New Kid on the Block

Posted by on April 22, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

This next post comes from Eric. Last week we were having a conversation about professional relationships and his take was a little different than mine. I’ve been in this industry for a while now (longer than I’d like to admit) and have forgotten what it was like to be the new kid on the block. I asked him to write down his experience of starting his journey into the world of HR Tech and the working world in general. Here’s what he had to say:

Time flies when you’re having fun, right? It’s been a little over a year now and I thought I would share a story about my experiences in the world of HR Technology.

I started working at Lockton in January of 2013, fresh off the stage from graduation at the University of Missouri. Having no prior experience working in the industry, I knew there would be an enormous learning curve for me. After a couple of weeks, I knew I’d fit in with the Lockton team. My only lingering concern would be the “outside world.”

And by “outside world” I mean vendors and clients.

It’s hard to make a connection with someone you rarely, if ever, get to meet in person. As I got settled in to my new role on the team, I began having to make those connections. How do you start building a professional relationship with someone you’ve never met before?

I don’t know about you, but I like to ease into the business conversations with general small talk ─ anecdotes and stories about common interests. “Boy, the Royals have really tanked it the last couple of weeks.” “Hey! How was your trip to Mexico?” “It’s raining here again. I think I’ve forgotten what the sun looks like.”

We’ve all been a part of these conversations. A lot of times, it just fills the void while waiting for others to join a call. For me, it gives me a chance not only to relax, but to establish a deeper connection with that person instead of having the relationship solely based on “the reason for the call.” If everyone meeting is relaxed, both parties will likely have a better relationship, thus leading to more productive calls. I like to ask people about themselves, because after all, it is the topic that they know the best. And most people like talking about themselves. It is also a way to show people that you care and are interested in more than just business.


Did you know that there’s also a strategic use to this chit-chat? If I can start the call hearing how someone sounds when they’re relaxed or at ease, it can help me hear any tension in their voice if the call heads in a difficult direction. After all, if 55% of what we communicate is done through body language, calls with outside vendors or employer clients can be challenging. Chit-chat provides a baseline for me to understand vocal inflection, emotions and all the other communication inputs denied me by not being able to see body language.

I understand that not every meeting or every call can be this way, as I’ve been a part of plenty serious, to-the-point conversations. Some people are direct and don’t need the small talk for connecting.

I remember one particular set of meetings that involved a very direct individual. We were meeting to discuss options for a benefits administration system that needed to be up and running in 30 business days. Everyone was under pressure to get this moving, and we kept our meetings pretty brief (usually 30 minutes with exact expectations and action items that needed to be addressed). It was difficult for me at first to go about a project like this. I felt like I had no real time to truly connect with the whole team and I believe this led to some miscommunication. Not understanding their tone quite as well, it took me a bit longer to clearly communicate the mutual goals of the project.

Regardless, as I started to establish these professional connections as a new hire, it was easier to work with those who were real and open from the beginning. I cannot begin to tell you the difference it made for me when others were open to engaging in the conversational chit chat. It makes it easier for me to relate to them, and in turn communicate with them when I understand a little about how they feel and think outside of the office. As a result, I’ve established some great professional relationships, which have led to some great business opportunities for a lot of parties.

Having established these relationships the way I did, I noticed the general respect and appreciation reciprocated to me. As a new person in the industry, I crave that the most. I think most college grads desperately want the respect and appreciation for the work they do, and I’m getting that from both internally and externally. It sure makes my job a whole lot easier.

After a year on the job, I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from not only my peers, but also the vendors and clients we work with. What’s truly fascinating about this job is that it changes from day to day, constantly keeping me on my toes and encouraging me to learn. From healthcare reform and private exchanges, to benefits administration and payroll management, it’s truly an ever evolving industry.

Having set the foundation of how to engage with other professionals, it sure makes it easier to dive in.

So to any grads or newbies to an industry, my advice on building professional relationships is simple: be genuinely interested in the people you are connecting with. It makes the small talk flow easily into deeper conversations and lasting relationships. Likewise, don’t be afraid to open up a bit yourself. It goes a long way to show that you’re in it for the long haul when you’re open and inviting to those that you work with.

FTE vs. PTE 101

Posted by on April 16, 2014 | Read the First Comment

Hey guys! It’s Courtney again. Kaiser is back on the road, so I have prepared another blog post for your perusal on an important employer consideration for 2015 and beyond.

Unless you‘ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’re aware of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate (the one that has been delayed until 2015) requiring employers to offer full-time employees (FTE) reasonable and affordable healthcare. (In case you might have been under a rock or to more fully understand this turn of phrase in a new way click here to read more about ACA.) Now for someone that is salaried and full-time (like me), this doesn’t seem like that much of a concern (unless you are a business owner employing part-time employees).  However, for someone like my younger brother, who works part-time at a retailer we won’t name, he is being directly affected by this ACA mandate.

For some employers (especially those in low wage, high-turnover industries that employ a large number of part-time employees like retail, restaurant, entertainment, tourism, etc.) they aren’t eager to comply by simply offering their employees health coverage since the average cost of employee-only coverage was around $5,000 in 2013 (and $16,000 for family). They would rather cut back the number of hours those employees who might be on the verge of becoming full-time are working.

retail worker

In most people’s minds, 40 hours of work a week is considered full-time; part-time being anything under 30 – 35 hours a week. However, according to the ACA, an FTE is one who works an average of 30 hours per week. This average is calculated over a lookback period of up to 12 months. Therefore some employers feel that they could save money by shortening the average workweek of PTEs instead of providing healthcare for their newly ACA-classified FTEs.

For my college student brother who was working an average of 38 hours a week in his retail position, this mandate correlates to an actual real-world, oh crap cutback in the number of hours he is being scheduled to work. He now only receives around 28 hours a week. Although this results in a smaller paycheck for brother dearest, he isn’t too hard pressed for cash as he still lives in our parent’s basement. But he isn’t the only one that this is happening too, and for those PTE who maybe don’t mooch off of their parents (kidding…kind of) and need every hour they can get on their paychecks, this solution is troubling.

These employees, like my brother, are forced to get a second part-time job just to maintain the same amount of income. That balances out the employers’ need to hire additional employees to cover the shifts taken away from other PTEs to prevent over-allocating hours. But all of this has negative consequences, thus, hurting the very people this law was intended to help. There’s also some other unintended costs to these machinations that the vendor Equifax’s eThority product (among others) does well at capturing such as unemployment costs, onboarding, training and more.

now hiring

Now just because this is the trend we have seen so far, it doesn’t mean all shift-work and part-time employers are using this same strategy, especially since this method has gotten the attention of the media and our U.S. Congress. The House Ways and Means Committee has approved legislation (The Save American Workers Act) which was passed to the rest of the House of Representatives for a vote that would increase the number of hours from 30 to 40 for FTE status. The bill passed, but has been threatened with veto by Obama if it makes it past the Democratic-controlled Senate. Although this would mean that fewer workers would get employer-sponsored healthcare, weekly hours wouldn’t need to be reduced.

Some companies are playing nice and are complying by offering health coverage to their 30+ hours/week employees ─ not using hours as a way around providing benefits. Some companies in these industries have a different point of view, where they don’t care how many employees are full-time and therefore get benefits; they just want to minimize the unknowns and risks. If someone’s going to go over, let’s get them way over. If someone’s under so be it, but let’s keep them off the cusp.

As you can see there are many new aspects to what used to be a rather simple question: full-time or part-time? From our perspective, we’re always focused on what this means to our HR Tech world and our exhaustive summary is this: more change is on the way.

For some employers this may mean new technologies to help them manage their workforce such as tools provided by Kronos, Tango Health, Health E(fx), Equifax and ADP (although all we’ve seen from them up to now is some pretty PowerPoint slides.) For others, this change will be a new dataset or query in existing reporting tools such as those offered by Ultimate Software, Workday and others. And finally it could mean changes in HR policies and approaches, such as the re-arrangements of the workforce like what happened to my brother.

Are you seeing any other approaches that employers are using out there? Do you know anyone impacted by this where you can share their story? If so, please click on the comment link or email us and we’ll relay it to the wider group. Also, to stay up to date on all the latest HR Tech news, please follow us at @HRTechKaiser.

One Simple Question

Posted by on April 8, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

I’d like to tell you about a question. A very important question.

Now, I’m not talking about some type of down on one knee question, that would be certainly a powerful question – if a little dramatic – for this setting. And this isn’t as serious a question as “what was I thinking having that last round of drinks last night?” either.

But somewhere between those two extremes exists a question that I believe can help you run your business and your career called the Net Promoter Score or NPS. In fact, we believe in this so much we’re using this as the only measure of success for our team. We didn’t develop this concept. It was developed by a consultant at Bain & Company and was made famous by an article in Harvard Business Review in December 2003.

Even though we didn’t come up with this program, there are two reasons we use this program. The first thing you need to know about the Net Promoter Score is that it is SIMPLE.

Simple to implement. Simple to use. Simple to understand.

How simple? The whole program resolves down to one question:

“On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best, how likely is it that you would recommend our business to a friend or colleague?

That’s it. If someone answers a 9 or 10, they’re a promoter of our business. If someone answers a 7-8 we consider them passive or lukewarm. And if someone answers below a 6, they’re considered a Detractor – an unhappy customer who can damage our reputation and impede our growth through negative word-of-mouth.

net promo score

What makes this so simple? Whichever audience of ours we’re talking to, the question remains the same. External employer customers certainly. But even internal customers or support organizations. We systematically focus on four distinct groups we serve: 1) external employer clients, 2) internal Lockton producers and account teams, 3) external vendors whose systems solve our employers’ needs and 4) inside our own team.

Our team’s score equals the average of the answers we receive. And as a manager – all my people, and their people as well, are measured on the same standard: the average of the responses received from their peers. As part of our annual performance process I ask everyone the same question about each of their teammates: How likely is it that you would recommend “Johnny” to a friend or colleague?” When that score is combined and contrasted with the scores from their external clients I have a rather accurate view of their performance.

The Net Promoter Score isn’t our favorite program only because it’s simple – it is a POWERFUL question.

Unlike most measurement tools I’ve found, this question is both a lead measure and a lag measure. Most LAG measures like profit or number of sales only tell a person what has already happened. By the time I have the data, it’s too late for me to impact the outcome. But with the way this question is worded – “would you” – it also captures a LEAD measure. Academic research out there says this score has shown to be predictive of how a business and a person will perform – not only how it has already performed.

The second aspect of the power of the program is that because it isn’t over-complicated – like a balanced scorecard might be – my managers and teams are actually using it consistently. In fact, the only problem we have is protecting the time on our calendars to actually make the calls! I am sure that the customers we are survey appreciate the ease as well. Instead of being asked to participate in a 45 minute survey with hundreds of questions, we ask one question and it is usually takes less than 15 minutes.

net promo 2

As individuals, the Net Promoter program can be a powerful predictor for our careers as well. If one wanted, they could use this concept to understand how they are perceived in their division, customer base or reporting structure through anonymous surveys. If I’m not serving my boss in a way that he’d recommend me to others – that’s a huge predictive indicator of a short career ladder. If my teams say they have super “loyalty” or satisfaction, it very likely bodes well for the future.

I thought this topic might be of interest for our blog as all of us work on teams that either serve external clients or internal co-workers. Could this simple and powerful question help you understand where your customer’s loyalties lie and where your business or career might be headed? That is what makes this such a powerful question. We aren’t the only ones using this system. Check out a list of other NPS users here.

If you’re using this program, we’d love to hear your stories and learn from your experience. Please click on the comment link with this article or holler out to us on twitter @HRTechKaiser. Follow us there to be alerted of any new blog posts or other insights from the HR Tech world.

(Images from Net Promoter System.)

April Fooled

Posted by on April 2, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

“Managing a family is a job all on its own.”

In case you missed it, yesterday Workforce Management vendor Kronos launched their new product, Workforce Home.  This new product allows the user to manage their home similar to the way they would manage things at the office. Workforce Home provides the technology to manage your modern family through scheduling, allocation of resources, time-off requests, benchmarking (keeping up with the Jones’) and accruals (allowances!). Check out the full video here. It’s worth a couple minutes of your day.

If you are like me, you got really excited about this new gadget and started daydreaming about how smoothly your home would run with such an innovation. No more wondering about who is on diaper duty or when dinner would be ready!

Alas, I know the date and it’s just another April Fool’s joke! Although a bit disappointing that the product was only a joke, what a great way to stir up some buzz about Kronos while highlighting what their system can actually do for the workplace! Props to Kronos for the creativity and for adding a little bit of fun to this sometimes dry HR Tech world.  I wonder how long it will be before a workforce management system for the home actually does appear on the market? Hmmm…

Kronos April Fools


Did you see any other HR Tech pranks yesterday?

Implementation without End Game Understanding

Posted by on April 1, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

Recently I read an article in a national magazine about the struggles with development of a system and shook my head in sorrow.  The magazine relayed a tale of a company that required a highly visible technology solution.  It hired a legion of contractors to develop the system at a very high cost and gave the hired workers what seemed to be enough time to build and implement the solution.  Then they crossed their fingers and hoped they had placed their trust well.  Unfortunately, the contractors were not successful:  the site could not be used by more than handful of people at a time, the functionality was ill-conceived and did not meet the requirements and the project leaders couldn’t get straight answers on the detail and enormity of the issues so they could make a plan to resolve them.  At that point, they had to determine how much money, time and resources they were willing to invest to fix it or if they would just have to scrap it and start over.

I was struck by how similar this story is for many companies that are trying to implement HR software.  Clients hire vendors to implement software, and although the vendor may know the software market, they may not fully understand the client or understand the client’s business well enough to envision the end game.  And, unfortunately, when the software goes live, successfully or unsuccessfully, vendor support could be lacking.  Some clients find it difficult to get information and answers that they can understand….if answers are forthcoming.  And, similar to the government roll-out, a difficult decision sometimes has to be made on whether extra help can be brought in (at a higher cost) to try to fix it, or if the project should be scrapped and started over.mario

That situation can be alleviated with help from a group such as ours.  We can translate the client environment and HR business processes into technology requirements that the vendors can understand and execute.  During the implementation project, we can see where stumbling blocks are and can make recommendations to resolve the issues.    We walk side by side with the client through implementation and during the roll-out.  If additional issues arise, we can help target were the source is, collaborate with the vendor and client to resolve the issues and provide support so that pitching the solution and starting over does not even have to be considered.

Sometimes it’s necessary to kick-start a project to ensure success and we’re still waiting for the happy ending of the US government’s tale five months after the roll-out.  Our practice stands ready to help companies avoid the same fate.

Getting Covered: An Adventure on HealthCare.Gov

Posted by on March 27, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

The second post of our private exchange week comes from another HR tech rookie, Eric. Eric is also a Project Coordinator on our team and new to the HR technology industry.

It’s that time of year again. Everyone is talking about it at work. People are comparing their choices and allocating some of their hard earned cash into a “pool.” Some are even comparing options side-by-side to see which of their selections will make it to their “Final Four.”

Wait, are we thinking of the same thing? I’m talking about choosing benefits via a private exchange. Everyone at work here talks about it. Isn’t that how it is everywhere? No?

**Side note: My Missouri Tigers aren’t in the NCAA Tournament this year, so I avoid “Bracket Talk” as much as I can.**

All jokes (and March Madness!) aside, we’ve all been hearing about for a while now. From the athlete-endorsed commercials on TV, to the extreme visibility of its early problems, we’ve all been exposed to it. With the deadline to enroll fast approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at the process from a user’s point of view.


First, let me explain that I don’t actually need insurance. Being a recent college grad, I am still insured under my parents’ insurance plans provided by their companies. That being said, I wanted to see what it was like for someone to use the site and evaluate just how much it would cost me to “get covered.”

Being a part of this team for over a year now, I have seen a great number of vendors and demos of the systems they provide to employers. I was eager to see how HealthCare.Gov would compare.

The overall experience was a good one. At a basic level, the look and feel of the site was clean, modern and simple. I could easily navigate from one step to the next (the extra-large font was a partial contributor to that). If I was unsure about any part of the process, there was easy access to help (quick explanations, access to hotline, etc.). Help that may have been needed as there was plenty of jargon sprinkled throughout the website, most of it used to assist in educating me on my healthcare choices.

It was interesting to compare this experience to other ones I’ve had, noting the trends in the marketplace. With some of the major Benefits Administration technology vendors, there is a clear trend in video education and “avatars” to help guide employees through benefits enrollment. There was nothing of the like on HealthCare.Gov. If this is a trend popular enough for employer groups to buy in to, why isn’t it happening on an individual basis?

While the lack of the education tools is concerning, I did appreciate the simplistic approach to the plan comparisons. I answered a few questions about my health and family (non-smoker, household income, etc.) and was given a total of 17 plans for comparison.


Pretty easy on the eyes, as you can see. Much like a system would be set up for an employer, I can only see what plans I am eligible for based on my responses. As a professional in the world of employee benefits, this is great. I can easily see what my options are and how much it is going to cost me all laid out in a side-by-side comparison.

But what about everyone else?

How would one truly know which plan is best for them? Sure we can see which option will cost the least, but what if I frequent the ER? What if I’m a diabetic with a long list of prescriptions? What if heart disease runs in my family and I need to look into preventative care?

This would be my biggest takeaway from the HealthCare.Gov experience: The initial “decision support” is there, but it raises concern that there are no recommended options based on my answers. It seems to be driving folks to the cheapest health insurance option, but that may not always be the best option…

All in all, the flow of the enrollment process moves smoothly. It didn’t take me too long to get to the plan comparisons. After answering questions to verify my identity, my application was approved immediately, and I got to quickly analyze plans. Most users can sympathize with the time consideration while having to weigh an important decision.

If you have yet to sign up for coverage and need to, the last day to do so with HealthCare.Gov has been extended. The deadline was previously March 31, 2014, but has been extended indefinitely for those that need more time. If you’ve checked out HealthCare.Gov yourself, please share your thoughts on the system by commenting below.

Private Exchanges 101

Posted by on March 25, 2014 | Read the First Comment

My name is Courtney and I am a Project Coordinator on Lockton’s HR Technology and Outsourcing Practice. I joined the team fresh out of college, with little experience or knowledge of the world of HR Technology. So, as you can understand, I was completely overwhelmed! There is so much to know about HR tech and I had no idea what the heck single sign-on or manager self-service even meant! I have learned so much over the past year, and I wanted to share my take on some HR Technology topics in case, like me, you are unfamiliar or new to HR Technology. So now I’ll take a stab at explaining private exchanges, because after all, they are everywhere right now thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

So, what exactly is a private exchange?

“An Exchange is a marketplace whereby multiple buyers are connected to multiple sellers for a given service or product.”

Basically, a private exchange is a marketplace where employees can go, and based on certain eligibility criteria and characteristics, can select from different health insurance plans available to them through their employer. (Kind of like a virtual mall for your benefits!) Instead of offering employees preselected health insurance plans such as an HMO, PPO, etc. you can offer multiple insurance plan options through an exchange. A private exchange can look very similar to the public, state-based exchanges or they can be considerably more complex with non-medical products like vision, life and/or pet insurance. But there won’t be any government subsidies on a private exchange!


What are the different kinds of exchanges?

Private exchanges can be broken into 3 main types:

Group Private Exchanges

  • Employer sponsored plan (employer = seller who determines the products offered)
  • Employees = buyers who make their purchasing decisions based on their individual needs
  • No subsidy
  • Pricing is employer-specific (employer determines the prices charged to employees)
  • An online technology platform supports the exchange (in place of a Benefits Administration system) and offers decision support tools and online enrollment
  • They can be either  Multi-Carrier or Single-Carrier

Individual Non-Medicare Exchanges

  • Available to individuals and pre-65 retirees
  • Subsidy available if web based entity
  • Regulated plan designs (State/Federal)
  • Ex:

Individual Medicare Exchanges

  • Available to Medicare eligible individuals and post-65 retirees
  • No subsidy
  • No underwriting
  • Regulated plan designs (Federal)

Why would you want a private exchange?

Private exchanges allow employees more choices and the option for them to choose their own benefits versus having one plan or a small set of plans offered by the employer. This extra freedom for employees can help drive higher satisfaction with their benefits. Why? Because people can buy-up or buy-down in coverage to find a better match for their health and financial needs. A lot of people believe that exchanges will save employers money, but that isn’t necessarily the case. (A topic which will be addressed in another post, as it deserves its own!) Another reason that an employer would want a private exchange is that due to the Affordable Care Act, full-time employees have to be offered qualified medical care and an exchange is a way to do so, since it can be limited to only those plans that meet or beat the standard.

Why would you not want a private exchange?

Contrary to popular belief, private exchanges are not actually cheaper, especially if an employer was already invested in a Benefits Administration system or was outsourcing. Another reason that Private Exchanges might not be the best fit for your organization is if you are only offering one option for healthcare, like we do here at Lockton, you wouldn’t need an exchange to offer multiple plans.

Who are some of the players in private exchanges?

Some of the vendors playing in the group Exchanges are Liazon, AON Hewitt, bswift, Benefitfocus, Buck Consultants, Bloom Health, Mercer, Aetna, Towers Watson, Willis, United Healthcare, Optum and multiple other Benefits Administration vendors.

Some of the vendors in the Pre-65 Individual Exchanges include: Individual Health Quotes, eHealth, Health Markets, GetInsured, GoHealth, and  For the Medicare Individual Exchanges you have Extend Health, Select Quote, and

What is Lockton doing with private exchanges?

Lockton is serving as an advisor for clients who are considering going the private exchange route, meaning that Lockton is independent from the exchange owners. Lockton isn’t providing an exchange platform, but rather helping employers to select the platform that would best fit for them or determine if an exchange is even the right fit.  Lockton is developing multiple exchange options and partners, compared to a single solution like some of the other brokers. Lockton has developed an Exchange Workgroup to organize and simplify the exchanges marketplace and has named an Exchange Director, Mike Smith, who will work with the Lockton Account teams on exchange development and implementation. We’re helping him build a marketplace analysis tool to help employers evaluate all exchange options that would match their needs.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reviewing what I’ve learned or are learning along with me for those of you who might be new to this HR Technology world too! Look out for a post later this week from another HR Tech rookie as he goes through the process of enrolling at and shares his experience.

2014 Health & Benefits Leadership Conference

Posted by on March 20, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

After three long days in Las Vegas, I’m fighting nodding off on the plane ride home. I have bags under my eyes and my allergies are acting up, but I am returning home the victor with the same amount of cash with which I departed – a victory for any business trip, but an unparalleled success when leaving the city of Lost Wages!

I return with not only my hard-earned money but pages upon pages of notes from the sessions and a follow-up list that’s a little sobering. For those of you not familiar with this conference, don’t fret, this is only its second occurrence. The nascent gathering is the prodigy of LRP –the folks behind Human Resource Executive magazine– and benefits communications guru, Jennifer Benz. Last year’s registration was incredibly discounted as they worked to draw in folks for the first event, but this year’s higher spending attendees proved this conference has legs for several years to come – come join us next year.benefitsconf

This year’s event was at Caesar’s Palace which was breathtaking if you could overlook the horrible torture of having to see 12 different hotel pools with their requisite sunbathers any time we looked out a window on break. The rumor is next year the conference will return to the Aria – so we’ll trade in bronzed bodies for puzzling modern art and uncomfortable chairs.

Hopefully you were all following our tweets from the sessions as there were a lot of insights passed out by the speakers. (If you missed out, why not take a second to follow us at @HRTechKaiser) Here’s a summary of three program highlights:

-  One of the beginning sessions focused on retirement and featured Greg Long, Director of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, as part of a panel with some interesting thoughts:

  • “Are employers paternalistic? They need to make that call,” said Long. That decision will impact their employee communications around retirement. The old non-paternalistic message was to tell a new retiree to take their money and go, rolling it over into an IRA or some other outside account. He believes that if employers today are paternalistic they may want to change that message to the employee now to: You’re better off if you leave your money in the plan and move to an annuity. The oversight and financial governance the plan sponsor offers outweighs the lack of ownership of the distribution.
  • He also has designed the statements their participants receive to have the overall account balance in a small font but the same amount expressed as an annuity in a much more noticeable 3x font. This way the future retiree is called to consider “could I live on that amount a month?” and their experience was that overall deferrals increased following the statement changes. His point which is right in line with what we’ve heard from the behavioral finance folks: the overall account balance is so huge – typically the largest amount of money that employees have ever seen in one of their accounts. This can have the detrimental effect of lulling them into inaction or lethargy thinking that they have succeeded in their savings while, in fact, that amount is insufficient to fund a lengthy retirement. This is just one example of a lot of conversations around what role the employer has to protect vs. enable the employees with their health and wealth benefits.

-  Another participant Laura Rowley, of the National Association of Retirement Plan Participants (NARPP), on that same panel had a newly collected set of data with some great insights as well from a behavioral finance perspective. They have data to show that as employees’ financial literacy increases, their deferral rate and size of retirement savings increase as well.

-  JoAnne, my partner-in-crime for this trip, covered a different slate of sessions for our team. While she found two of the breakout sessions to be little more than sales sessions for the presenting vendors, there was one in particular that caught her attention:

  • A session on Voluntary Benefits and Financial Security led by Donna Joseph, of Rhodes, Joseph & Tobiason Advisor, LLC discussed their research listed the top employee life needs from an employer perspective as:
  1. Health and Welfare
  2. Protection from financial catastrophe
  3. Retirement assets and income

-   Because of this, they were seeing a movement to employer offerings through voluntary product offerings focused on:

  1. Financial counseling
  2. Identity protection
  3. Product purchase plans
  4. Legal services
  5. Auto and home insurance through payroll deductions

-  The closing session was a self-described “riff” on topics by Jennifer Benz and Carol Harnett. With what was certainly a challenging task, they delivered a wide-ranging but thought provoking conversation mash-up on everything from economic class division to their tips for staying “trend spotters.”

  • Both speakers did a great job of keeping the focus on all employees – not just the white-collared HR group in the room. They kept the increasing financial pressures facing the average worker in the forefront of conversations as they see greater class divides possible as employers shift more retirement and health ownership (caveat emptor) to employees. No one has the employee’s trust in these situations like the employer to be watching out for them.
  • Another interesting point they relayed: 44% of employees either in stressful and distracting care-giving role or just coming out of one. This is one of many datapoints quoted during the conference from Eliza Corp and their research into the Vulnerability index. This topic (with what sounded like some expansion by another party into Magnifiers and Buffers of Resilience) is at the top of my follow-up list. It sounds like highly relevant research for those of us managing people and teams.

This is in no way a full accounting of the interesting and exceptional speakers and topics from this year’s conference. These three sessions jumped out from our notes as enough insight-filled that we wanted to relay them as quickly as possible. You can always holler out to us with any particular questions based upon what you might have seen on our twitter feed or we’ll keep posting additional thoughts as we cull our notes for pearls of missed wisdom. Please feel free to leave any comments using the link connected to this article or e-mail me any time at

Start With Why

Posted by on March 18, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

A couple of years past, at a long, hot “State of the Companies” meeting, some folks in Lockton’s own IT shop turned me on to a book called Start With Why, by Simon Sinek that has made a significant impact in our consulting practice. The book’s basic concept is while most businesses approach their clients (internally and externally) with their “How” and “What”, they often omit the first and most important step: the “Why.”

On my recent trip to cold and snowy Chicago, I found a perfect example of this concept waiting for me in my downtown Marriott hotel room. As you see in the picture, the “What” of the hotel washing the windows and the “How” of closing my curtains is preceded by a message of “Why” there has to be a disruption at all. This hotel manager believes that as a guest I should have an “unobstructed view and optimal natural lighting.” I have never would have put that need into words or worried about it for one instant. But once she shares her “Why,” I totally identify with and support her efforts.

why letter 2

We’ve taken the book’s lesson to heart in our HR Technology and Outsourcing practice by starting off each introductory call with potential employer clients with a brief story of why we care, why we choose to claim this particular sector as ours and why we want to help. Some of our teammates tell of their previous lives as HR practitioners managing payroll or benefits. Others tell about how working for HR Tech vendors previously has given them a passion around simplifying the unnecessarily complex. This message is personal to each of us, but there are common themes that run through the group. In fact, it’s an observable, documented strength often called “Regulatory.”

I didn’t start out knowing to seek out this particular strength when hiring, but over time I noticed the same trait showing up repeatedly in the candidate screening tests I’d force unsuspecting and innocent applicants through prior to any offer letter. The test is really not to screen out serial killers or the like – we have other methods for that (“Bring me a Shrubbery!”). Our tests are more to let us understand how the potential employee communicates and how our fast-moving team needs to adapt to welcome them and make them successful as quickly as possible.

Here’s how the report describes this characteristic:

Regulatory: Individuals with high regulatory values process information and reality in accordance with the dictates of conventional, external authority. In decision-making they are concerned about right and wrong as defined by a higher authority. They look for certainty and predictability in whatever they do.

Now, doesn’t this sound like the consultant you’d want supporting your business? I’ll admit this description does sound slightly religious with the phrase “higher authority,” but the basic concept of “right and wrong” can be a higher power, and is for us. Paying too much for mediocre technology is “wrong.” Knowing that disaster recovery plans are in place and tested is “right.”

Our “Why” stories often paint a picture of how we (or people we care about) have struggled to confidently navigate organizations through the morass of HR Tech vendors and systems. We’ve seen firsthand the pain of “Integration at the brochure-level only” and sketchy handoffs from sales reps to service teams. why

So why is “Starting with Why” so important to us? It really boils down to fit. If our “Why” matches up with a client’s biggest need, then there’s a great basis for our relationship and a connection over a shared passion. If our “Why” doesn’t match, then there are probably better options out there than our team for what ails them.

Starting off any relationship is hard – and in the business world, it’s often politically murky or deadline-driven in addition just to make things interesting. If we can clearly share who we are and why we care, then we can connect with those people who most likely will love being in partnership.

I’d love to hear if you agree with “Starting with Why.” Do you use this in your business or personal life? Click on the comment link or tweet me at @HRTechKaiser anytime to share your story. And you never know, perhaps your story will be the perfect solution another reader needs to hear today.

Solving vs. Selling

Posted by on March 13, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

“We are solving a unique problem for our clients. We are not selling product.”

This is one of my all-time favorite quotes I’ve heard about what we’re all about here at Lockton. This particular bit of wisdom came from Lockton Benefits Consultant Lissa Thompson in our Pacific office talking about Lockton’s service in securing a Private Exchange called EP Cares for their client Entertainment Partners (EP).  Entertainment Partners is an industry-leading payroll, residuals and production service provider for employees of film studios and major independent companies based in Southern California. EPThey provide payroll and other services to the non-union employees who work behind the scenes on Hollywood’s TV shows, movies and more. I also heard they were the 2nd largest payroll in California with 800,000+ W2s, but my data could be off. (They have roughly a quarter of a million folks who may work in small increments on 4-7 productions during a year.)

They had a unique problem – how to bring organized, group purchasing and underwriting of insurance to small pockets of employments spread across multiple technical employers/projects. (Don’t worry all you CEBS-nerds; Entertainment Partners is a statutory employer of record and efforts are pooled so this isn’t a MEWA or something else sketchy!) A private exchange could offer that unified user experience plus a configurable choice of benefits that fit the employer’s various needs.

I have been a part of Lockton’s private exchange workgroup, where our goal is to figure out how to help employers (like EP) solve their problems without pushing a specific product or a particular solution. We want to be able to recommend the best private exchange platform to our clients who have chosen to go that route. Not all clients want and need the same things and not all vendors are created equal.

With all of the options at Lockton’s disposal, EP was able to make a choice on the Private Exchange technology that would be the best fit for them, not what was available to them. PlanSource,  a cloud-based, on-demand benefits administration software provider, was chosen as that best fit based on their flexibility, ability to implement quickly, ability to take care of EP’s large, diverse client base and their healthcare reform compliance. Working with vendors like PlanSource on plansource blackother employer client engagements has helped us create partnerships. One in which we felt comfortable to recommend PlanSource as a perfect fit for EP. Now all parties involved are satisfied about this new union: EP has a way to serve their clients, PlanSource has a new customer and Lockton made our client happy!

I think Lissa’s statement at the start of this article about her project team’s efforts on EP Cares, could also be used to describe what our HR Tech team does at Lockton. Because we don’t offer a technology solution of our own like so many other brokers, we are uncompromised and able to find the best solution for our clients. Most of our broker competitors have a “system” that they have either bought or built. And we all know if you spend millions to build, buy or borrow a system, you are going to have to “feed that system” whether or not that is in the best interest of the client. I always love that Lockton allows us to be truly independent, with over 30 private exchange options to consider for each employer problem we encounter.

Click here to read more about the EP and PlanSource union.