Tag Archives: workforce

A Growing Challenge: Managing Talent

Recruitment and retention of sufficient workers presents a growing challenge for many U.S. businesses in manufacturing, construction and many other segments of the economy.

Competition for workers continues to grow as the improving economy drives down unemployment and applies pressure on employers to increase wages.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics November employment statistics, for instance, showed employment continued to trend up in professional and business services, manufacturing and healthcare.

While most businesses welcome the uptick in business opportunities, the pressure to increase wages threatens the ability of many of these businesses to take full advantage of these new opportunities. While welcoming the strengthened manufacturing economic performance, the National Association of Manufacturers says manufacturers continue to say that the inability to attract and retain a quality workforce is one of their top concerns. Employers in the healthcare and services industry increasingly are reporting similar challenges.

With tightening immigration standards making it more difficult to close gaps with foreign labor, savvy businesses are taking the initiative to respond to this changing labor environment by reevaluating their recruitment, retention and compensation practices. In addition to looking to recruit new workers from the ranks of the under- and unemployed, many businesses increasingly are looking to recruit employed workers from other employers by offering sweeter compensation, work-life balance, promotion or other sweetened employment opportunities. Businesses competing for the same workers will want to review their existing employment and compensation packages to help promote their ability to recruit workers and to retain existing workers.

See also: What Is the Business of Workers’ Comp?  

In recognition that other businesses may target their best workers, businesses should shore up their compensation and retention practices and strengthen their noncompetition, trade-secret and other critical workplace protections to guard against disruptions from loss of key personnel. When conducting these activities, businesses should not rely on past legal experience. Federal and state law has evolved significantly regarding noncompetition, trade secret and other business intelligence safeguards. Businesses that have not done so in the past year should consider engaging experience counsel to review their existing policies and practices for possible witnesses and opportunities for enhanced strength.

Businesses also may want to discuss opportunities for bonus or other golden handcuffs compensation packages to give key workers incentives to stay with the organization. Employers also should recognize that departing employees may take advantage of opportunities to air resentments.

In the face of these risks, employers will want to ensure that their existing wage and hour, harassment, safety and other workforce policies and practices are currently compliant as well as be prepared to respond to any allegations of past misconduct. Employers should carefully conduct exit interviews and investigate any alleged misconduct or other negative feedback to mitigate potential risks and liabilities. Employers also should consult with experienced employment and employee benefits counsel about appropriate design, administration and documentation of these policies, practices,i arrangements and activities.

What Baseball Can Teach on Talent

In the 1988 film “Bull Durham,” Nuke LaLoosh, a young pitcher with great talent but no professional experience (or maturity), embarks on his professional career with the minor league Durham Bulls.

Crash Davis, an experienced though aging catcher near the end of his playing days, is responsible for grooming LaLoosh into a more polished player. Davis and the team’s coaches and managers spend an entire summer trying to teach LaLoosh the finer points of baseball, and – as importantly – how to think and comport himself like a professional. LaLoosh, Davis, and the Bulls have many ups and downs as the season progresses, but eventually Davis’ mentoring of LaLoosh is effective, and the young pitcher is poised to go onto to bigger and better things, just as Davis prepares to retire from the game.

There are many similarities between the insurance industry and “America’s Pastime,” not the least of which is how to manage and solve the challenges of maintaining a pipeline of young talent. The insurance industry can learn a great deal from baseball’s tried and true strategy of developing talent organically through the minor leagues.

Moreover, professional teams – which, like insurers, are in a data-driven business – have invested significantly in data analytics to operate more economically and efficiently with the resources they already have. Using similar strategies, the insurance industry can build an effective strategy for recruitment, training and development, as well as for sustainable operations, thereby establishing a platform for long-term success.

Too many Crash Davises and not enough Nuke LaLooshes

The insurance industry is facing a crisis – a rapidly aging workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of insurance professionals aged 55 years and older has increased 74% in the last 10 years; by 2018, a quarter of insurance industry employees will be within five to 10 years of retirement. Moreover, by 2017, one in every three U.S. employees will be a Millennial, and Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025.

These workforce changes mirror the demographic shifts in the U.S. population. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that, in the U.S. alone, 10,000 baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) will turn age 65 each and every day until 2030. While the expected number of Americans age 65 and older who leave the workforce will grow 75% by 2050, the expected number of American workers age 25 to 54 will grow by only 2%.

Most U.S. employers are woefully unprepared for the business realities of an aging workforce and face a potentially massive loss of skilled, knowledgeable workers. Companies that effectively recruit, train and develop dedicated future staff and leaders will differentiate themselves and set themselves up for success. Like professional baseball teams, they are trying to find ways to maximize existing talent and replenish it. Also like baseball teams, they are attempting to more effectively use analytics to improve functional efficiencies (e.g., scouting in baseball and claims/underwriting in insurance), as well as continue to automate routine/recurring processes (e.g., data collection in both industries).

Recruit

Traditionally, baseball teams have employed scouts who are responsible for finding and evaluating amateur baseball talent. The scouts talk with each other and college and high school coaches to develop a network of contacts and resources.

Human resources recruiters are the scouting departments of the insurance industry. Similar to baseball, where major league teams can either hire qualified free agents or grow talent organically through the minor league system, insurance recruiters have two options – to hire experienced candidates or recruit and develop raw talent through effective training programs. (For the purposes of this report, we focus below on acquiring and retaining young talent.)

Effective college campus and entry level hiring programs are just the first step in growing talent organically. Organic growth can only occur with the development of robust recruiting programs that focus on two key things:

  • Improving the insurance industry brand. Show Millennials that insurance isn’t boring. Insurance isn’t just about adjusting claims or underwriting risks, and it’s not necessarily an office-bound industry. It offers technical, sales, account management, data analytics and product development jobs similar to those in other industries that have more of a ”hip” image.
  • Educating talent about the variety of roles available in the industry. Letting young people know there are rewarding career paths available in insurance (and working with them to make the promise a reality) is more likely to result in long-term employment.

To recruit Millennials, companies must adapt their recruiting strategies. Companies must think like this generation, supplementing recruiting on college campuses and at career fairs with outreach via social media and online talent communities.

See Also: Why Millennials Are the Best Workers

In “Bull Durham,” Annie Savoy says, “Well, actually, nobody on this planet ever really chooses each other. I mean, it’s all a question of quantum physics, molecular attraction and timing.” However, as an employer, you DO choose employees and need to be in the best possible position to make them want to choose you.

Train

Training new employees, much like training baseball rookies, is critical to retaining talent. Companies that find ways to deliver cost-effective, interesting and meaningful training in fundamentals, coupled with mentorship programs that pair young employees with experienced ones, will create sustainable leadership pipelines. Of note, companies that use e-learning, which appeals to Millennials much more than conference room meetings and presentations, will especially benefit:

  • Company perceived as cutting-edge. A newly hired Millennial trained via an easy-to-follow e-learning system that is technologically up to date, with quality graphics and sound, will perceive that the company is on the cutting edge of technology.
  • Millennials feel respected. Companies that develop a high-quality, customized e-learning program, catering to the way Millennials learn, will demonstrate value and respect for the time and talents of their employees and build loyal, hard-working and fulfilled employees.
  • Cost-effective and agile. E-learning is well-suited to today’s work environment, which is fast-paced and characterized by constant change. Easily customizable and cost-effective, e-learning easily keeps pace with the rate at which technology, work procedures and workers develop.

When asked if he’s heard of Walt Whitman, Nuke says, “No. Who’s he play for?” We hope your personnel development and education is easier, but you should have the processes and systems in place to answer the questions of a younger generation that is learning on the job.

Developing a succession management plan that prioritizes leadership development not only improves retention, building a solid pipeline of talent for years to come, but also reduces recruiting costs.

Over the last 15 years, many baseball owners have realized that a high payroll does not necessarily result in on-field success. Expensive free agents are not a sure thing, and savvy clubs realized that they could be competitive (and have a lower payroll) by developing young players in-house. The World Series champion Kansas City Royals are a case in point: The team has developed much of its roster – and many of its best players – in its own system.

Because top talent clearly is a competitive differentiator, companies will define future success by developing deep and enduring bench strength – a pipeline of players with the leadership skills to be successful in the “big leagues.”

Good development results in beneficial, life-long lessons that benefit the employee and employer. Consider the following exchange after Nuke and Crash fight:

Crash: Did you hit me with your right hand or did you hit me with your left?

Nuke: My left.

Crash: Good! That’s good! When you get in a fight with a drunk, you don’t hit him with your pitching hand.

Remaining competitive even after the veterans leave

Attracting and hiring Millennials is only one way to address the challenge of an aging workforce, and building a developmental system is not the only way companies can promote the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next. Many organizations are now seeking operational efficiencies via outsourcing, predictive analytics and automation to help address the challenges of an aging workforce.

Shifting back office operations (e.g., claims processing, call centers and mail rooms) to an outsourcing provider can help obviate the need to replace retiring workers. While companies historically have considered outsourcing from a cost and labor arbitrage perspective, they are now making it part of their overall growth strategy because the right outsourcing partners can help them create efficiencies, lower costs and enjoy bottom line savings.

Moreover, by consolidating existing and incoming information into standardized management systems and using advanced analytics to interpret this data, companies can position themselves to make better business decisions – consider the Oakland A’s now famous and commonly used “Moneyball” approach – with a smaller workforce. Some companies have gone so far as to globally standardize key processes by using business process management or workflow software that promotes procedural consistency throughout the enterprise.

As has been the case with forward-thinking baseball teams, these types of investments have enabled leading carriers to more effectively manage and use the vast amounts of structured and unstructured data they possess. Perhaps as importantly, these companies also have increased worker productivity because their employees are now able to focus much more of their time on value-added activities instead of routine, low- to no-value administrative and clerical tasks.

Last but not least, the carriers that have made meaningful investments in outsourcing, business process improvement and advanced analytics have created a virtuous cycle in terms of recruiting. Companies that are on the cutting edge of business technology are also more attractive to Millennials. As a result, these employers not only need fewer employees, they attract higher-caliber newcomers.

See Also: 22 Steps to Reduce the Impact of Retirement

To meet the challenges of an aging workforce, prescient carriers, agencies and brokers are already changing how they recruit and assess their workplace. They are modifying policies to appeal to Millennials, making physical changes to create a more inviting workplace and facilitating knowledge transfer to improve the long-term viability of their organizations. With the impending profound demographic changes, the need to build a pipeline of new talent is mission-critical. In addition, to further minimize the effects a shortage of workers may have, many companies have recognized the need to modernize processes and systems to more effectively manage the business even with a smaller workforce.

Implications

  • The insurance industry is facing an impending talent crunch. If it does not take steps to attract young employees, the crunch will become a crisis.
  • Millennials will soon predominate in the workforce, and insurers need to differentiate themselves from companies in other industries as being attractive places for Millennials to work. They can do this by:

– Effective recruiting that demonstrates rewarding career paths exist in the industry.

– Training that pairs new hires with experienced employees and helps build mentoring relationships; e-learning is a cost-effective way to do this, and one that Millennials like.

– Developing leaders internally – akin to a minor league system – which both encourages retention among younger employees and also eases internal succession planning because it ensures there is a healthy talent pipeline.

– Strategic outsourcing that focuses on complementary capabilities and not just cost reduction; modernizing business processes and effectively employing advanced analytics can significantly improve efficiencies, reduce costs, foster a focus on the things that really add value to the business and attract the best and the brightest newcomers to the industry workforce.

The Future of Life Insurance

In its most recent report, “Tomorrow’s World; the Future of Aging in the U.K.,” the International Longevity Centre, a think tank focused on longevity, population and aging, painted a gloomy picture. The report says:

  • That the social care system is crumbling, and social class will heavily affect the life experience of the aged.
  • That housing and planning are inadequate to meet the needs of an aging population.
  • That individuals are underestimating their life expectancy and are likely to run out of money in old age.
  • That older people will suffer (and perhaps die) of different things: Where once the issue was heart and respiratory diseases, now it is likely to be illnesses of non-communication such as dementia.

It’s a worrying vision – one that perhaps is replicated in many other countries. The report recommends a bold 10-point action plan. It says:

1. Health must find a way to be more responsive and preventative.
2. Government must make progress in delivering a long-term settlement to pay for social care.
3. Savings levels for working age adults must increase.
4. The average age of exit from the workforce should rise.
5. The number and type of homes built should be increasingly appropriate for our aging society.
6. Government should make progress in facilitating greater risk sharing in accumulation of retirement income.
7. There is a need for a more informed older consumer.
8. Our aspirations for retirement must be about much more than us spending more hours watching television.
9. Businesses should better respond to aging.
10. The social contract needs to be strengthened between young and old.

Doesn’t the life and pension insurance industry have a part to play in almost all of this road map? Is there any reason why the industry should sit on the sidelines?

Here are five issues for the industry:

  • Insurers need to continue the shift from being reactive to being proactive – and must share the benefits with policyholders. Stakeholder buy-in through effective communication and enlightenment is critical – and it is increasingly becoming urgent.
  • Can insurers – on behalf of their policyholders, who are inevitably with them often for decades – influence issues related to home building and planning? I wonder how I would react if I really thought that my life and pension insurer was representing my interest to a point that it was lobbying about this type of stuff on my behalf?
  • The need for cooperation between the private and public sectors reinforces the need for empathy by both government and private insurers toward each other, perhaps with tacit agreement that they (we) are all in this together.
  • As the average age of workers increases, and some seek an alternative to watching TV or just trying to make ends meet, I wonder whether there is propensity for more workplace accidents. Isn’t there an employers liability/workers’ compensation angle to consider?
  • And, of course, how do we make life and pension insurance attractive to those starting their work life? Doesn’t the industry really need to make insurance both more relevant and fashionable?

Don’t insurers need to communicate better, engage differently, think more about the changing demographic footprint and generally step up the pace? All the innovation seems to be going into P & C insurance, but we can’t allow that to suck the energy from life and pension.

After all, having a “connected bedpan” as part of the Internet of Things might be useful for some – but don’t we need to be bolder than that in our thinking?

economy

3 Questions About On-Demand Economy

Last year, as Airbnb’s $25.5 billion valuation surpassed Hilton Hotels’ and Uber became the world’s most valuable privately owned company, it became clear the on-demand economy is no passing fad but is, in fact, a force to be reckoned with.

The on-demand marketplace is growing at a dizzying pace as new companies emerge daily, helping connect a diverse workforce of tradespeople, licensed professionals and unskilled laborers to a market of willing buyers through the company’s platforms. Intuit projects the population of U.S. on-demand workers will more than double by 2020, which means that, if you can’t already summon a doctor, lawyer, babysitter or dog walker right now via an on-demand app, then sit tight—they’re coming soon to a smartphone near you.

But the scale and speed of the on-demand economy’s growth also means policymakers, regulators, insurers and on-demand companies will have to huddle quickly to resolve the issues that arise with this expanding marketplace and its workforce. Here are the three key questions we need to address immediately:

  1. When the safeguards of the traditional corporation no longer exist, how do we protect the on-demand workforce?

Uber is currently appealing a case it lost against the California Labor Commissioner last summer regarding whether a driver is an independent contractor or an employee. While establishing this distinction is a critical issue, we still need to address some big questions about the vast self-employed workforce in the on-demand economy.

A good primer question: How do we get the information we need to make informed policy decisions? Independent contractors in the on-demand economy are classified as part of a larger pool of temporary, seasonal, part-time and freelance workforce called “contingent” workers. A 2015 U.S. Government Accountability Office report cites this workforce as somewhere between less than 5% and more than one-third of the country’s overall labor pool. The big gap in this measurement is because it depends on how jobs are defined and on the data source; the broad definitions and lack of clear data on this workforce makes on-demand independent contractors and their needs tough to track and evaluate. How much of this workforce depends on this income for supplementary purposes as opposed to relying on this income as a full-time living?

According to Intuit’s study, contingent workers will make up 40% of the U.S. workforce by 2020. That’s a lot of people working without the safeguards provided by the traditional corporation—guaranteed minimum wage, steady income, unemployment insurance, healthcare, workers’ compensation and disability insurance. What kind of safety nets do we need to put in place to protect this workforce? And what does this growing workforce mean in terms of policy development? How does the social contract change?

  1. How should we regulate hybrid commercial/consumer activities?

A sticky issue surrounding the on-demand economy is how to regulate commercial activities that are conducted by individuals rather than by traditional businesses.

While some argue that an Airbnb property should be as heavily regulated as a hotel if a host is accepting payment for lodgings, drawing an apples-to-apples comparison between the two is a challenge. For example, treehouses, yurts, igloos and lighthouses were among the top-10 most desirable vacation destinations on Airbnb shopper’s wish lists last year, some fetching upward of $350 a night. Who exactly should you call about making sure the igloo is up to code before guests arrive?

Some of the services and products offered by the individual through on-demand platforms have never been available through traditional enterprises; they’re unique, intimate experiences and, before on-demand platforms made them accessible, were difficult to find. We’re entering a new frontier where many tourists covet a culinary experience they can book at a local’s house via apps such as Feastly or Kitchensurfing rather than a fine dining restaurant, or they prefer offbeat accommodations booked through Airbnb to a 5-star hotel. We can’t assess how to best regulate these individual commercial activities until we have more data and understand the risks. How do we collect that data? How do we ensure the safety and protection of the individuals operating and participating in these activities until we have the information necessary to adequately regulate them?

  1. How can a square peg workforce function in a round hole system?

Mortgages, loans, credit cards, leases … these are just a few of life’s niceties (or necessities) that are challenging for an on-demand independent contractor to secure. Our current financial services, systems and policies were built to work for employees who collect a regular paycheck as well as freelancers who have reliable cash flow through long-term contracts and monthly retainers. Independent contractors working through on-demand platforms tend to rely on short-term gigs often generated through multiple sources, and they have difficulty predicting their day-to-day income, never mind their annual net or gross.

This isn’t a niche workforce. If independent contractors represent 40% of the U.S. working population in 2020, they’re significant drivers of the economy. They generate income and pay taxes; they need homes, cars, work equipment and all the other stuff that keeps their businesses running and makes their lives worth living. We can’t dismiss their needs, because we are measuring their 21st century income with a 20th century yardstick. How do we retrofit our round-hole systems to include this square peg workforce?

If we want a thriving economy in which people enjoy the benefits of the on-demand economy, and doctors, lawyers, drivers, plumbers and everyone else serving the on-demand marketplace have equal opportunity to succeed, then the time to talk about these questions and issues is now.

Triage, Telemedicine Change Work Comp

On average, 4% of the workforce experiences a non-fatal work injury each year. Considering the current number of employed workers in the U.S. is 144 million, the workers’ compensation industry is a huge sector that often flies under the radar – at least until recent years.

With the establishment of the Affordable Care Act, combined with medical advancements and the way consumers interact with evolving technology, the industry is taking a new shape.

Workers’ compensation triage did not exist two decades ago. I recall starting in the business and having to convince companies of the need for telephonic nurse triage. Today, virtually every large company is seeking solutions to better manage work injuries to both reduce costs and to have employees return to work more quickly.

Substantial evidence shows that better outcomes are produced when an injured worker seeks care sooner rather than later.

Because of that, a trend has emerged in which more entities are offering nurse triage as part of their workers’ compensation package to clients. Whereas big insurance brokers used to offer it, the service is now being offered at regional boutique firms as a way to control costs for clients.

Another trend that is rapidly changing the workers’ compensation industry is telemedicine. How medical care is delivered to the injured worker is shifting and, with it, so must we. Digital health-at-large is among the biggest developments that workers’ compensation has been facing in recent years.

What remains the same in treating work injury cases is fundamental human nature: care and empathy. Initiating positive early intervention is the cornerstone of a successful claims management program. Offering empathy to injured workers has been our guiding principle as our business model has been adapted over the years. Technology used to service a work injury claim must be seamless, efficient and robust to ensure the injured employee feels appropriately cared for in their very personal situation.

In 2016, we will be releasing details on how we will be spearheading a new direction for the workers’ compensation industry using this new technology. Stay tuned.