After the Government Shutdown, U.S. Employers Are Facing This ‘Unprecedented Risk’

By: | January 28, 2019

Les Williams, CRM, is Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer of Risk Cooperative. He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Prior to joining Risk Cooperative, Les served in various institutional sales positions at SoHookd, JLL, and IBM.

Now that the 21st government shutdown has ended — the longest and most damaging in U.S. history — at least temporarily, a clarion call was sent declaring that not even a government job is deemed safe anymore.

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Uncle Sam must rethink its employee recruitment and retention strategy, especially given the multitude of job opportunities available across all industries. Employers in the private and nonprofit sectors will likely see a bump in résumés from federal workers fleeing uncertain times ahead, but even these employers must realize that recruiting and retaining talent will not be an easy task.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment rose by 2.6 million jobs in 2018, leaving the unemployment rate at a low of 3.9 percent. The current environment is clearly an employees’ market, putting more pressure on companies to be creative in attracting valuable talent.

To make matters worse for U.S. employers, entrepreneurship is on the rise in the U.S. as well. A 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor study found that the “fear of failure” of starting a business was the lowest since the survey’s inception in 1999. This diminishing fear of failure, coupled with the growing “gig” or sharing economy, will ultimately translate into more job seekers choosing to be their own boss. Simply owning a car can put you in the proverbial driver’s seat, like the hundreds of thousands of ride-sharing drivers in the U.S.

With a job market clearly favoring employees and low barriers to entry for entrepreneurial endeavors, employers of all sectors must be creative in their efforts to build and maintain a capable workforce.

A Solution

Risk managers are adept at helping clients navigate all shapes and sizes of threats to an organization. Cyber risks, employer’s liability, professional liability, risks to property and political risks are some examples.

An emerging risk that must be addressed, yet is harder to quantify, is adapting to changes in the workforce and the dwindling employer value proposition. A firm can have the most innovative strategy and the best product on the market, but this becomes a moot point if they are unable to attract or retain talent due to factors like the current job market and popularity of entrepreneurship. Traditional employee engagement solutions, such as annual holiday parties or monthly happy hours, are short term. A more sustainable strategy is needed and creating a culture of well being is a crucial component.

Employee Benefit News, a publication focused on employee benefits insights for HR managers, recently featured a study by health services company Optum.

The study found that employees are more loyal to companies that have wellness programs in place, even if they do not use them. The study concluded companies that offered a wellness program seemed to care more about employees, and employees liked having the option to participate. Of the employees surveyed who did not participate in company-sponsored wellness programs, 29 percent said they would recommend their company as a place to work.

The benefits of having a wellness program are plentiful: Fewer sick days, leading to increased productivity; reduced medical costs; potential for gamification among employees (i.e. teams challenging one another in getting the most “steps per day”); and a general sense of community among staff. SoHookd, a wellness-based loyalty platform, is designed to attract, inspire and retain talent at organizations.

An emerging risk that must be addressed, yet is harder to quantify, is adapting to changes in the workforce and the dwindling employer value proposition. A firm can have the most innovative strategy and the best product on the market, but this becomes a moot point if they are unable to attract or retain talent due to factors like the current job market and popularity of entrepreneurship.

B.J. Wiley Williams, founder and CEO, stressed the importance of “health is the new wealth.” She states, “The increased access to entrepreneurship, combined with the shift in the employee value proposition for Millennials and Generation Z, has created an unprecedented risk for employers. Millennials and Generation Z are three times more likely to switch jobs in the first two years of employment, and they crave work/life/play integration and balance. For this population, well being is its own currency that is highly valued. Therefore, creating a culture of well being is imperative for organizations that want to recruit talent, retain talent and survive and thrive with the modern employee. Well being is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have.”

Partnership Is Key

Employers and risk managers should not bear this adaptation burden alone, rather health insurers must be active partners. Several large health insurance carriers have a wellness incentive component to their plans, yet these are usually not prominently featured on websites or given prime real estate in promotional materials.

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Browsing a typical health insurer’s summary of benefits, it should proudly display plan benefits such as pharmacy benefits, in-network and out-of-network guidelines, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. To create a sincere culture of well being, it is incumbent upon insurers to increase the brand awareness of their wellness programs such that employees will realize prevention of maladies is just as important as curing them.

This mindset is no different from how risk managers think; wearing a seat belt will decrease the chances of injury in an accident (thus decreasing the likelihood of a medical claim being filed).  Similarly, encouraging a healthy lifestyle decreases the likelihood of an employee developing a chronic disease (and filing a medical claim as well).

Employers, risk managers, health insurers and wellness experts must join forces in this battle for talent. The well being of our economy depends on it. &

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]