By Dena Lythgoe
If you’re like me, you tend to think of pollutants as dirty, chemical based components. In fact, if you were to search google for “what are the top 5 pollutants”, you’d get the below mentioned responses; Ozone, Carbon Monoxide, Sulfur Dioxide, Lead, Nitrogen Oxides. Take a moment and think of pollutants that you tend to see on a regular basis. Are they dirty and chemical based? As you rack your brain for what falls into pollutants, I bet you’re not thinking of a socially popular drink enjoyed by millions and a Kentucky classic. Bourbon! Unless of course you’re reading this while enjoying a Buffalo Trace, neat.
Kentucky distillers produce 95% of the world’s bourbon according to the Kentucky Distillers Association. Many new and expanded production plans are in the works leading to a $2.3 billion dollar building boom throughout Kentucky. A standard bourbon barrel usually holds about 53 gallons of bourbon or 201 liters. Only recently Jim Beam ended up losing 1% of their aged production in which 45,000 barrels were destroyed.
The fire started due to a lightning strike that set one of the many Jim Beam warehouses on fire. Due to the contents, the fire burned for days and the water runoff filled primarily with alcohol leaked into the nearby rivers and creeks. This runoff caused the oxygen levels to decrease in the 23 miles of waterways killing fish before dissipating into the Ohio River.
At this point, take another moment to give some thought about pollutants and as a business owner what type of contingency plan do you have in place for these types of incidents? Are you creating, hauling, or storing products you don’t think are pollutants or contaminants that potentially could be? The Jim Beam warehouse was equipped with a full sprinkler system but with the highly flammable contents and wood frame construction, the sprinklers were overwhelmed by the fiery inferno of this American classic. The blaze burned so intensely it melted firetrucks lights.
Some of you may be thinking, “duh”. Of course, bourbon has the ideal pollutant qualities. It’s flammable. It can cause hangovers…need I say more? But let’s think about something much more benign, milk. A staple across this country and enjoyed by people of all ages. Many people think there’s no reason to cry over spilled milk, but that wasn’t the case in 1994, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2007 and twice in 2011, when milk tanker trucks reported spills which caused damage to the nearby waterways.
Each of the entities involved in the spills, both milk and bourbon, were fined by government regulators as their product polluted waterways and caused harm to the environment. Just like spilled milk or an inferno of fiery bourbon, governmental fines are no joking matter. Fines for just one of the reported milk spills were over $600,000. This dollar amount doesn’t take into consideration the additional cost of the clean-up. These types of incidents can and have caused businesses to go out of business.
The owner of Jim Beam being a multibillion-dollar entity used many risk management techniques to avoid an accident like this from happening yet mother nature had a different plan with her lightning strike. Jim Beam has insurance to provide protection for their building, inventory, and for the pollutant cleanup and government fines. Ultimately, they will recover and remain a titan within the industry. But how about you? What contingency do you have in place? Are you protected against foreseen and unforeseen pollutant exposures? How about the correct pollutant protection? Just some food for thought, or in this case, beverages for thought.
By Natasha Kwachka
So as I was scrolling through the internet in a moment of rare silence in my rambunctious house, I came across this gem of a post. As I read, this feeling of excitement and admiration came upon me. While living in the corporate world, it is rare and sometimes even unheard of to come across a culture that cultivates true productivity. My belief comes with the sense that in order to truly motivate a team of people; your people must have time to decompress. People have a ton of things that need to get done over the short span of 24 hours per day. Between work, family, and juggling multiple schedules, most of us live our lives speeding at 100 miles an hour or more. Can culture be the answer? Can we change the way we embrace culture within a company to meet the needs of us as humans?
By Andrew Kupperman, SHRM-CP
I think most of us can agree that if we aren’t changing, we’re falling behind. From an evolutionary standpoint, without change and adaptation, animals typically become extinct. In our personal lives, change is happening every day. In fact, the current rate of change that is happening right now, with new ways to communicate, learn, and live, is far greater than it has ever been before. We go through change without even knowing it sometimes.
I would also think it’s not a far stretch to say most executives who run organizations and businesses agree that if their organizations aren’t thinking of ways to differentiate what they do today, it puts them at a great risk of falling behind, and at worst, going out of business. From a historical perspective, the most innovative ideas of products and services have come from people who haven’t been afraid of change or to be different. So, the great question remains: why is it so hard whenever change in business comes up? After all, in our personal lives, we experience change a lot. It shouldn’t be that hard at work too, right?
If you’ve ever had a job (and if you’re reading this, I’d bet you’ve had at least one), then you’ve likely gone through some kind of change at that job. Think back to that moment. Was it difficult for you to go through that change? If it wasn’t, were there others impacted by that change that found it difficult? I have a gut feeling most of us would answer at least one these questions “yes”, but why is that? We all know and realize change helps us progress, and again, we aren’t immune to change personally.
The first thing that crosses most people’s minds when the word change comes up at work, is something along the lines of dread, fear, or stubbornness around the idea. I understand, sometimes there are some changes put in to place that feel as if a change is being made for the sake of making a change. But the negative reaction to change tends to be the first instinct even if the change is something that is truly positive, and could even really help you a lot in what you do on a day to day basis. I think the root of this tends to be that change can be a signal that you’re not doing something right. But this is hardly ever the case.
Now, I ask you to think back to that example of change from before. Did you, and everyone else who was impacted by it, understand why the change was being put in to place? Did everyone adopt the change? Was that change really effective in what it was trying to achieve, and did you know if it was effective? I’d wager that in most of the examples you’re thinking of, more often than not, you’d would answer “no” to at least two of these questions. Here in lies the crux of the issue of change in the workplace.
Let’s talk about the phases of change real quick. Usually, a leadership team or whoever is leading a change, has some great reasons or impetus to implement the change. There may even be a lot of closed door meetings to strategize, formulate and brainstorm all of the potential impacts of the change and what it ultimately means to the business. Next, there might even be development and design on what the change is going to look like, as well as which people, systems, workflows, and tools are a part of that change.
There’s been a lot of great and important work done at the top of the “Change Chain” and now we’re ready to implement. But most leaders of change have forgotten two massive parts during these steps: 1. Getting feedback by those that are impacted by the change and 2. How to determine what is going to make that change successful. Without these two ingredients, you’ve set yourself up failure.
Leaders of change need to realize the importance of involving those that are going to be impacted by the change. Maybe these folks can point something out that a leader hasn’t thought of, or didn’t have the right perspective to even think about it in the first place. Inclusion in the strategic and development process can also help to pinpoint potential problem areas or roadblocks that might come up during an implementation. Involving the right people in a change before it is implemented increases the chance for adoption and success.
Leaders of change also can’t lose sight of the ultimate goal of a change, and how to determine if that goal has been reached. Having clear set milestones, metrics, or visuals of what a successful change looks like can help a team determine how a change is going, and what tweaks might need to be made in order to get the change to finish line of success. Remember, tweaks in implementing a change is okay – it’s nearly impossible to implement a change project without them, so flexibility in the plan is key. Also, these measurements of successful change should be transparent and clear to the team and stakeholders involved in the change.
More importantly, there is something else leaders of change have also failed at a lot, and this is something that happens even before coming up with an idea for a change. I’m talking about having an organizational mindset around change to begin with. Going back to the beginning of my post, I established that change is necessary to progress an organization and keep it from becoming irrelevant. Yet, we often create cultures, work environments, and employee mindsets that can easily clash with the notion of change. We need to fix this, and it always is going to start from the top. Leaders need to disseminate a love for change and acceptance across every corner of their organizations. Then, and only then, can there be a pathway to successful change. Otherwise, we are doomed to continue this pattern of failed change after change.
By Joshua Weinstein
Who doesn’t want to pay half for their health plan? What if it came with lower out-of-pocket costs if you were to get ill or injured? On top of that, you can use any provider of your choice! Too good to be true? Well, you know the saying. It probably is. Welcome to the world of alternative health plan arrangements.
Since passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, health plans have changed. Categories of “Essential Health Benefits” were defined, and dollar-based maximums were prohibited. Denying coverage or claims because of pre-existing conditions was banned. Preventive care had to be covered “in full”, and the list of changes goes on. As a result of these mandates and consumer protections, rates, in general, rose. While most Americans receive their medical coverage through their employers, others get it through governmental plans, such as Medicare or Medicaid. Many are eligible for and receive subsidies to afford individual and family plans on the newly created Marketplaces, which sell Qualified Health Plans that meet these law’s requirements. However, some Americans fall through the gaps and don’t have access to affordable health coverage. Enter alternative plans.
Even prior to the ACA, health sharing plans existed. They are not health insurance, though. In these arrangements, members share each other’s health care costs. To cover these costs, members pay a monthly share amount (similar to paying a health insurance premium) and must pay for their own expenses up to a certain amount (similar to a deductible). After members pay their personal responsibilities, any remaining expenses are split between other members. Many health care cost-sharing arrangements offer different membership options to fit the needs of both individuals and families. Unlike the ACA compliant plans mentioned above, sharing plans are not subject to the law’s requirements. For example, they may deny membership to those who smoke, have a pre-existing condition or live a certain lifestyle. So, there’s lots of fine print to see what’s “shared” in the event of a covered illness or injury.
In the case of sharing plans, new entrants to the market have begun connecting sharing plans with limited supplement plans and they are being proposed to employers as ways to cover employees’ healthcare expenses for less money. Many are sponsored by associations of small businesses that were formed for the purpose of promoting and selling these arrangements. After reviewing a few of the designs, they don’t cover lengthy bouts with chronic conditions. For example, one only covers four months of medications and has a limited chemotherapy benefit. They usually do not provide preventive benefits, behavioral health, or rehabilitative therapies. What’s more is that the dreaded pre-existing condition exclusions and waiting periods are rampant throughout the plan documentation. They are marketing to look like traditional arrangements, and the Alaska Division of Insurance is actively investigating some of these programs for multiple reasons. Again, they are comprised of little, if any, insurance. That implies the companies sponsoring them have no fiscal requirements, regulations to follow, or other statutory appeal review obligations if a claim isn’t covered.
Other alternative health arrangements include short-term medical plans, “skinny plans”, mini-med plans, MEC plans, supplemental benefit plans, and more. There are ways to provide health benefits outside of the confines of the ACA, but the purchaser should be informed about what is or isn’t covered.
In closing, talking with a licensed health benefits consultant about your situation may yield surprising results. You may find that there are regulated, comprehensive insurance options in your reach. On the other hand, if ACA-regulated coverage isn’t an option for you, due to your budget, beliefs, or interests, I suggest diligence in checking the fine print and scouring the internet for reviews of how the specific alternative plans have performed for other purchasers. Going into one of these plans with reasonable expectations and “eyes wide open” is the best advice I can offer.
By Bailey Penrose
My first job out of college involved an office full what felt like an endless maze of cubicles. This particular company had a fun little slogan for employee promotion, “working toward the light”, as the high-ranking employees got actual offices that were cream carpeted, lit with warm yellow light, and located next to the windows. As a lowly intern, my cubical was about 5 rows in from a window and I was one of the lucky ones – at least I had a tantalizing glimpse of daylight bouncing off the ceiling along with the fluorescent strip lighting. My manager, who was tall enough to see over the cubicle walls, would stand and crane his neck to give me periodic weather updates out of pity for my diminutive size.
A couple of things to learn from this anecdote: 1) it pays to be aware of commonly used phrases in your company as they give a good glimpse of the company culture, the good AND the bad, 2) office environment does factor in to employee satisfaction as well as productivity.
Let’s dive into the first issue, phrases that are used in-company that hint at culture. “Working toward the light” started as a joke, even the executives who had achieved the pinnacle of interior lighting used it when meeting new employees. What the management team may not have realized is that the jokiness of the phrase did not last and instead started to draw attention to a perceived inter-office class system. That sounds dramatic, but the saying had stopped implicitly sounding like “work hard and you too can achieve this really awesome office space” and instead started sounding like “management doesn’t care and won’t even give me a fricken’ lamp”. The phrase had become a kernel of contention and no one in the C-Suite was having a light-bulb moment. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Culture expresses itself in attitudes and behaviors that are reinforced on a daily basis. Because culture is an ongoing thing that happens constantly it’s really hard to call out flashpoints. Companies should focus on culture markers (shared values, goals, and language) as a way to gauge employee engagement, and ultimately the bottom line. Communication and trust are essential to course correcting. Employees want to feel like their employer hears them and know that they won’t be penalized for voicing a concern. A positive office culture is a major driver in successful organizations.
Let’s look at the second issue, office environment and its effect on employees. I think everyone understands that it’s not feasible or cost-effective for a company to remodel their entire office plan so that all employees get a window, a standing desk, a top-of-the-line air purifier, what-have-you. However, there have been studies that show correlation between light and an employee’s productivity (please reference the articles listed below). Small efforts on a company’s part to improve their employee’s workspace will go a long way to fostering good will internally as well as driving up productivity thanks to focused employees. Some options may include the employer reimbursing $20 for a desk lamp or HappyLight, setting up a communal computer station where employees could stand to work when they wanted, or ensuring that at least one conference/lunch/break room had access to natural light. Effort, small or large, can be rewarded in big ways.
Happy New Year! 2020 HR Resolutions
December 12, 2019 | 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM AKDT
January is a popular time for resolutions, not only for individuals, but also for businesses. It is a chance to analyze what worked, what didn’t work and what needs to happen in the new year to help take your organization to the next level. This webinar will not only discuss Human Resource resolutions that will help improve your HR functions internally but also give practical tips to help prevent litigation and increase overall compliance with new laws and regulations
Here is the registration link- Happy New Year! 2020 HR Resolutions
By Natasha Kwachka
Have you ever pondered why we, as people, respond or react to certain scenarios in the way that we do? What compels one to respond positively or negatively? What is the driving force behind a meltdown or calmly working your way through a tough situation? I believe we all have so many reasons that cause us to respond or react to different stresses and pressures. How do we respond versus react? Where does the strength come from to slow down and think through a response before you react in a poor manner?
More than I would like to admit, I can think of a time or two that I personally had a full on meltdown at the world around me. Lashing out at the driver in front of me for pumping the breaks last minute. Becoming frustrated as my kids take their time getting into the car knowing that we are already 30 minutes late. These are some of the smaller frustrations. It was my reactions to common day-to-day life events that caused me to take a look inward.
Over the past two years I have spent some time focusing on why I react poorly and why don’t I change that behavior? Change is tough, it takes practice and dedication. Programming your brain can feel like your lost in a maze, it is and always will be a work in progress. We as people will likely never fully master this. We all have breaking points that bring out the worst. What we can master though is our due diligence to slow down and think. In doing so, I have witnessed a change in how I interact with my colleagues and my family. Slowing down, looking inward, has made this thing called life much easier. My best thoughts are put forth and the negative thoughts are laid to rest. Most of the time, let’s be honest, this is truly a work in progress. Reacting is triggered from our subconscious mind, therefore not allowing you time to process, the reaction becomes instinctual. Responding allows you to take control of the next step. Take a moment, think through the pros and cons and thoughtfully plan your response, there is power in your words.
Today I encourage you to stop collect your thoughts, process your feelings before any response is given. Get up and walk the hall at work after finding out you have re-do that report you recreated 5 different times this week alone. Ask yourself what your desired outcome would be to anything coming your way? Empower and challenge yourself to connect with your higher purpose in all you do. Slow down and discover the power in your response. Let this be a challenge to find the greatness you have within and to give the world around you the best you. That you that brings to the table those amazing ideas, thoughts and strategic responses.