Health Insurance 2018

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PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) annually projects the growth of health insurance and more specifically, medical costs, in the employer insurance market for the coming year.  They also identify the major factors expected to impact the trend.  Moving into 2018, the healthcare industry seems to be settling into a “new trend” which is marked by more moderate fluctuations and single-digit medical cost trends

HRI projects 2018’s medical cost trend to be 6.5%—the first uptick in growth in three years.

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What does this mean for employers still seeking to get the most for their insurance dollars and provide the best benefits for their employee population?  In a labor market that is heating up and becoming more competitive, employers are looking for new cost containment strategies beyond shifting more costs to their employees.

Target Health and Wellness

Many employers are creating wellness programs and enlisting the employees in a partnership arrangement regrading practicing better health habits.  Although hard numbers are difficult to come by, many employers believe they are creating a focus on wellness that will pay off at the bottom line.  Employers are offering smoking cessation programs, health fairs populated by as many as 100 different vendors, offering everything from multi vitamins to massage, and healthy snacks, like fruit and nuts instead of candy, cupcakes and empty snacks.

Investigate provider arrangements

More employers are taking a harder look the health services they are providing and how those health services are being offered.  Some are considering more restrictive arrangements like EPO’s (Exclusive Provider Organizations)  where they can get better discounts by decreasing the size of the provider network.  Other options include offering 2 tier plans where the employer pays a sizable percentage of the lower plan, but gives the employees an opportunity to “buy up” if they want to choose the more expensive plan.

Evaluate the value of drug spending

Employers are banding together to put pressure on drug companies to moderate price increases. Similar pressures were enacted in the early 1990s and significant decreases in the drug price growth rate.

We are already seeing some pharmaceutical companies take action, limiting price increases, offering cheaper generic alternatives and proactively addressing questions of value in the marketplace.

Even though health insurance price increases have slowed over the past three years, they still outpace inflation and employers need to continue to pursue alternatives that will lead to a healthier workforce and, ultimately, to lower health insurance costs for everyone.

 

Organizational Value

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There are multiple ways a Human Resources organization can add value.  Too often though, there is a mismatch between the value that HR is bringing and the growth and maturity curve of a company.  Imagine, for instance, heading HR for a large, established, multinational corporation and believing that the value HR brings lies in the mechanics of setting up employee files, creating salary structures and running benefit programs.  Conversely, imagine a situation where there is a relatively small start =up company.  The company has grown to the size, maybe 100 employees, where they finally need an HR presence.  The person selected start out by talking about aligning the employees to the organizational objectives, but the organizational objectives have yet to be defined.  It is important to always keep in mind the match between the HR function and the organization.  There are three primary ways that HR can bring true value to an organization.

Mechanics

HR has the responsibility to provide the basic mechanics of the HR function.  This can include such basics as:

  • Running ads and hiring for candidates
  • Creating salary structures to ensure the workforce is paid correctly
  • Selecting and running health insurance plans
  • Keeping I-9’s
  • Running basic training programs
  • Legal Compliance

Processes

Moving along the continuum, HR should provide the processes that ensure that an organization can scale efficiently

  • Hiring becomes……. an on-boarding process with predictive capability
  • Providing benefits becomes ……..a well thought out approach to which benefits, how to create a benefit matrix and judgment applied to the types and cost sharing of benefits
  • Legal compliance becomes……an understanding of what we are trying to accomplish and how best to accomplish it
  • Basic Training programs become….. Training program that meet key corporate objectives where impact is measurable
  • Basic compensation administration becomes…..internal and external equity comparisons, creative approaches to a three pronged approach and the most bang for our buck, social performance management systems

Strategy

Where HR can truly contribute the most value is when the Mechanics and Processes are in place and we can step back and view the big picture strategy.  Where are we going and how are we going to get there?

  • Thoroughly understand the goals of the organization and get ahead of the curve- what processes, practices and strategies will be needed in 1 year?  3 years?
  • Communicate corporate goals that align the workforce to the vision and mission of the Company
  • Align processes and programs across the organization to create high performing teams
  • Continually monitor the pulse of the organization and make recommendations to solve small problems before they become big ones
  • Assist executive teams to make sense of the internal and external environments and the impact they have on the organization

What do we hope to Achieve?

Crafted effectively, we orchestrate the above to achieve:

  • Increased alignment between organizational objectives and employee population goals
  • Most value extracted from each hire
  • Greater employee engagement yielding greater employee satisfaction
  • Reduced turnover
  • Better hiring decisions
  • Better use of resources reflected at the bottom line

International HR – Germany

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There are significant differences when it comes to the Human Resources organizations in the US versus companies in Germany, and many other countries in the EU.

 

Managerial Discretion

Anyone who has worked in the US understands that managers and HR have a lot of discretion over who to hire and who and when to terminate.  Sometimes these kinds of decisions can be made in a few days or weeks.  In Germany, specifically, these types of decisions are months if not years long, with serious infractions needing to have taken place.  Germany has a co-determination practice.  Co-determination is a practice whereby the employees have a role in the management of a company. The word is a literal translation from the German word Mitbestimmung.. In some countries, like the USA, the workers have virtually no role in corporate management; and in others, like Germany, their role is more important.

 

Wage differences

In the US, many studies show that white collar workers can make as much as 20 times that of blue collar workers in the same company.  This is drastically different than in Germany. Germany  is known for its balanced remuneration system.  The average white-collar worker’s wage is only 20% over the average blue collar worker`s wage. In addition, companies are not allowed to hire skilled workers from other companies by offering higher salaries.

 

Company Loyalty

Here too, the perception differs.  In the US, workers are generally always in search of something new or better, and there is very little company loyalty.  In Germany, employees feel a much greater sense of loyalty to their companies and, general, will not leave.  They will look for opportunities within their current company or subsidiaries and the company will work hard to provide those. 

 

Management decisions

While the US is typically a very individualistic society, making quick decisions and reversing them if necessary, Germany, in stark contrast, tends to work like a democracy in their companies. It is important the whole team has a say and the whole team is bought into the decision.  While this can seem appealing, the trade off is time.  Decision making will take much longer with a group of employees when everyone needs to be in agreement. 

Both cultures have their pros and cons and neither is necessarily best.  The US, acting as an impulsive, decisive,  all knowing teenager and Germany as the wise parent, moving slowly with certain purpose.

International HR – UK

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Differences between the UK and US

Much like there are slight difference between states in the US, like the timing of final pay for an involuntary or voluntary termination, ranging from day of termination in California to next scheduled pay period in Georgia, there are greater difference amongst countries around the world. Many of these differences relate to working hours and leave.

 

Overtime

In the UK, for instance, employees cannot be required to work more than 48 hours in a work week, while in the US, there are companies that require, legally, far in excess of this amount, especially during peak seasonal times.

 

Vacation Pay

While most workers in the US get 10 paid vacation days per year, their lucky UK counterparts are enjoying more than twice that at 28 days. And, if you are in the UK, you are going on “holiday”, not on “vacation.”

 

Maternity Leave

In the UK you can take a year off for maternity leave without losing your employee rights. No matter how long you’ve worked for a company. Just let the company know 15 weeks before the due date. The official UK maternity leave policy – known as Statutory Maternity Leave (SMP) – means that employees will still earn money for up to 39 weeks. During the first 6 weeks they receive 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax.

Then for the next 33 weeks either £136.78 pounds sterling (about $225 US  per week) or 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax depending which is lower. Their employee rights, including holiday entitlements and pay raises, are safeguarded during the time they take off. Compare that to the 6-8 weeks that most US employees take and only receive 66% of their normal wages IF they have SDI.

 

 

Teach a Man to Fish

One of life’s conundrums is the choice of when to do something for someone and when to teach them to do it for themselves.  This is an age old struggle between parents and children, teachers and students, managers and employees and the Human Resources team and our internal customers.  We all want to help those in need whether it’s a child struggling to open a heavy door or an employee who needs a quick answer.  But are we really “helping” when we constantly rush in to be the hero or are we really fueling a need within ourselves?  Might it not actually be better to teach someone how to be self-sufficient and then step back and out of the way?  This would allow you to make a greater and more broad reaching impact.

Especially for those of us in HR who, generally, are in this function because we enjoy helping others, we might want to take a look at how to more effectively “help” others in the organization.  It would be beneficial to have a plan when someone comes to you with a problem.  A way to identify whether this is a crisis and an immediate need or an opportunity to teach someone to be able to do it for themselves.

Urgent or Immediate needs

HR gets bombarded daily with immediate needs or at least needs that the internal customer thinks are immediate needs.  A few examples of actual immediate needs:  Someone has fallen and you need to call 911, someone is making credible threats and needs to be escorted out of the building, access to systems need to be shut down due to an involuntary termination for cause.  These are the types of needs that you will always handle and are probably not teachable, necessarily, to someone else.

Important needs

Important needs are those that are important but not urgent.   Examples might be a question on an incentive plan and how it works or an update on a particular position you are hiring for.  Some critical needs can lend themselves to establishing SOP’s, Standard Operating Procedures.  Requisitions reports can be created and distributed so that managers can check statuses of their openings.  Webinars can be held to explain the nuances of the incentive plans.

Routine needs

Routine needs are those that someone will call you for every time they need the answer. Someone has an address change, or a title change or a change in the car reimbursement program.  Routine needs are wonderful teaching opportunities.  Offer to walk the person through the steps needed and then establish the SOP’s, standard operating procedures,  and let them know where to access them.

Un-needs

Occasionally, you run into those people, or they hunt you down, with on-going, what we will call, un-needs.  This is the desire to have someone listen to them by creating a perceived need.  In these situations, the best thing to do is to politely remind the person that you have a call coming in or must get back to your work.  You can train someone out of this behavior, but not necessarily teach them.

By defining the different classification of needs, you will work more efficiently, have a broader impact and be able to help others to help themselves.

Time management

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There have been copious articles written about time management and everyone no doubt has their favorite strategies. The below are a few that I have found to be helpful in the workplace and in life in general.

 

Know yourself

Part of being a good time manager is knowing what behaviors prevent you from managing your time effectively. The link below gives you a quick summary spreadsheet for determining what your behavior is to day and what your behavior should be in the future to maximize your time. It is helpful to know when your energy is at its peak- is that early morning, late night or somewhere in between. This will help you to plan critical activities for when your energy level is the highest.

 

Multi-task

I know this is contrary to many time management theories out there, but wherever possible, multi-task, especially when something does not require your full attention. When you give up the idea of doing only one thing at a time and look for ways to do two, you can get a whole lot more done. Some quick examples: If you’re on the West coast, schedule East Coast calls on your drive into work. Owe the Far East a call back, pop in your earbuds and make the call while you’re making dinner. 6:00pm pst is around 8:00am there.

 

Touch each e-mail or piece of paper once

This one is big. We all have a tendency to want to “think about” it for a bit and then answer which is likely the answer you would have given in the first place. Force yourself, unless there is truly research that is needed, to answer right away.

 

Start the night before

A big time saver is to lay out your next day the night before. This allows you to hit the ground running in the morning and not have to stop and get organized. Know what you need to accomplish that day, in terms of key deliverables and follow up items.

Get your follow up items out early so that it allows people time to work on them during the day.

 

Take a break

While this may sound counterintuitive, often times taking a quick 10 minute break will help you to re- focus and complete a task in a shorter amount of time than if you had stayed with it past your ability to really focus.

 

Determine what is urgent and what isn’t

Not every e-mail that comes in must be answered right away. Some of the best time managers only answer their e-mails 1-2 times/day. You would be amazed at how many strings of conversation there are where you are only peripherally involved and if you just let them play out, you can catch the last e-mail and be completely up to speed.

 

Everyone has strategies that work better for them than others. Don’t be afraid to try 20 or 3- and then pick the top 5 that really do save you time and increase efficiency.

Employee Testing

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Almost all organizations engage in employee testing of one type or another.  What many organizations don’t understand is almost all of them open you up to some type of potential liability should you be challenged.  Selected and administered well they can be valuable tools in your candidate assessment process, but handled poorly they can cause you a whole host of problems.

Pre-Employment Physicals

Few can argue that Pre-employment physicals or drug screens are a bad idea.  Even with many states, including California, legalizing marijuana, you may still preclude its use while at work, the same way you can insist that your employees not come to work drunk or impaired by the use of prescription drugs.  Just because a substance is legal, does not mean it is OK be under the influence while at work.  Give prospective candidates notice that you will require them to take a pre-employment physical.  Many will simply choose not to apply.

Background Screening

Background screening is another “test” that few will argue with other than those who feel they have some antiquated right to privacy.  Background checks will check driving records, misdemeanor and felony convictions.  How you use this information gets a little trickier.  While you can turn down a candidate who will be driving a company vehicle if they have DUI convictions because you can show a direct correlation between the offense and the job requirement, what about the person who is a 2 time convicted child offender and you have offered him/her a position within an development department?  Can you show a relationship between the offense and the job requirement?

Skills testing

Skills testing can fall into multiple categories.  There are on the job skills tests that are easy to validate.  If the job requires someone to install HVAC systems and you ask them to install an HVAC system, the relationship and applicability are clear.  This type of testing can also include basic grammar and math skills.  The reasoning is that those that can construct a basic sentence with proper grammar and understand basic math are going to be better at their jobs whether they are being hired as an AP Specialist or a Customer Service rep.  These relationships to job proficiency are fairly easy to understand, but be prepared to defend your decision, even with validated tests.

Aptitude Tests

Aptitude tests are a gray area and only a handful of companies are using them.  Their theory is that if they hire only those that score exceptionally well on the aptitude tests that they will be able to train them faster, they will catch on more quickly, they will be more creative in terms of finding efficiencies within their jobs.  If you use Aptitude testing, be sure it is only one aspect of your hiring decisions.  It would be easy to come under fire for adverse impact if you established a cut off whereby you would not accept applicants.

Personality Tests

Quite a few companies use personality tests and there are many different versions, Myers-Briggs, DISC, Predictive Index. Personality tests can be helpful especially when you choose one like Predictive Index where you can create the profile for the job and then compare the profiles of the candidates to the job profile.  These can be especially helpful when you have a team of people to hire.   You want variety on your team, but complimentary personalities.  There is no right or waring, pass of fail with a personality test.  Each personality has its own pros and cons.

Define your testing strategy up front and ensure that you understand what you are hoping to accomplish with each one and how you will use the results.

Compensation systems

The last component of an effective HRIS is a Compensation system.  A sophisticated compensation system will save you hours of number crunching using excel spreadsheets.  Many of these systems are sold as a component of Performance Management systems, but there are a few stand alone ones as well.  It is always best to integrate where possible because you save yourself the time and effort involved in paying someone to write the integration software for you and the headaches that come with integrating two systems that were not designed to work together.

The capabilities you want to look for in your Compensation Systems are:

Integration

Ensure that your performance management system and your compensation system are fully integrated so that all the performance scores from the manager’s appraisal,  employees’ self-appraisals and any 360 reviews you have, flow over to your compensation system.  This will make is significantly easier for your managers to be able to rank employees and doll out the appropriate performance based merit increases.

Pro-ration

You want to ensure that your system has the ability to handle pro-rations, preferably down to the day, so that employees who start on September 1st are not eligible to receive the same increase as employees who started January 1st.  If you have implemented an annual bonus program, ensure that the pro-ration will apply here as well.  Also ask if it will handle lump sum increases if someone is at the range max.

Edit Capability

One of the most frustrating aspects of a poorly designed compensation system is when it does not allow for edit capability all the way up the line.  If the spreadsheet gets to your VP’s and they have to send it all the way back to the supervisors to make changes, you will lengthen your process considerably.  You should be able to pick and choose who you want to give edit capability to for each spreadsheet.

Co-planners

Invariably someone will pick an inconvenient time to terminate and you will be left with a situation where you need to assign another person to actually complete the merit increases for their group.  Your system should allow you to select a co-planner or, even better, to switch managers once the process has already launched. 

Custom Reporting

Your system should come equipped with an easy to use and easy to understand reporting functionality.  Nothing is as frustrating as having a new system and then having to dump everything in excel in order to actually manipulate the data.  Spend some time up front fully understand the reporting capability and figuring out whether it will truly provide you with the info you need to report on.

Multiple types of Compensation

Your system should handle base salary increases, short term incentives and long term incentives like Equity awards or RSU’s.  A system that cannot adequately handle long term equity incentives will give you a lopsided view of your employees’ compensation and how that compares to market

As with the other components of the HRIS that we have talked about, putting twice as much time in up front as you expected will yield the best results in the end. 

Applicant Tracking Systems

Applicant Tracking Systems are systems that allow you to create a user/applicant experience.

The application process becomes paperless with an applicant tracking system, so it is simple to store, recall, or purge applications from the system with just a few clicks. This helps to ensure that no critical information is lost and all necessary information is readily available for open positions now or in the future.  If you choose the right system it will make your life much easier.  If you choose the wrong one, it may be unusable or more cumbersome than an actual paper process.

Applicant tracking systems fulfill four main purposes: 1) to manage applications for positions (especially in the face of a high volume of applicants regularly received today) 2) to screen out candidates who lack the required skills 3) to assist with hiring compliance 4) to provide metrics that can enhance the hiring process.

Manage Applications

Depending on the volume of positions you have open and the volume of applications received, this can be a lifesaver or not worth the efforts.  If you have say 10-20 generic positions, an ATS may not be necessary.  However, if you have 100 positions and they are more specialized requiring advanced degrees and skill sets, an ATS will save you a significant amount of time. 

Screen out Candidates

It’s just as important to know what you don’t want as to know what you do. As any recruiter who manages a high volume of positions in a market or time where unemployment is high, knows, it takes an inordinate amount of time just to sift through all the resumes from people who are not remotely qualified for the positions.  With a good ATS you can input key words and the system will spit out resumes that have those key words. 

Hiring Compliance

An ATS can assist companies with hiring compliance. Employment laws prevent employers from discriminating in their hiring practices based on age, gender and ethnicity, among other things. By using an applicant tracking system to select candidates to interview the system gives employers the ability to stay at an arm’s length when selecting their candidates.  They simply type in the key words and the system selects the candidates.  Although failure to hire litigation is much rarer than wrongful termination, it does happen.

Metrics

Every department needs to be responsible for metrics that drive the business.  HR can gain a well-deserved place at the table by focusing on the same metrics that drive the rest of the organization.  By utilizing an ATS, you will be able to pull resumes submitted for a particular position, pre-screed resumes, candidates brought in for interviews and offers made and rejected.  Armed with this information, you can laser focus your recruiting efforts and provide funnel data by position to your hiring managers.  Most are surprised to see that it could take 100 resumes received to net 1 hire.

HR Systems

Sherrie Suski, HR Systems

The choices in HR systems today are mind boggling.  Everyone wants to get on the band wagon and sell you something that will supposedly make your life easier, is user friendly, (read good UX), allows you to crunch large volumes of data in minutes.  HR systems can be as basic as an HRIS or as complicated as a performance management system with 360 review capability and goal planning and accomplishments.

Let’s talk first about functionality and next week about what you want to look for.

HRIS

An HRIS is a Human Resources Information System.  

This is your basic system that tracks all the pertinent information about your employees.  

HRIS solutions typically track:

  • Training of employees
  • Open enrollment and management of benefits
  • Compensation management
  • Human resources reporting
  • Self-service for applicants, employees, and managers
  • Personal information, Pay information, title, job grade etc..

Performance Management Systems

You may also have a separate Performance System.  A Performance Management System normally includes performance appraisal data and productivity information data. Documentation of employee performance and of how the performance was measured and reported is critical to your employees understanding this type of system.  Many of these systems come with the capability to offer:

  • Performance appraisals
  • 360 reviews where an employee is reviewed by the manager, their peers and their subordinates
  • goal planning, setting and accomplishments
  • Succession and development plans

Applicant Tracking Systems

Applicant Tracking Systems are systems that allow you to create a user/applicant experience.

The application process becomes paperless with an applicant tracking system, so it is simple to store, recall, or purge applications from the system with just a few clicks. This helps to ensure that no critical information is lost and all necessary information is readily available for open positions now or in the future.

Compensation systems

Ideally your compensation system should track all aspects of your employee’s compensation including:

  • Base salary
  • Bonuses
  • Incentive comp
  • Long term incentive comp
  • Equity/stock/RSU’s etc..

It is helpful if your Performance Appraisal system feeds directly into your compensation system, meaning less manual input or expensive integration for you.

Be very careful in selecting your systems.  Spend at least 3x the time you allotted to understanding and testing the system before you commit.  On a personal note, we have had a very bad experience with Cornestone.  While their systems have a lot of capability, you would literally need to be a system admin in order to build out the back end which they require you to do.  They are the farthest thing from user friendly with very poor UX design.