The recent ruling on health reform has created an even greater need for accurate benchmarking data. Proving the age old adage that if you can't measure it, then you can't manage it. Advisers armed with information that drills down through national, regional, state, industry and company size will be better prepared to assist larger employers with employee acquisition and retention, and smaller employers make intelligent decisions on whether or not to "pay or play."

Let's say you were a midsize technical design firm in California competing with other private-sector companies within the state for quality employees, and you want to demonstrate the value of your PPO plan. Let's say your single cost is $489. If you use national numbers to compare your rate, you'd be $50 per month more than the national average. However, when compared to other PPO plans in California, your cost is actually $24 per month less expensive than the average.

This same kind of data is also helpful in looking at smaller employers' existing plans and comparing their costs to other options and the competition. Even if the employer is not worried about retention, using accurate benchmarking data with the advice of an adviser can help them compare plan costs to other options and possibly save their organization (and their employees) money by retaining and offering coverage. The cost of not accurately managing a health plan or helping your client bend the cost curve will be a 40% Cadillac Tax starting in 2018.

- Thom Mangan is an EBA Advisory Board Member and CEO of United Benefit Advisors, the nation's leading independent employee benefits advisory organization with more than 270 offices throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K.


Angst Arises Over Talent Strategies

Ask a roomful of HR leaders to name their biggest stressors and some interesting answers float up - sometimes literally. A social experiment by career management consulting firm IMPACT Group suggests that these practitioners are engaging in some big-picture thinking, and their worries may only be ballooning.

At national trade shows this year, they were told to pen their pain points, those itchy issues that keep them up at night, using nothing more threatening than a Sharpie and a six-foot balloon. "Pop Your Problems," as IMPACT calls it, took a light approach to heavy issues.

"It brings you back to your childhood," says Melanie Winograd, a marketing specialist with IMPACT, a global resources services company.

More than 100 responses were thus expressed, and some might find their content surprising. IMPACT divided them into four categories: Development and Performance; Talent Acquisition and Retention; Employee Engagement; and other. Taken together, the first two constitute more than 70% of answers given. The general picture reveals HR directors and managers take a wider view than just health care and hiring.

Within Development and Performance, the main focus points were employee and leadership development, building global leaders and uncovering or developing skills. For those concerned most with Talent Acquisition and Retention, succession strategies, retaining talent and matching the right individual and role were seen the most.

Lauren Herring, IMPACT CEO, says this illustrates a workforce in which far more than senior management has its eye on the horizon. "Once a business function of personnel and payroll, today's modern HR department is truly an integration of talent strategies," Herring says.

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