Category Archives: employee communication

Views on Healthcare Reform

A new survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington breaks down views of the healthcare reform law based on the type of insurance the individuals have.

Interestingly, people with consumer-driven health plans and high-deductible health plans are more likely to think the new law will affect them, compared to those with traditional healthcare coverage.

Nearly one-half (46 percent) of those with CDHPs and about four in 10 (42 percent) of those with HDHPs expect a mostly negative impact from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, compared to 37 percent of traditional-plan enrollees.

Paul Fronstin, a senior research associate at EBRI, which is nonpartisan, says it could be party affiliations driving the difference. Those with CDHPs, he says, are more likely to be Republicans while those with traditional plans are Democrats.

But , regardless of plan type, many individuals expect their costs to increase under the PPACA: 59 percent of those with CDHPs, 50 percent of those on traditional plans and 41 percent of those with HDHPs.

A significant number also expect benefits to be cut: 41 percent of those with a CDHP, 39 percent of those with a HDHP and 30 percent of those with traditional plans. And about one-third of all the respondents expect a mostly negative impact on quality of care.

Some of the negative feelings may have to do with the fact that Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Savings Accounts no longer allow individuals to purchase over-the-counter drugs with those funds, Fronstin says. The law also increases the tax for using HSA monies for non-qualified purchases.

For HR, the takeaway is to focus on educating workers about the impact of health reform on their benefits, Fronstin says.

As the EBRI survey notes, fewer than 5 percent of the individuals surveyed — regardless of type of health insurance — say they are extremely knowledgeable about the law.

The study was based on an August 2010 online survey of 4,508 privately insured adults between the ages of 21 and 64.

About that 10 Percent Raise …

… Seems like it will go to all Googlers but one. The company has apparently fired the employee who leaked the information about the across-the-board 10 percent raise to employees.

David Shadovitz wrote about the raise on The Leader Board here, noting that “Don Delves, president of The Delves Group in Chicago, told me this is ‘one of those things Google does because it can.’ Others will look at it and be envious, he adds.

That envy will certainly be tempered by the technology giant’s decision to terminate an employee over disclosure of the information.

Survey Shows Workers Don’t Trust their DB Plans

The economy may be picking up some, but you wouldn’t know it from the latest Mercer Workplace Survey. Issued by Mercer’s outsourcing business, it found only 19 percent of participants with employer-sponsored defined-benefit plans are very confident that they will receive income from their pension plan in retirement. That figure is down from 24 percent in 2008.

Conversely, just under half of the participants are “somewhat confident” (35 percent) or “not at all confident” (11 percent) that they will receive some DB pension income. (The link in the paragraph above, by the way, explains the study a little and includes another link at the top right of the page to the complete and free PDF download).

Andrew Yerre, Mercer’s U.S. business leader, says the findings “should cause concern for any plan sponsor who offers a pension plan.”

“Clearly,” he says, the past two years of economic volatility have caused participants to become very anxious about all aspects of their retirement readiness, including pension benefits.”

Yerre says the anxiety points to a general lack of knowledge about these plans by employees. “As we know,” he says, “these types of plans can be expensive and complicated to offer and administer, and the fact that participants have such little confidence may point to a lack of understanding, trust and engagement.”

He says the findings “further suggest that DB-plan sponsors need to better educate participants around their entire retirement-plan offerings. “There is a real strategic opportunity,” he says, “for plan sponsors to not just promote the existence of DB plans, but to also highlight their long-term value as part of a total rewards and comprehensive retirement-planning program that could include a 401(k), IRA or other investments.”

Strange, for all the stories we’ve been writing in the last few years about employers implementing better and more focused communication strategies around their retirement offerings, I guess this survey suggests there are still a whole lot out there that aren’t quite there yet. Hey, no time like the present, considering the “win-win” piece to it all.

The Eternal Vacation

Better get ready for an end-of-Labor-Day-vacation “purging” of your workforce. According to a survey published in the Memphis Business Journal, 40 percent of U.S. professionals are thinking about quitting their jobs after their summer vacations.

The survey, provided by workplace supplier Regus, finds workers are tired of not being promoted, bosses that don’t share company goals and being overworked. “As workers pack up their swimsuits this summer, they are more likely to dwell on the pros and cons of the job that is waiting for them at home,” Sande Golgart, Regus’ regional vice president, is quoted as saying in the Business Journal story.

The piece also includes another recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing productivity dropped at an annual rate of 0.9 percent during the second quarter of 2010.

Drs. Brent D. Peterson and Gaylan Nielson, co-founders of The Work Itself Group based in Salt Lake City, say these stats point to the immense drain on the economy due to large numbers of employees doing 50 percent “fake work,” defined as having no alignment with business strategy.

In a study they did in conjunction with Franklin/Covey, they cite a recent Gallup poll showing the cost of disengaged workers is estimated at $300 billion per year. They also list findings that 70 percent of employees are unable to name a single department/company goal or strategy and 50 percent of work done at the workplace does not align with a company’s vision or goals.

Not the greatest fodder for a Labor Day pep rally.

Escape from the Job

You have to know most employees are retention risks when the antics of Jet Blue’s (former?) air flight attendant Steven Slater receive such acclaim.

While your employees probably won’t have Facebook fans numbering in the millions or see supporters creating a legal defense fund — hopefully, that won’t be necessary! — HR leaders would be foolish not to think that at least some of their workers are dreaming of leaving their jobs in similarly brazen fashion.

According to a recent HREOnline™ story, Top Performers Begin Their Flight, employers “need to know what their workers are thinking and what they want from their careers — and then align these with the direction of the business.”

So says Bram Lowsky of Right Management. That’s hardly rocket science, but airline companies, and probably most companies, seem to be unaware — or uncaring — that employees are fed up with work conditions.

With survey after survey showing that workers are fed up and just waiting for a chance to move on, the time is shrinking for HR executives to take the steps necessary to re-engage desired workers.

Raising comp is a common method, but  pay alone won’t be sufficient. In this HREOnline™ story, Tom McMullen of Hay Group advises HR leaders to focus on “their ‘total’ reward programs by offering clearer career paths, more meaningful work experiences, improved work climates, global mobility and targeted development in addition to increased monetary awards.”

Or watch employees jump ship — albeit not as dramatically as Slater!

Watchdogs or Snitches?

A new survey of nearly 3,000 doctors published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that 36 percent “do not feel obligated by professional commitment” to report impaired or incompetent colleagues to the proper authorities.

“It’s possible that there’s a real cultural issue here,” Catherine DesRoches, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor at the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Harvard Medical School, told the LA Times. “It’s a topic that might not have been addressed back when they were in medical school, so they do not know how to handle it.”

DesRoches also told the newspaper: “It’s concerning that there’s this somewhat large portion of physicians that don’t agree with the commitment to report when they have direct personal knowledge of a colleague that is in need. Since physicians themselves are the primary mechanism for detecting such colleagues, we must look to them to improve the situation.”

While the study only looks at doctors, one wonders how other specialized workforce segments that are involved in keeping the public safe and healthy — such as airline pilots, police officers, and firefighters, to name a few — handle that same situation when confronted with a colleague’s behavior that could very easily put someone in harm’s way.

Can Glassdoor Remain Objective?

Now here’s one worth watching., the career website that lets employees trash or praise employers anonymously (with more doing the former than the latter), has just opened its doors to employers to defend themselves, if you will.

Actually, companies don’t respond to specific complaints. Rather, they’re now invited to join a new program called Glassdoor Enhanced Employer Profiles that lets them post their company profiles on the site — in exchange for a $495 (and up)-per-month subscription.

Problem is — and the Wall Street Journal lays it all out pretty nicely in this recent story (subscription only)  — Glassdoor’s going to have to somehow prove to all its users and visitors that those advertising dollars aren’t swaying decisions to filter certain reviews, or affecting the site’s employer-rating system.

Hmmm … this could get a bit dicey. Welcome, Glassdoor, to a dilemma journalists and media holdings face every day: how to ensure and uphold their objectivity in reporting on industries and organizations at the same time they’re inviting many of those organizations to adverstise.

 It’s not easy, but that advertiser/customer (reader) line is one we here at HRE endeavor mightily to never cross. Can’t say every competitor does the same. But can say our readers seem to appreciate it, from what I hear in my travels and discussions with them.

Glassdoor has already decided to allow paying companies to have their uploaded “company photos appear first when a job seeker is scanning a Glassdoor profile for a company, requiring a bit more work for site visitors to see the unofficial photos posted by employees,” the WSJ story says. Glassdoor CEO Robert Hohman tells the paper he doesn’t believe the order of photos will matter much.

Hope, for his sake, he’s right.

Risks of the Recovery

Better times are coming. More people are looking for work. Wages are thawing out. Defined-contribution employer matches are returning.

But before your workforce rebuilding goes full bore, consider the landmines of the recovery, Matthew S. Effland, employment lawyer with Olgetree Deakins, told attendees at the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2010 conference.

Despite the name of his session, “And the Tide Rolls Back In — Legal Issues in Rebuilding Your Workforce Post-Recession,” Effland’s warnings were not confined to the law. He spoke a lot about “survivor anger” spreading through corporate America right now — among people who’ve been working on frozen wages, doing the jobs of laid-off former co-workers as well as their own, and feeling minimized by their companies’ efforts to infuse new blood into the organization by recruiting outsiders and paying them higher salaries than their own.

“Think about what you can do to make sure you’re taking care of the survivors,” said Effland. “Their disgruntlement can lead to litigation if you’re recruiting from outside to replace a position equal to theirs at a higher wage.”

Also be careful not to “give into the pressure” to selectively re-hire laid-off employees, those problem workers you were able to let go of in the name of hard times. Those who are not re-hired when others are, or who are told to reapply for the same position, “will feel some sense of entitlement, and may sue, and may have a case” if they fall under a protected class, he said.

“Avoid the shortcuts and the push for speed-hiring,” Effland said. “And make sure you fully document your hiring process. When you decide not to hire someone back, you better be able to justify it and explain it in a court of law.”

Experimental HR

Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies, a global IT services company headquartered in Noida, India, urged the SHRM audience to treat HR “as an experimental journey,” and to consider follow his example of treating the employee first, the customer second.

Management doesn’t create value, he said. It can only “induce, encourage [and] enable the creation of value by the employees.”

HR leaders, he said, should consider the leadership of Ghandi, MLK and Nelson Mandela. What they did, he said, was create dissatisfaction with today and develop a romance among their followers with tomorrow.

Autocracy doesn’t work, he said. Democratize the workplace. Managers need to be answerable to employees instead of just the other way around. And the result of treating employees first is that customers will be served better.

To create an environment conducive to change, however, requires trust. In his company, Nayar facilitated that trust by providing an environment of 100 percent total transparency. His 360-degree assessment is posted on the company intranet. If an employee asks him a question — and 99 percent of the questions are negative, he said — his answers are sent to all employees.  (The questioners must also reveal who they are.)

His $2.3 billion company continues to grow rapidly — without new services, new products, new locations. It’s due to placing trust in his employees.

“Transfer the problem to them. They create magic in the interface of customers and employees,” he said.

Healthcare Reform via Video

Charleston, S.C.-based Benefitfocus just announced at the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2010 conference a pretty straight and simple way for employees to understand how healthcare reform will affect them — without bugging their HR executives.

It’s called the Healthcare Reform Certification Program, but don’t let the name fool you. It’s more about education than certification — though visitors to the site can actually become “certified” by passing certain quizzes to test the knowledge they just acquired.

In a nutshell, the new offering is a simple collection of bare-bones information and a series of videos, professionally created in the company’s high-definition studio in Charleston, to guide everyone — including those under 30, who are still trying to get their arms around the benefits morass — through HDHCs, HMOs, PPOs, HSAs, FSAs, you name it.

The videos are designed to transform complex concepts into short, easy-to-understand sound bites. Each segment communicates a different provision of the law, using chalkboard animation to bring the legislation to life. Visitors can view the videos as many times as needed.

The Benefitfocus platform is a Software-as-a-Service model, available for a monthly fee to companies; the certification program is free, with no codes or customization work needed. “We’re calling this video-as-a-service,” says Jim Kelly, vice president of employer sales. “It basically answers the ‘What’s in it for me?’ question — ‘What does healthcare reform mean for me?’ We think it changes the game dramatically.”