You've Got An Opinion On The Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Decision? Join the Club...

Yeah - you've got an opinion on that, just like everyone else.  If you didn't catch it, the Supreme Court laid down a 5-4 decision on Monday that said closely held companies - where 5 or fewer individuals hold 50% or more ownership of a company - don't have to abide by the Affordable Care Act provisions that mandate coverage of contraceptives that bump up against the definition of abortion.

#powderkeg...

It generates a lot of emotion.  From women, Christians, women who are Christians, bros who know both women and women who are Christians.  From fundamentalists and feminists. 

Wow.  Everybody has an opinion on this one.  The meme above is the best I could do.  

What do moderates have to say about the Hobby Lobby decision?  Nothing, because they get attacked from both sides.

I'll be back on this topic with a Tuesday podcast on how HR pros should prepare to deal with the Hobby Lobby mandate, what you should know about it and prepare for, etc.

For now, I'll leave you with this - wait one month, and all the only question you need to ask to determine whether the company you're dealing with is closely held or not and what their politics are is the following:

"Questions?  Just one.  Does your medical plan cover the day after pill?"

Boom.  Be interesting to see if that question makes its way into any interview dialog.


The Best Looking Benefit They'll Never Use - Tuition Aid...

I'm on the record as saying there's a couple of ways to compete for the a Best Place to Work award.  Here's the playbook:

1. The easy part - write a check for benefits others can't or won't provide.

2. The hard part - Become world class in how you make your people more productive and happier while you squeeze more out of them. Crowded-studying

The first part is the easy part - as Ferris Bueller once said, "if you have the means..."  The second part is hard as hell.  

An ever better way to engage the first part - benefits others can't or won't provide - is to pick one that looks great but is hard to use. Example - Tuition aid.  It looks great, but it's hard as ##@# for busy adults to use.  That's why Starbucks could see their way clear to offer it via online courses to all associates.  Of course, there are some strings. 

First, the offer from Starbucks via a breakdown in the LA Times:

"The Seattle coffee giant announced this week it is helping employees who enroll in Arizona State University's online bachelor's degree programs for all four years. The company said it would provide full tuition reimbursement to juniors and seniors, and that freshman and sophomores would be eligible for a partial scholarship and other financial aid.

The assistance is open to employees who work at least 20 hours a week in any company-operated store, Starbucks said, regardless of how long they've been with the company.

Days later, however, the coffee purveyor clarified that scholarships to workers in their freshman and sophomore years were provided by ASU, not Starbucks. Company spokeswoman Jaime Riley said those students will get scholarships from ASU that will cover about 22% of tuition for their first two years.

Starbucks is assisting its workers who qualify as juniors and seniors, but that help comes with a long list of caveats.

The coffee company will reimburse students for any tuition that is paid out of pocket or that is covered by loans. However, Starbucks will only pay out an initial lump sum to juniors and seniors after they earn 21 credits. Additional reimbursements will be dispensed in 21-credit increments as well. The money is paid once a year in an employee's paycheck, Riley said."

Tagline - Hard as hell, people.  More on the general usage of Tuition Aid in the industry from The Atlantic:

"But as some have noted, this also is a savvy PR move. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement as a way to recruit and retain staff. But the benefits are used, on an average, by fewer than one in 10 workers: only 3.9% of retailers’ staffs, the sector that includes Starbucks, take advantage of tuition reimbursement, the lowest of any sector tracked by EdLink, a leading supplier of employer tuition reimbursement programs.

By comparison, 6.1% of Fortune 500 companies workers took a class on the company, 8.0% of health care workers—and in a few individual companies, one in five workers took classes that their bosses underwrote. Even at the best organizations for staff development, chosen by Training magazine, only 8% of eligible workers took college courses paid by the company."

It's a great benefit, but it's not going to apply to everyone.  That's the best type for any company, because it still attracts candidates who like to think they'll go back to school at some point in the future.

Well played, Starbucks.  I'm not hating, it's a smart play.

HR pros - take note.  This is from the gold level playbook of maximizing buzz and brand, but limiting financial exposure.


DATA & MONEY: Run a Vasectomy/March Madness Promo at Your Company Next January....

Heads Up - This is not your normal March Madness post about lost productivity.  Your employees don't need tourney brackets to screw you out of an honest day's pay - they're waaaaaay more creative than that.

Nope - this post is about how you combine March Madness, economic, medical coverage and bedroom issues that interest your employees into one big "marketing meets HR" extravaganza. March-madness

You need to mark your Calendars for January 5th, 2015, at which point you'll launch a "Vasectomy/March Madness" special.

I'd like to think I'm a leader in this area.  Once we had the second kid, it was time to decide if we were done or not.  We were done.  I went to a urologist to explore the male side of family planning.

My urologist was a immigrant from South America.  As part of his vasectomy package, he actually told us he had to talk with us as a couple.  Then he unleashes this (imagine Columbian accent):

South American Urologist - "Now Mr. Dunn, are you sure you want to do this?  I have to ask, because I see more and more men in their early 50's coming back with a young second or third wife who expects children.  At that point, they're looking to reverse the vasectomy.  I don't want you to be caught in those circumstances."

Me - "I'm sure, doc. Have you met Mrs. Dunn?  She's sitting right here."

What an ass. But the deal got done.  It also coincided with the purchase of our first big screen TV and conference tournament weekend in college basketball, when there's like 100 high-end games on in a single weekend.  I was a leader in this area.  It's now a trend - from CNN:

"A major clinic in Ohio reports it performs 40 or 50 more vasectomies a month before and during the 68-team basketball tourney. We do have (in March) typically about 50% more vasectomies than in other months," said Dr. Ed Sabanegh, chairman of the Department of Urology at the Cleveland Clinic.  A lot of patients come in and say, 'I have to have this during March Madness, you have to talk to my wife about it. Tell her what my limitations are and that I need to be on the couch."

Here's your opportunity HR - you launch a special next January and focus on your long term employees that look to be about done having kids and remind them of the possibilities.  The women probably wish the husband would take care of it.  The husbands are worried their macho level - or maybe the third wife in 13 years.  You bring them together by reminding them of the possibilities of the vasectomy/March Madness combo.  Maybe you throw in additional PTO and a platter from Chick-fil-A.

The wife wins because it's handled.  The guy wins because he gets to watch hoops. You win because you're creative, and let's face it, your medical plan doesn't need more covered dependents or pregnancies.

That's win/win/win where I come from.

 


AOL Learns the Hard Way: Don't Blame Rising Benefit Costs on Individual Employees...

THE FIRST RULE OF SHARING BENEFIT CUTS OR RISING BENEFIT COSTS IS: Never blame the situation on individual employees.  Couple reasons for that:

1. You're the leader, you're supposed to be figuring stuff as a leader out without pointing fingers.

2. You're known to employees as "the man" (even if you're a woman) and nobody is going to take your side when you refer to individual employees.  They're automatically going to say, "what if that was me?" and crush you in the court of public opinion for blaming a cost situation on something an employee had no control over.

Why am I talking about this today?  AOL recently cut total benefit costs by tweaking it's 401K match procedures, and CEO Tim Armstrong cited two family health situations as part of the reason why:

"In a call with AOL (AOL) employees in which he tried to explain why the company had changed its 401(k) plan, Armstrong, a former Google exec, said that two AOL employees' sick newborns factored into the decision.

"We had two AOL-ers that had distressed babies that were born that we paid a million dollars each to make sure those babies were okay in general," Armstrong said on the call. "And those are the things that add up into our benefits cost. So when we had the final decision about what benefits to cut because of the increased health care costs, we made the decision, and I made the decision, to basically change the 401(k) plan."

Of course, that's entirely lame.  My benefit leaders in the readership can pitch in her because they know more than me.  But, I have to assume that AOL is self insured, and if that's the case, they've got reinsurance on the aggregate spend company wide, but also on individual healthcare situations, which provides stop gap coverage for the major/major situations before it even gets to the aggregate spend for the company.  In that common circumstance, it wouldn't have cost them millions.  The cost per employee family situation would have stopped at 20/40/60K, wherever they put the individual reinsurance deductible.

But, whether you are self insured or fully insured on your medical plan, a bad year can definitely hurt your cost structure for the next year, which means the cost comments may have been true as they projected 2014.  

But you don't mention two families as the reason.  I've managed self insured plans that looked great and then had a bunch of bad stuff happen with 5-10 familes.  God bless them for what they went through.  It absolutely crushed the self-insured picture of the company/unit I was responsible for managing.  It never occured to me to point to a bunch of people who had cancer or other forms of major medical as the reason prices were going up.  

If you remember, Armstrong is the guy who fired an employee via conference call a while back.  Looks to be a classic case of a strong executive that's surrounding by a team who's afraid to tell him he's crazy.  

For the record, Armstrong reversed his decision.  Funny how referencing distressed babies as reasons for a tweak in the 401k match plan can make you do that.


The 5 Biggest Lies In HR... (#4 - We Want to Provide Great Benefits to All Team Members)

This is a post in a 5-part series targeting the 5 biggest lies in HR.  Lucky you.

That’s right. I’m here today not to give you the normal PR spin about how strategic the HR function can be, but instead to call B.S. on the biggest lies in HR. It’s not that HR people want to lie, it’s just that we’ve created our own prison: urban myths developed over last 20 years as the HR function has matured.

As a result, we’re trapped. We’ve spawned narratives that make the HR function appear like a cross between Mother Teresa and Stuart Smalley, while the team members we serve need more tough love, a cross between Jack Welch and Dennis Miller.

You know, that little thing called the truth, effectively washed down with a bit of leadership, personality and at times, humor.

Here's the fourth biggest lie in HR.  t's timely with the emergence of Obamacare:

Lie #4: It’s the company’s desire to provide strong benefits to all team members. How many shades of gray are there are on the color wheel? While we like to take care of team members, if it wasn’t part of the American healthcare system and a competitive necessity related to talent, we’d be out of the benefits business so fast it would make the collapse of Martha Coakley in Massachusetts seem glacial in comparison. As someone who’s been fortunate enough to run a self-insured healthcare plan in a smaller environment and witness the humanity first hand, I can tell you the biggest component to this lie is our unwillingness to hold you accountable for your own health. We’ll talk about our cost increases during open enrollment, but do most of us never really try to change behavior through incentives or penalties.

The Truth: We’re not your Mom. We only provide benefits because it’s an expectation and we have to in order to compete in the talent game. We have little to no control over insurance costs incurred, and due to our collective unwillingness to penalize smokers and team members who are gold members at Krispy Kreme, we never will. You’ll have to take the cost increases we give you as a result, and if we ever get brave enough to try to change the behavior of the outliers, we’ll find we’re too late due to a legislative environment that protects those making unhealthy choices (althought maybe less so under Obamacare). Wow, that was depressing to write.

Could we even change your behavior? Probably not. You're a mess.  So are we. Fitness memberships probably aren't going to change you.  

Our biggest lever in the benefits world is cost. We tinker with the co-pay and co-insurance to try and keep the cost increase to 20% instead of 40%.

If you’re a good HR pro and don’t feel like you subscribe to this lie, I’ve got one question for you:

If you don’t actively pitch the lies outlined above, do you actively preach the truth?

If the answer is no, you’ve got work to do before you’re part of the solution.  

Lie #3 is up in a couple of days.


HR Playbook: UPS Does Spousal Benefits "Carve Out" on 15K Families

One of the games that HR Leaders of all shapes and sizes (company size, not body size) have to play is medical cost. How can I manage the cost of my medical plan?  Whether you're fully insured or self insured, you're still left to tweak the design of your plan to manage cost increases. Don't kid yourself, you'll still be doing this when and if Obamacare becomes official.  Unless you decide to stop providing benefits at all and take your Obamacare penalty. Good luck recruiting if that's your approach.

The normal flavors of these medical plan design tweaks are pretty obvious. You're basically looking to cut the quality of the plan to keep your costs under control. Flavors of that include - increase the deductible, raise the co-insurance, alter your prescription meds program, etc.

One heftier option was in the news last week - the spousal carve out, which means that you start denying coverage to spouses that have viable medical plans available where they work. Here's more from the New York Times:

"United Parcel Service has told its white-collar employees that it will stop providing health care coverage to their spouses who can obtain coverage through their own employers, joining an increasing number of companies that are restricting or eliminating spousal health benefits.

In a memo addressed to employees, U.P.S. said, “Limiting plan eligibility is one way to manage ongoing health care costs, now and into the future, so that we can continue to provide affordable coverage for our employees.”

The memo also estimated that about 33,000 spouses were covered under its insurance plan for white-collar employees and that “about 15,000 of these would have health care coverage available through their own employers.”

I did a spousal carve out one time at a mid-sized software company. Things you'll need to think about include:

1. The communication plan so you don't look like a total ###. You're going to look like an ###, but you don't want to look like a total ###.

2.  Certification - in order for you to really execute this, you're going to have to make all spouses ineligible, then only add spouses that bring you certification from their company that no viable medical option is available.  Open enrollment is really the only time to do this without causing a riot.

3.  You'll have to define what a viable medical plan looks like at a spouse's company so you can easily determine whether the spouse is eligible to join your plan.  My definition of viable is communication related to quality of the plan (what does it cover) and cost (how much comes out of the spouse's paycheck to get coverage).  Needless to say, there are a lot of decisions to be made with this.

Having said all of that, the number of employers who have executed the spousal carve out on their medical plans is fairly low.  The Times article goes on to outline the following:

"While the percentage of employers adopting changes in policies like U.P.S.’s new limits remains in the single digits, it is growing. According to a corporate survey by Mercer, a consulting firm, 6 percent of companies with 500 or more employees excluded coverage for spouses in 2012 if their spouses could obtain coverage through their own employer. That is double the percentage in 2008, Mercer found."

Notable - The new U.P.S. policy does not apply to the children of those employees. Nor does it affect the company’s 250,000 unionized workers, who belong to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. At the end of last year, the company had around 399,000 employees, which means 3-4% of it's employees are impacted by the change.

 

 


MORE VACATION POLICIES TO HATE: One Week Off Every Quarter...

I'm on record as having a game plan for helping your company become a Great Place to Work.  See that Kinetix whitepaper here.

It's a PR game you have to play and the first part is easy if you have the means (Ferris Bueller reference for those of you who track these things) - you have to buy GPTW attention.  Write a check.

One of the easy ways to buy attention that stacks up towards a GPTW award is to give more vacation time then reasonable companies are inclined to provide.  That leads to big vacation packages, the no set vacation package (take it when you want it!) and all the other flavors that you've seen toward the GPTW goal, wished you could give, then gradually grew to hate because you work at a standard place that can't buy GPTW attention (or decides not to).

But one vacation policy recently caught my eye - a week off ever quarter in addition to the company's standard vacation policies at a startup called Quirky.  Notes from the CEO of Quirky:

"We’ve found that our cadence as a business is very centered around 90 day sprints. Retail seems to have 4 major seasons, our best products seem to be baked in 90 day time frames, the longest we can lock in tactical plans without completely guessing as to what products we will be talking about/investing in is quarterly.

Pressure slowly builds throughout these 90 day periods, culminating in an extremely stressful and magically productive final 2-3 weeks of a calendar quarter. It’s been this way for 3 years.

Historically, we’ve jumped right back into it. But beginning in 2013, the first week of every new calendar quarter will be lights out.

We are going to shut down the entire machine for 4 weeks next year. Instead of running for 52, it will run for 48.

This is a full, mandatory shutdown of all internal activities. Lights out. Deep breath.

Time for us to explore other creative interests. Relax without worrying about what we’re missing. Time for us to get our head back into the game. For some of us, time for us to clean our apartments, see the dentist, and buy a new pair of kicks."

I know. You hate it. "I got your kicks right here" is what you are saying. I hate these guys and gals too. For being small. For being edgy. Most of all for doing sh#t that puts pressure on everybody else.

But here's the thing.  This one actually makes sense. They're doing the smart business thing for their type of business.  

Software development shops run in what are known as sprints. The product team decides what's going into the next release, and the development team literally "sprints" across a defined period to get the roadmap features built. In shops like these, it's more than a 40-50 hour week to get it done - for the entire sprint period.

Shutting down at the end of the clearly defined sprint period is actually pretty smart and innovative.

So why I'd love to scream, "GIMMICK" from the top of my building like so many other countless vacation policies that are chasing the Great Place to Work designation, I can't on this one.

Shutting down once a quarter actually makes sense for a software development shop.

I highly recommend it if you have the means. (FBR)


Pampered Employees of Rich Companies With Workout Facilities: Watch the Path of the Towel...

Damn it feel good to have a workout facility at your company - right big/rich company employees?

Of course there are some hazards (email subscribers click through for the video):

"Hey Ron, great workout..." (exiting gym floor)

"You too, Steve..."

"Let's cool down and go plot the downfall of Google, Ron..."(Wipes faces, shares towel with Ron in sign of solidarity and man club membership)

"Word."


The HR Capitalist Guide for Dealing with ObamaCare!

ObamaCare - it's right around the corner.  It's either a great thing or the end of times depending on your polarized MSNBC/Fox News view of the world.  Wait - there are people somewhere in the middle?  Moderates?  Surely you jest.

Regardless of your stance, you still need to figure out how you'll absorb increased business costs (if ObamaCare you have them) related to ObamaCare.  Most of us have no clue what's going on.  

Never fear!  I'm here with the dummies guide for dealing with the cost of ObamaCare.  What can I say?  It just felt right to do this. Let's just say if you don't currently offer benefits to a large degree of your workforce or those benefits suck, you might need this dummies guide to ObamaCare.

Here's how it works.  I give 3 dummy guide coping mechanisms for the cost of ObamaCare below, then I give you a tasty example of people in the real world bracing for impact and making large statements before the election, brought to you buy this jaded article from Salon (not Fox News btw).

Lets' get this party started:

THE DUMMIES GUIDE TO DEALING WITH OBAMACARE - YOUR OPTIONS ARE AS FOLLOWS:

1. Don't accept the cost increases lying down - just cut some jobs (and service) and make sure you're vocal about why you're doing it.  Profits aren't going down in your company, jobs are going down. Homey don't play that.  Instead of taking the coming cost increases like a chump, you can cut some jobs and stay even.  Let's say not providing benefits is going to cost you an ObamaCare tax of 2K per employee.  You've got 2,000 employees you don't ensure, and you're going to take the surcharge/tax of 2K per (4M large).  The average salary at your company is 40K.  That means you have to cut 100 jobs to stay even.  If you do the layoffs on Friday, you can do what I think the guy below would do and deem the layoff day "Obama Friday".  

From Salon:

"Applebee’s New York CEO says he’ll ax jobs because of Obamacare.

Zane Tankel, the CEO of Applebee’s New York restaurants, is another so-called “job creator” who’s threatened to fire employees and freeze hiring. As he told Fox Business News, “We’ve calculated it will be some millions of dollars across our system. So what does that say — that says we won’t build more restaurants. We won’t hire more people — exactly the opposite of what the president says.” Sorry, but that’s on you, Mr. Tankel.

When asked if he would start relying more heavily on part-time workers, he said, “I’m sure all our people are watching this right now, so I don’t want to make any commitments one way or another. I just want to say we’re looking at it, we’re evaluating it, if it’s possible to do without cutting people back, I’m delighted to do it. But that also rolls back expansion, it rolls back hiring more people, and in a best-case scenario we only shrink the labor force minimally.”

 2.  You can cut everyone who doesn't receive benefits to part-time status.  Sure they've got bills to pay, but you've got 2K per head tax/surcharge to avoid.  What could possibly go wrong?

From Salon:

"Red Lobster and Olive Garden parent company may rely on more part-time workers.

Darden Concepts, the parent corporation of Red Lobster and Olive Garden, may start using more part-time workers who would likely not be eligible for employee-sponsored health insurance plans, according to Salon’s Natasha Lennard, who cites a report by MSNBC’s Ned Resnikoff:

[T]he company overall could come to rely more on part-time workers. Those new employees would likely not enjoy the same health benefits that all employees currently do. “Today we offer health care to all of our employees,” said Rich Jeffers, [a spokesperson for Darden]. But under the Affordable Care Act, which sets minimum standards for the health care being provided, “we can’t offer that.”

3.  My personal favorite - you can itemize the tax/surcharge on every customer's bills, reminding everyone of why the cost of the goods/service has risen with every transaction.  You know this game - you're renting a car or checking out of a hotel, and you see 4 different line items for special taxes that that the local government did to stick it to visitors to the city.  Why not itemize the cost of ObamaCare?  If you stand back and look at it from a distance, it's elegant in it's simplicity.

From Salon:

"Denny’s/Dairy Queen franchise threatens “Obamacare surcharge,” reduced employees hours.

John Metz, who owns Hurricane Grill & Wings and dozens of Denny’s and Dairy Queen franchises, has threated to slash his workers’ pay and impose an “Obamacare surcharge” at his restaurants.

“If I leave the prices the same, but say on the menu that there is a 5 percent surcharge for Obamacare, customers have two choices. They can either pay it and tip 15 or 20 percent, or if they really feel so inclined, they can reduce the amount of tip they give to the server, who is the primary beneficiary of Obamacare,” Metz told the Huffington Post. “Although it may sound terrible that I’m doing this, it’s the only alternative. I’ve got to pass the cost on to the consumer.”

Terrible, yes. The only alternative, not so much."

OK - BIG DISCLAIMER.  I included the Salon clips because it was nice background for my dummies guide list.  I don't have knowledge of the labor practices of any of these companies, but I do know life in the mosh pit of the economy is tough.  I think these execs have a right to freak out a little bit.  As far as Salon's commentary, I'm amused that Salon doesn't think that Denny's or Dairy Queen doesn't have the right to itemize the cost of ObamaCare on it's menu.  Interesting in that option that the person hurt most might be the person who lives on tips.  Talk about unintended consequences.

Strange days, indeed.


Performance vs. Potential: Brat Pack Movies and bswift

Performance vs. Potential – it’s the only way to look at who’s a star and who’s a scrub in your organization.  You can also use it for lots of other purposes, namely comparing the relative merits of Brat Pack movies starring Molly Ringwald.  With a little James Spader thrown in for good measure.

You’re not following me?  I was up yesterday at the bswift Annual Conference in Chicago, where I spoke about The 9 Faces of HR – a primer on how to morph the performance/potential grid to evaluate HR teams and HR candidates you’re thinking about hiring.

Here’s one of my slides – Using Performance vs Potential to evaluate Brat Pack movies:

Brat Pack

Breakfast Club – c’mon.  Performance is measured by box office and critical acclaim, potential measured by whether you want to watch it with your kids when they get old enough.  Breakfast Club wins that hands down.  I’ll let you rant in the comments whether I’ve got Pretty in Pink and 16 Candles in the wrong spot.  But St. Elmo’s Fire?  That was one hyped up movie, but let’s face it – no one is waiting until their son or daughter turns 16 so they can watch that piece of crap with them and bond.

But I digress – had the time to take in most of the bSwift conference (check them out, pretty cool brand and some great people) and it was a unique opportunity to get back into what’s going on with Healthcare, Wellness, etc.  Top line of what I learned:

  • Like the guy in Jaws, “You’re going to need a bigger boat”:  If ObamaCare goes through, you better have someone to help you figure it out.  Period.
  • We've got some OPTIMISTIC people related to the GOP winning back everything in November.
  • People are still actively trying to find ways to make their workforce healthier.  Wellness is very much in play.
  • Companies aren’t afraid to go to the “stick” instead of the “carrot” when it comes to you finding your motivation to get with the program.
  • A $25 per month penalty for not getting your screenings complete is interesting – seems like I could buy a lot of behavioral action (if not change) for that amount – itemized on your paystub, of course.
  • If Financial worries are one of the biggest causes of stress among your workforce, why not include a financial education/counseling play in your wellness program?

And the biggest thing I learned: I won’t do another speaking gig without mandating that I come out to the theme from St. Elmo’s Fire.  It just seems like the over-the-top, "we’re going to rule this planet once we figure out who we are", totally Gen-X thing to do.

That’s right Gen Y – we once thought we were special too.  Keep thinking that, it's cute.  Here's some lyrics from the song your GenX boss is humming today after she reads this post:

"Growin' up
You don't see the writin' on the wall
Passin' by
Movin' straight ahead you knew it all
But maybe sometime if you feel the pain
You'll find you're all alone
Everything has changed

Play the game
You know you can't quit until it's won
Soldier on
Only you can do what must be done
You know in some way
You're a lot like me
You're just a prisoner
And you're tryin' to break free..."

Wow.  Really?

Really.