Unlimited PTO - More For the Employer or the Employee?

Check out a recent post I did at my other site - Fistful of Talent - on the optics of unlimited PTO - what it means for companies over employees and more.  Here's a taste:

In my darkest moments, I’m a bit of a skeptic.  And I think unlimited PTO might just be a scam to not pay out accrued vacation and sick time.

With me?  Against me?  As with most things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.  Here’s 5 things I know about vacation/sick time and the connection to the concept of unlimited PTO:

Unlimited PTO is limitless in its attraction as a component to “Best Place To Work”.  It’s hard to hear the concept exists at a company and not view said company in the top quartile of places to work.  Whatever the reality is, WHO CARES PEOPLE – THEY HAVE UNLIMITED PTO.  That’s how it comes across – in all caps, being shouted from the mountaintop.

I’ve worked for incredible CFOs in my career, and they all would evaluate Unlimited PTO with a form of glee reserved for Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.  The exchange is simple – you tell them you want to do unlimited PTO, and after they blast the dead weight in the company they think is going to abuse it, they get that thoughtful look in their eyes as they say, “wait, that means we’ll never pay out banked time again, right?  Hmmm…”

Get the whole post by clicking here.  Regardless of your opinion on unlimited PTO, let's just agree there's at least mutual benefit, OK?

What You Need to Know: Trump Healthcare and Pre-Existing Conditions...

If you're like me as an HR pro, you've always had your eye on the pre-existing condition angle of any healthcare legislation.  That was a priority before Obamacare, became less of a priority during Obamacare (and a relief) and has now become ugly as a the GOP presents the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the new Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare).

There's been a lot of claims related to how many pre-existing conditions won't be covered, specifically related to the explosive issue of victims of domestic violence and more.

Admittedly, I like the Obamacare provision of no BS when it comes to pre-existing conditions. Its a high empathy provision and feels right.

But with the AHCA bearing down on us, I started to really try to go beyond the clickbait headlines most were serving up on pre-existing conditions and find out what bill actually provides and says.  I wanted to know this for myself (because I know that gaps in coverage are bad any time pre-existing conditions are a part of the mix) since I find myself giving advice to friends and previous employees based on what I do for a living.

Let me tell you - finding a factual account of what the bill actually says is hard in a world where Facebook serves you up more of whatever you click on (imagine echo chamber sound effect as you read that sentence - for both sides of the political aisle).

Here's the best reporting I could find on how pre-existing conditions might be considered/changing if the GOP bill gets through the Senate, courtesy of the Washington Post

The revised GOP plan included an amendment crafted by Rep. Tom McArthur (R-N.J.), which helped the plan attract votes that led to its passage. The amendment allowed states to seek waivers from a “continuous coverage” provision that otherwise would boost insurance rates by 30 percent for one year if a person has a lapse in insurance coverage for more than two months.

Instead, if the state met certain conditions, insurance companies for one year could consider a person’s health status when writing policies in the individual market. Another possible waiver would allow the state to replace a federal essential benefits package with a more narrowly tailored package of benefits, limited to the individual and small-group markets.

These changes would affect a specific group of people who meet the following criteria: Lives in a state that seeks this waiver; has a lapse in health coverage for longer than 63 days; has a preexisting condition; and purchases insurance on the individual or small-group market.

A person who fell into this category would face insurance rates that could be based on their individual condition, for one year. (States that seek a waiver would need to provide ways to help make up the difference in costs.) After that, people would qualify for prices at the community rate, rather than based on their individual conditions. This would not affect people with employer-funded health coverage; the individual market, including the Obamacare exchanges, currently serves about 18 million Americans.

Here's how I'll read that to help the people who ask me how to interpret pre-existing conditions should the AHCA pass:

  • It sounds like in some states, there may be a year-long period where you could get hurt financially related to pre-existing conditions.  Not all states, but some for sure.
  • You'll be better off if you have pre-existing conditions in your family by working for an employer rather than yourself during this period.
  • If you work for an employer, it's probably best if you have a potential pre-existing tab at risk to hunker down and not change insurance during the referenced one-year period.
  • I'm assuming COBRA is still an option, which would allow most exiting companies to get through the 1-year period at employer market rates.
  • I'm unclear if insurers will be able to cancel existing individuals polices during the one-year period.  I'm assuming no, but I haven't seen that clearly stated by anyone doing responsible analysis.

So that's my report.  I'm turning more and more to the Washington Post for responsible reporting.  I find them to be hard on the far-right but fact based when reporting on issues like the AHCA. 

HR pros - good luck explaining new pre-existing condition issues to your friends, family and employees. 

You Hate BMI: Scientists Now Have Another Fat Metric You Can Hate Instead....

I know - you and everyone else hates Body Mass Index as a measure of what it means to be overweight. Invented in the early 1800s by a Belgian statistician, the measurement is used as a definitive benchmark: those with a score below 18.5 are underweight, those who fall between 18.5 and 24.9 are normal, those between 25 to 29.9 are overweight, and those 30 and higher are obese.

For years, medical professionals have taken issue with these cleanly drawn lines. The BMI scale, critics argue, is too simplistic to accurately reflect health on an individual basis. 13-vince-vaughn

Well, you wanted something different - and now you got it.  Instead of BMI, we're going with BVI, Body Volume Indicator.  You're welcome.  More from the Interwebs, commentary after this blurb about BVI:

Today, the Mayo Clinic adds its voice to the chorus. The medical care provider announced that is recommending a new system for measuring body composition and weight distribution: the Body Volume Indicator (BVI). Unlike BMI, which is formulated by comparing an individual’s weight in relation to his or her height, BVI considers “other crucial factors such as fat mass, lean mass, and weight distribution when determining an individual’s body composition,” Jose Medina-Inojosa, a cardiovascular research fellow at the Mayo Clinic, told Fortune. In addition to weight and height, information on waist-to-hip ratio, total body fat percentage, and abdominal volume is factored when determining a score.

Here’s how it works: doctors take two photos of their patients, wearing just their underwear, from the front and from the side. After the photos are taken, they are turned into 3D body silhouettes, and sent to a backend server where the images are compared to a database compiled from thousands of MRI images, 3D body scans, and Cadaver information. (The photos themselves are then deleted.)

By cross-referencing 3D silhouettes of patients with this database, the app provides more detailed information on weight distribution and volume, particularly for the abdomen, the area of the body “associated with the greatest risk for metabolic disease and insulin resistance,” said Medina-Inojosa. An increasing body of research suggests that fat in the midsection, which blankets the organs, is associated with a higher likelihood of premature mortality than fat carried in other areas of the body. Two women could be the same weight and height, but if one carries most of the weight in her hips, while the other’s is distributed primarily in the stomach, the latter would be at greater risk of developing a host of health issues. Their BMIs would be identical, but because BVI considers weight distribution and the percentage of fat stored in the abdominal cavity, those numbers would be different.

Is BVI a more accurate measure of obesity that matters?  Yes.

Are people still going to hate the measurement and question it's validity?  HELL yes.

The dirty little secret about these types of measurements is that they make us confront uncomfortable truths.  That's why the BMI was so fun to hate and also to deny.  It was easy to say, "I'm big-boned" or "I'm just husky".

Vince Vaughn is husky. You sir, are no Vince Vaughn.  You look like Chris Farley after an all-afternoon binge at Piccadilly. 

Anyway, the jist of BVI is this - it's a more accurate measurement of obesity that matters, and it's rooted in good science.  They're not telling you you're fat (although you might be), they're telling you the type of fat you have is a lot more dangerous than having some tricep flaps.

In this way, BVI provides a more direct measurement and a better call to action.

You're not fat, but your BVI shows you've got a problem.  Let's work on that.  

Here's hoping the BVI can catch on and scare some people to take action beyond denial statements like "Huskiness has always been a problem in my family".

Will denial decrease as a result of a more accurate measurement of being overweight?  I doubt it. 


VIDEO: 4 Tips From KD On Driving 401 Contributions Up at Your Company...

How do you drive your employees to do more of what you'd like them to do?  Even things that are in their best interest like participating in or raising their contributions to your 401K?

The answer - even in something as non-sexy as your 401K - is for HR pros to think more like marketers.

Check out the video I did below for AXEX - I'm laying out four simple, time-tested tips for driving your employees to take another look at their 401(k) contributions—and put a little bit more into the coffers for their future.

It's three minutes long, you'll definitely learn something...what's not to like?

(Email Subscribers click through for video if you don't see it below)

Facebook Moves to 20 Days Bereavement Leave, Makes Your Company Look Petty As Hell....

It's true.  Facebook just moved their Bereavement Leave Policy to 20 days for an immediate family member, 10 days for an extended family member.

Damn. More from TechCrunch:

"On her personal Facebook account Tuesday, COO Sheryl Sandberg announced an update to the company’s employee benefits, which are newly enhanced to ease the lives of new parents and grieving employees alike.

Sandberg noted that the decision intends to lead the charge for policies that help new parents as well as families that are grieving the loss of a loved one. In the post, Sandberg noted her own experience as a mother and the “nightmare” surrounding the unexpected death of her husband in shaping her perspective.

“Starting today, Facebook employees will have up to 20 days paid leave to grieve an immediate family member, up to 10 days to grieve an extended family member, and will be able to take up to six weeks of paid leave to care for a sick relative,” Sandberg writes. “We’re also introducing paid family sick time – three days to take care of a family member with a short-term illness, like a child with the flu.”

What's your bereavement policy again?  3 days for a family member?  You look kind of petty next to the mighty Facebook.

But seriously - I think every HR Pro looks at this policy and says three things:

  1. Yes - it really does take that long to even begin to move forward when you lose an immediate family member.
  2. No - 10 days or 2 weeks for an extended family member? Well, you hadn't even seen your grandpa for 2 years, didn't really like to be around him at Christmas and let's face it, you loved to make fun of his Milwaukee's Best consumption.  2 weeks is a bit of overkill.  
  3. While I like #1, my company has no chance of taking that stance. The cost, gaps in coverage and paranoia of fraud conspire to make it impossible for us to even increase our policy from 3 days.

Of course, the big thing to remember here is that Facebook is doing organizationally what your best managers have always done with key people who lost a parent, spouse or child - telling them to come back when they're ready, and not rush.

Your managers have to hide that from your company - Facebook is institutionalizing it.



Pizza Hut Continues The Tuition Aid Trend of Partnering with a Single University....

I'm up over at Fistful of Talent talking about the trend of corporate L&D departments striking Tuition Aid deals with single universities.  Here's a taste from that post:

I’m on the record as saying there’s no better benefit to put on your brochure than deep support for Tuition Aid.  That’s especially true if you employ a young workforce, many of whom haven’t yet achieved a college degree – retail, call centers, etc, come to mind right?

The reasons Tuition Aid is a smart benefit to add are simple.  Observe: Life-Unboxed-EDU-300x118

1. Employees who haven’t gotten their college degree are attracted to this benefit.

2.  BUT, the benefit is hard to use.  It can mean working full time while you go to school, takes persistence, sacrifice of time and at times impacts your personal life.  It’s easy to like but hard to use, which means that you can offer the benefit with little risk of all who are eligible using it to it’s full potential.

That’s the reality. But there are some big brands who have started to make it even easier to use the benefit by solidifying a single relationship with a university, effectively streamlining distance learning for the employees who work for them.  By creating a single relationship and promoting the ease of use, these companies are changing the commitment level they’re making to Learning and Development.

The latest company to take this approach is Pizza Hut.

Click here to head over to Fistful of Talent to read more about how Pizza Hut is partnering with a single college to add more value (and generate savings for the company and employees alike)

Can Tuition Aid be more of a recruiting advantage for you?  If you employ a workforce that is of college age and looking to get a degree, the answer is absolutely yes.

Beyond Fitbit - What the Research Says About Weight Loss That Should Drive Wellness...

I'm feeling all wellness-oriented these days.  A while back, I posted on the opinion that FitBit and similar wearables don't do a damn things for wellness.  The people who exercise aren't your problem.  Here's the money quote from that post:

"Well, Kris - I'll tell you the deal we learned about Fitbit.  We've got over 10K employees.  We've got 1K of those who are actively trying to use a Fitbit.  Here's the problem - about 965 of those were people who were already into fitness - they're already working to stay in shape, etc.  So I got 35 people to change their lifestyle?  That's great, but there's no impact to the bottom line of my healthcare cost."

Is food calorie consumption your problem when it comes to wellness?  Well, that's an interesting question for HR and wellness leaders everywhere...Here's some notes from Aaron Carroll at the New York Times:

"Think about it this way: If an overweight man is consuming 1,000 more calories than he is burning and wants to be in energy balance, he can do it by exercising. But exercise consumes far fewer calories than many people think. Thirty minutes of jogging or swimming laps might burn off 350 calories. Many people, fat or fit, can’t keep up a strenuous 30-minute exercise regimen, day in and day out. They might exercise a few times a week, if that.

2011 meta-analysis, a study of studies, looked at the relationship between physical activity and fat mass in children, and found that being active is probably not the key determinant in whether a child is at an unhealthy weight. In the adult population, interventional studies have difficulty showing that a physically active person is less likely to gain excess weight than a sedentary person. Further, studies of energy balance, and there are many of them, show that total energy expenditure and physical activity levels in developing and industrialized countries are similar, making activity and exercise unlikely to be the cause of differing obesity rates.

Moreover, exercise increases one’s appetite. After all, when you burn off calories being active, your body will often signal you to replace them. Research confirms this. A 2012 systematic review of studies that looked at how people complied with exercise programs showed that over time, people wound up burning less energy with exercise than predicted and also increasing their caloric intake."

Translation - controlling weight and health is easier accomplished by opting not to scarf the Snickers bar, rather than rationalizing that you'll burn it off.

We could probably make a lot more headway into wellness by offering people a variety of behavior modification techniques related to food rather than funding Fitbits.

I'm a gadget guy.  FitBits are cool.  But saying no to calories you don't need is where the money is at from a wellness perspective.  

Why Fitbit Doesn't Do a Damn Thing For Wellness...

In case you missed it, Fitbit did an IPO this week and shares were up 48% in first day trading.

Fitbit is hot right?  Everyone loves the idea of employees wearing a device that makes them more active, and dreams of the contribution that reality will create towards the health of the workforce.

IPO. HR. Fitness. Technology.

It's enough to make me suggest this new tagline for Fitbit: "Fitbit's the S**t".  (that's trademarked, btw)

There's just this one little problem with Fitbit.  Some are saying that it really doesn't influence the people you need most to get off their butt and get in shape.  Consider this astute quote I heard this week from a CHRO in a company with 10K employees during a private conversation about healthcare spend:

"Well, Kris - I'll tell you the deal we learned about Fitbit.  We've got over 10K employees.  We've got 1K of those who are actively trying to use a Fitbit.  Here's the problem - about 965 of those were people who were already into fitness - they're already working to stay in shape, etc.  So I got 35 people to change their lifestyle?  That's great, but there's no impact to the bottom line of my healthcare cost."

Her response?  I need wellness with more of a focus on case management, not shiny items.

I love to run and I'm in decent shape.  I like tech.  But she's right - the early adopters to this device probably don't move the needle.  We need the other side to come over to make that work.

Fitbit can still be the ****.  It just won't make the person about to stroke out in your workforce change their lifestyle.

THIS IS THE END: Skinny Jeans Now OK for Wal-Mart Employees...

You know the deal with Armageddon. You know it when you see it.  For some, that means bible verses. For others, it's a Cleveland team winning any type of championship.

Me? When Wal-Mart employees are allowed to wear skinny jeans, I think it's time to make sure the gas generator is operational. Skinny jeans

Everyone head to the storm shelter.  Wal-Mart is opening up it's dress code.  More from the Washington Post:

"In a cavernous college basketball arena on the campus of University of Arkansas, Wal-Mart announced workplace changes this morning that were based on employee feedback: It is tweaking the temperature in its stores, which employees have said are often too cold or too hot. It will relax its dress code, which currently only permits workers to wear khaki or navy pants with blue or white collared shirts. On July 1, employees will also be able to wear black or khaki-colored denim, and overnight workers will be allowed to wear blue denim and T-shirts.

Does that say skinny jeans are disallowed? No. So you know that you're automatically going to see things you don't want to see at Wal-Mart related to the move to denim.

When Aramark provides the khaki's, you never have to worry as an employer. When Maurice's or Rue21 is the source, you're in for a rude awakening.

The good news is that Wal-Mart is evolving, and they believe that happy employees equate to improved business results and customer service, and that's a welcome change from past practices.

The bad news is that there's going to be a new website called "Employees of Wal-Mart" that shows employees defying the laws of physics by squeezing into jeans that severely limit their mobility.

All in all, I give Wal-Mart a +1 for the move.  Just don't expect me not to smile when I see the judgement issues.

PS - read the article, Wal-Mart is also establishing a DJ to move from the tasty Celine Dion tracks we've come to know and love...


If I Was Running a Service Business, I'd Follow Starbucks on Tuition Aid So Fast It Would Make Your Head Swim...

What's the value proposition when it comes to people working at your company?  If you have a hard time answering that, you're undoubtedly struggling to find people who want to work for you in this economy - where talent has more options than they've had for awhile, or at least any time since 2009.

Some of creating a value prop comes down to what's valuable to the core positions that make up your company.  That's why I love what Starbucks recently did with Tuition Aid.  More from Bloomberg: Coffee town

"Starbucks Corp. will now pay full tuition for its workers to get a degree from Arizona State University online, instead of just partially footing the bill, giving it another way to entice employees in a tightening labor market.

Employees who work at least 20 hours a week will be eligible to have full tuition, the company said in a statement Monday. Starbucks founded the college program in 2014, with full-tuition reimbursement available only to juniors and seniors, while students in their first two years got a stipend of $6,500 to cover about half their fees.

Now, Starbucks is making full tuition available to more than 140,000 U.S. employees."

There's a lot to love here.  First, Starbucks is keenly aware who their target is from a talent perspective.  Young people on the way up, at times underemployed and/or in the process of figuring out what a full-grown up life looks like.  Next, what's most valuable from a benefits perspective to that group?  Building for the future, while I serve these godforsaken middle class people their coffee.
Going all in on tuition makes so much sense for Starbucks it's not even funny.  Especially when you consider that Tuition Aid is one of the classic benefits that looks great on the brochure, but is hard as hell to use - you actually have to be committed enough to enroll and do the work.  That means Starbucks knows exactly what % of their associates will use the benefit - and that number is waaaaay below 100% utilization.
If you're in the service business for 80% of your positions, full tuition aid is a great thing to add.  Whatever your business, find a value prop and clearly communicate it - and don't be afraid to spend.
By the way, if you haven't seen the low budget pic Coffee Town, you need to check it out.  Office Space meets Starbucks.  And yes, that is Josh Groban as a Barista..(email subscribers enable pics or click through)