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    Entries in benefits (22)

    Monday
    Jan042016

    What HR should be talking about most in 2016, (and what we need to stop talking about)

    My second annual (here is last year's in case you are interested), completely unscientific, biased, personal, and guaranteed to be 100% accurate take on what HR, work, and workplace technology topics we will be spending endless cycles dissecting and analyzing in 2015, followed by a short list of topics that we have, have, have to stop it already with lamenting.

    These 'hot' topics were complied from a scientific review of all the stuff I saved, tweeted, bookmarked, or emailed to myself over the holiday break, because since I read everything, that is the only research that is really needed. Also, and as an aside, I still email myself stuff all the time and every time I do that I feel like a noob. Oh well, here goes...

    What HR should be talking about most in 2016:

    Intelligent Technology - Last year I had 'Predictive Analytics' as one of my three things HR should be talking about in 2015. And talk about it many folks did, even if not very many organizations have as yet had either the technology in place or the organizational readiness for adapting this kind of advanced analysis into their day-to-day HR functions. But even if many or even most organizations are not yet there with predictive analytics, more and more of the major and leading HR technology solution providers are baking in predicitive capability into thier platforms and providing at least basic 'predictions' on things like retention and peformance to HR and business leaders already. And I think this trend and set of tools will continue to expand in capabiliy and usage in 2016. But this year, I hope that HR and HR tech expands not just the capability but the conversation in this area just a bit further, into something more akin to a kind of 'intelligent' set of tools and workflows that will help HR, managers, and employees complete processes, tasks, and hopefully allow them to make better decisions. This technology would not just predict the likelihood of a potential outcome, but would 'learn' from usage patterns, history, preferences, and more about what you (the employee) should do next, given a set of data and process conditions. That could mean surfacing the 'right' learning content when you get assigned to a new project, suggesting you make an internal connection with a specific colleague when you run a search in the corporate knowlege base for a specific topic, or if you are a manger, provide you intelligent recommendations about how to handle coaching conversations with your team members, adapted to their individual profiles and preferences. I think there is plenty more we can and should be doing with all the data that our systems are capturing. In 2016 HR and HR tech should be talking about this much, much more.

    Benefits - I may be way off, but I think boring old benefits are going to be a big deal in 2016. And while the compliance-related ACA driven stuff will always be an important issue for HR, I am not even talking about that side of benefits. No, I am referring to that collection of non-cash rewards that in a tightening labor market can play a huge role in retention, engagement, and productivity - all things that remain important in just about any year. Expand the definition of 'benefits' a little to include all the various initiatives that organizations have or may undertake in order to improve work/life balance for their employees, (flexible work, modified schedules, enhancements to parental leave, etc), and suddenly benefits and related becomes a much more strategic and powerful set of tools in the HR leader's workshop. Last item on this: In 2016 I think 'Financial wellness' will be a subject of more conversations than in the last 10 years combined. 

    Employee Experience - This an offshoot of the prior point about Benefits and kind of expands that line of thinking into things like the design, layout, and function of workspaces, as well as the technologies and methods that are employed to facilitate individuals and teams getting their work done while feeling good about that work they are doing. With workers demanding more flexible schedules and locations, and many organizations desire to reduce real estate footprints and costs, figuring out the best ways to juggle people, places, technologies, and the workload will be a primary challenge and opportunity for HR leaders in 2016. Employee experience is a big topic, and most organizations don't really think about it in those terms. Rather, they manage the heck out of individual components of the experience, (recruiting, onboarding, technology, facilities, org design, training, performance management, comp, etc.), and hope that somehow the overall package adds up to a winning combination. Sometimes that works. Sometimes not. Most organizations have a pretty senior executive who 'owns' the overall customer experience and/or success, why not have a similar exec in the HR office that would own the employee experience/success?

    And Here is what HR needs to stop talking about in 2016:

    Millennials - If you are a semi-frequent reader of the blog, you may remember this post from a couple of weeks ago - CHART OF THE DAY: We can FINALLY stop talking about Millennials. In the piece, I shared some data that showed that in the USA that Gen Z (the one that comes after the Millennials), have just about caught up to the Millennials in terms of numbers. Additionally, the youngest members of Gen Z are now starting to enter the workforce. Add this all up and it can only mean one thing - if you are STILL talking about Millennials in 2016 you are going to sound like you've been beamed back to 2008. The only interesting generations are these: The one just emerging on to the scene as contributing members of society (Gen Z), and the one that is predominantly in charge of things, (Government, business, institutions). I would argue that is Gen X at this point. Bottom line: no more about Millennials in 2016 please.

    The 'Gig' Economy - Here's the thing about the rise in importance of the so-called 'Gig Economy', it is quite possible that its growth as a percentage of the labor force has been generally exaggerated possibly due to the oversized coverage that the largest Gig company, Uber, has received over the years. According to this Wall St. Journal piece from last July:

    Far from turning into a nation of gig workers, Americans are becoming slightly less likely to be self-employed, and less prone to hold multiple jobs. Official government data shows around 95% of those who report having jobs are accounted for on the formal payroll of U.S. employers, little changed from a decade ago.

    If Uber and its ilk were fundamentally undermining the relationship workers have with employers, that shift would be showing up in at least some of the key economic indicators. Hundreds of thousands of Americans, or even a few million, may have dabbled in the gig economy, but in the context of the 157 million-strong U.S. labor force, the trend remains marginal.

    It is possible that since there are likely more 'Gig' workers in coastal 'elite' cities like New York and San Francisco, and folks in these cities dominate the conversations in the media, that it just feels like the Gig economy is fast becoming the dominant form of work. But the data just doesn't reflect that, at least not yet. And it likely will not in 2016 or in 2018 or maybe even in 2020. So for now, it makes sense to think about your labor force composition, sure, (just like it always has), but massive, fundamental changes in that mix of labor is not typically top of mind for most organizations.

    Employee Engagement - A holdover from my list of things HR should stop talking about from last year, I fear the conversations about employee engagement hardly ebbed in 2015. Why do I keep thinking we need to drop the employee engagement conversation? Well, for the same reasons as I wrote back in late 2014, namely that Only 30% of employees are 'engaged'. That has become an immutable truth of work and workplaces. It is right alongside 'Average annual salary increases will be 3% this year' as the most expected headline of the year in HR. And so maybe it is time to just accept it. Lots of people are not 'engaged' and probably will never be no matter what. Quit worrying about it. Worry about if they show up, they get their jobs done, they don't leak the company intranet to the North Koreans, and they don't microwave leftover fish in the lunch room. We (collectively) have spent ages of time, effort, and energy trying to 'fix' engagement and we have (so far) failed. Maybe it's time to take a year off.  

    Ok, I am out. What say you? Am I close on this? Or off the mark? 

    Have a great week and a fantastic 2016!

    Thursday
    Aug062015

    This is why we can't have nice things (HR and Talent Edition)

    If you follow the news, particularly the news relevant to the workplace, HR, and Talent Management, you probably caught a couple of recent stories that have been pretty widely reported, circulated, and dissected.

    One having to do with compensation - Gravity Payments Raising Minimum Salary to $70,000

    And the second, a straight up benefits story - Netflix To Offer Unlimited Parental Leave

    Both of these stories, one about how one company is raising its minimum salary to a pretty high level compared to local and national statutory minimum wage requirements, and the next, about how another large US company is extending and enhancing a much-needed employee benefit (parental leave), were initially met with positive or at least neutral reactions.

    But then, predictably, the backlash and criticism of both of these policy changes, and from a wide assortment of commentators began.

    The decision by the Gravity Payments CEO to raise his company's minimum annual salary to $70,000 was the easier mark. Outlets from the New York Times all the way to the site I contribute to Fistful of Talent, took apart the Gravity plans. Unworkable, unaffordable, unfair to top performers - the list of holes that were poked in the Gravity plan are too long to recount. 

    Netflix' decision to extend parental leave to an unlimited amount for an entire year has been met with relatively less criticism, but at least one major publication, the Washington Post wasted little time in alerting the rest of us that in fact Netfilx' innovative policy was likely "a bad idea for your company."

    Whether it is these recent stories from Gravity and Netflix, or older and more familiar stories about novel, innovative, and worker-friendly policies from companies like Zappos or Google, there is always one element they have in common. No matter what the specific issue is, (increases in pay, enhanced benefits, more worker autonomy, etc.), once the news makes the rounds almost immediately thereafter commences the chorus of commentary that strikes a familiar, and tired, refrain. 

    And these critiques are always the same. They are always some combination of 'This is a terrible idea/bad Talent Management' along with its corollary 'Sure, this might work in Silicon Valley, but it will never work for you'.

    And I have to say I find that pretty depressing. 

    Why do we have to immediately and forcefully look to take down or at least diminish the significance and importance of new ideas that are clearly intended to improve work, workplaces, and the lives of workers?

    Why do we instinctively look to marginalize the significance of any employee welfare improvement initiative that comes out of some Silicon Valley tech firm as something that could only work in that progressive environment, and not at any 'grown up' company?

    Why do so many HR and Talent folks immediately look to identify why they can't look to follow some of these leading organizations like Netflix and Google and the like, instead of admitting that they might be able to learn/steal from their ideas?

    Look, I understand the arguments knocking the compensation plan that Gravity is trying to implement, and the realities of costs and budgets that make offering up to a year of paid parental leave hard if not impossible for many companies to copy. The criticisms are often valid and well-reasoned.

    But the problem is that they usually just try to shut down the conversation, and don't offer any insights into how these modern, innovative, (and certainly outlier) ideas can be adapted to work in a more mainstream and widespread way. Instead of saying something like 'You can never copy what Netflix is doing', how about we try 'You may not be able to do exactly what Netflix is doing, but here are some ideas on how you can leverage these ideas in your shop'.

    But instead we almost overwhelmingly react negatively. As if raising the minimum salary in an organization to $70,000 is an abomination, and giving new parents unlimited leave for a year are concepts that if adopted in the mainstream would somehow crack the foundations of modern business, and of HR/Talent Management. As if somehow these ideas threaten us.

    What are we afraid of, really?

    Monday
    Apr132015

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 209 - Castlight and Enterprise Healthcare Management

    HR Happy Hour 209 - Castlight and Enterprise Healthcare Management

    Recorded LIVE from the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference April 9, 2015

    Hosts: Steve Boese, Trish McFarlane

    Guest: Maeve O'Meara, VP Products Castlight Health

    Listen to the show HERE 

    US organizations spend about $620B annually on employee health and benefits programs and up to 30% of this enormous spend is wasted according to some estimates. For most employers, health and benefits is a Top 3 cost, but most have also only managed these as costs, i.e., as needing to be controlled, managed down, and to be shifted more to employees in the form of greater employee contributions towards care and benefits. But for many organizations, employee benefits have moved from a cost to be managed towards an important asset to be leveraged for employee well-being and organizational success. 

    Today on the show, Steve was joined by Maeve O'Meara, VP Products from Castlight Health, an HR technology solution provider that has created a platform for what is becoming known as 'Enterprise Healthcare Management'. The Castlight platform helps employees access and utilize benefits and health programs and provides them better information, educational resources, and transparency to guide them in actively managing their care. For employers, the platform provides rich analytics about employee use of benefits, trends that are impacting and indicative of workplace challenges and tools to better predict what will happen next with employee benefits utilization. This leads to better experiences for employees and better outcomes for employers.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below:

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio

     

    And of course you can listen to and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, or via your favorite podcast app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to download and subscribe to the show and you will never miss a new episode.


    Thanks to Maeve and Castlight Health for joining us!

    Friday
    Mar132015

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 206 - Live from Benefitfocus OnePlace

    HR Happy Hour 206 - Live from Benefitfocus OnePlace 2015

    Recorded Wednesday March 11, 2015

    Hosts: Trish McFarlaneSteve Boese

    Guests: Shawn Jenkins,  Shan Fowler

    Listen to the show HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve did a live show from the Benefitfocus OnePlace 2015 event in Orlando, Florida, (Trish was on assignment this week at the Peoplefluent event in Miami).

    On the show Steve was joined by Shawn Jenkins, President, CEO, and Co-founder of Benefitfocus and Shan Fowler, Benefitfocus' Director of Marketplaces. Benefitfocus provides robust, modern, and powerful technologies for the management, communication, and the employee experience with their benefits programs -both for employers as well as carriers and exchange providers.

    On the show, Shawn and Shan shared some of the history of Benefitfocus, and how Benefitfocus' offerings help employers and providers to meet their goals of engaging, educating, and providing the most effective benefits programs for their employees and enrollees.

    One of the most important ways that average employees interact with workplace technologies is how they interact with their employer's benefits technology. From annual open enrollment, to periodic live event type changes, and even in ongoing benefits for health and wellness - these employee experiences are critically important ones, impacting employee's engagement, well-being, and helping them to take care of themselves and the welfare of their families.

    '

    Additionally, Shawn and Shan shared some of the important decision drivers that bring organizations to invest in more robust and powerful benefits technologies than the ones often present in 'core' HR systems, and the basic steps that organizations follow to get the new benefits platform up and running in rapid fashion - often in as little as 120 days.

    We also lamented again (well, just Steve), about the terrible winter weather, we talked college foootball fan affiliation, and Shan was given the title of 'Best beard ever for a HR Happy Hour guest'

    You can listen to the show here, or using the widget player below, (Email and RSS subscribers will need to click through, or go to the show direct link)

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio

     

    As always, you can listen to the current and all the past shows from the archive on the show page here, on our HR Happy Hour website, and by subscribing to the show in podcast form on iTunes, or for Android devices using Stitcher Radio (or your favorite podcast app). Just search the iTunes store or your podcast app for 'HR Happy Hour' to add the show to your subscriptions.

    This was a great show, and many thanks to Shawn and Shan for being a part of the fun. 

    Thursday
    Mar052015

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 205 - Health & Benefits Leadership Conference Preview

    HR Happy Hour 205 - The Health & Benefits Leadership Conference Preview

    Recorded Thursday March 5, 2015

    Hosts: Trish McFarlaneSteve Boese

    Guest: Jennifer Benz

    Listen to the show HERE

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Trish and Steve were joined by Jennifer Benz, Founder and CEO of Benz Communications, and Program Chair for Human Resource Executive's Health & Benefits Leadership Conference, to be held April 8 - 10, 2015 at the Aria in Las Vegas.

    On the show, Jennifer shared some of the most important themes and challenges facing Benefits and HR leaders today - health care plan design and reform, employee wellness, (particularly financial wellness), and the importance of educating and effectively communicating with employees on important benefits, wellness, and welfare issues.

    The upcoming Health & Benefits Leadership Conference will help HR and Benefits leaders understand these challenges and trends, as well as provide insight and actionable ideas to take back to their organizations immediately. And in what has become a highlight in the young history of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference, once again an exciting, 'Ignite' style Ideas and Innovators session will showcase the best, most leading edge, and provocative thinking on health, wellness, and benefits.

    '

    Benefits and related spending can be as much as 30% of compensation budget for many organizations. Understanding how, where, and for what goals you are investing such a considerable amount of budget is one of the top priorities for HR and Benefits leaders today. On the show, Jen shared a preview of how the Conference can and will help you as a leader in making these critically important organizational decisions - ones that impact employee engagement, reputation, and retention.

    We also lamented again (well, mostly Steve), about the terrible winter weather, Steve shared a slightly disturbing tale of a former neighbor and his snowblower, and Trish offered to talk about Benefits plan design with anyone at any time. We also talked about how cool the word 'formulary' is. 

    You can listen to the show here, or using the widget player below, (Email and RSS subscribers will need to click through, or go to the show direct link)

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio

     

    Also, listeners of the show who attend the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference can use the registration discount code BOESE15 (all caps), to receive $75 off the current registration rate.

    As always, you can listen to the current and all the past shows from the archive on the show page here, on our HR Happy Hour website, and by subscribing to the show in podcast form on iTunes, or for Android devices using Stitcher Radio (or your favorite podcast app). Just search the iTunes store or your podcast app for 'HR Happy Hour' to add the show to your subscriptions.

    This was a great show, and many thanks to Jennifer for being a part of the fun.