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    Entries in health care (7)


    #BenefitsConf Opening Message: Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be

    I am out at the 4th Annual Health & Benefits Leadership Conference for the next few days and will (if plans don't get derailed because, well, Vegas), be sharing some ideas and highlights from the event, including at least one HR Happy Hour Show from the event.

    The opening keynote at the show was given by Alexandra Drane, Co-Founder of Eliza Corp and was titled Mentioning the Unmentionables: Is 'Life' the Missing Link?', an examination of where health and wellness approaches have possibly been misaligned with the needs, desires, and actual, practical situations and lives of the people the healthcare industry is trying to serve.

    Let's unpack that a little bit by referring to a chart we have all seen a thousand times, Maslow's hierarchy, and one that Ms. Drane referred to several times during her talk. Take a look at my (slightly out of focus) pic of the chart below, and then some FREE comments from me on the key points of the talk after that. Note: the person on the lower right of the pic is an artist doing a sketch of the talk in real time - really pretty cool!

    Alexandra's primary message on where health and wellness initiatives have gone wrong is in that so many of the efforts and outreach have been focused on individual and employee behavior modification that impact and reside at the very peak of the self-actualization pyramid - ignoring the fact that many, if not most people are wrestling with life issues much further down.

    We (or our employers), bug people to exercise more frequently, to eat healthier, to make sure they are up to date on all preventive medical screenings, etc., but often do not even attempt to address the myriad of issues that would prevent people from even thinking about doing more exercise or the other things that happy, secure people can spend time on.

    These are very basic, and fundamental issues and challenges like elder or child care, financial challenges and troubles, divorce, lack of intimacy, or even something as elementary as loneliness or disconnection from people.

    These issues, she argued, are the more important drivers that lead towards negative health outcomes that manifest in 'real' diseases like diabetes, alcoholism, heart disease, hypertension, and many more. And trying to motivate people into behavior changes that might lead to say a reduced risk of diabetes will not be effective if they are completely stressed out with family or personal crises that dominate their ability to cope.


    Until we are able to meet people where they are, many if not most of them dealing with tremendous pressures, stress, and personal challenges in their real lives, will we be able to better provide tools, resources, support, and empathy needed to try and move them to where we want (and hope) they can be - as people who can actually take the time to jog for 45 minutes a day, and spend an extra hour at home each night preparing healthy meals.

    It was a really important message I think, and one we'd all be wise to remember.

    People are really complex. Life can really suck sometimes. And the combination of the two makes trying to drive behavior change much, much more than just suggesting they choose a salad instead of a Big Mac.

    Thanks to Alexandra Drane for such an interesting and compelling talk this morning. 


    CHART OF THE DAY: The U.S. Uninsured Rate

    With all the news and talk and debate about the ever evolving and complex set of requirements on organizations (and individuals) from the Affordable Care Act, it seems to me that one (fairly important) macro statistic often goes underreported, namely the percentage of people in the U.S. who still lack medical insurance.

    If you had to guess, (don't peek at the chart below), what would you guess the percentage of U.S. adults uninsured to be?

    It feels like it should be kind of high, right? Maybe 25% or 30%? 

    But you'd also guess that with the opening of the ACA exchanges late in 2013 and with all the news and attention surrounding getting folks to navigate the buggy Healthcare.gov website and actually getting them enrolled in Medical coverage, that the uninsured rate should be dropping I would bet.

    So what's the actual/estimated rate of uninsured adults in the U.S.? Check out the below chart from Gallup from their survey of 14,700 people in April 2014:

    So according to the Gallup survey, the uninsured rate among U.S. adults sits at 13.4% and does show a gradual decline since the launch of the ACA exchanges. When I first saw the chart and the 13.4% figure, I felt it was kind of low, I am not sure why. It just 'felt' like there would be more uninsured folks than that.

    The Gallup survey also breaks down this data into age/income groups, (click here for those details), but essentially they reflect what you'd expect - older, wealthier people are much less likely to be uninsured than younger and poorer people. But the trends in getting more people insured are improving across all age cohorts, which seems like a good thing.

    I suppose I don't have any big lesson/takeaway from all this, just thought it was interesting.

    Happy Thursday.


    #HRHappyHour LIVE Tonight - 'HR and Health Care Reform'

    Now that 2013 is in full swing, your thoughts as an HR and Talent Pro can only be turning to one thing - Health Care Reform!

    I kid, but only a little.  Whether you call it Obamacare, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or just Health Care Reform, chances are it will impact your organization and your employees in 2013, and it might be equally likely you don't really know enough of what you need to know about these changes.

    Well my friends, as you start your 2013 HR and Talent trip into the forest of Health Care Reform, you are not alone. The HR Happy Hour Show is back with you as well, with our latest live show of 2013, tonight, Thursday January 17th at 8:00PM ET.

    You can listen to the show live tonight at 8:00PM on the show page here - on the listener line 646-378-1086, or on the widget player below. Also, you can participate on the show backchannel on Twitter - hashtag #HRHappyHour.

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    And, if for some reason you miss the show live, you can always catch the replay on the show page, or on iTunes - just search the podcasts section for 'HR Happy Hour.'

    Joining us to talk the about the upcoming changes and challenges presented by Health Care Reform will be returning guest and friend of the show Jennifer Benz, CEO of Benz Communications; and John Barkett of Extend Health, and one of the original authors and implementers of the legislation that became known as Obamacare.

    And of course riding shotgun with me will be the HR Ringleader herself, HR executive Trish McFarlane.  

    We will be taking about and taking your calls on:

    What are the most important aspects of HCR that you as an HR pro need to know?

    How does HCR and its implications and demands differ across company size?

    What key communications messages and strategies do you need to consider when keeping your employees informed?

    What does the medium and longer term look like in the world of employer-sponsored benefits?

    Where can the HR and Talent pro go to learn more?

    These questions and more will be answered on the next episode of the HR Happy Hour Show - LIVE tonight at 8:00PM.

    I hope you can join us tonight, it should be a fun and informative show!


    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?


    Innovation as a choice

    I'm just back from Taleo World 2012, (ok, I admit to being a little biased, but it was a tremendous event), and wanted to share a short bit of wisdom from one of the concurrent sessions I attended, given by WellPoint, one of the largest health benefits companies in the United States. With over 37,000 employees operating in a highly-regulated industry and with the added complexity of operating via numerous subsidiary companies, WellPoint is a classic example of the kind of large corporate environment many of us work in or have been a part of at some point in our careers.Taleo World 2012

    And what are some of the things that come to mind when thinking about working in really large, complex organizations?  

    We generally think of these corporate giants as lacking agility, with dense and difficult to traverse organization structures, a lack of drive and urgency, and at times the tendency to get consumed by process, entrenched ways of thinking, and lots of 'Not invented here' syndrome that taken together can slow or even halt innovative ideas of transformational projects even before they begin.

    While it is certainly true that as organizations get larger and more complex in structure additional rules, policies, and sometimes bureaucracies have to emerge to simply manage the processes associated with organizing that many people, across that many locations, and operating under numerous and evolving external forces and requirements, the smartest of these large organizations are not letting size, complexity and inertia impede their ability to adapt, improve, and innovate.

    And while their are reams of books, articles, seminars, and big thinkers all focused on the subject of innovation, still for large organizations, fostering innovation can be really, really hard - maybe even impossible. But during WellPoint's presentation about their purposeful and aggressive approach to reinventing their Talent Management processes, they offered one of the clearest and simplest ways to get past those legacy or inherent barriers to innovation.

    Simply put, they decided to be innovative. 

    The specific mantra their Talent Management team adopted was 'We can sit and wait, or we can choose to innovate.'

    Sure it's basic. Sure it even sounds a little naive. And yes, no one can really effect significant change by simply making a choice, but the choice itself is the start. 

    The choice to innovate becomes a conscious one that can support all the difficult decisions that have to be made in order to effect change at large organizations like WellPoint. The choice allows you, even empowers you to think about the big picture and the real reasons and benefits for the hard work you are doing. 

    The choice enables you to start to let go of the organizational baggage that often has to be dragged along with you on every new project.

    In another Taleo World presentation, Bertrand Dussert mentioned a fantastic quote from Roger Enrico -

    "Beware the tyranny of making small changes to small things."

    WellPoint's 'choice' and the Enrico quote both remind us of the importance of thinking big, not allowing the past to be a barrier to progress, and that often a simple change in mindset can be the beginning of a fantastic journey, even in the largest and most seemingly resistant to change environments.

    Thanks to everyone at Taleo World for what was a superb and inspiring event.

    Have a Great Weekend!