A New Approach to Paid Leave: WorkFlex in the 21st Century Act

From SHRM, let's take a look a this innovative approach toward paid leave using WorkFlex.


Do you ever sit in your office and wonder about everyone else? Ponder whether anyone is dealing with the same things that you are in that very moment? The simple fact is that everyone independent of age, gender, race or title, wants to be there to support their family. For myself, that means advocating for clients, while caring for my mother and doing all that I can for my wife and two boys. It is quite a balancing act on the best of days. To be fair, I know that I am not alone in this balancing act. As I write this I am wondering if you know exactly what I mean. Perhaps not for yourself, but a colleague or a friend.

Now since we generally live, work or both in New Jersey and in particular within the Delaware Valley there are some things that impact our ability to balance. For example, if you work for an organization that has offices in Philadelphia, PA; Wilmington, DE; Trenton, NJ; Montclair, NJ and Haddonfield, NJ exactly how do you provide equal paid leave to employees? Why should you care? Because these specific locations differ in how they require paid leave to be provided to employees. Are you concerned about this? You are not alone, clients regularly ask what to do as it relates to dealing with paid leave. Often this is more challenging for us than in most places around the country due to the varying ways that towns as opposed to States or the Commonwealth deal with this issue.

Some time ago I was asked to assist SHRM with the creation of federal legislation to address the issue of varying applications of paid leave laws around the country.  After a significant amount of discussions, revisions and hard work by a host of individuals we came up with a legitimate proposal to address our respective concerns.  Recently the “Workflex in the 21st Century Act” (HR 4219) was introduced in the House by Representative Mimi Walters. This bill is designed to support the goals of everyone, not just employers or employees. You can read more about the specifics at: http://www.advocacy.shrm.org/workflex.

For now, allow me to give you three specific reasons (although there are more) that both you and your organization should support this legislation:

First, unlike federal mandates under the FMLA, FLSA, or ADA, this legislation is OPT-IN, which means as an employer in order for your organization to be held responsible under the bill it would have to decide to agree to it first. Put another way, an employer is not required to do it if it chooses to go in another direction.

Second, many federal employment laws bring with them a threshold beyond which every employer is held to the same standard, however that is not the case with the “Workflex in the 21st Century Act.”  It is designed to grow with your organization. As a result the benefit thresholds change based on the number of employees in an organization, so that it supports growth rather than stifling expansion.

Third, contrary to the way things are currently going in our region, this bill provides a level of certainty and flexibility for both employers and employees alike to know the threshold of their leave benefits, which will result in more productive employees and organizations. Part of the reason for this certainty is that the various local leave laws would be preempted by this bill.

What does all this mean? I would suggest that this bill is a good compromise of interests across the spectrum of both employers and employees, as well as unions, who want to do the right thing. Allow for realistic time to care for a child, parent or for yourself. No one needs to change jobs to get a specific type of benefit and employers can choose if it makes sense for their workplace, rather than being dictated to in terms of the benefits to provide their employees.

Now I would like to challenge you to join me. This is the first piece of legislation that SHRM has created for the workplace and as you can see the goal is to address concerns that all workers have, independent of title, so we can all have the balance that we need and want in order to be better contributors in our respective organizations, supportive of our parents, children and ourselves. How can we achieve this together? We can all reach out to our federal legislators and let them know that you support the “Workflex in the 21st Century Act” (HR 4219). You can find more information on http://www.advocacy.shrm.org/workflex or on the SHRM Advocacy App. Let’s take this opportunity to make the workplace better for everyone, together.

Read more.

Source:

Lessig L. (February 8th, 2018). "A New Approach to Paid Leave: WorkFlex in the 21st Century Act" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.advocacy.shrm.org/shrm/app/document/26467137

4 trends in financial education

Having financial wellness within your business is incredibly valuable for its overall growth and success. In this article, we are going to take a look at four trends contributing towards financial wellness in the employee benefits realm. Read more below.


Employees’ financial well-being is a hot topic these days. Right now, it’s top-of-mind with most employees. And it’s becoming more so with employers, not only because they are realizing the effect employee financial stress has on their bottom line, but also because industry surveys are revealing that employees want their employers to help by providing financial education and benefits.

Benefit advisers have a definite role in helping employers take steps toward building a more financially-secure workforce through financial wellness benefits. What should advisers expect to see this year in financial wellness benefits?

Industry research confirms the impact employee financial stress has on a company’s bottom line, including lower productivity, higher absenteeism and more healthcare claims. Only about half of employers offered some kind of counseling or instruction about money last year, according to SHRM and IFEBP surveys. Certainly, more employers will want to add financial education benefits this year. Benefit advisers can help by bringing this to the attention of their clients.

Another trend to consider is that financial education benefits are becoming more holistic. Financial education benefits should be more than planning for retirement and having access to supplemental medical benefits. Financial education benefits today should include financial education tools and resources as well as voluntary benefits that are designed to address both physical and emotional struggles while working to help employees with short-term financial needs.

Look for more student loan repayment benefits to become available in the industry this year. In 2017, more Americans were burdened by student loan debt than ever before. It’s a major concern among today’s millennials, the largest generation in today’s workforce. This year we likely will see more student loan repayment benefits appear, including programs in which employers are making contributions to loan balances or providing methods for employees to refinance their debt.

Increased attention to helping employees with short-term financial issues also will be a focus this year. In spite of the improved economy, employees are still struggling financially. Statistics show the alarming number of employees that continue to live paycheck-to-paycheck and do not have even $1,000 in savings for emergency needs.

While financial education benefits can help employees with budgeting and debt reduction needs, employers should offer additional voluntary benefits that provide employees some financial assistance in the short-term. Benefit advisers should bring short-term financial assistance voluntary benefits to the attention of their clients. Among these are employee purchase programs and low interest installment loans and credit that help employees avoid payday loans and cash advances from credit cards when they have emergency needs such as a broken refrigerator or unexpected out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Employers are realizing the important role that financial education plays in an employee’s overall well-being and will look to increase their financial wellness benefits on several levels. Benefit advisers not only can bring the need to the attention of their clients, but can also offer benefit recommendations to round out their clients’ employee benefits programs.

Read the original article.

Source:
Halkos E. (February 9th, 2018). "4 trends in financial education" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/4-trends-in-financial-education

Understanding the Intersection of Medicaid and Work

Sometimes, healthcare is confusing. We know this, which is why today we are focusing on Medicaid and work. Check out the snippet below, and check out the link for the full article.


Medicaid is the nation’s public health insurance program for people with low incomes. Overall, the Medicaid program covers one in five Americans, including many with complex and costly needs for care. Historically, nonelderly adults without disabilities accounted for a small share of Medicaid enrollees; however, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded coverage to nonelderly adults with income up to 138% FPL, or $16,642 per year for an individual in 2017. As of December 2017, 32 states have implemented the ACA Medicaid expansion.1 By design, the expansion extended coverage to the working poor (both parents and childless adults), most of whom do not otherwise have access to affordable coverage. While many have gained coverage under the expansion, the majority of Medicaid enrollees are still the “traditional” populations of children, people with disabilities, and the elderly.

Some states and the Trump administration have stated that the ACA Medicaid expansion targets “able-bodied” adults and seek to make Medicaid eligibility contingent on work. Under current law, states cannot impose a work requirement as a condition of Medicaid eligibility, but some states are seeking waiver authority to do so.  These types of waiver requests were denied by the Obama administration, but the Trump administration has indicated a willingness to approve such waivers. This issue brief provides data on the work status of the nearly 25 million non-elderly adults without SSI enrolled in Medicaid (referred to as “Medicaid adults” throughout this brief) to understand the potential implications of work requirement proposals in Medicaid.  Key takeaways include the following:

  • Among Medicaid adults (including parents and childless adults — the group targeted by the Medicaid expansion), nearly 8 in 10 live in working families, and a majority are working themselves. Nearly half of working Medicaid enrollees are employed by small firms, and many work in industries with low employer-sponsored insurance offer rates.
  • Among the adult Medicaid enrollees who were not working, most report major impediments to their ability to work including illness or disability or care-giving responsibilities.
  • While proponents of work requirements say such provisions aim to promote work for those who are not working, these policies could have negative implications on many who are working or exempt from the requirements. For example, coverage for working or exempt enrollees may be at risk if enrollees face administrative obstacles in verifying their work status or documenting an exemption.

Get the full report and findings.

SOURCE:
Kaiser Family Foundation (5 January 2018). "Understanding the Intersection of Medicaid and Work" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/understanding-the-intersection-of-medicaid-and-work/

HRL - White - House

Compliance Recap - January 2018

January was a busy month in the employee benefits world. On January 24, 2018, the U.S. Senate confirmed Alex Azar as the new Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) proposed regulations regarding association health plans. HHS released the 2018 federal poverty guidelines. The DOL issued updated civil monetary penalties for 2018 and announced the applicability date for final regulations regarding disability claims procedures. A U.S. District Court modified its order regarding the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's wellness regulations.

Congress and the President delayed the Cadillac tax's effective date, delayed the health insurance tax (HIT), and reauthorized the Children's Health Insurance Program. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its Employer's Tax Guide. HHS issued a proposed rule to protect conscience rights in health care and created a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within HHS' Office of Civil Rights.

UBA Updates

UBA released seven new advisors in January:

UBA updated existing guidance: 2018 Annual Benefit Plan Amounts

DOL Issues Proposed Regulations Regarding Association Health Plans

The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) issued a proposed rule which would broaden the definition of "employer" and the provisions under which an employer group or association may be treated as an "employer" sponsor of a single multiple-employer employee welfare benefit plan and group health plan under Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

The DOL posted 79 letters that were submitted as public comments as of January 31, 2018. The deadline for submitting public comments is March 6, 2018.

Read more about the proposed rule.

HHS Releases 2018 Federal Poverty Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the 2018federal poverty guidelines (FPL). For a family / household of one in the contiguous United States, the FPL is $12,140. In Alaska the FPL is $15,180, and in Hawaii the FPL is $13,960.

For 2018, applicable large employers that wish to use the FPL affordability safe harbor under the employer shared responsibility / play-or-pay rules should ensure that their lowest employee-only premium is equal to or less than $96.72 a month, which is 9.56% of the 2018 FPL.

Civil Monetary Penalties Inflation Adjustment for 2018

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published its civil monetary penalties for 2018. Under federal law, the DOL is required to annually adjust its regulations' civil monetary penalties for inflation no later than January 15 of each year. The adjusted penalty amounts are effective for violations occurring after November 2, 2015, that have penalties assessed after January 2, 2018.

Below are some examples of the increases.

Description 2017 Penalty Amount 2018 Penalty Amount
Failure to file Form 5500 $2,097 per day $2,140 per day
Failure to provide the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) $1,105 $1,128
Failure to provide documents requested by the DOL $149 per day, not to exceed $1,496 per request $152 per day, not to exceed $1,527 per request
Failure to inform employees of children's health insurance program (CHIP) coverage opportunities; each employee is a separate violation $112 per day $114 per day

 

DOL Issues Final Disability Claims Procedures Regulations' Applicability Date

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that April 1, 2018, will be the applicability date for its rule that amends the claims procedure requirements of ERISA-covered employee benefit plans that provide disability benefits. The DOL'sFact Sheet contains a summary of the regulation's requirements.

U.S. District Court Modifies Order Regarding EEOC Wellness Rules

In August 2017, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia heldthat the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its decision to adopt 30 percent incentive levels for employer-sponsored wellness programs under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rules and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) rules.

In December 2017, the court vacated the EEOC rules under the ADA and GINA effective January 1, 2019, and ordered the EEOC to promulgate any new proposed rules by August 31, 2018.

In January 2018, the EEOC asked the court to reconsider the portion of the court's order that required the EEOC to promulgate new proposed rules by August 31, 2018. The court vacated that portion of its order. The court's order to vacate the portions of the EEOC's wellness rules under the ADA and GINA as of January 1, 2019, remains.

Read more about the court's order.

Congress Delays Cadillac Tax Effective Date, Delays HIT Tax, and Reauthorizes CHIP

Congress and the President passed H.R. 195, a short-term spending bill. The bill delays the effective date of the excise tax on high cost employer-sponsored health coverage ("Cadillac tax") to 2022. The bill delays the health insurance tax (HIT) that applies to insurers. The HIT was in effect in 2014, 2015, and 2016, and will be in effect for 2018. Now the HIT will be delayed from 2019 to 2020; essentially, the bill implemented a one-year moratorium for the HIT for 2019. The bill also reauthorizes the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years.

IRS Issues 2018 Employer's Tax Guide

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued its Publication 15 (Circular E) Employer's Tax Guide that discusses employers' tax responsibilities. The guide generally discusses health insurance plans, health savings accounts, and medical care reimbursement.

HHS Issues Proposed Rule to Protect Conscience Rights in Health Care

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a proposed rule titled "Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority."

HHS proposes this rule pursuant to President Trump's May 4, 2017, Executive Order 13798 "Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty" and the U.S. Attorney General's October 6, 2017, "Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty"memorandum.

HHS proposes this rule to enhance awareness and enforcement of federal health care conscience laws and associated anti-discrimination laws, to further conscience and religious freedom, and to protect the right to abstain from certain activities related to health care services without discrimination or retaliation.

The rule cites several federal health care conscience laws and the activities that they protect, including:

·    The Church Amendments: conscience protections related to abortion and sterilization

·    The Coats-Snowe Amendment: conscience protections related to abortion, training, and accreditation

·    The Weldon Amendment: protections against discrimination for health care entities and individuals who do not further abortion or other services

·    HHS' 2011 final rule that enforces the Church, Coats-Snowe, and Weldon Amendments

·    The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017: protections from discrimination for health care entities and individuals who object to furthering or participating in abortion under programs funded by HHS' annual appropriations

·    The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: conscience protections related to assisted suicide, abortion, and the individual mandate to maintain minimum essential coverage

·    The Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act of 1997: protections for Medicare or Medicaid program providers and their employees from informing individuals about a right or service related to assisted suicide and from applying any advance directive term related to assisted suicide

·    Medicare and Medicaid: protection from being compelled to provide, reimburse for, or cover any counseling or referral service over a moral or religious objection

·    Global health program conscience and anti-discrimination protections

·    Exemptions from compulsory health care or services generally and under specific programs for hearing screening, occupational illness testing, suicide assessment or treatment services, vaccination, and mental health treatment

·    Conscience clauses related to religious nonmedical health care in Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The proposed rule aims to revise the current regulatory framework of federal health care conscience protection statutes to a more robust regulatory framework similar to those that implement and enforce other civil rights laws.

To do so, the proposed rule would require written assurances and certifications of compliance with federal health care conscience and associated anti-discrimination laws as part of accepting federal financial assistance from HHS. The proposed rule would also require HHS and certain recipients to post a notice to the public, patients, and employees of their protections under the federal health care conscience and associated anti-discrimination statutes, including how to file a complaint with HHS' Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The proposed rule's Appendix A provides the notice's text. Further, the proposed rule would require recipients to report information about OCR investigation notices and compliance review letters to their applicable HHS funding source and to disclose complaints filed with OCR when applying for new or renewed federal financial assistance from HHS.

The proposed rule details OCR's authority to conduct outreach, provide technical assistance, initiate compliance reviews, receive and process complaints, and conduct investigations. The proposed rule grants OCR discretion to choose its means of enforcement, which will range from informal resolution to funding termination. The OCR may also refer cases to the U.S. Department of Justice for enforcement.

Public comments are due by March 27, 2018.

HHS Creates New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division (CRFD) within HHS's Office of Civil Rights (OCR). According to HHS' press release, the CRFD will restore federal enforcement of laws that protect the rights of conscience and religious freedom. CFRD's website includes instructions on how to file a conscience or religious freedom complaint with OCR.

Question of the Month

Q. Can an employer exclude children from coverage based on a child's access to other coverage, employment status, or marital status?

A. No, if a group health plan provides dependent coverage, then the plan must generally make coverage available for children until age 26. These group health plans must not define dependent, for purposes of dependent coverage, in terms other than the relationship between the child and the plan participant.

This means that a plan cannot use items such as a child's access to other coverage, employment status, marital status, tax dependent status, residency, or student status to define dependent.

Also, if the employer is an applicable large employer, then it must offer coverage to its full-time employees' dependent children to avoid penalties under the employer shared responsibility provisions.


How Are Health Centers Responding to the Funding Delay?

Unfortunately, the funding delay is impacting healthcare centers everywhere - and not in a great way. Get the information you need to know in this article.


Health centers play an important role in our health care system, providing comprehensive primary care services as well as dental, mental health, and addiction treatment services to over 25 million patients in medically underserved rural and urban areas throughout the country. Health care anchors in their communities and on the front lines of health care crises, including the opioid epidemic and the current flu outbreak, health centers rely on federal grant funds to support the care they provide, particularly to patients who lack insurance coverage. However, the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF), a key source of funding for community health centers, expired on September 30, 2017, and has since been extended through only March 31, 2018. The CHCF provides 70% of grant funding to health centers. With these funds at risk, health centers have taken or are considering taking a number of actions that will affect their capacity to provide care to their patients. This fact sheet presents preliminary findings on how health centers are responding to the funding uncertainty.

WHAT FUNDING IS AT STAKE FOR HEALTH CENTERS

The Community Health Center Fund represents 70% of federal grant funding for health centers. Established by the Affordable Care Act, the CHCF increased federal grant fund support for health centers, growing from $1 billion in 2011 to $3.6 billion in 2017.1Authorized for five years beginning in 2010, and extended for two years through September 2017, the CHCF also provided a more stable source of grant funding for health centers that was separate from the annual appropriations process. Prior to the CHCF, federal 330 grant funds were appropriated annually. In fiscal year 2017, federal section 330 grant funding totaled $5.1 billion, $3.6 billion from the CHCF and $1.5 billion from the annual appropriation.

Federal health center grants represent nearly one-fifth of health center revenues. Federal Section 330 grant funds are the second largest source of revenues for health centers behind revenues from Medicaid. Overall, 19% of health center revenues (including US territories) come from federal grants; however, reliance on 330 grant funds varies across health centers. Federal grant funds are especially important for health centers in southern and rural non-expansion states where Medicaid accounts for a smaller share of revenue (Figure 1).2 These funds finance care for uninsured patients and support vital services, such as transportation and case management, that are not typically covered by insurance

Figure 1: Federal Section 330 Grants as a Share of Total Health Center Revenues, 2016

HOW ARE HEALTH CENTERS RESPONDING TO THE LOSS OF FEDERAL FUNDS?

Health centers have taken or are considering taking a number of actions that will affect their ability to serve their patients. Overall, seven in ten responding health centers indicated they had taken or planned to take action to put off large expenditures or curtail expenses in face of reduced revenue. Some of these actions involve delaying or canceling capital projects and other investments or tapping into reserve funds. Other actions, however, have or will reduce the number of staff or the hours they work, which may in turn, affect the availability of services. Already 20% of health centers reported instituting a hiring freeze and 4% have laid off staff. Another 45% are considering a hiring freeze and 53% said they might lay off staff. While health centers seemed to focus on shorter-term actions that could easily be reversed were funding to be restored, 3% of responding health centers had already taken steps to close one or more sites and an additional 36% indicated they are considering doing so (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Actions Taken or Considered by Health Centers in Response to Funding Uncertainty

Health centers are considering cuts to patient services. While most health centers have not yet taken steps to cut or reduce patient care services, many reported they are weighing such actions if funding is not restored (Figure 3). Over four in ten indicated they might eliminate or reduce some enabling services, such as case management, translation, or transportation services. Additionally, over a third of reporting health centers indicated they might have to reduce the dental, medical, and/or mental health services they provide while 29% said cuts to addiction treatment services are being contemplated. Fewer health centers reported that cuts to pharmacy services might be made.

Figure 3: Services Health Centers Are Considering Eliminating or Reducing in Response to Funding Uncertainty

WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE FUNDING DELAY?

Continued delays in restoring funding will likely lead to cuts in health center services and staff. To date, health centers have tried to mitigate the effects of the funding delay by forgoing major investments or dipping into reserve funds. However, the longer the funding delay continues, the greater the likelihood health centers will be compelled to cut services and staff, actions they are currently considering but have not yet adopted in large numbers. These cuts could reverse gains health centers have made in recent years in increasing patient care capacity and expanding the range of services they provide, particularly in the areas of mental health and addiction treatment. Health centers play a particularly important role in rural and medically underserved areas. The failure to reauthorize the CHCF and restore health center funding could jeopardize access to care for millions of vulnerable patients.

Read the full report.

SOURCE:
Kaiser Family Foundation (1 February 2018). "How Are Health Centers Responding to the Funding Delay?" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.kff.org/medicaid/fact-sheet/how-are-health-centers-responding-to-the-funding-delay/

Will Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan coalition kickstart a benefits revolution?

What will happen if the Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan coalition becomes a real thing? Find out in this article from Employee Benefit Advisor.


The announcement that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase would form an independent healthcare company for their U.S. employees is just one more move in a growing, albeit relatively quiet, revolution inside the benefits industry: Employers banding together for more control over a health system they see as wasteful and inefficient.

Employee medical expenditures have been the driving factor behind these moves. Last year, premiums for employer-sponsored family coverage hit $18,764, up 3% from the previous year, with employees paying an average $5,714 toward the cost, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Frustration with those costs — and the lack of quality that often goes along with them — has resulted in a number of employer initiatives. But the news of the three corporate behemoths’ coalition may propel even more employers to band together, looking for alternatives on how they provide coverage while driving transparency in an industry notorious for obfuscation.

While it didn’t make the same splash as the big three’s news, two years ago 20 of the country’s biggest companies, including American Express, Berkshire’s BNSF Railway, Caterpillar, Coca-Cola, du Pont, IBM, Ingersoll Rand, Marriott and Verizon, joined together to form the Health Transformation Alliance. The goal of the group is to use data analytics, collective leverage and shared expertise to lower costs for all members. The group has grown to almost 40 members.

And at about the same time, health and financial consulting firm Mercer started running employer collectives to help companies save on pharmacy costs. There also are individual efforts. Intel, notes American Benefits Council president James Klein, has been a leader in direct contracting with healthcare providers.

“When large and successful companies come together in this way, it’s potentially disruptive,” says Frank Easley, senior vice president of Aon’s health and benefits group, about the Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan partnership. “The healthcare system is ripe for positive disruption and is in need of new solutions that improve employee satisfaction and reduce costs.”

While the three giants did not detail what their new company would do, they did say in a statement that the entity’s focus will be on technology that will provide employees and their families with “simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.”

The collaboration will likely pressure profits for middlemen in the healthcare supply chain. Potential ways to bring down costs include providing more transparency in prices for doctor visits and lab tests, and by enabling direct purchasing of some medical items, a person familiar with the companies’ plans said.

Efforts to increase transparency have been an important focus for employers of late and have “enormous potential” when it comes to transforming employer healthcare, says benefits consultant Jack Kwicien. If employers can explain to employees how and where their healthcare dollars are going, it will not only give workers a better understanding of their own money, but it has the potential to build a better relationship between employer and employee.

In addition, Amazon’s e-commerce operation could be used to send medication direct to patient’s homes, saving them trips to a pharmacy. Its cloud-computing division can store patient healthcare records so they can be easily accessed by doctors anywhere. And its payments system could be used to automate payments with healthcare providers.

If Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan are successful in lowering costs, the weight of the big three might kick the transformation engine into high gear, leading to a dramatic shift in the benefits delivery as more employers look to use combined leverage to lower their health costs.

“Any time organizations of this caliber — these are world class organizations — say they are going to tackle healthcare, you have to pay attention,” says Mike Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions. The organization advises around 12,000 organizations that buy health plans for millions of employees.

Thompson says that given Amazon and Berkshire’s records, it’s clear “that they have the potential to truly change the consumer experience for their employees, and frankly, that could become a model that could be used by other employers.”

Some benefits insiders, however, express doubts that the three behemoths will spur a widespread industry disruption. Their two biggest doubts: that corporate America can successfully battle the nation’s largest healthcare players and, even if successful, if they can cut costs in a meaningful way.

“Most health costs are incurred by a small percent of the population with chronic conditions,” Klein says. “So if this initiative is just about how health costs are paid for, and does not promote ways to improve health itself, the impact will be minimal.”

Still, business groups say the potential is there for more employer involvement in controlling costs and delivering healthcare, and the need is real.

“New entrants with fresh approaches like these may be just the prescription our ailing healthcare system needs,” says Brian Marcotte, CEO of the National Business Group on Health. “The collective resources of these three companies, emerging technologies and Amazon’s customer obsession and supply-chain savvy gives me optimism that they will pursue a consumer-focused model that will transcend the fragmented, provider-centric delivery system that we have today.”

Read more.

SOURCE:
Mayer K. (31 January 2018). "Will Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan coalition kickstart a benefitsrevolution?" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/will-amazon-berkshire-jpmorgan-coalition-kickstart-a-benefits-revolution?feed=00000152-175f-d933-a573-ff5f3f230000

Building A Diverse Workforce In A Small Business

As we grow as a nation, it's important that our workforce grows as well, especially as a small business. Here is a helpful article for employers looking to diversify their workforce and make it more inclusive for everyone.

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There can be little argument against the value a diverse workplace. It’s a critical element of driving innovation, increasing creativity and securing market share, but diversity also makes growth and recruitment more manageable and helps to limit the word all employers want to avoid -- turnover. Diversity is significant enough that two-thirds of people polled in a Glassdoor survey said the level of diversity was important when evaluating job offers. This can prove to be a difficult task for a small business in the tech industry.

So what is workforce diversity? It’s more than simply not discriminating based on race, gender, national origin or disability. Diversity offers an alternative view or difference in opinions. Hiring employees with differing backgrounds in religion, from varying age ranges, sexual orientation, political affiliation, personality and education can become invaluable to an organization.

That being said, it can be nearly impossible to implement or force onto a set of employees. According to Harvard Business Review, researchers examined the success of mandated diversity training programs. While it’s simple enough to teach employees the right answers to questionnaires on bias or and appropriate responses for a given situation, the actual training rarely ever sticks, not more than a few days anyway. There have even been findings that suggest these mandated diversity training courses actually have adverse effects.

In the same article from HBR, managers said that when diversity training was mandatory, it is often met with confrontation and even anger. Some, in fact, reported an increase in animosity toward a minority group. On the other hand, when workers see the training as voluntary, the result is improved attitudes and an increase of 9-13% in the hiring of minorities five years from the training.

So if diversity is crucial to the success of a company or organization, but it's also something that can tough to implement, how does an employer ensure that they are fostering a work environment that is diverse? There are a few things employers can consider when they want to step up their game in building a more well-rounded and diverse workforce.

Evaluate The Hiring Process

Assess the level of diversity in the company. Does it reflect the general workforce of the industry or of the community? Figure out which departments are behind or lacking and what the source might be. Is a team diverse in most areas but still behind in management positions? Are managers hiring based on personal biases?

Top leadership needs to be an advocate for diversity in all hiring decisions, from the entry level to leadership positions. If there is a hiring test, see that managers are adhering to it. The HBR articles noted that even when hiring tests were in place, they were used selectively and that the results were ignored.

Having a hiring panel, or a system of checks and balances, would ensure that no one person would abuse the hiring process to lean too much on their own biases. Employers should also seek out new methods or places to network.

Mentoring Programs

Implementing a mentorship or sponsorship program will create a casual relationship between employees that will help alleviate some biases a manager might have and vice versa. Providing an opportunity for stewardship and responsibility allows the mentor to bestow knowledge on their mentee as they watch them grow.

Mentees will see the value in this experience and come to respect their mentor, laying away any preconceived biases or prejudices. They will become more invested in their work and the organization. Much like training programs, mentoring programs should be optional, not mandatory.

Inclusion

Similar to soldiers who serve together on the frontlines, employees who are part of a self-managed team and working as equals who work to complete projects will learn to dismiss biases on their own. Fostering an environment where employees can connect and collaborate increases engagement and allows for more contact than they may make when left to themselves.

In order to succeed in a global market, a tech organization must move past using "diversity" as a meaningless buzzword and step into action by developing and implementing an equal opportunity employment policy, following the Federal EEOC guidelines. Building and maintaining a diverse workforce is essential to growth and innovation in any industry, especially tech. But when handled poorly, or forced upon employees, it will cause more than a few headaches or even lawsuits. It requires change, a new take on leadership and creating a company culture based the business or service rather than a culture based on individual preferences or ideas.

Read the original article.

Source:
Cruikshank G. (4 December 2017). "Building A Diverse Workforce In A Small Business" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2017/12/04/building-a-diverse-workforce-in-a-small-business/#2b42986a4250


5 Tips to Improve the Employee Experience from an Employee Happiness Director

From SHRM, here are some helpful tips to improve happiness within your workplace.


 

Gone are the days of delighting customers at the expense of employees. Organizations today understand the value of employee happiness and are increasingly looking for ways to attract and retain top talent. This includes delighting employees at every touch point along the way from orientation and beyond.

And while this may mean something different for every organization, the following few tips may help to improve the employee experience, and if your employees are happy, your investors, customers and clients will follow.

Find employees who follow your north star. Hire employees who align with your core values. Our organization is mission-driven and focused on transforming lives. As a result, we look for good eggs who are driven by doing something for the greater good and leaving the world a better place. Big egos need not apply.

Prioritize happiness. Happiness means something different to every employee. Encourage your employees to find what makes them happy and prioritize that. Employee happiness is our CEO’s number one priority, so we held a workshop to design our culture of happiness together with input every single employee. We now measure employee happiness monthly and look for ways to delight our employees at every turn.

Ask and you shall receive. We constantly ask our employees about what’s working, what’s not working and how we can come together to build a culture of happiness through weekly, anonymous surveys. This provides leadership with valuable insights and empowers employees at all levels to help create an environment where we will thrive. Commit to delivering on employee suggestions that impact happiness when you can. You may not always be able to implement a suggestion but always ensure that the employee’s input is valued and was heard by leadership.

Be culturally relevant. While some may appreciate yoga breaks during all company meetings, others may want time off to volunteer with family and friends. Get to know your employees and understand what is truly meaningful to them. And always check back - life moves fast and personal priorities shift. Make sure your benefits and perks evolve to keep up with your dynamic population.

Give that gold star. It’s not all about perks. Offer work that’s challenging, acknowledge a job well done and reward employees in creative ways that are motivating to them. A company that successfully fosters a positive employee experience reaps the benefits in the form of enhanced engagement, happiness, productivity and retention.

 

Read the original article.

Source:
Andrade C. (4 December 2017). "5 Tips to Improve the Employee Experience from an Employee Happiness Director" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/5-tips-to-improve-the-employee-experience-from-an-employee-happiness-direct


Employers using fast-feedback apps to measure worker satisfaction, engagement

In this article from Employee Benefit Advisors, we take a look at measuring worker satisfaction and engagement through the use of feedback applications. Let us know what your verdict is!


The days of employers conducting employee engagement surveys once every year might be coming to an end.

Thanks to “fast feedback” applications, employers can conduct quick online surveys of their employees to measure how engaged they are at their jobs. The data from these polls is then collated and presented, often in real time on dashboards, to employers to show their workforce’s level of engagement and satisfaction. Some of these web-based programs also can present CEOs with steps they can take to improve their environment and culture.

These tools are available from Culture Amp, Glint, TINYpulse, PeakOn and others.

One of the main benefits of fast feedback, according to Glint CEO Jim Barnett, is that it cuts down on “regrettable attrition,” which occurs when talented employees leave for better jobs.

Glint customers include eBay, Glassdoor, Intuit, LinkedIn and Sky Broadcasting. These clients send out e-mail invitations to workers and ask them to take a voluntary survey, which can feature either stock employee engagement questions or queries that can be fine-tuned for a specific workplace.

Glint recommends 10 to 20 questions per Pulse — what it calls employee engagement survey sessions — and results are sent back to the employer’s HR directors and senior executives. According to Barnett, the Pulses are confidential but not anonymous. Barnett explains that while anonymous surveys do not record the respondent’s name and job title, a confidential survey means that only Glint knows who took the Pulse. The employer is only presented data from specific job groups or job descriptors within an enterprise, such as a production team or IT support.

This month, Glint announced two new capabilities to its real-time employee feedback program, called Always-On and On-Demand Surveys. Always-On allows workers to express their concerns at any time and On-Demand Surveys gives managers and executives the opportunity to perform quick, ad hoc surveys of staffers.

“Some of our companies use the Always-On Survey if they want people on their team to give feedback at any time on a particular topic,” he says.

Firms also use fast feedback for onboarding new hires, Barnett says. Companies have set up Glint’s program to gauge new workers at their 30 and 60 day-mark of their employment to “see how that onboarding experience impacted their engagement,” he says.

Culture Amp also provides fast feedback tools via a library of survey templates that cover a range of employee feedback topics including diversity and inclusion, manager effectiveness, wellness and exit interviews. Culture Amp’s clients include Aligned Leisure, Box, Etsy, McDonalds, Adobe and Yelp.

“We encourage customers to customize surveys to make the language more relevant, and to ensure every question reflects something the company is willing to act on,” says Culture Amp CEO Didier Elzinga.

Culture Amp presents its survey results to employers via a dashboard that displays the top drivers of employee engagement in real time. “Users can then drill down to understand more about each question, including how participants responded across a range of different demographic factors,” Elzinga says.

Sometimes CEOs are presented with news they were not prepared to hear, according to Elzinga. Some customers take to the employee survey process with the mindset of ‘myth busting,’ he says. “They want to know if some truth they hold dear is actually just a story they’ve been telling themselves. Every now and then, an employee survey will provide surprising results to an HR or executive team,” he says. “Whether people go into a survey looking to bust myths or gather baseline data, the important part is being open to accepting the results.”

Glassdoor takes the pulse of its workforce

Glint customer Glassdoor, the online job recruitment site that also allows visitors to anonymously rate their current employer’s work environment, compensation and culture, not only urges its employees to rate the firm using its own tools, the company also uses Glint’s software to view employee engagement at a more granular level.

Glassdoor conducted its first Glint Pulse in October 2016 and has rolled out three since then. The next is scheduled for January 2018, according to Marca Clarke, director of learning and organizational development at Glassdoor.

“We looked at employee engagement and the things that drive discretionary effort [among employees who work harder],” Clarke says. “This is strongly correlated with retention as well.”

Clarke said that one Glint Pulse found that the employees’ view of Glassdoor culture varied from location to location. Of its 700-person workforce, people working in the newer satellite offices were happier than the employees in its Mill Valley, Calif., headquarters. She speculates that this response could be due to newer, more eager employees hired in brand new, recently opened offices.

“People think culture is monolithic that should be felt across the company but we could see that there was some variation from office to office. With Glint, we were able to slice the data not just by region and job function but [we could] go to the manager level to look at how people with different performance ratings think about the culture,” she says.

Recent research from Aon Hewitt found that a 5% increase in employee engagement is linked to a 3% lift in revenue a year later. According to Barnett, Glint clients that regularly conduct surveys and take steps to engage their employees often see a boost in the price of their company shares.

“Companies in the top quartile of Glint scores last year [saw] their stock outperform the other companies by 40%,” he says. “They now have the data and can see that employee engagement and the overall employee experience really do you have a dramatic impact on the result of their company.”

 

Read the original article.

Source:
Albinus P. (5 December 2017). "Employers using fast-feedback apps to measure worker satisfaction, engagement" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/employers-using-fast-feedback-apps-to-measure-worker-satisfaction-engagement?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000