HR Technology Success Secret: Good Testing

Posted by on November 25, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

HR Technology Success Secret: Good Testing. Here’s three keys:

Pat, one of our project managers, recently sent in this “War Room” photo to our team to celebrate the crucial state of parallel testing. This is a stage where the implementation has been theoretically completed, but to ensure a great go-live, open enrollment, or new company launch, the system must be banged, stretched, twisted, and overloaded (those are all technical terms!)

Testing War Room

Here’s three quick keys that our team believes predict success:

1)      Involve users from all levels of the application

  • If managers will be doing performance appraisals, have a couple test out that functionality. If new hires will go through onboarding, set them up to go through!
  • Getting field buy-in on an application can help smooth the disruptive change resistance that will naturally come.
  • Try to identify and involve “influencers”-  loud voices or prominent cultural and thought leaders inside your organization, no matter what their title.

2)      Focus on technical and  functional testing

  • Make sure your IT and security departments (who should have been a part of the selection and implementation process from the beginning) are testing from their perspectives as well. Confidence has to be utmost on day one of the new system.

3)      Don’t just test at today’s volumes – dream bigger

  • If your company’s three-year plan has you doubling in size, make sure you’re testing data loads at three times your current size to ensure your HR Tech infrastructure doesn’t end up constraining the growth of the business. (which cannot be a very pleasant conversation!)
  • Practice a re-org, a merger, or a divestiture of a business line while you can still blow out the system and refresh with clean data. Break it open and look at where the seams are. After all, you’d rather know now than when you’re trying to run year-end report and get home to the kiddlets.

By the way, we practice what we preach too. As you could imagine, we have built massive spreadsheets to rule the world. (Ok, they really just calculate Total Cost of Ownership and determine solution fit based upon an employer’s Critical Factors, but at least I think they could launch the space shuttle if not rule the world!) When we roll out new releases to our team, we huddle up during one of our bi-annual confabs to have a Hack-a-thon on the new toolset to expose any errors or weaknesses. There’s always pizza and beer to be had just to make a fun time more exciting!


If you’re interested in joining us in our next Hack-a-thon, or have any other tips for quality assurance, user acceptance testing or parallel testing – please post a comment or send me a note @HRTechKaiser.

Tech Effects on Healthcare (Part 2)

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

The Future of Interconnected Healthcare in the U.S. Will be Enabled and Constrained by Technology

When I posted the first part of this discussion earlier this week, we chatted about how advances in technology were arriving at an opportune time to dramatically impact Healthcare in these glorious (but rather cold) United States. (As an aside, it’s not too early to start fearing the winter wind that is blowing – and my Facebook friends can always find ways to squeeze humor out of anything!)

cold weather

For this posting, we’re going to focus on the darker side of the subject: Why so often technology fails to deliver on its potential to improve Healthcare and its delivery. Robert Pearl who is not only a doctor, but also the CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, the largest medical group in the nation, was speaking on this a couple weeks ago and I thought you might be interested in his five reasons.

1)      Technology doesn’t understand the business of Healthcare

“This really isn’t the tech company’s fault,” Dr. Pearl explains, “the business model of Healthcare is so fundamentally broken. Technology is essential, but it’s the business model that works.” The reforms – such as outcomes based compensation – currently going on in the business offer hope that healthcare will move to a more sustainable model in the near future. But the common American fee for service model will constrain this change. “It is easier to raise your volume of services, than it is to lower your costs” says Dr. Pearl.

2)      Disruptive innovations start with the problem

“Too often we create technology that’s cool,” says Dr. Pearl “but it doesn’t solve a problem!” He sees technology for technology’s sake as consuming precious resources and distracting attention away from the problems society needs most to address. In his view, the Fitbit and other wearable devices are little more than solutions to the “what to get someone for Christmas” problem, not game changers on the health of the US.

3)      No one is willing to pay

Often the technology that’s needed can’t get funded or becomes unaffordable (which brings us back to one of the three societal trends we covered previously on this blog.)

4)      Technology companies don’t understand doctors

Dr. Pearl explains that their resistance to adopting new technology is very simple if one considers that doctors are basically hourly employees since under the common “fee for service” models of reimbursement, doctors receive more compensation for increasing the number of services they deliver. “Anything that slows them down (such as new technology) causes them to make less.”

5)      Hype often outpaces reality

While there are many examples to pull from, he thought IBM’s use of Watson on Jeopardy was a great example of how the flames of hype are fanned. Alternatively, the functional use of another quasi-artificial intelligence, Apple’s Siri, was much more impactful in Dr. Pearl’s view. Here technology was changing how users interact with their devices, not turning over their thinking to the technology.

If our country’s healthcare system is going to fundamentally change to address the rising costs of service delivery and the demographic trends that are going to increase demand, it’s certain that technology must play a role. But as we can see from Dr. Pearl’s comments, it’s up to providers, payers and employers to advocate for the wise and intentional use of technology.

Since a huge number of US citizens receive their healthcare through their employer, your trusty HR Technology and Outsourcing team from Lockton will make sure we stay in this important conversation as the data and the dollars swirl all around us to ensure the needs and voice of America’s employers are heard and considered.

What do you think about Dr. Pearl’s assertions? Share below or tweet your thoughts to @HRTechKaiser.

Tech Effects on Healthcare (Part 1)

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

The Future of Interconnected Healthcare in the US will be Enabled and Constrained by Technology

If you know anything about my aversion to winter, it will probably not surprise you that I found myself out in Los Angeles recently for a conference. But what made this event important wasn’t the 70+ degree weather I found, but instead the unique mixture of healthcare providers, payers, and consultants all debating technology’s role in the costly and complex world of healthcare. (Providers are the hospitals, doctors and clinics, while the Payers are the insurance plans like Blue Cross/Blue Shield and United Healthcare.) If there was an industry ripe for change and simplification, Healthcare is as much a poster child perhaps second only to our governmental bureaucracies.

While there were tons of fascinating discussions, I was particularly captivated by a speech by Robert Pearl, who is not only a doctor, but also the CEO of The Permanente Medical Group─ the largest medical group in the nation.  He sees a unique opportunity for change being created by the intersection of three overwhelming forces: Consumerism, Unaffordability and Technology.

Consumerism is increasing the public’s focus on the quality of healthcare, as well as the convenience of its delivery. Telemedicine has already started to deliver on some of these expectations as Dr. Pearl shared over 70% of rashes are being diagnosed remotely in their health system. The 5 Star ratings of Medicare offer a great example of how quality measures can be communicated in a way that steers reimbursement and uptake.

As to Unaffordability, we’ve all heard the dire warnings in the media and with the rollout of the ACA. He sees this becoming a problem on both the micro and macroeconomic levels. On Main Street, families are struggling to make ends meet with 25% of their income directed to healthcare. And on a national level, he predicts our nation could be seeing 36% of our GDP consumed by Healthcare by 2036! We have seen medical costs increasing between 6-12% over the last decade or so while wages have not grown much more than 2-3%. No matter what paycheck someone is starting from, those trend lines don’t come together as cost increases quickly outstrip income.

health insurance premiums

The bright spot in this dire story of limited resources and rising expectations is that technology is arriving at a key moment to help.

1)      Mobile

Dr. Pearl points out that change can be easier to implement these days as consumers have already purchased Healthcare’s service delivery vehicle in the form of a smartphone that enables mobile access to data, video streaming, and constant connectivity.

2)      Self-Sufficiency

Consumers are interested in taking control of their health and its delivery. Self-scheduling tools are meeting the patient’s where they are in the midst of their busy lives.

3)      Fixed Cost Equipment leads to Discount Deals

Since most providers have machinery such as CT scanners sitting unused more often than not, there’s an opportunity for hospitals and physicians to open their tech up to consumers. St. Luke’s Hospital is advertising on the radio for their $50-125 Heart Scan service which uses a 64-slice CT scan for technologists to create a clear, two-dimensional view of the heart and arteries. This is effectively monetizing a fixed investment with a service that’s typically not covered by insurance, so folks are paying at time of service.

4)      Using Big Data to Predict Events

This is a huge area of hope for the nexus of technology and healthcare. If certain medicines combine with lifestyle or genetic characteristics to create potential conditions, we should have the identifying precursors and post-event claims in our data we’ve collected. Like other industries, data analytics offers a huge hope for removing the guesswork from events and causation.

As you can see from Dr. Pearl’s comments, there is a lot to hope for in the future of American healthcare; however, it will be a difficult technological road forward for several reasons we’ll cover in a future blog post.

For employers, we play a meaningful part in this discussion as the U.S. healthcare system sees employers as often the plan sponsor and funding source. If our providers and our payers are going to work together well, it’s going to require our voice as part of the conversation. Things are only going to get more technical, regulated and complex unless we demand our needs and those of our employees are taken into consideration.

Do you have a story to share on where you see the future of Healthcare in America headed? Please comment below or tweet your thoughts to me at @HRTechKaiser. I’d love to hear from you! Also, please click the subscribe button above to receive notifications of new blog postings.


Virus on the Rise

Posted by on November 6, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

Computer CryptoWall Virus on the Rise

When you hear someone talking about a virus on the rise, you probably instantly assume they are talking about the Ebola virus that has caused an outbreak in West Africa. But there is another virus on the rise that you should be aware of. One that is more likely to affect you: the CryptoWall virus. The CryptoWall virus has held over 600,000 computers hostage! How terrible would it be if you lost all of your pictures- the ones of your baby girl taking her first steps or of Rover fetching in the backyard or your entire selfie collection? It would be devastating.


What will the CryptoWall virus do?

The CryptoWall virus will secretly encrypt all of the files on your computer, including your pictures. After the encryption, you will receive a message with instructions on how to access a decryption service where you will have to pay a ransom to purchase a decryption program. Ransoms have been reported at $500 and higher!

If you choose not to pay the ransom, there is no way to unencrypt the files. All versions of Microsoft Windows operating systems are at risk.

How you can protect yourself?

  • Backup all of the files currently on your computer to a separate device or CLOUD service. Continue to regularly backup.
  • Do not open email attachments from unknown sources.
  • The latest strain of the virus has been reported to have come from web advertisements, so do not click on web advertisements unless you are positive you know the source.
  • Make sure you have the latest version of antivirus software running. Also apply the latest security patches for your operating system.
  • Disconnect any external drives (flash/USB drives, etc.) from your computer after use. The virus targets all drives, including any attached USB or external drives.

This virus is just one of the many security and data breaches we have seen recently. You might recall our post earlier this year about Target. Home Depot, Staples, Michaels, Dairy Queen, Jimmy Johns, and Kmart among other have all fallen victims too. As you can see from the CryptoWall virus, businesses aren’t the only ones being targeted.

Please take some time to protect your computer from this virus!

ICYMI: Aetna acquired bswift for $400M

Posted by on November 4, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

Breaking HR Technology News

In case you haven’t heard yet, yesterday, insurance provider Aetna announced its acquisition of benefits administration and private health insurance exchange technology provider bswift. You can read our initial release for more information. I also wanted to share with you the Employee Benefit Advisor article released today that features  Mike Smith’s (Director of Exchange Solutions at Lockton) and my thoughts on this transaction and what it means for both companies and setting the stage for more mergers and acquisitions in this space. Check out what we had to say! Do you agree? Will we see more insurance companies buying up technology?

EBA shot


Aetna Acquires bswift

Posted by on November 3, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

Benefits Administration Technology Firm Acquired by Insurance Provider as Private Exchange Technology Musical Chairs Game Continues

Greetings from Los Angeles! While I’ll be sharing some blog posts over the next weeks about why I’m out on the west coast and about the really interesting people I’ve been meeting with, I’m going to have to forestall that to bring you the hot off the presses news! (Isn’t it just Murphy’s Law that while I’m out of town on a Monday, significant news had to break?!)

So as we’ve talked about in these pages, our HR Technology world changes constantly and another change is upon us. bswift, a Chicago-based vendor of Benefits Administration and Private Exchange has been acquired by Aetna.   Aetna announced the $400 million acquisition this morning. bswift has offered a Benefits Administration platform since 1996 and launched its Springboard Marketplace private health care exchange in February 2014.

  bswift acquisition

We are still investigating what this acquisition means for current clients, but we suspect business as usual. Will this touch off a purchase rally among Insurance Providers for Benefits Administration delivery systems to provide their exchange foundation? What does this mean for Cigna – Aetna’s competitor – who I believe recently selected bswift as their Private Exchange delivery system? What are your thoughts on this new shift in the HR Tech ecosystem? Did you see it coming?

To read the full press release from Aetna, click here. For the press release from Employee Benefits Advisor, click here.


Employee Engagement 101

Posted by on October 29, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

I know it’s been a while since I’ve put out a “101” post, but I’m back with some more! In case you missed the last 101 post from me (Courtney), you can read it here. So the topic for today’s post is employee engagement. I choose this topic not because I am recently engaged and I like the sound of the word, but because a few months ago I read an article in Human Resources Executive magazine that I haven’t been able to shake.  The last several years’ results from the “What’s Keeping HR Up at Night?” survey all yielded similar results. The most popular response: “ensuring employees remain engaged and productive.”

engaged 2“There is no greater challenge than the need to have high-performing, engaged employees and effective leaders to deliver on a business strategy,” said Rebecca Ray, Executive Vice President of the Knowledge Organization and Human Capital Practice lead at the New York-based Conference Board. With the upturning economy, it is crucial for employers to retain and develop key talent. Why is employee engagement even a concern, you might be thinking? According to the Hay Group, workers who are actively engaged were found to be 43% more productive. Now, that’s good for the bottom line!

So…what is employee engagement?

No, it’s not encouraging your employees to partner up and commit to a life of wedded bliss or whatever. Employee engagement can be defined using the following questions: Do your employees know why they do what they are asked to do? Do they like it? Do they contribute? Do they feel their contributions matter or are impactful? Do they know what your company stands for? Do they trust management? Do they feel valued? Do they feel productive? Are there growth opportunities? Do they have pride in the company and what they do? According to the “What’s Keeping HR Up at Night?” survey, 50% of respondents claim that their employees are only somewhat engaged. Almost 20% said their current state of moral and engagement was weak.

What are other companies doing to get and keep employees engaged?

54% of respondents are “increasing employee communications”. The key here is not necessarily increasing the QUANTITY of employee communications, but rather the CONTENT or QUALITY of the communications. Too many emails flooding inboxes, just get deleted without ever being understood, or even read! Explain the “whys” of the information you are sending to employees and the “hows” of the effect on employees.

A recent Forbes article named communication, along with consistency and combat as the means to achieving employee engagement. Leaders should be consistent, ask what employees think of initiatives, policies, etc., and combat the rumor mill by informing the “why” behind decision-making.

Employee communication isn’t limited to email either. Social media is providing a modern and easy way to promote communication with employees. Other “old-fashioned” (but highly effective!) methods such as town hall meetings or small group sessions provide a more personal connection. We are also seeing technology step into this gap with broadband access enabling video interviewing, virtual town halls, virtual collaboration, etc.


What prevents employees from being engaged?

AtTask’s 2014 State of Work study showed that employees aren’t engaged for several reasons:

  • Enterprise workers use only 45% of their time on their primary job duties.
  • 59% enterprise workers say wasteful meetings get in the way of their productivity.
  • 63% of enterprise workers often feel there are “too many cooks in the kitchen.”
  • 64% say there is often confusion at their company about who’s doing what.
  • 81% experience conflict with other departments, groups or teams, and 39% cite lost productivity among the most common consequences of such conflicts.

Where’s the HR Technology?

Tying employee engagement back to HR Technology (duh, this is an HR Technology blog!) there are several systems that address employee engagement. Social sites such as Yammer, foster communication in a corporate social media format. Recognition platforms, like Achievers, YouEarnedIt, Kudos and Gratzi, are also a way to increase engagement and morale through instant feedback and peer recognition. Talent Management systems claim to help with engagement through their performance management modules. Instant feedback and more actionable feedback have shown to result in higher engagement rates. Other considerations that help attract, retain, and engage employees include flexible scheduling, green initiatives, improving productivity, and lowering costs─ all of which are features many HR technology systems can address.


So, how engaged are you? What about the rest of your employees? How do you keep them engaged? Share your tips with us!

It’s the Economy, Stupid

Posted by on October 21, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

A few months ago, I threw out the opportunity for interested writers to use this blog as their forum for sharing the gospel of HR Technology. I have had quite a few vendors take me up on that, but most recently a coworker within Lockton has thrown his thoughts our way. Following is the first of many (if we are so lucky) posts from Mike Smith, Director of Exchange Solutions. Because private exchanges and HR technology are so closely related, I feel his content is just as relevant and makes complete sense to debut here. So, without further ado…

As I travel around the country meeting with employers and their Lockton consulting teams, we invariably review the various projections/assumptions for private exchange growth over the next five years from analysts, pundits, vendors, etc.  Most of these projections are very aggressive.  According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report on the private exchange market, at least 20%, and on average 33%, of current employee benefit plans will be constructed through a private exchange framework over the next five years.  Some studies expect as much as 47% of the market to be using private exchanges by 2020. Wow! Can you imagine almost half of all employees changing their benefits buying behavior in just six short years?

trend graphIt’s natural that we overestimate enrollment in private exchanges at the commencement of this marketplace. There is excitement, capital, development resources, new vendors, cost fatigue, etc., all wanting these services to take off and over time become the new norm of employee benefits structures.  Analysts, vendors, and early adopters all are vested in the successful launch of this market.

And while interest in learning about group private exchanges is running hot, this interest is not yet translating into broad-based demand and implementation commitment on behalf of employers. Most are concerned with the newness associated with this change as these approaches are yet to be proven over time, ability to save money in the long run, lack of transparency of the emerging models and impact to employees.

Given current circumstances, I do not believe that the enrollment projections for 2015 and 2016 will meet or exceed the aggressiveness that many studies proclaim.  Beyond the baked in reasons of new market adoption, I believe there is another pressure afoot tamping down true demand.

clinton and carvill

President Bill Clinton and Economist James Carvill. (Image courtesy of The New York Times)

“It’s the economy, stupid,” was a tenant proclaimed on the walls of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign headquarters in Little Rock in 1992.  This was the second point of three, along with “change versus more of the same,” and “don’t forget health care,” authored by James Carville, which helped propel Mr. Clinton into the White House.

In order to offer a private exchange for January 1st, most employers needed to commit to implementation long before the recent volatility in the stock market, the spread of ISIS, and the threat of Ebola, all of which seem to be upsetting the U.S. economy and threatening global growth. Prior to the rise of these issues, the market was roaring. Companies were reporting positive growth, and wage growth was robust. Since benefits are a critical component to total rewards and a key lever to the attraction/retention of talent, most employers were focused on keeping their existing talent and bringing in new talent as opposed to cost management. In 2014, for most companies, talent trumped cost.

Now, change is always afoot. When the economy turns, (it always does) more of a focus will be placed on cost management and containment. This is not to say that organizations aren’t aggressively managing costs and promoting wellness. They are. For private exchanges, too much of the early emphasis has been on expanded consumer choice, decision support, and benefits administration.  To drive market adoption and faster growth, exchanges need to help employers and employees better manage costs and promote wellness throughout the year and not just at Annual Enrollment. Emphasis needs to be placed on chronic disease management, Rx utilization, better consumer tools, and integration with a client’s HR and total rewards strategy.  When these developments occur, we will see rapid growth in the exchange space.  In the meantime, there are still plenty of questions, plenty of opportunities, and plenty of room for needed innovation.

The Exchange Solutions Practice is part of Lockton Benefit Group, helping clients decide whether a public or private exchange/marketplace is the right decision for them.  If you have any private or public exchange related questions, send them our way! Mike and his team would be more than happy to help! Are the above predictions in line with what you are seeing in the marketplace? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

HR Technology Conference Recap

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

What a whirlwind the last few weeks have been! Between the HR Technology Conference, being sick and the Royals’ winning playoff streak I have been consumed! I haven’t forgotten about the post I promised dishing all of the dirty details from the HR Technology conference, it has just taken a little longer to compile all of my thoughts.

In case you missed it, last week was the 17th Annual HR Technology Conference at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev.  There were 300 exhibitors and almost 4,000 attendees. Those few days were crammed with so much information; I am not sure where to start! Before I dive into what I picked up from the different education sessions, I wanted to give some of my team members who were roaming the expo hall the stage to share their thoughts.

First, there was an overwhelming amount of Talent technology vendors. (Talent = Recruiting, Applicant Tracking, Onboarding, Learning, Performance and Succession. Forgot? Read more about Talent Management here.)  There seemed to be a lot of new Talent vendors that I haven’t heard of before, specifically in the Recruiting and Onboarding areas. Digital interviewing seemed to be a big trend with both live and on-demand versions available. Digital interviewing is prescreening job applicants through a video interview either live (similar to Skype or video conferencing) or pre-recorded footage of the applicant answering a list of questions (on-demand).


Another interesting trend we noticed was predictive analytics taking center stage. Using the video interviewing above, HireVue is offering a way to review 15 attributes in the video interview responses from job applicants to analyze the candidate and tie the interview responses to future job performance. Predictive analytics are taking digital interviewing a step further and could help lower costs and provide better and more consistent hiring.

German Talent Management vendor, Haufe, made its HR Technology Conference debut. Haufe is Europe’s largest talent vendor and is expanding its presence in the U.S. Haufe’s talent solution includes Recruiting, Onboarding, Compensation and Learning management. Haufe’s product is in 120 countries and in 60 languages. Their clients’ sizes range from two to 5,000 employees, with the average being around 1,000 – 1,500 employees.

We also noticed more wellness vendors than in past years. There was a wellness vendor that incorporated all aspects of overall employee wellness including financial and emotional, not just the standard physical. Welbe offers a free app to track the overall wellbeing of your organization by connecting with employees’ fitness trackers (fitbit, myfitnesspal, RunKeeper, Jawbone, etc.).

Vendor Infor announced that by the end of Q1 2015 they plan to release a multi-tenant SaaS version of their HR/Payroll module. Previously, Infor only offered an on-premise or single tenant based  hosted solutions. Although a little late to the party, all of Infor’s modules will now be available in a SaaS-based model.

Benefits Administration vendor Workterra announced their HCM which includes Recruiting, Onboarding and Wellness solutions that integrate with their benefits platform. Absence Management, PTO and Performance Management are on their roadmap.

ACA technology vendor Health e(fx) won the Top HR Product  of 2014 award presented by Human Resources Executive Magazine and the conference.

HR Tech Conf

The Benefits Administration point solutions were not in abundance, but we did have some great conversations with ADP, Benefitfocus, bswift, Businessolver, Empyrean, and Thompsons Online Benefits.

Ultimate Software’s Onboarding solution is geared towards helping employees get acclimated to their new organization, new team, and new surroundings.  The key themes center around personalization of the onboarding experience, a collaborative way to meet others virtually and exchange messages, view profiles on LinkedIn, introduce a new hire to a mentor, and provide easy access to learning opportunities important to their role. As expected, the Ultimate Onboarding solutions allows automated completion, review, and signing of electronic documents such as tax forms, eligibility forms, and policies. The look and feel of the Ultimate onboarding area is very clean and very intuitive.

We also learned that OneSource Virtual no longer has exclusive rights to resell Workday’s technology in the under 1,000 life space. OneSource Virtual will continue to support the clients they brought on, but after the first of the year, Workday will sell the technology in the under 1,000 market.  OneSource Virtual will continue to provide wrap around services to Workday in all market segments.

This was by no means an all-inclusive list, but just a few of the many things we found interesting. If you are interested in more or something more specific, let me know. Next week I will share some of the nuggets I picked up during my educational sessions. That is, if I can come down off of my “the Royals are going to the World Series!” high and write them out! Were you able to make it to this year’s conference? What did you think? Anything noteworthy not mentioned above? Please share!

Greetings from HR Tech

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

Greetings from the  HR Tech Conference! It’s been a busy, knowledge-filled morning already! I can’t wait to share all of the golden nuggets I’ve picked up thus far!  We’ve got Project Managers scouring the Expo Hall floor and demo rooms and our booth is setup. (Booth #2541)  If you are here in Sin City, stop by and chat with JoAnne and Courtney. If you couldn’t make it out, let us know if there is anything you’d like us to look into for you; maybe it’s a particular vendor or maybe the newest trend in Talent Management – let us know as we’d be more than happy to seek out answers for you.