Category Archives: benefits

Zenefits: Unicorn Comeback?

Remember Zenefits — the cloud-based benefits-administration startup that was going to revolutionize the industry by providing a benefits platform to small and mid-sized businesses and which was valued at $4 billion just two years after it was founded? The high-flying unicorn plummeted back to earth amid revelations that Zenefits’ co-founder and CEO, Parker Conrad, led an effort to help the company’s sales reps skip over state insurance-licensing requirements so they could start selling as soon as possible. More fuel was added to the bonfire when details started emerging about Zenefits’ rowdy office culture, in which managers had to send out a memo specifically banning employees from having sex in the building’s stairwells. The company parted ways with Conrad, laid off hundreds of employees, and cut its valuation in half in order to avoid a lawsuit by investors.

Now the company is struggling to regain its once-lofty perch, but its got robust new rivals to contend with. In today’s New York Timestechnology columnist Farhad Manjoo interviews Zenefits’ current CEO, David Sacks, about its soon-to-be-released software redesign, the internal reforms he undertook to fix the company’s culture and its new branding campaign, which include billboards throughout Silicon Valley that ask: “What is Z2?” In the wake of Conrad’s resignation, Manjoo writes, Sacks worked hard to rebuild Zenefits’ reputation by being open and honest about previous wrongdoings, describing his strategy as “admit, fix, settle and repeat.”

But Zenefits’ path to redemption faces roadblocks in the form of  new, well-funded competitors such as Gusto, which has 40,000 paying customers and was recently valued at $1 billion, Manjoo writes. Gusto has a much different corporate culture than did the earlier incarnation of Zenefits, where the philosophy had been “ready, fire, aim”: Gusto is taking a slower, more deliberate approach to building its business under the leadership of its CEO, Joshua Reeves. Its offices “has the air of a meditative retreat,” Manjoo writes, with plants, couches and a ban on wearing shoes “to make it feel more like home than work.”

Yet regardless of whether Zenefits or Gusto ultimately prevails, this heated competition for the SMB market probably means the ultimate winners will be the small to mid-sized companies that had previously been unable to afford the sort of benefits-administration software that large companies have long enjoyed. Despite the sordid behavior that marked its rise, Zenefits’ early founders at least deserve props for being one of the first to use the cloud to help this long-underserved market.


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Are You Giving Job Seekers What They Want?

The gender gap. The generation gap. The wage gap. The skills gap …

Disparities abound in the workplace, unfortunately. And, according to Randstad U.S., we can go ahead and add “attributes gap” to the lengthy list.

The HR services provider’s recent survey of more than 200,000 respondents—designed to measure “the market perception of employers with the largest workforces” in 25 countries, according to Randstad—found salary and employee benefits, long-term job security and a pleasant working atmosphere to be the top three employer characteristics that job seekers value most.

These same attributes, however, scored fifth, sixth and eighth, respectively, on the list of attributes that would-be employees feel companies actually offer.

The same poll finds employers excelling in other ways, of course. The problem is that job seekers don’t seem to care that much about the things that organizations are good at delivering.

For example, the attributes that job seekers feel U.S. employers score highest on—financial health, strong management and quality training, in that order—rank fifth, ninth and seventh on jobseekers’ list of most-desired employee attributes.

“These findings reveal an ‘attributes gap’ between what U.S. job seekers want and what they perceive potential employers to be best at providing,” says Jim Link, chief human resource officer at Randstad North America, in a statement.

“What this should signify to employers is a growing disconnect that can be detrimental from an employee engagement, retention and, ultimately, cost perspective.”

Naturally, Randstad offers employers and HR executives suggestions on bridging this gap, such as “evaluat[ing] where you stand versus companies with which you compete for talent and determin[ing] the best steps to take to improve upon performance and/or perception.”

In addition, the firm recommends developing a three-year plan to “anticipate the future needs of your employees and what employer attributes talent will view as most important,” advising HR leaders to “arm yourself with insight leveraging talent analytics and predictive workforce intelligence to stay ahead of changing workplace dynamics.”

While organizational and HR leaders “may not be able to influence every workplace desire, managing workers’ wants and needs should not only be done from a macro-level by the organization,” says Link, “but also much more frequently from a micro-level by managers to ensure alignment.”

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Retirement Planning: The Gender Gap Persists

A quick search of our website, using the terms “women” and “retirement,” brings back an article from August 2008 that describes retirement planning as “a nightmare for many women.”

In said piece, former HRE freelancer Marlene Prost shed light on female employees’ well-founded worries about outliving their retirement savings, and urged HR leaders to “step in with help” for women workers, who live longer than men on average while typically earning less.

As I sat this morning reading a press release summarizing new Aon Hewitt research, it felt like Prost’s article could have just as easily been written in 2016.

In other words, the story remains largely the same.

In examining the retirement saving and investing behaviors of roughly 3.5 million defined contribution participants from more than 125 employers, the Lincolnshire, Ill.-based Aon Hewitt found that 83 percent of women aren’t saving enough to meet their needs in retirement, compared to 74 percent of men who feel they aren’t putting enough away to live comfortably after leaving the workforce.

Aon Hewitt projects that women will need 11.5 times their final pay to meet their financial needs in retirement, but finds “a gap of 3.3 times pay between what women need and what they’re actually on track to have saved in order to retire at age 65.” Meanwhile, the disparity between needs and resources is just 2.0 times pay for men.

This shortfall, according to Aon Hewitt, means women, on average, will need to work until age 69—one year longer than men—in order to meet 100 percent of their needs in retirement.

“Women face significant stumbling blocks when it comes to saving enough for retirement, including longer lifespans, lower salaries and a greater likelihood of taking hardship withdrawals from their 401(k)s,” says Virginia Maguire, director of retirement products and solutions at Aon Hewitt, in the aforementioned press release. “Making retirement and financial well-being a priority is paramount for overcoming those challenges.”

The study also finds women and men participating in employer 401(k) plans at the same rate (79 percent), but lower savings rates pair with salary incongruities to further broaden the savings gap. For example, women are, on average, contributing 7.5 percent of their salaries to 401(k)s, which lags more than a full percentage point behind male employees (8.7 percent). In 2015, women had an average plan balance of $71,060, while the average amount for men was $119,150 last year, according to the report.

Naturally, Aon Hewitt suggests ways in which employers can help chip away at the difference, including offering tools such as healthcare and financial market education to improve overall financial well-being, providing professional investment help and adding plan features designed to increase savings rates.

And, even minor tweaks can have a major impact.

“When employers take an active role in helping all workers improve their financial well-being and save more for retirement, women will benefit,” according to Maguire. “Small changes to plan design and an improved focus on day-to-day finances can go a long way to closing the savings gap.”

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Telecommuting Up, Wellness Down

ThinkstockPhotos-491705703SHRM’s latest benefits survey suggests that the range of offerings has exploded over the last 20 years — yet many of the core health and retirement offerings remain the most popular.

The Society for Human Resource Management has surveyed its members annually since 1996 to gauge how their organizations spend resources on benefits ranging from health plans to child care referral services.

The share of companies offering core benefits like health coverage has changed little over those 20 years, the survey suggests. About 98 percent offered health plans in 2016 and 94 percent offered some kind of retirement plan.

But a 20-year comparison shows the rise and fall of specific benefits as employee needs, company resources, technology and fashions changed. Overall, this year’s survey asked about 344 different benefits, up from 60 in 1996, said Evren Esen, SHRM’s director of survey programs. She briefed reporters on the results Monday at the organization’s 2016 annual conference in Washington, D.C.

Among newly included benefits: coverage of genetic testing, student-loan assistance and freezing of women’s eggs for nonmedical reasons as a recruitment tool, Esen said. “That wasn’t even on the radar screen” in 1996, she said. “We couldn’t have imagined that.”

Perhaps the most dramatic rise is in the share of employers offering telecommuting — 60 percent in 2016, up from from 20 percent in 1996.

Also seeing significant gains were legal assistance services, up 12 points to 25 percent in 2016; and help with professional dues, up 23 points to 88 percent. In the shorter term, since 2012, fast-rising benefits include health savings accounts, up 7 points in four years to 50 percent, and standing desks, up 20 points to 33 percent.

The list of benefits losing steam over those 20 years is longer. Among the most dramatic drop was credit union services, declining by 47 percentage points to 23 percent of employers in 2016. Employee stock-ownership plans also have declined sharply, the survey suggests. In 1996, 28 percent of employers offered the benefit; the share in 2016 was just 9 percent.

And the share of organizations offering help with parking also dropped significantly, to 10 percent from 25 percent 20 years earlier.

Some benefits showed evidence of losing popularity after years of gains. Wellness benefits were offered in 2016 by 72 percent, up 18 points from 1996. But that share was down from 80 percent in 2015.

While weight-loss and smoking-cessation programs “have stood the test of time,” some other wellness programs may not, Esen said.

“I think wellness is here to stay,” she said. “However, it may be that organizations are taking a step back, to see what’s working.”

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The Benefits That Employees Like Best

So it’s not all about the money.

Countless studies have shown employers that much over the past few years, as benefits packages—retirement plans, leave policies, wellness programs and so on—figure more and more prominently in employee satisfaction scores.

But which benefits matter most to workers?

Glassdoor Economic Research, the research arm of Sausalito, Calif.-based job and career website Glassdoor, sought answers to that question in a pair of recent studies.

The first, Which Benefits Drive Employee Satisfaction?, sampled more than 470,000 benefits reviews left anonymously on Glassdoor by employees over the course of roughly 15 months. The sample included 1,226 U.S. employers with at least 20 benefits reviews, across all sectors and ranging in size from 50 employees to more than 10,000 employees.

Not surprisingly, health insurance had the biggest effect on how employees rated their satisfaction with employers’ benefits offerings, followed by retirement plans and vacation and paid time off.

Conversely, employee discounts and maternity/paternity leave were found to have little impact on overall satisfaction.

The latter finding may seem surprising when you consider the trend toward more generous leave policies. But, while many employers have indeed added maternity and paternity leave benefits in recent years, “it is possible benefits that are not used by a large subset of employees do not impact overall benefits package satisfaction,” according to Glassdoor.

For its Benefits Review survey, Glassdoor dug a bit deeper, collecting data from employee reviews of 54 distinct employer-provided benefits, such as pet-friendly workplaces, employee adoption assistance, travel concierge services, company cars and mobile phone discounts.

Some of the results were similar, with health insurance deemed to be the top predictor of employee satisfaction with benefits. Vacation and paid time off, pension plans, 401(k) plans and retirement plans rounded out the top five.

Parental leave policies, however, ranked much higher in this study, with maternity and paternity leave ranking as the seventh-best predictor of employee satisfaction with respect to benefits.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, benefits and perks such as gym memberships, reduced or flexible hours, and childcare barely register on the employee satisfaction scale, coming in at 43, 50 and 53 on the list, respectively.

“Overall, the above results echo the findings of our earlier study,” according to Glassdoor. “The core benefits that matter most to workers are health insurance, vacation and paid time off, and retirement plans. These core benefits are most highly correlated with employee satisfaction with benefits packages.”

Still, Glassdoor advises caution in attempting to parse these numbers.

“These are just simple correlations between benefit ratings, and don’t statistically control for factors like company size or industry, as in our previous, more rigorous analysis of Glassdoor benefit ratings.”

Such limitations aside, the lesson that lies within these figures should be clear, according to the company.

“While less common benefits tend to dominate media coverage, employers should not neglect core benefits such as health insurance and paid time off. The data clearly show these benefits—while less exciting than many of today’s flashy workplace perks—are still the main drivers of employee satisfaction.”

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The Many, Many Vacation Days Not Taken

Here’s a new buzzword to add to your lexicon: “under-vacationed.” It’s how Project: Time Off, which regularly surveys American workers on how much time they take off from work, describes the 55 percent of U.S. workers who left vacation days unused last year, according to its latest survey. Previous Project: Time Off research showed that 42 percent of Americans were leaving vacation time on the table.

Project: Time Off is sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association, which obviously stands to benefit from more people taking time off to, you know, travel. But the research seems pretty legit, using polling firm GfK to conduct random representative samples of the U.S. population. This year’s survey queried 5,641 American workers working at least 35 hours per week, including 1,184 managers who are company decision-makers.

American workers have lost a full week of vacation, the research finds. Previous research conducted by Project: Time Off found U.S. workers’ vacation usage had fallen to 16.0 days a year—nearly a full week less than the average between 1978 and 2000, when it was 20.3 days per year. In the latest analysis of vacation usage, American workers took 16.2 days of vacation in 2015.

This year’s survey marks the first time that a majority of American workers have left vacation days unused. Previous surveys showed that 42 percent of Americans were leaving vacation time on the table. These “under-vacationed” Americans left a total of 658 million unused vacation days, far exceeding the previous estimate of 429 million unused days, according to Project: Time Off.

It’s not quite as bad as it sounds: Previous Project: Time Off surveys were conducted mid-year and asked respondents how much vacation time they anticipated using during the year. However, the latest survey was conducted in January and required that respondents know the exact amount of time they’d used during the previous year.

Why are so many Americans leaving their vacation time unused? Fears that employees would return to a mountain of work (37 percent) and that no one else can do the job (30 percent) topped the list. People who ranked higher in the organization also expressed concern that it’s harder to take time off when you hold such positions (28 percent). Twenty-two percent cited the idea that employees want to show “complete dedication” to their company and job.

People with high-ranking positions can have a big impact on changing this trend for the better: Eighty percent of employees said if they felt fully supported and encouraged by their boss, they would be likely to take more time off.

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Millennials Running a Career Marathon

There’s been a lot of talk—an awful lot—about how millennials see work differently than the generations that preceded them.

When it comes to their post-employment prospects, though, Gen Y workers apparently share the view of many of their more experienced colleagues.

In other words, millennials aren’t sure they’ll ever get to retire either.

ManpowerGroup’s Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision report finds American millennials “preparing to run career ultramarathons,” with 66 percent of 1,000 employees between the ages of 20 and 34 saying they expect to work past the age of 65. Thirty-two percent anticipate staying on the job beyond age 70, and 12 percent of these incurable optimists foresee keeling over in a cubicle, essentially working “until the day they die.”

But, however long they wind up working, millennials will be taking a breather here and there. Indeed, 76 percent of those polled by ManpowerGroup said they are likely to take career breaks longer than four weeks. The reasons for these breaks “are revealing,” according to the report, which notes that women intend to take more time out to care for others—children, older relatives and partners as well as doing volunteer work.

More specifically, 66 percent of female millennials indicated that they plan to take leave after the birth of their children, while 32 percent of men said the same. Thirty-two percent of women anticipate taking time off to care for parents or aging relatives, compared to 19 percent of men who expect to put their careers on hold at some point for the same reason.

Gen Y still hopes to squeeze in some fun, however. The report points out that both genders aim to prioritize “me-me-me time” and leisure-related breaks, with 29 percent of American millennials planning to take significant breaks for relaxation, travel or vacations.

Still, the occasional hiatus aside, it seems millennials are looking down a long road, unsure of when or if they’ll get to enjoy their golden years. They’re not the only ones, of course, and a new Willis Towers Watson survey is just the latest to reinforce this fact.

The consultancy’s 2015/2016 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey polled 5,083 U.S. workers, 23 percent of whom believe they won’t be able to retire before they turn 70, if at all.

Naturally, fretting over their retirement savings, or lack thereof, is taking a toll on these workers, with 40 percent of those who anticipate working past age 70 saying they have high or above-average stress levels. (Just 30 percent of employees expecting to retire at age 65 report feeling that frazzled.) Forty-seven percent of these employees said they are in very good health, compared to 63 percent of those expressing confidence that they’ll be able to walk away at age 65.

The connection between employees’ uncertainty about retirement and their stress levels—regardless of age—is a logical one. But, with the vast majority of workers counting on their employer’s retirement plan as their primary savings tool, organizations “have plenty of motivation to act,” said Shane Bartling, senior retirement consultant at Willis Towers Watson, in a statement.

“In addition to saving for retirement, employees are dealing with other, competing financial priorities such as housing and debt,” said Bartling, urging employers to “personalize their real-time decision-making support and recalibrate default enrollment to close the gaps in employee understanding about the savings amount required and costs in retirement.”

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Getting Your Messages ‘Heard’

You can create the best comp and benefit plan in the world, but it will be all for naught if you don’t get your communication strategy right.

dv1492011Despite the many and varied tools available to them, employers continue to struggle to communicate in a way that ensures their messages are being heard. Sure, employers may be getting information into the hands of their employees. But is it really resonating with them?

The above point wasn’t lost on those responsible for programming WorldatWork’s 2016 Total Rewards Conference and Exposition in San Diego, which featured several sessions focusing on comp and benefit communications.

(Indeed, each of the half-dozen sessions I attended included at least a couple of slides emphasizing the critical role of effective communications.)

The value of a well-crafted communication strategy was certainly evident in a session titled  “Cutting-Edge Communication Strategies to Drive Employee Engagement.”

John Hyttinen, senior director of total rewards at ADP Canada, detailed the key role communications played as ADP went about revamping its global bonus program. Business leaders, he said, realized they needed to do a better job leveraging multimedia in order to communicate those changes to employees.

To that end, ADP engaged GuideSpark to build a solution for delivering content to its multigenerational workforce. (GuideSpark provides internal communication platforms that specialize in areas such as benefits, financial wellness and talent management.)

In the session, GuideSpark’s CEO and Co-Founder Keith Kitani provided attendees with a series of tips aimed at creating more effective communications, including …

  • Think holistically about your employee-engagement touch points. “To build a connection, you need consistency” from beginning to end.
  • Make sure your communication includes a theme. “Are you trying to get above the noise or just check off a compliance box?”
  • Put your employees at the center of your communication. “You need to connect on a much more personal level” and “help them understand what’s in it for them.”
  • Personalize your communication. He pointed out that “35 percent of Amazon’s revenue is driven by recommendations.”
  • Use a multi-channel approach.
  • Leverage trends such as social, mobile and Big Data.
  • Embed communications in the employee workflow so employees are able to get the information when they need it.
  • Measure your success. “It’s really important that you measure what you’re doing” and use that data to modify your approach.

At least one presentation at the conference addressed the challenges of getting your message across to the organization’s business leaders. No easy task, either.

In a session titled “Storytelling: Influence Leaders and Make a Business Impact,” Britt Wittman, director of executive compensation at Intel, outlined ways benefit and comp leaders can effectively use storytelling to make their cases.

Speaking to a packed room, Wittman explained how stories, when properly used, can be a powerful tool that helps “people remember key messages” and “drives them to act.”

To prove his point, Wittman (who, as the session’s title suggested, focused his presentation on influencing business leaders) shared a story involving former Intel CEO Paul Otellini. “One of the reasons Intel’s stock had gone sideways [for a while] despite strong financial results was the fact that the story Paul was telling The Street was not a compelling vision of the future.”

(Wittman prefaced his remarks by saying that, while Otellini was the “goat of this story,” he was a good CEO.)

You can present the data, Wittman said, but that alone isn’t going to inspire people to take action.

The key to delivering a good story, of course, is to know your audience, Wittman said. “The more you know that audience,” he explained, “the more likely your story is going to have an emotional connection. If you’re talking to someone who hates sports, building sports analogies into your presentation simply isn’t going to work.”

Fortunately, he said, benefit and comp professionals are often presenting to the same individuals—so “leverage what you know about them.”

Effective storytelling, Wittman said, requires setting the context. You need to make sure business leaders understand what you’re talking about, he said, adding that doing so could make a huge difference in getting a “yes” rather than a “no” to a particular request.


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Pawternity, Could it Happen Here?

A good bit of attention has been paid recently to a phenomenon taking shape across the pond.

521075238 -- petsIt seems a growing number of companies in the United Kingdom — mostly smaller start-ups — are beginning to offer their employees what’s being called pawternity leave; i.e., paid-time-off to bond with their new four-legged furry friends or tend to their old ones.

This piece that appeared on the appropriately-named website, “The Bark: Dog is My Co-Pilot,” mentions several employers that have gone this route — Mars Petcare, BitSol Solutions and Now What.

At Manchester-based IT company BitSol, company owner Greg Buchanan says pawternity is actually good for the bottom line, according to this piece in USA Today.

“You know, we are quite sympathetic to pets in the U.K.; we’re a pet-loving country,” he tells the paper. “Obviously we take it on a case-by-case [basis]. If somebody’s asking for time off for a goldfish, no, no — then it’s not quite what we set out for.”

He also cautions that “[i]f you do give time off for pawternity leave, you are limiting the number of people available to you.” However, he adds, “I believe morale of staff definitely improves and they actually want to work harder for you.”

The Bark piece puts the number of pet owners in the U.K. who have been offered time off to care for Fido or Fluffy at nearly one in 20. It also mentions that Mars Petcare, a pet-care company, was one of the first employers to institute a formal pawternity policy, now allowing its employees 10 hours of paid leave when adding a new pet to the family.

Based on his recent column on the U.K trend toward better treatment of its workers, I reached out to HRE‘s talent management columnist, Peter Cappelli (George W. Taylor professor of management and director of the Center for Human Resources at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia), to see if this four-legged phenomenon could happen here.

“I’d say the U.S. model of just giving people personal time for whatever is important to them makes more sense than trying to define legitimate reasons for leave,” he told me. But he did seem impressed with how far the Brits will go in their efforts to accommodate pet owners.

Personally, I have been thinking about getting a dog lately. And being single, I’m concerned about what will get chewed or stained while I’m at work. Not even sure the effort would be worth it without a benefit like this.

But …… moving to London seems like a pretty drastic solution.

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A Wake-Up Call for the Sleep Deprived

Several familiar themes emerged at Virgin Pulses’ 2016 Thrive Summit in Boston this week, including some we heard at HRE’s Health & Benefits Leadership Conference earlier this spring.

Arianna Huffington’s humorous and engaging keynote Tuesday afternoon on the topic of sleep deprivation was one that personally resonated with me. Maybe it had something do with the fact I was still struggling with jet lag, having just returned from a trip from Japan the weekend before?

Of course, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to grasp the detrimental impact sleep deprivation can have on effectiveness and productivity. Studies have repeatedly shown the huge toll it can take on businesses, including one titled “Insomnia and the Performance of U.S. Workers: Results from the American Insomnia Survey” that put lost workplace productivity at around 11 days per employee—or the equivalent of $2,280 per employee. If you’re a business leader, figures like these, you would think, could lead to a few sleepless nights of your own.

Huffington, founder, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, touched on the problem of sleep deprivation in Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. Most likely in the hopes of drawing more attention to this ever-important issue, she also came out with a new book last month dedicated to the subject titled The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time. (As an attendee at the Thrive Summit, I received a complimentary copy, which I’m looking forward to giving a more thorough read.)

In her Thrive Summit talk, Huffington shared her own personal awakening, which involved pushing herself so hard nine years earlier that she collapsed and, in the process, broke her cheekbone. She noted that “you’re not successful when you find yourself in a pool of blood.”

After a series of doctor visits and testing, she said it was determined the cause of the fall wasn’t a brain tumor or heart condition, but was due to her not getting enough sleep.

“Sleep deprivation is the new smoking,” she said.

Despite noting that her talk would be apolitical, Huffington, a political commentary who regularly takes aim at the Republican Party, couldn’t refrain from taking a jab at the Republican Party’s “presumptive” nominee, who has, on occasion, boasted about the limited sleep he needs to get. That candidate, she said, seems to display all of the symptoms of a person who is sleep deprived: mood swings, bad judgement, etc.

Huffington said the science shows that people need seven to nine hours of sleep, not the three, four or five many are settling on—and employers and HR leaders need to do more to enable that to happen.

For starters, she said, business leaders need to end the practice of praising and rewarding those who never disconnect from their jobs. “When you congratulate people who work 24/7, it’s like congratulating them for coming to work drunk,” she said.

Huffington specifically praised the efforts of business leaders such as Amazon’s CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who have been ahead of the curve in talking about the value of getting eight hours of sleep a night. Other so-called “sleep evangelists” mentioned in The Sleep Revolution include Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.

There are a number of steps people can take to get “rekindle our romance with sleep,” Huffington said. She specifically emphasized the value of creating a ritual before going to bed. For her, that ritual includes disconnecting from all electronic devices roughly 30 minutes ahead of time and taking a hot bath in Epsom salts.

Whether it’s 30 minutes or something less, she said, “we need to wind down and put the day behind us.”

Of course, for those of us who aren’t getting enough sleep, changing our behavior is often easier said than done. So it probably wasn’t a coincidence that the program kicked off the following morning with a workshop titled “Behavior Change is a Skill,” conducted by BJ Fogg, director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University.

The premise of his workshop was that people can learn to change their behaviors—that people can acquire skills for changing just as they can learn how to play a musical instrument or swim.

Or, I suppose for that matter, learn how to get a better night’s sleep.

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