Showing posts from 2005

Ronald McDonald House is Not What You Think

Recently I visited the Nashville Ronald McDonald House, along with Tami Heim and Dawn Stanton, to tour their facility and receive their thanks for last year's sponsorship of their telethon. What I found there surprised me. Most of us think that McDonalds supports Ronald McDonald House via the coin boxes under their drive-in windows and probably some corporate help since the houses bear the corporation's name. Actually, that's not at all the case. For the naming rights to the RMH facilities, McDonalds leverages their vendor relationships to get free or drastically reduced cost materials and equipment to open each house. That does not even begin to cover the capital expense of opening a house, but it certainly helps. McDonalds also passes along customer generosity from their coin drops, but again that doesn't even cover a fraction of each house's operating expenses. Each RMH is a free standing, self-funded charitable entity that relies on financial support and volun

The Dangers of a Moralistic Approach to Compensation This article in today's on-line NYT ties in eerily with an experience of mine several years ago and another earlier this week. If you read about halfway down the first page you'll see that while the article says "GM", it's really discussing drastic cutbacks in employment, wages, and benefits at the GM subsidiary Delphi. One of it's largest divisions is Delphi Packard Electric, which is direct competitor with one of my former employers. In 1996 I had an altercation with an engineering manager who was losing an Engineering Technician to Delphi Packard. His tech was making $7.50 an hour for us and left to work at a nearby DPE plant for $15.15 an hour. It was one of those conversations that you get used to when managing compensation, with the manager taking the moral high ground that the corporation

A Mid Year Health Insurance Update

September is mid-year for our healthcare plan. We are fully insured with United Health Care (UHC). We moved to a fully-insured plan two years ago after many years of more-or-less paying our own medical claims. In being quasi "self-insured" we saved the cost of insurance, paying only actual claims and administrative fees (about 16% of annual cost). The bad news was that we were on the hook for almost all the medical expense. This program lost us money for years, as an employee group this small cannot spread the risk over a large enough group of people to absorb a catastrophic health claim such as might arise from a terminal cancer, severe auto accident, or heart surgery. With the move to full insurance, we track financial performance through "claims to premium" ratio. This is short-hand for how much in medical claims UHC pays as a percentage of the monthly premium we pay them. At mid-year, our paid claims were 81% of our premium. Add to that about 16% administrative

HR Automation

Over the past five years we've made great progress from mostly a pencil & paper system to something that resembles modern automation. This year we're working hard on two initiatives that we believe will make our work more efficient and help turn about one position from clerical work to more value-added work such as training administration. Our two projects, both on the verge of full implementation, are the R recruiting and A utomated E mployment system (RAE) and ADP iPay. RAE is a home-grown, full-blown recruiting solution written by Ray Ritz, an outside programmer, under the direction of Nick VanMaarth in IT. The project was shepherded in HR by Jack Leichty and Kristie Cantrell who do the majority of the company's recruiting. Several months in development, the system quietly went live last Friday. We're cleaning up data from the conversion of our old database to the new system, but soon applicants using our on-line employment application will see pre-screening q

We Need Craftspersons

Last Friday we held a joint reception to both graduate our first ever class of Nelson Leadership University (NLU), our accelerated development program for high-potential staff, and to welcome and kickoff our second NLU group. The first group started as a class of 40 selected from 67 applicants, of whom we graduated 24. This year's group consists of 24 participants, six of whom were carried over from NLU 1 since they started late as alternates to the program. That meant that we had only 18 new slots available, so the competition to get in was tougher this year. As a result, I've spent much of this week meeting with both people who made it into the program, and people who didn't get in, to talk about their futures. Through these discussions a theme has emerged that I hope you'll agree is worth sharing. Namely, before you can be a leader in a work group, you have to understand the profession represented in that group. In other words, you need to be a knowledge leader, or

Impressed by Samaritan's Purse

This has been a day like none other in my working life. Literally from the moment I walked into the office we've been focused on disaster relief and formulating our collective response to the needs of our fellow man in the Gulf region. In no other post during my working life have I seen a corporation literally drop what it was doing to help others with no expected return on investment. It was a day that makes you proud of where you work. I have no desire to critical of anyone who is trying to do good work for those in need, but I'll let the facts speak for themselves as to how we ended the day as partners with Samaritan's Purse in our efforts. We started the day with a meeting requested by some of our employees with ideas on how they could help those in need. Within a matter of minutes after that meeting, Mike Hyatt called in response to our mutual correspondence of the day before on various response options. His direction was clear: investigate all options (including sen

Life Insurance Strategies for Older Employees

Thomas Nelson has more long-serving employees than most companies I've seen, and certainly more than any where I've worked previously. Our avoidable turnover last year was 6.6%, down from 7.4% the year before. These are excellent numbers for which we can be understandably proud, but it leads to an emerging need to emphasize benefits for older workers. This post focuses on life insurance issues for our older employees, and strategies for those (like me!) who are getting there. Our basic life insurance benefit, 100% paid by the company, is 2 times base salary. You can also purchase supplemental life insurance ("supp life"), and the combined base and supplemental cannot exceed $1 million or 5 times base salary. But beware of limitations based upon eligibility, income, and age. First of all, you can only elect to purchase supp life when you are first eligible for benefits. You have 31 days after you become eligible to elect , then after that you can "buy-up" a

Speak the Truth With Love

When you tell your child that "you shouldn't have done that", did you really mean, "I hate you"? When you tell a co-worker or someone you supervise, "Don't do that", do you really mean, "I don't like your kind around here and you should quit"? Our culture is redefining any unwelcome instruction as hate speech. We can't buy into that as parents, supervisors, or people interested in the direction of our culture. Like many Catholics, I watched with great interest as we buried one great Pope and watched the College of Cardinals elect another. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as I'm sure you've heard, is now Pope Benedict XVI. None of that was really surprising, but the reaction from the far left in our church was astounding, and the farther left, the more hysterical the reaction. Matt Foreman of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force referred to Benedicts' "unrelenting venomous hatred" of gays and lesbians. Steve We

A Tough Topic: Final Instructions

According to the Tennessee Organ Donor website, only 2% of people are ever "brain dead" or in a permanent vegetative state prior to death. Still, the sad headlines from Florida this week are proof that it can and does happen. We've already experienced an unexpected sudden death in our Nelson family this year, and we all run the gauntlet of Nashville commuter traffic daily. To spare your family unneeded grief, and to possibly save several lives, please consider thinking these issues through and act sooner rather than later. 1. Be an Organ Donor- If your life can't be saved, you can save many others by signing an organ donor card. 2. Make your wishes known- Terri Schiavo was only 26 when she became debilitated. Talk to your loved ones this week and put any final wishes or instructions in writing and in your lock box. 3. Execute a Living Will and/or Power of Attorney- The controversy over what you want done or who can make decisions for you is best settled ahead of time.

Emergency Kit for the Over Committed

There's a lot of great time management, personal effectiveness, and personal organization material out there from books to gear. If you have that, and use it well, you don't need to read this post. This is an emergency kit for when it's all gone south and you have looming deadlines and impending doom on the near horizon. If you've gotten to that point, this is an emergency kit for the overcommitted staffer or student. You can get back on top of any situation in four easy steps: 1. Clean up around you, 2. List everything, 3. Categorize everything as critical , social , or other , and 4. Get rid of everything that's not critical. I know it sounds simple and too good to be true, but it's so simple that many don't do it and so effective that everyone should. Read on, as salvation lies within: 1. Clean up Around You - You need cognitive peace and quiet, and you can't get it with stuff staring at you and yelling, "Put me away, clean me up, organize me!

So Your Company's Insurance Just Renewed...

This is the time of year that anyone in charge of HR dreads more than any other; time to renew group medical and other benefits. This year the trend in medical coverage seems to be an 8 - 14% increase in cost, while prescription drugs continue their meteoric rise at around 20%. Why do HR heads hate this process? Because of lack of control, lack of options, and the surety that both their employer and employees will be disappointed to downright outraged over the outcome. What makes for increased costs? Why do your premiums, co-pays, and deductibles continue to increase? Well, gentle reader, read on... The formula for insurance costs is simple: premiums = plan design x utilization + administrative fees. The plan design is what benefits you get from your plan. Some plans allow you to pay $25 one time and the rest is free, while another may require a $2,000 deductible. The richer the plan, the greater the expense. The second component in the equation is utilization, or how often people use

What To Do When You Don't Agree

Something happened at work with which you don't agree, that you feel insults you, demeans you, upsets you, and shakes your confidence in the rationality of the universe and the existence of God. Its usually something earth shaking like not getting the promotion you wanted and deserved, or having someone younger or even (gasp) who you trained getting promoted over you. Or your title gets changed, you're moved to a smaller cubicle, or your mentor is fired and replaced by someone you don't know or, worst yet, know and don't like. Now What? "Disagreeable" management decisions are inevitable; even good management staffs can't please everyone (including you). Coping with goofy decisions and thriving afterwards is a truly required skill for long-term corporate employment. I typically see two reactions; one common and career ending, and another less common but career making. Here's how they work. Unfortunately, the most common response to adverse managem