Monday, February 28, 2011

Can States Now Potentially Opt Out of Healthcare Legislation?

In a recent turn of events, states may now potentially be able to opt out of some of the healthcare act’s requirements due into effect in 2014, including that employers of a certain size cover workers or pay a penalty.

However, the stipulations for states opting out are strict and potentially burdensome.  States must be able to prove they have a viable plan for covering as many or more people, as comprehensively and affordably, as the national healthcare act… with no increases to the federal deficit.

If states are able to obtain a waver, employers may enjoy more flexibility in deciding how to insure their employees.  Then again, their flexibility will depend on their own states’ plans, if they pass restrictive federal inspection, and if they’re actually a better alternative from employers’ perspective.

What do you think of this latest turn of events in healthcare legislation?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Take Your Vacation.

Spring is coming, and with it spring break and warmer days and… vacation.  Vacation is important. We’re serious.  We know all the excuses. You can’t afford it, you don’t have time, you have more important things to do.

Is your physical and mental health important to you? Is your productivity at work important to you? Are your healthcare-associated costs of relevance to you?  Then companies, you need to provide your workers with vacation and encourage them to use it.  And workers, you need to set aside time to relax, recuperate, and unplug.

Did you know it takes three days to fully “unplug?” You don’t stop listening for your iphone’s beep until three days of not using it.  So weekends are great for relaxing and getting things done, but they aren’t enough to fully recuperate.  Every once in a while, you need three (or more) days.

Here’s why.

1. BURNOUT. Workers who take regular time to relax are less likely to experience burnout, making them more creative and productive than their overworked, under-rested counterparts.

2. HEALTH AND WELLBEING.  Studies prove that three or more days of vacation improve mood, sleep patterns, physical health, and stress levels.  The effects of just three days of vacation last at least five weeks afterwards!  The effects of continuous stress with no relief include migraines, heart attack, and high blood pressure among others. Illnesses hurt your quality of life and cost you, your insurance company, and potentially your employer way more money in the long run than a couple days off work.

3. RELATIONSHIPS.  Spending time with loved ones, away from the typical work-week routines, strengthens relationships, making home life – and subsequently work life – happier.

We know a vacation isn’t always an immediate option.  Things like deadlines, stressful financial times, and unemployment make taking time off to have fun difficult if not impossible.  But it’s worth making a priority.  Because vacation isn’t simply about fun.  It’s about you being a healthier, happier person.  And happier people make better employees and employers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Flexibility. We all love it; staffing firms provide it.

Gone are the days when almost every employee worked for the same company for 30 years, Monday through Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm.

Instead, employees like to be nimble, trying out new companies and projects, accumulating a variety of skills and knowledge to carry with them.  And employers appreciate the fresh perspective and unique skill set an outsider can bring to their company.

Not only that, but the nature of work has changed.  Projects turn over faster, thanks to technology, but this quick turnover requires an extendible or retractable workforce, without the mismatches associated with frenzied hiring, or the hardship associated with layoffs.

Staffing agencies are one solution to all of the above challenges, for many companies and workers.  Not only do staffing agencies have access to a wide network of workers with varying skill sets and availabilities, they also help workers get a foot in the door with companies and projects workers might not otherwise have access to.  Companies and workers can work together to determine whether or not they’re a fit before making a more permanent commitment.  Or, they can simply work together to complete a single project, after which the worker moves on to a new project, having gained skills and experience.  Meanwhile, the staffing agency handles the administrative aspects of such arrangements.

Staffing agencies thus help companies and workers be more flexible and efficient.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Is Your Staff On the Same Page and Up to Speed?

Have you ever called or visited a business with a simple question, and been told the person with the answer is unavailable?  It’s frustrating, and likely to make you look elsewhere (like another business) for the answer.

Keeping everyone in your work place informed and on the same page is crucial to a consistent business message and positive customer experience.  In an environment where technologies and policies change more rapidly than ever, your business must be nimble, and your company must have an efficient, effective means of communicating with employees at every level.

Fortunately, technology also makes rapid communication easy.  You simply have to take the initiative – not only to deliver the message but also to ensure your employees receive and digest it.

Anticipate the questions your customers might ask. Naturally questions will differ according to your business, but here are a few examples.

1. What are your prices?
2. What is your company policy on ___?
3. Why did this price change?
4. What services do you offer?
5. Who is your CEO?
6. What phone number should I call for ___?

Integrate the answers to these questions into a thorough training program and develop a way to refresh everyone with the new information and answers as they come.  A staff that is on the same page and up to speed is the mark of a positive company culture.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tello: A New Way to Give and Receive Feedback

Tello is a new smart phone application that allows customers to easily rate businesses solely on customer service experiences.  We think this concept is pretty interesting.  Here’s why.

1. Businesses can reward employees based on positive feedback.
2. Businesses can receive negative feedback about their customer service and revise their customer service strategies accordingly, even potentially compensating legitimate complaints with coupons.
3. Employees, since they can be rated by name, have further incentive to provide excellent customer service.
4. Customers, who often feel frustrated by poor customer service and their seeming helplessness to do anything about it, have a controlled environment in which to express their concerns.

Drawbacks?  Yes, we see a few.

1. Often customers are more interested in sharing negative experiences than positive ones, so ratings may be slightly skewed.
2. Businesses who opt in or are opted in by customers will need to extend the resources necessary monitor their ratings – and subsequent reputation – closely, in order to prevent one bad spoonful of poor customer service from spoiling the whole pot.
3. The app doesn’t include experience aspects besides customer service, and you have two options: thumbs up or thumbs down.
4. While customers are rating particular employees’ customer service, we hope that businesses take equal responsibility for any poor ratings as a reflection of potential company cultural issues or weak customer service strategies, rather than simply attributing problems to particular employees called out by name.  After all, there’s no smart phone application for rating customers.

What do you think of the new customer service review app?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Response to a Recent Harvard Business Review Article on the Complexity of Integrity: A Testimonial

This article in the Harvard Business Review discusses INTEGRITY, how people’s definitions of integrity differ, and how maintaining integrity in the workplace and beyond is not as easy as we’d like.

We are all different, but we believe people have an innate since of right and wrong.  Maybe integrity isn’t so difficult after all.  Here’s one person’s view on integrity.  What’s yours?

To be a person of integrity, one must first know his values. And to know one’s values is to have strong character.  My parents began building my character at a young age.

The first time I contemplated the meaning of “character building” I was about eight years old.  My sisters and I had complained of hearing the scamper of little claws in the ceiling above our heads.  The memory of half-walking, half-crawling, through our cramped, creaky old attic, holding a flashlight for my dad as he set out rat poison, and not knowing what sort of animal eyes were glowing out of the dark recesses, is forever imprinted in my mind.  I don’t know how to describe to you the unpleasantness of that experience.  Obviously I had a lucky childhood, and my parents took great care of me.  But at the time, I remember feeling shocked that my dad would inflict such inhumane conditions on his daughter!  I remember telling him so.  And most of all, I remember his response.  “It builds character,” he said.

Kids have a way of absorbing information more deeply than adults suspect.  I doubt my dad has any idea how seriously I considered his words.  For the remainder of what seemed to me then a grueling task, I took comfort – pleasure even – in knowing that I was building my character.  The impact of my father’s response reached far beyond that one afternoon.  I’ve carried his words with me ever since that moment.  Whether I am on my hands and knees scrubbing my bathroom floor, completing a difficult work project, or picking myself up after a temporary life setback, I remind myself that I’ll come out of the situation a better person.  That simple realization motivates me to complete the task at hand.

When the time comes to make any decision, let’s make it based on our values.  Even if the decision makes our lives a little harder in the short run, it builds character.  Character is who you are.  And integrity is steadfast adherence to that person.

A sales representative recently sent an email to my boss, complimenting me.  After my boss forwarded the email on to me, I thanked the sales rep.  His reply email (which I printed, and which means much more to me than the one he sent my boss) read “You seem to do the right thing for the right reasons.”

He was defining integrity, which often takes root in the most unglamorous of places – like rat-infested attics.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Possible Permanent Boost for Temporary Staffing Firms

We have been seeing more and more evidence of a potentially permanent boost in temporary staffing.  According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, 27% of the 1.1 million jobs added since December 2009 have been temporary ones.  Here are a few advantages to a permanent increase in temporary jobs.

1. Companies have more flexibility and can hire according to project size and duration.

2. Companies can take the opportunity to get to know workers and their habits before determining cultural fit and making a commitment to hire them on as permanent employees.

3. Workers, like mothers or seniors, gain flexibility in that they can keep their skills current by working part time, while taking time for other obligations such as raising children.

Even with all the recent growth, temporary jobs currently make up less than 2% of the workforce.  So there’s plenty of room for the upward trend in temporary staffing to continue.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Healthcare legislation conferences to help businesses transition.

Now is the time for leaders to be learning all they can about the new healthcare legislation and its financial and cultural implications for companies.  The businesses who approach healthcare legislation proactively will be in the best position to thrive through the coming changes!

We’ve taken the time to compile a list of events designed to help your business understand the implementation process and how to best prepare.

Hosted by Employee Benefit News, the 2011 Health Care New York Show and Conference will address key issues including what corporations are doing to reduce costs and increase workforce retention.

The 2011 National Policy Forum is aimed at CEOs, COOS, executives, leadership teams, and many others in decision-making positions.  It presents an opportunity to discuss ways to move forward and what the drastic changes will mean for your organization.  Takes place March 8-9, 2011.

Preparing for Exchanges: 2011 Conference Series addresses one of the most pressing health care reform implementation issues.  Target audiences include insurance plan operations, product development, policy development staff, state regulators, agent and brokers, and other policy makers.  The series takes place in three parts: March 9-10, June 15 and November 16-17, 20011.

The Road Map for Health Care Reform Implementation 2011.  Intended to help CEOs, COOs, CFOs, CIOs, CMOs, and other top leaders address important next steps for their organizations. Takes place June 15-17, 2011 in San Francisco.

As we hear of others, we’ll be sure to include them.