marketing is the digital marketing platform with the highest conversion rate, such as sales, event registrations or anything else that involves turning a lead into a customer.

Trends and Tips to Improve Your Digital Marketing Strategy

  • Your company’s message should be adjusted to resonate with the audience that is being targeted.
  • When it comes to social publishing tools, do not “set and forget” but instead keep an eye on your posts at all times to monitor conversations and remain authentic.
  • Data and research are necessary to evaluate user behavior; your (the employee’s) experience is not the same as the user’s experience.
  • “Dark social” media is the social media conversation occurring without a hashtag or is otherwise difficult to find – more than 70 percent of your brand’s discussion could occur in this space.
  • If you are targeting millennials, you should probably be on Snapchat.
  • To combat Facebook’s decreasing engagement, set a budget for your Facebook page rather than depending solely on organic engagement.

Putting the Human Touch Back Into Your Online Presence

  • A brand’s online presence is a reflection of the brand’s story, thus it should not be solely focused on selling products and making money.
  • Successful online brands and names are rooted in the ability of viewers and customers to relate to the brand.
  • Your social media posts should not always focus on selling products, but rather writing materials that your audience wants to read.
  • Social media is the essence of speaking – use your voice and don’t try to “deliver” the information.

Looking for more facts and analytics to bolster your digital marketing strategy? Check out MLive’s Digital Marketing eBook, produced exclusively for the Digital Marketing Boot Camp.

Plus, learn more tips and read a full recap of the Chamber’s Digital Marketing Boot Camp here.

Nick Mattar is the director of marketing at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

5 Keys to Building a Solid Digital Marketing Strategy

By Robert Courtney Collins
Founder
Robert Courtney & Associates – A Boutique Branding Agency

This post is part of the Digital Marketing Boot Camp series, a new set of blog posts across different mediums designed to provide intel to people and companies looking to improve their digital marketing strategy.

Having a digital marketing strategy is paramount to survival in today’s business climate. While many people use social media platforms daily, very few understand how to leverage these platforms and reach maximum potential. Sometimes a strategy may appear to be effective, but without exercising certain building blocks you’ll likely find your strategy breaking down. Here are 5 principles every digital strategist must use to build a solid foundation and launch a successful marketing campaign.

1. Identify Key Channels

Everybody should have a primary platform and a secondary platform that’s properly maintained every day. Depending on your industry it’s very important to pick the platform that matches your audience best. If you’re in an industry that produces great visuals you will want to use Instagram. If you’re attempting to reach a younger audience, you will want to use Snapchat. Facebook should be everyone’s primary or secondary platform because of its reach and amount of active users.

2. Create Quality Content

Never shortchange your prospective audience with content that isn’t the best quality you can produce. Whether it’s photos or videos the quality of your content speaks to who you are as a brand. Content should also be informative or creative to make your brand stand above your competition.


MORE: Hear more about building up your digital marketing strategy at the Digital Marketing Boot Camp, Feb. 15.


3. Don’t Sell, Be Authentic

Traditional business practices have conditioned us to do the hard sell and pitch our product. But, with good planning, research and a service or product you believe in you can be authentic and let the selling happen naturally. Communicate your core message properly, passionately and precisely and nobody will be wondering what you’re selling or if you’re selling — they’ll be thinking about buying.

4. Establish Brand Consistency

Brand consistency is about making sure your name, logo, tag line and hashtags stay uniform across all digital platforms. Because the digital landscape is filled with different mediums, platforms, and networks bombarding millions of people every day the most effective companies know there’s an amazing power to connect consumers to a brand when marketing campaigns are easily identifiable and connectivity strategies are consistent. A digital marketing strategist would do well to examine all social platforms connected to a business to make sure brand consistency is in tack.

5. Be an Expert in Your Field

Being an expert means you not only have a deep knowledge of your own business, consumer needs and industry trends but that you are constantly analyzing your competition. When building your own marketing plan it’s essential to know what your competition is doing so you can decide exactly where to channel your digital marketing resources. The best digital strategies are often directly connected to the most well researched, and educated ideas.

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Welcome to the Age of Ephemeral Marketing

By Eric Hultgren
Director of Marketing
MLive Media Group

This post is part of the Digital Marketing Boot Camp series, a new set of blog posts across different mediums designed to provide intel to people and companies looking to improve their digital marketing strategy.

As marketers we have spent years, and in some cases careers, crafting campaigns that stick in the mind of the consumer. These campaigns could have been commercials with catchy jingles, logos that burn into the zeitgeist of an entire country, and products that define a decade or if you were lucky, a generation.

In 2006 the marketing industry was introduced to the idea of media that was social and in the past decade has adapted to MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Instagram. But four years ago an app appeared on the scene that once again turned the marketing world on its ear, Snapchat.

Comscore ranked Snapchat as one of the fastest growing apps in its 2015 mobile report along with Uber, Tinder, and Fitbit. The largest demographic on the platform are millennials and with $200 billion in annual buying power marketers are working hard to connect with them. The idea behind Snapchat is simple at first and perhaps why it has been so easily dismissed by brands and marketers alike as the “thing” that teens would use to send provocative photos to one another. But the idea of ephemeral marketing, or messages that disappear after 10 seconds, not only opens a new lane of content creation, but it more closely mirrors the way in which human beings interact with one another when a device is not a part of the equation.

If two people meet at a coffee shop and begin a conversation, when that conversation ends it is not recorded for all eternity as a series of 0’s and 1’s, instead it disappears as a fleeting moment between two people in which they begin to build more moments together that evolve from a singular meeting into a full fledged relationship.

Isn’t that the goal of your marketing? Turn people into customers, customers into advocates, and advocates into magnets to bring their friends to your brand through word of mouth (WOM)?

A study done for the International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences found that “most marketing firms do not see social media as a vehicle for cultivating and winning customer loyalty” (Nadeem, 2015) This statement is not reflective of how a brand should act in the marketing space in 2016 or certainly 2017. In a post-Snowden era, customers want a footprint in the social media landscape that isn’t overtly tracked and re-messaged the way it might on Facebook or Instagram. Thus, it should not surprise marketing practitioners that Snapchat should be, if not part of the marketing mix in 2017, at least be something with which the marketing team experiments.

Before a strategy can be crafted it is important to understand where the app came from in order to predict the trajectory of its next 12 to 16 months. In the summer of 2011 Evan Speigl, Bob Murphy, and Reggie Brown launched an early version of the app at Stanford University. In its earliest iteration it was called Pictaboo and by the fall of 2011 they only had 127 users. A disagreement among the three founders led to Reggie Brown being removed from the company. At that point, Speigl and Murphy changed the name to Snapchat.

Toward the end of 2011 the team noticed that use of the app spiked between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., which was when high school students were in school and flocking to the app that made their photos “disappear.” Those photos were called snaps. Snapchat crested past 100,000 users in the beginning of 2012 and they received funding from Lightspeed Ventures to build a server system to address the growing user base.

Snapchat’s next evolution was the video snap in which Facebook responded with the “poke” that emulated Snapchat down to the “ephemerality” of the poke disappearing. The poke did not stick but helped raise the awareness for Snapchat who experienced its second growth spurt and by February of 2013 was seeing over 60 million snaps a day. By the summer of 2013 users sent 150 million snaps a day and Taco Bell became the first brand to join the platform.

Taco Bell was one of the first brands to launch a Snapchat account and announced it on its Twitter account, just another step toward this moment of ephemeral marketing.

In the fall of 2013 Snapchat stories appear which is when Snapchat allows users to string together 10-second snaps that stay in narrative form for 24 hours. Snapchat stories were the app’s answer to a timeline. In November of that year Facebook reportedly offered to purchase Snapchat for $3 billion dollars. Evan Spiegl turned the offer down as Snapchat had yet to monetize the platform.

A year later, Snapchat introduced “our story” which was Snapchat’s first attempt at curating snaps around live events like the Super Bowl, The Grammys, elections, or holidays. In January of 2015, Snapchat would launch “Discover” which would be a curated list of publishers who create an always-on daily refreshed channel guide with media partners like Vice, ESPN, The Food Network, CNN, VOX, and MTV.


MORE: Learn about Snapchat and other upcoming social media innovations at the Digital Marketing Boot Camp, Feb. 15.


Next, Snapchat introduced geofilters so users could continue to customize their snaps with stamps that would help to add context to the images the users’ friends would see. McDonald’s was the first brand to launch geofliters at all of their locations, a move that Taco Bell would emulate –  they recently created a Quesalupa filter for all the stores for the launch of their new food item.

Snapchat also understood that the platform could be daunting and confusing at times, so they launched a “safety center” in conjunction with three non-profits in order to create a place where teachers and parents could learn about the platform and how they could better understand how their children might use Snapchat and the pitfalls to avoid.

That brings us to the modern era of marketing where brands have access to more information about their customer than ever before. Yet, few brands seem to execute social strategy with any sort of depth and even fewer understand the potential that a platform like Snapchat can provide those who adopt early. In fact, 95% of businesses have social media accounts but fewer than 50% of them use them with any regularity. When you speak specifically about Snapchat, that number drops as many brands just don’t understand how to execute on the platform.

Earlier this year, Buzzfeed did a piece where author Ben Rosen enlisted the help of his 13-year-old sister and her friend in order to understand the platform better. In the course of the experiment Rosen asked his sister’s friend what her parents thought: “Parents don’t understand. It’s about being there in the moment. Capturing that with your friends or with your expression.”

Snapchat is the idea of being in the moment that most brands struggle with and why after this tweet was sent out in the Super Bowl of 2012, many brands rushed to create war rooms for this sort of ephemeral marketing:

Oreo tweet screenshot from the Super Bowl and how it relates to Snapchat as the new age of ephemeral marketing

So what makes Snapchat so different? Aside from the ephemeral nature, the platform actually works in the opposite direction of every other social medium out there. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest scroll from the top of the screen or device towards the bottom as new content arrives like a waterfall into the various “newsfeeds” of those platforms. Snapchat swipes right to left and up to down giving a depth to the platform that becomes both more immersive and harder to pick up intuitively.

So why should you pay attention?

First, because 78% of the population is using social media in the United States and second, because the 150 million users (60% of them under the age of 30) on Snapchat are highly engaged with the app. These users send snaps to their friends and are looking for fun and entertaining content that they spend time on the app with. In fact, two-thirds of users on Snapchat create content daily (10 billion streams of video a day) and upwards of 12,000 photos are shared every second on the platform.

To put that in perspective, it would take you 10 years to watch the snaps that will be created in the next hour and when it comes to sharing photos Facebook and Instagram cannot even compete with that volume even though Facebook has a user base that is ten times the size. In a recent study from Edison Research, it found that Snapchat is currently the most powerful social medium in the United States with the ages of 12-24 and is the second most used social media application in the United States overall. There is even research from the University of Michigan that shows using Snapchat makes the users happier.

What should your brand do on Snapchat?

We spoke with Jill Thomas, vice president of global marketing at Cinnabon who said, “we are very, very clear about who the brand is – the voice and message. We have one brand voice. So what that means is you have to trust those with a role in our social voice to do the right thing.”

Once you understand your voice, what should you create?

There are two ways you can go here. You can create a new story every day like Cinnabon and Taco Bell might do, but for some brands that might be a bit daunting. The other option is to storyboard a bit and put out content on a consistent basis, just not every day. Cyrene Q is a Snapchatter who creates really elaborate snap stories 2-3 times a week taking the time to hand-draw her content:

Many people are familiar with Snapchatter Cyrene Q, who creates elaborate snap stories by taking the time to hand-draw her content.

The lesson is to be intentional with the content. According to Thomas, “the team is so highly committed and engaged because we all have a shared passion for the brand. For me, that comes from the responsibility of managing a brand that is beloved by the consumer… we all feel a responsibility to our brand fans to do our very best.”

Of course, you are still going to get the questions about return on investment, and again Jill Thomas sums it up nicely. “Anybody who is trying to do the math – doesn’t really get the beauty of it. (But yes, we do math and understand what we can about the interaction.) When you are early into something you don’t want to get bogged down with that. Also, I don’t need those numbers to tell me that Snapchat is the right place to be. Ask any 16-30 year old and they’ll tell you. Maybe other brands aren’t asking the right questions?”

Eric Hultgren will moderate a panel discussion at the Digital Marketing Boot Camp.

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Plante Moran hires consulting veteran to lead its strategy practice

Southfield, Mich. — Oct. 17, 2013 — Plante Moran, one of the nation’s largest public accounting and business advisory firms, announces that Daron Gifford, a management consultant and professional service provider with more than three decades of experience, has joined the firm as a partner to lead its strategy consulting practice.

“We are pleased to welcome Daron to Plante Moran. His versatile experience in manufacturing and the automotive sectors translates into high level strategic insights for our clients. He is an important addition to Plante Moran’s strategy consulting group, which serves clients seeking targeted options for future growth and diversification,” said Craig Thornton, Plante Moran group managing partner.

Gifford’s extensive experience in the automotive and manufacturing industries includes both operations and strategic management consulting with OEMs, suppliers, dealers and aftermarket service providers. His additional areas of expertise include commercial market and operational assessments, due diligence, restructuring, and business strategies for technologies in advanced vehicles, energy and environmental applications. Immediately prior to joining Plante Moran, Gifford was Managing Director and Treasurer of the Stellar Alliance Group in Troy, Mich., where he served as a senior adviser to the U.S. Department of Energy on the automotive industry. He was a partner in the global automotive consulting practice at A.T. Kearney from 2008 to 2011.

Gifford’s previous work experience also includes serving as a partner at KPMG from 2006 to 2008, where he led the firm’s automotive industry practice and focused on audit, tax and advisory services to OEMs, suppliers and dealer organizations. He was a partner at Deloitte from 1995 to 2003, where he led the global automotive consulting practice. Gifford began his career at General Motors, where he held roles of increasing responsibility in manufacturing management, process and industrial engineering.

Gifford holds an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Administration from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University). He is a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, the Engineering Society of Detroit, the Turnaround Management Association, the Association for Capital Growth and the Society of Automotive Analysts. Gifford also serves as chairman of the board of trustees for Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy in Pontiac, Mich.

About Plante Moran
Plante Moran is among the nation’s largest certified public accounting and business advisory firms, providing clients with tax, audit, risk management, financial, technology, business consulting, and wealth management services. Plante Moran has a staff of more than 2,000 professionals in 21 offices throughout Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, with international offices in Shanghai, China; Monterrey, Mexico; and Mumbai, India. Plante Moran has been recognized by a number of organizations, including FORTUNE magazine, as one of the country’s best places to work. For more information, visit plantemoran.com.