Archive for July, 2012

Slower Growth in Healthcare Spending: Will Employers See Improved Medical Renewals as a Result?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

The post below is a guest blog from Mike Beck, GBA who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant  for CAI’s employee benefits partner, HCW Employee Benefit Services.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers recently released the results of their 2013 PwC Health Research Institute report.  The report finds that the expected increase in cost of medical services also known as “medical trend” is expected to be 7.5% which is consistent with 2012 figures.  Medical trend is a primary metric in helping insurers and employers estimate future plan costs.

According to PwC, four factors lowering or “deflating” trend include:

  1. Reduced costs of medical supplies and equipment cost being driven by market competition over the past two years;
  2. Alternative forms of primary care such convenience clinics and telemedicine ;
  3. Initiatives by many states to enforce price transparency of insurers;
  4. More brand name drugs coming off patent which are resulting in lower cost generic alternatives.

Two factors responsible for an uptick in trend is an expected increase in healthcare services utilization.  Most experts believe as the American economy turns around we will see increased healthcare utilization due to a pent up demand of care that has been put off during the recession.  Additionally, medical advances are resulting in costlier treatments and doctors are now able to prolong life and treat diseases more effectively with new and improved techniques that come with a high price tag.

While each employer groups circumstances are unique, in general, the premium increases being passed on by insurers in 2012 seem to be more favorable than the past two years.  The slower spending nationally for healthcare services has been reflected in the decreased utilization in services, which translates into lower claims costs.  An additional wild card in the mix is the highly competitive landscape between the large commercial carriers.  The majority of health insurers are working very hard to grow their market share heading into 2014.  The result of this has been competitive pricing and competitive renewals in many cases.

It is important to understand how medical trend directly impacts your renewal and what trend your specific carrier is utilizing.  More importantly, employers should continue to work as aggressively as possible to manage their costs through a combination of plan design, wellness, incentives and communication. That’s exactly what we help our clients do at Hill, Chesson & Woody – contact us today to help your business contain costs.

Attract Candidates and Retain Employees with Your Total Rewards Program

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

A total rewards program refers to all the tools your company uses to attract, engage and retain employees, as well as recruit and secure talented job candidates. When selecting their future employer or deciding whether to stay or leave a company, workers evaluate the total rewards their company offers them. WorldatWork suggests that there are five elements that make up a total rewards program: compensation, benefits, work-life initiatives, performance and recognition initiatives, and development and career opportunities. A solid total rewards strategy combines the five elements to create a workplace environment that maximizes employee engagement.

Creating an appealing program will increase morale and job satisfaction, as well as improve overall staff performance. Here are some items to keep in mind when planning your total rewards program:

Your Employees Are Unique

Carefully analyze the different staff members who make up your organization. No two employees believe in the same values or partake in the same activities. Be sure your total rewards program takes employee differences into consideration. Create a culture that allows several types of people and personalities to grow and enjoy success.

Educate Your Workforce

As an employer, you are responsible for communicating to your staff the rewards that your company provides. If your employees receive higher than average compensation or your wellness program saves staffers money, make sure they know. It is up to your company to communicate the attractive aspects of your organization. Frequently remind employees of the benefits that you offer so they’ll have a reason to stay loyal and perform better.

Emphasize Your Appreciation

Employees are more likely to stay with organizations that show them that their time and efforts have not gone unnoticed. Use your total rewards program to highlight how important your staff members are to your company. Include meaningful ways to recognize and reward employees who turn in stellar work. Make sure professional development opportunities and other tasks to help your staff reach success comprise part of your total rewards strategy. Show them you care so they won’t want to leave.

CAI’s 2012 Compensation and Benefits Conference will feature additional tactics to craft an enticing total rewards program for your workforce. The conference will also cover several topics that are imperative for attracting, retaining and engaging your employees, including flexible scheduling and helping different generations plan for retirement. In addition to the knowledge you’ll gain by attending, you’ll have the opportunity to network with more than 150 HR professionals. Register for the conference today: www.capital.org/compconf.

Photo Source: robertstinnett

4 Reasons Why Employee Appreciation Events Are Beneficial

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Looking for creative ways to engage and retain your workforce? Invest some time and resources into planning an employee appreciation event. Whether it’s a family carnival or an ice cream social, the effort you make in putting these activities together will show your team members that their contributions make a difference for the company. Small acts like planning these events have the power to increase morale and job satisfaction, especially when raises and bonuses are not financially feasible. Below are a few of the benefits you’ll gain from hosting an event to celebrate your employees:

 Shows Your Loyalty

Activities like these show your team members that your organization appreciates the work that they do. The time and energy you spend making your staff members feel like valued employees will make them more likely to show loyalty to your organization.

Levels the Playing Field

Employee appreciation events allow managers and their direct reports to interact with each other in a less formal setting. These events often show both groups that they are more alike than they thought. Learning each others’ similarities helps unite teams.

Blends Work Life with Home Life

Events that invite employees and their families to enjoy themselves demonstrate that as an employer, you care about their life inside and outside of work. Employees depend on and value the support they receive at home, especially if they are working longer hours or dealing with more tasks. Treating your team members’ families is a great way to get to know them better and say thank you for their service.

Strengthens the Workplace Community

Employee appreciation activities are great for team building. When employers dedicate time and resources to these events, employees can see that their company values them. Hosting staff parties and other events that support your workforce will unite your team and strengthen your organization’s culture.

For more ideas on recognizing your employees, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service–Midwest Region

4 Benefits of Succession Planning for Your Workforce

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

How would your business perform if your top three employees left your organization tomorrow to join a competitor? What if members of your senior management team parted ways to begin their own businesses? If your CEO became terribly ill and couldn’t perform his duties, would your business continue to run smoothly?

Succession planning is essential for keeping your organization moving in the right direction even when several key members of your staff jump ship, retire or move on for other reasons.  As important as succession planning is, many companies forgo strategizing a plan to retain their best people to eventually take over different roles. Succession planning isn’t a rigorous assignment, but because the efforts of the process aren’t often revealed until a team member leaves, many businesses don’t take the time to start planning.

Deciding the key employees who will ultimately step into leadership and senior management roles is imperative for maintaining business success during any economic climate or business situation. Succession planning is also an office morale and engagement booster. Grooming employees for their future roles by giving them more complex tasks and investing in their growth keeps them focused, motivated and loyal to the company.

Here are four additional reasons to start drafting your organization’s succession plan:

Preparedness

Whether your employees leave to start retirement  life or plan to begin their own businesses, having a succession plan in place will help you more quickly identify which employees will take over your company’s open positions so your business can continue to run as normal.

Less Time and Money

Dedicating time to plan the future of your organization will save your company time and money. Plans to promote and train people within your company means less time spent recruiting for external candidates, interviewing them and checking their references. Money allotted to those efforts will also decrease with a solid succession plan in place.

Weakness is Uncovered

Finding future leaders reveals the strengths within your workforce, but it also uncovers the weaknesses that your organization must work on to secure business and financial growth. Help areas of your company that you discover to be weaker than others by offering training and resources that will help improve performance.

Get a Bird’s Eye View

Evaluating your workforce in preparation for succession planning gives you a great perspective of the talent in your organization. Ascertaining who should fill the shoes of another will help your team better understand the day-to-day happenings of your business. So as you’re planning don’t solely include roles for higher level executives. Incorporate middle managers and their direct reports to create a comprehensive succession plan.

For additional information on the benefits of succession planning or how to develop your company’s plan, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Victor1558

Okay, You Made a Mistake at Work. Now What?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Have you ever made an office gaffe? If yes, how did you react? Did you immediately come clean to your supervisor, apologizing for the error you committed? Or did you cower in your office, hoping no one would figure out it was your fault when “you know what” hit the fan.

Depending on your workplace environment, you and your team members’ reactions to mistakes could vary greatly. How does your company handle mistakes? Are people yelled at, punished or embarrassed? What comes after the mistake? Nothing, ambivalence or more rules? Well if any of those characteristics described your workplace, an evaluation of how you handle mistakes is appropriate.

Supporting team members when they make mistakes is helpful to all involved. When a mistake is not the end of your career, you’re able to learn lessons and more. Here are four benefits of owning up to your workplace blunders:

Avoid the Drama

Excuses, blame games and throwing people under the bus can ensue after a workplace mistake is discovered. However, if you cultivate a culture in which mistakes are permitted and you’re required to learn a lesson, a probable witch hunt will be thwarted because the culprit will feel comfortable coming clean. He won’t have to waste more time covering his tracks or creating alibis.

A Quicker Fix

The faster your team learns who’s responsible for the mistake, why the mistake was made and how the mistake will affect business, the quicker you can work to resolve any issues that are associated with it. Don’t let a workplace oversight take control of your organization. Encourage your team to be forthcoming with errors that will affect your business. Although it might cause an immediate small pain, in the long run, your business should be feeling fine.

Innovation and Efficiency Arise

Sometimes an employee mistake reveals the inefficiency of a workplace process that needs updating. Knowing where an assignment went wrong or how a deliverable was held up could foster innovation for preventing a similar occurrence from happening again. Challenge your employees to find a solution to a mistake first.

Number of Mistakes Decrease

The more stressed an employee is, the more mistakes he is likely to make. Being fearful of making an error only increases pressure on yourself and your employees. Letting them know that mistakes happen and a blunder is not the end of the world will help them shake away some stress, have clearer heads and perform at optimal levels for your organization.

For advice to encourage your team members to not be afraid to make or reveal a mistake, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Brett Jordan

4 Tips to Help Your Employees Succeed Through a Merger or Acquisition

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Several ideas pop into the minds of employees when they learn that their company is planning a merger or acquisition with another organization. Staff members worry about being laid off, not getting salary increases and competing with unknown talent. Their anxiety for the workplace transition reveals itself in their assignments and interactions with their coworkers. Managers often have several battles to deal with as they try to control emotional employees and dispel nonsensical rumors.

Mishandling this sensitive process can affect your business negatively. Absenteeism, loss of key employees, low morale and low productivity are some of the damaging consequences for not addressing a merger or acquisition appropriately.

Preparation is imperative for keeping your organization composed. The following four tips should help your organization navigate through the transition of a merger or acquisition with less difficulty:

1. Make Leadership Present

Forming a strong leadership team with members from both sides of the merger or acquisition will help smooth out the kinks of the transition. When both sides align to share the same vision, mission and strategy, employees have a solid support team to turn to. Before the transition is announced, make sure you indentify the key leadership players and begin to strategize steps to handle the change gracefully.

2. Communicate Often and Through Several Channels

To combat rumors and twisted facts, create a solid communications plan for your employees, leadership and other key stakeholders, such as customers and board members. Remember that your employees will want to know more than the details of the merger. They’ll want to know how their job will be affected, what their benefits will look like and who will manage them. Cascade messages through a variety of channels to ensure your stakeholders receive them. Additionally, practice two-way communication and readily take questions and suggestions from your team members.

3. Align Culture and Business Processes

A merger or acquisition requires the blending of two companies with distinct cultures and ways of completing work. Similar to your communications plan, knowing how you want to cultivate your organization’s environment early on will help you get your workforce on board. Carefully plan your new business processes before the transition takes effect. Educate your staff on the new changes and how they might affect their workflows. Communication is again important when telling employees that aspects of their job could be significantly altered. Always keep them in the loop.

4. Take Care of Employees

Agreeing to merge with or acquire another organization may benefit your company financially, but it could hurt other areas of your business, specifically your talent. News of a merger or acquisition can leave even your star performers feeling nervous about their fate and the new set of employees they’ll have to work with. The period before the official transition is a great time for competitors to pluck your top talent. Prevent this from happening by involving your staff through the transition process and getting them to understand how their role will fit into the changing organization. Develop a retention strategy, such as stay-bonuses or packages, to make sure your stellar staffers don’t become enticed by competition.  For employees you won’t be able to retain, let them leave the organization with dignity. Provide them with services to help them stay on their feet, such as resume reviewing. Additionally, show them that you appreciated their service by offering them a generous severance package.

For additional strategies to assist your workforce through a merger or acquisition, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Souce: Victor1558

Is Hiring the Key to Employee Engagement?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Can it be that the only thing that matters in regard to driving employee engagement is hiring people with the right attitude?

That may be the case according to a new study that shows that 99 percent of highly-engaged employees say that they take personal responsibility for their engagement.  The study comes as part of the research that Timothy Clark did for his new book The Employee Engagement Mindset.   Clark and his team analyzed 150 highly-engaged employees in 50 different organizations representing 13 different industries.

In addition to taking personal responsibility for their engagement, the 99 percent also stated that they believe they, not their employer, hold primary responsibility for their engagement.  In contrast, a vast majority of disengaged employees believe that their employer is primarily responsible for their engagement.

So there it is in plain language, the key to employee engagement is finding and hiring employees who are willing to take responsibility for keeping themselves engaged.  It has been said that employers should “hire for attitude and train for aptitude.”  Nothing makes the case for this better than the findings of this study.

Too often hiring managers and HR professionals get so wrapped up in qualifications and demonstrated experience.  They choose the candidate with the track record over the one with the great attitude and the thinner resume.  Instead of playing to win, they are playing not to lose.  Sure, there needs to be a baseline skill level to qualify for a job, but does it have to be so high?

In these days when we can bounce from articles on the importance of employee engagement to the scourge of unemployment to the skill gap between available jobs and talent, it seems to me that a statistic like the one above just screams for a different approach.  If employers start focusing more on finding the right types of teachable people instead of demanding high levels of experience, won’t everybody win?

Of course, I’m not saying that employers should get a pass on creating a positive work environment and culture that encourages employees to excel and recognizes them for their success.  That’s an important element, as well.

Nor am I saying that tomorrow you should get rid of everybody that you think may have a bad attitude.

However, I am encouraging you to ask yourself during every hiring process you are a part of, not “Who has the best qualifications for this job,” but “Who will bring the best attitude to this job?”

Photo Source: Victor1558

Help Your Workforce Escape the Dog Days of Summer with 9 Tips

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Early July brings blistering hot temperatures to areas all over the country. Often referred to as the Dog Days of Summer, this seasonal heat wave creates a less than ideal work environment for employees who work in the sun, buildings with no air conditioning or any other environment that can get very hot.  Finding relief from the extreme summer temperatures is necessary to maintain productivity and eliminate any chance of heat exhaustion for your employees.

When your workdays reach a high of 90 degrees or above, try the tips below to keep your workforce cool and productive:

  • Educate your staff on the importance of staying hydrated and taking breaks to refresh and cool off.
  • Make sure your staff is aware of the signs of heat-related illnesses, such as confusion, dizziness, muscle cramps and nausea.
  • If they primarily work outside, encourage your employees to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Implement flexible schedules or summertime hours, like starting the day earlier to avoid some of the hot weather.
  • Provide your staff members with a cold treat—freeze pops and ice cream are two options.
  • Keep the water cooler full or the workplace fridge stocked with bottled water, and recommend to your employees to drink at least eight cups of water per day.
  • Buy employees moisture-wicking shirts, cooling headbands and reusable insulated water bottles to stay cool.
  • Put multiple fans in areas that aren’t air conditioned to circulate cool air.
  • If within company safety policy and dress code, allow team members to wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing.

CAI members provided many of the tips above through CAI’s list serve, a member benefit that enables participants to ask peers at member companies for advice, recommendations and best practices for their organizations. Recent topics members have discussed on the list serve include employee service awards, I-9 auditing procedures, workplace fraternization and many more. For additional information about a CAI membership and signing up for the list serve, please contact an account manager at 919-878-9222 or 336-667-7746.

Workplace Insights will take a break on Thursday, July 5. A new post will be up Tuesday, July 10. Please enjoy the July 4th holiday!

Photo Source: Stewart Black