Trending: Virtual Healthcare Gains Broader Acceptance

Original post benefitsnews.com

The Cadillac tax may have been postponed until 2020 but that doesn’t mean employers have put healthcare cost containment measures on the backburner. In fact, new research shows 90% of employers are planning myriad measures to control rising healthcare costs.

The 2016 Medical Plan Trends and Observations Report, released today by DirectPath and CEB, highlights top trends in employers’ 2016 healthcare strategies. Overwhelmingly, employers are continuing to shift a larger share of healthcare costs to employees, often through high-deductible health plans, according to the report.

The use of telemedicine, meanwhile, continues to grow, with almost two-thirds of organizations offering or planning to offer such a service by 2018 – a 50% increase from the previous year.

“Employees often say that they go to the emergency room because it's hard to get a doctor's appointment. With telemedicine, you've got 24/7 access and you don't necessarily need an appointment,” notes Kim Buckey, vice president of compliance communications at DirectPath. “That's certainly a huge driver of avoiding those visits to the emergency room or even the urgent care clinic because telemedicine is typically less expensive than an urgent care visit, as well.”

Buckey says it “makes sense” for employers to investigate telemedicine – the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients via phone calls, email and/or video chat – because employees are increasingly accepting of virtual access to just about everything.

“How many employees now are just grabbing their phones, iPads, or computers when they need information? That's something that people are comfortable with using and they don't have to leave their house to get quality care,” she says.

Spousal and tobacco surcharges are also expected to grow, according to the CEB data. Twelve percent of employers surveyed already have spousal surcharges in place, while 29% expect to introduce them in the next three years. Twenty-one percent of employers already have tobacco surcharges in place, while 26% expect to implement them in the next three years.

“I think we're going to see more and more of those, particularly as employers focus more on wellness initiatives,” says Buckey, adding that a robust communications plan is needed before implementing tobacco or spousal surcharges.

“People don't understand basic concepts like deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance, let alone how to make a decision about what plan to choose, or frankly, what's the best way of receiving care,” she says. “As more and more of these provisions are added to plans, they have the potential of being even more confusing and off-putting to employees, so having a robust communications plan in place that addresses all of these issues [is important]. ... There certainly will be cases where these surcharges aren't going to apply to a large percentage of the population. You just want to make sure that the folks who are affected, understand how they're affected and why.”


The Dish with Jenny Ziegler

The March edition of The Dish is serving up Hierl's own Jenny Ziegler's favorite foods.

When she’s cooking for friends and family she enjoys making Beef Tips. Jenny calls them Easy No-Peek Beef Tips because they go in the oven covered, and you just set it and forget it. No stirring is involved at all. Serve this dish over noodles or rice to complete your meal. The easiness of the recipe is definitely a plus, but this is really a comfort food that will take you back to Mom's Kitchen.

Recipe: Easy No-Peek Beef Tips

1- 1-oz. package of onion soup mix
2 lb lean stew meat
1- 10 3/4-oz. can cream mushroom soup
1 c ginger ale
Directions
1-Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2-In a greased casserole dish, sprinkle onion soup mix over beef.
3-Spoon mushroom soup over meat; add ginger ale. DO NOT STIR.
4-Bake covered at 350 degrees for 2 hours. DON'T PEEK. Serve over noodles or rice

When dining out you can find Jenny at Friar Tuck's in Fon du Lac. Friar Tuck's is known for their sandwiches and there are three locations in Wisconsin. They also have soups, salads and an assortment of fried foods. The best thing about Friar Tuck's is the delicious food is accompanied by  affordable prices.

Friar Tuck's @ Friar Tucks, 570 W. Johnson Street, Fond du Lac, WI, 54935

 


Executive Vice President, Hierl Insurance, Inc., Honored By National Society of CIC for 15-Year Commitment

Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, March 10, 2016 –Scott Smeaton, CRM, CIC, Executive Vice President of Hierl Insurance, Inc. of Fond du Lac, was recently recognized for professional leadership and advanced knowledge by the Society of Certified Insurance Counselors (CIC), a leading national insurance professional organization.

Mr. Scott Smeaton was awarded a certificate marking more than fifteen years of participation as a designated CIC, which requires annual completion of advanced education and training.

Smeaton’s dedication and leadership brings added value to his clients, associates and the industry as a whole. His ongoing allegiance and support of the CIC Program is a testament to the value he places on “real world” education and customer satisfaction.

The Society of CIC is a not-for-profit organization of The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research, which is respected throughout the insurance industry for the high standards maintained in the hundreds of institutes conducted annually in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Other programs of The National Alliance include Certified Risk Managers (CRM), Certified Personal Risk Managers (CPRM), James K. Ruble Seminars, the Society of Certified Insurance Service Representatives (CISR), Certified School Risk Managers (CSRM), and the National Alliance Research Academy.

Download the Press Release here.

Contact us to partner with a dedicated expert for your benefits needs. 


Employee Relations: Don't Bring Me Down!

Original post ubabenefits.com

Every workplace has its fair share of slackers and goof-offs, but it’s what an employer does with those employees that solidifies its corporate culture as one of high or low performance.

Employers that ignore low-performing employees risk more than just productivity. In an article titled, “Study: Beware ‘Toxic’ Influence of Low-Performers” on the Society For Human Resource Management’s website, research found that low-performing employees hurt overall morale and increased their co-workers' workload. Furthermore, innovation and motivation are stifled and mediocrity is deemed acceptable.

What may be of most concern is that a mere 60% of survey respondents looked at their co-workers and would rehire them. Their motto should have been: we may hire the best, but we keep the rest.

Successful companies know how to weed out their weakest links, while rewarding and retaining high-performing employees. They know that employees who perform poorly can cause high-performing employees to seek jobs elsewhere. Successful companies are able to identify their best employees, then they establish incentives, opportunities, or other ways of ensuring they stay.

 

So, how do you identify the best, or even the best of the best? It’s not as easy as it may seem. These are the top 10% to 15% of the organization. A company must first determine a set of guidelines that mark an employee as a high performer. Once the guidelines are in place, observation of these employee traits should be done in order to ensure uniformity and that the guidelines were set correctly.

 

Now that a company knows what it expects in its employees, it’s time to announce that to everyone so that they either know they’re doing the right things, or can make a plan for improvement. At the same time, employers should conduct surveys on employee satisfaction. Their focus should be on their top performers and what makes them happy.

 

Plenty of data should be collected regarding the criteria that not only make an employee a top performer at the company, but also what he or she prefers in terms of job satisfaction. Going forward, this data should be matched to potential recruiting candidates for new positions. In addition, surveys that measure the quality of a new hire (i.e., whether the recruiter hired the right candidate) should be completed at predetermined intervals of three, six, nine, or 12 months.

 

In jobs where there is high demand and lots of attrition, correctly recruiting and retaining the best performers could be the key difference in a company’s success.

President, Hierl Insurance, Inc., Honored By National Society of CIC for 25-Year Commitment

Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, March 7, 2016 – Mike Hierl, President of Hierl Insurance, Inc. of Fond du Lac, was recently recognized for professional leadership and advanced knowledge by the Society of Certified Insurance Counselors (CIC), a leading national insurance professional organization.

Mr. Mike Hierl was awarded a certificate marking more than twenty-five years of leadership as a designated CIC, which requires annual completion of advanced education and training.

Mike Hierl’s ongoing allegiance and support of the CIC Program is a testament to the value he places on “real world” education and customer satisfaction. “Your clients, associates and the insurance profession as a whole continue to benefit from such dedication,” cited Dr. William T. Hold, CIC, CPCU, CLU, President of the Society of CIC.

The CIC Program is nationally recognized as the premier continuing education program for insurance professionals, with programs offered in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, the Society of CIC is a not-for-profit organization and the founding program of The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research.

Download the Press Release here.

Contact us to partner with a dedicated expert for your benefits needs. 


4 Ways to Talk to Employees So They Listen

Original post entrepreneur.com

No one likes to be lectured in the workplace.

As a leader, you need to communicate with your employees to deliver strategic direction, reinforce corporate culture and rally the troops to achieve company goals and objectives. To be effective, you need to deliver these messages in a way that creates energy and enthusiasm, rather than deflating your team.

Here are four tips for talking to employees in a way that energizes them rather than depleting them:

1. Use humor. No matter how big or small your operation may be, there is often tension and emotional distance between the boss and employees. To diffuse that, I regularly use humor, a tactic that makes me more approachable. In my experience, the best kind is self-deprecating humor. When I showed up to meet new employees for the first time at a Midwest location, I started the conversations by poking fun at my pronounced "New Yawk" accent. It got a laugh and made me seem more accessible.

2. Ask open-ended questions. And then be quiet. My favorite question to ask is “Tell me about [insert topic here].” When you ask a new employee about his ideas or a technologist about a new device, you are asking them to do more than give you a pat sentence or two in response. You have the opportunity to access that person’s deep knowledge and passion. Ask a question that opens the conversation wide and then hold still and listen.

3. Bring others into the conversation. A boss-employee conversation may seem casual to the boss but can feel like an interrogation to the employee. To diffuse this situation, I like to bring others into the conversation to even out the experience. I may turn a one-on-one discussion into a larger conversation by inviting people to join us and share their thoughts and experiences. It benefits me, because I get to hear more voices, and it helps put everyone else at ease.

4. Let the little stuff slide. If you are the kind of hands-on person who helped build the business from the ground up, you probably have insight or advice on everything from the capital budget to color of the carpet. But you don’t have to communicate every thought to the staff. If it’s not an important critique, let it go. I visited a flower shop in my company once and noticed the manager was not lining the trashcans with plastic bags. I know from experience that liners make the job easier, but I also know that I don’t need to communicate every idea that comes into my head. It just creates a climate of nitpicking.

Conversations that take place up and down the food chain – between supervisor and staff, people of different departments and the boss and the new employee – are often the source of great new ideas.

As the boss, it’s your job to get those conversations started and keep them going. You have a chance to make that happen (or achieve the opposite) every time you open your mouth.


7 Tips to Get Your Team to Actually Listen to You

Original post entrepreneur.com

Right from the outset, entrepreneurs must pay attention to every communication and opportunity for sharing their passion and vision.  They must communicate effectively, so they can inspire others to come aboard.  They must speak honestly and in ways that reveal their personal character and genuine connection. Yet, this sort of communication style can be difficult and time consuming – especially when demands are huge and time is scarce.

There is far more to being an effective and authentic communicator than most entrepreneurs believe -- at least when they are starting out. Even if you think you’re good at speaking to your team and motivating them, there’s always more to learn.

Leadership communication is a discipline and a practice: The more time, effort and heart you put in, the more effective you become.  There really are no shortcuts.

That said, here are seven ideas that can help you focus your attention and improve your leadership communication.

1. Be authentic.

When you speak with your employees you must come across to them as real. This means sharing your beliefs and your struggles. Talking about moments of doubt but also explaining how you overcame them with more conviction and confidence than ever. Or perhaps share a story or two about a failure and disappointment in life.

The most convincing talks are when stories are shared about personal weaknesses and what one was doing to overcome them or disappointments and failures and how they were turned around.

2. Know yourself.

Dig deep.  Know your values and what motivates you.  If you don’t know yourself you cannot share or connect with others. People want to know what makes you tick as a human being not just as a leader. Share this and make yourself real.

3. Rely on a good coach or a trusted advisor.

Developing good communication skills takes time -- and in the rush of business, that’s scarce.  Having someone who can push you to examine and reveal your interests and passions is enormously helpful and the value is immeasurable.

4. Read up on leadership communication.

If you can’t hire a coach, read all that you can. This is an inexhaustible resource, and you should never quit learning anyway. Books, articles, the internet; the possibilities are endless.

5. Make values visible.

Effective, empathetic communication and a commitment to culture can provide a solid foundation for your ideas and contribute to making it a reality. Many of today’s most successful companies have gone through dramatic crises.  Their improvements often hinged upon genuine communication from the leaders.

For instance, think of Starbucks and Howard Schultz’s clear and genuine communications about the importance of managers and baristas being personally accountable for future success. Your employees want to know what you and the company stands for. What is the litmus test for everything you do? These are your values. Talk about them but you must always be sure to “walk the talk” and live by them.

6. Engage with stories.

You can't rely on facts and figures alone. It’s stories that people remember. The personal experiences and stories you share with others create emotional engagement, decrease resistance and give meaning. It is meaning that gets employees' hearts and fuels discretionary effort, thinking and desire to actively support the business.

Once someone was implementing a massive pricing cut. He could have presented reams of data about this change and why it needed to be made. Instead he invited in four clients of the firm who had written letters about why after more than 10 years they had decided to leave due to our pricing being noncompetitive. Everyone was engaged and quite horrified to hear this feedback. Getting the team’s support for the change was much easier after that.

7. Be fully present. 

There is no autopilot for leadership communication. You must be fully present to move people to listen and pay attention, rather than simply be in attendance. Any time you are communicating, you need to be prepared -- and to speak from your heart.  Leadership communication is, after all, about how you make others feel. What do you want people to feel, believe and do as a result of your communication?  This absolutely can't happen if you read a speech. No matter how beautifully it is written, it doesn’t come across as authentic or from your heart if you are reading it. Embrace what you want to say and use notes if you must, but never read a speech if you want to be believable and move people to action. (And yes this requires a ton of preparation).

Your speeches are visible and important components of your role as a leader. Successful entrepreneurs are conscious of that role in every communication, interaction and venue within the organization and beyond. They also know that while today’s world provides a wide range of ways to communicate to your organization -- mass email, text, Twitter, instant message and more --connecting is not that simple. Electronic communication is a tool for communicating information -- not for inspiring passion.


Wellness: Let's Face It; I'm Tired!

Original post ubabenefits.com

How does a muffler salesperson feel at the end of the day? Exhausted. HR Elements has tackled the issue of sleep deprivation before. However, that article was about how electronic devices were keeping people awake and the need to feel connected 24/7. This time, it's about the effects of being sleep deprived and why it's so important to get the recommended eight hours each night.

Have you noticed a recurring theme that we wish we had more time? In our quest to squeeze more out of the day, we often push sleep aside and humorously tell our friends and coworkers, "I'll sleep when I'm dead." The irony in that statement is that by not getting enough sleep, you may be doing enough damage to your body that death will come sooner rather than later.

According to an article on The Huffington Post's website titled, "This Is Your Body on Sleep Deprivation," if you can't remember the last time you got a full night's rest, or if you're drowsy and have difficulty staying alert all day, then you're definitely sleep deprived. Worse, according to the article, is that we tend to think that by sleeping longer on the weekend we can fix the issue. So what if we only get six hours of sleep each night during the week; we can sleep for 13 hours each night on the weekend and still get the necessary 56 hours a week (8 hours x 7 days = 56). The problem is that our bodies don't work that way. Sleeping varying hours affects our circadian rhythms, which means that our bodies don't know when to shut down.

So? "How bad can sleep deprivation be?" you might ask. Let's start with how it affects the brain. When a person is sleep deprived, the brain slows way down. It becomes difficult to concentrate and the ability to make important decisions and sort information is reduced. Creativity is also negatively affected and people who need more sleep have memory issues. Your mood also takes a hit. If you've ever dealt with someone who is grouchy, irritable, or lacks enthusiasm, then that person probably didn't get enough sleep.

If those undesirables aren't enough to make you sleep more, let's see how the body is affected. According to the article, your appetite suffers, and not the way you may be thinking. When you don't get enough sleep it creates a hormonal imbalance, and the body tries to compensate by making you eat more, especially high-carbohydrate, sugary foods. That's not good. But you think you can just run or bike more miles at the gym. Wrong again. Your body's performance, reflexes and motor skills are all impaired. The latter can cause improper form, so everything from yoga to running to weightlifting will be less effective. Finally, the body's immune system is affected, but not right away. Pulling an all-nighter probably won't be too bad, but night after night of not getting enough sleep will almost definitely increase your chances of getting sick.

In the end, like it or not, you need to devote at least eight hours each night to sleep. Something else will have to get cut if you want to be at peak performance throughout the entire day. The article suggests that a person should add 15 minutes every night to their sleep schedule until they can go a whole day without feeling tired. You just may be surprised at what you can accomplish when you're actually awake and not just going through the motions.


Technology: Protect More Than Just Your Employee's Health

Original post ubabenefits.com

As competition heats up in the job market, companies are always searching for that one great perk that might sway a potential candidate to choose them over anyone else. Whether it's health insurance, retirement, paid time off, or even wellness, there's something that's more in demand today than there was yesterday. Companies now have a new benefit they can more easily provide to their employees -- identity theft protection.

According to an article on the website of Employee Benefit News titled, "Regulatory Clarity Makes ID Protection A More Attractive Employee Benefit," identity theft is not only the fastest growing crime in America, but also the fastest growing consumer complaint. The article states that more than 13 million Americans have their identity stolen every year. That equates to one person every three seconds.
Offering this type of theft protection to employees was only given a passing glance by companies a few years ago and was unheard of more than a decade ago. Yet today, employees are signing up for this protection themselves and looking to employers to add it as one of their benefits.

Fortunately, the IRS tried to clear up any confusion regarding how employees would be taxed for this perk if offered by their employer. By doing so, it paved the way for companies to reconsider this benefit. Before the end of 2015, the IRS said it would allow preferential tax treatment for employer-provided identity theft benefits regardless of whether there was an actual breach in data. Previously, this was only available if there was a data breach and then only if an individual's personal information might have been affected.

According to the article, it's anticipated that identity theft protection will be one of the fastest growing voluntary benefits. In addition, identity theft is, regrettably, most likely here to stay so it behooves companies to get ahead of the curve and offer it to their employees before a competitor does. Besides the benefit to employees of protection in the event of identity theft and assistance in restoring their identity, it also benefits employers. This is because an employee will be able to concentrate more on his or her job instead of worrying how they're going to fix the problem or even take time off from work.

The good news for both employer and employee is that if identity theft protection is offered, it should not increase their federal tax liability. State and local taxes may still apply and there are other exclusions such as if cash is received in lieu of protection. Because of all the various implications all parties should consult with a tax professional before implementing these benefits.

Employee Relations: Whether Time or Money Is More Important To You Could Mean the Difference in Your Overall Happiness

Original post ubabenefits.com

This isn't a question of whether you would rather have more time or money, but which do you value most? In an example used from an article titled, "Valuing your time over money may be linked to happiness" on CNN's website, living in the city near work means less commuting time, but the cost of your home could be higher. Conversely, living in the suburbs may be cheaper, but it will take more time to get to work. Determining this preference is what University of British Columbia researchers tried to find in their study on happiness.

When pondering which you prefer, don't think of it in terms of a one-time thing such as flying on a commercial airline, where it is often both cheaper and faster than, say, driving. Think of it in terms of an either/or situation.

As you might expect, most people valued time over money, but what you might not expect is that, according to the study, prioritizing time is associated with greater happiness. In addition, if people in the study were older and retired or nearing retirement, then they said that time was more important than money, whereas younger people said the opposite.

This makes sense, right?  If you're older and getting ready to retire, then you've probably made enough money to retire and you want more time to pursue your endeavors. If you're young, you think you have all the time in the world, but probably not enough money to do what you want.

Interestingly, researchers discovered that both men and women valued time over money regardless of their income levels. The study, according to the article, focused on working adults who could make more money, or decide not to. In America, according to Gallup, adults working full-time average 47 hours per week - up an hour and a half from a decade ago. And Expedia.com reported that Americans take fewer vacation days versus their international counterparts.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. If you believe the old saying that money can't buy happiness, does that mean that time can buy happiness? Probably not, but depending on how you spend your time, it might.

A Harvard Business School professor said that people tend to be happier when spending money on experiences, such as a vacation, or simply dinner with friends, instead of on "things." Maybe it's because you're essentially buying time rather than a material possession.

Now that I've weighed which I'd prefer, I think I'll keep that a secret and just say that I'd rather have more of both.