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16 Candles

Sixteenth Iowa Employer Benefits StudyWe have just launched our annual Iowa Employer Benefits Study©. As with all previous studies, I’m looking forward to this year’s survey for the following important reasons:

• This will be the 16th Study conducted since we started this particular survey in 1999. Though I would never compare this ‘baby’ to my two beautiful daughters, it sure has evolved considerably since inception!

• Two new modules of questions will be added in this year’s survey.

1.   Affordable Care Act (ACA) – This module will address whether Iowa employers are using healthcare exchanges (marketplaces) — either public or private. If not, we’ll determine whether they plan to offer health coverage through some type of marketplace in the future. We will also find out whether employers are using a Defined Contribution approach for health coverage or offering it as part of a cafeteria plan.

Along with many other ACA-related questions, we will learn whether employers plan to:

  • Add a spousal surcharge
  • Require an employee’s spouse to get coverage through their own employer
  • Adopt a value-based insurance design for health coverage
  • Offer tiered-provider networks to promote high-value providers
  • Eliminate health coverage for all employees
  • Eliminate health coverage for part-time employees
  • Institute a wellness program
  • Add wellness rewards or penalties

2.   In our 2013 Study, we asked Iowa employers to rate hospitals and physicians on 11 performance indicators using a 10-point scale. In addition, employers were asked to rate how much they ‘trust’ hospitals and physicians. In this year’s survey, we are going one step further. We are inviting employers to rate which of the 12 performance indicators are most important to them. From this, we will prioritize which of the 12 indicators are most important from the employer perspective.

As with the past 15 Studies, we will continue to ask our core questions about the benefit components being offered by Iowa employers. New information gained from this survey will be reflected in our Lindex Online Iowa Benefits Benchmarking tool. The 2014 results should be available in late August/early September. As always, our intent is to keep our annual Study both fresh and relevant within the changing world of employee benefits.

If your organization is randomly selected to participate in this year’s Study, we highly encourage you to share in our celebration by participating in this important survey. 

I always take great delight in adding yet another candle to our cake!

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Employer Perceptions on Healthcare System – a National Perspective

National Healthcare PerceptionsDeloitte Consulting develops thoughtful studies on nationwide employer practices, specifically relating to employee benefits and healthcare issues. Their 2013 Survey of Employers study is no exception. Results from this particular study provide a great framework to the findings we will be releasing in April.

Deloitte’s topic within this report? How employers perceive the healthcare system. Their findings are both interesting and concerning for all of us. I’m not surprised, nor should you be.

The cliff notes from this survey reveal the following:

  • Employers view the healthcare system as wasteful and expensive.
  • Keys to improving the system are increased transparency around pricing of specific medical products, services and procedures. In addition, employers want “clear, accessible information about the performance of care provided by doctors.”
  • Despite almost four years into implementation, employers still do not understand the features of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
  • Only 22 percent believe the ACA will reduce costs by 2019, and just 19 percent think the law will improve quality-of-care during that time.
  • Only 33 percent of employers grade the performance of the healthcare system as “A” or “B.”
  • 38 percent rate our healthcare system a “C,” and 29 percent rate it a “D” or “F.”

The big takeaway is that employers are frustrated over a perceived lack of ‘value’ in the price they pay for health coverage. The healthcare system is underperforming in numerous ways.

Keep this topic in mind and visit our website in April, as we will be releasing Iowa-specific information that reveals employer perceptions on 11 different performance indicators, in addition to the ‘trust’ employers have in their hospitals and physicians. I will also be releasing a white paper titled, “Voices for Value: Iowa Employer Perceptions of the Iowa Healthcare Provider Community.”

Stay tuned as this topic will only gain greater traction over the next months and years to come.

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Working in Pajamas

TelecommutingI enjoy “Idea Watch: Defend Your Research” in the monthly Harvard Business Review (HBR). There is usually thought-provoking discussion on various topics that may seem counterintuitive to many. Nonetheless, it does force one to ‘think outside the box’ when, on the surface, it may not seem practical.

The recent January-February HBR article,  “To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work From Home,” addresses one of these topics. On many different levels we can argue the pros and cons for allowing telecommuting. A typical ‘con’ is that employees will be less productive due to the distractions of home life, such as family members demanding attention, a mounting laundry pile that can no longer wait, the dog needs a walk, a favorite television show that was recorded earlier is too enticing, etc. Under such circumstances, how could anyone possibly get anything done at home in their pajamas? After all, who would hold them accountable in getting the necessary work completed?

Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford University, seems to have at least a partial answer to this very logical argument. Bloom and a graduate student, James Liang, who is cofounder of a Chinese travel website, decided to perform a study to learn how productive their employees were when telecommuting. The employees in the call center were allowed to volunteer working from home for a nine-month period, while all others would remain working from the company office.

The results: Employees at home were not only happier but also MORE productive – and less likely to quit.

It appears employees at home were more productive due to two major reasons:

  • Having a quieter environment to process phone calls.
  • Working more hours than those who work at the office.

According to Bloom, “The more robotic the work, the greater the benefits (for staying at home), we think.” The article does suggest that there is great value in having the employee work at home one to two days a week and spend the other time in the office. Not everyone is disciplined enough to work at home, given the many distractions they may confront throughout the working hours.

Knowing the composition of the workforce will also determine whether or not telecommuting will work. Employees who are older and have established social lives (parents, grandparents, married employees) may not feel they need to have the social contact found within an office environment.*

From a personal and professional standpoint, this makes sense to me. For some strange reason, I feel more motivated, creative, and yes, more productive when I am working on mundane stuff – at home!

I’m still not sure, however, about the pajamas!

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*According to results from the 2009 Iowa Employer Benefits Study, over nine percent of Iowa employers indicated they offer telecommuting for full-time employees. In addition, the top three workplace values reported by employees, based on results from the 2007 Iowa Employment Values Study, were: Respect, Achievement and Work-Life Balance. All three may possibly relate to telecommuniting in tangential ways.