Tag Archives: jack welch

‘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?

4 Things a Leader Must Do in a Crisis

Ray Rice hit his fiancé in an elevator. The video is shocking, and the response by the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell has been infuriating to many. How this will all play out, no one knows at this point. It feels as if we are only in Act One.

As a leader, you will almost certainly face at least one crisis during your career. In business, “stuff rolls uphill.” Knowing how to effectively handle a crisis may mean the difference between survival and devastation. The keys are:

  • be truthful
  • be pessimistic
  • be definitive

In one of my previous companies, we created and ran a program for future Fortune 500 CEOs. Our faculty consisted of the most respected chief executives of a generation: Anne Mulcahy, A.G. Lafley, Jim Kilts, Carlos Gutiérrez, Jack Welch and more than two dozen others. One topic that would consistently come up in discussion was what should a senior leader do when confronted with a crisis. While their individual approaches were as personal as their leadership styles, here are four things that top CEOs stressed any leader should do in a crisis.

1. Get the facts. Quick. Ask your direct reports to get every detail of the facts out on the table. Then ask again. During a crisis, those who work for you at all levels of the organization will be reticent to bring you more bad news. But finding out later will often lead to a far worse outcome. Be relentless in your pursuit of what really happened. The good, the bad and the ugly.

2. Come clean with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You must act as though all of the facts you have now discovered will eventually be public — and they almost always will be. Isolated crises turn into full-blown organizational meltdowns not typically from the initial act, but from the response to those acts. Heed the lessons of Nixon and Clinton. It’s the cover-up that leads to impeachment.

3. Estimate the broadest possible fallout from the crisis. Then triple it. I remember a specific discussion with Welch and a small group of CEOs about this topic. Jack said that, in nearly every single public crisis he was confronted with in a five-decade career, the final damage was far worse than anyone had estimated at the onset. By being aggressively pessimistic about the outcome from the beginning, he found his leadership teams were much better prepared to deal with the ultimate reality of the situation.

4. Realize that someone big is going to fall. “I wasn’t aware of it!” “It was the act of a rogue employee.” As a leader, it is impossible to keep your eye on everything. You can’t control the actions of everyone you lead. So, when a crisis occurs, it is tempting to rationalize that it wasn’t your fault. How can you or senior people on your team reasonably be blamed? But, in the end, the organization and the public will demand definitive action, and someone senior will ultimately take the hit, including potentially you. The more you resist, the angrier the villagers will get, and the more heads they will go after. Make the difficult decisions earlier than later, or your options will quickly turn from bad to worse.

Here’s hoping you navigate your entire career without ever having to face a crisis. But the odds are against you. Be prepared to act truthfully and decisively, and you may just make your way through the storm.

Am I Good Enough?

Interesting question, right? Actually, it’s probably the most asked question by top performers. Further, it’s a question a lot more managers should be asking themselves. It’s the kind of attitude that works well in any competitive environment — sports, business or the game of life itself. The heart of the issue is really not am I good enough, but have I done all I can do to be as good as I can be?We have just come through some of the toughest economic times most of us have ever experienced. And we know we are not all the way through them yet. Many of my business colleagues are still trying to decide what strategic approach to apply to 2011. So, I am offering up here some thoughts on one very strategic move for 2011 — keep getting better.

There are some stimulating thoughts to consider for our strategic thinking along this line that appear in an article in the current Harvard Business Review — “Are you a Good Boss or a Great One?” The authors point out that most managers stop working on themselves at some point in their career. They seldom ask themselves, “How good am I?” or “What do I need to do better?” unless they are shocked into it. When did you last ask those questions? It seems it does not occur to most managers to ask that question. I strongly urge my colleagues to take charge of this incredibly important responsibility and don’t wait for the shock stimulus — take the initiative.

Recently I was leading a workshop that included a discussion on forced ranking, a concept made popular by Jack Welch while he was at GE. The process involves ranking a group of employees into performance levels graded A, B or C. The concept carries with it the idea that we should be helping the B’s and C’s move up a performance grade and expand the opportunities for the A’s. In other words, keep getting better. Where I have seen the concept in practice — in business literature or in live business settings, I observe it is the direct reflection of the commitment of the organization’s leadership.

The concept of always getting better ought to be on the leadership team agenda pretty regularly — I suggest monthly. Why? Because unless the leaders of the business keep emphasizing it — and doing it — it is so easy to get lulled into a malaise of false comfort.

I cannot help but think of Coach John Wooden (UCLA basketball) when thinking about always getting better. It was one of the main elements of his coaching philosophy. Not surprising, most of his wisdom on the basketball court applies to everyday living. Here is one of his many maxims that not only resonates with always getting better but reinforces some of the most effective leadership thinking: Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming. That is one of the most critical ingredients for continued success on or off the court. Wooden coached his teams to be prepared and to focus on their performance capabilities. Then they would be prepared to face their opponents, regardless.

So, regardless of what the economy brings our way this year, I would argue our best strategy is to keep getting better. Here’s a closing John Wooden thought to support always getting better. Coach Wooden did not focus on winning. He focused on preparation. He taught that if his teams were better prepared than their competition, the right outcomes would be there. It’s tough to argue with ten national championships and 40 winning seasons.

Authors
Hal Johnson collaborated with Kurt Glassman in writing this article. Kurt Glassman is an executive consultant, founding partner and president of LeadershipOne.