Tag Archives: human resources

A Different Perspective on Health Insurance

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

It happened again. It shouldn’t surprise me but it does. In fact, it has been said so often that most people believe it to be true and accept it as fact. What am I talking about? Once again, a politician has stood up and passionately, emphatically, and convincingly asserted that we, as citizens of the United States of America, have a right to healthcare.

Wait a minute, we have a right to healthcare? Is it in the Constitution? Is it listed in the Bill of Rights? No, healthcare is not a right, but asserting that it is serves as an effective rallying cry for those who feel under-insured. People who do not enjoy this “right” imagine themselves as victims and in need of a champion to rescue them from their implied substandard existence. Who will rescue them? The very same politician who pointed out this grave injustice in the first place! Political rhetoric aside, there are several other misunderstandings about health insurance, as well.

According to Webster’s, insurance is the “coverage by contract whereby one party undertakes to indemnify or guarantee against loss by a specified contingency or peril.” The key words here are “contingency or peril.” Let’s look at some examples.

I have insurance on my house that will replace it if it is destroyed or suffers major damage. Without insurance, losing a home would be a financially devastating hardship. My homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover repairs or maintenance; those are things I can afford to pay myself.

My cars are insured as well. When they are new, I have full coverage in the event of a major accident. The thought of needing to unexpectedly shell out tens of thousands of dollars to replace a car is sufficient justification to pay for premiums with full coverage.

If people had the same expectations of their car insurance as they do for their medical insurance, here is how it might work. First, there would be a five dollar co-pay for gasoline. It wouldn’t matter if the tank were half-full or empty; the cost of a fill up would be five dollars. This would provide little incentive to buy fuel-efficient vehicles – we would merely want cars with bigger gas tanks! Oil changes would probably not be covered, but that’s okay. Just skip the oil changes and when the engine seizes up, there’s nothing to worry about, because engine replacement is covered! If you hadn’t reached your deductible, you might need to pay twenty percent of the “reasonable and expected” charges for an engine rebuild, but that’s all. Then there are tires. Your policy would pay to have tires replaced every two years. It wouldn’t matter if you needed tires or not. So even though there is still usable tread on them, you have them replaced – insurance will pay for them. Of course, if one of these new tires has a blow out before the two years are up, then you’re out of luck – and you get mad at your insurance company. What about the cost to keep that old beloved car running? Not a problem, insurance covers it. Never mind that the parts are no longer being manufactured, hard to find, and expensive. Insurance will pick up the tab. The downsides to this incredulous scenario are that there will be lots of paperwork and you can only go to mechanics that are “part of the system.”

“Wait,” you say, “Cars are not people!” You’re right. They’re not. So, let’s talk life insurance. I want my family taken care of in the event I die unexpectedly. This sounds simple, but there is a decision to be made as to just how well I want them to be provided for. The first reaction is that my family should be totally and completely taken care of – forever. Let’s see, that will be a policy for a gazillion dollars and the monthly payment will be…slightly more than my take-home pay. Okay then, how about if they are partially taken care of but still need to work. Now the monthly insurance payment drops but is still too high. Okay, how much insurance can I get for fifty bucks a month? I’ll take it!

So insuring our lives is reduced to an economic decision, a cost-benefit calculation. If the tendency is to focus on the expense of life insurance, rather then the benefit, why not do the same for medical insurance?

Back when companies paid all their employees’ health insurance premiums, we, the insured, didn’t care about – or even consider – the cost of that benefit. But as premiums skyrocketed, companies began shifting some of that cost to employees. This should have driven home the financial cost of company-provided health insurance, but for far too many employees it didn’t. Over the years, I’ve had employees come to me with this common lament about their health insurance: “I didn’t even get back as much as I put in!”

Health insurance isn’t like the lottery. The expectation of receiving more than you paid is simply ludicrous. Yet, for some reason, many people view their health insurance with such a mindset. I submit they don’t think that way about their auto or home insurance, and certainly not their life insurance. Personally, each time that I write a check from the premium for my car, house, or life insurance, I am thankful that I didn’t need to use it!

What many workers don’t realize is that insurance companies are in the business to make money. Even non-profit insurance companies have to have this attitude. How do they make money? Quite simply, their income (that is, the insurance premiums you pay) needs to exceed their expenses (that is, the claims they pay and overhead). That means, on average, no one is going to “get back as much as they put in.” If they do, the insurance company has lost money on them. If the insurance company losses money on too many people, or for too long, they either go out of business or must dramatically raise rates.

Once we recognize the economic aspects of insurance (the cost-benefit perspective), are cognizant of the insurance business model (to make money), and jettison wrong expectations (getting more than we put in), we can move forward with an attitude that health insurance should cover the “big” things and we should take care of the rest. Therefore, I want a policy that will cover a major surgery, a catastrophic illness, and prolonged treatments. I want to, and should be able to, cover the rest. But how can I do that?

Incredibly, the government has a solution! It starts with a high-deductible health plan. High-deductible means much lower premiums. This addresses concerns of catastrophic illnesses and bills that would result in financial ruin. My own health plan deductible is $7,500. That means I am on my own to cover most, if not all, of my family’s medical expenses. This brings up the second aspect, a health savings account (HSA). An HSA lets me set aside money, tax-free, for medical expenses. This money can generate a return, which is also tax-free, and when I use the money for medical expenses, it is again tax-free.

With the high-deductible medical insurance combined with a health savings account, I have taken control of my medical costs and saved money. I make decisions for how and when money will be spent on medical procedures, just like every other expense I consider – on the cost-benefit of the transaction. Lest you become aghast at me turning health considerations into a dollar sign, let me remind you that every other purchase is treated that way. So why not medical costs, too? After all, what we eat has a great bearing on our health, but it is common to bypass healthy and advisable foods based solely on their cost. We buy life insurance not by how much we need, but by what we can afford. The place we live and the car we drive, both of which can have health ramifications, are again based on cost. Originally, high-deductible health insurance plans and HSAs were intended for the self-employed, but they have been expanded to include small businesses.

We have an opportunity to adapt a new attitude and take control of rising medical costs; let’s do so.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

Hire Fast, Fire Faster: Keep the Right Players on Your Team

By Nathan JamailNathan Jamail

There is an old but true saying, “the best candidate doesn’t always get the job.”  If you have ever made a bad hiring decision, don’t worry you are in good company.  All leaders and managers select bad hires even if they don’t know it.  The difference is, really great leaders recognize their mistake and fire faster.  All hiring managers are sure to make bad hiring decisions, because they made a decision based on situational questions, content on a resume and mostly by their emotions or more notably referred to as “their gut feeling.”   Selecting a bad hire is understandable; but accepting it and not doing anything about it will cost an organization greatly.

There are several beliefs and opinions on how to hire the right person or how to better identify the best candidates and they range from interviewing skills, to aptitude tests, as well as situational scenarios. However, at the end of the day nothing can truly ensure success. There are, however, three things a leader can do to help ensure they have the right people on their team.

Interview before you have an opening: Build your bench. This means managers should not wait to hire until they have an opening, rather, they should prepare for an opening.  Many bad hiring decisions are made because of the urgent need for a person to fill an open spot and they don’t have the time to properly interview candidates to ensure the best candidate is chosen.  Building the bench is also a great way to allow a leader to hold their current employees accountable to high achievement.  Much like in sports where professional athletes must perform every year to keep their jobs (in some cases everyday), due to draft day coming every year and the fact that there are many players looking to get that job.

In business we should hold ourselves to the same standard.  A leader owes it to the entire team to always be looking to add higher caliber employees to their teams and employees should expect it.  This is not a loyalty issue; loyalty should not be based on tenure, it should be based on contribution.  Everybody wants to be a part of a winning team and leaders of great teams recruit to hire better people, not to replace those that left.

Action item:  Regardless of your budget restraints, actual open head count or current success; conduct one interview per month for the rest of 2012-and let your team know you are.

Don’t hire a victim: No skill or experience can outweigh the bad effects of a victim.  No matter the track record, years of experience or how well the interview went, under no circumstances should leader who desires to build top teams and hold their people accountable hire a person with ‘victim disease.’   A person with ‘victim disease’ believes it is always someone else’s fault when they fail or run into obstacles.  They often believe they work harder than everybody else and that their former managers and/or co-workers did things wrong.  Keep in mind, this means that most likely their future manager and/or co-worker will do everything wrong as well.  This person never takes personal responsibility for failures or when they do, they have an excuse that points to something or someone else.  Most importantly, a person with ‘victim disease’ rarely knows they have it.

Leaders need to ask questions during an interview or conversation to find it. There are many such questions out there, but here are a couple of them:

“Have you ever been part of a project that failed but it wasn’t your fault?”

“Tell me about your least favorite and then favorite supervisor.”

“Why were they your favorite or least favorite?”

There is no one answer that will tell the hiring manager that the applicant is a victim, but the feeling and energy they give while answering the questions usually will tell the interviewer.  Side note: a person with ‘victim disease’ gets passed over when they don’t get a job or promotion they wanted, but a person without victim disease understands that at that time a different person was chosen because the hiring manager felt the other person was a better fit and they are working toward becoming the right fit as well and can tell you what specifically they are working on.

Action item:  Prior to interviewing, know the attributes and skills you are looking to hire and more importantly what attributes you are looking to avoid.

Fire faster: The only thing worse than a bad hire is keeping one: As stated, all leaders make bad hiring decisions. The key to not letting it destroy the success in your team is not always in the hiring, but in the firing.  This does not mean to throw new hires to the wolves and see if they can survive, rather to give new hires the tools necessary to succeed and hold them accountable to the right attitude and activities.  Many companies have probationary periods where the applicant can be terminated without all of red HR tape.  Regardless if there is a probationary period or not, it is the leader’s job to work within the rules and laws to make sure all bad hires don’t become long-term bad employees.

What is fast?  That is up to the leader and organization to decide, but some would say that 30 days is pretty fast.  Once a leader indentifies that a new employee is not doing the right activities or does not have the right attitude, they need to address it with the employee immediately.  Be sure to ask the employee their perspective and give clear expectations as to what it will take in the near future to remain in the organization.  Remember a bad hire does not mean they are bad people, sometimes it just means they are not a right fit for the position or organization. Doing the right thing is rarely easy but always right, for all parties.

Action item:  Spend time with new employees and pay attention to their activities, attitude and results and take the necessary action.

Final thoughts: Not every hire is the right hire and not every job is the right job, but accepting a bad decision is wrong-for everyone involved.  A leader does a disservice to the team, the organization and the “bad hire” by not taking immediate action.

Nathan Jamail, president of the Jamail Development Group and author of “The Sales Leaders Playbook,” is a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and corporate coach. As a former Executive Director for Sprint, and business owner of several small businesses, Nathan travels the country helping individuals and organizations achieve maximum success. His clients include Radio Shack, Nationwide Insurance, Metro PCS, and Century 21. To book Nathan, call 972-377-0030.

Out With The Old And In With The New

By Gregg GregoryGregg Gregory

One of the great things I like about college sports is the true teamwork. What is interesting is that with more and more players turning professional early and not completing their four years of college, recruiting and keeping the team focused on the mission has become a real challenge for coaches and athletic directors.

It is a fact – team members change – sometimes they leave of their own accord and sometimes we offer what I like to call ‘career re-direction advice’. Regardless, team members change, and the trick becomes to integrate new members into an existing team successfully?

Let’s look at this from both the perspective of the new employee and how he or she can acclimate themselves into the team, and then how we can help acclimate the new employee into our team.

First, if you have been traded to a new team (excuse the sports metaphor here) what should you do to feel like you are part of the team quickly? We have all been there – started a new job or position and not known anyone on the team. Here are a few tips and tricks you can employ if indeed you find yourself in this position.

Take the initiative to meet everyone on the team. Getting to know your new teammates can be fun and when you learn something about them, and get them to talk about themselves; you have made deposits into their emotional bank account. Everyone likes to talk about themselves and when you talk casually you can ask questions. Now, the true secret is to bank this information. Don’t retain this so you can manipulate them at a later date – instead retain this information and use it to build trust and alliances.

Learn as much as you can about the organization as possible. If this is a new company for you, then you likely did some online research before the first interview. Take this several steps further. Know the big picture about the organization. Having knowledge about the organization is a critical tool in any employee’s tool belt and when you take the time to know this information early on you are demonstrating your ability to work with everyone.

Take the time to get to know the team as a whole. Find out about previous successes they have had and yes – find out some of the failures. Learn what the goals and objectives are for the future. The more you know, the greater asset you can be to them.

Know the expectations up front. Many organizations are weak at sharing very specific expectations up front. This is critical for you as you want to make sure you are on track or ahead of schedule. This will show your new team mates that you are pulling your own weight and this also builds trust among your peers.

Help new hires: Now, as my company grows and we bring on new team members, what can we do to get the new members up to speed quickly and get them to feel more comfortable and avoid ‘The Lone Ranger Syndrome’?

  • Make sure their work area, looks, feels, and is fresh. There is nothing like coming into a new place and feeling like it is a fresh start for you only to find a desk that has not been cleaned out, with condiment packages in the drawers and a phone that looks and smells horrible.

  • If possible, get the new teammate his/her computer password so he can at least get online the first day. Of course it can be changed later – this shows that you care about getting your new-hires up to speed.

  • Assign the new-hire a mentor to help acclimate them to the surroundings, people, and the way you do things. You may also want to provide them a mentor as it relates specifically to the job function they will be doing. Having two mentors accomplishes a couple of things – they meet more people more quickly, and it helps the existing staff assume some of the leader roles on the team and makes them feel better about working there.

  • If the position allows, you may want the new-hire to work with different people on the team to learn the different styles and methods of accomplishing work tasks.

Remember, it is about making sure that everyone knows, trusts, and respects each other. While you will not likely get everyone to ‘like’ everyone else – it is critical that they trust each other in order to accomplish the mission, vision, and values of the team, division, and organization.

Gregg Gregory, of Teams Rock, works with organizations to create a culture where people work together and perform at peak levels. Through his interactive workshops and consulting, Gregg’s clients achieve greater team focus, cooperation, productivity, and impact. His experience includes more than two decades of human resources, real estate, mortgage banking, as well as radio and television broadcasting. Please contact Gregg at 866-764-TEAM or greg@teamsrock.com see how his keynote speeches and breakout training sessions can help your company or organization.

In Hiring, Beware the “Ace of Spades:” Why Personnel Selection is No Poker Game

By Patrick ValtinPatrick Valtin

John was a successful physical therapist. Pressured by the expansion of his practice, he decided to hire an office manager. Alice had the perfect resume – on paper, she was an “ace of diamonds.” She was hired the same day and started the next. What happened in the next 5 months unfortunately looked like a very bad end to “Casino Royale.” When John found out that Alice’s rough personality (undetected during the interview) was the major reason for his patients’ sudden lack of loyalty, he fired her. The next week she sued him for breach of “implied contract,” as her probationary period was over. Final resolution of the case was an award of $550,000 to Alice. John was forced to sell his practice in order to comply with the legal judgment.

There Are Four Aces in Hiring: It is not about playing cards, it is about picking people who will help you win – and won’t make you feel like you lost your last dollars playing poker. These Aces are your most important “hiring cards,” yet they are not equal in value. You must know exactly what you want to measure and in which sequence, in order to avoid John’s kind of experience.Your four aces of selection are, in the proper sequence:

Performance Mindset: This is your Ace of Diamonds. Detecting top players who are naturally high performers is your highest priority. The “number one” reason why you hire someone is to get the job done – no matter what it represents. Most business owners and hiring managers evaluate candidates with their heart rather than with their head. Emotions control the process.

When looking for the performance mindset, consider:

  • Does the applicant mention measurable results/achievements in his/her resume or job application?
  • How about references which clearly support his/her achievements?
  • Does the applicant provide practical, results-oriented examples of some past performance, rather than mostly action-oriented ones?
  • Does the applicant feel at ease with your results-oriented questions?

Willingness: This is your Ace of Hearts. Many call it “positive attitude.” Some people are naturally willing to work hard, to learn more and to do new things. Showing a positive attitude when problems arise can make the difference between hell and paradise in the working environment, especially when working in a team.

Willingness to learn accept heightened responsibility, and exceed expectations is so important! When asked why they usually fire employees, only 9% of business owners said “inability to do the job.” But 69% of them cited attitude-related reasons such as absenteeism and tardiness, bad attitude or work ethics. 22% mentioned other attitude-related reasons.

There are a few good detectors that can help you separate top players with high willingness and the right attitude:

  • When asked, the applicant can easily provide examples of situations on the job where he/she had to demonstrate a positive attitude in order to solve a problem or challenge.
  • When challenged during a simulation or role playing, the applicant shows evidence of willingness to respond and solve the problems.
  • The applicant can show evidence of willingness when he/she had to solve problems in order to help a group.

Know-How: This is your Ace of Clubs. You want to have competent employees who can at least master the basic technical skills as required on the job. In a 2010 national survey of employers, more than 70% of managers revealed that recently hired high school students proved to be deficient in basic academic skills, such as grammar, spelling and written communications.

The best and easiest way to measure an applicant’s practical, non-academic skills is to put the person to the test. Here are some important rules, no matter what the desired technical skills are:

  • Never trust academic or educational evidence of know-how found in the resume.
  • Never rely on an applicant’s previous experience to demonstrate technical know-how for your vacant position.
  • Test. Do not be afraid: right in the interview, put the applicant in a real (best) or simulated (second best) situation and observe his/her action – and reactions.

Personality: This is your Ace of Spades. You should measure personality last; not because it is the least important evaluation criterion but because if you let yourself be influenced by a “nice” personality, it could offer trouble, or destroy your business! The golden rule is: never trust what you see during the interview. Too many employers fail to detect the difference between temporary personality and the lasting one.

Why is personality your Ace of Spades? If you play cards you might know that the Ace of Spades is usually called the death card. Personality can be called your hiring “death card” for two good reasons. First, if you allow yourself to be influenced by an applicant’s temporary personality, chances are you will fail and hire the wrong people. Second, you definitely need to detect those vital job-related soft skills because you know this is what will determine success on the job.

Our experience has shown that the simplest and most effective approach in detecting job-related personality factors is the following:

  • When you develop your job description, make a full list of soft skills vital to the job.
  • Honesty being a crucial soft skill, you can start checking it through resumes/job applications and phone screenings. If you have doubts or reservation, challenge the applicant on any nebulous topic during the interview. Also use reference and background checks to confirm your doubts.
  • During the first interview, focus on the first three Aces. Ensure that you have prepared simulations or scenarios that challenge the applicant on each of these selection criteria.
  • Remember: people reveal themselves best when they are confronted with unprepared or unexpected situations. Challenge is the key word.

Ensure your hiring procedure focuses on “invisible” personality-related skills. Business is often a gamble, and the odds of success lean on your ability to judge the aces at your disposal.  Don’t trust the poker faces that present themselves in interviews; know your hand so you can guarantee that the house will win.

Patrick Valtin is the author of the “No-Fail Hiring” book and an international public speaker. He has evaluated over 22,000 applicants for the account of 5,000 customers in more than 30 countries. His No-Fail Hiring System has been used by thousands of small businesses of all kinds of industries. Patrick has trained 85,000 business owners and executives in the field of people management, personnel selection, Sales, business strategies, leadership and organization. To find out more about his speaking and training, visit http://patrickvaltin.com or call 877-831 2299.

Bombay Calling

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I recently stumbled onto a TV program entitled Bombay Calling. It was about an offshore call center, providing a compelling exposé of an India-based outsourcing call center and the people who worked there. In a gripping documentary style, it showed both the good and the bad in offshore call centers. Just as proponents of offshoring would find plenty to celebrate, opponents would likewise be encouraged. I was both mesmerized and saddened by what I saw.

Although I have been privileged to visit many call centers in the United States, I have not had the opportunity to tour an offshore operation. Through the eye of the camera, I was fascinated to witness a call center in a culture for which I was not too familiar, functioning in a manner that was very familiar. I was pleasantly surprised to see many of the same call center conventions repeated in this overseas operation (with only a few adaptations to accommodate culture). I was greatly encouraged with the bright-eyed, enthusiastic workforce, their can-do spirit, and an optimistic outlook. How wonderful it would be to have a call center — regardless of location — filled with reps like these; but, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The show begins by introducing us to Kaz Lalani. Not only does he outsource calls to Bombay, India, but he also operates call centers in other countries. Kaz boasts that his Indian reps have a strong work ethic. They try hard and really care — unlike agents in Britain, he states (which is where this outbound campaign is targeted). His experience with British agents was not positive. He says they don’t want to work and are always watching the clock, leaving the moment their scheduled shift is over. Not so with their Indian counterparts, who work hard and eagerly stay late when needed.

There is an air of joyous excitement and capable confidence among the agents. The call center is filled with hard-working, fun-loving staff who enjoy their co-workers, their jobs, and the work they do. Staff interviews reveal why. “It’s a great job, for good pay,” states one agent, “even for an undergrad.” Another boasts that he makes more than his girlfriend — even though she has a graduate degree. A third employee dropped out of engineering school for the express purpose of pursuing a call center career.

As astounding as all this seems, the average starting pay for a call center agent in Bombay was reported to be more that four times the average Indian income. This is why young people to leave rural areas for call center work in Bombay. This does cause some angst, both for parents — who lament a loss of tradition — and their children — who must adapt to city life without the nearby help of family. Nevertheless, there is a general acquiescence to the situation. Several of the agents send money back home, pay bills for their parents, or do things to increase the standard of living for their family; all of which is made possible by their call center jobs.

With even more call centers opening in Bombay, these agents are acutely aware of the great demand for their English-speaking skills. They perceive this ability as their unrestricted ticket to opportunity and success. A paradoxical aside is that the show’s producers occasionally resorted to subtitles for some of their English-speaking interviewees — a necessary decision, which, by my reckoning, was not made often enough.

Eight months later, the call center is hurriedly expanding. They are calling Australia (first shift) and the U.K. (second shift). Some reps have been promoted to training, supervisory, and QA positions. However, the dark-side of their sharp rise in income is beginning to show. One rep proudly admits that he has become materialistic; another longs for more time to spend with his wife and child; a third wants to leave the call center, but can’t — he has become accustomed to his new standard of living. Many of the reps are now complaining about the stress of the job — and they turn to partying and alcohol — every night — to dull the pain.

With the rapid expansion, not all of the new hires are ideal and some do not work out; sales numbers plummet. Some reps aren’t concerned — they’ll just go to another center; others are worried, but at a loss what to do. One once confident rep has lost his swagger — he has gone two days without a sale — and has a shell-shocked glaze.

This call center is no longer producing like it used to — or like the others ones in the network. An ultimatum is given. Some agents are sent to retraining, others are terminated. The call center is now a somber and dreary place. A pall hangs over the cubicles; the optimism is gone. Eventually the operation is scaled back to 25 agents — some of the agents we met survive the cuts, others do not. Kaz turns his concentration to other call centers.

In Bombay, call center work is truly changing the lives of it’s agents — for better and for worse.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.