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Why Millennials Are the Best Workers

It has become fashionable to trash Millennials. They lack a strong work ethic, have no grit, aren’t respectful or patient and definitely don’t understand corporate culture. The trashing fits with how people romanticize the 1950s as the golden age of American culture, when everything was just somehow better.

I don’t know whether Gen X is just irritated that they’re getting older or whether people are forming their opinions solely based on Buzzfeed, but I think the stereotype is wrong - dead wrong. In fact, I will go out on a limb and state that Millennials may actually be the best generation of workers we’ve ever seen.

And I say this having hired hundreds of new college grads – and seasoned professionals – over the past 20 years. Here’s why:

1. They’re too big for their britches.

Today’s young job seekers have grown up with a startup mentality. The value of embracing failure has been etched into their psyche by entrepreneurs and tech titans like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. So, unlike past generations, they are not necessarily looking for stability. They don’t dream of landing a job at GM or IBM. They approach positions with the understanding that they may have to put in 110% to succeed, even with the near certainty that their employer won’t be around five years from now.

Put that in contrast to the stigma of entitlement attached to Millennials. It’s true that many baby boomer parents have raised them with a perspective of possibility. They’ve been encouraged to follow their dreams and passions. And from watching Mark Zuckerberg or President Obama, they’ve learned first-hand that it’s not just dogma; anything really is possible.

So where some see entitlement, I see greater authenticity and audacity.

Millennials will shoot for the stars – and if they fall down, they’ll get right back up and try a different way.

2. They just don’t communicate the way you do.

If you’ve watched “Mad Men,” you’ve seen the fast-paced advertising world struggle to become more connected with innovations like… the speaker phone. Fast forward to today, where first-time job seekers not only understand and embrace collaborative technologies but don’t know anything different.

While many offices struggle to get their workforce to embrace services like Yammer or Basecamp, Millennials have been doing those things for years. They’ve been learning with social classroom tools and chatting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every waking hour. As a result, they actually conceive of communication in a one-to-many paradigm, which is a huge plus for companies that are spread out globally and interact primarily in a virtual environment.

3. They expect things to happen instantly.

I don’t know anyone over the age of 50 who doesn’t complain about how fast the world is moving these days. However, in the case of job performance, that’s a very very good thing. Think about it. Thirty years ago, everything took a lot more time. The data you needed to make critical business decisions was delivered weeks later by a mail truck. Someone had to physically be sitting in a predetermined location at the right time for you to call on the phone.

Our expectations for accomplishing tasks were, naturally, based on the resources and structures we had in place. Simply put, we moved much slower. And, God bless them, there are many professionals out there who still work the same way.

Not Millennial workers. With the pace of news, communication and responsiveness nearly instant, that’s how they approach work. They know nothing else. Plus, they have the necessary tools to support them. Give a Millennial employee a research assignment on your competitors, and you’ll get the project back in 24 hours. Twenty years ago, the same project might have taken a month. One piece of advice: Just make sure you attach a deadline to the assignment.

4. They expect too much.

Studies show that young job seekers today are passionate about how their jobs affect the world. In fact, they value job fulfillment over monetary reward. Many balk at the traditional model of doing charitable good only when you have reached a certain level of economic wealth or solely in your free time. They want to reach financial well-being and achieve social good simultaneously .

What does that mean for employers? I would hope it could open the doors to two things. First, we have the ability to retain skilled and valuable Millennial workers by creating environments where social impact is lauded. That will reduce employee turnover and save companies thousands of dollars each year in recruiting, hiring and lost productivity.

More important, Millennials are a driving force toward significant, scalable and lasting social change that will benefit everyone, whether it’s about the environment, socioeconomic diversity or just a healthier work-life balance. In case you’ve forgotten, the U.S. ranks the worst among all modern economies in vacation time and pay.

5. They think differently from you.

Millennials are the most diverse generation in U.S. history. Minorities, roughly a third of the U.S. population today, are expected to become the majority by 2042. So Millennials don’t just embrace diversity on the job; they expect it.

From race and religion to gender and sexuality, they’ve come of age with a greater comfort of multiplicity of all kinds. They’ve entered adulthood with an African-American president and been the catalyst for many states legalizing same-sex marriage. Female leaders like Hillary Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg have shaped their views on gender equality.

Imagine how that translates in the workplace. The payoffs touch every single area of a business by opening the doors to increased creativity, agility and productivity, new attitudes and language skills, a more global understanding, new solutions to difficult problems, stronger customer and community loyalty and improved employee recruitment and retention.

6. They are obsessed with technology.

Today even the industries that historically have been slow to innovate are finally adopting a web- and mobile-first philosophy. Century-old brick-and-mortar stores are fighting to keep Amazon at bay; healthcare finds itself transformed by the Affordable Care Act. Job seekers with coding and programming skills from Java to Ruby to SQL are desperately needed at all types of companies right now. Big data analytics, video game design, app development, software architecture – the list goes on and on for highly sought Millennial workers with tech expertise. But the issue isn’t just about the hard skills they bring.

If you’ve spent any time with a child lately, you’ve probably noticed that they can master an iPad within minutes. It’s mind-blowing – and a little frightening – to imagine how future generations of consumers will interact with technology.

Millennial workers are the bridge to that future, through social media, mobile, the cloud and other real-time technologies that haven’t even been invented yet. They are graduating with both academic skills and innate behavioral skills that companies will need to engage with customers in much more meaningful (and profitable) ways.

It’s the way Millennials think about technology, and their relationship with it, that is changing everything. So, having Millennial employees on staff to advise on your customer relations strategy or spearhead innovative new mobile and social media programs is invaluable for any business of any size, place or industry.

Will Rubio’s Measure Undermine ACA?

Republicans stated goal is to “repeal and replace” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That hasn’t happened and won’t at least through the remainder of President Barack Obama’s term. So a secondary line of attack is to undermine the ACA. And Sen. Marco Rubio has had success in that regard.

As reported by The Hill, Sen. Rubio accomplished this feat by weakening the ACA’s risk corridors program. Whether this is a long- or short-term victory is being determined in Washington now. We’ll know the answer by Dec. 11.

President Obama and Congress recognized that, given the massive changes to the market imposed by the ACA, health plans would have difficulty accurately setting premiums. Without some protection against under-pricing risk, carriers’ inclinations would be to price conservatively. The result would be higher than necessary premiums.

To ease the transition to the new world of healthcare reform, the ACA included three major market stabilization programs. One of them, the risk corridors program, as described by the Kaiser Family Foundation, “limits losses and gains beyond an allowable range.” Carriers experiencing claims less than 97% of a targeted amount pay into a fund; health plans with claims greater than 103% of that target receive funds.

The risk corridor began in 2014 and expires in 2016. As drafted, if payments into the fund by profitable insurers were insufficient to cover what was owed unprofitable carriers the Department of Health and Human Services could draw from other accounts to make up the difference.

Sen. Rubio doesn’t like risk corridors. He considers them “taxpayer-funded bailouts of insurance companies at the Obama administration’s sole discretion.” In 2014, he managed to insert a policy rider into a critical budget bill preventing HHS from transferring money from other accounts into the risk corridors program.

The impact of this rider has been profound.

In October, HHS announced a major problem with the risk corridors program: Insurers had submitted $2.87 billion in risk corridor claims for 2014, but the fund had taken in only $362 million. As a result, payments for 2014 losses would amount to just 12.6 cents on the dollar.

This risk corridor shortage is a major reason so many of the health co-ops established under the ACA have failed and may be a factor in United Health Group’s decision to consider withdrawing from the law’s health insurance exchanges. (United Health was not owed any reimbursement from the fund but likely would feel more confident if the subsidies were available).

The Obama administration certainly sees this situation as undermining the Affordable Care Act. In announcing the shortage, HHS promised to make carriers whole by, if possible, paying 2014 subsidies out of payments received in 2015 and 2016. However, the ability to do so is “subject to the availability of appropriations.” Which means Congress must cooperate.

That brings us back to Sen. Rubio’s policy rider. It needs to be part of the budget measure Congress must pass by Dec. 11 to avoid a government shutdown. If the policy rider is not included in that legislation, HHS is free to transfer money into the risk corridor program fund from other sources.

Sen. Rubio and other Republicans are pushing hard to ensure HHS can’t rescue the risk corridors program, claiming to have already saved the public $2.5 billion from a “crony capitalist bailout program.” Democrats and some insurers, seeing what’s occurred as promises broken, are working just as hard to have the rider removed.

By Dec. 11, we’ll know whether the ACA is further undermined or bolstered.

Geopolitical Goals for Healthcare Hacking?

Did China orchestrate the massive hack of Anthem, the nation’s No. 2 healthcare insurer, to steal intellectual property it needs to jump start a domestic healthcare system?

That’s one scenario being discussed by the security community and would fit the pattern of not just China, but other nations, stepping up cyber attacks to pursue geo-political goals.

CrowdStrike’s 2014 Global Threat Report details how China remains by far the most active nation conducting cyber espionage campaigns. Hot on China’s heels, in terms of executing concerted hacks for nationalistic gain, are Russia, Iran and North Korea, the nation President Obama blamed for the Sony Pictures hack.

“China is a giant vacuum cleaner for intelligence,” Adam Meyers, CrowdStrike’s vice president of intelligence, tells ThirdCertainty. “They’re targeting dozens and dozens of organizations, going after intellectual property and trade secrets.”

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One particularly active Chinese hacking collective, dubbed Hurricane Panda, specializes in cracking the networks of Internet services, engineering and aerospace firms. Hurricane Panda uses “an arsenal of exploits” and has pioneered ways to slip into a network, then stealthily escalate privileges to roam deeper.

While some of the data stolen by nation state-backed hackers most likely gets sold for profit, these attackers exist primarily to pursue strategic goals — in China’s case to accelerate the development of domestic infrastructure to serve its massive population, which is rapidly becoming more Westernized.

CrowdStrike’s threat report follows news pointing to Chinese hackers, referred to as Deep Panda, as the culprits behind stealing healthcare personal information for 80 million Anthem plan members and employees.

CrowdStrike is not directly involved in the Anthem investigation. That said, Myers tells ThirdCertainty that his firm has monitored Deep Panda targeting other healthcare organizations in the past.

China is dealing with a rising middle class for the first time in its history, he says. Smoking, drinking and poor eating habits are on the rise, with associated medical conditions sure to follow that are all too familiar in the West.

“They are dealing with diabetes, heart conditions and cancers at a large scale for the first time,” Meyers said. Rather than import healthcare services, China prefers to rapidly build a homegrown system and appears to be willing to steal intellectual property to do so.

“They want to be able serve their own domestic market for heart splints, diagnostic equipment and the like,” Meyers says. Hacking healthcare organizations could give China “the ability to leapfrog the design, test and build phases.”

New attack model

While China may run the most focused cyber spying operation, smaller nations, like Iran and North Korea, are discovering how cyber attacks can tilt the balance in geo-political disputes against a much more powerful adversary, namely the U.S.

In response to economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. to stem Iran’s development of nuclear capability, Iran-backed hacking groups heavily targeted the financial sector in 2013, and in 2014 turned their focus to U.S. aerospace, defense and energy targets, CrowdStrike reports.

And North Korea appears to have derived a model that could stir smaller nations to develop cyber attack strategies to gain political leverage on the global stage. The Sony Pictures hack embarrassed a Fortune 100 company and compelled President Obama to chastise North Korea.

Cyber attacks have become a kind of twisted diplomacy. “It’s a viable way to coerce an adversary into doing something,” Meyers says. “I think we’re going to see this practice continue.”

Wellness: An Industry Conceived in Lies, Retractions and Hypocrisy

Wellness has failed.  Get used to it. 

Understanding why wellness has failed requires a brief history lesson of the wellness provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The wellness provision was based on the success story at Safeway and a seminal article in Health Affairs — both of which turn out to be made up. 

To begin this series on the failure of wellness programs, let’s look at Safeway, which is so central to the ACA wellness provision that the provision is sometimes called the Safeway Amendment. The Safeway CEO, Steven Burd, claimed to have reduced healthcare spending by 40% using a wellness program. He wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, testified before Congress and became friends with President Obama even as Sen. John McCain also cited Safeway as a role model. The slight problem with all of this: Safeway’s claim was absolutely, unequivocally, made up.

A front-page article in the Washington Post pointed out that the wellness program didn’t even exist at the time Safeway’s healthcare costs fell. Instead, the decline in corporate spending was because of the implementation of a high-deductible plan, shifting cost to employees. (Curiously, once Safeway actually did implement a wellness program, its health spending rose faster than average. This was probably a coincidence because, even today, only a small fraction of Safeway’s workplace participates in the program. 

Next came the seminal article in the prestigious journal Health Affairs, written by equally prestigious Harvard economists Katherine Baicker and David Cutler. The article was titled, “Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings.” Not “could possibly generate savings” or “may generate savings on a good day,” but “can generate savings.” These economists reviewed all the published evidence and reported quite a definitive “3.27-to-1” return on investment from wellness.

This article is easily invalidated on two points. First, the overriding rule of a study is that it must be replicable. This article was published four years ago and has yet to be replicated. Quite the opposite: Every subsequent article in Health Affairs has shown that even with the most generous assumptions imaginable, like leaving many elements of cost out of the ROI calculation, wellness doesn’t save money

Second, in July, lead author Baicker had enough sense to walk back the article’s conclusion, saying on NPR’s Marketplace that “it’s too early to tell” if there are savings. She also said that employers need to “experiment” to “see what happens with weight and blood pressure.”

Besides the retraction, two other things about this interview invalidate wellness:

  1. Biostatistics 101 states that the smaller the effect, the larger the population needed to show it. To admit after decades of wellness programs involving millions of people that “it’s too early to tell” means that whatever effect there is (if any) would be very subtle, so subtle that it couldn’t possibly merit an entire industry and significant workplace disruption to achieve it.
  2. Except at the extremes, for which a companywide wellness program isn’t needed, “weight and blood pressure” have almost no effect on corporate healthcare spending. Corporate spending on overweight people, during their working years, may be greater than for thinner people (the evidence is mixed), but there is no evidence that weight loss across an employee population can be maintained, and the reverse is usually true—most people who lose weight regain it. Controlling blood pressure is far more likely to increase corporate spending than reduce it. Rates of stroke in the working-age population are disappearingly low to begin with, and the cost of a stroke is far lower than the cost of controlling the blood pressure of 1,000 employees to prevent one. (Some companies will say they are “medicalizing their workplaces” for humanitarian reasons and not to save money, which is laudable…though, as subsequent installments in this series will show, misguided. In any event, the article was about saving money.)

Along with Safeway’s lie and Baicker’s retraction comes the Business Roundtable’s hypocrisy. The Business Roundtable was and is the major lobbying force in favor of wellness. Claiming they want to “help people” and “foster a culture of health” for “employees and their families” while opposing ACA and the minimum-wage increase is not even the hypocrisy here. The hypocrisy is that the head of the Business Roundtable’s health committee, Gary Loveman, is also the CEO of Caesars Entertainment. In that “day job” running a chain of casinos, he poisons more employees with second-hand smoke than any other CEO in the U.S.

Perhaps he feels that health hazard is more than offset by the meaningless seven-point reduction in blood pressure that he says wellness has achieved for the small segment of active participants committed enough to stay with the program. (He didn’t measure the dropouts and non-participants, whose results may not have supported his narrative.) A skeptic might therefore conclude that Business Roundtable CEOs support wellness only because it provides an excuse to dock some workers 30% of their health premium, and pocket it themselves.

To wrap up Part One, the entire premise of employers “playing doctor” by medicalizing their workplaces is invalid. It is no wonder, then, that the science and outcomes are made up, as well – those are topics for future installments. However, if you stay with this series (or cut to the chase and read the book), you’ll find that there are solutions, and those solutions incorporate everything that wellness doesn’t – science, morale and cost-effectiveness – while emphasizing the role of the broker and consultant in designing the benefit.