Tech Talk: Be Part of the Talent Solution

You don’t need anyone to tell you about the workforce/talent challenges that companies across the state are facing. The tech and innovation sectors, of course, are not alone in dealing with this dilemma.

Solutions must be both short and long term. Think coding schools and other training opportunities as more immediate; reaching deeper into the K-12 system to introduce potential careers at an earlier age as being on the other end of the spectrum.

But a message we’ve shared, no matter the business or industry, is to be part of that solution. Don’t just point out the problems. Don’t blame others unless you’re willing to help produce answers.

One way that everyone can contribute is to Share Your Road. It’s not just a phrase, but a coordinated initiative to introduce young people to the possibilities and what they can and should be doing to help reach those career destinations.

The Indiana Chamber Foundation and Indiana INTERNnet are among the Share Your Road partners, part of the Roadtrip Indiana initiative that sent three students on the road earlier this year. A public television series in 2018 will highlight what they learned.

See some of those who have helped pave the way thus far and take the time to inspire others at https://indiana.shareyourroad.com.

Share Your Road

ChamberCare Business Resources (PEO) Now Available

Who can predict the future of health insurance renewals? From major shake-ups in Washington to adjustments at the state level, the volatility of the insurance markets is leaving human resource and business professionals unsure of the path forward.

As part of the Indiana Chamber’s ChamberCare Solutions, we’re now offering the ChamberCare Business Resources (PEO). This unique program can help Hoosier companies with two or more employees manage their human resources, including compliance and reporting assistance and securing stable and affordable benefits.

ChamberCare

Indiana Chamber Senior Manager of Membership Strategy Brett Hulse notes the value of the PEO to small businesses.

“This Professional Employer Organization (PEO) program is a great option for small businesses that are looking for savings and long-term stability with regard to their health insurance, while also providing access to HR and compliance resources that you would find at a large company,” Hulse notes.

Is your company the right fit for participation? If you answer “Yes” to any of the questions below, this program might be a good match for your business:

  • Would better benefits improve your ability to attract or retain employees?
  • Do issues with employment law compliance (e.g. employee classification, ADA, FMLA, etc.) concern you?
  • Do you have a 401(k) program for your employees? Would you like to reduce the cost and eliminate the fiduciary liability associated with this benefit?
  • Have you had any employee/labor issues for which you had to hire an attorney?
  • Is your handbook up to date and functional for your business?

“The Indiana Chamber has helped thousands of small businesses save money while offering competitive benefits to their employees for nearly 15 years. We’re excited to partner with Human Capital Concepts (HCC),” Hulse adds.

For additional details, or to learn more about how a PEO might be a great option for your business, contact Human Capital Concepts; to learn more about Indiana Chamber membership, contact Brett Hulse.

Tips to Deal with Holiday Stress

It’s the day after Halloween and you know what that means … Christmas decorations are already out at the department stores. (Even my five-year-old noticed and commented that it’s “not even Halloween yet and there’s Christmas stuff over there!”)

But Halloween kicks off the unofficial “holiday season.” No doubt most of us already have Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations on the calendar, deciding when this family can gather with that family and whose in-laws are hosting Thanksgiving dinner.

Holiday stress

It can get stressful, which can lead to all sorts of health and mental well-being issues. And the feelings that come with grief over the loss of a loved one or broken relationships can become amplified this time of the year.

The Mayo Clinic has some helpful tips to work through the season and hopefully reclaim some holiday joy. A few: Help yourself by sticking to a budget, planning ahead and maintaining healthy habits (try to avoid taking a fork to the pie pan; it won’t make you feel better in the long term). And if the stress becomes overwhelming, seek professional help from your doctor or mental health provider.

Here are other tips:

  • Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  • Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  • Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  • Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  • Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  • Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

Takeaways From 2017 Indiana Health and Wellness Summit

Thank you to those who attended the 2017 Indiana Health and Wellness Summit at the beginning of the month. We hope you enjoyed the fantastic keynote speakers, breakout sessions and exhibitors. As the largest gathering of wellness professionals in Indiana, we strive to provide an exceptional experience to all who attend.

Wellness Summit

The summit connected more than 400 Indiana professionals with an opportunity to network and learn from others. I enjoyed honoring our 19 new AchieveWELL organizations, learning best practices and meeting dedicated wellness leaders from across the state.

Over the last several days, I have reflected on my key takeaways from the event and narrowed it down to these four items:

1) Wellness isn’t about the program; it’s about the people: Wellness champions should not get too hung up on implementing wellness programs, as the “program” is only the beginning. To truly effect change, wellness champions need to keep the employee (not ROI or reduced health care costs) at the center of all efforts.Stretch

2) Wellness requires top leadership support supplemented by grassroots efforts: Leaders must communicate the value, motivate the employees, link wellness to overall business goals and “walk the walk”. At the same time, employees need to drive efforts from the bottom up. Initiatives created and led by them will have a greater chance of buy-in.

hygiene kit

3) Workplace wellness efforts should go beyond the four walls of the organization to reach the community: An emphasis on wellness within the organization is important, yet the value of strong community wellness and employer support of communities cannot be overstated. Community initiatives should move beyond only financial support to truly engage employees.

4) The evolution of wellness: These elements of wellness – mental, physical, purpose, community and financial well-being – continue to be the backbone of a sustainable and comprehensive workplace wellness program. The wellness conversation continues to evolve, however, as workplaces look to address employee well-being as it relates to food insecurity, housing crises, workplace violence, diversity and substance abuse.

Jennifer Pferrer is the executive director of the Wellness Council of Indiana. Find out more about the Wellness Council of Indiana at www.wellnessindiana.org.

If You’re Sorry, Here’s How to Say It

Apology

You’ve probably seen at least one cringe-worthy “apology” statement from a company CEO after the organization got caught for bad behavior.

And we put the “apology” in quote marks because the word “sorry” doesn’t seem to make an appearance, or it’s tucked into a “sorry if we offended anyone” sort of phrase (which isn’t really an apology).

One thing is for sure: There’s a big difference between a real apology and a #sorrynotsorry apology. A major component is authenticity in the statement. And people (read: customers) can tell the difference.

Grammar Girl recently posted this list of four types of apologies to avoid, along with a template to follow for an authentic apology.

Luckily, there’s a foolproof template you can use. And the template’s not a trick. If you follow it step by step, it helps you explain clearly what you did and understand how you affected someone else. Rather than having you “fill in the blanks,” it helps you find the words to say what you really mean.

We got the idea for this template from Professor Aaron Lazare, and his book “On Apology.” Dr. Lazare explains that a genuine expression of remorse should include these components:

  1. Acknowledging the offense clearly
  2. Explaining it effectively
  3. Restoring the offended parties’ dignity
  4. Assuring them they’re safe from a repeat offense
  5. Expressing shame and humility
  6. Making appropriate reparation

This may seem a little much if you’re apologizing for a small offense, like eating the last of someone’s ice cream, but we’ve found that the little offenses sometimes sting the most. Eating someone’s ice cream becomes a proxy for how little respect you have for them. Or how few boundaries you have. Or how you’re a taker and not a giver.

Hopefully you aren’t in a position where you have to publicly apologize for something. But, even if you just need to say “sorry” to someone in your personal life and are having a hard time figuring out the right way to do it, we hope this guide helps get you back in good graces.

Take a Writing Lesson from Spiderman

Has anyone seen the new Spiderman: Homecoming movie?

No? You’re all Marvel’d out?

(Just kidding; we’ll never escape the Marvel juggernaut.)

Anyway, back to Spiderman. You know what the writers did to the beginning of the movie? They skipped the back story. Completely skipped it! Peter Parker (aka Spiderman) was already living with his widowed Aunt May.

At this point, everyone knows Spiderman’s back story. You don’t need to rehash it for every single remake.

Why am I ranting about Spiderman? Because I hope this weird example sticks with you to help you improve your writing in the future. Ragan Communications wrote a post recently that linked to an infographic of 20 tips to spice up your writing – skipping right to the point is one of the main takeaways. Other suggestions: brevity, clarity, humor.

As Ragan Executive Editor Rob Reinalda advises, don’t waste precious writing real estate rehashing old information or a non-essential backstory. That’s the quickest way to put readers on a path to Tedium Town, the dreariest village in all of Writing Land. Tell your readers right away why they should read on. Save your 2004 client-crisis heroics for later.

In a similar vein, the infographic dedicates several points to brevity. Shoot for short sentences, delete extraneous words, and get straight to the meat of your story. Simple, direct writing is more forceful and effective. Make it easy for people to glide through your prose.

The infographic offers more tips to steer clear of boredom, such as going easy on the hard sell, varying sentence structure, writing with a playful tone and avoiding unreadable fonts. Also, to increase comprehension, you should complement your words with compelling images, tell interesting stories and “bring unexpected gifts.” Who doesn’t like a handy cheat sheet or a useful checklist for free?

The last point is to “Create something enjoyable” – for your audience, that is. Who cares if you think something’s fascinating? Is it enjoyable, interesting and relevant for your readers? That’s what matters.

Even if you’re not in a communications role, you probably write emails, letters or proposals, etc. Sticking to these tips (just like Spiderman sticks to buildings) can help improve your writing. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the infographic for more tips!

Spiderman

Donnelly Co-Sponsor of Chamber Policy Priority – Delaying Health Insurance Tax

Great news on a long-term policy priority for the Indiana Chamber! A bill has been introduced to delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Tax (HIT) until 2020 and to make the fees tax-deductible. As things currently stand, the tax would come into effect in early 2018 and bring with it increased health care costs.

Joe Donnelly

Senator Joe Donnelly is one of two co-sponsors of the measure from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

The Indiana Chamber opposes HIT because of its impact on the small business community. HIT rests entirely on the insured marketplace, so that means businesses and their workers will feel the brunt. Higher premiums for consumers, including small and family-owned businesses – no thanks! And to make matters worse, the tax does not sunset but increases through 2024 and is adjusted for premium growth.

A recent report funded by UnitedHealth Group says that HIT would “increase 2018 health care costs by $158 per person on the individual market, and by $245 for Medicare Advantage participants.”

The HIT has been a bipartisan bone of contention for years, with a previous one-year delay in implementation already having passed Congress.

The Heitkamp-Donnelly bill, S. 1978, now will be reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee.

The Indiana Chamber will continue to voice its approval for this measure to our delegation members.

Need a Little FAFSA Coaching? College Goal Sunday is Nov. 5

College Goal SundayOverwhelming is a good way to describe what it’s like to send your child off to college. Maybe you’re sad (or happy, no judgement) to have them out of the nest and discovering their first taste of independence. Aside from hoping they go to class and get an education that can set them up for a bright future, there are dorms to furnish and long-term decisions to make.

And all of that doesn’t include one of the most stressful aspects: how to pay for college.

One way to alleviate the stress of sorting through the financial aid process is by attending College Goal Sunday on November 5. Financial aid professionals will volunteer at 39 locations around the state to help students and families fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The document is required for students at most colleges and universities to be eligible for grants, scholarships and student loans.

While the FAFSA process can seem daunting or time consuming, students and families can fill out and file the form online in one afternoon with the help of professionals standing by.

College Goal Sunday is run by the Indiana Student Financial Aid Association (IFSAA) and is adding this November event in addition to its annual College Goal Sunday in February.

Interested? Here’s what you should bring:

  • Students should attend with parents or guardians (unless students are age 24 or older)
  • Parents should bring completed 2016 IRS 1040 tax returns, W-2 forms and other 2016 income and benefits information
  • Students who worked the previous year should bring their income information
  • Students age 24 and older should bring their own completed 2016 IRS 1040 tax return, W-2 Form or other 2016 income and benefits information
  • Students and parents are encouraged to apply for U.S. Department of Education FSA IDs at ed.gov before attending the event

A complete list of sites is available at CollegeGoalSunday.org. All sites will have online capabilities and many will offer Spanish language interpreters. Students who attend and fill out a completed evaluation will also be entered to win one of five $1,000 scholarships.

What to do When Poor Workplace Culture Emanates from the Top

Horrible bosses

One of the headlines dominating recent news is the revelation of numerous allegations of sexual abuse against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

As the stories continue to roll out about the ever-widening scandal, the picture is becoming clearer: many people knew about the disastrous workplace culture at Weinstein’s company and its impact not just on employees, but on others throughout the industry.

Aside from what Weinstein is accused of doing in private, there are plenty of stories of how he treated people publicly. He’s not the first, of course, to be noted as a notorious boss (a quick Google search offers a list of names that fit that description). Hollywood itself has taken on the topic through movie examples: 9 to 5, The Devil Wears Prada and aptly named Horrible Bosses (and its sequel) – and the fantasies of getting back at those bad bosses.

While everyday employees aren’t about to kidnap their boss and teach them a lesson in humility, as the fed-up employees did in 9 to 5, what can companies and employees do when the boss is the problem?

Michelle Kavanaugh, Indiana Chamber director of human resources, offers a few insights on this topic. First, companies should have a very strong harassment policy in place and a clearly structured reporting system, she offers.

“Some companies have anonymous call lines, which work better for larger organizations to keep callers truly anonymous,” she says.

Other steps to take include: having a zero-tolerance harassment policy, working with company leaders on the issues so that the culture is set at the top and making sure enforcement happens from the top down. Another protection is working with legal counsel to come up with an action plan before something happens.

And for employees who are dealing with harassment, the first step to take is to directly point out the behavior as inappropriate and request that the behavior stop.

“Use consideration, state your position and make your request,” Kavanaugh notes. “There is probably an intimidation factor. You have to work through that and state your concerns. Using ‘I’ statements are also psychologically a good way to approach the subject.

“If the behavior continues, and it is the business owner or person at the top, find someone else within your organization that you trust and hopefully the organization has a policy in place to deal with the behavior.”

If that doesn’t help, finding a confidant outside your workplace to assist you is another avenue. Should more extreme measures become necessary, avenues to consider include retaining legal help or filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Department of Labor.

“This is just scratching the surface of this subject. Employers working closely with good legal counsel can protect the company and employees and help instill a culture where toxic environments and abuse are not the norm,” Kavanaugh adds.

We also offer the Indiana Guide to Preventing Workplace Harassmentnow in its fourth edition. Written by a team of experts from Indiana-based law firm Ogletree Deakins, the guide is a simple and comprehensive manual covering topics employers need to know to identify, deal with and prevent workplace harassment and discrimination.

Senate Health Care Reform – Act III

A bipartisan agreement has been reached in the Senate to help stabilize health care markets – from Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).

Among other things, the Alexander-Murray agreement would:

  • fund cost-sharing reduction payments, which help lower consumers’ deductibles and co-pays, for two years;
  • broaden the pool eligible for a “copper plan” (catastrophic medical) coverage option, which would help reduce the mandate implications for essential benefits;
  • include funding to help Americans navigate signing up for health insurance, which had been cut by the Trump administration; and
  • set up high-risk pools that will allow for continued coverage for these individuals.

What this is not is a “repeal and replace”. That said, the two-year funding promise is good news for insurers and would help alleviate their unease, which would also be felt by consumers. But this bill does nothing to address the core problems in the individual marketplace that threaten its sustainability.

Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, who has been pushing for bipartisan fixes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), has thrown his support behind the Alexander-Murray agreement and is a co-sponsor of the legislation. He stated, “This is the product of hard work from members on both sides of the aisle, and it’s an important step in providing much needed stability to the market. I’m proud to be part of the effort, and I will continue working with Republicans and Democrats to move this much-needed legislation forward.”

President Trump has alternately met the agreement with both optimism and skepticism. Overall, he’s indicated that he would favor a short-term subsidy fix; however, he doesn’t want to help insurers either.

It would appear the bipartisan legislation would garner most, if not all, Senate Democrat votes (as Minority Leader Chuck Schumer alluded to on Thursday), so that would leave a lot of wiggle room for passage if some, or even many, Republicans vote against it. The question is what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will do and what he says to his caucus.

Meanwhile, Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the authors of the Senate’s second ACA reform attempt, have been working with Alexander and Murray on ways the bill can be made palatable to the very conservative arm of the congressional Republicans – most notably in the House.

In other words, this is far from a done deal.