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Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

Your Culture Is Your Brand signI like to believe the employee benefits research we conduct provides useful insight for Iowa employers. After all, in addition to competitive pay, offering the ‘right’ type of benefits to the ‘right’ audience (employees) is critical when attracting qualified personnel – given the relatively steep cost it takes to offer competitive compensation packages.

But after attracting your employees, what keeps them with your organization? What is the glue or bond that ensures your most valuable asset does not take flight elsewhere?

One word…Culture.

Often, employers confuse perks with culture. Perks ATTRACT employees, but culture RETAINS them.

Your organization’s culture is the development and implementation of a unique brand or philosophy that is continuously embedded within and throughout your organization. It’s what distinguishes your organization from all others. Culture cannot be purchased through insurance vendors nor found in a paycheck. Its organic make-up of emotion and experience provides intangible feelings of concern for your employees. It creates a sense of community that allows employees to feel connected to something much bigger.

Unlike a more tangible perk such as employee benefits, attempting to survey organizations about their culture is much trickier. Cultures can be positive or negative. Providing a strong, positive culture allows employees the freedom to be themselves. Spend time to listen and support them. Ask for their opinions and act on their feedback. A positive culture serves as a vaccine that repels contagious viruses that can have undesirable consequences.

If you feel that your organization doesn’t have the ‘right’ kind of culture to retain employees, you are not alone. But there is hope! A positive culture can be organically grown if leaders genuinely embrace transparency with their staff, which allows workers to respond in-kind. By sharing their own costly mistakes, leaders/managers can demonstrate to employees they are committed to learning from the past. Consequently, this will develop mutual trust that is paramount for success.

Holding people accountable, pushing them to be better and training them to learn how is not that difficult, it just takes a consistent and concerted effort in all departments of your organization. When your employees are challenged and pushed, they become better – and so does your culture. Management-guru Peter F. Drucker simply wrote that ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ How right he was!

Think about it, employees are really your ‘customers.’ So, what is your organization selling to them? How about…

• The sum of your organizational habits
• Values that you share and live
• Vision and mission of your organization
• Processes and procedures, including the level of bureaucracy (for better or worse)
• Innovation and creativity support – allow them to develop and use their God-given abilities
• Safety and security
• Sense of belonging

If you focus on creating an environment which makes it difficult for your employees to leave because they feel that ‘sense of belonging,’ they will stay. It’s never too late to change the road you are on. As Albert Einstein once stated, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking…”

What is your organization’s culture?

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Talking ‘Turkey’ on Thanksgiving
A Health Coverage Diversion

Talking Turkey on ThanksgivingRacial, gender, social and political harmony has been sorely lacking in our country, and the ‘perfect storm’ to potentially divide families on this particular Thanksgiving was both real and ominous.

This particular Thanksgiving, many American families were understandably apprehensive to discuss anything remotely political at the dinner table. Because of this, three NFL football games suddenly became unusually more interesting, perhaps because the game or teams served as a common thread to unify rather than divide. Upcoming Netflix shows also morphed into a topic for others to share – shows to watch, avoid or to anticipate an impending release.

Diversions can be a great thing, when needed!

Almost immediately after arriving at our family Thanksgiving gathering, I was approached by my 23-year-old niece, who had taken a job shortly after graduation – a fact worth celebrating! She was leaving her parents’ health coverage and was trying to navigate through her new health benefits. Her question was simple, lacking any political or social overtones, and yet quite revealing to this baby boomer:

“Uncle David, would you have time to visit with me this weekend to discuss my benefit options available through my employer? The health insurance, in particular, is complicated stuff!”

I quickly gave my niece a hug, partly to assure her that I would be happy to assist her, but just as importantly, it was a natural ‘diversion’ that we both could safely partake!

Educating a new generation of Americans about health insurance ‘stuff,’ is nothing new. Once upon a time, most of us boomers were also ‘barnacles’ – living off our parents’ health plans. Somehow we survived the switch to ‘real world insurance’ once we took our first legitimate job that offered health coverage. No longer is health insurance just a card handed to us by our parents. It becomes a key to gain access to a very complicated system of care. But it also takes time to become educated on what this card will do.

What strikes me most, however, is that today’s coverages have become more, uh, complex. Now more than ever, employers are asking their employees to accept a greater financial burden when seeking healthcare. Not only is this a taxing problem for older employees who have weathered health insurance changes in the past, but for our newly-employed youth who enter the workforce. Think about it, we are handing them a ‘perk’ that requires a greater explanation than a cursory, ‘Good luck with your decisions.’

In a short period of time, young, first-time employees are entering a new world of qualified-high deductible health plan options, coupled with health savings accounts (HSAs), health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), flexible spending accounts (FSAs), preferred provider organizations (PPOs), health maintenance organizations (HMOs), and many other benefits beyond health insurance.

As indicated in a prior blog, “Understanding Health Insurance 101,”only one in 10 Americans can adequately define key components of their health plan, such as deductibles, coinsurance, copayments and out-of-pocket maximums. The other 90 percent is expected to make choices about their coverage that demands additional education from their employers (or vendors).

I enjoyed spending time with my niece discussing her benefit options. Even though it wasn’t the most captivating topic that could be discussed on Thanksgiving, it was a good diversion – and for that, I am thankful!

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Obamacare – A Political Piñata

Obamacare PinataWith the recently-decided election, the votes have been counted, reviewed and analyzed. As in all elections, there are both ‘winners’ and ‘losers.’ We can also be assured the 2016 results will be scrutinized and interpreted using many different political lenses based on perspectives – and agendas.

Now what?

Similar to a battlefield in war, opposing troops have retreated to plan, re-calibrate and eventually execute their strategies for the next round of combat – which will occur in the weeks, months and years ahead. The new battles on many different national and international topics will prove to be hard-fought, extremely contentious, and likely fraught with an uncertain future.

Without a doubt, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will serve to be an immediate, yet prolonged, battle. The popular phrase, ‘Repeal and Replace,’ will prove to Americans that treating almost one-fifth of our economy as a piñata to bat into submission is much more complicated than it sounds. The real work begins now.

Handicapping the future of ACA components is both difficult and, frankly, impossible. We simply have few, if any, details on President-elect Trump’s healthcare replacement plan. However, we do know about the 37-page plan released by the House Republican’s this past June, which essentially discards ACA mandates and penalties. Much of this plan may possibly serve as a blueprint for the new president and the Republican Congress.

Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are likely to pursue the repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate, premium subsidies, Medicaid expansion, and eliminate varies taxes (e.g. ‘Cadillac plan’ and medical-device taxes) using a two-year delay to allow time for a replacement package to emerge. Republicans will try to enact some of these changes through an expedited reconciliation process, which requires only 51 Senate votes for passage, but used solely on ACA-provisions affecting taxes and revenue.

Nudging the U.S. healthcare system from fee-for-service to value-based care is a challenging and arduous experiment, much of which has been championed by the ACA but has been less visible to the general public. In addition to covering more Americans, the ACA is attempting to reform payment incentives that will result in higher quality of care at ‘affordable’ costs. Despite candidate Trump’s pledge to ‘eliminate’ the ACA in its entirety, there are some programs that are considered by many to be salvageable.

One such program, devised by the ACA-funded Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Center, is to test “innovative payment and service delivery models to reduce program expenditures…while preserving or enhancing the quality of care.” The Innovation Center has implemented voluntary and mandatory bundled-payment programs and many other initiatives, including accountable care organizations. The various experiments that come from the Innovation Center will likely fail, but from these setbacks, new approaches will hopefully take root to advance and improve the quality of healthcare delivered at more reasonable costs. Many Republicans and Democrats agree that transparency of data to patients will be important to ensure higher-quality care.

As the lines are being drawn for a protracted political battle in healthcare once again, hopefully both sides will join together and address the true causes of costs – a fragmented delivery system and social determinants of health – both of which greatly influence the costs we pay downstream. Making hasty policy decisions to fulfill campaign promises will likely cause serious unintended consequences in an already fragile sector of our economy.

Let’s hope the blindfolds are discarded before swinging at this piñata.

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