Tag Archives: hr

Keys to Finding and Nurturing Talent

There’s keen focus in the insurance industry about overhauling obsolete IT infrastructure to support innovation, along with the resulting costs and benefits. Yet few people talk about the benefits of top industry talent in the same quantified manner. For innovation to truly scale, the industry needs to be able to attract and retain the best talent. With the proliferation of the Insurance Careers Movement, we’ve seen insurers take important steps in trying to attract new talent to the industry, but struggle to put that talent on a path to succeed long-term.

With the insurance industry’s unemployment rate down to just 2%, finding the right people to fill newer technology-driven roles, particularly those in data analytics or advanced AI, is proving to be increasingly challenging. According to an independent study conducted by Insurity Valen Analytics, 73% of insurers find it moderately to extremely difficult to find new talent in data and analytics, and the reasons for this difficulty haven’t changed much over the years. Two recurring reasons include a disinterest in insurance careers and more enticing opportunities in other tech startups or data-driven companies. The top reason has consistently been difficulty finding talent in the geographic area of the insurer.

Even when insurers manage to capture elusive tech talent, the total turnover in insurance is 12%. Turnover is expensive for employers and speaks to the inadequacies in employers’ strategies for identifying, acquiring and grooming new talent.

Let’s explore some best practices for employers in the insurance space to find and retain the best talent.

Engaging in the Early Career

With 25% of the workforce in the industry set to retire in the next few years, the U.S. insurance industry is in dire need of a new and reliable talent pool equipped with advanced technological skills. But it’s also not just about backfilling roles left open by retirees. A combination of diverse skill-sets and out-of-the-box thinking is key to fostering an environment of innovation, while combating this talent shortage. Millennials are perfectly suited to offer both but generally haven’t shown much interest in insurance industry employment. According to Pew Research Center, only 4% of millennials show interest in an insurance career.

It is also estimated that, early in their careers, people remain in their jobs for just 12 to 18 months on average—a trend that has proven true from one generation to the next. So how do insurers turn new hires into tenured employees?

See also: How to Scout and Draw the Best Talent  

It is critical to find ways to resonate with younger talent by understanding the issues important to this generation. Today’s job seekers want positions that align with their values and offer viable, meaningful career development opportunities. They seek flexibility in the work schedule and location, which works to the insurer’s benefit when they are unable to find talent locally. Other critical elements to engaging with younger workers are pay parity, diversity and inclusion. In 2018, women earned 85% of what men earned in the U.S. While the gender pay gap is closing, there’s still much room for progress, and, as an industry, insurance can lead the change.

By emulating tech companies and constantly encouraging new thinking to foster an innovation culture, insurers have the opportunity to appeal to high-level talent.

Mapping Out a Career Path

“Career pathing” is an integral part of talent management. One of the primary reasons people leave jobs is to advance their careers. The key to attracting and retaining top talent is giving prospective hires not just what they ask for, but what they haven’t thought about yet. This includes carving out possible career paths for them, complete with road maps of employees’ career goals, performance metrics and training needs. When people feel like their employers are invested in their personal futures, they tend to stay where they are, longer.

The importance of this concept is amplified in an industry where finding the right talent is challenging. A career pathing strategy keeps the existing talent pool engaged and makes the company more attractive to those looking for their next career move.

A company that walks the walk of innovation is one that always encourages learning and development, but this can also be done strategically to equip existing employees with skill sets that are in high demand. For example, five key areas have a rising need for new talent within insurance: sales, underwriting, customer services/admin, technology and claims. Employers should consider investing in training opportunities to groom existing talent to learn these in-demand skills.

Managing the Management

Fostering a positive and engaging work culture is important in motivating and retaining employees. It is vital that employees are able to communicate and collaborate with their colleagues and immediate managers or supervisors. Oftentimes, it’s a manager’s inability to make co-workers feel supported that can lead employees to seek or be vulnerable to other opportunities.

See also: 10 Essential Talents to Leverage Insurtech  

Offering congratulations on a job done well or keeping the team apprised of coming plans and projects can make a huge difference. Employees should benefit from the leadership of their managers and receive the training and resources needed to excel at their jobs.

It is just as important to equip the managers with the right tools to engage with and motivate both the new and existing team members.
The insurance industry has the opportunity to define how technology and evolving economies will define their business strategies. This creates a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for next-generation talent who want to make a difference, and sending this message front and center in their hiring narratives can go a long way.

Top Challenge for HR Teams in 2018

We all have that colleague who overuses buzz words and phrases such as: “synergy,” “deep dive” and “low-hanging fruit.” Yet, every now and again, a buzz word arises that actually affects your business.

In 2018, that word is going to be “agile,” and human resource teams will be responsible for making it a reality across the organization. Business agility is the ability to adapt and respond rapidly to changes in the environment while sustaining success. Depending on the size and stage of your organization, agility may require bold internal policy transformations, a new approach to hiring or paradigm shifts in company culture.

Agile isn’t new, so why will it creep up the challenges list in 2018?

With questions swirling around whether the economy can sustain its momentum, uncertainty has again set in. Organizations with the ability to quickly adapt to changing business and economic conditions, companywide and HR-focused objectives – particularly those focused on driving growth – won’t have to be compromised. Yet nearly 700 executives reported having little confidence in their companies’ ability to quickly mobilize in response to market shifts. More than 50% of those surveyed did not believe that their culture was adaptive enough to respond.

See also: The Human Resources View Of Health Care Benefits Needs To Change 

To solve this quandary, CEOs are turning to HR leaders. CEOs are providing a mandate to create a workforce and cultivate a culture that is agile and nimble enough to capitalize on new opportunities and overcome deep-rooted organizational challenges.

At Peak Sales Recruiting, we work with HR leaders from some of the most innovative and disruptive companies. Based on their collective experiences and the latest studies, we have compiled three ways human resource and talent acquisition teams can harness the power of agility to drive organizational performance in 2018:

1. Learn from Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible:” In the popular movie franchise, Cruise leads IMF, a self-managed team that operates outside of government bureaucracy to save the U.S. from evil. In the real world, many leading companies such as Microsoft, Spotify and Airbnb have employed similar strategies. For example, “Scaling Agile @ Spotify” formed cross-departmental teams that functioned like a startup, with Spotify as the incubator. The teams – Tribes and Guilds – had delegated decision-making autonomy on key service and product development initiatives. Their work has been so important that they’ve helped the company keep giants like Apple from stealing market share in a growth segment.

Bain research studied 300 large corporations worldwide and found that the top quartile’s key to success was that they spent 50% less time on unnecessary and ineffective collaboration. That is why small, talented teams that work outside of traditional hierarchical management systems can solve mission-critical issues, faster. To be more agile in 2018, HR departments must work closely with C-suite executives on empowering middle and front-line leaders to build nimble, cross-functional teams.

2. Transform internally at scale: A Korn Ferry Institute study found that increasing investment in aligning HR practices with business objectives resulted in a 7.5% decrease in employee turnover and, on a per-employee basis, $27,044 more in sales, $18,641 more in market value and $3,814 more in profit. But in tech, HR departments have traditionally struggled to be aligned with rapid go-to-market plays and shorter product-development cycles. Workforce policy development, talent acquisition tactics and competency and performance review initiatives weren’t in sync with the changing pace of business. Using agility as its foundation, one company approached the problem differently.

McKinsey recently released a case study called ING’s Agile Transformation. Recognizing the importance of agility at scale, ING made 3,500 employees re-interview for their jobs. Remarkably, 40% of them ended up in new positions within the company or were let go. In many cases, the change was not because of an employee’s skill set. The issue was whether employees could embrace the constant state of change that financial service and fintech organizations need to remain competitive. ING’s HR department led an unprecedented overhaul of their organization, and this experience can be replicated across organizations in 2018.

3. Hire change agents with a versatile skill set: The phrase, “We have always done it this way,” is the kryptonite to success. Economic volatility and advances in technology, in certain cases, render last year’s business plan obsolete. While it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel every time, HR departments must evolve their competency models to hire people possessing change agent traits and experiences. Steve Jobs famously said that, if you want to hire change agents, hire pirates. He wanted employees who would challenge the status quo and were flexible, diverse, passionate and results-oriented. If HR departments do not bring in fresh people and ideas, the company will fail to improve in 2018.

See also: Hacking the Human: Social Engineering

Due to rapid changes in technology and the global economy, business agility will be a key differentiator between company failure and success. Being agile while maintaining company values and processes is a tightrope that CEOs are asking human resource professionals to figure out. Never has a buzz word meant so much.

New Approach to Mental Health

In recent years, thought leaders in business, government and risk management have developed a sophisticated understanding of the bottom-line impacts of untreated mental illness in the workplace. For example, mental health and brain science dominated the agenda at the Davos World Economic Forum in 2015. And the National Business Group on Health held its first CEO Mental Health Summit in October 2015. Among the costs highlighted in these forums: worker productivity loss, high healthcare utilization rates, skyrocketing disability outlays and employment litigation.

To further advance mental wellness in the workplace, it’s essential for legal and human resources to be part of this collective effort. Here, we explore this disparity in approaches, and discuss why it is so harmful to the interests of all – employers, insurers, employees and their families.

See also: Language and Mental Health

What most thought leaders know about workplace mental health, in a nutshell, is this:

  1. Mental illness is common and treatable, with a 25% incidence rate and an 80% recovery rate, akin to chronic physical illnesses;
  2. Early detection and treatment are the most effective and inexpensive means of helping employees get well and return to full productivity quickly; and
  3. If an employee takes a leave of absence, the longer the absence, the less likely the employee is to return to work.

Thus, the organizational strategic imperative is to create workplace conditions designed to enhance early detection and treatment, restoring the status quo as efficiently as possible.

In stark contrast to this organizational imperative, legal and human resources professionals often advise supervisors, managers and EAP professionals to treat potential emotional and mental health issues exclusively as a performance matter. This advice is usually driven by a desire to “avoid an ADA claim.” However, this approach usually postpones the inevitable and makes a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act more, not less, likely.

The result is often this pattern: a continuing decline in the employee’s condition and work performance, a severing of trust between employee and supervisor and isolation from others at work. Once a disciplinary action or performance improvement plan is imposed, both parties cut ties, and the result is a toxic cycle of leave of absence, disability claim, a request for accommodation, a failed interactive process, separation of employment and either litigation or a pay package. This is an expensive, disruptive and painful process that can often be avoided.

Employers would do well to consider this as an alternative approach:

Design a mental health policy that will unify executive leadership, legal counsel and human resources around the organization’s strategic approach to overall wellness.

  • This policy defines the vision, and the business case, for improving the mental health of the workforce and using the ADA interactive process as an effective means of achieving early detection and treatment of these impairments.
  • Training for supervisors, managers, legal counsel, HR, EAP staff and healthcare providers will highlight: A timely and collaborative exchange of information and interactive process maximizes success; the ADA does not require a fundamental alteration of any job; work teams and supervisors need to partner with HR on making accommodations work.
  • The policy will establish a confidential process for employees to obtain affordable, accessible treatment (either through existing vendors or through curated referrals).
  • Developing and implementing the mental health policy can stimulate and engage your organization in a discussion of the high incidence of emotional and mental health impairments and how these common, treatable conditions can be accommodated.
  • Mental Health 101 Training should be integrated into total wellness programs, including how to mitigate and address stressors in the workplace, how to respond to a colleague or supervisee who may be struggling and how to seek help confidentially.
  • Mental health champions should be designated, trained and made available as confidential resources to anyone at any point in the chain of command dealing with a mental health issue.

When executive leadership, legal counsel and human resources unify behind a strategic, business-savvy approach grounded in total wellness and ADA compliance, everybody wins.

See also: Why Mental Health Matters in Work Comp  

Insurance Thought Leadership’s continuing series of articles focused on suicide prevention is written by the Workplace Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, the public-private partnership championing suicide prevention as a national priority.

‘Alexa, What Is My Deductible?’

When it comes to adoption of technology, simple is most often better than complex. Steve Jobs and Apple went to great lengths to make their products simple. Without user adoption, products fail. Current technology trends continue the move toward simplicity with the advent of artificial intelligence and personal assistant tools like Amazon’s Echo and the Google Home. Before you know it, these tools will enter the benefits world. The question is, who is going to be first and best? And if I am a benefits broker, how does this affect my business?

While many brokers are aware of the vendors that call on them or have booths at industry conferences, I believe the benefits technology race is going to heat up, with new competition entering the market. These new competitors see the market opportunity to automate large segments of our economy, including health insurance and healthcare. You may have heard of some of these companies, like Microsoft, Google, Salesforce.com and Apple. This would be in addition to current leaders such as ADP and Paychex. The stakes of the game will change, and the price of entry, from an investment standpoint, is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Those with the capital will quickly outpace those with less capital.

Don’t be surprised when you start to see major mergers and acquisitions in the HR and benefits space. Could Microsoft buy Ultimate Software? Why not? Microsoft already purchased LinkedIn and recently hinted at getting deeper into the HR space.

See also: Could Alexa Testify Against You?  

When I look at products like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, I see products that have very quickly grabbed market share, with high rates of adoption. My wife, who is not an early adopter of technology, quickly became a user of Google Home. Why? Because it is easy. Would she have a better understanding of her health insurance if she could simply ask Google? Absolutely!

Benefits technology, on the other hand, has not had broad adoption by employees. Yes, employers have bought systems or brokers have given them away, but when you look at utilization on the employee side it is abysmal. I believe the reason for this is because there is not enough value as a stand-alone solution to generate broad adoption. Keep in mind that the majority of people hardly use their healthcare in a given year, so there is little need to access such a system. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly remember the login to my computer, never mind something I may not use for six months.

The next generation of technology in the HR and benefits area is going to have broader and “everyday” value, while being much easier to use. Market-leading vendors, especially those with a great deal of capital, will invest in the latest technologies to try to win the technology race and gain more customers. And before you know it, you will be saying the following:

“Alexa, is Dr. John Smith from Boston in the Blue Cross network?”

“Ok, Google, request Friday off from work.”

“Hey, Siri, how much does the average office visit cost?”

“Alexa, what is the balance of my 401k?”

“Ok, Google, transfer $500 from my savings to checking.”

The advancement of technology and artificial intelligence has enabled many to have more personalized user experiences. Your Amazon Echo will “get to know you.” Maybe in the near future your doctor will get to know you a little better, too.

Many benefits brokers have chosen some technology vendor with a mission of putting as many clients on the system as possible. This is a risky position competitively as more advanced solutions from highly capitalized companies come along. I don’t know many sales people or business owners in any industry who like running around with the eighth best product. Even more so when it is not necessary. The market and your customers do not care if you have invested thousands of dollars on some technology that may quickly fall out of favor.

One should take the advice of Jack Welch, ex- CEO of General Electric, who once said,

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”

For those who have purchased the Amazon Echo or Google Home, you don’t have to look far to see that the outside world is changing faster than the inside. The health insurance and healthcare industries often feel like they are moving at a snail’s pace. Private exchanges were lauded as change, when they really are a reincarnation of cafeteria plans from the ’80s.

See also: Why 2017 Is the Year of the Bot  

With the Trump administration, changes in health insurance legislation may create a shift that empowers the consumer. The industry may need an army of people on the front lines to help the industry move to a whole new paradigm. The vendors will need help and the employers, and employees will need it, too. The technology is there. Alexa is ready. Are you?

Healthcare: When a Win-Win Is Lose-Lose

“Workplace Wellness Programs Are a Sham“ is a good article in Slate by L.V. Anderson. This is a must read for people who remain true believers that workplace wellness will improve worker health.

“The idea behind wellness programs sounds like a win-win,” Anderson writes. Alas, history is full of “win-win” ideas that were destructive, costly or ineffective.

She describes the infamous “doublespeak” of Safeway CEO Stephen Burd’s description of success with Safeway’s wellness program. Anderson writes, “As it turns out, almost none of Burd’s story was true.” (Regular readers of my blog will know I’ve written about the Safeway nonsense before.)

For decades, everyone knew that an annual physical was a great way to stay healthy, but various studies, including the famous New England Centenarian Study, have exposed that as a myth, too.

See also: A Proposed Code of Conduct on Wellness  

Antibacterial soap, anyone? Sounded like a great win-win, no? The FDA finally outlawed it. In my book, An Illustrated Guide to Personal Health, written in 2015 with UNLV Professor Robert Woods, Chapter 4 was titled, “Avoid Antibacterial Soaps and Gels.” Why? “Overuse of antibacterial soaps and gels can reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics you may need someday…. They are helping create antibiotic-resistant germs.”

Back to wellness failures. Companies in the U.S. have spent huge dollars trying to keep employees healthy through methods that are shams. It’s time to move on.

I immodestly include the following quote from Anderson’s article: “You might think of Al Lewis, Vik Khanna and Tom Emerick as the Three Musketeers in the fight against wellness programs.“* Al and I are co-authors of the Amazon best seller, Cracking Health Costs. It describes flaws in typical corporate wellness schemes, which while profitable to wellness vendors are useless at best and can actually be harmful to workers health at worst, not to mention the inconvenience and costs of going to doctors for all that screening. Concerns about wasted productivity, anyone?

How can wellness programs harm worker health? One way is by promoting gross over-testing and excessive screening by tools that have very high error rates and rates of false positives, e.g., PSA screens.

One good byproduct of dumping your wellness program is to avoid all the costly and burdensome reporting ACA requires. Yet another good byproduct is letting your employees do their work at work instead of spending non-productive time every year in wellness lectures, filling out health risk assessments, reading wellness-related emails and brochures, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

How can “wellnessophiles” in companies truly believe that their employees don’t already know that smoking, overeating, lack of exercise and excessive consumption of concentrated sugars are not good for them? Do wellness proponents truly believe that the employees’ doctors haven’t already addressed those issues…not to mention public service announcements, health classes in high school and so on? Do proponents think their employees who smoke have never noticed warning labels on cigarette packs?

I meet a lot of people from various walks of life. Occasionally, I ask them if their employer has a wellness program and, if so, what do they think about it. The typical first reaction is they roll their eyes. The most common comment is that the company’s wellness program is “just another [insert unflattering adjective here] HR program.” That’s usually followed by comments best described as lampooning the programs, as in “you’re not gonna believe this but…” type of comments.

Interestingly, I meet HR executives who admit their wellness program are ineffective and costly, yet they cling to them. They usually give one of two reasons. One is that they don’t want to admit that their program is a big waste of money. Another common rational is some version of “Too many of our employees are unhealthy; we gotta do something.” (I put that in roughly the same category as, “the beatings will continue until morale improves.”) That line of thinking is bureaucracy at its worst. You would never spend your own money that way…or maybe they would?  Hmm.

I get asked, if not wellness then what? My reply is anything that might actually save money or get better care for your workers, e.g., centers of excellence and direct contracting with providers. There is some promising work on reference-based pricing and better pharmacy management. Also, I believe we may have a surge of international medical travel in the future, too, especially to places like Health City Cayman Island (HCCI), about an hour’s flight from Miami and one of the best-quality hospitals and clinics in this hemisphere. I have visited HCCI a number of times and met a number of their surgeons. They are excellent.

See also: EEOC Caves on Wellness Programs  

I tried various forms of wellness in my career of running large sell-insured plans. I tried to make them work, but in the end none of them were effective, and some actually drove up health costs in a way a steely-eyed CFO would quickly understand. For about half my career, I reported through the CFO chain, not HR. CFOs really get the numbers and ask the tough ROI questions.

HR executives, take note: You can increase your status and respect if you just get out of wellness. Again, it’s time to move on. While wellness at work was a noble notion and one that made sense to many on the surface, it’s time to “fess” up to your bosses. They will appreciate your message and appreciate the reduction of wasteful spending.

Tom Emerick’s latest book is An Illustrated Guide to Personal HealthFor further information on this topic, see the They Said What blog by Al Lewis and Vik Khanna.