Produced by Unum, the HR Trends podcast tackles complex human resources management topics and employer best practices in the new world of work, with a particular focus on improving the employee experience, workforce wellness, digital transformation and workforce technology. We talk with industry experts, innovators and HR trendsetters about how employers attract and retain top talent. Tune in to explore what role benefits play in a labor market turned upside down, how HR compliance is evolving and what the future of work means for employers, people managers and employees. To learn about us and access other resources, visit HR Trends at unum.com.
Attract, retain, protect: Supporting people in the new world of work
In the first episode of season two of the HR Trends podcast, Clare Morin speaks to Brian Kropp, Chief of Research and Distinguished Vice President at Gartner, and Polly Nicholas, Senior Vice President and Head of Solutions at Unum Group, about the fundamental shifts happening in HR and how business leaders who respond to the holistic needs of their employees will win the talent and retention game.
As the line between work and home have become blurred, it’s caused a reconsideration of the place of work in an employee’s life. (7:55)
This requires a different approach and a new type of leader. (9:35)
This shift can also be seen in what employers and employees want in terms of benefits. (11:40)
Supporting employees in this broader, more holistic way is also better for business. “When organizations are more effective at meeting the mental health needs, the family needs, the community needs of their employees,” says Kropp, “Those employees perform at a higher level, are less likely to quit, they are more engaged with their work, they sleep better at night, and the list goes on and on. By improving the lives of our employees, we help the performance of our organizations.” (13:15)
Employee leave programs are becoming focused around personas. “Even the leave and time off conversation used to be this big block of people who just needed to take time off. And tomorrow, it’s about a persona,” says Nicholas. “And it’s how we begin to shift thinking about leave policies and compliance, to what does a person need who’s planning a leave? What does a person need when they have a very unplanned event and there’s an emergent moment happening? How are those needs different? And how are we surrounding them, and back to Corie Barry’s sort of scaffolding, how are we surrounding them because there’s this opportunity to offer solutions that do just that.” (28:20)
External shocks -- the pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and the war in Ukraine -- have turned ideas about good management on their head. “The focus up to now has been on efficiency, on stripping costs as much as possible,” explains Kropp. “When we have a management strategy that is maximizing efficiency, we also have a strategy that is unwittingly maximizing fragility. It’s like inflating a balloon with as much air as possible right up to the point where it breaks. That strategy is fine if there’s nothing in the environment that can cause a balloon to break. What we’ve realized is there’s lots of things in the environment that can cause the balloon to break.” (31:00)
Chief of Research and Distinguished Vice President, Gartner
Brian Kropp oversees the lines of business that support Chief Human Resources Officers and their leadership teams. He works with this cadre of leaders to develop strategic plans that will attract and retain top talent. Dr. Kropp has authored more than 40 research studies at Gartner, led more than 200 strategy sessions with executive teams at Fortune 100 companies and more than 300 Executive Education sessions across the globe.
Senior Vice President and Head of Solutions, Unum Group
Polly Nicholas is the Senior Vice President and Head of Solutions at Unum Group. With more than 20 years of experience driving growth and operational improvement and a passion for connecting people, purpose and results, Nicholas leads Unum’s rapidly expanding solutions businesses, attracting new clients and expanding the support provided through a suite of technology-first solutions including Unum Total Leave™, Behavioral Health and Unum HR Connect solutions. Prior to Unum, Nicholas held leadership roles at global firms Alight Solutions and Aon Hewitt.
How COVID-19 has accelerated the future of work
To close out the first season of the HR Trends podcast, Clare Morin welcomes futurist Ravin Jesuthasan, co-author of the new book Work without Jobs, and Greg Till, EVP and Chief People Officer of Providence Health Systems. They discuss how the pandemic has accelerated ten years of transformation in two years, and what the future holds for workers and employers.
The pandemic put the tech-fueled transformation of the workplace on hyperdrive. “Alvin Toffler wrote about in 1970 that we’d soon all be living in electronic cottages, liberated from the offices,” Jesuthasan says. “Yet as of March 2020, only 6% of jobs were being done remotely full time. That number went to 56% overnight.” (4:40) The new focus is on flexibility, resilience, and agility. “We talk about these black swan events as though they’re the rarest of beasts, but we’ve had at least three major shocks the past 20 years—we had 9/11, we had the financial crisis, and COVID. [There’s a need] to be prepared for both shocks and opportunities, that’s what we see as really being at the heart of this pivot toward agility.” (8:30)Predictive hiring lets you get ahead of the labor market. “We can predict our hiring needs based on patient volumes and revenues with about 90–95% accuracy,” says Till. “It typically takes five months to fill an ICU nurse role, and we can open up the requisition five months in advance of someone leaving.” (14:30)Reducing the dull and the dangerous through automation. Nurse scheduling, which would take a human hours to complete, can be done in about ten seconds using artificial intelligence and machine learning – while considering employee preferences and accommodating flexibility. It’s saved Providence Health an estimated $130 million. (15:00)Fluidity will create a more human-centered enterprise. “We’ve gone from very structured approaches to work, where people/humans were cogs in the machine,” says Jesuthasan. “Tight and precise job definitions, job architectures that were tied to the way processes were executed, one-to-one relationship between person and role.” (18:31)Businesses shouldn’t be intimidated by the scale of possible change. “Don’t let it be daunting,” says Till. “A lot of things in Ravin’s book—in healthcare, because we’re highly regulated, we can’t implement wholesale. We’re taking some really pragmatic aspects of a visionary philosophy and applying it in reality. Saving 130 million dollars and staffing more effectively to meet our community’s needs.” (28:00)Featured speakers:
Global Leader for Transformation Services, Mercer
Ravin Jesuthasan is the global leader of Mercer’s Transformation Services business. He is recognized globally as a thought leader, futurist and author on the future of work and workforce transformation. Ravin has led numerous research projects for the World Economic Forum including many of its groundbreaking studies on the transformation of work and the global workforce.
Chief People Officer
Providence Health Systems
Greg Till is the Chief People Officer of Providence Health Systems. In this role, Greg and his team aim to transform healthcare by bringing their innovative vision for the future of work to life. Using modern technology, unique partnerships, and grounded in Providence’s mission, Greg’s HR team has been able to effectively predict and shape labor needs, optimize workforce utilization, and significantly lower costs, while improving employee experience and strengthening the culture.
What’s next now that OSHA has withdrawn the Emergency Temporary Standard?
On the heels of the Supreme Court’s stay of the private employer vaccine mandate, OSHA has withdrawn its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) while it works on a permanent rule. In the meantime, employers remain responsible for keeping employees safe from COVID-19 at work. Ellen McCann joins guest host Nate Smith to discuss this latest development.
OSHA withdrew the ETS but has not abandoned the idea of an employer mandate. On January 25, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced it was withdrawing its ETS, thereby making the litigation in the 6th Circuit moot. Instead it will focus on crafting a proposed permanent rule, based on public comments and likely what it has gleaned from the January 13 Supreme Court ruling that stayed the ETS.
What might the permanent rule look like? OSHA asked some specific questions in its request for public comments, which may provide some clues about what the agency will consider when crafting the permanent rule.
Does this change the CMS health care mandate? No. That mandate, which was issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) not OSHA, goes forward, although it is still being challenged in a lower court.
Are any state or local laws affected by the OSHA decision? Since OSHA withdrew the ETS, it has no impact on state or local laws. . Employers should be aware of the patchwork of city and state laws out there — both requiring and prohibiting vaccine mandates.
What should employers do next, in the midst of all this confusion? Employers should bear in mind that there is still a “general duty” clause under the Occupational Safety and Health Act which requires employers to provide their employees with a safe work environment. They should work with their counsel to determine how to fulfill this responsibility.
Assistant Vice President, Unum Group Solutions
Ellen McCann is an acclaimed national speaker on leave management issues including FMLA and ADA. She is also a certified trainer for SHRM and CE credit. As a former Legal Counsel for Unum’s Employment Law Group, Ellen has advised companies on all employment-related legal issues. In her current role, Ellen serves as a leading expert in applying benefits and benefits technology to power modern solutions to more effective employee leave programs, stronger regulatory compliance and enhanced digital HR transformation.
Does the latest Supreme Court ruling halt all vaccine requirements? Not by a long shot.
What should employers know about federal COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandates, after the January 13 Supreme Court ruling? Legal expert Ellen McCann walks HR listeners through the current status of the three federal mandates and what employers should do now to ensure a safe workplace.
Background: The three federal mandates. They are (1) the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) or private employer mandate, (2) the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) or health care worker mandate, and (3) the federal contractor mandate. All three have been tied up in litigation. On January 13, the Supreme Court weighed in on the private employer and health care worker mandates. [1:19]
What does the Supreme Court ruling mean for the private employer mandate? For now the ETS is paused, which means OSHA cannot enforce it. It is not actually struck down, although the Supreme Court’s reasoning suggests that it may eventually be declared unconstitutional. [3:27]
What does this mean for employers? Employers who are only subject to the ETS have a little bit of breathing room as OSHA cannot enforce this mandate for now. The Supreme Court ruling does not prevent employers from instituting their own vaccine or test requirements. Employers should work with their legal counsel to see if they are subject to any state or local laws requiring or preventing implementation of their own program to keep employees safe at work. [5:25]
What happened with the health care worker mandate? The Supreme Court lifted the stay on this mandate, meaning most health care workers are now required to get vaccinated before coming to their workplace. The deadlines have been moved for workers in states where the healthcare mandate had previously been stayed. [8:44]
What can employers do to handle the complexity of this new HR burden? The pandemic in general and the vaccine mandate have created a record level of complexity for HR teams. Technology solutions like Unum Vaccine Verifier™ can help. Vaccine Verifier is designed to address the most complex aspects of vaccine-or-test mandates in that it not only provides a way to track vaccine status and testing compliance, it helps guide employers through the sensitive process of managing exemption requests. [10:31]
Finally, where does the federal contractor mandate stand? This mandate was stayed earlier in lower courts, so employers will need to wait and see whether it ever takes effect. But again, the stay doesn’t stop employers from adopting their own policies to protect their employees at work. Unum Vaccine Verifier and other technology solutions are available to help organize and enforce whatever policies employers have, while keeping all documentation in one secure place. [13:47]
Where should employers focus in the coming weeks, now that the Supreme Court has ruled? Sit down with your counsel and senior leaders and decide how you want to show up for your employees. What’s your corporate philosophy and culture about keeping your workplace safe and helping employees feel comfortable coming back to the work site, if that’s your goal. Also, as we saw on January 13, rules can change in a minute, so use your counsel to help you stay up to date and make sure they are on board with any policy you adopt. [14:55]
Assistant Vice President, Unum Group Solutions
Ellen McCann is an acclaimed national speaker on leave management issues including FMLA and ADA. She is also a certified trainer for SHRM and CE credit. In her current role, Ellen serves as a leading expert in applying benefits and benefits technology to power modern solutions to more effective employee leave programs, stronger regulatory compliance and enhanced digital HR transformation.
To ring in the new year, CEOs from the American Psychological Association and MaineHealth join host Clare Morin to discuss why investing in behavioral health in 2022 is not just good for your employees but also good for your business.
The psychological fallout of the pandemic has only just begun. The pandemic unleashed a tsunami of stress that will continue to be felt even once COVID-19 is gone. (3:50)
This is a long-term project for employers. Military studies have shown that people who experience traumatic events often don’t show signs of stress and anxiety until 18 months after the event had taken place. (5:40) “This is going to go on for years.” (7:00)
Behavioral health is a huge factor in retention. Employees who report feeling stressed at work are three times more likely to look for other jobs than those who do not report feeling stressed. (8:00)
Leaders should set the tone. It’s important for leaders to create space for employees to seek help by sharing their own struggles and showing vulnerability. (10:25)
Make resources easy to find. For resources to be effective, employees must be able to use them. Ensure they are accessible, intuitive, and ideally available on demand. (12:00)
Early intervention saves lives and money. Mental health is a continuum and it’s more humane and more cost-effective to intervene before an employee is in crisis. (13:15)
Ensure employees feel heard when making major decisions. Mental health problems are often caused by a feeling of a lack of control. Giving employees choices and input into decisions reduces stress. (14:40)
Showing care can help employers compete. “It’s a huge strategic opportunity for employers to demonstrate genuine and authentic caring as a retention, as a recruitment, as a development opportunity,” says Dr. Andrew Mueller, CEO of MaineHealth. (18:40)
This crisis is manageable. “If we create work environments that are supportive of mental health, making sure they have access to services when they need them, it can make all the difference for your employees,” says Dr. Evans. (20:15)
Arthur Evans, Jr., PhD
Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice President, American Psychological Association
Dr. Arthur Evans is CEO of the American Psychological Association, the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the U.S. With over 122,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students as members, APA promotes and disseminates psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve lives – a mission consistent with Dr. Evans’ life work.
Andrew T. Mueller, MD
Chief Executive Officer, MaineHealth
Andrew Mueller, MD, is CEO of MaineHealth, a not-for-profit integrated health system consisting of nine local hospital systems, a comprehensive behavioral healthcare network, diagnostic services, home health agencies, and 1,700 employed and independent physicians. With more than 22,000 employees, MaineHealth is the largest health system in northern New England and provides preventive care, diagnosis and treatment to 1.1 million residents in Maine and New Hampshire.
Building a behavioral health strategy for the new world of work
November 4, 2021
Thought leaders from the American Psychological Association, MaineHealth and Unum discuss the current state of employee mental health, and key elements for a strong behavioral health strategy for 2022 and beyond.
Updates on the federal vaccine mandate
As a follow-up to Episode 34 on the federal vaccine mandate, Unum employment law and compliance expert Ellen McCann joins guest host Nate Smith with updates for employers on OSHA’s most recent guidance, outlining what employers need to know, what clarifications occurred with OSHA’s guidance and important timelines to consider.*
- Employers with 100 or more employees will need to choose which route to take. Under OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard, employers can choose between requiring 1) All employees to be vaccinated 2) Employees to choose between weekly testing or full vaccination. [3:15]
- The mandate plan has several components that relate to different type of employees. For example, employees who work exclusively from home will not be subject to this mandate. In this case, they will need to be tested before coming into the workplace. [4:58]
- These new requirements are set to go into effect in the near future. OSHA has published a chart on their website that shows compliance dates and requirements. [7:05]
- No matter which route employers take, precise record-keeping will be critical. Supportive solutions will help employers manage the complex requirements, from proof of vaccination status to testing results to vaccination exemptions. [8:41]
- The right technology solution can help employers. Systems like Unum Vaccine Verifier make it easy for employers to maintain an accurate, up-to-date vaccination and test result roster in one place. [15:43]
- How do recent court rulings impact employers? The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued an injunction, halting the mandate for the time-being. Be on the lookout for more information as the case proceeds. [19:24]
- Additional resources: How the federal vaccine mandate may affect employers.
*Currently subject to a temporary stay by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Assistant Vice President of Unum Solutions
Ellen McCann has expertise in leave management, specifically the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As Assistant Vice President, Unum Solutions, she combines more than 30 years of employment law experience with practical knowledge of the complexities of leave and accommodation management to create solutions that help employers manage the complex leave process. Currently, she supports Total Leave, Unum’s digital leave management solution, and Unum Vaccine Verifier, a simple, secure way to verify vaccination status, manage exemptions and manage COVID testing compliance.
Previously, Ellen worked in the Employment Law Group, providing support to Unum’s Absence Management Center and advised Human Resources on employment-related legal issues for more than 20 years. She worked at Davis, Malm & D’Agostine law firm in Boston prior to joining Unum. She is also a certified trainer for the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM).