Archive for June, 2010

Some thoughts as we head home.

More wrap up posts later today – I have several sessions I want to summarize.  I want to pass on that this was clearly a more upbeat, more future focused conference than last year.  The economic tide has changed for the better, by any metric.  The topics were more strategic than tactical, the overall attitude of my fellow attendees was improved, and the number of vendors was way up.  And, speaking of vendors, hopefully my phone will ring and let me know the arrival time of my new iPad…

A lonely monster in the sunset


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iPad entry update

All it takes to HR people interested is a spinning wheel and a prize.

The count so far:  I have entered in 19 drawings for iPads, 2 for Garmin GPS systems, and 1 multi-user breast pump.  If I win the iPad, I’m keeping it.  If I win 2 iPads, I’ll share.   If I win the pump, we’ll use it here at Gregory & Appel in the “Quiet Room”…

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Benefits update

Let’s talk health insurance, shall we?  Lots of interest in the topic – any session that had “Health Insurance” in the title was standing room only, no matter how big the room was.  Lots of frustration with the people in the hall who were left out – many said that they came for that topic alone.  They put speakers and video in the hall, but it wasn’t the same.

Studying Health Insurance reform in the hall

So, what was said?

Gary Kushner carried most of the sessions – Gary has been the “go to” guy on benefits for the last 5 years or so and is well known at SHRM for doing a good job with a complex subject.

A few points –

Grandfathered status – Under the rules, employers will forfeit their grandfathered status if they make substantive changes in their plans or carriers.  Kushner reviewed the new regulations carefully and said that, by the end of 2013, not many grandfathered plans will still exist.  If you wish, the staff at Gregory and Appel have pulled together a summary of the issue, and we are happy to share the knowledge.

Although Kushner sounds ominous, he says it’s not that bad once we work on the process. He said it should not be the ultimate goal of any employer to maintain their grandfathered plan forever.  He said that HR has a big opportunity to think strategically and think for the future.

What should you do?  His advice is not rocket science.  He said the key is to put health insurance into context with the total rewards strategy.   Yup. 

On dropping health care coverage:  The penalty of $2000 per employee for not providing coverage could appeal to top management from a cost saving point of view.  Kushner said that many CFOs would be asking that very question, and that the math would appear to be a no-brainer.  Why pay big bucks when you can drop health coverage?  Not so fast.  Other issues to consider:

If an employer drops coverage, then employees would purchase coverage through state health care exchanges or through the private market.  Once employees started paying for the coverage, they will certainly begin pressuring businesses for pay raises to offset the cost of insurance and the additional income taxes.

If employers are forced to raise wages, then payroll taxes would also increase.  In addition, employers that drop coverage could be hit with higher turnover and more difficulty in attracting top level talent.  In the example he gave, what appeared to be a savings could end up costing an employer more than $5000 per employee per year.

His closing points were to plan ahead.  He believes that the HR role needs to play is to be strategic, and to come up with a plan before 2012 or beyond.  Those who start working now will have a leg up on the competition. 

Let me know if you want a copy of the summary of the legislation.  Happy to help.

One of Kushner's sessions

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I was interviewed today for a web site on trends and future things.  The segment will be posted on www.clearingthepicture.com in a week or so…

It was kind of odd to try to focus on the interviewer and be concise while working in a literal glass fishbowl on the trade show floor.  Odd world we live in.

"Do you really think that CFOs are the issue?"

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How about a custom imprinted M&M’s?  Nice idea, but is it worth an entire double wide trade show booth?  I think not.  I asked if I could print anything on an M&M?  She said ANYthing.  Then she thought again and clarified that anything that might not be deemed obscene.  Ah.

Can I print anthing? And just in Green?

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Admit it – we try to avoid panel discussions.   The chances of disaster are high, either coming from a bad moderator or one of the panelists going off on a rant that has no end or whatever.

This was a good one.  The advertised topic was “HR Strategy is Business Strategy.”  Moderated by Angelia Herrin, the panelists were articulate heavyweights that made good points.  I wrote down some favorites and here they are:

Conrad Venter, Global Head of HR, Deutsche Bank (these quotes should be read in a crisp German accent) –

“If HR stays the same as it is now – transactionally based – we will be out of business in 5 years.  Where is the value in being transactional?  The organization can (and will) outsource that.

Be a business person with a specialty in HR.

With revenue linked to reward and aggressive talent management, we must now bring the training to people.  A breakthrough this past year, we are developing people across silos, moving people around.  We are now identifying future leaders better.

Shannon Deegan, Director of People Operations, Google –

Our president gives the same speech to our people that he gives to our board of directors.  Everybody gets the same message.  

It is difficult to have HR strategy and Company strategy that are different.  It’s all people strategy.  They’re the same.

Most organizations are not comfortable outsourcing HR.  Good.

Hire really good people that are good at many things.  Only one third of our HR people have HR backgrounds.

PEOPLE strategy, not HR strategy.

We occasionally give the President’s award to a failure.  Our people must know that failures are an important part of the creative process, and we honor that.

Paul Records, SVP and Chief HRO, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan

We embrace Facebook externally, with separate data resources for internal use.  Most of my colleagues see Facebook at work as a waste of time.  They think people should only work at work.  They’re wrong.  People are smart and they can figure ways around most internet blocks.  Just set up internal social networking tools and get ahead of it.  Our biggest issue with all of this is data security, as we are medical.

Deal with complexity.  I use the C-SAFE model.  Clarify.  Simplify.  Align.  Focus.  Execute.  Do not stay in an HR silo.

Michelle Toth, VP of HR, Northrop Grumman –

With less $$$ available, we had to take a hard look at our business processes.  We set up an internal Strategic Talent Initiative, where we selected the high potential future leaders and invest more heavily in them.  Careers are no longer linear, and we have to reflect that in our internal setup.

We love HR pros who love business and love people.  They need to understand business, finance, engineering, and they know who our competition is.  Oh, and they know people.

Wide shot of the panel discussion from the back. The room was half full, which was too bad because the content was the best general session so far...

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Presentation update

Simply put, it went well.  Big crowd, and they appeared to learn and laughed at my jokes.  A lot of my Indiana friends and clients were in the house.   When I asked for example off how shopping insurance coverage could find hidden money, one person said that they saved $1 million.  I asked how much the overall insurance bill was, she said $1.5 million.  When I (and the crowd) expressed shock and asked why, she shrugged and said “Bad Broker”.

More details later – I need to go get some food.

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Judging by the crowds, the hot topic at the conference is health care.  Even though they put the topic in the biggest room, the rooms quickly filled up.  The main presenter was Gary Kushner, who is a common presenter on the subject at SHRM.

Kushner started by reminding us that health insurance reform is not a new topic, but passage of the recent law should be viewed as the culmination of a 105-year debate.  “To put this into perspective, the first president to propose a national health care system for all Americans was Teddy Roosevelt.”

Benefits on the big stage

I will be doing a longer write up on the topic later today – I have to get to my presentation.  I’m on in an hour and I want to rework my slides a little…wish me luck.

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I was suspicious of Al Gore as a keynote for an HR conference.  Ex-politicians generally do what Steve Forbes did yesterday – give a standard “stump speech” with 5 gratuitous references to HR scattered throughout. 

Al didn’t do that.  He gave a thoughtful presentation on several HR topics, and only had a standard stump speech in the last third, combined with a proven rousing ending.  In the middle he even told a joke.  Worked for me.

Al on the big screen

His overall theme was “sustainability”, which he defined as not robbing the future to live now.

HR topics were:

Diversity – using all of the differing viewpoints to strengthen the organization.

Education – raising the bar for all employees

Dealing with the internet revolution – there are now 1 Billion transistors for each person on the planet. 

Organizational development – When he worked on re-inventing government, he would start by talking with the janitors and service workers in a department, then work up the pyramid.  They always knew what to fix.  Developing core competencies requires input from all levels.

Compensation & benefits – People work well because they identify with the values of the organization.  Don’t focus on the financial side of compensation completely.  Non-monetary benefits are better at building engagement.

Overall, he said that capitalism is the best method for resolving our recession, and HR is the key to developing society and markets.  The sustainability issue is not just environmental, it means not robbing the future but building value over the long term.  To do this, an organization must communicate from the entire supply chain.

Then, Al went into “Global warming” mode – talking about pollution, the BP response, and melting ice caps.  I could sense that the crowd didn’t necessarily appreciate him bringing his personal crusade into the conference.  However, he won them back by noting that this is the biggest opportunity business has confronted,

He also said that in the future the best young talent will judge where they should work based on how green the organization is.  He said that the challenge is to become more efficient, consume fewer resources, and be more productive.  Organizations that integrate sustainability find that profitability is up.

The very act of taking on a great challenge can transition an organization.  President Kennedy challenged the nation to go to the moon, and 8 years later we were there.  We are feeling another challenge now. 

A saying – If you want to go quickly, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.  We have to go far, quickly.

Be bold.  This is like no other time in human history. 

He closed by asking the question of how we will be judged in the future.  He said that HR needs to have the moral courage to rise up and solve a crisis.  “We have everything we need to succeed except the will to act…but the will to act is a renewable resource.”

The crowd was back with him at that point – standing ovation.

Al on stage

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View from my hotel…another grey day in SoCal

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