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Finding Skilled Talent

David P. Lind BenchmarkSurvey findings were recently published by Deloitte Consulting LLP revealing the top five priorities in 2012 for U.S. employers relating to ‘Total Rewards’. Studies like this are helpful because it provides a glimpse into the national psyche of the corporate “mind” regarding compensation, benefits, perks and other direct/indirect payments to employees. This particular study is the 18th year of the Top Five Total Rewards Priorities series.

We all know that unemployment in this country is much too high (especially for those who are currently seeking employment). From this study, when 330 respondents ranked the most significant challenge facing their organization in the next three years, I was surprised to learn that TALENT SHORTAGE is the top challenge! We have high unemployment, but shortage of talent? This sounds a little counterintuitive to me.

What gives?

Deloittes’ explanation is that HR professionals “believe today’s surplus of job seekers has not translated to a talent surplus. Rather, employers are facing heightened competition for highly skilled talent that is not necessarily present in the large pool of unemployed.” About one quarter of the study respondents pointed to the shortage, motivation and retention of qualified talent, which is up from 16 percent in 2011.

According to the Deloitte study, here’s the list of the most significant challenges in the next three years:

  1. Shortage, motivation, and retention of qualified talent (25%)
  2. Rising cost of Total Rewards (21%)
  3. Health care reform complexity (18%)
  4. Uncertain economic conditions (10%)
  5. Total Rewards administration that meets or exceeds expectations (7%)

Having shortages in skilled positions is nothing new to employers. A labor surplus (due to high unemployment) does little to resolve labor shortage issues for key positions in some organizations (i.e. skilled production, engineering technologists, scientists, etc.). To fill these positions, employers will need to find new approaches to develop these skilled positions, regardless of the unemployment rate. Developing thoughtful training and recruitment initiatives, coupled with partnering with community colleges (and other vocational entities) will most likely help employers fill these skilled positions in the future. Vermeer Manufacturing in Pella has done just that by developing smart programs to fill these vital positions.

Without a doubt, Iowa’s workforce is our precious resource. We must continue to reinvest (and retool) in this resource to maintain competitive advantages here, nationally, and of course, internationally. We also must find ways to attract new people to Iowa and retain our existing residents…especially in rural areas. David Swenson, an economist at Iowa State University, recently wrote a piece in the Des Moines Register addressing precisely this issue.

It just makes good sense.

Smart Phones – Smart Future!

David P. Lind BenchmarkIn March, on behalf of Humana, Inc., Forrester Research released their report, “Mobile Application Adoption Trends and Strategies To Engage The Workforce”. According to this report, the trend appears to be that more employers embrace the idea of interacting with their employees for personal and work-related activities using new technologies offered through smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices.

Three key conclusions come from this report:

  1. An emerging demand for health and wellness mobile applications. Such applications enable employees to locate healthcare provider sites, track exercise activities, or monitor various biological conditions such as heart rates, glucose levels, and other health-related.
  2.  Mobile recruitment applications are emerging. Capturing candidate information during job fairs, interviews, or sharing video clips to candidates about specific jobs available within the organization.
  3. HR and benefits professionals implement awareness campaigns to promote employee adoption of mobile applications.  Purposes may include rolling out a new wellness campaign, incentive programs, and other new initiatives that are central to employment.

This report allows human resource executives and benefits administrators to look into the future when attempting to engage their workforce…using existing and new technologies.

Consider this:

  • About 17,000 health-related mobile applications are on the market*
  • By 2015, the number of mobile health service users are expected to reach 500 million*

Sprint launched a 12-week “Get Fit” challenge during the summer of 2011 and found big success using social media tools to engage employees to participate in wellness activities, such as weight loss, exercise minutes and pedometer steps. The estimated savings from this challenge, according to Sprint, was approximately $1.1 million. Partnering with ShapeUp, a wellness software company, Sprint used social networking tools that allowed employees to log their progress online through a website portal in addition to using mobile devices. Employees interacted with other employees throughout the country with friendly competitions – holding each other accountable. Sprint attributes a big part of the programs’ success to social networking. Social media tools can be a good thing when used appropriately!

Hmm, maybe it is time to learn more about what Iowa employers plan to do in the future regarding this new technology! Stay tuned.

*Stetler, Mark, “Trends in Healthcare and Medical Apps

Comparative Effectiveness Research? It’s About Time!

David P. Lind BenchmarkI’m all for it.

An earlier blog of mine described the dysfunctional health care delivery “system” that we have in this country. The intent of my blogs is not to point fingers, as assessment of blame does little to solve the problems we have within our own state and country.

A recent California study was published about the associated cost to remove an appendix. As typical, the cost for this procedure could be as little as the price for a refrigerator – or a house! The cost disparities were alarming, ranging from $1,500 (refrigerator) to $180,000 (house). How can this happen?  Why is this allowed? Are the outcomes of the procedures better at a higher price?

Don’t know. That’s part of our problem.

That is why I see a glimmer of hope for a new initiative (generated by the health reform law) called, Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER). In a nutshell, CER includes research to evaluate risks and benefits of medical treatments, services, procedures, and drugs that treat, manage, diagnose or prevent illness or injury. Too often we have extreme variations on how procedures are performed, both by region and by health providers. CER will attempt to help bridge this gap of extreme variation using sound research when comparing health outcomes. Reducing variation chasms can save lives AND potentially big bucks.

Don’t take my word on this subject. The  Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care does a good job of documenting the variations of health care that is delivered in this country.

CER will be funded through a fee that will be assessed to plan sponsors and issuers of individual and group policies. Plan sponsors will be required to pay $1 per member per year beginning with policy or plan years ending after September 30, 2012. The fee increases to $2 per member annually for policy years ending after September 30, 2013. The fee will discontinue after September 30, 2019. See the published Federal Register on this fee.

I admit, paying additional fees within your insurance premium does not sound good – especially when premiums have increased by over 141 percent during the last 13 years in Iowa* (about the same nationally). But perhaps CER will more than pay for itself by providing a sound practice of comparing the risks and benefits of two or more medical treatments based on health outcomes and clinical effectiveness.

We can only hope.

*2011 Iowa Employer Benefits Study©