The Private Health Insurance Exchange Ecosystem

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

The HR Technology & Outsourcing Practice has been spreading our love across the country the last few weeks via vendor and industry conferences! (Check out the Ceridian Insights and  SHRM 2014 recaps if you haven’t yet.) Last week, one of my teammates, Brad, had the opportunity to attend the Private Healthcare Exchanges Conference in Chicago. Following are some of the takeaways he was able to gather regarding the Private Health Insurance Exchange ecosystem.

Early morning on November 14, 1963, the crew of a small boat sailing south of Iceland spotted dark smoke on the horizon. The captain went to investigate the smoke believing it to be a burning boat, but instead they encountered explosive eruptions producing black columns of ash hundreds of feet in the air – a volcanic eruption had begun beneath the sea.

By 11:00 AM on November 14, 1963, the eruption had reached several miles in the air. Over the next week, explosions were continuous. After just a few days, a new island formed mainly of dark volcanic rock, measuring over 1600 feet in length and 147 feet in height.

surtsey island

Today, Surtsey Island is roughly the size of 11 football fields (including end zones), home to ten species of plants and over 600 different insects have been found on the island.  The vegetation and insects have drawn 14 different species of birds to alter their migrating patterns to land there; a group of nearly 100 seals use the island as a breeding ground every year.  In short, it has developed its own ecosystem out of nothing.

Last week at the Private Healthcare Exchanges Conference in Chicago, David Smith with Leavitt Partners used this story as an analogy to the development of private exchanges; they’ve come up quick, they’re immature, they’ve developed an ‘ecosystem’ of their own and nobody knows quite what the future holds.

private exchange conference

By my count, there were roughly 350 people in attendance: of which half were employers, a third were consultants and rest lied about themselves to maintain anonymity (actually, they were carriers and vendors).  All of the sessions had some great information and a few important points stood out.

Initial results and trends:

  • One consulting firm with their own private health insurance exchange estimates that by 2019 there will be more than 25 million active and retirees in private exchanges.
  •  2/3 of employees at larger employers are buying the lowest priced and/or most narrow network plans.  (How will this change at the second OE?)
  •  Employees of smaller employers (50-250 employees) buy up at the first OE.
  • Some employers want multiple carriers for the illusion of a shopping experience, even though a single carrier can meet all their current and future needs.
  • The reasons for moving to an exchange model are all over the board─ from culture fit, to ensuring their employees had viable and affordable options.
  • A few employers indicated the decision for using a private exchange was top-down─ from a CEO with a 500 word Wall Street Journal summary or opportunistically seeking a business deal.

Technology Expectations:

An original premise of the exchange model was to exert pressure on the underlying cost of care, utilization, etc., but clearly that is not enough; there is no sustaining impact and it will be years before we can capture and validate that data. Ann Mond Johnson, Chairman of ConnectedHealth, proposes that for an exchange to be successful, the technology must incorporate a few items that have eluded us in healthcare thus far:

  • Quick and convenient (Do you know about Instacart?)
  • Seamless purchasing (Did you ever use Shazam to buy songs?)
  • Personalization and predictive application based on historical experiences (Do you have Nest in your home yet?)
  • Transparency on costs and services (Edmunds has changed the way we buy cars.)
  • Choices (Anyone over the age of 30 know about Tinder?)

It has been suggested that the Private Health Insurance Exchange model brings the above pieces together.  Innovations have made shopping relevant as we’re given the tools to be better shoppers, understanding the tradeoff of other ways we could spend this money.  Personal data is being applied to decision support tools and many are working towards predictive modeling incorporated with wellness plans.

Recipe for success:

During the conference, I had the opportunity to visit with employers who have made the leap and what they did to incorporate the list above.  The answers were not surprising:

  • Start employee communication as many as 6-9 months in advance. One employer suggested as many as 18 months.
  • Use all methods of communication possible: direct mail, email, and mobile. (Did you know the average person unlocks their phone 100-150 times a day?)
  • Consider calling it something other than an “exchange” to avoid confusion with the public exchange and negative connotations, with best results having it match existing company branding efforts.
  • A Call Center is paramount for success, and representatives must be trained on the unique characteristics of the employer’s organization.
  • It is imperative to have year round service and a clearly defined health management strategy.
  • There is a growing need to be creative on employer contributions to HSA, FSA, etc.  (Health insurance was created to avoid financial ruin, yet today many people cannot come up with $2,000. How they could afford the deductible on a HDHP?)
  • With exchanges many employers are paying more for insurance but saving on notices, subsidies etc. Ideally they will see trends decrease with better management and accountability by their employees.
  • Explore all your options on plan design and funding both inside and outside an exchange model.

This list is nowhere near complete; much like Surtsey Island, what an exchange will end up looking like is much different than how it appears today.  We do know that a rising tide lifts all boats and I submit the development of the new ‘ecosystem’ has sparked standard Benefits Administration Vendors to improve their technology to match that currently being developed with a Private Health Insurance Exchange offering (see Courtney’s Q3 update coming shortly). Fortunately, the client is ultimately the winner regardless of what path they choose.

Questions about Private Health Insurance Exchanges? You know the drill: leave them in the comment box below.

More Insights on Insights

Posted by on July 17, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

After a meaty and memorable Ceridian Insights conference in Vegas, Pat and I are crammed onto our Southwest Air flight heading home. (At least we scored the exit row – many thanks to the illuminati for arranging that!) After countless sessions and a myriad of product demos, Ceridian ended the conference incredibly well today and let us all fade away from the city of Lost Wages, NV. (See the recap of our day one adventures at Insights.)

The identity of Ceridian is certainly in transition from Service Bureau to Technology Shop. None of the executives I talked to (and we got some great c-suite access!) thought they’d end up as far on the Tech Shop end of the spectrum as some of their competitors like Workday or Ultimate Software. Instead, I consistently got a ¾ Tech, ¼ Service Bureau response for two reasons: 1) Ceridian still has a significant installed client base that needs to be serviced and 2) this creates an institutional ability to repurpose that DNA towards insulating their HCM clients from the shaper edges of high-end technology.

The best quote of the conference came from Kim Hasler, Sales Manager out of Chicago, in trying to summarize the meme of our senior executive meetings: “We’re SaaS with Service, not Service with sass.”

Here’s what’s interesting – this means they’re not taking the predictable SaaS path that I expected when they completed their divorce from the Signature mainframe. According to the folks we spoke to, this is more closely aligned in my mind with the old Application Service Provider (ASP) model but with a SaaS twist. I know this statement will be controversial, so I invite anyone who has better data to set me straight (come on, I double-dog dare you!) Here’s where my view comes from:

1) ASP: Every client has their own database. This isn’t co-mingled, true multi-tenant as I understand it.

SaaS: This does not mean they are allowing customization. That’s off the table.

2) ASP: There will be multiple versions of the application in production at any one time. We heard they will support up to three versions back.

Saas: Releases are cumulative, so if someone’s three releases back, they can take the latest one and not have to step through three separate upgrades (ERP Hell, this is your 1st sin)

3) SaaS: All new functionality is released dormant and users activate what they want (except compliance related stuff, naturally)

4) ASP: Implementation resources grab pre-configured database “templates” from the shelf based upon a client’s industry and requirements and then install from that “starter-loaf.” (Does that reference even make sense? All I can think of is that stupid Friendship Bread I kept getting back before I stopped answering my doorbell.)

5) Saas: General Ledger runs in memory. Okay, that’s not really a SaaS vs. ASP thing, but you’ve got to admit, it’s pretty cool to see that render real-time. (Yep, I’m a geek!)

ceridian insights

Here are some more interesting developments from the second and third days of Insights:

Document Management:

Following a bit behind ADPs 2012 innovative product launch, Ceridian has now thrown their hat in to the Document Management arena. This is such a smart solution to a serious problem that’s not even on the radar of many an employer. After all, since our employees are also consumers, they’re quickly becoming aware of their risks and rights with PHI and other sensitive data. The regulations are only breeding like rabbits on many levels: state, federal –and most aggressively– internationally.

This will dramatically change how employer HR teams will have to operate. Here are Ceridian’s 7 recommended rules. (The passionate Product Manager was moving rather fast with the slides, so my transcription may not be verbatim!)

1) Collect only required information

2) Restrict distribution methods and access

3) Provide only the minimum data required when requested

4) Ensure data is up to date and relevant

5) Provide individuals with access to their information for review and updating

6) Retain information only for as long as it’s needed and dispose of it safely

7) Ensure that information is protected from unauthorized access


So, here’s what comes next:

It’s going to be really fascinating as my team gets to help Jimmy Carter the inevitable debate at our employer clients on the why the million dollar IT Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions they’ve just installed are not sufficient or efficient for this particular data set. With both groups typically being shared service groups within employers, it could quickly turn into a political turf war!

Here’s a brief outline of why HR tech may be the answer to what has typically been seen as an IT problem:

-  HR data typically is exposed reporting relationship as opposed to role. As a director, I see my department’s salaries, but not all departments’ compensation data.

- For data that’s exposed by role, it’s often also exposed to the data owner as well. Think marriage certificates. I need to be able to see, upload or change mine and someone in HR must have access as well. So a security setup based on role, such as Benefits Manager, needs to more accurately be: Benefits Manager +1. But, as one more twist, perhaps a summarization of data may need to be provided to layers of leadership such as a live dashboard of Incomplete Enrollments in Benefits due to missing documentation. (Benefits Manager +1 w/ dash?)

-  Most importantly, in almost every organization I’ve worked, there is often a lag between the freshness of the data in an IT security environment and what’s happening in HR. After all, who’s closer to the termination events, promotions, etc. than HR (since they’re usually holding a very scared manager’s hand throughout those crucial conversations)?

-  However, it’s totally legitimate for IT to push back on this replication of security rights management into another department. Perhaps this will firmly bring back our long missed, HRIT job-pathing!

Not surprisingly, Ceridian is looking to charge for this service based on a PEPM (per employee per month) fee tied to certain data storage limits. It will be interesting to see organizations try to split their compliance budget between ECM and HR Document Management while seeking the Rosetta Stone of CapEx to PEPM conversion. I pity the CFO who has to referee this fight.

Dayforce, Dayforce, Dayforce

It might be a slightly sad time to be a legacy Ceridian product owner at Insights. There is so much buzz and momentum around the new flagship product, other products were almost invisible. A lot of that buzz is honestly earned by the SaaS application, Dayforce HCM, especially the closer your needs are to the more foundational and transactional aspects of HRIS. David Ossip has said Dayforce is the first innovation in Payroll in the last 30 years and his hyperbole is not all bravado.

If an employer has complexity around Workforce Management and/or Payroll, they would be well-served with some of the seriously cool integration happening here. I think back to when I was managing a restaurant to pay for my undergrad and I never had all the data needed when I tried to calculate payroll. There were always missed punches, but more importantly, there were major compliance issues that I just whiffed covering. For example, since a lot of my cooks worked overtime each week, (such a hard role to fill well!) when someone got a spot bonus for taking an extra weekend shift– if I had even had a clue about labor law– I “should” have gone back and re-calculated their overtime wage and the store payroll to include the diluted extra earnings over the periods it was being paid and then retro-ed any previous periods. Yeah, not happening. Totally ignorant. I was 19 and already a coffee addict trying to stay awake during classes at Mizzou. Yesterday, my team saw that same scenario demoed in a live system where everything was addressed automatically and in real-time. No server calls. No mainframe special processing. It was pretty sharp. If this is your battlefield, there’s a new warrior.

Of course, there’s some more work to be done or released around Talent Management, Benefits and the more strategic areas of HRIS. Some of it is just waiting to be released like the PPACA module arriving in Q3. (Stay tuned! We’ll be hitting other upcoming Q3 vendor innovations in an upcoming blog a couple weeks from now for you, our faithful and true believers!)

We’ll continue to watch the development of this application and all other HR Technology so you have a sounding board for those super-important decisions you’ll need to make. If you have any specific questions or want to monitor our education as it happens, please follow us at @HRTechKaiser or hit the subscribe button nearby to have this content pushed to your inbox. If there are questions we can help research for you, please shoot them our way ( or comment to this posting.

Insights on Insights

Posted by on July 15, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

Returning to Ceridian’s annual customer and prospect conference, Insights, after an eight-year absence, brings me an odd sense of “partial Déjà Vu.” (would that be Deja Vi?) All the changes in senior leadership in that timespan certainly have vastly transformed the company. And, as you’d guess, I wasn’t expecting to see many familiar faces. However, it has been a surprisingly wonderful reunion with some of the folks I respect the most in our industry.

It has always struck me that our HR Tech world lacks a true ability for the behind-the-scenes superstars to fully shine outside of their own company’s ecosystem. Every vendor has them – they’re the lifeblood of the vendor’s ability to deliver, implement or sell. Often they’re the ones leading sessions at these conferences or escorting their clients through the events, but unless they’re in the executive ranks, they’re often invisible to the employers who are considering what vendors with which to partner. It’s one of the things I love most about our vendor-neutral, outside consultant role: we get to collect and celebrate the invisible superstar talent that employers need to connect with to fully have confidence in their partnership decisions.

ceridian insights

These annual conferences are such a great networking investment for employers who are current customers or those looking to decide. Whether its ADP’s Meeting of the Minds, Benefitfocus’ One Place, Ceridian’s Insights, CSOD’s Convergence, Ultimate’s Connections, etc., these events all offer clients an opportunity to connect to 1) those executives that prioritize and direct resources to areas of development (or defects!) and 2) the product and service experts who can cut to the heart of many issues. (By the way – did you notice the alphabetical order on the vendors? You wouldn’t believe how many hoops we jump through to always showcase our objectivity!) I always encourage my employer clients at these events to embark on an uber-aggressive collection of business cards and contacts. Those connections from one week of effort can provide so much relief during the other 51 weeks of the year when systems and services don’t always perform as they appeared on the brochure.

Quick highlight reel from the sessions:

- An Executive panel before lunch was pleasantly not all softball questions as they sometimes are.

  • About Ceridian’s ability to deliver on roadmap:
    • CEO David Ossip said  ”Dayforce brought to Ceridian the ability to deliver technology. Recruiting was promised last year and has been launched. Performance and Compensation are next.” (I’m not 100% clear if those are two modules or parts of the same module.)
    • I thought his statement was bold for what it acknowledged about recent disappointing history (InView), while promising a different future outcome. He also spoke respectfully about some of Ceridian’s past glory days (2003-ish) when Ceridian led the industry with one of the first integrated HR, Payroll and Benefits databases and web applications and promised a return to notoriety.
  • About Ceridian’s ability to support “explosive growth”:
    • SVP, Implementation Adrian Grbavac said they had already hired over 100 folks in the first half of this year and were “expanding our partner ecosystem,” which only generated follow-up questions about the difference between internal and external implementation supports.
    • We’ve seen this with many vendors over the years. It’s so much more scalable to cultivate and certify third-party partners than to hire a bunch of folks ahead of “expected” demand. Of course, that is often a little harder to explain to buyers when there’s no perceivable difference in price.

- Whoever put the ageless Jim O’Connell on stage to cover the Affordable Care Act and only gave him 10 minutes of talking time nearly created a rip in the space-time continuum. What could be more impossible?

- I have a new favorite Payroll Auditing quip: “..rob Federal to pay FICA” said Bill Baumann.

- There was a spontaneous round of applause during Aeropostale’s case study presentation when he told of his company’s move to Dayforce: “Best of all, there’s no mainframe processing!” So long Signature, you served that company well, but your fame has fled.

- HCM Analytics & Dashboards

  • How amazing will it be for managers to be reacting real-time to labor and payroll issues through smartphone-pushed dashboards?
  • I love the built-in PowerPoint export rendering for all Analytics output. The ability for employers to upload their branded presentation templates just likely saved major hours for HR and Payroll departments as they prepare data for senior leadership.
  • After all, storing data isn’t really newsworthy, but turning that around to help organizations make better decisions easier is the Oscar-worthy achievement.

- Lifeworks, the sometimes overshadowed division of the Ceridian pantheon, delivered one of the most compelling business cases for change. The case was based around their ability to bring Health Risk Solutions to employers through packaged managed services focused on reducing overall healthcare spend.

  • Pharmacy data/auditing, Medical Claims data/auditing with Network Provider Ratings and Decision Support provide the foundation of their offering – which is very similar to some broker offerings out there. Perhaps this could be a disruptor to current broker/consultant model?
  • Somehow I think the “no incremental cost to an employer” might have caught some folks’ attention.

If you’d like to monitor our education as it happens, please follow us at @HRTechKaiser or hit the subscribe button nearby to have this content pushed to your inbox. If there are questions we can help research for you while we’re here, please shoot them our way ( or comment to this posting.

ACA Technology Twitterings

Posted by on July 11, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

Yesterday was a day that will go down in history! A landmark in my career! It was Lockton Benefit Group’s first ever Tweet Chat! That’s right folks, I’ve finally embraced this newfangled means of communication they call Twitter to share some ACA technology knowledge with the rest of the world. (#YOLO) I guest-starred as the resident ACA technology expert to answer questions related to the topic tweeted in by other Twitter users.  You can see the conversation here or by searching #LocktonACA on Twitter.

Not really knowing what to expect, I was surprised with the amount of questions and even the content of some of the questions.  The scheduled hour was filled with questions about the different ACA technology vendors and their offerings. There were also a few questions that were more compliance-related. Fortunately, Mark Holloway (an ACA compliance know-it-all around here) was able to jump in and offer some answers to those questions that were a bit out of my realm.

tweet chat results

Here’s a quick summary of our Tweet Chat conversation:

Why we’re talking “technology” and “ACA” at the same time:  The ACA imposes a variety of administrative obligations on employers. Every client of ours feels some ACA pain to some extent…the true extent of the pain depends on the employer’s size, the nature of the coverage it offers (insured or self-insured) and whether it employs “variable hour” employees. Employers may have to track employees’ hours of service over extended, 12-month periods, track time spent in waiting periods, report to the IRS (and covered employees) various periods of coverage, and report to the IRS information sufficient to demonstrate compliance with the employer mandate. All these obligations imply a need for a technology solution to handle them efficiently.

The types of ACA technology vendors: ACA technology systems fall into three camps- stand-alone IT systems; HR/Payroll and Time & Attendance vendors; and Benefits Administration vendors.

The best vendors: It depends! Different vendors and their offerings make better fits for different kinds of employers. Personally, I like the vendors that don’t disrupt other technology systems.

The worst vendors: ACA is new to all of the vendors, so not all products have been perfected yet. Some of the ERPs are struggling more, so they are partnering-up with stand-alone ACA systems. Non-SaaS vendors are also dragging.

How technology can help with the look-back period: Good technology can help employers readily prove the full-time or part-time status of their employees. Employers may use different measurement periods for (certain) different categories of employees. The ideal solution is a technology platform that can accommodate the employer with multiple business units and different measurement periods.

Not counting hours correctly: Not counting hours correctly can result in non-compliance with the ACA and therefore the penalties. To avoid potential penalties, the employer has to prove they offered coverage to full-time employees, which assumes the employer can correctly identify its full-time employees. For some employers, the ability to track hours and manage their workforce will be critical.

The time it takes to implement a new system: it varies on the vendor, but we are seeing 2 – 12 weeks, assuming good data at the start. The more time you can give to implement, the better the result. (Read our last blog post about this same issue.)

Cost for ACA only solutions: Prices range from $0.20 – $3.00 PEPM for full compliance support, depending on the system; many Time & Attendance vendors are providing “hours worked” reports for free.

Lockton’s ACA technology system: Lockton is vendor-neutral and does not offer a technology system. Our clients are too varied for the “one size fits all” path.

If an employee works for a company in a controlled group and gets a new job in a company in the group, does the initial measurement period reset? No, there is no reset if they transfer or take another job in the controlled group, unless there is a sufficiently long break in service.

If you missed out on this rip-roaring good time yesterday, make sure to check out the conversation. If you still have outstanding ACA technology questions, please tweet them to me or comment them below! Be on the lookout next month for LBG’s next Tweet Chat hosted by the Health Risk Solutions Practice.

Caveat Emptor

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

“Buyer beware.” What a horrible phrase. Plain speaking: you’re about to get harpooned! “I’ve got this bill of goods for you; sign here, press hard.”

But what if you’re not given a warning about a purchase? How do you know you can’t trust someone? Or when to call in someone to look over your shoulder? I guarantee you that the real Mr. Kaiser (my dad) was looking over my shoulder when I agreed to buy my first house. I have to confess I didn’t bring him in during the 1997 Golds Gym fiasco, but that’s the Ouch! I now call experience.


Brad from our team was talking about this recently after seeing a vendor demo for a group Private Exchange (If you’re not familiar with Exchanges, think souped-up Benefits Administration for an ACA world.) The vendor rep leading the demo stated they could complete an implementation and have a 1,000 life employer up and running in 30 days. “Uh, come again?” The absurdity of the statement took me a minute to process. We’ve done hundreds of these and without a magic wand, an implementation should run 60-90 days for a benefits technology-only system and 90-150 days for a more complete benefits administration replacement. Brad had to stop the guy – after all, our client employer had no way of knowing that the sales rep just promised to cure cancer and fix the US tax law by Tuesday.

But that experience has gotten us thinking: If an employer doesn’t know better, they could tell their boss to print their bonus check for being done early and expect a fully functioning system 30 days later at go-live.

The rep went on to tell Brad that the 30 days didn’t included setting up payroll or carrier interfaces. That could take an additional 30-60 days, depending on the complexity and specific carriers the client is using.  He further explained they would provide the client reports so the HR staff could manually key payroll data (did I mention this is a 1,000 employee group?). Needless to say, the employer ended the meeting early and this guy destroyed his credibility and chances of winning the business.

After viewing countless private exchange vendor demos, pouring over 500 question RFIs and speaking with dozens of Lockton teams for the last 7 months, I’ve compiled a short list of questions I’ve found helpful:

  1. Will the suggested implementation timeframe include setting up and testing a payroll interface? If not, when do you expect that to be completed?
  2. Is the employer expected to map their data feeds to the vendor’s specification?
  3. Will the suggested implementation timeframe include setting up and testing the employer’s specific carriers? If not, when do you expect that to be completed?
  4. If a non-standard carrier is used, will that increase timeframes?
  5. What is the process for transmitting payroll and carrier files if the interface is not set up?
  6. What are the employer’s responsibilities while the payroll and carrier files are being set up and tested?
  7. What are the Service Level Agreements and (hopefully) Fees at Risk to set up the interfaces timely and accurately?

A smooth implementation of a new system is crucial to the technology’s success, but smooth takes time. Although quicker might seem more appealing─ as employers are getting ready for the new requirements ACA has placed on them─ quicker usually means the quality or scope is being reduced. (It all goes back to our Service Triangle!) In this vendor’s case, it meant more work for the employer’s HR department. Be wary of vendors that offer below average timeframes and don’t be afraid to ask these questions!

If you have any other questions you’ve found helpful to ensure implementation excellence, share them here by clicking on the comment link above (or let me know directly @HRTechKaiser ) For our team’s recommended Private Exchange or Benefits Administration implementation timelines please send an email to We’d love to help (unless you’re selling gym memberships 60 days before closing down a club – not that I’m bitter!)

Speaking of ACA-related things: I’m hosting a Tweet Chat with Lockton Benefit Group this Thursday, July 10th at 1:30 PM CST. If you have any questions regarding the Affordable Care Act and what it means for your clients or your company and what technologies are out there to help with compliance, tweet your questions using #LocktonACA.LocktonACA TweetChat


#SHRM14: The Third and Final Day

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

Welcome back! If you haven’t read parts one and two of our #SHRM14 update, please do so! (It’s worth it, I promise!) Without further ado, here is the final installment of Wendy’s recap:

Another noteworthy session I attended was one on Strategic Planning.  This one was so full of information, it was hard to get it all.  But here are some highlights that I believe are applicable to everyone.

HR needs to promote, provide and model strategy.  Companies need to make decisions and HR needs to be involved and proactively ask the tough questions.  To strategize:

  1.  Start with a picture of today’s environment
  2. Create a shared vision; all need to agree where the group/company is going

The intent is to develop the vision, then the mission, then a description, then the goal.  Each goal will have a set of objectives and strategies to reach the goal.  Goals are long-term and never go away; the only way they change is if the vision changes.  Objectives are measureable and quantitatively measure the accomplishment of goals.  There is a difference between measuring results and the activity; for example, a company may have a goal of having 2 membership drives in a year.  That definition of the goal doesn’t take into account why there should be 2 a year, the quality of the membership drives, or even who is responsible.  The more accurate goal would be to increase membership; an objective would be to sign up 25 new people, and a strategy would be to have 2 membership drives.

Some common mistakes that organizations make in strategizing are:

  •  It doesn’t happen
  • Inaccurate measurements are used
  • They jump straight to strategy before defining critical success factors and barriers

Planning needs to be done in phases:  Assessment, Strategy and Implementation.  The need for planning often has to be sold to executives because time taken away from other priorities.  To get the executives on the same page, it’s helpful to vision-cast with them:

  • The most critical issues the company faces
  • What the drivers are for change
  • The changes that need to be made to ensure the drivers work
  • Information that needs to be gathered
  • How to move forward

Once the strategy is developed, monitoring needs to occur:

  • Monthly – did we do what we said we were going to do?
  • Quarterly – Are we making the progress we intended to make?  Review the performance against the direction that was developed
  • Annually – Are we going in the right direction?  Update the strategic plan if necessary.

Strategic Planning doesn’t work in companies in which people don’t want to change and where they don’t believe in the plan.  Therefore, the implementers need to promote the strategies, provide the goals and objectives and then model them for the organization to see.

The last day of the conference, the keynote speaker was Laura Bush.  (Side note: there was security throughout the building, and the 8 or so from her security team that were standing at the entrance to the hall were very stringent in their duties.)

Mrs. Bush’s address was very well presented and received.  She started by giving an update on her family and what they were involved in since leaving the White House.  Then she transitioned into what it was like being in the White House for the 8 years they were there.  They anticipated that the challenges of the country would be within it instead of outside of it—Russia was no longer the enemy, there was peace in the Falklands, and the President’s focus was on education and prescription and Medicare drugs.  Her task was to find her duties as a first lady.  She just wanted to be herself:  someone who strongly believes that literacy is an essential foundation for democracy and that books have the ability to shape our journey as a nation.   One of her favorite memories was when she helped host a reading event at the DC mall; 30,000 people were able to review books, talk to authors and enjoy the day.  A couple of days later she was on her way to the Capitol to talk with Senator Kennedy when a Secret Service agent told her that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  That evening they were taken to a secure location and she was able to see her husband for the first time that day and know that he was safe.  They woke up to a different life on 9/12/01.  As a first lady, Mrs. Bush was no longer speaking out against illiteracy; she was now speaking out against brutality against women and children in Afghanistan and other countries.


The day the Bushes left the White House was a bittersweet day.  They knew they had done their best for the country; the President liked to say of the country, “We are the big ship, America.  We may lean to the left or right, but we stay on course.”  They both felt very fortunate to have had the experience of living in the White House.  As she looked back on the period, she remembered October 30, 2001.  The President was scheduled to throw out the first pitch, which at any other time would have been a lighthearted duty, but actually was more melancholy because citizens were still grieving over 9/11.  They soldiered on because they felt it was the job of any American who wants to make a difference and stand up to failure, humiliation or mortal danger.  The greatest honor of being First Lady was to observe not just her husband, but all of America, standing up.

Mrs. Bush concluded her speech as the President of SHRM took the stage to ask her some questions.  Here are a few of her answers:

You are known as one of the most beloved First Ladies….tell us  your management philosophy.

You all know management philosophy—treat people with dignity and respect.  That is what is important now that things are so “unsimple” in our society.  We can be anonymous now on web sites and people can say whatever they want to say.  We can’t have that in our relationships with each other.  Everyone has the chance to spread civility throughout our organizations, and that is a good beginning.

What would be the most surprising thing for people to know about life in the White House?

People would be surprised by how normal life is in the White House.  Although we had dinner cooked by a chef (she misses the chef the most), we would eat together then watch television.  The girls would have people over; family would come to stay.

What advice would you give young women today who are entering the workforce of life.

To women:  you can do anything.  Women in the US are doing very well.  There are more women in college and graduate school than men in the US.  Part of the reason is because we started paying attention.  The fact is that we need to pay attention to boys too.  Boys are much more likely to be in trouble, drop out.  We need to pay attention to all of our children—all children need nurturing.  My daughters didn’t want their father to run for President, but now they are glad he did.  They met so many people and did so many interesting things.

The last mention I’ll make regarding the conference, is that I was able to learn more about the SPHR certification change and we will be sharing more information soon.

Ta-da! You’ve made it through our recap of the 2014 SHRM Conference! Congratulations! Please feel free to share your own SHRM experiences by commenting below.

#SHRM14 Conference Recap: Day 2

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

In case you weren’t able to read the first part of Wendy’s recap of the 2014 SHRM Conference, you can read it here.

Here goes part two of her three part recap of the happenings of #SHRM14:

Overall, it was a great conference; the keynote speakers and the presenters were very engaging.

The keynote speaker for Day 2 was David Novak, the CEO of YUM! brands (Doritos, Taco Bell, KFC, etc.).  He started by having the audience stand up and spell out Y-U-M YMCA-style.  It felt a little strange, but it was good to be moving around.  He had a few good points, but unfortunately, a lot of his presentation was selling his book and his products─ which SHRM asks that speakers refrain from doing.  It was a bit of a turn-off.  His main idea was “Taking People With You”—creating a vision and helping people to understand it so they feel they can help implement the vision.  David shared the story of Crystal Pepsi.  He has a marketing background, and in their marketing studies it was noted that the dark caffeinated products were not doing as well as light products.  So they created a clear Pepsi.  They test-marketed clear Pepsi, and the participants said that “it didn’t taste like Pepsi”.  His team told him that it wouldn’t do well because it didn’t taste enough like Pepsi; however, he thought he knew it would be a great sale, so he told them to go ahead and release it.  The public didn’t buy it because… “it didn’t taste like Pepsi”. David said it was a major fail for him and taught him that he needed to include others and consider opinions and recommendations. (By the way, he said Crystal Pepsi has been documented as one of the top 10 marketing fails of all time and Saturday Night Live even did parodies about it.)

David Novak, CEO of YUM! Brands, Inc.

David Novak, CEO of YUM! Brands, Inc.

David created a leadership training program that demonstrated to executives how to develop an action plan geared toward getting results.  Once the program development was complete, he began training the leaders. But he wasn’t able to reach very many; so he determined he needed to scale it to reach more people. He needed to train others so they could train more people.  It cascaded from there.  His leadership tips:

  • Be self-aware; you are a brand yourself.  Every year write out what you like about being a leader and what needs to be improved
  • Ask how people see you—you have to know
  • Be the hotshot before someone else takes your job
  • Be a know-how junkie; soak in knowledge
  • Celebrate others’ ideas more than your own
  • Unleash the power of people – 90% of people want to do well
  •  You have to believe that what you are doing can be done

The responsibility of leadership is to define reality.  The more you know, the more you care.  If people are not involved, they will not care about the vision.

David has reached 4,000 managers throughout the world with his training.  As an organization, YUM! is focused on attacking world hunger; proceeds from his book go to feeding people around the world.

Stay tuned as Wendy raps up her recap tomorrow with a summary of Strategic Planning.

Effective Communication: The Key to Success

Posted by on June 26, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

Today’s post comes from a write-up Eric did about a recent seminar he attended. Enjoy!

In different industries and jobs across the world, people are continuing to polish their job skills as to more efficiently perform for their companies. Whether it’s continued education, certification or simply performing new tasks, we are all striving for improvement every day.

Anyone can focus on getting better at what they do. That’s what makes it so great to be a part of a living, breathing workforce. But in a lot of places, people aren’t practicing one of the most important skills that can lead to the best results: Communication.

It’s something that everyone does every single day. It’s a skill that everyone already has, but needs to improve. It’s something that can take you where you want to go, no matter how high the limits are.

Like other skills, I am constantly looking to improve my communication through unique perspectives. Recently, I attended a session on “Effective Communication” and thought I would share some of the interesting take-aways from our session.

We covered a lot of material, but the one part I got the most out of may have been the most basic. We often spend the majority of our days looking for the detail that we forget some of the basics, so this really hit home with me. And, like a lot of other things in our practice, it had an interesting acronym: RADPSF

Yep. R-A-D-P-S-F. Rad-pss-if.

Reflect the specific facts: When engaging with someone, acknowledge and validate what they are saying. “I see that…” “I noticed…” “I’m aware of…”

Acknowledge the common ground: Relate to the person speaking so that they understand that you’ve heard them. “I agree that…”

Describe the supporting information: Repeat back as to further clarify the point(s) and convey deeper understanding of situation. “The situation is…” “So what I’m hearing is that…”

Pause: Maybe the most important part. Pause for understanding with both parties, then proceed.

State your request or response: I want…so that…

Follow Up: As to further sympathize with others and to make sure you are understood in return.

Not rocket science, right? But how many times do we get caught up in our lives that we forget the basics and tune out? In our practice, this can be very effective when working with our clients and vendors. As consultants, we need to translate both the needs of the client and the vendor and come up with the best solution for both parties. How can you do that without active listening?


The last part of the sessions focused on buzz-words. It was surprising to me how many of the buzz-words we covered applied to just about everyone in the room. In a lot of cases, simply getting rid of the word provided much clearer understanding. We ended this session with a quick list of words we should “minimize” in our day-to-day jobs. Below is the “Minimized Phrase” List:

  • But, however, although (just delete it altogether!)
  • Obvious(ly), apparently, reality (“in reality”, “the reality is…” etc.)
  • Never, always, everyone
  • Sorry, unfortunately
  • Have to
  • I wish
  • If only
  • Policy, protocol, manual, handbook, rule, documentation

It’s always interesting to get a different perspective on how to do things. For me, I find it particularly interesting when it comes to communication. If we could take a broader look across perspectives of how people communicate, both speaking AND listening, it would truly be the best tool to have to create our own style of effective communication.

It’s the single most important thing we can do in our jobs and if we’re constantly trying to improve, there’s no telling what the goals we can achieve.

Do you have any tips for effective communicating? If so, please share below! Also, don’t forget to check out our recap of the Annual SHRM Conference from earlier this week.

#SHRM14 Day 1 Recap

Posted by on June 24, 2014 | Read the First Comment

For those of you that didn’t make it out to Orlando for the Annual SHRM Conference this year, fear not! I’ve sent my teammate Wendy Dayton on our team’s behalf and she has provided a recap of the happenings of this year’s conference, dubbed on Twitter as #SHRM14. (It was even trending! So for all of you hip, HR fans out there- check out what people are saying! Side note (aka shameless plug): while you’re on Twitter, give me a follow @HRTechKaiser!) Anyway, back to the important stuff.  From Wendy’s pen to your ears, here is the Day 1 recap of SHRM 2014:

Good morning from sunny Orlando where 13,000 of my closest friends and I are attending SHRM 2014.  It’s been a great conference so far…excellent speakers and a ton of good information being shared.


The theme of this year’s conference is Transform, so many of the speakers are talking about transformation in the world around us and within our jobs as HR people.  Yesterday the first speaker, Bette Francis, the SHRM chair, challenged the attendees to increase HR influence by building relationships.  She said 41% of our time is spent influencing people.  Then the keynote speaker and NY Times columnist, Tom Friedman, discussed how technology has changed the business and employee outlook.  It was very fascinating.  He said the biggest domestic and foreign policy question is “How’s my kid going to get a job?”  He tied the growth of technology to how we need to prepare for the future.

The biggest thing to happen in the early 21st century is the merging of business globalization and technology—going from interconnected to interdependent and from connected to hyper-connected on a Gutenberg scale (Gutenberg created the printing press, which Tom said made monks around the world cheer).  There have been four huge technology shifts driving the growth:

-  Invention of the PC – allowing individuals to create their own content in digital form

- Emergence of the internet – allowing individuals to share their content

- Emergence of workflow software – allowing individuals to develop processes and push their content out to more people

- Emergence of search capabilities – allows collaboration

The result has been that information moves faster and there is more information than ever before; Tom used the words Connect – Complete – Collaborate to sum the transformation.  The technology mediums—Facebook, the Cloud, Linked In, 4G, Big Data, Skype—have all happened in the last 7 years, and technology continues to grow exponentially.  It has shifted the consideration of businesses to not place as much emphasis on what people know, as what they can do with what they know.  Young people won’t necessarily have to graduate from college with advanced degrees as much as they will have to demonstrate that they can strategically think and apply knowledge to grow business.

It’s going to be great to be a consumer in the hyper-connected world that is emerging.  For example, a person who wants to become an innovator and entrepreneur could be global from day one and charge startup costs to credit more easily gained through multiple resources.  However, it’s going to be a terrible world to be the leader in anything.  All leaders are used to being in a one-way conversation with the audience (i.e., I can tell you what I’m thinking and you can only respond in a narrow, time-delayed manner), but the two-way conversation is the new way of the world.   Recipients of messages can immediately comment on leadership—changes are being made by popular democracy vs. representative democracy (i.e., everyone has input, not just those that may be able to see the bigger picture and long-term impact).  Tom said being a leader “is not fun anymore.”

In this hyper-connected world, it’s going to be difficult to be a worker─ ’average is over’.  Every boss has cheaper, easier access to above-average everything (labor, genius).  Workers can no longer just “show up”.  Years ago, a worker in Bethlehem Steel could drop out of high school, get an average-paying job, have an average house, have an average family, take average vacations, and have an average funeral.  Now, a worker can’t get a good job unless they are ready to be creative.  It’s not enough to say, “I’m non-routine”, the worker has to show that they are innovative.

People in older generations got to find jobs; kids today have to create their jobs.  The high-wage, middle-skill job is gone (e.g., union jobs), and people have to get ready for high-wage, high-skill jobs.  Education must focus on bringing low-wage job skills to at least average-wage job skills, and people must graduate from high school innovation–ready.  Self-motivation is so much more important.  The world has changed from a pension world (defined benefits) to a 401-K world (defined contribution).

Another session I attended was on moving employees globally.  I was hoping to hear more about global benefits leave administration, but the focus was more on the legal side and how to avoid issues with ex-pats.  One point I found interesting was the concept of a GEC, which is a company that an employer can create to manage expats.  The GEC allows companies to hire and terminate people between their international companies and more centrally manage them while eliminating the duplicative costs inherent with moving people around. The GEC has to have a base employee group such as IT, HR, etc., and has to observe corporate formalities like any other company. Benefits can be managed through the GEC and can be different among the different countries in which there are expats.

I also attended a session on telling stories to present information.  The person that spoke was very energetic and engaging.  We did an exercise where we picked a partner and told them about a vacation we had without using the word ‘um’—the purpose was to be aware of our ‘comfort’ words.  It was definitely a challenge and eye-opening!


(Maybe as a coach…not ON. I don’t think HR would approve of being on a coach.)

Stay tuned, as today I’m going to be continuing to search for global leave administration information and find out more about the SPHR certifications.

If there is anything in particular you want Wendy to search out, please let us know by commenting below or tweeting at us (@HRTechKaiser)!

Talent Management 101

Posted by on June 11, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

Courtney and Kaiser here again with another HR Tech 101 post, this time inspired by a recent Subject Matter Expert’s presentation on the topic of Talent Management. Because there is so much going on behind the lump term “Talent Management”, we thought we’d break it down for you!

Talent Management is the area of Human Resources focused on anticipating and planning to meet the human capital (you and me!) needs of an organization. Talent Management is an ongoing process as it follows employees throughout the life of their career with that company. According to a report by Bersin & Associates, it is an “integrated process designed to attract, manage, develop, motivate and retain key people.”

Several vendors have started marketing Talent Management using phrases like “from hire to retire.” However, one important point to note is that Talent Management as it is typically delivered is not everything an employer needs to manage their HR duties. Often, Talent Management packages only include the strategic aspects of HR and rely on another system (HRIS) to manage transaction or organizational functions. This is the key differentiator in the modules out there.

Talent Management is made up of 5 pillars:

  • Recruiting
  • Learning Management
  • Performance Management
  • Compensation Management
  • Succession Planning

talent mgmt

Recruiting= (also known as Applicant Tracking Systems) handles the recruitment needs of a company electronically. Recruiting systems help management and HR keep track of application information and resume data, mine that data later, coordinate recruiting efforts of a company, filter applications based on specified criteria (i.e., keywords used in resumes and applications) and enable the offering of new positions to existing employees of the company by searching candidate information.

Learning Management= delivers the features needed to develop the knowledge and skills of an organization’s employees. A Learning Management System (LMS) administers, documents, tracks, reports and delivers e-learning programs to employees. You can create online courses and training material, store it in the system and push it out to your employees. After they have completed it, you can then track and report the results. If a vendor is missing one of the talent pillars, this is the one most commonly provided by a third party. Another key thing to note about an LMS is if they provide content or just the system to use.

Performance Management = assesses an individual’s job performance and productivity in relation to certain pre-established criteria and organizational objectives, and then provides feedback for improvement. A Performance Management system manages administrative tasks to help managers make/justify pay decisions, provide documentation for the organization to defend itself in court and enable the organization deal with poor performers.

Compensation Management= enables a company to design, manage and adjust compensation programs to meet the organization’s goals. Compensation Management systems provide decision support tools and calculators to manage decisions regarding the different components of compensation including base pay, variable pay, allowances, equity, etc.

Succession Planning= identifies and develops existing employees career paths to potentially fill key roles within the organization. A Succession Planning system provides visual career maps by identifying employees’ key strengths and talents, critical roles and performance. It allows managers to be able to view the talent pool for vacant positions.

Talent Management has been a major part of every company’s HR department for years; recently however, there has been a huge increase in the popularity and functionalities of Talent Management technology systems (TMS). Vendors for TMS’s have been popping up left and right, even offering one of the biggest trends in this space: mobile capabilities. TMS allow companies to align employee activities with organizational strategy.

There are both stand-alone vendors for TMS and the individual pillars, as well as integrated options from some of the more “all-inclusive” vendors.

Some of the vendors (but definitely not all of them!) include:


Halogen Software, Silkroad, Peoplefluent, SumTotal, Cornerstone OnDemand, Saba Software, Taleo, ReviewSnap, Empxtrack, People Goal, TribeHR, Perryman Software, TalentGuard, Lumesse, Jobvite, Spark Hire, Combidata and many more! We expect a lot of merger and acquisition in this space as the musical chairs HR Tech game continues.


Ceridian, ADP, Ultimate Software, Workday, Oracle-Taleo, SAP-Successfactors, iCIMS

Talent Management Systems can be both on-premise or SaaS-based depending on the system, although SaaS Talent Management Systems are definitely the trend. It is important to note whether a system can be integrated or is interfaced with your other HRIS. (Forgot the difference between interfaced and integrated? Read this!)  Most vendors claim some level of integration and the convergence of TMS and ERPs are definitely a recent trend. Although stand-alone TMS providers offer more advanced features and can focus on different markets, ERPs like Oracle and SAP have acquired Taleo and SuccessFactors respectively, so customers can experience a more integrated product. My prediction is that this trend will continue.

Some other Talent Management trends include:

  • Talent Management in general is becoming a bigger focus of HR. Companies are realizing the importance of finding, developing and keeping the right employees. This is creating a bigger demand for TMS as managers see TMS as a cost-savings with strategic value to their companies.
  • With Social Networking at an all-time high, Talent Management has gone social. Most systems are providing some sort of integration with social media.
  • Mobile is the new platform for TMS (and all other HR Technologies). With employees checking their phones on average 34 times a day, this is becoming an increasingly important functionality for TMS. (Mobile Health Consumer, “Mobile Technology: The Missing Link for Employee Engagement”)
  • There is an increased focus on HR data analytics to understand and prepare for workforce trends, performance drivers and predictors of future performance.

Do you see any other trends in the Talent Management space? What are your thoughts on this topic? Please share by commenting below.