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Please welcome our guest blogger , Carolyn Lewis, CEO of the Lewis Group. Carolyn has been recognized as an industry leader whose deep insights in the healthcare marketplace and broker channels mark her as a sought-out speaker and consultant.
- Self-Funding for Smaller Companies. Beginning in 2016, the Affordable Care Act or ACA will re-define companies with 51-99 employees as “small groups.” This will essentially eliminate a key risk to self-funding health insurance for mid-sized organizations. Self-funding a company group plan works by taking the medical premiums paid to a fully-insured medical plan carrier and breaking them into 3 parts: stop loss insurance, administration, and direct payment of medical claims. The problem hasn’t been finding stop loss policies for “healthy” self-funded plans; it’s been how to manage exposure when a few claims push the financial limits of the medical plan. The ACA in 2016 will allow mid-sized companies to move into the fully-insured guaranteed-issue small group market. That means a self-funded plan with high claims experience will no longer be “stuck” with significantly increased reinsurance premiums. Some advantages of self-funding for employers are:
- Avoidance of ACA premium taxes that range from 1.5% to 3%.
- Companies can create their own medical plan design and avoid some ACA requirements that apply only to fully-insured plans.
- Access to group medical claims leads to cost savings and better wellness program impact.
- Many employers save on annual plan cost compared to fully-insured plan premiums.
- Avoiding the ACA Cadillac Tax. In Mercer’s 2013 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, nearly a third of large employers say that concern over the excise tax influenced health plan decisions for 2014. In 2018, the cost of ACA’s Cadillac tax, a 40% tax on the value of medical benefits over a set threshold amount, will vary depending on the number of enrollees and the plan’s costs. Companies likely to hit the tax threshold have time to plan for a “soft landing” by phasing in changes that will reset benefit cost a a level below the threshold. The most common strategies from the Mercer survey are adding, or building enrollment in lower-cost consumer-driven health plans and eliminating the highest-cost plan offered today.
- Re-Thinking Dependent Coverage Strategies. New rules have relaxed the requirement for large companies to offer dependent coverage until 2016, but the ACA definition of “dependent” affects both large and small companies. Since a “spouse” is not included in the ACA definition of dependent, the law does not require that spouses be offered subsidized affordable coverage by large or small companies. Unfortunately, if any employee has access to coverage that could include their spouse, that spouse is prevented from receiving subsidized coverage through a state or federal healthcare exchange marketplace. This is known as the ACA “dependent glitch.” Plan sponsorship strategy should now include analysis of the pros and cons of allowing spouses and/or children for small group, to “peel off” and purchase coverage on an exchange.
- Next-Generation Company Wellness Strategies. The best way to stabilize premiums and reduce plan costs is to improve employee health and wellness. Most large companies have some sort of wellness program in place, and implementation for smaller firms is becoming more accessible and even integrated into small-group fully-insured plan designs. The ACA allows employers to increase the value of incentives from 20% to 30% of total plan costs, so many companies are planning to expand their programs in 2014. The Mercer Survey indicates a shift from participatory plans to those that focus on rewarding employees for improvements on measurable health standards. This means that wellness, as a key way to engage employees, will become more integrated with company culture and will require more structured year-round communications tied to benefits education.
- Growth in Defined-Contribution Approach & Year-Round Benefits Communication. Traditionally, companies pay a certain percent or dollar amount towards the cost of a narrow range of medical, dental, vision, and any other ancillary plans. In a defined contribution approach, the employer provides each employee a set amount of dollars to spend on a much-expanded variety of benefit plans. This allows employees to essentially “go shopping” to design a custom package based on their own needs. Because the ACA has significantly increased employee interest in learning more about their benefits, many employers are shifting to the new defined benefit strategy that capitalizes on this trend to consumerism. The ACA rules governing plan designs have also driven benefits to become more commoditized. One way to keep a group benefit plan attractive and competitive is to expand choice and allow employees to have more control on how they put together their annual elections. Investing in improved communication is supported by the latest annual Met Life Employee Benefit Trends Study that reports that 54% of Gen Y and 38% of Gen X employees say they need more help understanding how their benefits work and how they help meet their personal and family needs. Responding to these trends with a defined benefit approach can offer these advantages:
- A more predictable, stable benefits budget.
- Better engaged, happier employees.
- A more competitive benefits package to recruit and keep top talent.
The Lewis Group is an award-winning team of employee benefit, HR, technology, and compensation specialists committed to delivering unique solutions that are specifically tailored to an organization’s goals. They analyze and match businesses to exceptional brokers recruited from top agencies in California to boost in ROI on benefits spend and align with company goals for growth and profit. CEO, Carolyn Lewis, has been recognized as an industry leader whose deep insights in the healthcare marketplace and broker channels mark her as a sought-out speaker and consultant. She began her career as a senior executive at the innovative Sacramento non-profit now known as WellSpace Health in Sacramento. She then worked for 10 years at a senior level for a national insurance carrier and spent 8 years as a broker/consultant both at her own company and with the highly-regarded Benefits Done Right Insurance Agency. Carolyn earned her BS from the College of William & Mary in Virginia and her MBA from the Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business.
Our guest blogger is Lonnie Martin, Vistage Chair. For more information about Vistage, please visit http://www.vistage.com.
I wonder how many times I’ve been asked what leadership is all about?…many, many times. My answer always includes that oft spoken yet vague cliché “leading by example” that I picked up along the way of my life and made my own. I decided to think the other day what that phrase means beyond the obvious.
I played on a lot of sport teams in my life, and probably the first time I heard “lead by example” was from one of my coaches. You could guess how a coach uses the phrase to mold behavior, e.g. come to practice on time, run hard to 1st base on infield hits, wear my uniform right, etc. But the phrase stuck with me…and that’s because my leadership style has been to not ask something of an employee that wasn’t both important (in my view) and that I wasn’t willing to do myself.
Plus, when I used that phrase I also hoped my employees would embody all those attributes of myself that I considered to be my “good qualities.”
It was only much later when I realized I might also be unthinkingly setting the example of my less good traits.
In fact, we do lead by example. People pay attention to what leaders do in ways large, small, and even very small. The examples and patterns we purposely, or inadvertently or unconsciously, set in their eyes might be good, or less good, or even bad with respect to what’s required to operate a company, to serve customers, to interact with each other, to accomplish individual and team goals, etc.
I do indeed believe leadership is leading by example, and actually, maybe it’s only about that—what part of running a business, or department isn’t encompassed by “leading by example?”
But are you self-aware enough about how you go about your business and personal life so everybody has a chance to observe and mimic what’s important to you? The list of things we do to set examples, and that people observe about us is endless. Are you on time? Do you listen well? Are you organized or disorganized? Are you detail oriented? Do you follow up promptly? Do your meetings have agendas? How do you treat customers? How do you deal with stress? Etc., etc., etc. ad infinitum.
There are no right answers about the very many best practices in running a business, and different businesses may need or want practices others don’t want. But as the leader you do need to think deeply about all those practices you believe serve the business the best, and then live all of them all the time to the best of your ability so your employees understand the basis of your expectations. And you need to always be on the search for “better best practices” than you even know (which is one thing a Vistage CEO peer group is great at uncovering).
There’s been a long running “nature-or-nurture” debate as to whether leaders are born or can be molded/made. My conclusion is that the best leaders are the most self-aware and think the deepest about all those individual traits (we often call that culture) and practices that a business needs to consistently practice. And in my view, both can be learned and/or decided…we need not count on Mother Nature to randomly anoint good leaders.
If you’re not a good leader then either you haven’t thought too deeply about what cultural traits/behaviors the business needs to be successful, or your own behavior is not consistent with that culture leading to confusion among the troops. One of the most important examples for a leader to set is to not let the organization deviate from that culture through benign neglect or compromise.
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Organizations strive largely because of their employees. But what happens when your employees are disengaged? According to the 2013 State of the American Workplace Report, 70 percent of American workers are dissatisfied with their job, creating an atmosphere where many employees feel emotionally disconnected from their workplace and therefore less productive.
Employee engagement is both a psychological and social phenomenon—as humans, we need to feel accepted and feel a sense of belonging whether in or outside of the workplace. Employees’ needs and viewpoints should be accepted and recognized; without this communication and connection, employees may feel worthless or question their stay at the workplace. This is where most upper management fails.
Dr. Brad Shuck at the University of Louisville, an expert in employee engagement research, states that managers were “promoted into positions with responsibilities they were not ready for” and rather than knowing how projects were getting done, they cared only on how much could get done. Let’s take for example, J. C. Penney’s former CEO Ron Johnson. Prior to joining J.C. Penny, Johnson was seen as the genius Senior Vice President of Retail Operations at Apple. However, during his reign at J.C. Penney, sales dropped 27 percent (Forbes). Johnson, who transformed J.C Penney immediately, terminated the entire top executive team. In doing so, Johnson created an entirely new environment for the current employees, who now must not only learn the new company culture, but also build trust and the emotional connection with their new leadership. Johnson merely assumed he could transform J.C. Penney successfully based on his past accomplishments at Apple. However, he not only caused the retail chain to plummet, he did not take into consideration the views of the current employees.
According to Kevin Kruse, a New York Times bestselling author, entrepreneur, and speaker, the secret to employee engagement stems from the relationships front line managers have with their direct reports, therefore improvements can be made effectively if these front line managers are given their team’s engagement surveys. In order for employee engagement to increase in organizations, a grassroots approach is necessary because top executives usually do not work or rarely know their subordinates on an emotional level.
Top management must be able to strategize, create, and determine an employee engagement plan that is suitable for their company, taking into account company size and culture. Employees should feel they are part of an organization that values them, and not merely seen as another body sitting in the office or driving a forklift or serving customers. Employee goals and insights for working at an organization should be acknowledged. Trust, communication, and employee recognition for all parties should be taken into consideration for optimal employee engagement. After all, a productive and motivated workforce calls for increased business profitability.
*e-VentExe is a full service human resource consulting firm located in Northern California. We offer an array of assessment tools that may help with employee engagement or other HR needs.
The holiday season for retail workers mean one thing: busy, busy, busy. With stores starting their Black Friday sale on Thanksgiving, more employees are needed to man the store. In fact, CareerBuilder’s Annual Survey concluded that 39% of hiring managers plan to hire workers this year, compared to 36% last year, and 29% in 2011.
Sure, when Black Friday comes along, fashionistas, technology gurus, and anyone who simply wants a good deal will be participating in this shopping spree day. But what about the employees who have to work during these ghastly hours, especially on Thanksgiving? Although store hours are opening in the evening to ensure retail employees have time to spend with their family and friends, it may be tough for any retail manager to motivate their staff (especially if copious amounts of food was consumed just hours before). How will retail leaders prepare their staff for the infamous Black Friday sale in terms of customer service, team morale, and overall employee well-being?
Working in retail, customer service is essential. As a store associate, necessary steps are taken to achieve top quality service to customers—ask them how their day is going, ask them if they need any assistance finding items, provide insight when asked, be personable and approachable. Yes, folding clothes after what looked like a blizzard hit the section may be frustrating, but remember: providing superior customer service is a pivotal function of the job; not only does it reflect the company, it also reflects the employee.
Staying motivated during the busy season may be challenging, and customer complaints can make it tougher. When team morale seems to be lacking, it is both noticeable for both other staff members and customers. Remember to keep the staff engaged in their work and with their fellow customers by providing incentives such as these:
1) Provide healthy snacks throughout the day in the break room to ensure employees are being well-nourished. Offering snacks, such as nuts, will reward employees with natural health benefits including long-lasting energy, brain health, and even reduce stress.
2) Employee holiday appreciation party. During or after the holiday season, plan a party for the employees to show them they are more than just bodies in the store. Thank them for all the hard work they have done for the company. Gather each employees’ insight (i.e., theme, food, activities) to ensure their voice and ideas are being heard by upper management.
3) Appreciation in-store discounts or gift cards. Offer employees a generous discount, such as 60% off of sale items and 40% off of regular priced items. Another incentive may involve having a raffle drawing of gift cards to other places.
4) Shorter shifts to alleviate stress. Dealing with customers amongst the constant hustle and bustle of the season may be demanding. Provide shorter shifts to ensure employees are not feeling burnt-out.
5) Allow employees to change roles and/or departments during their shift. Employees may feel unmotivated (and most likely bored) repeating one tedious task for the entire shift. Change up the scenery by moving them around the store and allowing them to engage in other roles. This tactic may make the shifts more bearable and the hours go by quicker.
As managers and leaders, it is management’s job to ensure their employees’ needs are being met and frustrations alleviated. Empowering employees in turn empowers management which empowers the overall company.
*e-Ventexe is a full service human resource company dedicated to providing services catered to clients’ needs.
Crowds of people zooming past one another, baby strollers rested along racks of clothes as mothers and fathers shop, lines zigzagging throughout the store—the holiday season has crept up once again. The National Retail Federation’s 2012 survey confirmed more than 88 million consumers shopped in-stores and online on Black Friday. Amidst all the hustle and bustle, how are top retail leaders and managers planning to beat the “holiday burnout” in terms of keeping employee morale and productivity up during the holiday season? Long hours, employees calling in sick last minute, gift returns, etc., calls for copious amounts of stress. Although the feeling of being burnt-out can not be completely eliminated, here are some tips to help avoid becoming an overworked, overstressed Grinch at the workplace.
1) Plan early! Plan months, weeks, or even days in advance. This can include plans for keeping the staff engaged with customer service, the number of store associates working for each shift, the number of hours for each shift, the number of employees stationed at each department, etcetera. By planning in advance, chaotic situations may be minimal which in turn alleviates stress levels for all parties.
2) Always develop a strategy in case incidences happen unexpectedly. For example, if a customer spilled coffee all over the tiled floor in front of the Women’s clothing department, what actions would be taken? Who will take the initiative? Would it be the shift leader who was upstairs in the Men’s department when the spill happened? Or the sales associates who was standing 10 feet away from the spill? In simple incidences such as this, delegate a plan such as, whichever employee saw the spill first is responsible for cleaning the mess. If a customer notices the spill and informs an associate, have that associate take the initiative to ensure other holiday shoppers are not harmed. Take the appropriate measures to develop strategies (even if they are on the spot) to ensure a pleasant shopping experience for all customers and staff. In this incident, a lawsuit may have been avoided.
3) Have a plan for employee absence and call-ins. It is inevitable; employees will call in or not show up for their shift. If an employee calls-in last minute because s/he can not work a shift, what would happen? Extend an employee’s shift who is currently working? Go through the call schedule? If you are unexpectedly short of staff, always begin recruiting within the store, and then reach out to employees’ who are not scheduled to work. The last minute call may make any shift leader want to pull his/her hair out, but there’s always someone looking to make more money. And better yet, if your store holds your employees to the highest degree, then they may willingly want to help the store when short-staff problems arise.
4) Communicate with the entire team daily. Set up regular short meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page. This will make sure all staff (in all departments) is in sync with the latest news, changes, etc., which ultimately eliminates confusion. This may also increase an employee’s sense of self-worth; it promotes productivity and gives the employee a sense of belonging and importance in the company because the supervisor(s) allotted time to check up on him/her.
5) When on the sales floor, always pay attention to surroundings. Step in when needed to ensure the store runs smoothly. After all, the more chaotic the store, the more stressed managers feel. For example, if a cashier is having difficulty with ringing up an item, don’t feel pressured to “hurry up the line” and push the employee out of the way—this will show the employee management does not care, or worst, think s/he is a nuisance or a useless body. Instead managers should greet their cashier first then solve the issue collectively; this will show the employee that store leaders regard them as a human-being and it also promotes team work and problem solving strategies.
Follow these 5 tips and celebrate the holidays with ease.
*e-VentExe is a full service human resource consulting company in Northern California specializing in training & development, recruitment & retention, and outsourcing & compliance. Our consultants collectively have over 60 years of professional experience in HR, 30 years specializing in retail. e-VentExe is dedicated to meeting and exceeding clients’ needs.
For the next several months, e-VentExe will be spotlighting one “Super-Career” woman every month, allowing her to tell her story about how she entered the corporate work world. Read about the struggles, sacrifices, highlights, and rewards these women faced while climbing the ladder towards success. This month, with our focus on retail, we continue our series with Joni Enders, who is currently a retiree devoting her time as a volunteer for Call Kurtis, a CBS Sacramento program.
25 years ago, a successful career woman had to figure out how to compete in a male-dominated world. Women couldn’t show any signs of weakness; they were constantly putting on their “game face” to show men they could do anything as good, if not better. They dressed the part to be at the boardroom, i.e., suits and ties. The Super-Career woman had to balance her personal life with her work life—at the workplace, dresses were replaced with slacks, femininity replaced with sternness all in order to strive to the top. The strenuous struggle to rise the corporate ladder may have seemed daunting, but to these “Super-Career” women, who lived double lives, it was the norm. Now, as young females are entering the workplace, what advice can these “Super-Career” women give to the younger generation? The world for woman today is different, however mistakes can still be made as a women rises to the top of a competitive workplace.
Joni, who has always been a personable individual and had a knack for fashion began her career in retail as a student working part-time as a store associate at the department store, JCPenney. Although she loved clothing and interacting with others, Joni was first interested in law and contemplated continuing her studies in legal issues while working. However, Joni saw great potential and opportunities with JCPenney and continued her career in retail stating it was where she belonged. Joni was a part of JCPenney for nearly 40 years, retiring merely two years prior; what once started as a simple part-time gig spiraled into something much greater: the dream career of overseeing several JCPenney stores.
With Joni’s go-getter attitude, she moved up the ranks and did not recall ever reaching a glass ceiling. She considers all the opportunities she was given a learning experience. Although she had the chance to fulfill higher career roles (district manager), she was content with being a store manager in Wichita, KS. and then in Sacramento, CA.
In terms of balancing both her work and personal life, Joni delegated her time to each. She decided which one was going to require more of her time. Joni recalls that for the holiday season, her family knew she would be busy so she devoted a great amount of time to her work; it was her job and her family was aware. However, Joni believes one must always reserve time for personal life matters as well, stating that communication is necessary.
Jonie, who is extremely happy with her career outcome at JCPenney states she does not have any regrets. She was fortunate to have great positions and mentors who supported her early in her career. The only mistake she recalls is giving employees too much opportunity in order to succeed within the company; she had a tendency to allow people to work longer even though the job was not cut out for them. Joni recalls that in the end, it did not benefit the company or the individuals involved.
From her experience, Joni has a few pieces of advice for those who are new to the workforce. She states that one must find a career that is incredibly rewarding and fulfill one’s needs. Joni believes mentorships are very important; she believes a mentor provides support and acts as a confidant. Not only should one seek a mentor, one should also be a mentor. She also believes one must find a way to stand out from the crowd. Joni stresses that knowing one’s audience is vital because one must know who and how to speak to specific individuals. By knowing one’s audience, there is a greater potential of acknowledgement.
For a detailed Q and A about Joni, read below:
1) How long did it take you to reach to the top of the corporate ladder?
It took me about 29 years [to be a store manager]. I was on the District Staff where I was a District Market Merchandiser in both San Diego and Hawaii. For Hawaii, I was in charge of deciding what Moo Moo dresses we would sell in the stores. From the color, print, style, etc.
2) Did you change yourself to fit into the career world?
Yes, you have to. You have to know your audience. As a leader, I made sure my presence was appropriate. I asked a lot of questions. Internally, you’re always the same person, but you have to change yourself depending on who you’re dealing with and what position you have.
3) If you could do it all over again, would you do the same thing?
That’s a tough one, I don’t know that I would change anything, I grew to become the person who I am now and I am extremely happy with the outcome. Jcpenney provided me with great opportunities and learning experiences. Not sure if I would be happy in law compared to retail. With my go-getter attitude, retail was perfect because there was always something new.
Our guest blogger is Tina R. Shaw. Tina is a Coach and Consultant specializing in leadership development, supporting change, and facilitating learning. Contact Tina at email@example.com.
Most of us have heard of the Peter Principle, but in case you haven’t, it is commonly phrased as “Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence.” Why does this happen? Consider the super-star sales person, Mary. She’s consistently a top producer, does everything expected of her, and is seen as a rising star. So of course she earns a promotion to Sales Manager! A few months later the shine on Mary’s star is tarnishing. What went wrong?
Like many people who are promoted, the skills and behaviors that made Mary successful in her former role are not the same skills and behaviors necessary for success in her new role. Not only is it important to develop new competencies to succeed in the new role, it is equally important to understand which competencies should be de-emphasized. For example, as a super-star salesperson personal expertise and efforts are a significant factor in success. As a sales manager, success comes from getting results through the efforts and expertise of others. In Mary’s new role leadership becomes more important than individual contribution. Because Mary’s success came from her personal efforts it may be difficult for her to let go of doing things herself to focus instead on supporting her team to produce results.
In the book, “The Leadership Pipeline” by Ram Charan, Steve Drotter and Jim Noel, the authors outline the skill requirements, time applications and work values necessary for different levels of leadership. Moving from individual contributor to manager of people takes more than learning some new skills, it also requires adjusting values and where you focus your time. Each level of leadership requires different adjustments in these three areas. Leaders in transition can get into trouble when they fail to make the necessary adjustments in what they value, what they do, and where they focus their time.
Knowing you need to make some changes, and even learning what changes you need to make is the easy part – you can get training, read a book, get advice from a mentor or search the Internet. Actually making changes is much, much harder because most of us tend to default to what has been successful for us in the past. It takes repeated practice to make new skills and behaviors part of our default mode.
How many of us have taken a class or read a book on leadership and committed to implementing something we learned, but never practiced enough to make it stick? Probably most of us, including me. It’s not about ability, capacity or hitting the limits of our potential. All of these things expand as we gain experience, learn and grow as individuals. More likely it is because no one is checking in on us to see how we are applying what we learned. We get so absorbed in the day-to-day of our work and lives that we don’t remember to practice what we learned, and eventually we forget altogether. What we need is an accountability partner. Someone who will challenge us, support us, provide feedback, and ask us the right questions to ensure we are doing what we said we would do.
Working with a coach is a wonderful way to get the support and accountability you need. How can a coach help? A coach is trained to listen, ask powerful questions, and reflect back to create awareness to help the client take action to get where they want to go. Working with a coach provides a regular check-in that allows you to measure your progress, get past obstacles, and celebrate successes!
When I started my business I naturally choose to focus on what I love. My passion is leadership development and transferring learning into business results. I partner with clients to develop leaders, accelerate learning, and support change. If you would like to learn more about developing leaders, I invite you to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.linkedin.com/in/tinarshaw.