In this episode we talk to Kalina Donald from Living Brand Result about how Employee Benefits can impact an organization big or small. We talk about the current state of benefits and how one genuine conversation can create an environment that helps organization thrive and grow.
Justin Lam 0:05 You want to find your tribe of raving fans. I'm gonna help you do it. This is the digging deep podcast with Three Sixty Media, where we help you do better business. Hey everybody, this is Justin Lam and you're watching Episode 11! 11! of Digging Deep where we help business owners build better businesses. Today I am joined with a wonderful lady, good friend of mine seem to have lots of good friends who are on the show so far. She's been in the industry for 15 years helping people strategize and create a better health benefits experience. She is a total benefits experience strategist with Living Brand results, please Kalina Donald. Kalina, how are you? Kalina Donald 0:54 Oh, it's it's awesome. I was so excited last night of all the things that I'm working on that I couldn't sleep. I know everyone's like what you weren't like staying up because you're stressed. I'm like, No, I'm on fire. I love all the opportunities that we're working on. Justin Lam 1:10 It is quite an amazing isn't it? This pandemic has really shifted and made people pivot in a lot of environments. Kalina Donald 1:18 Yeah, it's you know, I at the heart of it, I want people to be healthy and well through this and that and business sustainability and there are two of my passions. So I have been firing on all cylinders. It's super sad in some of the things that I'm having to help employers through but at the same time, it's empowering they're able to connect and reach their people like no other. Justin Lam 1:43 Oh, that's a that's that's really cool. All things aside what's your world been like, in the last little while? Kalina Donald 1:53 Well, this is where there's a difference in all of the kind of Like I say, what is the difference between design thinking and agility? Well, one is a plan and a process. The other one is like how you act. So I've had to have empathy and curiosity at the heart of the process. But boy, are we being agile. So as things hit us, we were having to adapt. I was on a weekend away with my family. And so for the longest time, up until yesterday, in fact, I was living out of a weekend bag, because we went into quarantine. Well, we were on that long weekend unexpectedly. So we received notifications on the weekends that we both had. My parents and I had both been exposed to different events. So we decided to hunker down, see what happened, and we were I was just talking about it as like, I don't know if we actually had any symptoms because there's so much unknown. And this is the thing you don't know if you've had it, you don't know, like, maybe they're gonna get us all to mass test. But there's so many unknowns right now. And this is the thing like, how do you deal with that? How do you deal with all the changes and all the unknown? There's no contact, there's no parameters? Justin Lam 3:24 Yeah, I think that's a really good point. This virus is not something that we've seen. And in terms of its pathology, and it's in its widespread, I mean, it shows all sorts of variables and anything that makes it difficult for people to kind of narrow that down. And from, from purely a business standpoint, I mean, that that uncertainty, you know, that first, you know, arrives at the government level, but then also gets pushed down to us as business owners and And the people at large where, you know, we're asked to self quarantine to socially isolate and distance ourselves. But that takes a real toll on us both financially and mentally. And the worst part is, is we don't know when that ends. And so Kalina Donald 4:17 there's no context. Justin Lam 4:19 So how does say a business owner? You know, navigate that with their team. Kalina Donald 4:27 You know, it's interesting, because like, I had to scramble because I was getting questions that I didn't have answers to. And I always say, transparency and honesty are at the heart of every conversation, because you have to say, hey, let me look into that for you. I've never encountered that before. What is but the entire framework that I set up my clients with first and foremost is flexibility. So and personalization, so it should adapt to the business needs and the people's needs. So you have a depth of resources that you put into play, and then you can kind of pull the ones that are needed at any given time. And so I'm grateful for how I set up my clients for success because they could adapt those that needed to and then those who had to put pause on things that was able to be done, you have the ability to have the ready resources. So I talk about employee Family Services. So those lifelines for those families that are going into the crisis modes, you see people breaking in the marketplace, and it's because they haven't had those conversations about their fears with trusted loved ones, or even a resource that needs to kind of like, let off some of the steam because people are blowing up at each other. And, I mean, we're going to see the effects afterwards because it's the trauma that everyone's experiencing. So that is always embedded into every system. I To put into place is like, what are your lifelines? How do you help your people in times of crisis? And then sharing out resources? Right. So that was my next was how do I show care for my community? And so I immediately so shout out to all the vendors and suppliers. Hey, how can I respond? What if What if they have employees in the field? What if they have people in travel right now, whether it's personal or for business? What do they do? And so I started asking all the vendors, all these different questions, and I ended up putting together this quick, like hack together newsletter, slash update, you know, business resources, everything I could find, and I'm seeing a lot of businesses doing that. And their response was gratitude because they were able to, you know, say, hey, what can we use this or what do we have to do? Justin Lam 6:51 So why don't we go into something like that? Yeah, and more for an example, and I think people who are listening to this, you know, What the the super high level we want to dig a little bit deeper and have a better understanding for it. So in terms of health benefits, you know that that your specialty in the capacity that I know, you know what type of things are in place, where from the business owner side, you know, is able to employ or deploy for the people that they that work for them? Kalina Donald 7:30 Well, the biggest thing is I say, at the front, you'd have to be thinking about your people in a different level right now. So they're all like they're all going through a war. And I hate to say this, but you're going through a trauma. And so the critical lifelines would be outlets to escalate like de escalate people from that edge. So you need to have a healthy kind of well being conversations, giving them access to the employee Family Programs. So they're called eftps assistance programs and their position not as I'm going to jump off the bridge helplines, but it's more like lifeline. So when I do the education and rollouts on on all of the programs we talk about, hey, if you have your baby crying versus you need dating advice, you can call this line so you want to kill them. Like how do I teach my kid to tie shoelaces you can ask it. I'm having a dispute dispute with my landlords you can I ask if they can give you a certain level of even legal advice. Justin Lam 8:40 So that's, that's interesting. I think huge, huge and, and I think for for somebody like me, who doesn't necessarily understand the breadth of what health benefits are, that that sounds different to me in in the sense that I know it as as I get dental, I get optical, I get X amount of naturopathic or chiropractor. Kalina Donald 9:02 there's layers, there's layers. Justin Lam 9:04 So can we go through some of those layers of what makes it different? Kalina Donald 9:08 So what I want to do for every organization is, there's usually, okay, what can I get for this price? Is the conversation. For me, I was like, Okay, so what is the philosophy of the organization? And what is your intent with your budget in mind? So, it usually is, I want to care for my people, and I want them healthy. Right? So then you have to say, okay, so but you have however many people on your team, right 100,50, 3. You know, you have a variety of needs, and no two human beings are the same. And yet these programs were designed with ease of application, and reduction of cost. And so when I put a program into place, I'm like, okay, what's your budget? What would you like that budget to do? So then I allow the company to talk to me about their health and well being philosophy. And then I allow the employee to choose what they want out of that budget. So you have the the insured levels of dental and all of the health benefits like drugs and paramedical like, but you have the ability to layer on extra services if the employee needs to. So that's the flex. And what's exciting to me is you see people blossom and grow as you're educating as you're communicating because they're, they feel seen, they feel heard, their employer has a different response and the clients end up kind of flourishing under this because at the core of it, they are saying to their people, hey, I care for you. This is my budget, but I care for you. So you do what you want with a budget, whatever is going have value to your family, you and your family for your health and well being. And then you layer on extra parameters. So you can layer on income protection. So that's your long term disability, and then have them educate on what Short Term Disability options so short term disability options. So say one of your employees is exposed right now. You actually can't really lay them off. It's kind of illegal. So talk to your labor lawyer if you want to do that. But he shouldn't be doing that. So it's a short term disability program and it's a sickness Ei leave typically. Well, now, what is an employer? How can what can they do so that employee has to go into isolation, and what programs so I designed with life at the heart, so empathy and curiosity at the heart of every single program, but with the flexible framework, so literally, whatever your budget is, you have the ability to let the person adapt to their families need. And then you layer on some of these helplines. Every single program I put into place has a helpline embedded unless they're in marketing, which you can plug into math navs. So marketing and communication and broadcasts, NABS is shout out to NABS just quickly but they are a nonprofit that has an MVP for everyone in that industry. And anybody in marketing Broadcast Communications can call in. So Three Sixty Media, yay, you can call into their house. And so, that's another layer in there. And then you have this kind of fluid structure for everyone's life's needs. Hmm. Okay. Justin Lam 12:45 And so, for clarification, how much of that education process lies in the the business owner supplying that benefit or is that fall on your shoulders as as the provider Kalina Donald 12:58 I take it on? As the intermediary because the the lack of communication in this industry is what hurts people. Number one, there's liabilities of getting too much personal information for the for the employer. So you can educate but you cannot really give them personal advice to a total extent in that is crossing some line. So if you bring in outside educator, I can have a total real conversation with your people and then you can connect them with the resources so I have people texting me I was hit by a taxi. What do I do? Justin Lam 13:41 Go to a hospital Kalina Donald 13:42 Yeah, I was like a police reports to a file it you know, you need this, you need this. But yes, I do have higher service levels embedded but I think that that's what kind of creates that experience for the employer as well. They have a trusted, they have me at their back. They know that I'm there for them both as a sustainable business practice, because this is all about business sustainability and growth and productivity, but I'm also there for the people. Justin Lam 14:15 So then let's go to business sustainability then. Yeah, you know, so many businesses, you know, are struggling now, because they're not able to conduct, you know, work and they're not able to draw revenue. Has there been any sort of widespread spread, you know, policies or relief that comes in your world? Like, are they still having to pay the premiums at this time? Like, how does that get supported from the business owners and, and, and what type of questions should they be asking providers? Kalina Donald 14:48 Great questions, so it's like any other service provider, the deeper the pockets and smarter, more kind of extensions they can get, but what I'm seeing From the carriers is that you can have conversations to delay payments. So you'll get a 90 day window for payments on premiums or some relief on the programs itself, so you can redesign them. And that's, that's key for my clients in that I have a budget set. So they can kind of de escalate that budget if the employee has the resources to bump up their, their quality of benefits again, they can still do that. But it's just a budgeting factor. And then we just roll up communications. So it's not too bad and not too hard to do this for my clients because they've already been through these conversations with their employees. And we've had strong education communication along the way. And so employees understand the value of what they're receiving from the employer versus going in blind like what do you mean I don't have benefits anymore, right? I need this heart medication filled. Right. So an employee is able to say, hey, how what how can we contribute? What are my basic needs during this time? So maybe I need to dial back to just like the health side only. So that's the drugs, the paramedic calls, or maybe I need to relieve my dental because I can't even use it right now. dentist, so they're not able to. Justin Lam 16:28 Yeah, so then there is flex in your particular style and, and yeah, and whatnot. That's cool. And in terms of, you know, companies, I think now are looking into things that was it, health spending accounts versus benefits now is there what is the what is the sort of criterion for one and the other or the usage, you know, in terms of how do you know when one should be in place, and when Another one should be in place or do they work in tandem. Kalina Donald 17:03 So in my world, it's all one in the same. So if you have decided as a family, I don't need dental because for instance, my partner has dental. So you can downsize the dental budget, and that moves over where you can then move it into your health side. Maybe you want hundred percent coverage on the health side. Or maybe you need extra budget for your paramedical paramedical or things like chiropractors, your massage, your acupuncture, all of those different services for the health side. And then well you know what, my spouse has great coverage for paramedical so I can actually move it over to the health spending account. A health spending account allows you to have literally hundred percent Redemption of whatever your cost is. And it just is a flow through or if you don't even need that You can then push it over to what we call personal spending. Personal spending allows it, it's a tax, a tax field, because there is taxation around the side. But you could then pull that money out and put it in your rsps. You could put it in your TFSA as you can go take a course, you can go to the gym, buy work boots, buy a motorcycle part, whatever you need to do. So you can actually have this one budget as an employer and that's I say it's a total benefit budget. You can have that move money moves by the employees choice versus by the employers design only. Okay, so don't layers. Okay. Justin Lam 18:47 So as an employee, you're when they first encounter your services, I mean, there's so many solopreneurs or like one or two person shop And I think a lot of that fear is is, you know, what are those premiums going to cost? You know, and and whether that's a sustainable thing or, you know, how, how are they going to implement that? Or maybe their team is too small? How are you able to overcome those because I think a lot of the bigger companies, you know, don't really have forgive forgiving policies or flexible policies for really small shops. Kalina Donald 19:24 So what's really cool about health spending accounts, the one that I love partnering with, has a, again, a budget up front, but it's until it's redeemed, there's no spin from the employer. So you also have a layer of what I call catastrophic. So if you're like a single person shop or a two person shop, you can do that. It has low amount of insurance, but you Just depends on your health philosophy, right? I a lot of the single person premium programs out there, you have to use it a lot to get your value out. So typically I would encourage smaller organizations under three to go the health spending route with the catastrophic insurance in there. So catastrophic insurance is kind of like I was hit by a bus. And it's outside of even like the parameters of the regular health care system, my drug costs are going to be x bla bla bla bla, you know, it's extreme. So it steps in and it gives you that extra peace of mind coverage, and then it gives you travel. So if you leave bc you're not having a problem. So those are what I call catastrophic services. teams of three, like that's very few people can immediately step into the tech world of the flexible programming did. I do So pretty much I have yet to encounter a company I couldn't write. Justin Lam 21:07 And so then for, let's just say a really small shop, how do they know, in their business cycle that they are ready to add benefits? Because I mean, so many of them are scrambling or just trying to make ends meet and, you know, some don't even draw salaries yet they still really want to care for their employees, or their staff, like how do you when is a good time for them to say, Whoa, maybe I could consider it, you know, and start that discussion process. Kalina Donald 21:41 What I look at this is the baselines of productivity, right? So if you have humans in your business, so robots can't apply. Then we all know So we all have bio functions, and teeth, and all the basics. So if you can afford to buy them a coffee, you can afford to buy them at dental checkup den. So you go by what is the price of that person's basic bio needs and their health and well being. And you start with that. So that's why I say start with the be curious, be empathetic. Because for the price of a coffee, you could send them to their dental checkup. And so the misconception that I always bump into is like, I can't afford this. I'm like, well, then like you and I've talked about this, you're not in business. So there is always some basic margins in place for health and well being. If you're asking and I never say the right questions, I was like if you're asking questions, so if you are curious about To your people's needs. And it's a conversation that you just have with them real and say, Hey, like, maybe they have like supreme dental care and hygiene habits and they don't need a ton of stuff. So maybe the coffee is the better option. But a lot have that conversation it because the whole point to this is getting them to be in a place of productivity being healthy being well, that's the entire satisfaction that I have is that our framework looks at how do we structure business for that, but also how do we feel people in that the two sides of what I do Justin Lam 23:42 so is that restricted to only employees or can you have contractors under plans? Kalina Donald 23:48 And there's different and this is where people get so frustrated because it all is according to CRA rules. So why is CRA getting involved with health and wellness? programs, because it's income that you're giving to the employees in Canada, if there's different rules in Quebec, it's taxed in all the other areas of Canada, it's non taxed money. So it's such an opportunity for an employer to give such a really powerful dollar to their people. Because it's an untaxed dollar. Now the power of that is that literally for them to go to the dentist or to go get a massage, on tax dollars, how long did they have to earn that money to go? And then they're like, Oh, well, they can claim it on their taxes. Well, there's that line item that says, okay, 3% of the net is excluded from your medical so you can't actually get those dollars back. Like the average person out there doesn't spend a ton on health and dental services unless there's a really emergency, and so they never get their dollars back. And so we When you start asking questions and connecting with your people, you start seeing a different picture. And even if you have the conversation, they they say, Oh, well, if I have a conversation, then they're going to expect something. I'm like, God, I hope so. Because you should be caring about how they're producing in your organization. Right? No matter how small or large you are, you want to have the right mindset for them to bring to the job. If they have like this debilitating toothache, how well do you think they're going to work? Mm hmm. Justin Lam 25:32 So, so, circling back, I mean, says, what I was asking is really, if, if you have, let's just say you have a group and you have maybe one actual employee by CRA standards, and the rest of them are contractors, now they come in Are you able to offer that for the contractors and we know I know you could offer it for your employees but yeah, Kalina Donald 25:55 yeah, there's sniff tests. So the CRA allows employees to have this non tax benefit. But one of the sniff tests of whether you're an employee or whether you're a contractor is do you get benefits? Justin Lam 26:12 Okay, Kalina Donald 26:13 right. So then a sole proprietor contractor could implement their own benefit structure, and they're able to have 1500 dollars out of their income that goes towards this. Right. But then they have to operate it themselves. So technically the employer Yes, you can have a program in place that they have access to, but it should be very, very carefully structured with both the your accounting and your because different accountants are going to have different kind of grades. So and I am not a Siri or CPA or all these things So I would say ask your accountant, because that is what their comfort level for your particular business. But you do have a 1500 dollar budget that is able to be applied. But it's very closely watched now. And there's definitely advantages for a contractor to come in house and be an employee. Even though your taxation goes up, you still have the ability to have employer relationship with them through the T 2200. Again, ask your accountant but that T 2200 reduces your taxation and your taxable income. So you end up I think, coming out ahead as an employee. Justin Lam 27:45 Okay, cool. Well, thanks. That's a lot of information. I think people find it useful. So if a person wanted to get ahold of you, and find out more, how are they able to find you. Kalina Donald 27:58 You can always find me online. I'm searchable on Instagram on on Twitter, which I don't use Twitter very much, but on LinkedIn, under Kalina Donald. So it's just my name, also our website Living Brand Result. So it's super easy to find me or come visit us and in our business work meetings. Good happy to see you guys there as well. always happy to help people and help anybody access how to feel your people. That's my passion. Love it. Justin Lam 28:32 Amazing. And so one of the things I like to close with is I like to ask each of our guests a resource, something that they really enjoy or find value in that they could share with our audience. Do you have one that you could recommend to the people who are watching or listening, Kalina Donald 28:47 um, you know what I am putting together resources for the entire lbr community, community partners, so we're trying to get that lawn line as fast as possible but in the marketing communications sector like I talked about, really educate people about navs. NABS is the the efmp service for everyone in this sector. And anybody in marketing and communications and broadcast should be using NABS right now for their teams. It's a free resource. And just keep them in mind. It's like, I can't say enough good things about what they're doing because they're giving access to a very kind of crisis ridden sector. And it's very, it's well funded. It's a great charity, but it's an I think, essential service in any person who's almost in frontline work right now. So ask your employers about eftps. or reach out to NABS for marketing communications sector. Justin Lam 29:52 Perfect. And so, is that NABS? Yes, NABS perfect. Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for joining me on the show today. I really appreciate it. For those people who are listening, please if you guys found value in this, feel free to like follow, share, send this to a friend to maybe have any questions about employee benefits. Until next time, I hope you guys are doing well and keep keep trucking away. Hopefully this stuff will be over soon. Thank you clean out again for joining me today and we'll talk to you again soon. Thanks Justin. Transcribed by https://otter.ai