Archive for June, 2016

Pharmacies, Big Pharma, and Rising Prescription Prices

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

The post below is a guest blog from Steve Byrd who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

Rising health costsA key trend among medical plans lately has been the move away from traditional pharmacy tiers. In the traditional model, generics — regardless of cost — reside under the least expensive copay tiers on your medical plan. In contrast, brand- name medications reside under the higher, more expensive copay tiers.  For many years this model was the norm, and most consumers became very familiar with it.  However, continued pressure to reduce cost has forced insurers to re-evaluate this traditional view.  It is expected by some, that by the year 2024, pharmacy costs will equal half of our overall medical costs.

Many brand name medications are coming off of their patents, creating opportunity for generics to evolve.  Traditionally, these generics have offered great savings over their brand name counterparts. However, many of generics are now entering the market at prices much higher than historical levels, creating new pressure on insurers to hold down costs.

In response to these increasing costs, insurers are re-evaluating their pharmacy tiering.  Generic medications are being treated no differently than brand name medications; These drugs are being tiered based on their overall cost regardless of their designation as a brand or generic medication.  Pharmacy pricing changes are catching many people off-guard.  They don’t understand why their generic medication, which used to be offered in a more affordable tier on, might now be Tier 3 or Tier 4 on their carrier’s formulary.  Consumers are having to work even harder to understand their carrier’s pharmacy benefits. They are having more direct conversations with their providers and pharmacists to try to minimize their out-of-pocket costs, which are increasing with no end in sight.

If insurance carriers are going to be able to offer competitive priced medical plans, gaining better control over rising pharmacy costs is critical.  Pharmacy expenses account for a significant portion the average person’s overall medical expenses, and both consumers and carriers are feeling the pain.  One insurance carrier is even suing its Pharmacy Benefit Manager for $3 billion over questioned pharmacy charges.

Fortunately for consumers, there are many new Rx tools popping up that can help members navigate their benefits. Goodrx.com and healthiestyou.com are good examples. A recent Consumer Reports article provides additional guidance on ways consumers can save on pharmacy costs. Consumers also need to evaluate options at their local pharmacies, as they can often find some of the higher priced generics offered at lower costs through a local pharmacy’s prescription plan.

As healthcare spending continues to increase, and pharmacy costs continue to become a larger portion of the cost, more pressure will be applied towards controlling pharmaceutical costs. Consumers will continue to see changes to their pharmacy benefits and their carriers designated carrier’s prescription formulary.

 

Recruiting is not rocket science, or is it?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

recruiting_the_bestPerhaps you’ve heard the name Elon Musk. He’s got quite a résumé. Musk is the CEO of SpaceX, an American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company. His company builds rockets that send people and cargo into space.  Musk is realizing his vision at SpaceX by building simple and relatively inexpensive reusable rockets that go into space multiple times. He hopes to achieve turnaround time capabilities that are similar to commercial airliners.

Oh, by the way, Musk is also the CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors and cofounder of PayPal.

I tell you this because of how Elon Musk views the importance of hiring great talent. Musk’s recruiting strategy at SpaceX is to demand the best person on the planet — whether they were there to build a rocket or serve ice cream on campus.

Dolly Singh, SpaceX’s former Director of Talent quoted Musk as saying, “Find me the single best person on the freaking planet, then convince me why out of how many billion people on the planet that this is that guy.”  Singh continued, “And he does that even if it’s the cook. When we built a yogurt booth inside of SpaceX, he said, ‘Go to Pinkberry and find me the employee of the month, and I want to hire the employee of the month.’”

The point is, Musk as one of the most innovative and successful business leaders in the world, is still laser-focused on hiring great talent. He understands that bringing in mediocre talent will likely prevent him from realizing his dreams.

The late Steve Jobs, cofounder, CEO and Chairman of Apple Inc. believed in hiring A players.  According to Jobs, “A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”  A-players are motivated, engaged and creative. They are performance-driven and have high expectations for themselves and for others. B and C-players, on the other hand, often do just enough to get by and to be paid for it.

We can learn a valuable lesson from Musk, and Jobs…Settling for ‘so-so’ talent will likely get you ‘so-so’ results. So the next time you are looking to hire someone, think like a rocket scientist and hire only the best.

CAI helps more than 1,000 North Carolina employers with their HR needs including talent acquisition process or strategies.  Contact CAI today!

Tom_Sheehan-circle

 

Tom Sheehan brings 20+ years of extensive, broad based strategic, tactical and practical HR experience to CAI’s Advice & Resolution team.  He advises HR and other business leaders on talent management, organizational effectiveness, employee engagement, M&A’s, and employee relations.

Why Top Performers Choose to Leave

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

why_employees_quitDuring a declining economy, new hires for organizations would often come from an increasing pool of unemployed workers. Now, with an improved economy and the job market on the rebound, the paradigm is shifting and new hires are being recruited from other organizations.

If you are on the recruiting end, this is excellent news. Your candidate pool that may have consisted of mostly unemployed workers just increased to include workers who may already be working in the very role you are seeking to fill – just for someone else currently. However, you could find yourself on the losing end of that equation if it is your employee who is being recruited.

As the economy and job market continue to gain strength, top employees who were once too concerned about security and doubt to leave their job are now reconsidering their position and their level of overall job satisfaction. Restored confidence in the economy is fueling confidence in their ability to improve on their current position. Also, your competitors are using the same tools you are to identify and actively pursue ordinarily passive candidates and recruit them to a better opportunity. Recruiters are getting calls from employed workers, at good companies, making good money, doing good work – and ready for a change.

Who are these employees, and why would they entertain leaving for another position at another company? What can be done to counteract this problem? According to a Forbes survey, the top five reasons seemingly satisfied employees leave a company are:

Trust

The number one reason employees leave their current employer is a lack of trust. This could stem from earlier cutbacks in pay and/or benefits, layoffs or other measures made necessary by a declining economy. If an employee is unhappy with the way in which a particular remedy was handled, or if they feel they are being kept in the dark, they begin to wonder if they will be next. Reach out to employees and establish a solid two-way path for communication. Be sure they are informed of company initiatives and the reasons behind them. Ask for their opinions, input and feedback. Make them feel a part of the organization and its success.

Recognition

Employees often leave if they feel unappreciated or experience a lack of recognition for their accomplishments in their current role. In an economy that has dictated doing more with less, many top performers have been asked to go above and beyond their job description. They expect and deserve recognition for pitching in and doing what is necessary during these last few difficult years. Make certain your employees are recognized for their contributions to the company’s success. Other employees will see this public recognition and become inspired to heighten their performance as well. Be sure the recognition is meaningful and for something measurable. Savvy employees will see through false recognition and be suspect of it.

Politics

Some employees tire of the internal politics within their company and begin to seek another company to work for. All organizations with an org chart are going to inherently have a certain amount of internal politics, so it stands to reason any new company they join will also have similar issues. The driving force behind their dissatisfaction is not so much the politics, but the fact it interferes with their being able to do their job to the best of their ability. Top performers are top performers because they choose to be. Anything that interferes with satisfying their internal drive becomes an issue. Internal politics will tend to ripple through your workforce and cause performance to drag. Isolate your workforce from this to the greatest extent possible. Make sure corporate decisions are communicated well and are backed by valid, understandable logic. Political maneuvering will undermine an organization’s ability to move forward as a single unit.

Manager

Sometimes people just do not get along. It could be a mismatch in personality or a difference in management style. Employees will get frustrated with their manager and may start to seek opportunities elsewhere. The difference between this reason and the other reasons in this list is there are often warning signs associated with this one. Frustration of this type tends to build over time. Casual, confidential conversations with employees and managers on a routine basis will usually uncover these issues before they become a reason for voluntary turnover. Act early and work with parties on both sides of the issue to develop an acceptable solution for everyone involved.

Inflexibility

More and more organizations are embracing flexibility within the workforce. Telecommuting and flexible work schedules are popping up as recruiting incentives everywhere you turn. Employees, like everyone else, want what they do not currently have that others have. If your employees are asking for this from your company and other employers in your area of similar size and industry offer it, be prepared to lose some of your top talent. Take special note of what your competition for talent is implementing and adopt similar incentives if they can work within your business model.

Although these are the top five reasons employees voluntarily leave their current position, there is one primary reason that is not listed here. One of the biggest reasons employees leave is because business leaders often fail to understand why employees leave. Employers go to great lengths and follow detailed processes and procedures when recruiting and onboarding new employees. During their tenure with the company, employers reach out to employees at least annually or semi-annually to evaluate their performance, praise accomplishments and recommend improvements.

Several forward-thinking companies have begun the practice of conducting periodic “stay interviews.” It only makes good sense to interview your best performers while they are working for you, rather than only gain their honest feedback when they are on their way out the door.

So, why not schedule casual interviews with the best performers and those who have the highest potential within your organization? Find out what is on their mind, as well as any issues or concerns they have. Ask about ideas they have regarding the corporate culture or even improvements in processes, policies or production. Most importantly, apply what is learned during this conversation where applicable and avoid voluntary turnover.

If you have questions about how CAI can help you with Talent Acquisition and Talent Management,  please contact a member of CAI’s Advice & Resolution Team.

renee

 

CAI Advice & Resolution team member Renee Watkins is a seasoned HR professional with a diverse background in Human Resource. Renee provides CAI members with practical advice in a wide-range of human resource functions including conflict resolution, compliance and regulatory issues, and employee relations.

HR Lessons From the Garden

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

I enjoy gardening, beautiful flowers, and being in the fresh air outdoors.  As I was weeding my flower bed this weekend, I thought about how the principles relate to HR.  At the time I planted the flowers I bought, they looked beautiful (although they were small and just beginning to bloom).  Over time, instead of growing and prospering, they began to look weak and like they were struggling to survive.  Weeds had crept in the garden, and were draining the nutrients from the flowers.  That is when I thought about the analogy to what can happen in business.  Take a look at what happens from a different perspective.

Recruitment and Selection

Talent_ManagmentWhen you go to the garden shop or farmers market, there are so many beautiful flowers that it is hard to decide which to buy.  What should be considered?   At garden shops, plants have tags that identify what environment they need to thrive: amount of sun, amount of water, heat or cold tolerance.  If you don’t consider the needs of the plant and the environment you will put it in, you won’t get the results you desire.  The same for employees.  It is important in recruitment and selection to understand the needs of the person and what environment works best for them, and to share honestly what your expectations and culture are for optimal results.

Culture

Just as you need to determine the conditions that will help a plant to thrive, applicants need to understand the culture of your company, the management style, opportunities for growth, and communication flow within the company.  Culture fit is very important, and many argue it is most important.  You can teach employees many things but you can’t teach fit.  You can take a thriving plant and put it in a toxic environment and it will wilt and falter.  Interviews should include questions about the position/company/manager thus far that the employee has considered the best and why.  Assessments can also help in determining culture fit.  Someone who is an idea person and wants to contribute and share ideas for process/product improvement will not be happy in a company that is top down management unreceptive to employee input.

Orientation

Once you know the needs of the plant and have purchased it, place it where it can bloom best.  That means providing proper orientation.  It needs proper soil, water, plant food and more attention as it gets oriented to the new surroundings.  Likewise with new employees.  It may be helpful to have an employee assigned to help orient them to where things are, who to go to for various issues, and just to orient them to the day-to-day.  We sometimes forget that things we take for granted everyday will be new and strange and take time to absorb for new employees.  Identify expectations early on.  Employees, like plants, that get off to a good start are more likely to thrive.

Coaching/Training

The work doesn’t end after orientation.  Plants need ongoing attention.  Sometimes plants may need pruning to help them grow better.  Others may flourish and need a trellis to support their growth. Each is unique, just like employees. Supervisors need to be trained to recognize that one size doesn’t fit all.  Some employees may need more guidance in their development.  We need to help supervisors understand the important role they have in recognizing the uniqueness of each employee and giving appropriate feedback, coaching, training, development and pruning.  Sometimes, employee failure can be attributed to supervisor failure; and in those cases, the supervisor should be held accountable as well.

Diversity

Have you noticed that gardens that have different types of plants– various sizes, shapes, textures, and a variety of colors and leaf structure, are more pleasing to the eye than those that are all the same?  Diversity can inspire new ideas.  And since our customers and our world are diverse, we need diversity to thrive.

Life Cycle

Some plants (perennials) come back year after year.  Annuals only last one season, even with the best of care.  Hopefully you have more perennials in your workplace than annuals. But we all have some annuals (sometimes quarters).  Sometimes they just don’t thrive in the environment.  Sometimes we only hire them for a season for projects and then they move on.  In other cases, they grow stronger, develop new branches and flowers and someone else admires the attributes and wants to acquire them.  There is a life cycle for employees.  For some, you may make the decision that despite your best efforts, they are not a fit for your company.  Sometimes, even with your best efforts at describing the job and your culture, and trying to ascertain what the employee has to offer, what they need, and under what conditions they thrive; you determine it was a bad decision.  It happens. Sometimes the beautiful plant that looks healthy and has the most blooms can have underlying aphids (pests) that you can’t see that will eventually destroy the plant.

Keep in mind that even perennials that come back every year need attention: fresh soil, weeding, water, mulch.  Don’t take your perennial employees for granted.  They still need nurturing and opportunities for growth, as well as recognition for jobs well done.

Weeding

And lastly, we all know that a garden will not flourish if is overrun by weeds.  As hard as I try to prevent weeds from even starting, they eventually creep in to the garden starting small.  If I don’t deal with the weeds, or wait too long to start dealing with them, I will have lost many beautiful flowers.  The same holds true at work.  Whether your “weeds” are bad fits, or can’t do the jobs you’re asking them to do, or have lousy attitudes, they will slowly take over and drive out your good employees, much like kudzu.  Don’t let the kudzu take over your thriving workplace.  Avoid the many reasons we find to not deal with weeds at work…lack of time, fear of a suit, trying to be “too consistent,” poor managers, etc.

I hope taking a look from a fresh perspective gives you some inspiration to work in your garden…at home and at work.  For over 50 years North Carolina employers have trusted CAI to be their #1 HR partner.  Learn how we can help you too!

Joint Pain in the Workplace

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News & Observer column, The View from HR

Can an employee work for two employers at the same time?

The Federal Court of Appeals in Richmond just decided how easy it is for someone to be a “joint employee” of two employers (Butler v. Drive

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Automotive). The case involved whether a temporary service employee (Ms. Butler) was also employed by the manufacturer where she was assigned.  Could she sue that manufacturer for sexual harassment and termination under laws protecting only employees?  The court said yes.

Most courts say if both entities have enough control or economic connection to the individual, (s)he is employed by both.  This Appeals court fashioned a broad, hybrid test for joint employer status including whether each had some power to hire, fire, or supervise in a meaningful way, and where/how the work takes place compared to regular employees.  In my view, nearly all extended work placements through temporary services (involving hiring by the service and some training/supervision by the customer or both) create joint employers.

A similar issue arises with direct hired contract workers.  Some employers use an in house group of contract workers to handle fluctuations in volume or to serve as a pool for future full-time hires.  Whether temp or direct, a special group of workers is created who do not enjoy the same working terms of regular employees.

There are many good reasons to use long-term temporary and contract workers, but these challenges are often ignored:

Unintended Consequences

Lawsuits, injury claims and expensive benefits make full-time employee status costly.  Some employers manage “headcount”, risks and costs by restricting full-time hires, preferring either part-time employees or other solutions such as direct contractors. It is just not that easy.

By substituting significant, extended work from these temporary and contract workers, employers may avoid one set of costs and create a new, unbudgeted set of costs.  If we could reliably reduce the extra costs of employing people just by calling them non-employees, then none of us would work directly for an employer!

Employee Relations

If we expect the contractor/temp group to be happy with their non-employee status long term, we might be dreaming.  Too often, managers treat the contract group as expendable.  “Just let them go” some say, rather than address problems.  The same physical separation, different uniforms and procedural techniques used to prove these workers are NOT employees may in fact cause serious dissatisfaction . . . without establishing the desired legal separation!

Poor (or zero) onboarding, second-class status, ignoring complaints, little communication about next steps and limited performance feedback are common problems.  Remember, despite efforts to mechanically avoid employee status, the pressures of work and output usually confuse the worker’s status.

The costs of hiring regular employees can be managed and the risks contained.  When an employer is surprised to learn after a claim is filed that the law views it as an employer of temporary and contract workers, it is too late to prepare or insure.   Employers using these relationships as long term solutions should carefully assess the total costs.

No Cost / High Impact Summer Benefits to Keep Employees Engaged

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

During the winter months, when the weather outside is cold, gray and gloomy, employees typically welcome the warm glow of a well-lit and heated Summer_benefits_for_employeesoffice environment.  Your workforce is anxious to get into the office, grab some warm coffee and get to work. They are less likely to leave the warmth of the building for lunch or to take time off from work in order to enjoy outside activities.

As the seasons begin to change and the weather warms, focus begins to shift a little more toward the “life” side of the work-life balance equation.  Employees will tend to arrive at work a little later on a beautiful morning, take longer lunch hours and may leave earlier than usual to get home and get a few things done before the daylight ends.

As an employer, should you do anything about this phenomenon?  Is there anything you can do?  Absolutely.  You can acknowledge this important balance for employees and demonstrate your awareness of the seasonal focus shift by offering some additional benefits for the summer season.  Such benefits will cost you nothing at all.

Start by making a list of possible benefits you could offer during the summer months, making sure you take into account any negative impact to productivity. Every business is different. There will always be things you would like to offer, but simply cannot due to the needs of the business.  Share your list of potential benefits with your workforce to see what your employees are most interested in before making your decision.  Here are a few to start thinking about:

Summer / Flexible Work Hours –

Many organizations are shifting their measurement of productivity away from counting the number of hours an employee works, and looking instead to answer the question “Is the work getting done?” Companies that have adopted this mentality with regards to employee work ethic find it easier to implement a more flexible work schedule.  Such schedules allow employees to stray from the normal 9-5, and work instead an 8-4 or 10-6 schedule.  Some organizations will shift to a 35-hour workweek during the summer months, allowing employees to pick a day of the week to leave at lunch. Some offer 4, 10-hour days allowing some employees to be off on Friday and some on Monday for a longer weekend.

Casual Dress –

In many of the high-end tech companies, casual dress every day is the norm.  However, the majority of large corporations still adhere to a specific, non-casual dress code during normal business hours.  During the summer months, some organizations will implement “casual Friday”, allowing employees to arrive at work in jeans or even shorts, so long as their attire is in good taste and appropriate.

Team Building –

Providing a planned activity for an entire team or department is one way to get everyone outside and still benefit the group as a whole. Morale before the event is high in anticipation.  Morale after the event is high having participated.  Going to a “fun park”, bowling, or even a catered BBQ picnic on the grounds can be used to show employees that you are aware of how difficult it is to stay focused when it is nicer outside than inside while demonstrating appreciation for their work and contribution to the organization.

Employee Garden –

If you have the space for it at your facility, you would be surprised at how many employees enjoy working in an actual garden.  There are many fruits, vegetables and herbs that can be grown during the summer months.  The opportunity for some of your employees to take a few minutes out of their day and tend to a garden can be a huge benefit.  Start small and it will grow to be larger each year as more employees get involved.

Employees desire separating their personal and professional life.  When the employer demonstrates their appreciation for the same, employees feel more appreciated. They are happier, more engaged, more productive and typically more committed to staying with their employer for a longer period of time.

renee

 

CAI Advice & Resolution team member Renee Watkins is a seasoned HR professional with a diverse background in Human Resource. Renee provides CAI members with practical advice in a wide-range of human resource functions including conflict resolution, compliance and regulatory issues, and employee relations.