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Monthly Archives

December 2012

CONSIDERING OBAMACARE

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An interesting dialogue sponsored by AFLAC on how today’s agents and brokers can help their clients navigate healthcare reform offered these pointers:

  1. Carriers and brokers will be supplying a Summary of Benefits Coverage in 2013. Payroll companies will help with reporting benefit payments to the IRS.
  2. In 2014 we’ll have to worry about obtaining insurance from either federal or state exchanges. Much remains to be worked out before any advice can be given in this area.
  3. Agents and brokers will still need to advise their clients on the purchase of Disability, Life, and other insurances and often times on a voluntary basis.
  4. Employee education will be essential. Work with an agent or broker that can provide employees with this education so they don’t get their information from the TV.
  5. The healthcare exchanges will be providing “navigation services,” and we’re still not sure exactly what that means.
  6. Ultimately, employers are going to ask, “What should I do?” and your agent or broker must have the experience and expertise to provide you with insight.

This will be a challenging time as carriers, brokers, employees, employers, and healthcare administrators struggle through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The bottom line: Getting your benefits act together with your Health insurer, agent, broker, and employees will provide a significant competitive advantage for your business.

MOST EMPLOYEES FACE HEALTH CHALLENGES

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I’ve come across a few surveys recently that really got my attention. According to a Gallup – Healthways Wellbeing Index, here’s the health status of full-time employees:

  • 13.9% are normal weight and without chronic conditions
  • 17.9% are overweight or obese without chronic conditions
  • 30.2% are overweight or obese with one or two chronic conditions
  • 17.8% are overweight or obese with three or more chronic conditions
  • 14.8% are normal weight with one or two chronic conditions
  • 5.3% are normal weight with three or more chronic conditions

These are scary statistics for employers and our nation as a whole. Of course, some of these statistics vary with location, job position, employer, etc. Employers are beginning to realize that they should do everything possible to put a dent in these figures – not just to reduce healthcare costs, but also to reduce absenteeism and increase presenteeism, improve productivity, and more.

It’s not just employees suffering from health challenges. According to Manta, 44% of small business owners say that the poor business climate had a negative effect on their health in 2011. A third said that they exercised less; 22% said they gained weight.

This health trend has caused employees to view their benefits as on a par with their compensation. According to a Mercer Workplace Survey, 75% of employees said that as healthcare costs rise, they would rather pay more out of pocket than have their health benefits reduced. The survey also found that 61% of companies offer wellness benefits and 30% of employees say they take advantage of those benefits. Unfortunately, this might be the same 30% who try to keep themselves healthy in the first place.

LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES WITH MILLENNIALS

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I’ve read numerous books and watched webinars about managing younger workers. Here’s a summary of the key points to remember:

  1. Don’t micromanage them. A better approach is to be very clear about the outcomes you’re looking for and allow these employees to play a part in figuring out how to get there. Get them to define and own success benchmarks.
  2. Allow them to share their ideas. Even if they’re young and new. Many of their parents raised them to be their peers or friends, so they will expect the same from you.
  3. They can expect to be acknowledged and rewarded for participation. So do that.
  4. Remember when you were young? Make it fun!

As Millennial work expert Blake Cavignac reminds us: “Remember, you raised us!”

SPOTTING SCOUNDRELS

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A recent issue of Scientific Mind discussed studies of truthfulness and physical signals. The bottom line: Opportunists or liars tend to display a cluster of four cues: hand touching, face touching, crossing arms, and leaning away. Although none of these individual clues in itself indicated deceitfulness, taken together they provided a highly accurate indicator. How can you benefit from this insight? When hiring an employee or investigating a matter, make sure to challenge the interviewee. If he or she starts displaying these gestures, beware!!

IMPROVING PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS

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I don’t like the idea of traditional performance evaluations. Most managers don’t like to give performance evaluations – and most employees don’t like to get them – because they seldom identify the real issues. For example, poor performance can be caused by a number of factors beyond the employee’s control.

  • They have a poor boss. Remember, half of all managers are above average, while the other half are below average. What’s the value of a performance evaluation from a below average manager?
  • The reviews are seldom honest. Because no one wants to offend anyone else we rate toward the comfortable middle or, if there’s a “let’s get rid of them” agenda, the performance appraisal gets manipulated toward the low end.
  • The Peter Principle. The person was moved into a new role (whether through hiring, transfer, or promotion) for which they lack the requisite skills or training. They have the desire, but not yet the ability. Whose fault is that?

Even though there are other difficulties associated with the traditional performance appraisal process, 75% of small to mid-sized companies still do them. What should we do instead? Here are a few points to consider:

  1. Make sure you have crystal clarity about what constitutes good performance – in terms of quality and quantity.
  2. Allow the employee to own the performance benchmarks.
  3. Provide as much feedback as possible on these benchmarks.
  4. Catch problems early.
  5. See where the “system” might be hampering performance.
  6. Think of yourself as more of a coach than a manager.
  7. Seek anonymous feedback of your staff and other managers. If you truly want to be a good manager, you need 360° input. Solicit it and take any judgment as a gift.
  8. Finally, there are only three results to a performance evaluation process: rewarding good performance,coaching poor performance, and terminating employees who just can’t cut it.

This last option is the trickiest because it involves more emotion than any of the others. Nobody likes to end a relationship, even if it’s a bad one. As a manager, you have to embrace the fact that employees won’t be happy about getting fired and will probably begin pointing fingers. If your performance evaluation process is able to identify their shortcomings without surprise, there should be little regret on your part.

WHY WORKERS DON’T USE VACATION TIME

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A survey by Harris Interactive, Inc., found that by the end of 2012 Americans will leave an average of 9.2 vacation days unused, up from 6.2 days in 2011.
According to a survey by Expedia, here are the top five reasons why U.S. employees don’t use all of their vacation time:

  1. I can’t afford a vacation.
  2. My work is my life.
  3. I have trouble scheduling far enough in advance.
  4. I can get paid for my unused vacation days.
  5. Taking off might be perceived negatively at work.

Unfortunately, only the Japanese take fewer annual vacation days than Americans (5 versus 12), compared to 20 in India, 25 in the UK, 28, in Germany, and 30 in Brazil. Although employers want employees to work hard, burnout and disengagement is a real concern. If it were my company, I would make sure my employees used all their vacation!

THREE KEYS TO EFFECTIVE WELLNESS PROGRAMS

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A consensus of six healthcare organizations have released a Joint Consensus Statement entitled “Guidance for a Reasonably Designed, Employer-Sponsored Wellness Program Using Outcomes-Based Incentives.” Anyone in HR, benefits, or who cares about wellness or productivity should read this article.

Here are three major conclusions I gleaned from the paper:

  1. Evidence suggests that long-term lifestyle modification and risk factor management require more than financial motivation.
  2. The key to a successful worksite wellness program capable of sustaining behavioral change is the creation of a culture and environment that supports health and wellness.
  3. You can’t wing wellness; you need a strategic plan to make sure that it works. That strategic plan should provide the right mix of rewards versus penalties and have cultural support, include assessment and screening, behavioral change interventions, engagement methods, measurement, and valuation, HIPAA and ADA compliance, and effective incentives.

DATA RETENTION VS. DATA DESTRUCTION

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An excellent article in the September 2012 issue of Corporate Counsel Magazinefocuses on the tradeoffs between data management (storage, security, speed, and storage space), information management (storage, organization, and rapid access to information ), and data retention (creating a defensible policy to avoid litigation and regulatory sanctions if certain information is destroyed). According to the author, just because a business can keep data in perpetuity, often in cloud-based applications, does not mean that it should do so. The negative aspects of unlimited data retention include the difficulty of archiving and segregating information for easy access. The gist of the article is that it makes sense to have a retention policy that discards information when it’s no longer required for compliance purposes, backup, or analysis. Click here to read the article.

HAVE YOU EVER PROMOTED THE WRONG PERSON INTO MANAGEMENT?

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When we asked Webinar participants this question, 76% replied yes. Please take advantage of the Webinar First Time Supervisors and Managers and the White Paper:Critical Transition: From Employee to Manager, program. Here are some pointers that these tools set forth:

  1. Promotion into management is a hiring decision.
  2. Make sure they want the promotion more than you do.
  3. Talk about expectations upfront and what “outs” the company and employee have if these expectations are unmet. The last thing you want to do is let go of a poor manager and lose a great employee in the process.
  4. Make sure that these managers have a formalized training process (see the previous article)

Here’s another chart from that Webinar. The first hurdle for a new manager is “moving from friend to boss”. The second is “learning how not to do the job of others”.

Think about it this way: If you’re paying an employee $30,000 a year ($15 an hour) and you then promote them to management and pay them $50,000 a year ($25 an hour), every time they do $15 an hour work, you lose. Although nobody is suggesting that friendships end because of a promotion, becoming a boss is a fundamental shift that might require assistance. You can role-play scenarios with these managers. What type of situations show up in your workplace when you ask managers to do the jobs of others, or when people try to influence management decisions with their friendships? Teach your managers how to deal with these situations effectively and you’ll have far better managers.