Calendar with I Quit! In anemployee-favored job market, many high-value employees are likelyto take their talent elsewhere if their needs are not being met.(Photo: Shutterstock)

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Complex employee needs — such as those experienced by remoteworkers and “gig” economy workers (such as project orcontract workers) — are beginning to throw HR managers for a loop.At the same time, a booming economy and strong job market mean employees are, perhaps,more likely to feel emboldened to move on to another company iftheir needs are not being met.

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Fortunately, one solution to help support these workers ishaving a robust disability management program in place. How can youhelp HR managers choose a disability management program thatsatisfies some of their ever-changing needs?

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Supporting the invisible worker

As the number of remote workers, gig workers and part-timeworkers continues to increase, accommodating these nontraditionalemployees remains a challenge for employers. Recently, we conductedresearch that showed only 38 percent of HR managers feltready to support remote workers. At the same time, just16 percent felt ready to address part-time employees andgig workers.

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Related: How to create a policy that supports remoteworkers' needs

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This makes sense — most employers consider more readily theimmediate needs employees have, such as medical care, which arewhat traditional benefits plans are designed to address. But how doemployers provide additional assistance for the nearly 4 millionAmericans who work remotely?

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Research points to a robust disability management approach.Programs that provide individualized care through return-to-worksupport can actually create the conditions remote and part-timeworkers need to successfully bring them back into their designatedwork-spaces.

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Adapting to changing needs

In addition to being wary about supporting remote workers, HRmanagers feel unprepared to support other changing needs. Ourresearch found that just 27percent of HR decisionmakers felt ready to support family andelder care issues, and just 25 percent felt ready tosupport drug addiction.1 Additionally, fewer than half of employerssurveyed felt confident in helping to accommodate employees withchronic health conditions, including mental health andmusculoskeletal conditions; although, at the same time, half ofrespondents received requests to do so annually.

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Failing to address these needs can have disastrous effects. Inaddition to poor work performance and increased employee absence,workers are increasingly looking for solutions — sometimeselsewhere. In an employee-favored job market, many high-valueemployees are likely to take their talent elsewhere, leavingcritical positions open because of lagging benefits. Addressingthese rising trends will be a top priority for HR managers lookingto keep quality employees and provide them with the support theyneed to remain in their positions and effectively contribute totheir organizations.

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Sending in reinforcements

Benefits professionals must be the reinforcement HR managersdesperately need in a changing workplace landscape. By recommendingdisability management programs that support both absence anddisability needs, you're filling a critical role as a liaison forcompanies struggling to provide for their employees.

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While not all employers will be keen to make structural changesto their disability management policies, the numbers don't lie: ofemployers with formal programs in place, 32 percentaveraged greater employee productivity, 36 percentaveraged higher workplace morale and 40 percent averagedimproved employee retention.

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Additionally, the investment in proactively addressing employeeneeds outweighs the costs. Almost 70 percent of HRdecision-makers at large companies and one-third at small companiessay they've experienced complaints or lawsuits related to theirunderwhelming disability management practices. A near-universal92 percent of all survey respondents said that formalemployee disability programs had helped control costs and reducedexposure to risk.

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Armed with the knowledge that strong disability programs improveemployee productivity, reduce employer exposure to risk and improveretention in an employee market, HR decision-makers are far morelikely to consider bolstering their current programs at youradvice. Now is the time to communicate with employers and tell themthat it's time to call in reinforcements.

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Jung Ryu, national accounts practice leaderfor TheStandard, is responsible for developing comprehensivedisability management solutions that address the whole person tomeet the needs of the most complex clients. He providesrecommendations in all aspects of benefits ranging from core toancillary products and is focused on providing strategic directionand advising stakeholders on the latest benefits trends. Hisexperience includes helping organizations develop multiyear healthcare strategies, creating ideas around operational efficiency andcost avoidance in health and retirement as a Big Four consultant,and as head of Total Rewards for a major insurancecarrier.

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