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Leveraging Technology Does Not Equal Robopocalypse
Are robots and artificial intelligence taking over the world? Technology is evolving more rapidly than ever, and the need to leverage technology for business success has become imperative for C-level executives across all industries. However, talk of artificial intelligence, robotics, and machine learning is prompting thoughts and fears in the minds of many business owners and employees surrounding the costs of investing in new technologies and the possibility of layoffs due to job automation.
Tim Kulp, Director of the Emerging Technologies Practice at Mind Over Machines, discussed at our January Partnership event the major social, cultural, and technological shifts in the workplace. As Tim mentioned, according to data from The Future of Jobs 2018 by the World Economic Forum, while 75 million jobs were displaced by automation, 133 million new jobs were created by automation. The truth is, our current landscape is changing, but it’s not because of technology. People, enabled by technology, are changing our culture.
Tim took us back in time to reflect on ice harvesters, who used to cut and gather ice from natural sources and then sell it to keep food cold. Eventually, this way of business gave way to refrigeration companies who leveraged technology, leaving the ice harvesting occupation obsolete. This story of evolution is ongoing throughout all time and in all areas of business.
As a business executive, you can be a leader of this cultural change by leveraging technology, or you can watch as changes happen to you—which path will you choose? How will you become the refrigeration company in a climate of change before you’re left behind as an ice harvester?
Embrace the new reality
Technology is impacting all areas of life, from social, to hobbies, to work. Never before could you make money using your personal vehicle as a driving service summoned by a smartphone, or turn teaching programs and techniques via a YouTube channel into your full-time career. Uber, online side hustles, social media…all of these shifts are a result of people enabled by technology.
Consequently, all areas of life intersecting with technology can distract your employees from accomplishing your company goals. Whether you like it or not, these interruptions are everywhere, and embracing them and adjusting in order to benefit from the changes is key to business success. Here are two examples of shifts due to technology that impacted the business world, and how the business world has progressed from rejecting the idea to making the best of the situation.
Most companies were quick to dismiss Facebook and banned it from workplace computers. With the development of smartphones, however, it was hard for employers to control whether or not employees used the Facebook app throughout the workday. Now, most successful companies have gone from banning social media at work to creating jobs which strategically use social media for marketing, e-commerce, and branding.
We’ve moved from companies refusing to believe that they would ever be targets of cybercrime to recognizing the necessity of protecting against inevitable threats. Companies are now investing in tools, training, and insurance policies to help them recover quickly and affordably from unavoidable cyber incidents.
Ways to leverage technology
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
Leverage AI, if appropriate for your business, to allow you to focus on more strategic initiatives while also building deeper human relationships with your colleagues. AI can alleviate the burden of doing certain mundane or repetitive tasks, such as monitoring worksites or supplementing human interactions in customer service via online chatbots.
- Business intelligence (BI)
Invest in a few key platforms, such as a customer relationship management system, a marketing automation tool, and website analytics. If you already have these systems, don’t just store collected data there—instead, use BI to analyze it and turn it into actionable insights. Gain a better understanding of your customer interactions through data points, such as activity history of contacts, accounts, and workflows, to improve your business strategy.
Integrating technology with your workforce for organizational success
When you introduce new technology, you may also eliminate some human jobs. How are you equipping your people to do the new jobs created by automation? Here are two ways to help your workforce adjust and thrive:
- As leaders, “skilling up” your employees is a vital responsibility. When we know that change is inevitable and that new skills will be necessary to evolve, we must constantly invest in the growth and training of employees, so they are able to take on new responsibilities.
- With the advancement of technology, the concept of work-life balance has changed and become more challenging to achieve. Work can bleed into all areas of life at all times. Strive to create win-win opportunities for both your business and your employees.
You may be surprised to hear a technologist say this, but Tim advises that you will never be able to keep up with the constant new and changing technology—stop trying. Technology should not drive your business, people do. But technology should inspire your business.
In order to survive and thrive, you need to see the changing trends and adjust accordingly. How does or could technology enable you? Find out where your human workforce brings value, and then invest only in a few, key technologies that support and enhance those areas.
Interested in attending our next Partnership seminar? Make sure to register for our March event, “Leadership Language” presented by Chalmers Brothers, best-selling author, certified executive coach, and international speaker on March 26.
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PSA in Good Health February Tips
Eight Ways to Stay Healthy This Winter
Now that we’re in the season when colds, flus, stomach bugs, and other infections run rampant, it’s an ideal time to review strategies that can help us stay healthy this winter. Frequent hand washing is the leading recommended infection-prevention strategy, but a few additional steps can also help you stay healthy this winter. Check out this month’s flyer for eight strategies to protect yourself and to keep your germs to yourself if you do get sick.
For more information, click on the buttons below to download the flyers in English and Spanish, or contact me at Dherndon@psafinancial.com
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PSA Insurance & Financial Services is Introducing a New ATI Member Insurance Program
Hunt Valley, MD. (February 5, 2019) – PSA Insurance & Financial Services (PSA), a top 100 insurance broker in the US, is partnering with the Automotive Training Institute (ATI) to offer a joint PSA-ATI Property & Casualty Insurance Buying Program for their members. ATI is the leading coaching and consulting automotive management company in North America, with over 1,300 active members who have grown their businesses into the best automotive repair and collision shops in the United States and Canada.
“Over the years, PSA found that most auto service and body shops are either not adequately protected against exposures inherent to their industry, or they are overpaying for comprehensive coverage. To address this problem, PSA is excited to offer a new insurance buying program in collaboration with ATI, which provides broader and more affordable coverage specific to the unique risks of auto repair and collision shops,” says Pat DeNobrega, VP, Commercial Insurance at PSA.
ATI Members will also receive many value-added benefits, including streamlined claims management assistance and risk and safety management services. PSA’s dedicated teams of experts help ease the burden of managing claims, reduce workplace exposures, protect ATI member properties, minimize business interruption, and protect members from liability claims.
“We’re excited to offer PSA as part of our preferred supplier program. They specialize in serving our industry and offer a broad range of insurance options at an affordable price. This offering will greatly support our members, and subsequently, their employees,” says Bryan Stasch, VP of Coaching at ATI.
Learn more about the PSA-ATI Insurance Buying Program and get extraordinary protection at affordable cost, or contact Pat DeNobrega or Emily Moles at email@example.com / 443-798-7495 or Emoles@psafinancial.com / 443-798-7293.
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Recent Developments in Employee Benefit Programs (Benefit Minute)
With a Republican controlled Senate and a Democratic controlled House of Representatives, it is unlikely there will be major legislative changes in the next two years. New developments in the employee benefits landscape are now coming primarily through judicial decisions and regulatory action. Below are some benefit areas that have been recently impacted.
The ACA and Texas v. Azar
On December 14, 2018 a federal District Court judge in Texas declared that the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) was unconstitutional. There were two important aspects of the Judge’s decision that led him to this conclusion. The first was that the elimination of the penalty for failing to comply with the individual mandate meant it could no longer be construed as a tax. As it was no longer able to be considered a tax, the individual mandate was an unconstitutional exercise of legislative authority by Congress. The second was that the judge found the individual mandate was inseverable from the remainder of the ACA, and so the entire ACA must fall with the individual mandate.
On December 20, 2018 the judge issued a stay of his opinion, confirming that the decision has no immediate legal effect and the ACA remains current and enforceable law. The decision has now been appealed to the Fifth Circuit, and it appears likely that the case will end up having to be decided by the Supreme Court. With Democrats now in control of the House of Representatives, the House has filed a motion attempting to intervene in the case to defend the ACA. It may take a year or more for the case to work entirely through the appellate process. Until it is finally resolved and all appeals are exhausted, employers should continue to follow and comply with all provisions of the ACA.
On January 15, 2019 the Eighth Circuit decided the case of Peterson v. UnitedHealth Group, Inc. In this case, an insurer who also served as a third party administrator (TPA) for a self-insured plan was sued by an out-of-network provider because the TPA engaged in cross-plan offsetting. The practice allowed the TPA to recoup previous overpayments made to the provider by the TPA on behalf of a self-insured plan by withholding later payments owed to the same provider, even if the previous overpayment originated from a different plan. The Court ruled that nothing under the governing plan documents permitted the TPA to engage in this practice.
The Court also noted that a TPA using one self-insured plan’s assets to recoup overpayments made by another self-insured plan, or in some cases overpayments by the insurer/TPA’s own fully insured plans, may also be problematic under ERISA. The Department of Labor (DOL) filed an amicus brief in the case supporting the Court’s decision and stating their own view that cross-plan offsetting violates ERISA.
Plan sponsors should expect their TPAs to engage in overpayment recovery services as part of their fiduciary obligation to properly manage the assets of the plans they administer, and plan documents should appropriately describe and authorize these practices. While same-plan offsetting would not pose a problem because the plan is recouping overpayments against its own assets, any use of cross-plan offsetting may subject the plan to provider lawsuits when the TPA does not pay legitimate plan claims in order to recover another plan’s overpayments.
Wellness Programs, the ADA & GINA
On December 20, 2018 in response to a court decision invalidating the existing wellness program regulations under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) formally amended those regulations to remove the 30% incentive limitation. This means there is no longer any direct guidance from the EEOC as to what incentive amount will make a wellness program involving medical exams or inquiries be considered a voluntary wellness program.
Until further guidance is issued by the EEOC, employers will have to decide what incentive amount, if any, may be provided for wellness programs to be deemed voluntary. Most employers will likely continue to operate under the old EEOC rules when administering wellness program incentives subject to the ADA or GINA until such time as new guidance is issued. Existing wellness regulations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) were not impacted by the court decision or EEOC’s regulation and are being enforced by the DOL.
Wellness Programs, Tobacco Cessation
The DOL continues to actively enforce the HIPAA requirements for employers that operate wellness programs targeting tobacco use. On November 30, 2018 the DOL announced a settlement against Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc. for administering a tobacco surcharge program in violation of HIPAA’s requirements. The employer did not provide a reasonable alternative standard to employees who smoked so that they could avoid the tobacco surcharge. As a result of administering an improper wellness program, Dorel agreed to make restitution of $145,635 to the 596 impacted employees who paid a surcharge from 2013 to 2017. Dorel was also fined $14,563 by the DOL and was required to amend their wellness program to conform to HIPAA requirements. Other DOL litigation involving improper tobacco cessations programs remains ongoing.
ACA Contraceptive Coverage Mandate
Two federal District Courts issued preliminary injunctions that kept the administration’s final rule on religious and moral objections to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate from taking effect on January 14, 2019. The California Court’s injunction applied in 13 states, while the Pennsylvania Court’s injunction applied nationwide. Unless overturned on appeal, the injunctions will remain until the cases conclude.
The final rule expands the available exemption to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate to any nongovernmental entity that objects to providing contraceptive coverage based on a sincerely held religious belief. It also allows non-profit organizations and closely held for-profit entities that object to contraception on a sincerely held moral conviction to be exempt from the mandate. The final rule provides these entities the choice of either maintaining the current accommodation process whereby the coverage is provided to participants outside of the plan or no longer providing contraceptive coverage at all.
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Snow Removal Contractors, Avoid the Slippery Slope–Control Risks During Snow and Ice Management
As a landscape contractor, one of the trickiest aspects of running and protecting your operation surrounds snow and ice management. Thanks to Mother Nature, your business is likely at a higher risk in the winter months than any other time of year—there are so many things that can go wrong, from employees getting hurt, equipment being damaged, to your entire business being liable for a loss. With so many potential areas of vulnerability, it’s important to control your risks during snow and ice management.
Follow these essential, practical tips to help reduce your risk, potential claims, and costly lawsuits this winter.
Proactively reducing risk prior to snow and ice removal
Thinking ahead and eliminating any possible risks before they happen is the best way to start protecting your business. Here are some steps you can take to control your risks during snow and ice management before your crews ever hit the roads.
- Prioritize preventive maintenance of equipment. Test and winterize the snow removal equipment several days prior to the anticipated snow and ice removal.
- Train and educate employees. Develop standard operating procedures and make sure your team can safely operate necessary equipment.
- Contact your subcontractors or your employees who will be managing the snow removal. Make sure they are also aware of and prepared for the imminent inclement weather conditions. You do not want to find out at the last minute that one of your main subcontractors or some of your critical employees are not available.
- Have a written plan and map for each client indicating where trouble spots are, pointing out heavily traveled areas, and designating where to put snow piles.
- Look for expected problem areas such as poor lighting, low spots, and pot holes—and communicate these to the property owner. Put the needed repairs in writing and take photographs of the problem areas.
- Keep thorough and specific documentation for each client — location, start and finish times, crew members involved, weather conditions, and condition of the area to be cleaned.
Managing risk during snow and ice removal
Follow these steps to mitigate your risks when completing a job.
- Keep an eye on the radar and any storm developments with websites like accuweather.com or https://weather.com/. Also, consider downloading a weather app, such as AccuWeather or The Weather Channel, to get updates on-the-go.
- Have pre-determined routes for each crew. These should be geographically grouped to eliminate unnecessary travel between sites. Continuous communication between the dispatcher and area supervisors keeps everyone informed of field conditions, progress of plowing operations, and events such as equipment breakdowns or changes in the storm’s intensity.
- Keep open lines of communication with your customers to help you determine if you need to call in additional crew and when and where they need to be dispatched.
- Ensure customer satisfaction by relocating snow piles as necessary and reapplying de-icing materials to melt any remaining ice.
Managing risk after snow and ice removal
After the job is done, follow these steps to confirm that the client is happy and your business is protected.
- Inspect sites after work has been completed to ensure quality control, and be sure you and your managers are available to address clients’ questions and concerns.
- Require prompt submission of any paperwork. Make sure that subcontractors submit their hours immediately and check that their records match those of the contractors so that there are no discrepancies in your records or payroll issues later.
The primary risk facing snow and ice management contractors is being at the mercy of Mother Nature. The practical guidelines discussed here are only the tip of the iceberg for what you should be doing to keep your employees and clients safe while also protecting your business. If you want to talk through more strategies for effectively controlling risks during snow and ice management, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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