Why it might be time to say goodbye to exit interviews

Have you ever taken part in an exit interview? While the concept seems sound, many companies, large and small, are ending the practice of exit interviews. Read this blog post to learn more.


The exit interview is a long-time staple of HR departments. But an increasing number of companies large and small are ending the practice of asking departing workers to sit down for a final interview.

The concept seems sound. You can take the opportunity to hear unvarnished opinions about what your company or team does well and what it needs to improve on, and then take that back to management and implement changes that’ll help attract and retain great talent.

In practice, however, the process is often uncomfortable and many HR pros report that the folks who are interested in talking are often the ones who complained the most while on the payroll. The litany of gripes and rehashed personality clashes rarely adds much to the organization’s insight into building a better workplace.

If you can’t say anything nice…

Most of the rest, if they even will agree to an exit interview – and you can’t make them do that, of course – are going to be very careful to say only positive or neutral things about their experience at your organization. That helps to prevent bridge burning for them, in case they ever want to come back or they run into a colleague at a job interview later in their career. But for your team, the result is likely the same as with the complainer in the first example: A one-sided, probably inaccurate picture of what you are doing right and how you can improve in areas that need work.

Finally, much of the work your HR team does to schedule an interview as workers are packing up their personal stuff is likely to be wasted. Advice on employee-focused employment websites and other social media leans heavily towards “How to Avoid the Exit Interview.” Suggested tactics range from saying you can’t spare the time because you don’t want to leave your soon-to-be-ex colleagues hanging to asking to schedule after the leave date and then just ghosting the phone call altogether.

It’s still worthwhile to do a formal review to close out individual projects and to debrief contractors as they wrap up, but it’s probably time to say goodbye to the “tell us what you really think” sessions with employees who have decided to move on.

SOURCE: McElgunn, T. (27 December 2018) "Why it might be time to say goodbye to exit interviews" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://www.hrmorning.com/why-it-might-be-time-to-say-goodbye-to-exit-interviews/


Want to fight employee burnout? Focus on well-being

Do your employees feel good and like they're living with a sense of purpose while at work? Employees with higher well-being tend to feel more committed to their organization and tend to be more productive. Read this blog post to learn more.


Well-being can be described as feeling good and living with a sense of purpose. When employees have higher well-being, they’re more likely to be productive, energized and engaged in their work, as well as feel more committed to their organization. It’s what all leaders want for their employees. But can there be such a thing as too engaged? Can a super high level of engagement actually leave employees susceptible to burnout?

New research shows that burnout is real — and it can happen to anyone. But the saddest part is that the people it affects the most are people that care the most. In other words, your most dedicated people. It happens when highly engaged employees have increasingly low well-being due to overwhelming job pressures, work overload and a lack of manager or organizational support. Prolonged exposure to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job can lead to exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy — even for people who are all in at work. Ultimately, these top-performing, highly-engaged employees will leave — or worse, the burnout will spread to other employees causing a toxic fire across your company. The good news is that burnout is totally preventable. You just have to know where to start.

Employee burnout is actually more a problem with the company than with the person. Both the root causes and the best solutions start at the organizational level. This doesn’t mean we should stop building emotional skills like mindfulness, resilience and fitness. But it does mean that in order to solve for burnout at your company — or at least extinguish the flames — the organization is driving the bus.

Here are four ways employers can take action by focusing on well-being to extinguish employee burnout.

1. Help employees connect to their purpose. Today, more employees are looking for real meaning and purpose in their work. Whether it’s a connection to a greater mission or following personal passions, purpose-driven employees give more and feel more fulfilled in doing so. In addition to feeling an emotional connection to their work, a sense of purpose also connects them to the company and ultimately affects their well-being and engagement. In fact, according to a study by Deloitte, 73% of employees who say they work at a “purpose-driven” company are engaged, compared to just 23% who say they don’t.

Helping employees connect to their purpose is key for burnout prevention. Focus on effective communication that linearly connects each employee’s work to the company’s mission. Set clear goals to continue to support employees in not only finding their purpose but staying connected to their purpose.

2. Foster a well-being mindset. We’re all wired differently — and that’s even more apparent when it comes to the workplace. How people think about stressful situations has an impact on their ability to handle and recover from them. For example, an employee who fears conflict versus an employee who takes it head on are going to have different reactions and recovery times.

As a leader or manager, when you know how people think about stress, you can help them cope with it and prevent burnout. Avoid organizational consequences such as absenteeism or turnover by communicating and encouraging positivity, self-care and weaving well-being into daily tasks.

3. Promote social support and connectedness. At the core, people want to rely on people. Support from an employee’s peers can mean everything. In fact, social support impacts stress, health, well-being and engagement — and ultimately, people feel better and have higher well-being when they feel connected to others. It’s more than a like on a community feed or high-five in the hallway — putting social connections at the forefront of your people strategy or employee engagement program can make a real impact.

Social connections like a company community feed, women in the workplace group or lunch buddies paired up across different departments helps employees get the support they need and guards against burnout.

4. Invest in tools to combat burnout. People who push themselves without taking breaks have a greater chance of being unproductive and burning out. Recovery time from workplace stress is key. Whether physically or mentally, everyone needs a break to recover — it’s natural to need to recharge and refresh. Even small recovery times or breaks can help people deal with the symptoms of burnout. And there are great new tools to make it easy to schedule and take a vacation and “hit refresh” with the full support of your company.

Make well-being a priority to reduce stress by investing in technology that can help you spot burnout, adjust workloads and have awareness of your employees’ stress levels. Take the Limeade burnout risk indicator for example. It allows leaders to see the risk levels for specific groups, and automatically target science-based activities to improve well-being and avoid cynicism (and worse).

When it comes to burnout in the workplace — you can tackle the symptoms to prevent top performers from burning out. Don’t make the mistake of misinterpreting burnout as disengagement. It’s time to take responsibility for burnout and take action at every level.

SOURCE: Albrecht, H. (31 December 2018) "Want to fight employee burnout? Focus on well-being" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/want-to-fight-employee-burnout-focus-on-wellbeing?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


How employees really feel about asking for time off during the holidays

According to a new survey from management and technology consulting firm, West Monroe Partners, more than half of employees feel uneasy about asking employers for time off during the holidays. Continue reading to learn more.


Are employers checking their PTO list? They may want to check it twice, according to new data, workers may be leaving vacation days on the table during the holidays because they feel uncomfortable asking for time off.

More than half of employees (51%) feel uneasy about asking to use their paid time off during the holidays, according to a new survey of more than 2,000 employees from management and technology consulting firm, West Monroe Partners. This discomfort was even more prevalent in smaller companies with smaller staffs, where employees work more closely with their managers and colleagues.

Michael Hughes, managing director at West Monroe Partners, says part of the reason employees are so nervous about asking for time off is the expectation that they have to be available 24/7. An employee may also be concerned they will appear to be slacking if aren’t in the office with many companies being short staffed to begin with, he says.

“With the war for talent, people are being asked to do more and more because either they’re shorthanded or can’t find people,” Hughes says.

Nearly two-thirds of employees working in the banking sector felt uncomfortable asking to use their PTO, according to the survey. Although Monroe Partners did not specifically review why this might be the case for banking, Hughes says he thinks that, like other service industries, bank employees often have to work during the holidays to attend to customers.

Banks were hit hard during the 2007 economic recession, he adds, and some have been cautious about beefing their workforce — forcing current employees to carry heavy workloads. But, he adds, this is fairly common across many industries.

“I think it’s something that impacts industries across the board,” he says. “[But] just based on the study banking is one that sticks out.”

West Monroe Partners recommends companies close the office on days other than just federal holidays and accommodate for remote working or flexible scheduling.

Training managers to fairly process PTO requests may also be necessary, the report notes. Managers can do a better job of having open conversations with employees around PTO and job satisfaction.

Despite worker’s anxieties, employers should communicate the importance of taking time off during the holidays, Hughes says. It’s good for workers to get time to rest, he adds. If employees are unhappy in the office, it will likely trickle down to the customer experience.

“A lot of it is just personal health,” he says. “If you give people the opportunity to recharge, they’re going to be more productive when they’re happy.”

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (7 December 2018) "How employees really feel about asking for time off during the holidays" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/how-employees-really-feel-about-asking-for-time-off-during-the-holidays?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


The do’s and don’ts of ADA accommodations: 3 new rulings

Are you compliant with ADA accommodation laws? More than 25,000 ADA charges were filed by the EEOC in the past year, despite employers best compliance efforts. Continue reading to learn more.


Employers are facing more disability discrimination lawsuits than ever – despite their best compliance efforts. 
In the past year alone, over 25,000 ADA charges were filed by the EEOC.

The right way to accommodate

One area that’s often a point of contention? The accommodation process. Workers and employers can have a very different idea of how a disability should be accommodated.

And while each disability needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis, several recent court rulings shed further light on employers’ ADA accommodation responsibilities.

1. In Brumley v. United Parcel Service, a court ruled that ADA accommodations don’t necessarily have to be given to employees immediately.

Melissa Brumley delivered packages for UPS when she hurt her back lifting a heavy box from her truck.

She took leave to heal, and her doctor said when she returned to work she could no longer lift packages or drive. Since these were two essential functions of her job, Brumley’s manager put her on leave while waiting on more information from her doctor.

After beginning the interactive process and considering a reassignment, Brumley’s doctor cleared her to go back to her old job, and UPS ended the process.

But Brumley sued the company for failing to accommodate her during those weeks she was on leave, which resulted in loss of pay.

A district court ruled in favor of UPS, and on appeal, the 6th Circuit agreed. It said just because the company didn’t accommodate the employee immediately didn’t mean it violated the ADA.

UPS began the interactive process and only stopped once Brumley was cleared to go back to her old job without an accommodation.

The key things the company did? Beginning the process and requesting additional info from Brumley’s doctor – this showed the court a good faith effort to comply with the ADA.

2. In Sharbono v. Northern States Power, a court ruled a company that failed to find an accommodation didn’t fail to fulfill its ADA duties.

After a foot injury, James Sharbono wasn’t able to wear the steel-toed boots required by his company’s safety procedures.

HR worked with Sharbono and suggested several accommodations, such as altering his boots and getting a custom pair made, but none worked out. Sharbono was forced to retire, and he sued for ADA violation.

But the 8th Circuit ruled the company acted in good faith. It worked with Sharbono and suggested several accommodations. It was only after exhausting all options that Sharbono was forced to retire. The court said the company fulfilled its ADA responsibilities, despite finding no accommodation for Sharbono.

3. In Stokes v. Nielsen, a court decided companies can be required to make accommodations that cover more than just essential job functions.

Jacqueline Stokes had impaired vision and received multiple accommodations that allowed her to do her job. Stokes then requested special meeting handouts, printed in large letters, that she could read beforehand.

Despite many promises from HR, Stokes never received her requested handouts. She sued, claiming to be denied a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

While the company argued it gave Stokes everything she needed to do her job, therefore fulfilling its ADA responsibilities, the Fifth Circuit disagreed.

“Our circuit has explicitly rejected the requirement that requested modifications must be necessary to perform essential job functions to constitute a reasonable accommodation,” it said. And Stokes’ request was deemed reasonable.

This case shows if an employee makes a reasonable request for their job, it’s easier to just grant it.

SOURCE: Mucha, R. (4 January 2019) "The do’s and don’ts of ADA accommodations: 3 new rulings" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://www.hrmorning.com/the-dos-and-donts-of-ada-accommodations-3-new-rulings/


4 mistakes to avoid at the intersection of FMLA and PTO

Are your leave policies explicitly outlined for your employees? A costly mistake employers often make is not outlining the concurrent rule to employees. Read on for more mistakes employers make when it comes to FMLA and PTO.


By now, many employers can recite the basic requirements of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in their sleep. The law provides eligible employees (those who have at least one year of service and 1,250 hours under their belt) with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave over a 12-month period for qualifying family-related or medical reasons. FMLA covers companies with 50 or more employees located within 75 miles of each other.

While the law itself is conceptually straightforward, administration can become incredibly complex — especially when you throw other types of leave entitlements into the mix such as workers' comp, disability leave, and paid time off (PTO).

HR Dive recently spoke with three employment law attorneys about the most common — and costly — leave administration errors employers make when it comes to the intersection of FMLA and paid leave.

Mistake #1: Not running leaves concurrently

"I would say that the biggest issue that we see is a lot of employers do not have policies that provide for the use of paid time off concurrently with the FMLA," said attorney Molly Batsch, an officer at the St. Louis office of Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C. "[Because] the FMLA regulations allow employers to require employees to use any paid time off concurrently with unpaid FMLA leave, we really encourage employers to put that specifically in their policies."

Attorney Jeff Nowak, a partner at the Chicago office of Franczek Radelet P.C., concurred via email: "A decent number of employers don't realize that they can run FMLA leave concurrently with paid leave benefits such as worker's compensation benefits — or they forget to run both at the same time."

Failing to run leaves concurrently, when permitted, can be costly for employers. A series of consecutive leaves strung together can mean longer absences and increased workplace disruption.

Mistake #2: Policy confusion

A similar mistake employers make is that they don't explicitly outline the concurrent rule to employees. Your FMLA policy should make clear that any paid time off will run concurrently with unpaid FMLA time, advised Batsch: "I think that employers have a few misconceptions about that.

"The first misconception would be that the employee gets to pick," she said. "If the employee doesn't want to run the two concurrently, then they can go ahead and take 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA and then they can take their five weeks of vacation after that, and that is not the case. It is permissible for an employer to require that time to run concurrently. So that's the first mistake I see."

Make sure your policy is abundantly obvious about that so employees don't get upset about that requirement when it's being administered.

Mistake #3: Missing an important caveat about FMLA and paid leave

There is an important exception to the general rule that employers may require an employee to use paid leave during unpaid FMLA leave, one that many employers miss, according to all three attorneys HR Dive spoke with.

"If an employee is on FMLA leave and simultaneously in receipt of a paid benefit, in any amount, FMLA leave is considered paid. When it's paid FMLA, an employer may not require that the employee substitute PTO — but it can permit that," said attorney David Mohl, a principal at the Atlanta office of Jackson Lewis PC.

For example, he said, if short-term disability provides 70% income replacement, an employer cannot require that the employee use PTO (or other paid leave) to make up the difference. If, however, there is a waiting period before that paid benefit kicks in — say, seven days — an employer may require the use of paid leave during that seven days.

Batsch noted that even if the employee is receiving paid time off via a third-party disability plan rather than an employer disability plan, "that's still a situation where you can't require an employee to run their paid time off concurrently with their FMLA time." This was clarified by the Seventh Circuit in a 2007 case (Repa v. Roadway Express, Inc., 477 F.3d 938).

Mistake #4: Forgetting to consider the patchwork of local laws

"The growing number of state and local laws heap a load of additional compliance concerns onto employers," said Nowak. "Not only are there additional considerations for accrual, carryover, and reasons for leave, but these new leave laws tend to provide job-protected leave in situations where the medical condition is not covered by the FMLA. As a result, employers cannot discipline an employee for an absence when he or she is utilizing leave covered by one of these leave laws."

Of course, those laws only make the interactions with FMLA management more complex.

"Paid parental leave policies interact with FMLA and gender discrimination laws," said Mohl. "PPL policies are, of course, a type of paid leave; some operate as a disability benefit."

Paid leave will likely continue to expand in scope in the coming months as more states and cities consider mandating it. Currently, 10 states and about 30 localities guarantee some type of paid sick leave. A number of federal policies have also been proposed, but no movement has been seen at that level yet.

SOURCE: Carsen, J. (27 November 2018) "4 mistakes to avoid at the intersection of FMLA and PTO" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/4-mistakes-to-avoid-at-the-intersection-of-fmla-and-pto/542962/


The Importance of Working For A Boss Who Supports You

Having a boss that supports their employees is crucial to company success. Trust and commitment are at the core of any professional relationship. Read on to learn more.


Employers seek loyalty and dedication from their employees but sometimes fail to return their half of the equation, leaving millennial workers feeling left behind and unsupported. Professional relationships are built on trust and commitment, and working for a boss that supports you is vital to professional and company success.

Employees who believe their company cares for them perform better. What value does an employer place on you as an employee? Are you there to get the job done and go home? Are you paid fairly, well-trained and confident in your job security? Do you work under good job conditions? Do you receive constructive feedback, or do you feel demeaned or invisible?

When millennial employees feel supported by their boss, their happiness on the job soars — and so does company success. Building a healthy relationship involves the efforts of both parties — boss and employee — and the result not only improves company success, but also the quality of policies, feedback and work culture.

Investing In A Relationship With Your Boss

When you’re first hired, you should get to know your company’s culture and closely watch your boss as you learn the ropes. It’s best to clarify any questions you have instead of going rogue on a project and ending up with a failed proposal for a valuable client.

Regardless of your boss’s communication style, speaking up on timely matters before consequences are out of your control builds trust and establishes healthy communication. Getting to know your boss begins with knowing how they move through the business day, including their moods, how they prefer to communicate and their style of leadership:

  • Mood: Perhaps your boss needs their cup of coffee to start the day. If you see other employees scurry away before the boss drains that cup of coffee, bide your time, too.
  • Communication: The boss’s communication style is also influenced by their mood. Don’t wait too late to break important news. In-depth topics may be scheduled for a meeting through a phone call or email to check in and show you respect your boss’s time. In return, your time will be respected, too.

Some professionals are more emotionally reinforcing that others. Some might appear cold, but in reality, prefer to use hard data to solidify the endpoint as an analytical style. If you’re more focused on interpersonal relationships, that’s your strength, but you must also learn and respect your boss’s communication style.

  • Leadership: What kind of leader is the boss? Various communication styles best fit an organization depending on its goals and culture, but provide both advantages and disadvantages. Autocratic leaders assume total authority on decision-making without input or challenge from others. Participative leaders value the democratic input of team members, but final decisions remain with the boss.

Autocratic leaders may be best equipped to handle emergency decisions over participative leaders, depending on the situation and information received.

While the boss wields a position of power over employees, it’s important that leaders don’t hold that over their employees’ heads. In the case of dissatisfaction at work, millennial employees don’t carry the sole blame. Respect is mutually earned, and ultimately a healthy relationship between leaders and employees betters the company and the budding careers of millennials.

A Healthy Relationship With Leaders Betters The Company

A Gallup report reveals that millennial career happiness is down while disengagement at work climbs — 71% of millennials aren’t engaged on the job and half of all employed plan on leaving within a year. What is the cause? Bosses carry the responsibility for 70% of employee engagement variances. Meanwhile, engaged bosses are 59% more prone to having and retaining engaged employees.

The supportive behaviors of these managers to engage their employees included being accessible for discussion, motivating by strengths over weaknesses and helping to set goals. According to the Gallup report, the primary determiner of employee retention and engagement are those in leadership positions. The boss is poised to affect employee happiness, satisfaction, productivity and performance directly.

The same report reveals that only 21% of millennial employees meet weekly with their boss and 17% receive meaningful feedback. The most positive engagement booster was in managers who focused on employee strengths. In the end, one out of every two employees will leave a job to get away from their boss when unsupported.

Millennials are taking the workforce by storm — one-third of those employed are millennials, and soon those numbers will take the lead. Millennials are important to companies as technology continues to shift and grow, and they are passionate about offering their talents to their employers. It’s vital that millennials have access to bosses who offer support and engage their staff through meaningful feedback, accessibility and help with goal-setting.

In return, millennial happiness and job satisfaction soar, positively impacting productivity, performance, policy and work culture. A healthy relationship between boss and employee is vital to company success and the growth of millennial careers as the workforce continues to age. Bosses shouldn’t be the reason that millennial employees leave. They should be the reason millennials stay and thrive in the workplace, pushing it toward greater success.

SOURCE: Landrum, S. (8 December 2018) "The Importance of Working For A Boss Who Supports You" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahlandrum/2017/12/08/the-importance-of-working-for-a-boss-that-supports-you/1?


Compliance Recap - December 2018

December was a relatively quiet month in the employee benefits world.

A U.S. District Court issued an order declaring that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued two final rules to remove certain wellness program incentives. The Department of Labor (DOL) updated its Form M-1 filing guidance for association health plans.

UBA Updates

UBA updated or revised existing guidance:

U.S. District Court Declares ACA Unconstitutional

On December 14, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Court) issued a declaratory order in ongoing litigation regarding the individual mandate and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Court declared that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and declared that the rest of the ACA – including its guaranteed issue and community rating provisions – is unconstitutional.

The Court did not grant the plaintiffs’ request for a nationwide injunction to prohibit the ACA’s continued implementation and enforcement. The Court’s declaratory judgment simply defined the parties’ legal relationship and rights under the case at this relatively early stage in the case.

On December 16, 2018, the Court issued an order that requires the parties to meet and discuss the case by December 21, 2018, and to jointly submit a proposed schedule for resolving the plaintiffs’ remaining claims.

On December 30, 2018, the Court issued two orders. The first order grants a stay of its December 14 order. This means that the court’s order regarding the ACA’s unconstitutionality will not take effect while it is being appealed. The second order enters the December 14 order as a final judgment so the parties may immediately appeal the order.

On December 31, 2018, the Court issued an order that stays the remainder of the case. This means that the Court will not be proceeding with the remaining claims in the case while its December 14 order is being appealed. After the appeal process is complete, the parties are to alert the Court and submit additional court documents if they want to continue with any remaining claims in the case.

At this time, the case’s status does not impact employers’ group health plans. However, employers should stay informed for the final decision in this case.

Read more about the court case.

EEOC Issue Final Rules to Remove Wellness Program Incentive Limits Vacated by Court

On December 20, 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued two final rules to remove wellness program incentives.

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

In December 2017, the court vacated the EEOC rules under the ADA and GINA effective January 1, 2019. The EEOC issued the following two final rules in response to the court’s order.

The first rule removes the section of the wellness regulations that provided incentive limits for wellness programs regulated by the ADA. Specifically, the rule removes guidance on the extent to which employers may use incentives to encourage employees to participate in wellness programs that ask them to respond to disability-related inquiries or undergo medical examinations.

The second rule removes the section of the wellness regulations that provided incentive limits for wellness programs regulated by GINA. Specifically, the rule removes guidance that addressed the extent to which an employer may offer an inducement to an employee for the employee’s spouse to provide current health status information as part of a health risk assessment (HRA) administered in connection with an employee-sponsored wellness program.

Both rules will be effective on January 1, 2019.

Read more about the EEOC’s final rules.

DOL Updates Form M-1 Filing Guidance for Association Health Plans

On December 3, 2018, the Department of Labor (DOL) published its “10 Tips for Filing Form M-1 For Association Health Plans And Other MEWAs That Provide Medical Benefits” that provides plan administrators with information on when to file and how to complete portions of Form M-1.

The DOL emphasizes that all multiple employer welfare arrangements (MEWAs) that provide medical benefits, including association health plans (AHPs) that intend to begin operating under the DOL’s new AHP rule, are required to file an initial registration Form M-1 at least 30 days before any activity including, but not limited to, marketing, soliciting, providing, or offering to provide medical care benefits to employers or employees who may participate in an AHP.

Read more about the DOL guidance.

Question of the Month

Q: If an employee must increase the hours of childcare needed because the employee changes work schedules, may the employee increase the DCAP amount that the employee elects?

A: Yes, increasing the hours of childcare is a permitted election change event that would allow an employee to increase the employee’s DCAP election amount consistent with the change in childcare cost.

**This information is general and is provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide legal advice. You should not act on this information without consulting legal counsel or other knowledgeable advisors.


The case for self-funded health benefit plans and reference-based pricing

Do you offer a reference-based pricing health benefit plan? A recent survey shows an increase in self-funded plan designs that use reference-based pricing for 2019. Read this blog post to learn more.


Self-funding and reference-based pricing are hot topics with small businesses. They are so popular, in fact, that a recent survey shows an overall increase in their 2019 projection of small employer clients having a reference-based pricing health benefit plan design. Small businesses are seeing these savings, and they’re starting to explore how reference-based pricing can help them, too.

Before we get to why self-funded plan designs that use reference-based pricing are becoming more popular for small businesses, let’s review the basics.

Reference-based pricing is a methodology of calculating payment to providers for covered treatments and services using a “reasonable fee” based on a reference point. A common reference point is the Medicare fee schedule. Some self-funded health benefit plans calculate the reasonable fee as a percentage of the Medicare fee schedule to determine reimbursement for services rendered.

Bottom line: Self-funded health benefit plan designs that use reference-based pricing can allow for a great deal of flexibility with a variety of arrangements and overall cost-savings.

So, what’s behind the recent trend toward reference-based pricing for smaller employers? A few key factors.

First, a self-funded health benefit plan design that uses referenced-based pricing can mean less expensive coverage for employees and employers.

When coupling a self-funded health benefit plan with stop-loss insurance, reference-based pricing provides an affordable way to extend coverage to employees through lower employee contributions. So, employees are happy because they’re saving money.

And employers are happy, too, because they’re allowing for more coverage to more employees. There’s a refund potential for employers if claims dollars are less than funded. There’s also a premium tax savings of around 2% since self-funded claim dollars are not subject to state health insurance premium taxes.

Moreover, self-funded health benefit plan designs that utilize reference-based pricing may also include transparency reports with aggregate health claims data and demographic information, which allow employers to better manage costs. Overall, anytime you can design a plan that’s beneficial for employees and employers, it’s a win.
Second, reference-based pricing can provide employees more flexibility when it comes to choosing a provider. Typically, an important feature of any health benefit plan design for employees is the ability to choose the provider they want. Some self-funded plan designs that use reference-based pricing give employees the chance to pick the provider that’s right for them. And, when employees are happy with their health plan, employers are usually pretty happy, too.

Finally, self-funded plan designs that use reference-based pricing can help employees become smarter healthcare consumers because of all the transparency and choice involved. When employees better understand the healthcare processes and system, costs come down for both the employee and employer. In fact, just understanding their coverage better may help employees better use their health benefit plans.

For example, using telemedicine when appropriate, establishing a relationship with a primary care doctor and using client advocacy services can all help employees better utilize their health benefit plans. In the end, employees get smarter about how they manage their care, and employers win with reduced costs.

These factors are driving more small businesses to consider reference-based pricing self-funded health benefit plan designs with stop-loss insurance. And, for good reason. These plan designs can give employers the opportunity to offer their employees affordable health benefits, provide more choice in their health plans and providers, and encourage more employee engagement. While moving to reference-based pricing may be too big of a leap for some employers, self-funding continues to provide a means for employers to offer comprehensive major medical health benefits at lower costs.

SOURCE: MacLeod, D. (6 December 2018) "The case for self-funded health benefit plans and reference-based pricing" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/the-case-for-self-funded-health-benefit-plans-and-reference-based-pricing


Viewpoint: Why Respect, Dignity and Kindness Are Foundational Workplace Principles

Have you taken steps to establish a hostility-free workplace? Businesses who start focusing on the state of their workplace will better position themselves for the future. Continue reading to learn more.


SHRM has partnered with Security Management magazine to bring you relevant articles on key HR topics and strategies. 

This is the #MeToo era. The great wave of public accusations involving inappropriate conduct such as sexual harassment between managers, employees and co-workers has washed over U.S. workplaces, unsettling everything in its wake.

But sexual harassment is not the only conduct that can help turn a working environment hostile. Given this, employers who take action now to help establish and solidify a welcoming and hostility-free work environment will be better positioned for the future. Such actions can come in many forms, ranging from zero-tolerance anti-harassment policies and violence prevention training to diversity task forces and team-building exercises.

While they vary, these actions all benefit from a proactive approach. Opposing views and opinions are inevitable among a diverse workforce, but leaders of organizations should not wait until disruptive incidents break out before focusing on the state of the workplace environment. Instead, they can start immediately.

Respect and Dignity

Human resources is a team sport. No one HR manager, no matter how talented or knowledgeable, can completely shoulder the burden of protecting his or her firm from employee issues and litigation. A cohesive HR team, on the other hand, is positioned to tackle anything thrown its way. But when one gear gets out of whack, the whole team is affected and compromised.

Take, for example, how an entire company can be impacted by one disruptive manager. Sam's team was led by a small group of managers who worked well together; they collaborated to achieve goals and boost one another to success. However, a new manager, Chris, was brought on.

Chris had a markedly different type of attitude and leadership style. Chris was demanding and sometimes even yelled at employees in public. He occasionally disparaged another manager's directions to team members and would even threaten a firing in an attempt to improve performance.

A few months after this leadership transition, some employees began to leave Sam's team by choice. But those are not the only changes triggered by the new manager. Some of Sam's team members absorbed the negative qualities Chris exhibited, including degrading public chastisements, gossiping and expressing increased agitation in the office. Chris' overwhelming negativity threw a wrench into a once strong team and threatened to break it down into an unproductive group of individuals.

Before Chris took over, Sam's team members respected one another and successfully accomplished goals. Chris' harsh leadership eroded the members' respect and kindness, causing productivity to decrease and spirits to drop.

How can HR help make sure this type of situation is addressed and avoided? When building a team, it is important to establish respect, dignity and kindness as foundational principles. This will very likely increase productivity and reduce the risk of violent workplace behaviors. When employees feel respected and treated with dignity, they are more likely to treat co-workers and customers the same way. This creates a positive culture within the organization.

To facilitate this, HR should go beyond simply asking employees to be civil and respect one another. They should also explain how to do so, and demonstrate what civility means to the organization by providing examples of positive interactions.

Support the Company's Culture

During my time as a line manager, there were key opportunities for me to support the company culture. All managers can take advantage of the same opportunities, if their organizations are willing to provide them.

For example, orientation sessions are an opportunity for HR leaders to introduce themselves, their department and the values of the organization to those who are being onboarded. Time can be devoted to explaining appropriate workplace behavior through the use of scenario-based situations.

In addition, department team meetings offer opportunities for HR professionals to join in to discuss relevant issues and provide training through small group discussion or case study review. Team members can assess a situation and provide feedback on how it should have been appropriately handled. Using both positive and negative behaviors as examples will help employees understand the difference.

Open houses are another possible venue for educating discussions. HR may arrange with company leaders to have a time where employees stop by, ask questions and participate in discussions that help them understand their role as part of the larger effort to maintain a healthy, inclusive workplace.

Finally, it is important to remember that HR staff should help line managers serve as role models of appropriate behavior. If they are behaving badly by being rude, disrespectful or uncivil, how can HR expect them to help the organization promote a culture that values everyone?

In the end, HR cannot assume that people managers understand what is and is not appropriate. Setting expectations from the start, and clearly demonstrating how to positively act and show respect to co-workers is an effective way for HR to set the right tone—and a more active and effective approach than simply hoping for the best. This will have a ripple effect throughout the workforce, and it will help prevent future breaches of conduct from triggering a domino effect of disrespect, such as the one caused by Chris' behavior.

This article is adapted from Security Management magazine with permission from ASIS © 2018. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Solon, R. (28 November 2018) "Viewpoint: Why Respect, Dignity and Kindness Are Foundational Workplace Principles" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/Viewpoint-Why-Respect-Dignity-and-Kindness-Are-Foundational-Workplace-Principles.aspx


New resource offers guidance on digital tools for diabetes management

Are you considering implementing digital diabetes tools or solutions in your employer-sponsored benefits? Read this blog post for the Northeast Business Group on Health’s updated guide on diabetes management tools.


The Northeast Business Group on Health has updated its “Digital Tools and Solutions for Diabetes: An Employer’s Guide,” to include both enhanced and new solutions—and promising future innovations—to help employers help their workers better manage their diabetes, lower costs and ultimately save more lives.

“Employers are well aware of the costs associated with diabetes in their employee and dependent populations—they continue to indicate this is a top concern and are increasingly aware of the links between diabetes and other chronic and debilitating health conditions, including cardiovascular disease,” says Candice Sherman, CEO of NEBGH.

The market for digital diabetes prevention and management solutions continues to mature since the group published its first guide in 2016, Sherman says. The updated guide provides a detailed checklist of the features and functionalities of the digital tools available now to manage diabetes, as well as information on several unique and innovative digital diabetes solutions that are being targeted to employers but were not part of NEBGH’s research, including Proteus Discover, BlueLoop and do-it-yourself programs.

“Proteus Discover is comprised of ingestible sensors, a small wearable sensor patch, an application on a mobile device and a provider portal,” the guide cites the provider. “Once activated, Proteus Discover unlocks never-before-seen insight into patient health patterns and medication treatment effectiveness, leading to more informed healthcare decisions for everyone involved.”

“BlueLoop is the one and only tool that allows kids and their caregivers to log and share diabetes information—both online and with the app—in real time, via instant e-mail and text message, giving peace of mind to parents,more class time for students and fewer phone calls and paper logs for school nurses,” the provider tells NEBGH. “Online, parents can share real-time BG logs with their clinicians, who can see logs (in the format they prefer), current dosages and reports, all in one place.”

The guide also hints at promising future innovations:

“Technology is constantly evolving: by connecting sensors, wearables and apps, it is increasingly possible to pool and leverage data in innovative ways to provide timely interventions so that people with diabetes can be truly independent and effectively self-manage their care,” the authors write.

The guide lists a hypothetical scenario: A person with diabetes enters a restaurant where a GPS sensor identifies the location, reviews the menu and proposes the best choices based on caloric and carbohydrate content. The technology also proposes and delivers a rapidly acting insulin bolus dose based on the person’s exercise level that day and prior experiences when eating similar meals.

Also included are key questions for employers considering implementing digital diabetes tools or solutions, including:

  •  What does the company want to achieve with a digital tool?
  • How much is the company willing to pay?
  • How will success be measured?
  • How will digital solutions and tools be marketed to employees and their families?
  • What privacy issues need to be addressed when tools or solutions are implemented?

“Digital health tools hold the promise of improved health outcomes and reduced health care expenses through improved engagement, better collaboration and sustained behavior change,” says Mark Cunningham-Hill, NEBGH’s medical director. “However, digital diabetes solutions are not a panacea. Employers will need to address several obstacles such as the difficulty of recruitment and enrollment, lack of sustained employee engagement and the cost of deployment of digital solutions. This can be accomplished through careful planning and learning from other employers that have successfully implemented these tools.”

SOURCE: Kuehner-Hebert, K. (4 December 2018) "New resource offers guidance on digital tools for diabetes management" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/12/04/new-resource-digital-tools-for-diabetes-management/