Raffa Blog
Raffa Blog
Raffa Blog

News & Resources the do more blog​​

  • 8/13/2018 Change Management: You’ve Got This

    They say the only constant in life is change. And like most clever sayings, this one is also very true. Especially when it comes to your business.Today’s pace of change is faster than it’s ever been before. But here’s the kicker. It’s also the slowest it will ever be again. Just think about that for […]

    They say the only constant in life is change. And like most clever sayings, this one is also very true. Especially when it comes to your business.Today’s pace of change is faster than it’s ever been before. But here’s the kicker. It’s also the slowest it will ever be again. Just think about that for a second.

    When it comes to change, you have three basic choices:

    1. Bury your head in the sand
    2. Wait for it to find you, and then react
    3. Get out in front of it and take control

    Chances are we all know people and companies who have gone with option one— and how well that went. And yet plenty of people and organizations are all too willing to ignore impending change, or to embrace a strategy that is purely reactionary.

    If you run a business, this strategy isn’t going to help you achieve your goals. You need a better plan. Here are some key ways to help you deal with the organizational change that will inevitably come your way.

    Pay attention to it

    This means more than just pulling your head out of the sand.

    If you want to make change work for you, start by tuning in to what’s happening around you. Then, you can adjust your thinking, planning, and vision to match. Your goal is to be proactive about defining and creating your new reality instead of waiting for these changes to be forced upon you.

    To decide what the new future will look like, ask yourself this question:

    Based on what’s happening with our business/market/industry/technology, what critical elements do we need to put in place to set our organization up for success?

    Addressing this question will help make sure you’re able to ride the waves of change instead of helplessly watching them roll in and hoping they will spare you.

    To make effective changes in your business, you’ll want to evaluate the following:

    • Company profitability
    • Organizational growth
    • Your core value proposition
    • Your marketing and sales process
    • The skills and behaviors on the team
    • What resources you need to be successful
    • And perhaps many other elements of your organization

    The key here is that you (and your entire team) will need to understand how the organization has to evolve in order to remain relevant and viable.

    Facilitate it

    Simply defining your new future isn’t going to cut it. You have to commit to making it happen.

    Way too often when a change initiative is introduced, the team simply smiles and rolls their eyes, quietly understanding that nothing ever really comes from these things.

    And while it’s tempting to blame this lack of action on bad attitudes, the truth is that often it’s leadership who has trained everyone to react this way. They’ve done this by not committing to past initiatives, by sidestepping difficult work and decisions, and by neglecting to follow through on critical things that should have happened as a result.

    In addition to creating your new vision, you will need to follow through with implementation. This step will involve some key pieces:

    • Communication – Take the time to explain why the change is necessary and how it will be addressed.
    • Planning – Establish and share a formal strategy for how you will move from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow.
    • Execution – Make sure everyone understands not just how they will be impacted, but also how they will be expected to contribute.
    • Evaluation and adjustment – Report back to the team on all of the above. Track your progress and results on a regular basis and make corrections as needed.

    Commit to it

    Now that you’re rolling, you’ll want to keep this momentum going. Don’t set things in motion and then forget about them or give up when they seem difficult. Stick to it!

    One thing that will help is taking the time to make sure both your leadership and your team clearly understand the following:

    • Where the organization is going
    • Why it’s important
    • How you will get there
    • When it will happen
    • How they will be impacted
    • What they are expected to contribute

    Clearly articulating the changes that are coming will allow people to feel excited instead of scared, empowered instead of frustrated, and knowledgeable instead of in the dark. Meanwhile, when your team understands how they fit into the bigger picture, they will be much more willing to stop fighting the change initiatives and start fighting with you to put them in place.

    And that’s the kind of change that builds better businesses.

    Is your broker truly excited about organizational problem solving and helping you design an employee benefits strategy that helps you recruit top talent and makes your job easier? If not, give us a call. We live for this stuff! 

    Photo by Nattapol Sritongcom

  • 8/9/2018 Why You Want Your Employees to Take Vacation

    Today’s employees aren’t just mindlessly punching the clock. They’re looking for work that has meaning and purpose. They want to be in organizations whose values are in alignment, and where they are able to grow, both personally and professionally. When they find that perfect fit, they’re often willing to put more time, energy, and effort […]

    vacationToday’s employees aren’t just mindlessly punching the clock. They’re looking for work that has meaning and purpose. They want to be in organizations whose values are in alignment, and where they are able to grow, both personally and professionally.

    When they find that perfect fit, they’re often willing to put more time, energy, and effort into their work— including after hours. But this isn’t necessarily a good thing.

    Over time, working non-stop will cause even the most enthusiastic employees to experience decreased job performance and, ironically, decreased satisfaction. If you let your best team members burn themselves out, you’ll soon be watching them walk out the door for the next “perfect” opportunity.

    To keep this from happening, it’s up to leadership and management to:

    • Recognize the importance of down time and the dangers of burnout
    • Put systems in place so everyone feels good about taking time off to recharge

    Allowing vs. Encouraging

    There’s a big difference between having a vacation policy and building a culture where people feel good about using it. So how do you create a culture that doesn’t just allow, but encourages, adequate time off for leaders and staff?

    Re-think your paid time off policy – Still thinking in terms of sick time vs. vacation days? It’s time to make a change. If your employees need a day off, it doesn’t matter what for. Combine sick and vacation days into one PTO policy so everyone can take time when they need it.

    Try setting a vacation minimum – Does anyone really need to go an entire year without taking a vacation? Is this the way build loyalty and create happy employees? Not likely. Try setting minimum vacation limit, and make sure everyone takes it— including you. It may seem strange at first, but all work and no play isn’t good for your health, your team, or your business.

    Make it easy – Employees need to feel okay about taking time off so that they can truly relax while they’re gone. A stress-filled vacation isn’t relaxing, and a crippling re-entry period will quickly wipe away the benefits of even the most reenergizing trip.

    Yes, vacation time requires advanced notice, scheduling, and pre-approval. But once it’s on the calendar, it can be planned around. Make sure your employees get additional team and management support to manage workloads before they leave, take care of anything that comes up while they’re gone, and help them get caught up when they return.

    Involve the team – Most people are happy to help out when co-workers are gone, especially if they know that the favor will be returned when they’re out and about. Taking on a temporary task or two is a small price to pay for your own blissfully uninterrupted vacation.

    Lead by example – You’ve hired great people and trained them well. Now it’s your job to trust them to get things done, whether or not you’re in close proximity. Doing so will not only relieve your own stress, it will show your team you believe in them and empower them to do great things.

    Let your employees know you have confidence in their abilities, then prove it by encouraging them to take time off regularly, taking vacation yourself, and letting them take care of business and each other while you’re gone.

    Learning to let go

    This might be the hardest part of having your awesome team members out of the office. You’re excited (or nervous) about a new initiative, a project milestone, or a big sale.

    Newsflash: IT CAN WAIT.

    You and your employees deserve uninterrupted time away from work. But if work-related items are constantly popping up in phones, laptops, and alerts, even the most pristine white sand beach can suddenly feel like the office. And that familiar wave of workplace intensity can come rolling right on back. Don’t let this happen to you or any of your hard working team members.

    Set up a no-contact rule for yourself and your team regarding the person who is out. If something comes up that can be handled in-house, don’t check in or run it by them. Just make it happen.

    If there’s a situation that can’t be handled without the vacationing person, draft an email with the details while they’re fresh in your mind. But don’t fire it off to them. You can schedule it to go out later or send it to yourself and make a note to chat with them about it after they return. Rest assured, even the most demanding client will generally understand the language of “Your account manager is on an Italian wine tour.” You may even build rapport commiserating about how you wish you were, too.

    If you build a strong culture that values your employees as more than just worker bees, you’re much more likely to attract the hard-working, fun-loving employees you desire.

    And when they do come back from vacation, they’ll be way happier to see you. They’ll also be more relaxed, refreshed, energized, and motivated. Because you gave them the gift of time.

    Need a better ROI on your corporate employee benefits? At Raffa, we’re not interested in finding you a policy solution for this year. We’ll create a long-term, employee benefit strategy designed to help you become an employer of choice. Want to build a better future for both your business and your employees? Get in touch with Raffa.

    Photo by yarruta

  • 8/8/2018 Executive Fitness: Try Mountain Biking!

    Are you a busy executive trying to maintain some work/life balance? Is it a struggle to keep in shape, relieve stress, and exercise in a way that is enjoyable? Are you finding that running and other workouts you used to do are getting harder, boring, or are putting strain on your knees, hips, or your […]

    Are you a busy executive trying to maintain some work/life balance? Is it a struggle to keep in shape, relieve stress, and exercise in a way that is enjoyable? Are you finding that running and other workouts you used to do are getting harder, boring, or are putting strain on your knees, hips, or your entire body?

    I experienced all of the above. And then one day, I started riding a mountain bike.

    Mountain bikes are a wide-ranging and versatile class of bicycles that all have one thing in common—knobby tires for off-road riding. A road bike is built only for the road, but a mountain bike can go anywhere. You can ride a mountain bike on paved trails, canal paths, fire roads, hiking trails, and even up and down ski hills.

    Mountain bike specific trails are being built in record numbers all across the country, and tons of people are jumping on board. Including lots of busy professionals. Here are some reasons why:

    It’s convenient

    Trying to get a bike ride in before or after work often means riding during rush hour, which is less than ideal for road biking. Road riding means sharing your space with cars, which can be very dangerous for cyclists— even with bike lanes. This explains why you see so many cyclists on the road at 7:00am on Saturdays and  Sundays when traffic is light.

    But why wait until the weekend? A mountain bike can be a game-changer when it comes to getting exercise and riding your bike any time of day. Just find the nearest trail and you’re off!

    It’s quiet

    mountainsIf you’re in a high-stress job or high-level position, you may not have much quiet time to think. Jumping on your mountain bike is a fun an healthy way to get some. You may be surprised by the power of a mind-clearing ride, or by the ideas and solutions that

    pop into your head on the trail. Mountain biking allows your mind to unwind as you quietly ride in harmony with nature.

    It’s exciting

    Mountain biking is never boring. There is something interesting to see on every ride. In addition to riding alongside the usual suspects like deer, squirrels, and chipmunks, you can spot some amazing wildlife. My short list of exciting sights includes a mother fox with two kits, a fisher, a coyote, mating owls, and several black bears and cubs. It certainly beats rush hour!

    It’s a workout

    It might feel like you’re just out having fun, but the physical benefits of mountain biking are numerous.

    Mountain biking can help you maintain your weight and develop strong leg muscles, both of which are good for everyone who plans on being able to walk and stay active indefinitely. Mountain biking is low impact, which makes it a great fit for riders of all ages. But don’t let that fool you. Hopping on your mountain bike can provide a total body workout. Even if you’re riding on relatively modest off-road trails, you’ll reap the benefits of strengthening your upper body, arms, grip and core.

    Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 2.45.36 PMNo matter where you ride, mountain biking provides a fantastic aerobic workout. But once you start climbing hills or riding twisting trails, it becomes an even more intense workout capable of raising and holding your heart rate to a threshold level for an extended period of time, which is now considered perfectly modern high intensity training. The alternative is to pay big money at gym for a membership, a routine, a class, and an instructor to get the same results.

    It’s satisfying

    Mountain biking will seem extremely challenging at first, especially if you haven’t ridden a bike in a while. But stick with it and you will see progress happen quickly, and continue indefinitely. When you ride trails, you will inevitably run into rocks, roots, or fallen trees in your way. Accepting the challenge and learning to wrestle your bike through, over, and around difficult obstacles not only leads to an amazing workout, it leaves you with a fantastic feeling of accomplishment.

    It’s relevant

    Think mountain biking doesn’t have anything to do with business? Think again.

    This sport forces you to be agile, think on your feet, and make quick decisions. It can also push you outside of your comfort zones and teach you valuable lessons, especially when it comes to overcoming obstacles.

    When you’re on your bike, the key to getting past the various bumps in your path is having enough momentum and determination to make it over them.

    Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 2.38.45 PMIf you think you can’t do it, the trail will prove you right. But if you keep your momentum up and have the confidence to face that rock, root, or hill dead on, your bike will lead the way. You may fail the first few times, but if you get back up and try again, eventually you’ll find yourself at the top of the hill, with a really great view of how far you’ve come.

    How’s that for a good life lesson?

    The mountain biking community tends to be a fun, friendly, and welcoming bunch. The people you meet on the trails could easily turn into great workout partners, friends, and even business connections.

    Now that’s what I call work/life balance!

    For more mountain biking basics and what to look for in your first bike, read Mountain Biking 101: Steve’s Tips for Getting Started.

    Written by Steve Heger, President, Raffa Financial Services, Inc.

    steve-hegerAn avid Mountain Bike racer and enthusiast, Steve races both Mountain Bikes and Cyclocross as a Masters Division, CAT 1 (expert) rider, year around. He has made the podium over 25 times, with 15 wins. He is a five-time participant in the USA Cycling National Championships, winning two Silver Medals.

    Need help with employee wellness, communication, and retention? Want to be an employer of choice in the greater Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC area? Get in touch with Raffa. We love this stuff! And it’s what we do for our clients every single day.

    Photos by Steve Heger… in action!

  • 8/6/2018 Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through August 4th

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. US stocks posted their fifth consecutive weekly gain on solid earnings and economic news.  The S&P 500 gained 0.8% and the Dow ticked up 0.1% for the week. Abroad, Japan dropped 0.8% and Europe […]

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC.

    US stocks posted their fifth consecutive weekly gain on solid earnings and economic news.  The S&P 500 gained 0.8% and the Dow ticked up 0.1% for the week. Abroad, Japan dropped 0.8% and Europe was down 0.7% for the week. The yield on the 10-year Treasury finished the week at 2.95% down slightly from the previous week.

    US employers added 157,000 new hires in July falling short of the 190,000 expected.  However, May and June were revised higher by 59,000 jobs. The unemployment rate ticked down to 3.9% from 4.0% and the labor participation rate remained steady. Hourly earnings gains also were unchanged at 2.7%.

    The Trump administration threatened to raise tariffs on China to more than double the current proposed levels, bringing them up to 25%. China announced it planned tariffs on $60 billion is US goods, the majority of its imports from the US, if the US went ahead with its threat to place duties of 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods.

    Auto sales fell 3.7% in July.

    At the conclusion of their meeting the Fed left the Fed Funds rate as is and continued to indicate the economy was performing well.  They indicated another rate increase is likely at the groups September meeting.

    The Bank of England raised its benchmark interest rate a quarter percent to 0.75%, its highest level since 2009 in order to combat inflation.

    Apple topped expectations driven by strong iPhone sales, posting their highest ever revenue. It became the first US company to be worth $1 trillion in market value.

    Wells Fargo agreed to settle with the Justice dept. for $2.09 billion over the sale of MBSs.

    There is no guarantee that any investment strategy, including those described here, will be successful. Any investment or investment strategy can lose money. Past performance does not guarantee or predict future results. You should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. This information was gathered from reliable sources but we cannot guarantee accuracy. Indexes do not reflect the fees associated with actual investments and such fees would reduce the performance illustrated.
  • 8/6/2018 Designing a remote work strategy that works

    Workplace flexibility isn’t going anywhere. Employees want it and employers who get it right are seeing some serious benefits. If you’re thinking about offering telecommuting benefits to your team, you’re in good company. Employers with remote work policies in place have reported lower levels of absenteeism, fewer employee sick days, increased hiring flexibility, lower turnover, and […]

    Workplace flexibility isn’t going anywhere. Employees want it and employers who get it right are seeing some serious benefits.

    If you’re thinking about offering telecommuting benefits to your team, you’re in good company. Employers with remote work policies in place have reported lower levels of absenteeism, fewer employee sick days, increased hiring flexibility, lower turnover, and reduced overhead costs.

    Meanwhile, employees with remote working options say they feel more productive and more valued. They also report higher levels of job satisfaction, and are more likely to say they would remain with their current employer than those who did not have the ability to work remotely.

    If things like better employee recruitment, retention, engagement, and productivity sound good to you, creating a solid remote working strategy could be a great way to go.

    But in order for your telecommuting policy to be successful, you’ll want to put together a plan that focuses on these three things:

    1. Communication

    Communication is important for every organization, but even more so when you have remote workers. The good news is that there are a million technology tools to help your team stay connected and on track.

    Programs like Join.me, Zoom, and GoToMeeting allow coworkers collaborate from different offices, time zones, and even countries with easy conferencing, video, and screen sharing options. Instant messaging apps like Slack and Teams let everyone “hang out” and have conversations in real time. Project management programs like Asana, Trello, and Basecamp let everyone follow and contribute to the projects they are involved in.

    No matter what technology platforms you’re using, you’ll need to assess your communication strategy to make sure you are effectively reaching all of your employees— wherever they are and however they communicate.

    2. Connection

    Just because everyone isn’t in the same place doesn’t mean they can’t be on the same page. If you’re hiring with cultural fit in mind, you’ll end up with a group of people who are likely to work well together, even if it’s primarily online.

    That said, you’ll want to take some of that money you’re saving on office space and furniture and invest it in making sure your team gets together in person from time to time. Fly your out-of-town staff in for the company holiday party. Offer to pay mileage for those who are willing to drive into the office once a week. Host regular team meetings and events that entice people to work and play together.

    Tech solutions are fantastic, but nothing beats a little real, live interaction every now and then.

    3. Culture

    If your company culture is terrible, it doesn’t matter where your employees are working from. No one is going to be inspired to do their best. The same holds true for companies with great cultures. Employees will be even more devoted when they are given high levels of trust and flexibility, even if they rarely step foot in the office.

    If your culture is negative, questionable, weak, or undefined, you may not be ready to go remote. Simply put: You need to get your own house in order before you let people start working from theirs.

    On the other hand, if you’ve already built a strong organization and culture, these things will work in your favor. Companies with high levels of employee engagement and trust will have a serious edge when it comes to implementing new policies and allowing workplace flexibility. If this sounds like you, go ahead! Give it a try!

    Put together a telecommuting program that turns home sweet home into work sweet work.

    We help clients identify organizational challenges, create big picture strategies, and put customized solutions in place. From tailored benefit programs to custom retirement plans to risk management services, we’ve got you covered.

    Photo by  Romolo Tavani

  • 8/2/2018 Is Fear Running Your Organization?

    Having a little fear in your life isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can inspire you to do things like wear sunscreen, obey the speed limit, and “Sit up straight!” when your grandma tells you to.But too much fear can stop you from doing important things that move you forward, like learning new skills, asking […]

    Having a little fear in your life isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can inspire you to do things like wear sunscreen, obey the speed limit, and “Sit up straight!” when your grandma tells you to.But too much fear can stop you from doing important things that move you forward, like learning new skills, asking for help, or telling the truth.

    When organizational leaders start basing their actions, behaviors, and decisions on fear, your business can quickly go from successful to stuck.

    Managing with fear

    There are definitely leaders out there who believe a significant amount of fear is necessary in order to keep people in line, and that fear is what motivates good behavior and increases productivity.

    But anyone who’s ever watched a scary movie can tell you otherwise. “You idiot!” we yell at the screen, “Don’t open the closet door!”

    When it comes down to it, people who are terrified rarely make well-thought-out decisions. And constant poor decision making can have dire consequences for your business. Leaders who focus on employee mentorship, support, strategy and incentives will see far better results than those who think they can scare people into doing great things.

    Managing based on fear

    In addition to leaders who try to use fear to motivate their teams, there are also leaders who insist on using fear as the basis for their own decisions, actions, and management style. And yes, this is equally as frightening for everyone.

    What are fear-based leaders afraid of, you ask? Lots of things:

    • Failing
    • Being vulnerable
    • Appearing incompetent
    • Being reprimanded or fired
    • Not advancing in their careers
    • Losing the respect of peers or superiors

    This kind of “leadership” is detrimental to the team because those who manage from a place of fear are focused on personal consequences rather than group successes.

    Fear-based managers aren’t willing to take any risks that might even remotely backfire or make them look bad. This includes things like adopting new technology, letting go of outdated processes, and making organizational changes. In other words, pretty much anything that hasn’t already safely been done before.

    New ideas, by definition, have uncertain outcomes, which is the worst possible scenario for someone coming from a place of fear. And so they are quickly squashed. But when it comes to business, taking the “safe” route can be much more dangerous than taking calculated risks. In an environment where new ideas are constantly being shot down, innovation dies as well. And that isn’t the kind of culture that’s going to move your organization forward.

    Fear and morale

    Fear-based leadership doesn’t just kill innovation. It’s also murder on morale.

    Because fear managers are perpetually afraid of what will happen to them if and when anything goes wrong, they are unable to let go of things and/or trust their teams to deliver results. Instead of letting their employees take ownership of projects and feel successful, fear managers inject themselves into every meeting, every task, and every process, micromanaging everything and everyone to death.

    When things do go wrong, fear managers will do or say anything to deflect the blame away from themselves and onto anyone else who happens to be nearby.

    So, what happens when you mix high levels of fear and control with low levels of autonomy, trust, and support? You end up with an organization full of checked-out employees who are simply going through the motions.

    Having lost all of their fire and motivation, they truly are the working dead.

    Does any of this sound familiar?

    If fear is the primary driving force in your organization, it’s time to make some changes.

    First, figure out what it is that you’re afraid of. Then get your leadership team together and decide how you’re going to face those fears in a new and productive way. There may be some strategic planning involved, a leadership overhaul, or some major organizational change.

    This may seem a little daunting, but rest assured. Any and all of these things are FAR better than perpetuating a company culture that sucks the life out of your employees— and your bottom line.

    At Raffa, we work with businesses in the greater Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC area to implement strategic employee benefits plans designed to position them as coveted employers of choice. Whether you’re looking to build a healthy team, lower employee turnover, or recruit and reward executive talent, we can help.

    Photo by Валерий Качаев

  • 7/31/2018 Clamping Down on Wage and Hour Claims

    With sexual harassment cases getting lots of media coverage right now, it might seem like that’s your company’s biggest liability risk. And depending on where you work, you might be right.Of course you need to invest time and energy into preventing this kind of harassment from happening. But there are other risks you need to […]

    With sexual harassment cases getting lots of media coverage right now, it might seem like that’s your company’s biggest liability risk. And depending on where you work, you might be right.Of course you need to invest time and energy into preventing this kind of harassment from happening. But there are other risks you need to invest time and energy into as well. Wage and hour violations.

    These risks may be getting far less attention, but they could be just as damaging and disruptive to your business.

    Costs (and claims) are increasing

    Make no mistake about it. Wage and hour claims are on the rise.

    The number of FLSA cases has skyrocketed over 450% since 1995. And if you think those numbers are staggering, you should check out some of the data on back wages and fines. If you’re a business owner or HR professional, this information may seem super scary, and rightfully so.

    One of the more frightening aspects of wage and hour violations is that employers rarely make these mistakes with a single employee. More often, it happens with a class of employees— which raises the stakes, fines, and consequences exponentially.

    The good news is that wage and hour mistakes are almost always avoidable. In other words, you are your own best defense. You just have to be vigilant.

    Classify correctly

    There’s no escaping it. Employee misclassification is the employer’s fault. Unless you’re letting your employees classify themselves, in which case you’ve got bigger problems.

    The key to avoiding costly claims is to get your employee classifications right the first time, and every time. When it comes to compliance, complacency is your enemy. Stay on top of your game by doing the following:

    Make sure you understand how the Department of Labor defines an exempt vs. non-exempt employee.

    If you don’t know what the regulations are, your chances of being able to abide by them are pretty slim. And claiming ignorance won’t get you out of a lawsuit or the resulting judgement. When it comes to compliance, knowledge really is power.

    Once you have the rules down, figure out how to align the various classifications with your team structure and how your employees work. Structure positions, job duties, and compensation so that everything fits within defined categories to help eliminate gray area.

    Keep your job descriptions up to date and accurate.

    Just because a job description reads like it falls into a specific category doesn’t mean it correctly reflects the role, position and responsibilities. If an employee can show there’s a discrepancy between the written description and the daily reality, that’s a problem.

    Educate yourself on classification for independent contractors.

    The nuances here can be complicated, but that’s no excuse for getting it wrong. You can refer to someone as an independent contractor all day long, but if you’re telling that person exactly what to do and how to do it, you’ve got yourself an employee. And one who may be classified incorrectly.

    If you don’t know, ask!

    If you aren’t 100% sure how to classify an exempt vs. non-exempt employee, you can reduce your risk by sticking with a non-exempt status. If you’re unsure about whether or not you’re hiring an independent contractor or staff person, you can fill out this form and the IRS will make the determination for you. It can take up to six months, but at least you’ll have a clear answer.

    If you want to be safe in the meantime, always choose to err on the side of your employee.

    Check, check, and recheck

    It’s a good idea to regularly evaluate your job descriptions, compensation, and classifications to make sure they are all still aligned and where they should be. If you find any anomalies, address them immediately.

    Don’t wait for your employees to point potential discrepancies out to you.

    A good-natured staff member might come to you first and agree to work things out amicably. But an unhappy employee might very well call her brother-in-law, who happens to be a litigation expert.

    Keep your business safe and your employees happy by classifying staff correctly and paying them what they’re worth.

    Is your benefits broker also a compliance consultant? What about a trusted business partner? Are you confident your policies and processes are doing what they need to ensure that your company—and your employees— are healthy and productive? Contact Raffa Financial Services.

    Photo by Andriy Popov

  • 7/26/2018 Is Your LinkedIn Photo Telling The Wrong Story?

    There are a lot of great reasons for you to be on LinkedIn, including: Increased exposure in your industry New professional connections Tons of business-focused articles and advice Enhanced job search capabilities, both for candidates and recruiters But whatever you’re using LinkedIn for, you need to know one very important thing: Your photo matters.

    There are a lot of great reasons for you to be on LinkedIn, including:

    • Increased exposure in your industry
    • New professional connections
    • Tons of business-focused articles and advice
    • Enhanced job search capabilities, both for candidates and recruiters

    But whatever you’re using LinkedIn for, you need to know one very important thing: Your photo matters.

    Like it or not, everyone who comes across your profile is mentally giving you a quick 1 – 5 star professional rating based on what they see. Can we trust you? Do you seem friendly and relatable? Are you someone we want to do business with?

    Use an inappropriate LinkedIn photo and you could very easily sabotage your opportunity to be taken seriously as a potential candidate, vendor, consultant, or partner.

    You know what they say… 

    A picture is worth a thousand words. Or, in today’s fast-paced social media world, at least 280 characters.

    Is your photo portraying you as the competent professional you are? Or is it telling a different story? Here are some of the most common photo mistakes and what they are saying to the world.

    The Party Pic

    Using a festive party pic for your LI profile? Confetti? Champagne? Wedding? We’ve seen it.

    What it says: “I don’t understand what a professional business photo is. I may have trouble separating business from pleasure. Don’t I look great in a tux?”

    How to fix it: If you wouldn’t wear it to work, you shouldn’t be wearing it for your professional networking photo. Get dressed for work, then snap that pic.

    The Wardrobe Malfunction

    Shorts? Swim suit? Shirtless? Not unless you’re a professional fitness trainer. And maybe not even then.

    What it says: “I have trouble determining what is professional. I’m over-confident, or afraid I can’t get by on my skills alone.”

    How to fix it: Put on an outfit that feels a little too conservative for you. Then run it by your grandmother. If she says you look neat, spiffy, or dandy, you’re probably good to go.

    The Crowd

    Hey! Great photo of you guys on that hike! Or at that conference… But which one is you? It may be obvious on your end, but over here, we’re just confused.

    What it says: “I have friends! People like me! Also, I didn’t consider my audience. I’ve made basic assumptions about what they should already know. But look! Friends!” 

    How to fix it: Go solo. Nix the friends, family, kids, and pets. We’re not looking to connect with them. And if we are, you should be worried.

    The Selfie

    Close up. Extended Arm. In the mirror. With your laptop cam. On your vacation or in your best suit, it doesn’t matter. We can spot a selfie a mile away.

    What it says: “I think you won’t notice I took this myself. I’m too shy or afraid to ask for help.”

    How to fix it: Have your picture taken, either professionally or by a friend. It takes five seconds. Less, maybe. And it makes a world of difference.

    The Car Selfie

    This is a very popular photo tactic, and also a confusing one. Unless you own a car dealership or drive for a living, this seems strange.

    What it says: “I feel safe in small, confined environments. My camera fits nicely on my dashboard. I’m sitting in my driveway.”

    How to fix it: Super easy! Come out from behind the wheel. Take a photo at your desk, outside, or in any other professional environment.

    The Photo Fail

    Bad crop. Grainy. Blurry. Sideways. Upside down.

    What it says: “I’m not capable with basic technologies. I don’t check my work. I hate LinkedIn, anyway. Don’t connect with me.”

    How to fix it: Always check to see what your picture looks like after you upload. If it looks questionable, start over. Unless you really do hate LinkedIn, in which case this is the perfect way to let us know.

    The Grump

    The stern face. The steely eyes. The angry expression. Yikes!

    What it says: “People need to take me seriously, darn it! I’m rigid, cranky, and hard to work with. This is not a laughing matter.”

    How to fix it: We will still respect you if you smile. Promise! Relax. Lean back. Drop the shoulders. Show us your pearly whites. Or at least stop grimacing.

    The classic

    Using a flattering photo from a past decade? Or millennium? This works great! Until we meet, that is. Please don’t be offended if I don’t recognize you from your senior portrait.

    What it says: “I’m unhappy with who or where I am now. I prefer to live in the past. I’m not a fan of change.”

    How to fix it: Meditate. Exercise. Do some self-affirmations. Whatever you need to get comfortable in your own skin. You’ve worked hard to get where you are. Upload a current photo and own it.

    They empty frame

    No profile photo? Really? In this day and age, when literally everyone is carrying a camera around with them at all times? Unless you’re the invisible man, this is unacceptable. Get ready to be passed by.

    What it says: “You don’t need to know what I look like. I don’t understand social media. Why are you looking at my profile, anyway? Are you with some secret spy organization? Go away!”

    How to fix it: It’s as easy as it sounds. Just add one. The longer you go without a profile picture, the more opportunities you’re missing. Connection is all about trust. And it’s hard to build trust with someone who hides their identity.

    What does your photo say?

    Is it telling the story you want it to? Having a professional headshot attached to your LinkedIn profile can go a long way toward showing that you’re friendly, capable, and approachable.

    You know. Like the kind of person you’d want to work with.

    Need help with performance management, employee turnover, and HR strategy? Want to be a coveted employer of choice in the greater Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC area? Get in touch with Raffa. We love this stuff! And it’s what we do for our clients every single day.

    Photo by Martin Novak

  • 7/24/2018 Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through July 21st

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. U.S. stocks were relatively flat for the week as solid earnings reports were not enough to drive the market higher.  The S&P 500 gained 0.2% and the Dow edged up 0.1% for the week.  […]

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC.

    U.S. stocks were relatively flat for the week as solid earnings reports were not enough to drive the market higher.  The S&P 500 gained 0.2% and the Dow edged up 0.1% for the week.  Internationally, Japan rose 0.4% and Europe ticked up 0.2% for the week.  The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose over the week to finish at 2.90%, its highest level in a month.

    Retail sales rose 0.5% in June over May and May was revised higher from 0.8% to 1.3%.

    Manufacturing output rose 0.8% in June after a decline in May.

    In testimony before congress Fed Chief Powell gave a rosy assessment of the economy and said the Fed planned to continue to raise rates gradually.  However, if trade tensions escalated he said it could be a drag on the economy.

    Initial jobless claims fell to 207,000 last week, the lowest level since 1969.

    Corporations are warning that the stronger dollar will likely have an impact on future earnings.

    The EU fined Google $5 billion in an antitrust penalty, saying it abused its dominance with its Android operating system.

    S&P 500 firms are on pace to post their second fastest rate of earnings growth since 2010 in the second quarter.

    There is no guarantee that any investment strategy, including those described here, will be successful. Any investment or investment strategy can lose money. Past performance does not guarantee or predict future results. You should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. This information was gathered from reliable sources but we cannot guarantee accuracy. Indexes do not reflect the fees associated with actual investments and such fees would reduce the performance illustrated.
  • 7/23/2018 Why You Need Workforce Planning

    You’ve done your strategic planning and your succession planning. But have you done your workforce planning? If not, you’re missing out on an important part of the business planning puzzle. Breaking it down The differences between strategic planning, succession planning, and workforce planning are subtle but important. Your strategic plan defines your organizational mission, goals, […]

    workforceYou’ve done your strategic planning and your succession planning. But have you done your workforce planning?

    If not, you’re missing out on an important part of the business planning puzzle.

    Breaking it down

    The differences between strategic planning, succession planning, and workforce planning are subtle but important.

    Your strategic plan defines your organizational mission, goals, and objectives for a specific period of time (typically 3 – 5 years), and outlines steps to achieve them. We’re talking big picture stuff here.

    Your succession plan prepares for the unexpected departure of key leaders, identifies potential replacements, and uses that information to target employees for professional development. Think sustainability.

    Your workforce plan lies somewhere in between. It analyzes your current staffing to determine what human resources are/will be needed to accomplish desired outcomes of your strategic plan, taking staffing strengths, skills, and gaps into account. A good workforce plan will answer the question: Do we have what it takes to get the job done? As in, now. Today.

    You can put together the best strategic plan in the world, but if you don’t have the staff or talent needed to make it all happen, it’s not going to be worth much. This is where workforce planning can be extremely beneficial.

    Filling in the blanks

    Workforce planning will help you determine which organizational objectives are realistic and achievable based on current staffing. It can also identify any gaps that need to be addressed in order to make your strategic plan viable.

    The process involves a complete inventory of current positions, skills, and limitations, with a focus on positions that are critical to organizational success. It provides information about team strengths and weaknesses and the financial cost of recruiting and hiring for specific positions and skills.

    Once finished, your workforce plan will be an extremely helpful short and long-term decision making tool with regard to structuring your team, developing your employees, and determining when to hire and who to bring on board.

    Aligning your strategic plan with your HR activities and making careful choices based on both will set you up for success.

    Making it happen

    As with all business planning, your workforce plan should be created with great attention and care. If you rush through it just to check it off the list, it’s not going to do its job.

    A good workforce plan includes several key steps.

    1. Analyze your current workforce

    Do you have adequate staff to fulfill each of the requirements and action items laid out in your strategic plan? Do any skills gaps exist? Do you need to do some external hiring or internal training?

    1. Look for strengths and weaknesses

    What skills and positions are serving you well? What talent are you lacking? Do you need to expand either of these areas for capacity? Do you have the right infrastructure to support this? How quickly do you need to have your team up to speed?

    1. Put your plan in motion

    Based on the information you have observed and gathered, create a comprehensive workforce plan complete with numbers, projections, timelines, and action items. Assign these things to specific teams or individuals for accountability, and communicate them clearly.

    Tip: Implementation will only be successful if leadership fully commits to the plan and takes ownership of the process. Without buy in at the top, all of your hard work will be wasted.

    1. Evaluate and adjust

    Workforce planning shouldn’t be a one-and-done event. You’ll want to schedule regular check-ins to assess progress and make sure the plan is fulfilling its purpose of supporting organizational goals.

    Are your key stakeholders actively participating or have they lost their enthusiasm? Are deadlines being met? Is progress being made? Have things changed in your market, economy, or business structure? Does your plan still seem attainable or do you need to reevaluate?

    Planning your way to success

    Adding workforce planning into the mix might seem like an added responsibility you just don’t have time for. But not adding it into the mix could keep you from achieving the goals laid out in your strategic plan. And maybe even make your succession planning irrelevant.

    By conducting a detailed analysis of current organizational resources and creating a plan that ensures you have the talent and tools you need, you’re greatly improving your odds of success.

    And after all that work, a little success feels pretty darn good.

    At Raffa, we help clients identify organizational challenges, create big picture strategies, and put customized solutions in place. From tailored benefit programs to custom retirement plans to risk management services, we’ve got you covered.

    Photo by Cathy Yeulet

  • 7/17/2018 Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through July 14th

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. US stocks rose over the week on strong earnings reports.  The S&P 500 gained 1.5% and the Dow rose 2.3% for the week. Internationally, Japan jumped 3.7% and Europe advanced 0.7% for the week. […]

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market — courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC.

    US stocks rose over the week on strong earnings reports.  The S&P 500 gained 1.5% and the Dow rose 2.3% for the week. Internationally, Japan jumped 3.7% and Europe advanced 0.7% for the week. The yield on the 10-year Treasury finished the week unchanged at 2.83%.

    The CPI rose 0.1% in June over May, while core prices rose 0.2%. Prices are up 2.9% from a year earlier, the fastest pace since 2012.

    Fed Chairmen Powell said the central bank should continue to gradually raise the Fed Funds rate and it was too early to tell how protections trade policies would impact the economy.

    Corporate earnings are expected to post double digit growth for the second quarter with exceptions of 20% growth over a year earlier. Revenue is also expected to do well with an estimated 8.7% growth rate.

    Broadcom agreed to buy software giant CA Technologies for $18.9 billion.

    Wells Fargo’s profit fell 11% driven in part by its past scandals scandals. JP Morgan and Citigroup both posted double digit profit increases, driven by greater borrowing.

    There is no guarantee that any investment strategy, including those described here, will be successful. Any investment or investment strategy can lose money. Past performance does not guarantee or predict future results. You should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Raffa Wealth Management, LLC. This information was gathered from reliable sources but we cannot guarantee accuracy. Indexes do not reflect the fees associated with actual investments and such fees would reduce the performance illustrated.

     

     

     

  • 7/12/2018 Is Your To-Do List a Should-Already-Be-Doing List?

    We all have things we’d like to do but just can’t seem to get around to. Some of them are vague ideas. Some of them have made it all the way on the To-Do list.And then there are those pesky other items: The things we know we should already be doing— but aren’t.The list of […]

    man covered in sticky notesWe all have things we’d like to do but just can’t seem to get around to. Some of them are vague ideas. Some of them have made it all the way on the To-Do list.And then there are those pesky other items: The things we know we should already be doing— but aren’t.The list of reasons for not doing things can be as long as the list of things that need to be done. But often we keep running into the same old roadblock: Lack of time.

    The busy problem

    Ask a friend or coworker how they are. Chances are the answer will be “Busy!”

    We could all use an increase in the number of hours in the day, but because that’s not an option, we end up putting things off. Instead of doing them now, we let them slide down the priority list. Or maybe even ignore them all together.

    Here’s the thing. The excuse of being too busy can quickly disappear when a particular to-do item becomes an urgent priority.

    • That dentist appointment you haven’t scheduled becomes much more of a priority when you can no longer chew your food.
    • Those gym workouts you always plan to start next week become much more of a priority when your doctor says you have high blood pressure.
    • The rattle in your car you’ve been ignoring will become your top priority when smoke starts pouring out from under the hood.

    Unfortunately, the do-it-later mentality doesn’t just play out in our personal lives. It shows up in our work lives as well.

    Is finding the right employee benefits plan your next toothache?

    Is filling that open position feeling like an extra 20 pounds?

    Is that noise you keep ignoring the sound of unhappy employees?

    What is that thing (or list of things) that’s been nagging at you? You know, the important stuff you’d like to do for your business or your team, if only you could make more time in the day?

    Once you’ve identified these key items, you can take a deep breath and move them to the top of your list and commit to doing them.

    Maximize your time. And your results.

    Think about how you spent your precious (and limited!) amount of time last week. Did you get the big, important stuff done or did the little stuff take over?

    What would you feel like today if you had replaced some of those little things with one or two big items that would help move you closer to your goals?

    Would doing these things actually save you time or make your life easier in the long run?

    How would it feel to not have those things hanging over your head?

    You may not believe you have time to tackle the things you’ve been putting off, but the beautiful thing is that you can make time for the things that matter. Block off a few hours on your calendar. Make an appointment with yourself, or better yet, schedule time with someone who can help you accomplish one of your goals.

    Big things happen a little bit at a time. Carve out those little bits each day and see where they take you.

    At Raffa Financial, we provide long-lasting benefits strategies to take care of your business and your employees. Located in Rockville, Maryland, we identify and manage complex employee benefits challenges for businesses all over the greater Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC area.

    Photo by Andrea De Martin

  • 7/3/2018 Are Your Job Descriptions Doing Their Jobs?

    A great job description performs several important functions. It provides appropriate criteria for new hires, structure for current employees, and a basis for conducting performance reviews. And yet how many of us have worked in positions with ridiculously outdated, inadequate or non-existent job description? Yep. Pretty much all of us. Job descriptions are a key […]

    A great job description performs several important functions. It provides appropriate criteria for new hires, structure for current employees, and a basis for conducting performance reviews. And yet how many of us have worked in positions with ridiculously outdated, inadequate or non-existent job description?

    Yep. Pretty much all of us.

    Job descriptions are a key tool in your HR box. Why not sharpen them up and put them to work?

    The benefits

    Having solid job descriptions in place will perform several important functions:

    • Attract the right candidates
    • Define appropriate hiring criteria
    • Communicate roles and expectations
    • Identify areas for training and development
    • Provide structure for new hires and current employees
    • Build a framework for performance management and compensation

    If someone offered you an easy system for accomplishing all of these things, you’d probably jump at it. So why do so many of us let our job descriptions slide?

    The challenges

    One of the things that gets in the way of accurate job descriptions is actually something pretty exciting: growth. This can happen at the organizational and individual levels.

    When business is booming, we tend to focus on production over process. We expand our teams rapidly, convincing ourselves we don’t have time to document all of the details, and that we’ll get to it later.

    Meanwhile, when we hire awesome people, they tend to grow their positions as well. Once they have the basic job down, they want to start learning new skills and taking on more responsibilities. This kind of professional growth can keep the team happy, but it can leave individual job descriptions looking pretty sad.

    HR Managers may also be sad when the time comes to fill a position that no longer has an accurate description attached to it.

    Keeping up to date

    If regularly updating job descriptions isn’t making it to the top of your weekly to-do list, try conducting a yearly job analysis for each position in your organization.

    As a busy HR person, this idea might sound overwhelming. But don’t worry. By no means do you have to analyze all of your positions at once!

    A more manageable approach would be to use employee anniversary dates as a guide. With each passing year, ask each employee a few key questions about their job functions and how they may have changed.

    Examples of Job Analysis Questions:

    • What are your major job responsibilities?
    • Which of these things take up most of your time?
    • Has anything changed in the last year?
      • New tasks?
      • Tasks you are no longer responsible for?
    • Which of these responsibilities are most critical? Least critical?
    • What specific skills and tools do you need to be good at your job?
    • What education and/or personal qualities are necessary to be successful in this role?

    Instituting a regular job description review process will help you maintain an accurate record of each position in your organization, and establish the skills you need to look for when recruiting and hiring employees. The bonus here is that you can also tie this exercise in with any self-evaluation and/or performance management processes you have in place.

    If your company is looking for ways to increase employee engagement, you may also want to consider integrating these yearly job analysis check-ins as part of a stay interview program. Stay interviews are a good way to have career conversations and get valuable feedback from employees while they are on staff— instead of waiting until an exit interview is needed.

    Help your job descriptions help you

    Now is the perfect time to ask yourself, “Are our job descriptions working for us or against us?”

    If they aren’t pulling their weight, it’s time to get to work. Once you develop job descriptions that are well-written, accurate, and up to date, they’ll deliver.

    There’s so much more to employee benefits than policies and premiums. A great benefits broker will make sure you, your employees, and your business are protected. Is your agent looking out for you?

    From Raffa Financial Services.

    Photo by DeGe

  • 6/23/2018 Ep. 29 – What do Maryland companies have to be excited about?

    Tami Howie, CEO, MD Tech Council has lots to share! In this episode of the Lead. Learn. Thrive. Podcast, Sharon Tiger, Director of Business Development at Raffa Financial Services talks with Tami Howie, CEO, MD Tech Council about the benefits of being a part of the council.

    Tami Howie, CEO, MD Tech Council has lots to share!

    In this episode of the Lead. Learn. Thrive. Podcast, Sharon Tiger, Director of Business Development at Raffa Financial Services talks with Tami Howie, CEO, MD Tech Council about the benefits of being a part of the council.

    Tami Howie and Sharon Tiger

    If you have any questions about how Raffa Financial Services can help your business, please contact Sharon Tiger at sharon@raffafinancial.com.

    Listen Now

  • 6/21/2018 Ep. 28 – Disaster Recovery vs. Business Continuity

    In this episode of the Lead. Learn. Thrive. Podcast, Nate Solloway, Director of Raffa’s Managed Technology Services and Kerry Mickelson, CIO for Hire, discuss the difference between something happened to my data and I have to stay in business versus something happened to my building and I have to stay in business.

    In this episode of the Lead. Learn. Thrive. Podcast, Nate Solloway, Director of Raffa’s Managed Technology Services and Kerry Mickelson, CIO for Hire, discuss the difference between something happened to my data and I have to stay in business versus something happened to my building and I have to stay in business.

    Listen Now

  • 6/18/2018 Tariffs, Fed’s June Meeting and more

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through June 16th US stocks were mixed over the week as trade war fears mounted.  The S&P 500 edged up less than 0.1% and the Dow fell 0.9% for the week.  Internationally, Europe gained 1.0% and Japan rose 0.7% for the week.  The yield on the 10-year Treasury remained […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through June 16th

    US stocks were mixed over the week as trade war fears mounted.  The S&P 500 edged up less than 0.1% and the Dow fell 0.9% for the week.  Internationally, Europe gained 1.0% and Japan rose 0.7% for the week.  The yield on the 10-year Treasury remained at 2.93%.  Oil fell to $65.06 a barrel for its fourth straight weekly decline.

    President Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to discuss nuclear disarmament.

    The Trump administration is moving forward with tariffs on Chinese goods within the next week.  China is retaliating against US tariffs with tariffs of their own on US exports.  They will levy 25% tariffs on $50 billion worth of US goods to equal the US move.

    At the Fed’s June meeting they voted to raise the fed funds rate a quarter percentage point to a range of 1.75%-2.0%.  It’s the second increase this year and at the meeting they signaled they expected to raise the rate two more times this year. Article

    The ECB said it would end its bond buying program by the end of the year, but that it wouldn’t consider raising rates until September 2019.

    Eurozone growth was 0.4% in the first quarter down from 0.7% in the fourth quarter.

    US retail spending jumped 0.8% in May, the largest increase in six months.

    The Bank of Japan elected to continue with ultra-easy monetary policies.

    A judge approved the merger of AT&T and Time Warner, a historic defeat for the justice department, and sets of the potential for a wave of merger activity in the media industry.

    Tesla announced it was cutting roughly 9% of its workforce.  Article

    In the wake of the AT&T Time Warner judgement Comcast made an unsolicited bid for most of 21st Century Fox’s assets for $65 billion kicking off a bidding war between it and Disney.  Article

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market – courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC.

  • 6/18/2018 Got Excuses? It’s Time to Toss Them Out

    How often have you stuck with the same dentist, bank, mechanic, or other provider because the thought of switching things up seemed more stressful or difficult than settling for the same okay-ish service you’ve been getting?What about your financial advisor? Or your insurance provider? These key consultants can do so much to help your business […]

    taking out the trashHow often have you stuck with the same dentist, bank, mechanic, or other provider because the thought of switching things up seemed more stressful or difficult than settling for the same okay-ish service you’ve been getting?What about your financial advisor? Or your insurance provider? These key consultants can do so much to help your business grow and thrive.

    Or so very little.

    If you’ve been rationalizing your decision to stay with your employee benefits broker, it’s time to get over the fear and drop the excuses.

    Your job is becoming increasingly challenging

    Not to mention critical. As an employer, you have unbelievable responsibilities:

    • You have to help make decisions about your benefit program.
    • You have to communicate details (and value!) to your employees.
    • It’s your responsibility to attract/retain those employees.
    • Often, it’s also your job to keep them engaged and productive.
    • Plus, you have an ever-increasing list of compliance issues to deal with.

    It’s enough to overwhelm even the most seasoned CEO, business owner, or HR professional.

    Deep down, you know there has to be a better way. You KNOW there has to be someone out there who can help make your responsibilities more manageable, your employees happier, and your business more efficient and profitable.

    Maybe you start thinking about all of those “value-added services” your current broker promised, and then it hits you: They haven’t actually delivered on the value they promised.

    You’re not imagining things

    There is a pattern. Lots of brokers out there are setting the performance bar really low. They want you to be satisfied with less steep increases. Or better yet, thrilled with the status quo. They promise to be more proactive, but then you don’t hear from them until it’s renewal time.

    And yet you probably have a few knee-jerk excuses for staying the course. Perhaps you’ve found yourself thinking, “I’d like to change brokers, but…”

    • I don’t want to rock the boat.
    • I’d feel guilty firing my current broker.
    • It would take too much effort to get buy-in.
    • I’m so busy with renewal I don’t have time to think about anything else.
    • I don’t want to waste a bunch of time researching who else might be out there.
    • All insurance people are the same, anyway.

    Your hesitations are understandable. You’re working to do more with less every day. Who has time to even look around, much less commit to one more meeting?

    But at the end of the day, you can’t afford not to be working with the right employee benefits partner.

    It has never been more difficult to create success through your HR/benefit program. And it has never been more critical for you to find the right broker partner to help you achieve the predictable success/results your business needs.

    There are better brokers out there

    And once you start working with one of them, you’ll never want to go back.

    The wrong broker:

    • Walks in assuming they know what you need
    • Wants to give you a free quote
    • Shows you a fancy spreadsheet
    • Brags about relationships with insurance carriers
    • Offers you a set list of “free” services you may not even need
    • Thinks one year at a time
    • Doesn’t tell you how they get paid

    The right broker:

    • Asks a ton of questions
    • Creates strategy for your HR/benefit programs
    • Offers creative benefits packages instead of one-size-fits-all plans
    • Looks for ways to have a positive financial impact on your business operations
    • Wants to make your life easier by streamlining HR administration and processes
    • Brings you specific solutions designed to address your unique business/industry needs
    • Helps you recruit and retain employees and become an employer of choice
    • Is committed to making sure you’re in compliance
    • Thinks long-term and sees the big picture
    • Offers complete transparency with regard to compensation

    If your broker isn’t the right one, it’s time to toss out the excuses and start expecting more.

    Maybe you don’t need to change brokers. Maybe you just need to tell them you want to move beyond finding a policy and develop a true business partnership that will help you achieve the goals above. Invite your broker, and any others you might want to consider, to come in off-renewal to talk about ways to accomplish your critical goals and milestones.

    If your current broker hesitates, takes off running, or makes excuses of their own, you’ll have your answer. It’s time to establish a new normal.

    Tired of working with insurance salespeople who only think one year at a time? Wonder what it would be like to have a broker who looks beyond your annual policy? At Raffa Financial, we’ll provide a corporate employee benefits strategy to help you achieve your long-term your vision. Get in touch to find out how.

     

    Photo by  ljupco

  • 6/9/2018 More Job Openings than Job Seekers

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through June 9th US stocks rose over the week despite trade tensions.  The S&P 500 gained 1.6% and the Dow advanced 2.8%, for the week.  Abroad, Europe eased 0.5% and Japan surged 2.4%, for the week.  The yield on the 10-year Treasury edged up over the week to finish […]

    Financial News and Portfolio Management Discussion through June 9th

    US stocks rose over the week despite trade tensions.  The S&P 500 gained 1.6% and the Dow advanced 2.8%, for the week.  Abroad, Europe eased 0.5% and Japan surged 2.4%, for the week.  The yield on the 10-year Treasury edged up over the week to finish at 2.93%. Article

    Business activity in Europe reached its lowest level in a year and a half in May.

    China said it would buy $70 billion of US goods if the US dropped its threated tariffs.

    In April, for the first time since records were kept starting in 2000, there were more job openings than job seekers.  Article

    Reposted from the Raffa Wealth Management Blog.

    All the news you need to stay informed about what’s currently driving the market – courtesy of Raffa Wealth Management, LLC.

  • 6/7/2018 How Are You, Really? Why Busy is a Bad Answer

    Remember when you used to ask someone how they were doing and they would say something like great, fine, or not-so-good? Ask the same thing today and you’re much more likely to hear how hectic everything has been. It seems as though “Busy!” has become the new knee-jerk response to the classic “How are you?” […]

    busy imageRemember when you used to ask someone how they were doing and they would say something like great, fine, or not-so-good?

    Ask the same thing today and you’re much more likely to hear how hectic everything has been. It seems as though “Busy!” has become the new knee-jerk response to the classic “How are you?” question.

    And that’s not a good thing.

    What are we really saying?

    Busy is nothing more than a socially acceptable way of saying “I’m not fine.” Which could mean one or all of the following:

    • I’m stressed
    • I’m exhausted
    • I’m overwhelmed
    • I’m overscheduled
    • I don’t know how I feel
    • I can’t even answer you
    • I’m barely holding it together

    And yet most of us are guilty of responding in this way. The “Busy!” reply pops out of our mouths before we even realize it’s happening. And we all too willingly accept the same answer from others.

    You’re busy? Sure. That makes sense.

    But does it?

    Busy is not fine

    Somewhere along the line, we jumped on the busy bandwagon, buying into the notion that the busier someone is, the more successful they are. And if you’re not busy? Well, you must just be lazy.

    But let’s consider the various definitions of busy, shall we? A quick Google search yields all of the following:

    • Having a great deal to do
    • Not at leisure; otherwise engaged
    • In use by a party or parties and not immediately accessible
    • Cluttered with small, unharmonious details
    • Foolishly or intrusively active
    • Full of distracting detail

    Now let’s stop for a moment and ask ourselves a few key questions:

    Are these the qualities you look for on others? Or aspire to have yourself?

    Does this sound like the kind of person who is able to think things through and make good decisions?

    Would a person with these characteristics make a good manager, leader or employee?

    Do you trust this person with your child, your business, your money, or your health?

    Let’s face it. Our obsession with being busy has gone too far. It’s time to stop confusing busy with productive and overworking with overachieving. These things are not synonymous.

    Reset your expectations

    So how do we go about retraining ourselves (and our teams) to recognize that busy shouldn’t be the new normal? It all starts with you.

    If you currently worship at the busy alter, it’s time to ask yourself why. Do you really perform at a higher level when you’re busier? Or is that when things start slipping through the cracks?

    Don’t fall for the busy-is-better hype. People who work 18 hours a day are not better people. Or more productive employees. In fact, research says they are less focused, less accurate, and more prone to mistakes. Plus, they may not have seen their loved ones in weeks.

    If this is your definition of better, you need come up with a new one.

    Find a new answer

    The next time someone asks you how you’re doing, don’t bust out the busy response. Take a few seconds to re-frame what you are really trying to say.

    • I’m stressed – “I’m taking up yoga to help me relax.”
    • I’m exhausted – “I’m trying to carve out more time for myself.”
    • I’m overwhelmed – “I got a promotion and I’m afraid I’m in over my head.”
    • I’m overscheduled – “I’m good, but I’ve missed our coffee dates!”
    • I don’t know how I feel – “I think I need a personal day.”
    • I can’t even answer you – “We should catch up over lunch.”
    • I’m barely holding it together – “Thanks for asking. I’m a work in progress.”

    Yes, this may take some effort. We’re all so well trained! But a simple self-check-in is the first step in getting back in touch with how you really feel, and how you really are.

    Get less busy

    It’s okay to cut things out of your schedule. The world will not stop spinning if you take some time for yourself. Decide what you are going to give up and let people know when and how it’s happening. You may run into some resistance, but don’t let that stop you. If you want to be less busy, you’ve got to give yourself (and others) permission to let go.

    Having a hard time doing this? Treat it like a very important task.

    • Schedule downtime on your calendar
    • Give it your full, undivided attention (no multi-tasking!)
    • Ask a supportive person to help hold you accountable
    • Reward yourself when you make progress
    • Encourage others to follow your lead

    Still not sure how to break out of the busy cycle? You can find more ideas here and here. After all, a little light reading never hurt anyone.

    So sit down, kick off your shoes, and don’t worry about being busy.

    Just be.

    At Raffa Financial, we provide long-lasting benefits strategies to take care of your business and your employees. Located in Rockville, Maryland, we identify and manage complex employee benefits challenges for businesses all over the greater Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC area.

    Photo by Gino Santa Maria

     

  • 6/4/2018 How Working at Raffa Made Me Healthier! (And Why You Should Care.)

    Imagine joining a company and pursuing a rewarding career— all while becoming the healthiest you! This is what’s happening at Raffa, and it can happen at your business, too. Because our business is so closely tuned into the insurance industry, we see first-hand the impact that employee health has on company insurance premiums. Not only […]

    Imagine joining a company and pursuing a rewarding career— all while becoming the healthiest you! This is what’s happening at Raffa, and it can happen at your business, too.

    Because our business is so closely tuned into the insurance industry, we see first-hand the impact that employee health has on company insurance premiums. Not only do we see this with our clients every day, we see it in our own business as well.

    With over 300 employees, 100% of our company’s medical/pharmacy claims costs drive 100% of our renewal premiums. At one point, the total paid amount of our claims, the number of large claimants, and employee absenteeism had begun to spiral out of control. To address these issues, we decided to change our organizational behaviors in hopes of creating more positive, healthy outcomes, both for our employees and our bottom line.

    And guess what? It worked!

    The Raffa wellness program was implemented in 2015. Through annual biometric evaluation, we quickly identified some of the drivers behind our increased risk.

    Over the last few years, we have seen tremendous success with the program through ongoing promotion, including:

    • Financial incentives for employees via health premium reductions
    • Company-paid weight loss program
    • Free flu shots
    • Onsite yoga
    • Rewards for taking a coworker to work out
    • Company sponsorship of various athletic events throughout the DC metro region

    The results of these efforts have been significant.

    “This focus on wellness over the past has provided many employees with significant weight loss success, has increased presenteeism, and reduced our health insurance premium increases to well below the medical trend.” 

    – Jon Z., VP Group Benefits, Raffa Financial Services

    From business to personal results, these healthy changes have positively affected the health of our organization. More than 75% of our staff indicated they have lost weight, maintained their healthy lifestyle, or are starting their own journey toward better health since becoming a Raffa employee.

    We’re doing more

    In order to get the most out of our efforts, we knew we needed to fully commit to our program. With that commitment in mind, we formed a  wellness committee to keep everyone informed and engaged, not just while we implemented the program or hired a new person, but on an ongoing and consistent basis.

    We promote healthy lifestyles and communities by organizing fun activities to get us moving and to raise awareness (and cash!) for causes we care about. To help keep our Raffa team members happy and energized, we provide an assortment of fruit on a weekly basis, putting employee health at the top of the priority list.

    Our employees are loving it!

    Here is a quick sample of what participating Raffa employees have to say:

    “I knew I needed to get healthier when I realized the way that I saw myself in my mind did not sync with the way I actually looked. I was going through old photos from a friend’s wedding and realized just how overweight I had become. At that point, I decided I had to lose the weight. I don’t think I would have succeeded if I wasn’t working here when I had this realization. Whether it’s fresh fruit days, my company sponsored stand-up desk, or the bevvy of healthy drink options available, Raffa gave me all the tools and support I needed to succeed.”

    – Josh P., IT, Raffa Financial Services (75 pounds lighter on his feet, happily taking the stairs and feeling like the Incredible Hulk!)

    “I decided it was important to take an active step in getting healthy so I could be a better, healthier version of myself, and take better care of my father. Working in an industry focused on health insurance and outcomes, I feel it’s especially important to get and stay healthy to help reduce overall healthcare costs to myself and the company, and ensure the most cost effective/friendly premiums for us in the future. Not to mention, the overall great feeling of being healthy!” 

    – Karyne G., Group Benefits Service Specialist, Raffa Financial Services (energetically making laps around the office to get her steps in each day!)

    And our clients benefit, too!

    Not only do we get to work in an environment of health-conscious employees, we’re also excited to bring healthy solutions to our Raffa clients.

    “We’ve helped facilitate health fairs and flu clinics, conducted educational seminars, and talked about building wellness programs into both insurance plans and company cultures. For example, some insurance carriers will even pay for a portion of your gym membership. Many of our clients are unaware of these things and the difference they can make.” 

    –Jeyalene B., Broker, Raffa Financial Services

    Workplace wellness is a win-win for employees and employers alike. We pride ourselves in providing the best employee benefit solutions while keeping cost down. I like to think we help increase corporate bottom lines while reducing spending— and waistlines!

    We’re living proof

    Wellness at work can start with anyone, and employers who support it by creating an environment that believes in and promotes healthy lifestyles will see an increase in productivity. After all, we are the products of our environment.

    At Raffa, we’ve created one that attracts and retains a healthier, more productive and engaged workforce.

    And we’d love to do the same for you.

    sherlyn-jeyasekeran

    Written by Sherlyn Jeyasekeran, Analyst at Raffa Financial Services

    Sherlyn loves putting together top-notch proposals, presentations and summaries for his clients. He also loves serving on the Raffa Wellness Committee, helping his coworkers achieve their wellness and fitness goals.

    Get in touch with Raffa Financial Services here.

    Reposted from the Raffa Financial Services Blog.