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Mighty Hook Saves Big on Business Insurance with Launchways

Mighty Hook is the largest manufacturer of hanging solutions and masking products for industrial finishing and powder coating processes. Mighty Hook has on-site engineers to improve efficiency through custom solutions. Their mission is to provide customers with high-quality, innovative, cost-effective products to improve their hanging efficiency and productivity in paint, powder, and e-coat processes.

Mighty Hook relies on its highly-skilled employees to innovate customized solutions for its clients, so the company takes employee compensation and engagement extremely seriously. For Scott Rampala, Mighty Hook President and CEO, it’s all about balancing offering competitive employee compensation and competitive rates for customers. The key to meeting the needs of employees and clients alike is to minimize human resources overhead, optimize employee compensation packages, and reduce business insurance costs so he can allocate resources where they matter most.

Scott first turned to Launchways when he decided to conduct an employee compensation audit eight years ago to better compete for talent while keeping costs low. The Launchways team facilitated the audit by ensuring that the auditor had the payroll information they needed to accurately assess Mighty Hook’s employee compensation. This included payroll data and departmental allocation to guide the auditor in determining the correct total payroll investment and compensation for individual employees depending on their employee classifications.

The audit successfully aligned Mighty Hook’s compensation strategy with their talent acquisition and business goals. Scott also decided to bring in Launchways to manage the company’s payroll processing so he could be sure that his employees were being taken care of without draining valuable internal resources. As he describes the value of Launchways’ payroll services,

“Payroll can be a touchy subject and Launchways does a great job of tracking the vital sensitive information and limiting access to key stakeholders. Best of all, I can rely on Launchways to make sure our employees are paid on time, which is a huge peace of mind for me and my team. It means that I can focus on reaching our business goals rather than the details of employee compensation.”

But the most lasting effect of Mighty Hook’s partnership with Launchways has been the reduction of business insurance costs across the board year after year. Before working with Launchways, Mighty Hook tended to renew their plans with their existing business insurance providers. Launchways brought a new approach to Mighty Hook’s insurance, taking the plans to the open market each year to find the best deals. This approach allows Mighty Hook to be much more flexible, as Scott explains,

“Every year our Launchways representative comes in and takes our worker’s comp, general liability, and property and casualty and moves it to the open market. In some instances, we’ve sourced our plans from a range of providers, although most recently we discovered that shopping our entire business insurance operation to a single provider generated the biggest savings.”

This flexibility has paid off for Mighty Hook year after year. As Scott describes, Launchways’ proactive approach to reevaluating insurance carriers annually has helped him cut costs so he can provide greater value for his customers while providing competitive employee compensation.

“The approach to taking our insurance to the open market every year is far preferable to our old model of just renewing with our existing carriers. It allows us to remain competitive and get the best value year after year. On average, we’ve probably seen a 4-5% decrease in costs each year and in the last year alone we saw an impressive 10% decrease in our insurance costs. Those savings are good for our bottom-line, our clients, and our employees.”

Beyond the concrete savings that Launchways has delivered for Mighty Hook, Scott values Launchways’ role as HR consultants. No matter what payroll, benefits, insurance, or HR challenges Mighty Hook faces, Launchways provides streamlined and cost-effective solutions without the Mighty Hook team having to dedicate valuable resources to addressing the challenges internally. This matters because the less time they spend on business insurance or human resources, the more time they can spend on their business.

Creating a Culture of Constant Assessment & Feedback

Performance management and assessment are fundamental to running a successful business at any scale. When you know who is creating organizational gains and who is causing challenges, you can lead much more effectively.

Unfortunately, however, most organizations still assess performance on a yearly basis. That means formalized feedback for employees only comes at the end of long terms, and any discussions about performance in between are seen as scary or punitive.

If your organization is still using the traditional annual appraisal model, you’re missing out on the opportunity to have better, more productive conversations with your employees and create a more data-driven approach to performance and talent management.

Moving forward, we’ll explore:

  • Why a continuous feedback system is better than yearly appraisals
  • What a continuous feedback system actually looks like
  • How to build buy-in for the transition toward constant assessment

Why Continuous Feedback is So Powerful

In general, continuous performance assessment is the best way to support your employees and keep your organization healthy. When you’re constantly deepening your understanding of not just what’s working but why it’s working and how you can extend that success to new arenas, you have the power to transform your organization into its best self.

Transform Managers into True Leaders, Not Just Bosses

Much of the strife surrounding performance assessment (and talent management in general) is rooted in the fact that the average worker and manager don’t have a strong, productive enough relationship to meaningfully discuss performance.

The yearly appraisal model simply perpetuates that disconnect, as team members rarely sit down with their immediate supervisors to discuss goals, performance, achievement, and so on. When those conversations are so spread out, it’s difficult for them to feel authentic – both for the assessor and the worker. Everybody grits their teeth to get through it; nobody actually gains anything.

When you encourage your supervisors to lead ongoing conversations about strengths, areas for improvement, and achievement with each of their team members, you’re creating an environment where assessment can be both less stressful and more useful.

Continuous performance assessment takes that nebulous role of “boss” and defines it in a way that fosters better, more productive relationships and the kind of mentorship and coaching that drives everyone to get better.

Become More Responsive to Talent Needs & Create Opportunity for Improvement

If you’re assessing employees on a yearly or even quarterly basis, you’re leaving yourself open to disaster. The wrong employee or team underachieving in the incorrect position for months at a time can lead to financial disaster. On the other hand, if your best talent is laboring for 11 months at a time without recognition, they’re probably looking for somewhere else to work.

By embracing continuous assessment, you create an agile culture in which it’s easier to:

  • Recognize problems or challenges in their early stages
  • Strategize adjustments or corrections
  • Design actionable improvement plans much more quickly, creating opportunities for employee turnaround.

That responsiveness makes assessment feel more supportive and less punitive. In this way, you can set underperforming talent up to save themselves, rather than letting them go in December because they struggled for an entire year.

How to Design and Anchor a Constant Assessment System

It’s important to start by saying that any business’ performance management and assessment system should be custom-built to address the company’s specific organizational system, goals, and employee culture. With that said, there’s a few pillars that should inform any approach.

Identify Goals, Competencies, and KPIs for Each Position

For your continuous assessment system to be successful, it needs to be grounded in structure, objectivity, and a deep understanding of how you want to do business. That means working with HR and department-level leaders to create a profile of each individual role on your organizational depth chart.

For each position within the organization, you should have a clear sense of:

  • What skills and knowledge someone needs to be highly successful in that role
  • How their job success will be gauged or measured (projects completed, revenue generated, etc.)
  • Which tools or applications will provide assessors with the data they need to assess that person
  • What the professional journey might look like for someone in that position (i.e. “If this person is highly successful in this role for two years, what might be next?” or “How long can we afford for someone to underperform in this position?”)
  • How that person’s direct supervisor or team leader can guide their professional development to build success for all

Allow Employees to Grow in Ways Most Relevant to Them & Their Work

That strong understanding of your depth chart is crucial to great performance management, but it’s only half the puzzle. Your team members are individuals, and that means you can’t manage them like numbers in a spreadsheet.

When a continuous assessment system accounts for employees’ individual needs, strengths, and quirks, it greatly increases buy-in and builds better business results.

A great continuous feedback loop isn’t just standardized for company use; it’s also personalized to maximize its value for each worker. Upon hire or the completion of each identified assessment term, employees should work with their direct supervisors, coaches, and other relevant professionals to discuss:

  • Individual knowledge and skill goals (“What can you do in the next six months to become even more knowledgeable or talented in this role, and how can we support you in that?”)
  • Workplace engagement and employee cultural goals (“What can you do over the next term to increase or maintain your participation in or maintenance of our great team, and how can we support that work?”)

To maintain two-way accountability, it’s important to always think about and discuss how work toward these goals will be measured, how success will be assessed, and what success or failure means in terms of next steps.

Foster Two-Way Communication and Reflection

One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when it comes to performance management is making it an entirely one-way system where supervisors review their team members individually. That just perpetuates old fears about the workplace power dynamic and makes employees feel voiceless.

An excellent performance management system ensures each employee has a strong voice that’s heard and richly documented throughout their professional journey. Managers should encourage each worker to reflect on their own work and provide self-assessments to accompany supervisor feedback.

At the same time, each worker should have a voice in assessing the functionality of their teams or departments and the success of their manager or supervisor. That way, everybody is empowered with a voice and everybody is kept honest.

Focus on Data

Qualitative feedback about people’s impressions, personal experiences, and reactions is an important part of any assessment, but it can’t be the whole emphasis. In order to win buy-in with your discerning employees and stand up as fair and objective in court, your continuous feedback system must be data-centric.

Thanks to the incredible variety of tech tools and software applications we use on a daily basis, supervisors actually have access to more workflow data than ever – they just have to know how to get it and how to analyze it. With a little training from IT and assessment experts, your supervisors can guide conversations about performance by discussing data points like:

  • Job or task completion rates
  • Ticket turnaround times
  • Campaign success
  • Success of accounts managed
  • Impact on team-based or departmental goals

When you build your assessment system around data, you’re creating something that’s actually gauging employee success, not just providing observations about work style or personality. That means you’re creating something more authentic, more useful, and more resistant to criticism.

Setting Your Employees Up to Embrace Change

Continuous performance assessment and management are best for business, but they can still be a tough sell at first. That’s because when people hear “continuous assessment,” they think that means more work and more awkward conversations.

In order to dispel those fears and build buy-in for your assessment system, you need to provide your workers and their supervisors/assessors with the support they need to see the value in the new approach and make a smooth transition.

Provide Clarity & Employee Education from Day One

From the day you make the decision to transition towards an ongoing feedback loop, you need to be transparent with your employees about what that means and what they system is going to look like.

You need to provide your ground-level workers with employee education that helps them understand the philosophy of the model as well as how it will affect what they do from day to day or week to week.

For managers, supervisors, and other assessors, you need to bring in talent and performance assessment experts to teach them how to be impactful coaches, use the system right, and get the most out of it.

If you drop ongoing performance assessment into your employees’ laps, you risk significant damage to morale and company culture. If you create a well-explained, well-scaffolded transition, however, you’ll gain the buy-in you need to make such a drastic change.

Make Strong Performance a Core Value Organization Wide

For any initiative to truly change a business and its culture of work, it has to be baked into daily life within the organization. If you want employees to reflect honestly, improve earnestly, and dedicate themselves to maximizing performance, it’s fundamental that you make great performance a highly visible organizational value.

That requires crafting messaging for display around the office, bringing in the right presenters to get your team motivated about performance, and even revisiting things like meeting protocols to make sure that discussions about performance are voiced in every context.

When performance and achievement are key daily values in your workplace, you greatly increase the chances that your employees will engage deeply in the process, strive for excellence, and work to better the environment on the whole.

Honor Your System Through Promotions & Raises

There needs to be an endgame anytime you’re assessing or judging something. If employees don’t understand how your continuous assessment system can be of benefit to them, it’s simply an externalized structure that they’ll engage with exactly as much as they need to in order to keep their jobs.

For people to really honor and value your assessment system in a way that leads to workforce maximization, you need to make it real for them. That means there must be real benefits and real rewards for those who exhibit high performance and take their role as part of the overall evaluation system seriously.

Raises and promotions are the most obvious and classic ways to make that happen.

At the same time, however, it’s important to honor the improvement aspects of your system. For example, if an under-performing employee exhibits a great turnaround, there should be some recognition that motivates them to continue growing.


When you have a strong, continuous feedback loop for every member of your team and each of those team members values and cares about the process, you have the power to maximize your workforce for business and cultural wins.

Just remember:

  • Continuous feedback is more powerful for everyone
    • Management gains a better understanding of talent company-wide
    • Struggling or under-performing workers gain the time, structure, and clarity they need to improve in a timely manner
    • All-star talent gains access to a system that helps them feel appreciated and build a documentation trail to support promotions, raises, and so on
  • Any constant assessment system must be rooted in data
    • Qualitative observations are never enough
    • Embracing data analysis significantly reduces assessment workload for managers
    • Emphasis on data shows that everything is fair
  • You need buy-in from employees at all levels for a continuous assessment system to work
    • Be sure you demonstrate the value of the system and clarify expectations across the board

How to Learn More

If you’re a business leader looking to build an impactful, forward-facing performance management strategy, be sure to join us on Wednesday, December 11th to learn about The Future of Performance Management! 

This free webinar from Launchways will be packed with actionable insights about emerging best practices for performance assessment including…

  • How to assess the impact of your current performance management program and get started on building something even better
  • How to recognize the common pitfalls of performance management
  • How to replace an annual assessment system with a continuous feedback loop
  • How to deliver actionable, powerful feedback, even when it’s difficult
  • How to build a step-by-step procedure for handling employee underperformance

The hour-long learning experience will feature presentations and Q&A time with an all-star panel of veteran business leaders who know what it takes to build, manage, and continuously improve a great team. Presenters will include…

  • Paul Pellman, CEO of Kazoo, who specializes in creating employee engagement and performance management strategies that build purpose and success in the workplace.
  • Jodi Wellman, Co-Founder of Spectacular at Work, a leading executive coach who specializes in helping business leaders maximize their teams to build success and balance.
  • Adam Radulovic, President at XL.net, an experienced entrepreneur and small business leader with a track record building and managing profit-driving teams at many different scales.
  • Jon B. Howaniec, SHRM Certified Professional and VP at Clark Dietz, who oversees talent acquisition, staff development, and employee compensation at a multi-state engineering firm and specializes in strategic planning.

Any business leader, HR director, or manager hoping to improve their skills as a coach, mentor, or accountability partner should make time to check out The Future of Performance Management: How to Modernize Your Approach and start the process continuously improving their team this December!

Payroll Outsourcing: Ultimate Guide For Beginners

Payroll is a key driver of your business, so it’s important to get it right. Organizations with proper payroll processes in place are free to thrive, while companies with flawed payroll systems can be susceptible to significant legal risks, fines, and employee relations issues.

However, payroll and regulations are extremely complex. With payroll rules and regulations constantly changing, it’s almost impossible for the average business to keep up.

There are upwards of 10,000 federal, state, and local tax regulations that affect the way employers process payroll. And failing to follow these properly can result in large fines from the IRS. According to the IRS, more than 1.8 million tax returns were audited in 2016 for businesses with income between $200,000 and $1 million. In 2016, 978,564 businesses of all sizes were assessed civil penalties.

Growing businesses want to avoid these potential risks but find it nearly impossible to keep up with the wide range of laws pertaining to employment. This is why more and more businesses are turning to outsourced payroll companies to bridge this gap in expertise. Recent research by Robert Half indicates that 39% of U.S. companies outsource payroll services. 

Outsourcing Payroll: Three Reasons Why Businesses Should

  • Save time (time that can then be used to focus on growing your business) 
  • Gain access to the technology and expertise to perform payroll (management services) well
  • Reduce costs and risks associated with failing to follow tax and employment regulations

Ultimately, as your business evolves and grows, your team will become larger and your payroll (management processes) will become increasingly complex. As an employer, you’re expected to understand all hour, wage, and employment laws. Mistakes in these key areas can lead to audits and penalties, something a growing business simply doesn’t need.

For many growing businesses, outsourcing payroll prevents a good opportunity to streamline operations and reduce risk. However, each company must decide if (the benefits of outsourcing payroll) is right for them. We put together this ultimate guide to help you explore the pros and cons of outsourcing payroll, so you can make an informed decision about how to handle your business’s payroll.

This Outsourcing Payroll Guide Will Teach You:

  • Advantages of outsourcing payroll  
  • Disadvantages of outsourcing payroll 
  • What to look for in  payroll outsourcing companies
  • Why leverage a payroll provider’s HRIS 
  • Questions to ask a potential payroll outsourcing provider

Benefits of Outsourcing Payroll

Time Savings

Payroll is a time-consuming process. From keeping track of benefits deductions, wage garnishments, new hires, terminations, PTO, and state and federal regulations can be challenging. Outsourcing payroll allows you and your team to focus on core business functions that drive revenue and help you grow.

Reduced Risk

Penalties for errors, omissions, or late payroll tax filings can be very costly. The IRS estimates that 40% of small businesses pay annual penalties for incorrect filings. Beyond tax risks, your organization must also comply with all state and federal wage and employment laws. Failure to comply with these laws can lead to audits and fines. However, working with a payroll outsourcing provider can ensure that your business has all compliance bases covered. This will give you the peace of mind knowing your business won’t be susceptible to these risks and fines.

Access to Experts

As your business continues to grow, you’ll have to comply with more and more state and federal regulations. Have a team of HR and compliance experts by your side to help you navigate these complex changes can be invaluable for your organization.

Data Security

Payroll outsourcing services use secure online portals to store and protect your employees’ sensitive information.

Reduced Payroll Costs

For many small-to-mid-sized businesses, completing payroll in-house can be a money burner. Of course, actual cost is company-specific, but you can calculate how much time your team currently spends calculating payroll, preparing w-2’s, onboarding new-hires, producing reports for accounting, etc. Paying a salaried team member (or doing it yourself) can end up costing your organization a lot more than working with a payroll outsourcing company. For most growing businesses, working with a payroll outsourcing provider is a cost-effective option.

Disadvantages of Outsourcing Payroll

Tandem Improves Benefits and Employee Education with Launchways

Tandem is a trusted strategy, design, and technology partner. They deliver custom software that inspires people and drives business forward. Their unique process brings every voice to the table. Their human-centered design process brings in customers, researchers, engineers, and designers to approach every problem with a broad set of perspectives. And they partner with their clients to solve their most meaningful challenges – for their customers, employees, and the community.

As a human-centered business, employee benefits have always been important to Tandem. The company recently partnered with Launchways to take its already competitive benefits package to the next level. We spoke to Tandem CEO, JC Grubbs, to learn more about his experience with Launchways.

Before working with Launchways, Tandem already offered a robust benefits package. The talent market for tech companies like Tandem is extremely competitive, and Tandem sees its benefits as a key part of the strategy to win over top talent. Working with Launchways, Tandem sought to offer a benefits package that only took care of its team, but also offered unique, impactful benefits that would help set Tandem apart in the pursuit for top talent to join their team.

As he looked for a new broker to help him in this effort, JC Grubbs said he was attracted to Launchways because of our hands-on approach to benefits and HR,

“Our previous broker was just a broker, there was very little education with our team. I liked the Launchways approach of combining team education and HR consulting to support us as managers, in addition to the brokerage aspect of the partnership.”

Another thing about the Launchways approach that stood out to him was the fact that unlike most brokers, Launchways understood the fact that he wanted to improve Tandem’s benefits, not just cut costs at the expense of employee happiness,

“Benefits are a big part of how we compete in the market for talent and Launchways prioritized improving our benefits to make us even more competitive while at the same time saving us money.”

So what did this new package look like? The Launchways team negotiated a BlueChoice PPO that cost Tandem less than their previous base-plan while offering significantly more comprehensive coverage for employees. Launchways also educated employees about the plan changes during open enrollment. As a result, many employees switched from the previously offered plan to the newly rolled out plan.

Education was key to the success of these efforts, as JC Grubbs noted,

“Launchways has also done a great job of giving our employees access to benefits information. The Employee Navigator platform lets our team members find out what they need to know about their benefits and choose the right plans for their needs.”

Now, Tandem is spending less on its benefits, employees are spending less, and team members have better coverage than ever. At the same time, Launchways worked with Tandem to expand dental, vision, and ancillary insurance while reducing the costs of these plans.

Another major win from the partnership was the successful launch of Tandem’s HealthiestYou telemedicine implementation. As JC Grubbs commented, the telemedicine platform has been a huge hit with his team,

“As a company that is fairly young and tech-savvy, we’ve seen a lot of engagement with telemedicine. It makes a big difference to our team members who have new families. It has been very well received and is a competitive advantage to us in the hiring process. Launchways consistently brings in new ideas around benefits, suggesting solutions like telemedicine that we would not even have known existed without such an active benefits partner.”

Launchways was just as impressed by the success of the Tandem telemedicine implementation. Launchways benefits consultants on the Tandem project noted Tandem has the highest telemedicine utilization rate of any Launchways client. This success shows the potential for telemedicine to have a significant impact for companies looking to care for and attract young, tech-savvy talent.

We asked JC Grubbs if he had any advice for other business owners who are considering working with Launchways. Once again, the value of Launchways’ hands-on, personal approach shined through.

“It’s all about people, get to know as much of the Launchways team as you can. The Launchways team is super responsive, engaged, and passionate about benefits. Build some rapport and trust, which I think will come very quickly, and make your decision based on that. Because in my experience, Launchways just delivers.”

Artisan Talent Navigates Interstate Compliance & Reduces Insurance Costs by 15% with Launchways

Artisan Talent is a digital, creative, and marketing staffing   agency that does things a little differently. They take a unique approach to making the right connections by realizing that they are humans helping humans – companies and talent alike. From small agencies to major corporations, this boutique staffing agency is in the business of connecting people – and they never forget it. That’s what makes them Artisan.

Bejan Douraghy founded Artisan Talent in Chicago in 1988 and the business has grown rapidly ever since. It tripled in size in the first five years and has now expanded outside of Illinois with offices in eight cities including New York, Denver, and San Francisco.

But that rapid growth has come with compliance and benefits challenges, with legislative changes and differences in requirements between states. And Artisan Talent has provided a full-scope benefits package for its freelance talent since 1995, so they have to manage benefits and compliance for their freelancers as well as the employees in their multiple offices.

Bejan first approached Launchways in 2016 after it became clear that new legislation threatened to cause compliance issues. He knew that Artisan Talent would have to adapt to meet the legislation, but did not have a clear idea of what the exact compliance challenges were or how to address them. As Bejan explained,

“We went to Launchways and they came back to us with a strategic solution to help us with ACA compliance issues. It was very helpful to us because we didn’t know what exactly it all meant and going through the audit with Launchways gave us the top priorities of what we had to do to maintain compliance.”

As Artisan Talent expanded to cities outside of Illinois, they also came up against the challenge of meeting the compliance requirements set by each state. Once again, Launchways helped Bejan and his team get a clear sense of what was required and developed strategies to bring the company into compliance efficiently and effectively.

“Launchways has supported us through our growth. Compliance requirements and available benefits vary widely between states. Launchways has been invaluable in letting us know what we need to do in each state.”

The initial compliance audit also led to a conversation about how Launchways could support Artisan Talent’s broader HR and benefits functions. After the revelations from the audit, Artisan Talent decided to conduct the Launchways Human Resources Best Practices Assessment to get instant insight into how to streamline the way they managed expenses across their human resources, employee benefits, and business insurance operations. The assessment and strategies Launchways put forward allowed Artisan Talent to reduce their overall insurance costs by 15%.

One of the key parts of this initiative was streamlining Artisan Talent’s benefits enrollment process. Launchways implemented new enrollment software that simplified the process for the Artisan HR team and resulted in a better experience for their talent. Bejan had this to say about the enrollment project:

“Before Launchways, we were doing everything in-house which obviously took us a lot of time, Launchways implemented an automated system that made it much more cost-effective. Not only is it easier for us, but the platform serves as a one-stop-shop for our employees, letting them review the plan options and enroll in the plan that works best for them.”

Launchways will continue to help Artisan Talent improve its processes and benefits offerings, as well as maintain compliance as the company expands to even more cities around the country. Beyond recommending and implementing new systems and strategies, the Launchways team also serves as an on-call resource for Bejan as he navigates HR, benefits, and compliance issues. As he says,

“As a CEO I don’t have time to research all of the issues, I need to be able to go to the experts and get what I need from them. The Launchways team members are experts in the HR and benefits field, which is highly complex, and they always come back to me with a solution which is technology-driven and which I can easily understand and implement.”