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    Entries in benefits (25)


    Big Ideas from the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference

    I'm just back from the 2nd Annual Human Resource Executive Magazine's Health & Benefits Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, which was a fantastic three days of content and sharing of ideas on the most pressing and important topics in the areas of employer benefits, healthcare, and maybe the most important one - how healthier employees create better business results.

    To me, while the deep coverage and the analytical review of the various strategic decisions and then tactical execution challenges that most USA organizations are facing from the new Affordable Care Act rules and requirements, mostly due to (for an outsider like me), the almost impenetrable nature of what these new requirements actually are, were critically important to many attendees, it was the 'bigger' ideas that were presented at the event that will remain on my mind going forward.

    I was fortunate enough to help host and moderate the Conference's 'Ideas and Innovators' session, a fast-paced forum for leading thinkers in the benefits, healthcare, wellness, and modern workplace space to present (in rapid 5-minute 'Ignite' style talks), their own disruptive and new ideas that will be impacting how organizations address the crucial challenges in benefits and employee healthcare going forward.

    While all six talks presented in the 'Ideas' session were fantastic, (really you should have been there), I wanted to call attention to three of the most interesting or challenging 'Big Ideas' presented in the session, and share some links to additional resources for folks who might want to learn more and explore these ideas in greater depth.

    Dr. Zubin Damania - Dr. Damania presented a fantastic talk about his company Turntable Health, who are creating a health and wellness ecosystem focused on primary and well care. The big idea is really kind of simple - by doubling down on the investment and time spent on prevention and keeping healthy before you get sick, people and organizations will see dramatic improvements in things like hospitalizations, ER visits, and more. While the idea is simple, the execution is very novel, with Turntable being at the forefront of trying to change how we think about and deliver care in a broader sense. 

    Lindsey Pollak - Bestselling author of Getting From College to Career, and the forthcoming Becoming the Boss, Lindsey presented a compelling and actionable series of ideas on just how organizations can better engage the next generation of their workforces in health and wellness programs and activities. Drawing on research collaboration with The Hartford titled 'Gen Y Speaks', Lindsey proposed that organizations should more fully embrace the characteristics of younger workers (desire for personalization, preference for modern technology, and relatively longer 'time to financial maturity', etc.), as they design and implement benefits packages, wellness programs, and overall workplace design. As it turns out, not just Gen Y values many of these things as well!

    Brian Poger - Brian is the CEO of Benefitter, a company that focuses on helping organizations understand and and leverage the trillion (yes, that is trillion with a 'T') dollar pool of healthcare subsidies that are available. Brian's 'Big Idea' was truly challenging and provocative - that for many organizations and employees, that dropping employer-sponsored healthcare coverage altogether might be a win-win for both parties. Brian can help you do the math, but it just might turn out that for many employees at or lower than the median US income level, that dropping the coverage that you as an employer provide might be the next tool you can use to actually increase total compensation and improve access. Get in touch with Brian to learn more.

    I'd encourage you to check out the interesting work being done by Dr. Zubin, Lindsay, and Brian, as well as the other superb presenters at the Ideas and Innovators session.

    It was a really interesting and fun session with these and the other great presenters at the conference and if your job as an HR pro or leader touches how your organization delivers benefits or deploys programs meant to improve workforce health and well-being then you really should make plans to attend next year's Conference to be held in April 2015.

    Thanks to program chair Jennifer Benz and Human Resource Executive for putting on such a great event and for allowing me to play a small part. 


    EVENT: The Health & Benefits Leadership Conference

    One of the cool parts of my job as Co-Chair of Human Resource Executive's HR Technology Conference, (set for this October 7 - 10, 2014, more information here), is the opportunity to get involved with some of the other initiatives and events under the Human Resource Executive banner, including the upcoming Health & Benefits Leadership Conference, to be held in my second favorite city in the world, Las Vegas, from March 17 - 19.


    The Health & Benefits Leadership Conference is the nation's newest and most innovative Benefits event for HR and Benefits Professionals. Attendees will gain immediately useful solutions and ideas to help craft a solid benefits program that will attract new employees, retain top talent, improve employee dedication, enhance productivity and more. More than 50+ thought leaders will be on hand and will share how they are implementing innovative ideas and trends into their organizations, and getting results.


    And like the HR Technology Conference, the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference focuses on showcasing what the leading companies and executive innovators are doing today in their strategic approach to health, benefits, wellness, and rewards to help their organizations meet their most important talent and business objectives. You will hear from leaders at great companies like Adobe, Walgreens, The Home Depot, Marriott, Cargill, Twitter and many more. Conference Program Chair Jennifer Benz has assembled a fantastic line up of speakers and sessions.


    And, even your humble blogger (me), will be on hand, to moderate an Ideas & Innovators general session, where you will see six thought leaders each present a new, challenging, and cutting edge concept in a fast-paced 'Ignite-style' format, that will be sure to provoke you into thinking about a business challenge in a brand new way.


    You can see the full program at www.BenefitsConf.com and if you can (and you should) join me and over 50 Benefits thought leaders in Las Vegas next month, you can register using Promo Code BOESE14 to save an additional $75.00 off the going rate.


    Hope to see you there!

    Housecleaning as a perk? It's about reducing decisions

    Yesterday at Fistful of Talent in the latest '5 Things You Need to Know This Week' compilation, Holland Dombeck included a link to this piece from Business Insider - 'Evernote Pays For Each Of Its 250 Employees To Have Their Houses Cleaned Twice Per Month', which on the surface reads mostly like another one of those classic and almost cliche, 'Tech company perks that your business would never even consider', kinds of pieces.

    I mean, we've all read enough stories about free gourmet meals, onsite car detailing services, anything goes dress codes, and even more out of the ordinary types of perks and benefits that tech companies have been known to create and bestow upon their employees. And for most of us that do not work in one of these small or start-up tech companies, our reaction to these stories is pretty standard - variously choosing from the following:  they won't work in our culture, won't scale to our size, are somehow 'unfair', and since none of our industry or location benchmarks say we have to offer them to be competitive, then we don't have to worry about them. They make for a cute story, (and easy blog fodder), but that's it.

    It was with that kind of practiced cynicism I too read the Business Insider piece about Evernote, but digging into the story just a bit deeper, buried in the original New York Times piece that BI essentially summarized, we find this gem of a quote from an Evernote employee, when asked about the 'free housecleaning' perk:

    Given that his employer is paying to clean his apartment, (Evernote VP of Marketing), Mr. Sinkov and his girlfriend do not have to quibble about cleanup duties. The value of the perk is greater than the money saved, he said.

    “It eliminates a decision I have to make,” Mr. Sinkov said. “It’s just happening and it’s good, and I don’t have to think about it.”


    The perk is valuable because it 'eliminates a decision I have to make'.

    That sounds familiar, no?  Well it should to regular readers of this blog, as very recently I posted about two separate stories about the importance of reducing (often unnecessary), decision making, as shared by President Obama and the President of the Internet, Mark Zuckerberg.

    It's not about the cash value of the perk - I suspect Mr. Sinkov can afford to pay to have his house cleaned - but rather about removing from his day-to-day the need to think about it at all. 

    And what we saw in the Obama and Zuckerberg stories continues to resonate - if you want to really, truly, and fully do great work, maybe even your best work, then anything that distracts you too much from that work presents just another little barrier that you need to get over.

    And anything, even a simple perk like housecleaning, (or dog walking, or yard work, or time off for voting), can give people on your team just a little bit of help in what for most of us seems like a Monday to Friday mad dash to get everything done.

    Think about it - what can you do today to let your teams make just one less decision?


    Bad Habits, Pressure, and Results

    We might argue about the best way to get there, but certainly at this point you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in the Human Resources, Benefits, or Talent Management space that has not firmly bought in to the importance of employee wellness.

    The arguments in support of the organization actively promoting more healthy behaviors in and out of the workplace are familiar and numerous - increased productivity, reduced health care costs, less absenteeism, and more. And forget about the data - it just makes sense intuitively that when people make consistently better choices about diet, exercises, taking routine physical exams, and simply being more conscious about their health; then they will be happier, feel better, and will do better at work and in the community.

    Sure, there are (valid) differences in opinion about the most effective employer wellness strategies and the proper role of the organization in what are often employee's personal matters and decisions, but overall, it seems to be little argument about the ultimate goals - a healthier, higher-performing workforce. And while the strategies, programs, and solutions might differ, there are still some basics in the employee wellness discussion that most all employers do agree on, particularly when it comes down to some basic human behavioral choices and habits that from decades of study have been shown to be incredibly harmful and detrimental to health; with tobacco use being the obvious example.

    Whether it's cigarettes, chew, dip, maybe even cigars - we know we don't want our employees partaking, either at work or in their personal lives, the risks are too high, the costs are too great - essentially nothing good results from employee tobacco use.

    Unless of course the ramifications of quitting tobacco use are too high.

    What? How can that even make sense?

    Check this piece from ESPN.com, about the Texas Rangers baseball star Josh Hamilton, his decision to quit chewing tobacco during the season, and the subsequent reactions from team management. From the ESPN piece:

    Rangers' CEO Nolan Ryan said the timing of Josh Hamilton's decision to quit smokeless tobacco this summer "couldn't have been worse."

    "You would've liked to have thought that if he was going to do that, that he would've done it in the offseason or waited until this offseason to do it," Ryan said during an appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's "Galloway and Company" this week. "So the drastic effect that it had on him and the year that he was having up to that point in time when he did quit, you'd have liked that he would've taken a different approach to that."

    Hamilton, who began his quest to quit dipping in late June, admitted in August that he was dealing with a "discipline" issue and said it was discipline at the plate and discipline in "being obedient to the Lord in quitting chewing tobacco."

    His struggle with tobacco coincided with the one at the plate. After earning AL player of the month honors in April and May, Hamilton hit .223 in June and .177 in July and had eight homers and 27 RBIs combined in those two months. He had belted 21 homers and driven in 57 RBIs in the first two months of the season combined.

    Got all that? For the non-baseball fans out there, let me break it down.

    Hamilton is an incredibly high-performer, one of the very best in the entire industry, 'top talent' so to speak. But he has some bad habits, chewing tobacco, (common among baseball players), among them. He elects to quit chewing tobacco, a decision everyone should applaud, and almost immediately his performance begins to slide. Quitting tobacco use is really hard for many, and it seems for Hamilton the side effects and strain it put on him personally negatively impacted his job performance. Then after the season concludes, and the Rangers fail to advance in the playoffs, the team CEO, Ryan, publicly questions perhaps not Hamilton's choice to quit chewing tobacco, but certainly the timing of the choice.

    Essentially the CEO is saying - 'Quit your bad, unhealthy habits on your own time, we need to win ballgames here.'

    Maybe this is another one of those classic 'sports are not the real world' kinds of stories, and it is not a big deal, nor applicable to 'normal' workplaces and jobs and I should not bother posting about it. But I suspect there might be more relevance than we might see at first look.

    Baseball is not the only business with lots of pressure, deadlines, and intense periods of focus followed by some relative downtime. Instead of a chase for a World Series, maybe in your organization it is a crazed rush to meet a customer deadline, to ship a product by a promised date, to get Ms. Big Shot executive ready for he speech to your industry's largest trade show. 

    Whatever the case, success usually requires everyone on the team to be at the top of their game. 

    When Hamilton made the correct decision for his health, he seems, at least in the CEO's eyes, to have made the wrong decision for the team. 

    I wonder if in similar circumstances, what you would do if you were the CEO or the Project Leader and one of your key staff, perhaps even the best and most talented employee you have, took the same kind of decision as Hamilton?

    Would you try and support and help the employee work through this process, knowing in the long run it is better for everyone? 

    Or would you pass the Copenhagen and tell everyone to focus, we have a deadline to meet?


    Making the right choices

    With Annual Benefits Open Enrollment season rapidly approaching in the US, human resources and benefits professionals have started to plan, prepare, and develop their set of materials, communications, and tools to help their employees navigate through what can be a complex and confusing collection of plans, features, costs, and even tax implications.

    Absent life changing events like marriage or birth or adoption of a child, open enrollment is the only scheduled opportunity for employees to re-evaluate and potentially change their choice of medical, insurance, and other company sponsored benefit plans. Most organizations prepare some kind of annual open enrollment package, or update the company intranet with information and perhaps even some tools like downloadable worksheets or online calculators to assist employees in the process of evaluating their known and anticipated needs against the available choices to help guide them to make what is hopefully the ‘best’ choice for their circumstances.

    But still these resources often are overlooked, can be ignored, or themselves are almost as complex as the plans and options they are trying to explain. Sometimes trying to make sense out of complicated and detailed plan offerings is beyond the capability of traditional methods of communication.

    The folks at Jellyvision Lab, the company most well know for the fun and popular series of video-based trivia games called ‘You Don’t Know Jack’, have developed an interesting and really fun, interactive tool to try and make benefits plans more easily understood, and to help employee make more appropriate decisions about their benefits.

    Their product, called the Jellyvision Benefits Counselor, is an interactive video tour and guide of your company’s benefit offerings, a configurable resource for information and employee decision support, and a fun and innovative way to help employees learn and make the ‘best decision for their needs.

    Check out the video below to learn more about how the Benefits Counselor works:


    Behind the interactive video is an administrative process where the company’s benefits staff configures the Counselor with the relevant information about plan design, specific benefits, company policies, etc. (see a portion in the image at right)  and a sophisticated process flow for the counselor is developed based on this design, and employee choices provided as they interact with the Counselor. Standard explanations of the generic tax benefits of Flexible and Health Savings accounts also provide a simple and clear set of guidelines for employees.

    For larger organizations that may have a complex set of plans to administer, and lots of employees needing advice, deploying the Jellyvision Benefits Counselor as part of the overall benefits open enrollment communications can lend an element of interactivity, fun, and interest to a process that many employees find difficult and confusing.

    What do you think - would an interactive, video game style tool help your staff understand more and make better decisions about their benefits?

    Thanks to Harry Gottlieb from Jellyvision for taking some time last week to talk with me about the Jellyvision Benefits Counselor. 

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