Compensating for Eldercare


It is an undeniable truth that we all get a little bit older each and every day.

As we move along the aging path, so do our parents, at what seems to be an increasingly rapid rate. One day your parent is the way you have always perceived them to be – healthy, active, and independent. In the blink of an eye, that parent is suddenly not healthy, inactive and increasing dependent on others to get through the day. That other is usually a family member (you) who has to take on the role of caregiver to look after the physical and mental health of their aging parent.

While this is not a new trend for the Canadian workforce, the number of adult children who have taken on eldercare responsibilities continues to increase. According to a recent article published in The Globe & Mail, approximately thirty-five percent of Canada’s workforce have primary care responsibilities for one or both parents. There is no doubt that this percentage has a direct impact on organizational and employee productivity for those who have to take time off from work to care for their parents.

Click here to read the article.

While there are organizations that can offer a flexible work schedule or the ability for employees to work from home, many companies do not have a benefits strategy dedicated to workers with eldercare responsibilities. As noted in the article, eligible employees may be able access compassionate care benefits through federal employment insurance plans. The eligibility requirements, however may not be applicable in all cases. Most employees with eldercare responsibilities have to take time off from work without pay to attend medical appointments, emergency calls as well as attending to the day-to-day needs of their aging parent. From a compensation perspective, organizations should be looking at lost productivity costs balanced against the provision of both monetary and non-monetary eldercare benefits in order to reduce those losses.

This is a real compensation challenge for Canadian workplaces. With every challenge comes an opportunity to improve the situation. Hopefully effective compensation planning can provide increasing support to employees who have to care for parents who have spent their lives caring for them.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What would you include in an eldercare plan as part of a compensation strategy?
  2. If you had to take time away from work right now to care for an aging parent, what would you have to do? How would your pay and benefits be impacted?
  3. The article states that thirty-five percent of Canada’s workforce has eldercare responsibilities. How is this number reflected in your current (or most recent) work environment? What percentage of your current workforce has eldercare responsibilities?

How Do You Show Your Employees You Care?

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How do you show your employees you care? You care for your employees’ children.

All employers are looking to use perks and other benefits to create sustainable bonds and lasting connections with their employees. Throwing more money at employees may seem like an easy way to improve employee workplace satisfaction but it is not they only retention tool out there. Employees stay with a company because they believe the company cares about them and their well-being.

If they really want to show employees they care, perhaps more HR departments should follow Starbucks’ lead and provide child care—not full-time child care, but a service many would consider almost as valuable—back up child care when an employee needs it the most.

Starbucks in the United States has partnered up with a company called Care@Work. Each eligible Starbucks employee will receive a free premium membership to access Care@Work services including subsidized day care at a cost of $1 per hour for up to 10 backup care days.

This isn’t only for child care, however. Starbucks realizes that many of their employees are in the sandwich generation and are looking after children as well as dependent adults. This benefit perk applies to both dependent groups.

Click here to read about Care@Work’s services.

With the tight labour market in North America, employers are looking for ways to stand out and attract prospective employees, while retaining existing ones. Providing subsidized child and adult care may be a key factor in helping your organization stand out.

Click here to read more about Starbucks’ innovative benefits.

Starbucks has been a leader in the service industry, which traditionally treats its employees as low-skill, entry level, transient workers. Starbucks has done the opposite by providing its employees with the full spectrum of benefits including medical, education, stock options, and even pensions.

Cynics might argue that Starbucks is adding all these benefits just to retain employees; however, it’s worth noting that the Starbucks mission statement highlights a desire to “inspire and nurture the human spirit”, and that among the company’s core values are commitments to foster a sense of belonging, to find new ways to take the company forward, and to “challenge the status quo”. Others might argue that in providing backup care for its employees’ loved ones, Starbucks is doing an admirable job of living up to this mission statement and these core values—that it is doing business “through the lens of humanity”.

Click here to read Starbucks’ mission and values statement.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Research two other service industry companies. What types of employee benefits do they offer their employees?
  2. Why don’t more service companies take the Starbucks approach to employee benefits?

Vacations Earned in Trust

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The title for this post reflects the typical language that is used when describing how vacation is accrued or allocated in an employment contract or a collective agreement. While meant to reflect an administrative approach to the calculation and disbursement of earned vacation time, the word ‘trust’ holds some powerful meaning in the employment relationship.

As part of an overall compensation strategy, do employers actually trust their employees when providing them with vacation time? Is it a reward well earned?

We have all heard of, or may have had personal experience with, the workplace where vacations are calculated according to strict provisions; given begrudgingly; and scheduled to fit the business needs of the organization, first and foremost.

What might happen if these approaches were thrown out the window leaving vacation earnings and usages entirely up to the employee? Could we trust our employees to manage their own time to take a break when they need it the most?

According to the CEO of Vigilant Management in the United States, yes we can!

Click here to read the article.

Clearly, the most important element of the unlimited vacation policy arrangement is a high degree of trust between all parties in this particular work place. In a Canadian context, as noted in the article, each province provides for a legislated minimum of vacation earnings which differs from the approach in the Unites States. Even with these legislated minimums, if there was no maximum time capping the amount of vacation an employee could take, how many days would actually be used?

Most of us are creatures of habit and do not like too much of good thing. This could apply equally when thinking about both going to work or taking vacation. When employees are able to see, feel and believe that they are trusted, then work and vacation both become complementary parts of one good thing, instead of too much of one being bad for the other.

Discussion Questions:

  1. At what point in your vacation time do you become bored and want to go back to work?
  2. If you had unlimited vacation time from your current workplace, how much time would you want to take as vacation? How would you schedule your time?
  3. From a compensation perspective, how could you calculate the costs of unlimited vacation for employees?


Failure to Perform: Part 2

Reach a goal concept with businessman running on a treadmill for money
Who is Danny/Shutterstock

What are the researchers saying about performance incentive plans?

Daniel Pink is a world-renowned leading author on workplace motivation and performance. He has done some compelling research and has developed some very interesting insights on what really motivates us to perform. His studies were well-designed and replicated in North America and in other countries.

The research is very interesting and at times confusing. Sometimes money is a motivator and improves performance, but there are times money is not a motivator and actually leads to poorer performance. Many organizations, managers and HR departments do not truly understand the complex interaction of money as an incentive to employee’s behaviours. Here is a short video clip that does a great job at summarizing his motivational research.

Click here to find out want Daniel Pink’s money motivation secrets are.

Daniel Pink also provides us with three key insights on how to truly motivate individual performance. Some companies have one insight, some have two, but very few companies use all three of Daniel Pink’s insights to get the best performance out of their employees. How can HR lead the way and bring this type of research into business operations?

Discussion Questions

  1. After watching the video clip explain when money is a good motivator for individual performance and when is it not?
  2. What are the three key insights to motivation? Why is it so difficult for organizations to implement these key insights to obtain greater employee performance?

Failure to Perform: Part 1

The Challenges of Performance Incentive Plans

Increase rating, evaluation and classification concept. Businessman draw five yellow star to increase rating of his company.

Pay for performance is one of the oldest and most accepted compensation practices, and in conceptual terms, it is the simplest compensate strategy. If the individual performs or delivers on one or more of what an employer wants then the individual earns more money. This a very linear equation that all can comprehend, accept and execute.

If this pay for performance system is such a simple concept, then why do performance incentive plans fail to perform and sometimes deteriorate employee performance and organizational performance?

Tom Kort and Jason Baumgarten provide us with some great insights on why performance incentive plans are fraught with pitfalls; 10 of them to be exact.

Click here to read a summary of their thinking.

Here are some of their top concerns regarding performance incentive plans:

  • Poor plan communication
  • Poor alignment with business strategy
  • Company lacks best practices or procedures
  • Does not drive correct behaviours
  • Weak performance management system
  • Profit is the only key indicator measured
  • Poor allocation of your best people
  • Management game playing with resources
  • Incentive plan causes internal divisions

As one can see, a simple intellectual concept of ‘work more get paid more’ can have some serious pitfalls. HR has to be aware of where performance incentive plans can go wrong, and if their organization chooses to use them, how to prevent the negative aspects of a poorly executed performance incentive plan. Part two of this blog will continue this discussion illustrating Daniel’s Pink’s theory of performance motivation.

Discussion Questions

  1. Research two organizations that have implemented performance incentive plans that have failed to produce the desired results. Compare them to the list above, were the reasons for their failure on the list, if not why did the plan fail.

    Click here to read how to build incentive plans.

  2. Research two organizations that have implemented performance incentive plans that have succeeded, identify what specifically about the incentive plan allowed it to succeed?