By Andrew Kupperman, SHRM-CP
Picture this: the business you work for provides you with a tool that allows you to do anything and everything you need from a single interface. This tool is similar to HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but without the malfunctions and antagonism that would lead to your entire team’s demise. Let’s call our tool WIT (Work Information Tool).
WIT is similar to Siri or Alexa that we already have a technical familiarity with from our personal lives. It can answer questions you might have as an employee, such as those pertaining to your benefits, the tasks you need to complete, or your net pay last period. WIT can also provide you with meaningful statistics and analyzations regarding your performance and provide suggestions on trainings to improve productivity. Automating repetitive tasks is even something WIT can help with, such as sending template emails to clients. And, like Siri and Alexa, there are going to be times WIT can’t directly help, but it will at least be able to get you in contact with the right person with the click of a button.
Now you may be thinking, WIT would be a revolutionary tool and a game changer for many businesses in terms of freeing up their employees and resources to focus on the things that actually grow the bottom line. You might also be asking when will WIT be available for the masses and how much will it cost? The answer to these questions is sooner than you think, and not cheap. Technology like this already exists in its early stages within the Enterprise segment of business, but it takes a lot of time and energy to build this type of tool in an effective and impactful way, making it a tough investment to rationalize for small businesses.
The first iPhone came out in 2007, a mere 11 years ago. If you think about how much technology has progressed since then, then it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a tool like WIT could be purchased and implemented at a reasonable cost within the next 5-10 years for all types of businesses. So what does this mean for businesses today? It’s tough to say based on the industry you’re in, but one thing is certain – you can’t just ignore it.
As newer generations and mindsets enter the workforce, they are going to expect their work experience to echo their personal life. Business leaders need to figure out how to provide this kind of work experience in order to get the most out of these employees. This type of technology is important to that, but it’s not the key. The business itself needs to alter its mindset to be able to adapt to and accommodate change. Areas that have traditionally been the “back bone” for more administrative tasks of a business, such as HR, IT, and Finance, will need to take on a more strategic role to support the workforce in understanding how this technology can help them focus on living their best work life. Direct supervisors will also need to understand their role in leading by example by being the stakeholder in change for the staff they lead.
Technology like WIT sounds amazing, but it’s not quite here yet for the masses. So what does a business need to do to prepare? First, talk to your leaders about the change that is coming. Have honest conversations and develop a flexible strategy about how the business will adapt to any change it might encounter. Discuss the expectations for each business unit in order to make that change a success. If your leaders understand and have a say in this, they will be more likely to buy-in to the change and better equipped to help the rest of the business adapt.
Lastly, make sure you understand what your workforce is looking for in their work experience. You never know what kind of innovative ideas already exist in the minds of the people that keep your business running strong, until you give them a voice. Remember, a tool like WIT isn’t innovation in of itself. People drive the true innovation, so make sure they are equipped to handle the change that is coming.
By Tiffany Stock
I really struggled with this post, trying to figure out what I could write about that would benefit you, our readers, but also be something I felt passionately about that we haven’t already posted. Then the light bulb came on – every day I talk with people about the best way to utilize their health insurance, the questions to ask, things to look out for so you can avoid unexpected charges and surprise bills from doctors and hospitals. And then I thought what about all the people I don’t talk to, such as those who don’t call or email me asking for advice prior to scheduling a surgery or procedure. So I decided to create a list of some common things to be aware of in hopes that it may benefit you in a future event. The reality is, I talk to consumers daily and try to spread awareness in this area, but research has shown that most people only remember 50% of a 10-minute presentation, and the next day that decreases to 25%, so highlighting this information in particular seemed valuable. For someone who isn’t “in” the health insurance world daily like myself and my colleagues, it can be difficult to navigate, know the right questions to ask, etc. So here is my attempt to give you a few helpful tips:
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
- It’s your health and, at the end of the day, you are ultimately responsible for any services rendered by a physician or facility regardless of whether you have health insurance. Don’t be afraid to ask for a quote – if you are in Anchorage, there is a Municipality Ordinance that requires compliance. Many states have similar requirements, so it’s worth asking wherever you go.
- Ask for the procedure codes (CPT) for whatever you need to have done. With that information, you can call your insurance company and verify if it’s a covered procedure. At the same time, if you have a price quote you can also ask if the charge is within the allowed amount set by your health insurance carrier and verify if the provider is in-network.
- If you are having a surgery, be sure to ask WHO will be present in the surgical room? Who will be billing you and your insurance for their services? This is hugely important – a lot of insurance carriers do not cover assistant surgeons, so that’s an area to watch out for. Also, if you will have an anesthesiologist present, you’ll want to be able to confirm that they too, are in-network with your health insurance carrier. I’ve seen a lot of people end up with out-of-network bills because their doctor and facility were in-network but the anesthesiologist was not.
- If your plan operates under a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) arrangement, requiring you to use in-network facilities and providers to get the best overall benefit, this also applies to labs, imaging, prescriptions, and medical equipment. This last one is particularly important – if you are receiving a piece of medical equipment in a provider’s office setting, be sure to ask who will be billing you for that equipment. If it’s not an in-network doctor or facility, be sure to check if the medical equipment supply company is in-network as well – I myself ended up with $500 of out-of-network charges for a walking boot that was received in my in-network doctor’s office, but the supplier who billed for it was not in-network.
- Do your own research!
- If you need imaging (x-ray, CT Scan, PT Scan, etc.) done, it’s definitely worth shopping around. Prices vary amongst facility even when they are all in-network. Most imaging charges are subject to your deductible and coinsurance, so this affects the out of pocket dollars you spend. It can save you hundreds of dollars (I’ve even seen disparities for the same imaging of over $1,000) for the same service from facilities within miles of each other.
- Prescription Coverage
- I could write a whole post on prescription coverage, I’ll keep it short. In a recent study from CMS, data through 2016 suggests that prescription drug costs account for about 10% of all healthcare spending and that number is only expected to rise. Don’t be afraid to shop around for your prescriptions. The same exact prescriptions at different pharmacies and even the same chain but different locations can vary. This is especially important if you have a high deductible health plan (HDHP) that requires you to pay the retail cost of prescriptions until your deductible is met – every dollar counts! Even if you pay flat copays for your prescriptions, this is important in an effort to help keep healthcare spend in control – you may only pay $10 for that generic drug, but your health plan is paying the rest and every dollar spent effects the overall premiums that are paid for your plan each year.
These tips are not all inclusive, and I could probably go on-and-on, but at least this gives you a start. Be sure to know your resources, who can you call for questions on your health plan – use them before you seek care! This is how our office tries to help our clients every day. It is a lot easier to be proactive in these situations then it is to try and fix it after the fact.
By Jennifer Outcelt
Warning: The following blog post is ripe with satire and sarcasm. The opinions expressed in this blog belong to the author and should not be read by anyone.
It’s a good feeling to be needed. Not only does it feel good, some people NEED to be needed. One could even argue that the need to be needed needs to be added to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Pay attention, I NEED you to follow me on this.
OK, OK, I need to cut all this word play and get to the point. No matter how much being needed drives you, let’s agree that becoming needed at work is definitely a good thing when it comes to job security. I’m talking about becoming indispensable, niche, a defender against all hell breaking loose, and someone without whom your company would suffer. When you’re indispensable, you’re the one who can do the things that no one else can do.
I recommend that all employees should aim to become indispensable in some form in their workplace. If not for all the benefits it brings to their employers, then at least for all the adoration, sense of superiority, praise, and gloating rights it may afford. “But how, Jennifer!? How do I become this glowing beacon of indispensable workplace behavior?” I’m glad you asked! Here is a short example of one way to start your journey of indispensability. It’s quite simple.
Step 1: Get a job.
Step 2: Crush it!
Step 3: Find a weakness in the company and exploit it. (Translation: Find an area of improvement and implement a new system that only you know how to use and, since it is working so well to solve the problem, no one questions it but eventually you go on vacation and they have to keep the system running and realize they have no idea how to keep it functioning to solve their long forgotten issue and come to the conclusion that you can never ever, ever, leave again and, if you do, you feel a massive heavy weight of guilt.)
Step 4: Stage a takeover of a particular skill and monopolize it. (Translation: Find something fun that you like to do that has some cool application at your work and convince the powers that be to let you make it an integral part of the client experience and wait until it becomes a standard then wallow in regret as your passion slowly turns into your bane as their expectation for more and more of your special talent turns its joyful creation into a deadlined demand in volumes that you can barely sustain in tandem with your real job duties)
Becoming indispensable is a super power really, but, as the cliché goes, with great power comes a giant pain in the tookus. Maybe that’s not really how the saying goes, but this is my blog post and I’ll write my own reality!
But in ALL reality (not just my own) being needed to the point that you become indispensable at work is a great honor. I consider every person I share 40 hours a week with to be indispensable mainly because I couldn’t do their job, and mine would certainly be much harder if they didn’t do it either. When it comes down to it, we are all needed to make the machine work. But, sometimes, in the process of trying to become the most important cog, you realize that you are expected to do much more than you originally intended. That expectation can seem overwhelming and at times makes you wish you stayed crouched in the corner sharpening pencils and doing the bare minimum. Luckily, for most of us, the drive to be needed and make a difference beats out any desire to be lazy, and thank goodness! Otherwise, nothing would ever get done. Oh, and here is one more step to get you on your way.
Step 5: Always stay positive and continue to show up to work with a smile. (Translation: Get out of bed and make this day better than the last because that day is already gone and you know that no matter how many poopy days you have they still hardly compare to the number of great productive days that you have and this job is totally worth it because the people you work with are truly supportive and looking out for each other and if they depend on you it’s because they trust you and if not for all the gushy stuff you just remembered you also know that no one is truly indispensable because in the workforce everyone is replaceable.)
By Blanche Sheppard
It might seem overwhelming to add another social media or news site to your lineup, but understanding the current political, economic, and social climate should come from a variety of sources. One source to consider, if you haven’t already, is Reddit, the “front page of the internet.” There are subreddits for everything from cute puppies to home improvement, but I also especially like the /r/smallbusiness/ subreddits. Users hop on to discuss using Quickbooks, POS systems, consulting, taxes, and everything else you might want to know about running a business. Real business owners talk with their peers all around the world about practical logistics and philosophical approaches to management. Therefore, I would highly recommend creating a Reddit account and subscribing to /r/smallbusiness/, because I can guarantee you’ll learn a lot.
By Blanche Sheppard
Many of our blog posts heavily feature technology. We talk about how it changed how we work, how we live, and how we interact with one another. This blog is about sharing the things that teach us to be better: better people, better employees, and better resources for our clients. Spotlighting the technology that helps us do that is just a natural part of that process.
This week I’d like to discuss a technology that we offer to our clients because it leads to a wider discussion of how businesses share content in 2018. At RISQ Consulting, we offer our clients a variety of resources through MyWave, a platform with monthly articles on wellness, Human Resources, Commercial risks, family health, and a variety of other topics. These topics all deal with benefits, such as the benefit of being healthy, having a work-life balance, understanding how to keep yourself and your business safe from Cyber Risks, and how to use your HSA plan. I learned a lot from these articles, and find that many of our clients look forward to receiving their monthly newsletters because they find them equally helpful.
Sharing is caring is a trite phrase, but the sentiment is valuable. Sharing articles or resources that you find helpful might seem a bit awkward at first, but if you’re interested in something, there is a large chance that someone else will be equally intrigued. Your general audience might want to know about the best way to harvest crab apples, or how to repair their credit. We share content through MyWave because our clients might be interested in OSHA regulations or disaster planning.
A lot of people consider technology to be a hotbed of political animosity or social intolerance, but it also allows us to share the resources and knowledge we encounter. We are all walking encyclopedia’s, we just don’t have indexes. Offering the knowledge at your fingertips gives those around you a starting point for their own research.
If you’re a business subscribing to a newsletter, blog, or some other platform, think about how that resource reached you. Did it come from other industry professionals? Was it recommended by a friend? What makes it educational to you?
By Alison Riggan
“I have a small business, do I really need to use social media?”
That’s the question I’ve heard asked on multiple occasions from owners of small businesses who don’t want to go through the hassle of learning about various social media platforms.
The short answer? Yes! Utilizing social media in your small business can be extremely beneficial. In fact, small businesses can benefit more from utilizing social media than larger companies. You see, small businesses can focus more on customer engagement within social media. They are more likely to respond to comments from consumers, which improves your business’s relationship with your customers as well as enhances the perception of your business within the community.
Consumer interaction is a key ingredient to a successful media campaign. So what are some other ways that your small business can engage with consumers? Giveaways are another great option. For example, I’ve seen many small clothing businesses post a picture of multiple shirts and say “Which shirt is your favorite? Comment with your answer and then share this post for a chance to win your favorite!” This is a fantastic way to spark engagement with consumers while getting some additional brand recognition.
Small businesses are also in the unique position to ask for feedback and then actually change things accordingly. For example, you can post something along the lines of “What would you like to see more of in our store?” You can then review the comments and adapt to the suggestions without having to run everything up the corporate ladder.
Finally, another reason to use social media for your small business- it’s FREE! Posting on various social media outlets a few times a week is a great way to help develop your brand and reach more consumers without having to pay for other expensive marketing campaigns. If you don’t currently utilize social media regularly, I recommend signing up and getting started today!
By Alison Riggan
It’s no secret amongst those who know me- I’m a crazy dog lady.
I have two dogs (Spock and Watson) who I absolutely adore and probably talk about more than I should, but again- crazy dog lady. I would LOVE to bring them to work with me during the day, and it turns out there could be some benefits to bringing your dog to the office!
Bringing your dog to work can boost your productivity. How is that? Well, giving your dog a quick pet can help you to reduce stress and refocus on the task at hand. It can also improve creativity by encouraging little breaks throughout the day that allow you to gain a fresh perspective. Additionally, bringing your dog to work can improve both employee experience and retention!
If you need more convincing before you change your company’s pet policy, take a look at the links below!
Trash, Servant Leadership, and Safety – What do they have in Common? Alaska Waste (Series – Part 2 of 2)
By Tonya Mott
Why am I hanging with Alaska Waste? A couple of reasons:
1. Servant Leadership – I’m on a mission to learn how to be the best leader I can be and help others do the same. As you read, you’ll find out why I would be learning this from employees at Alaska Waste.
2. Safety, from a risk management perspective – According to the 2016 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the garbage collection industry is the 5th most dangerous in America. Of course, that means I must go for a ride on a garbage truck, living on the edge!
In Part 1 of this series, I talked about Alaska Waste’s management style, Servant Leadership. For part 2, I want to explain how that ties into occupational safety for their employees and the public. If you didn’t catch the first article, you can check it out here: Part 1 – Servant Leadership
Now to the fun part; I was invited to go for a ride along in a garbage truck!
I wish I could say I actually got to drive the truck, but I left the driving to the professionals!
Dee started as a Swamper in the 80’s and, after having fun with that for seven years, she started driving her own truck. Today, 30 years later, she is one of Alaska Waste’s most respected and trusted drivers. She is the sweetest, toughest woman you will ever meet.
Our day started with a team safety tailgate meeting. They begin with stretching and then go over the plans for the day, discuss any necessary business, and lastly reiterate the importance of being engaged, aware of your surroundings, and keeping the general public and themselves safe.
I rode around with Dee for about four hours picking up garbage cans. When I type it out it sounds simple. It’s not. This job required a heightened sense of awareness for what’s happening around you at all times. You check your mirrors once, and then you check them again before making any moves. You are constantly watching for pedestrians, school kids, bicyclist, animals, and anyone that may be approaching the truck. In addition, because you are driving the equivalent of a monster truck, traffic safety is a must. Our winters are dark; 9 to 10 months out the year our road conditions are not ideal. It’s imperative to watch out for the drivers around you and the moves they are making. Distracted driving is not tolerated. There is no eating, drinking, talking/texting on cell phones, completing paperwork, reading, etc. while operating the trucks. To make this a habit, Dee follows these rules even when driving her personal vehicle.
As we moved from can to can, Dee would occasionally get out of the truck to move a can in a safe spot so that she could pick it up. It may have been too close to a vehicle or a building and she didn’t want to take any chances. There were also a couple instances where the client clearly had trash that needed to be picked up but they didn’t pull the can to the end of the driveway. She recognized that with school starting that parents may be overwhelmed and she didn’t mind pulling the cans out and making sure they got dumped. On to the next, she noticed when setting down a can after dumping it, that it had a large split down the middle. She immediately notified dispatch and requested that they send out a new one. She clearly takes pride in her work and cares about the clients.
Why would Dee care so much about her job and doing what’s right by the client? Based on my conversation with Dee, my opinion is this is all due to Alaska Waste’s management style. Dee said if a driver has an incident out on the road, whether it’s a car accident, an injury, etc. they call their management team and they rush out to be by their side and help them through the issue. They do not leave them alone to fend for themselves during a time when they need support the most. Managers are humble and welcome being called out if they make a mistake, sharing their own mistakes with the entire team so that everyone can learn from them. The culture organically creates a place for colleagues to point out to each other, with no qualms on either side, when a mistake is being made that could potentially be unsafe. They know it is for all the right reasons and they are ultimately looking out for their fellow co-workers safety and wellbeing. They clearly define Work Family.
Speaking of family, in part 1, I wrote about Josh James, the Operations Manager. When we were discussing servant leadership and what that entails, he told me that every year he writes a letter to his employee’s families, sharing appreciation for the employees’ hard work and vowing to make sure that they come home safely to their families every day.
In closing, shout out to Josh, Dee, and Alaska Waste for allowing me the privilege to come in and learn the operations first hand. I’m envious of what you have created and will do my best to replicate this in my professional and personal life.
On another note:
Congrats, to Alaska Waste driver’s for winning the Denali – Rainier Truck Rodeo District Champion amongst many other awards this year! To top it off, the Waste Connections annual Truck Rodeo Challenge will be in Alaska next year!
By Tiffany Stock
We’ve all been there before – listening to an in-person presentation or webinar, and the presenter keeps saying “um.” You even start counting “um’s” after the first four or five occurrences. It can be so distracting! Have you ever thought, “Oh my gosh, I hope I don’t sound like that!?” Well, fear no more! Check out this article I came across from the Harvard Business Review, giving you some useful tips and guidance for using fewer crutch words and becoming a better public speaker!