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An American financial giant gets real about student loan debt

(BUSINESS NEWS) There’s no doubt that student loan debt is one of the biggest obstacles the millennial generation faces, but now companies are stepping up to help out.

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Millennial force to be reckoned with

If there’s one thing about Millennial culture taking over the workforce, it’s that personal evolution is wrapped in every aspect of the business model. Because the generation promotes social accountability, progressive employers are stepping up and doing their part.

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They have to. Otherwise, they’ll be left hat in hand, wondering why the best talent is passing them by. And in 2017, with new business ventures popping up at an astounding rate, having the best people is imperative if you want to compete.

Caring culture

Caring about your team has become a priority in the culture of the working world. It’s nice to see companies embrace the idea of a holistic work environment and move away from 17-hour workdays that offer a blurred vision of what benefits could be. Instead, we are seeing progressive employers go above and beyond, and it’s awesome.

One of the more impressive stories popping up in the category of “next level company” has gotta be New York Life.

Despite their status as the biggest insurance provider in America, New York Life is paying it forward with taking employee care to the next level.

They’re going above and beyond the simple notion of “office perk” and offering something incredible: student loan repayment.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Working with Austin’s Student Loan Genius, New York Life has launched a program offering up to $10,200 over five years for eligible employees. They will also provide loan advice and planning tools, pay down plans and contributions toward the life of the debt. This will also count for the children of current employees, too.

Talk about investing back into your people.

This is not a move by New York Life to plan for a “theoretical” future of uncertainty, but instead, they’re working to solve the problems of this moment – the right now. Acknowledging that “right now” is the X-factor in today’s marketplace is a brilliant move because without doing so, companies aren’t addressing the elephant in the room: most of their people owe money to Uncle Sam or Sallie Mae. It’s an inescapable fact of the workplace environment that most of the folks sitting at one of the “good jobs” are likely drowning in loan debt.

Chain reaction

Considering that Bernie Sanders ran an entire campaign on college being too expensive, which one of the main pillars was the insanity of student debt, this move by New York Life works to practically combat the problem and the others it causes.

That $150 per month back into their employees’ pockets covers half the monthly health care cost for the average American.

It’s also enough to buy a $27,000 nicer home, or finance a car.

Taking this whole thing up to an even spicer degree is that New York Life is offering their benefits from the moment new employees sign on the dotted line. No waiting period or anything, because any new employee will tell you, that whole 90-day trial thing is the definition of the suck.

On brand

The student loan repayment move works well with New York Life’s commitment to personal growth and a deeper level of education. One of the cornerstones of the company has been their proactive response to college, taking extracurricular classes, and moving up the corporate ladder.

New York Life has maintained an education assistance program for a long time now, so with the both now balancing out the personal growth category, it’s a bold move to acquire and retain the top talent they are looking for.

Taking care of the people

These moves alongside companies like Atlassian, who offer 100% covered health care for employees and their families, set themselves apart from the pack. Apple has nap rooms, and Facebook has chef-catered, healthy food, Slack gives employees $150 a month for personal wellness, and Lyft gives it’s team free rides anywhere.

These perks are just some of the newest ways businesses are telling their teams they care about their lives and want them to thrive.

Another one of the big perks is centered in the idea of work/life balance is allowing for mothers to take eight weeks off with their new babies, while fathers get six to meet their new kids, too. More and more top-tier companies realize people coming back to work immediately after the birth of a child aren’t focused and fulfilled, and instead, more likely to look for a company with a more progressive family focus.

These are the kinds of perks millennials are after, the one’s that matter.

By adopting a perk like student loan repayment, it puts New York Life in the bigger conversation of companies doing more.

Treating people like people

One of the biggest trends to emerge in the last few years is the idea that treating your employees just as special as customers is critical. New hires want to see core values and how a company executes on them. By working with Student Loan Genius and offsetting some of the costs an employee has in their back pocket, New York Life is going to make waves in the insurance space. A lot of folks will check out their careers page if only to get a glimpse of possibility.

Higher site traffic, higher retention rates, and happier employees. Not a bad tradeoff for helping pay for someone’s undergrad Russian art history class back in 2004. New York Life for the win.

#NewYorkStudentLifeLoanGenius

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Robert Dean is a writer at ScaleFactor and The American Genius. He is a writer, journalist, and cynic. His most recent novel, The Red Seven is in stores. Currently, he’s working on his newest novel, Tragedy Wish Me Luck. He also likes ice cream and panda bears. He currently lives in Austin. Stalk him on Twitter.

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The sad truths you missed about the US Women’s Soccer Team lawsuit

(NEWS) The US Women’s Soccer team dominated headlines by suing for equal pay, but there was so much more to the lawsuit that could have a ripple effect in the business world.

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Recently, on International Women’s Day, the United States Women’s Soccer Team (USWNT) filed a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation. The timing of the suit is not only a sign of the team continuing their decades long fight against the organization (only three months before they are set to defend their World Cup title in France), but a recognition of the symbol that they have become in the larger battle that women and other minorities are waging in order to be given the same resources as the men leading in their fields.

It should go without saying that the women’s soccer team is unparalleled in its athletic success: over the past twenty years they have won three World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals. These players, as ESPN acknowledges, are among the most accomplished and best known women athletes in the world.

Their counterpart, the Men’s National Soccer Team, leaves much to be desired (they failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup, for example) yet they consistently receive much more support from the US Soccer Federation.

Although the pay disparity between the USWNT and the male soccer team is certainly stark, the “gains” that the women athletes are fighting for go beyond monetary compensation.

According to Mashable, “This [suit] includes how women frequently play on a dangerous artificial surfaces when the men do not, fly commercial when the men travel by more convenient, comfortable charter flights, and the alleged allocation of fewer resources to promote women’s games compared to men’s.”

As if being the best players in your sport in the world and having to share hotel rooms after getting torn apart by the seams astroturf and receiving less-than-world-class medical care wouldn’t be infuriating enough, it’s truly this final point that highlights the glaring mistreatment of the USWNT.

Without support from the US Soccer Federation, not only in the form of payment but in promotion of their games and general good-will toward their players, the USWNT will not be able to grow their following so that they can establish a consistent revenue near what the men’s team attracts. This “lack” of revenue continues to create the chicken/egg excuse that the Federation has for not propping up the USWNT like they deserve.

It’s simply the opposite of “sportsmanship” for the US Soccer Federation to use these players’ love of playing the game (that, again, they are the best in the world at) and their country as a way to gaslight them into playing for less.

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Think about automating tasks instead of replacing workers

(BUSINESS) Automation is great, unless you obsess over it and try to cut down on payroll – there’s a smarter approach that successful businesses take.

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The concept of automating your workflow is a tempting one — especially as payroll continues to be one of the evergreen highest costs of business. However, in contemplating how to streamline your workflow, you may do better to step back from the idea of “replacing workers” and instead think about you can optimize your existing employees by strategically tweaking their workflow.

As Ravin Jesuthasan and John Boudreau write in The Harvard Business Review, if the goal of automating is to ensure that your company is operating at its most cost effective and efficient levels, then chances are you’d still need knowledgeable employees to help you scale and capitalize.

Where automation can truly help your business is by transforming the ability of your organization to focus on the tasks that truly require a human touch or deep knowledge. For example, automation will not help your employees perform complex, interactive, or creative work like collaborating with clients to come up with solutions or designs.

However, it can help the process of brainstorming or co-designing these solutions easier by replacing some of the mechanical tasks that aid this high-level workflow.

For example, it may be helpful to automate basic research tasks for your designers. If your designers must create a client profile to help them launch their projects — basic information must surely exist at some other point in the process before this point. Maybe your firm has an intake form or contracts where a basic description of the goal of the contracted service has been created. By automating the sharing of that data between departments, perhaps in a content management system, you’d be able to free up time that the designers might spend on basic data collection so that they could instead use it for their more complex, empathetic work.

Jesuthasan and Boudreau offer up other advice for thinking about which specific tasks within your company’s workflow are the best candidates for automation.

Is a task simple? Routine? Does it require collaboration?

These kinds of inquiry are not only useful when thinking about your organizational processes, but they are good refreshers for thinking about the individual value and skills that your organization and its workers offer clients.

So instead of looking at how to cut down on payroll, consider automation as an option to improve the value you’re getting from your team, and freeing them from mind-numbing tasks that have nothing to do with their expertise. Win-win!

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Megabrand, Amazon failing to support their working parent employees

(BUSINESS NEWS) Policies are changing at American companies to be up to par in supporting parents, but Amazon, despite being one of the most profitable companies in history, is not one of the evolving brands.

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Households in which both parents work is so much the norm in this country that we rarely ask new mothers if they’ll go back to work knowing it’s only a matter of when they’ll go back to work.

And once new mothers re-enter the workplace, the expectation of their time rarely changes to account for their new status as working mothers. Schedules change and so do childcare needs.

However, some progressive companies are changing their policies to accommodate their employees’ need for childcare, but Amazon isn’t one of them. Yet.

Dubbing themselves the Momazonians, a group of working mothers at Amazon is demanding that the online retail giant provide a back-up childcare benefit.

Back-up child care, for the uninitiated, is a perk that offers workers access to subsidized care for the times when school is closed, reliable childcare is temporarily unavailable, or in the event of sickness or emergency.

Why is this important? For starters, women who return to work shortly after giving birth are often left feeling unsupported and burdened by their choice to continue their careers instead of feeling empowered to enter into the next chapter or phase of their career.

Some companies believe that babies just aren’t good for business and once a woman makes the choice to expand her family, she’s often passed over for promotions or thought to no longer prioritize her career. Of course, these companies are wrong and that’s why it’s important for working mom’s to feel empowered to make their voices heard.

Will the Momazonians make any headway in getting the help they deserve? Time will tell.

They’ll be meeting in the next few weeks in an attempt to make a deal. However, whether or not Amazon complies with their demands, it’s worth thinking about for companies pondering parental policies in the future. As more and more millennials are marrying and having children later in life and thus further along in their careers, it would behoove companies to offer more flexible benefits to families. While it may seem cheaper to hire entry-level employees, in the long run, it’s more cost effective to hold onto experienced workers.

What’s more, while it’s incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to have it all, companies could make it easier to at least manage work-life balance better. When you offer mothers and fathers flex-time and work-from-home benefits, or even subsidized care, you are purchasing peace of mind and a peace-filled mind is a productive one.

Any woman who has gone back to work knows the hardest part of their day is dropping off their new little one in someone else’s care so why not make these transitions easier if it means holding on to experience? In the long term, it leads to employee retention. Children aren’t children forever and if they’re parents are offered support, those parents will probably perform better.

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