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Mark Silverman had a lot of voices in his ear in the early days of Big Ten Network. The launch on Sept. 1, 2007, was a glorious day. But it was quickly followed by opinions from every direction as people with ties to the Big Ten Conference expressed their thoughts about what was and wasn’t working with BTN. Patience wasn’t an option when it came to games not being broadcast or revenue being less than had been anticipated. Fans complained to their schools, the schools complained to the conference and the conference reached out to Silverman. Fortunately, Silverman, who has…
Interviewed by Dustin S. Klein If you take a tour of Life Fitness with Chris Clawson, you may find yourself answering questions that you wouldn’t expect to be asked on a tour of a company that makes exercise equipment. For instance, he’ll probably want to know if you have a favorite wine or if you’ve ever visited a winery. “I say, ‘How many of you think the wine tasted the same after you visited the winery?’” says Clawson, president at Life Fitness. “And they all shake their heads no because it tastes different. You get to meet the vintner, go…
The duty of leadership to effectively reward is essential to the survival and prosperity of any organization. Issues between the leader and his or her people regarding incentive compensation can undermine the entire motivation process. We really are in the “timely rewards” business as company leaders. Here are four principles for successfully rewarding your people for a job well-done: Deploy your people to maximize the use of their unique gifts and talents When we have people working in areas where their individual gifts and talents don’t match the position well, employee satisfaction and employee performance suffer. Why? Because expressions of…
Not long ago, I co-facilitated a World Café discussion at which a group of 50 leaders, consultants and students in organizational development brainstormed answers to two critical questions about a multigenerational workforce: ■ How do you motivate a workforce composed of several generations? ■ How do you develop and prepare the workforce for the challenges of tomorrow? The collective thinking that emerged offers a starting point and even a list of issues for leaders to consider when creating a strategy for addressing multi-generational needs that emerge in their organizations. Motivating the diverse age workforce There are predominantly four generations in…
Count on Bob Lacy to be one of those business leaders who won’t be trying to calculate the hours his employees spend away from their work as they track their brackets or sneak a peek at the March Madness action on their computer, smartphone or tablet. “It’s fun to do and it’s a good thing for the culture,” Lacy says, referring to activities such as bracket wagers, Super Bowl squares and fantasy sports. “It’s just another form of camaraderie. Nobody is forced to participate. Much like our run club or the company employee lunch we do every month or our…
Small and midsize companies are increasingly looking to outsource HR functions in order to focus on core operations and growing the business. “Companies have been moving that way as HR has become more complex — it’s no longer an HR person sitting in an office planning parties. There are complicated employee and compliance issues to address,” says Liz Howe, Director of Business Development at Benefitdecisions, Inc. “There are so many different laws being passed at the state and federal level that it can be a challenge for any HR team to keep up,” Howe says. Smart Business spoke with Howe …
Have you ever made a promise and failed to keep it? Of course you have, you’re human. That doesn’t make you a bad person, assuming it was not your intention to deliberately deceive the person or people to which you made the promise. But sometimes in our zest to please others, we don’t always think through all the details before we open our mouths. We just push forward believing that we can make it happen. In the event that we can’t live up to the promise, we apologize and try to learn from our mistake. Aligning commitment with a promise…
Friday, 03 January 2014 10:44

Weighing in on health care reform: Chicago

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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called the Affordable Care Act represents some of the most far-reaching government overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since 1965 when Medicare and Medicaid came into being. It will be phased in over time, but a number of changes have been delayed and won’t be in effect until 2015. The act focuses on increasing the rate of health insurance coverage for American and reducing health care costs. Here’s what some area businesses have on their minds about health care reform as the time nears for the full impact of the ACA: Craig…
Leaders who execute well are more likely to add to the bottom line, be on the fast track to success and earn additional growth opportunities. One particular cohort of leaders I worked with recently identified experts across their company, interviewed them and summarized the critical skills of execution that emerged from the discussions. These critical skills of execution include: Know the vision and strategy Successful execution begins with knowing the end goal and establishing a clear strategy to achieve it. Planning and preparation are key factors, but take care to not overcommit, which may lead to discouragement and burnout among…
Alco Packaging was a troubled company when Melvin Berlin purchased it in 1988. At the time, he offered his son, Andrew, the chance to be part of the negotiating process and then serve as general counsel and director of marketing at the newly acquired company. Within a year, Andrew became the company’s president. A second-year associate at a Chicago law firm, Andrew had grown up soaking in every bit of knowledge he could from his father about how to succeed in the working world. “I didn’t know he was my mentor at the time, I just knew he was my…
When trying to learn about an individual, many companies turn to online background checks. However, this could be a mistake as much of the available information may not be fully verified, which is why many businesses turn to a licensed investigator to help provide a more complete and accurate picture. Smart Business spoke with Theresa Mack, CPA, CFF, CAMS, CFCI, PI, a senior manager at Cendrowski Corporate Advisors LLC, about working with a licensed investigator to help your business uncover the information you need.Why hire a licensed investigator? Most online or database-driven background checks are actually ‘record checks.’ In other…
Effective leadership development is often derailed by two significant forces that conflict and make it difficult to achieve the desired outcome. The first is the power of the group process. Through group action-learning projects and enhanced work within teams, group participants can leverage the diversity of skills and experiences and often achieve innovative and creative outcomes. Participants who share information openly about themselves, such as their strengths and development needs, gain useful feedback and in the process elevate their skills to new levels. Yet, there are limitations on what individuals may choose to share in a group, and organizational beliefs…
Starting next year, the Affordable Care Act requires individual and small group insurance plans to cover 10 “essential” health benefits. But, these minimum essential benefits go beyond the coverage that many individuals and small businesses purchase today, so plan costs may increase to meet the coverage requirements. “Regardless of your funding type, whether you’re self-funded or not, your plan is required to provide the minimum essential benefits,” says Mark Haegele, director, sales and account management at HealthLink. “But something that wasn’t really contemplated is the difference by states based on price points from different providers.” Smart Business spoke with Haegele…
Businesses with many variable-hour and part-time employees are developing new strategies to address the employer mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Although implementation of the mandate has been delayed until 2015, companies continue to work on ways to avoid penalties when enforcement kicks in, says Daniel Meracle, a partner at Benefitdecisions, Inc. “We’re seeing four variable-hour strategies that employers are using,” Meracle says. “Some may be against the spirit of what Congress intended when they passed PPACA, but they are within the guidelines of the law.” Smart Business spoke with Meracle about these latest strategies for…
Financial ServicesWINNERWhen Hugh McKean Jones IV became president and CEO of BankersAccuity, he saw a similarity it had with his previous company, IntrinsiQ. Both companies lacked a clear vision of how to make the world a better place and provide value to customers.Jones’ management style starts with understanding the “why” behind an action, career or business choice because that understanding allows individuals to have a real impact on business and the world around them.This is evident in his choice to develop the value for doctors and care recipients in the health care segment through IntrinsiQ, and his work at BankersAccuity…
Read this quote and think about whether it sounds like something you have heard before: “Stay under the radar. Do enough just to get by. Don’t make waves. Get the most out of your benefits such as sick time. Do only what you’re asked to do. If you are asked for more, do just enough to meet minimum expectations.” This is an employee who is completely disengaged. Instead of leaving the organization, which might be a blessing, this employee will “retire in place.” Employees who retire in place substantially impact the bottom line, as well as the satisfaction of other…
Trina Gordon looked at her company’s clients and could see that they wanted more. It wasn’t that Boyden World Corp. had done a bad job of meeting their needs. They just had more needs to be met.“What we began to notice out of this downturn was challenges in the macroeconomic environment continued to persist globally,” says Gordon, president and CEO at the professional services firm.“Clients, particularly global clients and emerging global clients all over the worldwide landscape were becoming more demanding about greater consistency and quality of service from their advisers,” she says. “What that meant was we needed to…
A company’s mission can be a very powerful tool for building employee engagement and fostering a winning culture. But that can’t be accomplished simply with a mission statement posted on a wall.“It’s not so much about creating a statement. A company mission lives and breathes, whether it’s documented or not,” says Greg Stobbe, SPHR, J.D., Chief HR Officer at Benefitdecisions, Inc. “The mission is what drives the culture, which is what drives the organization.”Smart Business spoke with Stobbe about the importance of having a mission and the impact it can have throughout your organization.What is a company mission?There’s a unique…
One of the primary functions of management is to understand what is actually going on in an organization, as opposed to what is supposed to be happening. However, for monitoring to be truly effective, there must first be good communication, a culture that promotes ethical behavior and a solid understanding of the particular organization’s risk factors.“Organizational monitoring is not just about protecting a company from fraud,” says James P. Martin, CMA, CIA, CFE, managing director at Cendrowski Corporate Advisors LLC. “Monitoring systems can help ensure quality, that customer needs are being met and that the company is doing everything else…
Most leaders understand that it’s critically important to collaborate regularly on initiatives with their employees, but are they getting all they can out of these interactions?What leaders may be missing is a new paradigm for employee engagement and competitive advantage.Many of them are working from an old style of management in which business decisions are made at the top and leaders follow a hierarchy of authority. Senior executives must still set strategy and manage for results, but they can likely achieve better outcomes by letting go.Authors Craig Schreiber and Kathleen M. Carley explain that adapting a participative-style leadership environment allows…
Most leaders understand that it’s critically important to collaborate regularly on initiatives with their employees, but are they getting all they can out of these interactions?What leaders may be missing is a new paradigm for employee engagement and competitive advantage.Many of them are working from an old style of management in which business decisions are made at the top and leaders follow a hierarchy of authority. Senior executives must still set strategy and manage for results, but they can likely achieve better outcomes by letting go.Authors Craig Schreiber and Kathleen M. Carley explain that adapting a participative-style leadership environment allows…
Most leaders understand that it’s critically important to collaborate regularly on initiatives with their employees, but are they getting all they can out of these interactions?What leaders may be missing is a new paradigm for employee engagement and competitive advantage.Many of them are working from an old style of management in which business decisions are made at the top and leaders follow a hierarchy of authority. Senior executives must still set strategy and manage for results, but they can likely achieve better outcomes by letting go.Authors Craig Schreiber and Kathleen M. Carley explain that adapting a participative-style leadership environment allows…
Benefit administration systems put information at employees’ fingertips while freeing up HR staff to focus on strategic issues such as employee engagement and retention.“Everything related to employee benefits and an employee’s life cycle can be stored in a technology solution and then used by both the employee and the HR department,” says Meghann Guentensberger, Director of HR Services at Benefitdecisions, Inc. “Medical, dental, vision, and even ancillary benefits like transportation and flex are all in one system that’s accessible to everyone.”Smart Business spoke with Guentensberger about the advantages of automation using an online benefit administration tool and how to choose…
Stacy R. Janiak was not thinking about becoming managing partner of the Chicago office at Deloitte & Touche LLP when she joined the accounting firm in 1992. The graduate of DePaul University just wanted to do her job and make a good impression on the people who had hired her. But it was an impression left on her by a mentor who she had just come to know who shaped both her future and that of the firm in the years ahead. “Within a month of my joining the firm, a woman who I held in high regard who was…
Businesses must change in order to maintain a competitive advantage.However, employees at any level can become an impediment to change as John Kotter noted in a 1995 Harvard Business Review article on leading change and why efforts may fail. The problem is employees might not understand why they need to do things differently and what the benefits of the change will be.Here are some steps you can take to ensure that your entire organization supports necessary change:Understand the dynamics of changeBe aware of the stages that people tend to experience throughout the change process so you can effectively guide your…
Monday, 31 December 2012 19:45

How to manage risk by analyzing claims data

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Rising health care costs have companies looking everywhere for ways to get expenses under control.“In years past, we would meet with human resources personnel and explain their renewal increase to them. Nowadays, with benefits costs rising so quickly, it’s an important and high-dollar line item on budgets and profit and loss statements. CFOs and CEOs are asking how to stem the tide of these increases. It’s captured everyone’s attention,” says Dan Wilke, Director of Underwriting at Benefitdecisions, Inc. Wilke says solutions can be found by analyzing medical claims to identify problem areas that can be addressed through plan changes and…
An employee’s commute to and from work can be costly in terms of money spent on gas, insurance, and wear and tear on a vehicle, and the increased stress it brings. However, there are programs available that companies can support that will help alleviate employee stress, reduce absenteeism, save employees money and improve productivity.“One of the benefits of a commuter program is that it provides a less-stressful commute to and from work,” says Tim Dilsaver, Pace Suburban Bus’ community affairs representative for Lake County, Ill. “It leads to a better parking situation, with companies often providing preferential parking to commuters;…
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