HR Managers and Open Enrollment Stress Amid a Pandemic

Posted on October 26th, 2021

While most people who work in human resource management are not behavioral health professionals, they are subject to some of the same psychological conditions behavioral counselors frequently face. One of those conditions is compassion fatigue, defined by the American Psychological Association (APA) as the “stress-related symptoms experienced by caregivers and other helping professionals in reaction to working with traumatized people over an extended period of time.”  

In even the best of times, HR work inevitably involves providing support to individuals who may be facing extreme stress or trauma.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people experiencing trauma has increased exponentially. Now, with the pandemic nearing its 21st month just as organizations are entering the open enrollment period for employee benefits, HR professionals find themselves facing a sort of occupational perfect storm, at heightened risk of year-end burnout.  

Employers — placed on high alert by the pandemic-era workplace phenomenon variously known as the “Great Resignation,” the “Big Quit” and other nicknames — are aware of work-related burnout and the toll it can take, but are they taking adequate steps to combat it? Or, as Time recently put it: “The ‘Great Resignation’ Is Finally Getting Companies to Take Burnout Seriously. Is It Enough?’” 

Human resource professionals and other managers are invited to join Alera Group for a one-hour webinar designed to address these questions and help get you and your team through the challenges ahead. Featuring a trained clinical psychologist, “Mental Health: Managing Stress and Year-End Burnout” will take place on Thursday, November 18, beginning at 1 p.m. CST. Participants online for the duration of the program will be eligible for a continuing-education credit from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). 

The Toll on Women  

In October 2022, Harvard Business Review published an article by six McKinsey and Co. researchers titled “Women Do More to Fight Burnout – and It’s Burning Them Out.” Based on the McKinsey report “Women in the Workplace 2021,” the HBR article states: 

“Burnout is real and getting worse. The numbers are discouraging, for both men and women: 42% of women and 35% of men in Corporate America have felt burned out in the last few months (up from 32% and 28% respectively last year). One in three women surveyed say they have considered downshifting or leaving the workforce altogether. (Last year, it was one in four.)” 

One anonymous executive cited in “Women in the Workplace 2021,” says of her experience during the pandemic, “It’s the only time I’ve seriously considered a less demanding job. I interviewed for a job with another company. I just felt burned out so often. I probably cried more days than I did not. I felt caught in the middle of everyone’s emotional responses. It was the hardest working year of my life.” 

While the percentage of corporate women reporting feelings of burnout is significantly greater than the percentage of men, the composition of the HR workforce is overwhelmingly female. According to data analysis by the jobs and career website Zippia, 67.5% of the nation’s almost 300,000 human resource managers are women. Although neither the McKinsey report nor the Zippia analysis specifically address feelings of burnout among women in human resources, it seems logical to deduce that it’s at least somewhere in the range of the 42% figure reported by McKinsey. 

What Is Burnout? 

Increased pressure doesn’t always lead to burnout — some researchers emphasize a distinction between burnout and less serious work-related stress — but few would argue that the symptoms of burnout are widespread. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies burnout as an “occupational phenomenon,” rather than a medical condition, and defines it as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” According to WHO, burnout is “characterized by three dimensions: 

  • “Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 
  • “Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; 
  • “Reduced professional efficacy.” 

Whether due to full-blown burnout, symptoms of the occupational phenomenon or other factors, these factors have undoubtably contributed to the Great Resignation. The net effect has been, as Time reported, “Every month from April to August 2021, at least 2.5% of the American workforce quit their jobs. In August alone, more than 4.2 million people handed in their two weeks’ notice, according to federal statistics.” 

Employer Support and Employee Retention 

A recent exploration by CNBC poses the question, “Companies prioritized mental health during Covid, so why are we still so burned out?” 

“During the spring and summer of 2020, in response to the health crisis and then a national recognition of racial disparities, leaders shepherded workers to existing mental health resources like employee resource groups and crisis hotlines,” CNBC notes. “They unveiled new perks to help people process the unrelenting pace of change, such as access to teletherapy, subscriptions to mental health and meditation apps, resiliency coaching and paid time off.” 

Nevertheless, in 2021, workers feel employer support for their mental health is declining, according to a new report from meQuilibrium. The reason, meQuilibrium’s chief science officer told CNBC, is that many organizations “now have to turn around and figure out how to be competitive, make money and change their business for a new era of work.” 

The authors of the McKinsey report cite three actions companies can take to alleviate burnout and counter the Great Resignation:  

  1. “Set company-wide working norms to take some of the pressure off managers;  
  2. “Equip managers with the training and resources they need to lead;  
  3. “Formally recognize their efforts by making managers’ support of their employees part of their performance reviews.” 

 At Alera Group, we incorporate such measures while offering clients as well as employees an integrated approach to wellness that includes: 

  • Wellbeing culture and consulting 
  • Thought leadership and education 
  • Assessment and data collection 
  • Innovative and engaging platforms and programs 
  • Enhanced and novel solutions. 

It’s an approach designed to improve employees’ working conditions and help employers engage, support, retain and attract top talent

Next Steps 

A one-hour webinar isn’t a panacea for burnout or its symptoms, but Alera Group’s November 18 presentation will answer questions and offer solutions. Participants will come away with resources and strategies to better take care of their own mental health, and that of their team, during this busy time of year. 

To register, click on the link below. 

REGISTER FOR THE WEBINAR 


About the Author  

Andrea Davis
Director of Wellbeing
Alera Group Northeast 

As the Director of Wellbeing, Andrea Davis is responsible for assisting with the development, implementation and evaluation of comprehensive wellbeing strategies for existing and prospective Alera Group Northeast clients.  

Contact information: 

Wellbeing Resources: Fall Cooking, Overcoming Burnout and More

Posted on October 25th, 2021

When it comes to wellbeing, employers often find themselves challenged by how to approach a shift from a traditional wellness model to a comprehensive and holistic program that supports the whole person. Here's how we can help

Career Wellbeing

  • The Seven Secrets of Indra Nooyi’s Success – As a woman who was formerly the PepsiCo CEO, Nooyi has many lessons to share from her years working to lead a company through change and see around the corners. Here are 7 important themes she touches on in her most recent book, My Life in Full, that give some perspective into how she managed her successful career as well as the many relationships in her life. 

Social & Family Wellbeing

  • Three Steps to Understanding Your Partner’s Emotions – It’s not uncommon to get angry or overheated when talking about emotions. Many of us are not that proficient at processing our own feelings, let alone trusting that another person will be interested in hearing about them. Furthermore, many of us are not that skilled in listening to others without devaluating, defensiveness, or debate. Here are three steps that are essential in creating honest, open communication with your partner. 

Financial Wellbeing

  • How Rising Energy Prices Can Affect Your Wallet – Energy prices going up can impact your budget in a big way. And unfortunately, oil prices are up more than 65% and natural gas prices have more than doubled so far this year. This article will get you up to speed on what this means for your bottom line as well as how you can prep your finances for upcoming price increases.

Physical Wellbeing

  • 12 Fall Vegetables You Should Know How to Cook – While it’s sad to see the summer vegetables disappear, there is an excitement that comes with the more interesting vegetables of fall. Here are 12 popular fall vegetables and some quick cooking advice for each one. 
  • The Best Kale Salad of All Time – Whether you are a kale lover or just curious about kale, this is the salad for you! I have made this salad for a wide variety of friends and family and one thing remains constant…. I always get asked for the recipe. Enjoy!

Emotional Wellbeing

  • For Happiness, Less Really is More: 6 Creative Ways to Actually Subtract – After being in lockdown for so many months, our instinct might be to ‘do it all’ once again once we can fully reenter our lives. But what if less is more? Here are six methods to find greater happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction through subtracting rather than adding. 
  • Are You Burned Out or Is It Something Else? When feelings related to work stress become debilitating, we often automatically assume we are experiencing burnout. But not all feelings associated with work stress are consistent with the full psychological syndrome of burnout. This piece offers three questions to ask yourself to help you determine whether the feelings you have are consistent with burnout or if they’re something less serious that could lead to burnout if left unchecked. 

Community Wellbeing

  • Ways to Give Back to Your Community on a Budget – When you are on a tight budget, it can be difficult to give away some of that much-needed money to a charitable organization. If you still feel the call to help your community even when you’re on a thin budget, you deserve some commendation. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to give back to your community on a budget. Some of them take more time and effort than others, but this article should give you a few good ideas for figuring out what works best for your unique situation.

Employer Focused Wellbeing

  • Companies Prioritized Mental Health During COVID-19, So Why Are We Still So Burned Out? Employers have made sweeping investments to help employees manage their mental wellbeing through COVID-19. But with all the mental health benefits employees now have at their disposal, little about the demands of work got better and as a result, more workers are burning out, moving to new jobs or dropping out of the workforce. This article offers a great perspective on what else must change to further move the needle on mental health for employees. 
  • Virtual Pizza Parties, Pet Adoption Fees and On-Demand Babysitters: How the Pandemic Changed Employee Perks – As companies across many industries navigate the future of work — with some employees working permanently at home and others slowly returning to the office — they’re experimenting with how best to offer their scattered workforces perks to help keep employees motivated.
  • Mental Health: Managing Stress & Year-End Burnout – As we enter the end of 2021, many of us may already be feeling the impact of stress and burnout creeping into our teams. As a people manager and/or organizational leader, taking care of your mental health and the mental wellbeing of your employees is critical during the end of a busy year. This webinar will be held on November 18th at 2 PM ET. 

 

Alera Group Bolsters HR Consulting and Communications Services with Acquisition of Blue Communications

Posted on October 25th, 2021

Alera Group, a top independent, national insurance and wealth management firm, today announced it has acquired Blue Communications, one of the nation’s premier HR consulting and communications agencies specializing in internal communications, well-being program development, diversity, equity & inclusion culture and strategy, development and implementation and organizational change management.

“Our approach combines deep subject matter knowledge with fresh ideas and solutions to generate interest, understanding and action among employees at companies of all sizes including large global corporations,” said Pam Little, Founder and CEO at Blue Communications. “We are thrilled to join Alera Group and bring our unique perspective to the employee benefits practice and scale our solutions throughout Alera’s 120 offices.”

For nearly 25 years, Blue’s leading HR consulting and communications solutions have helped businesses navigate significant benefit, compensation, organizational, workforce and business changes with effective communications strategies. The agency is headquartered in Hollywood, California and has eight locations across the country. Since its founding in 1997, Blue has won more than 100 awards for communications excellence.

“Blue Communications is a highly creative and effective resource for internal communications,” said Alan Levitz, CEO of Alera Group. “Additionally, its expanded services around D&I consulting, holistic well-being, recognition programs and change management strategy makes them an exciting addition to Alera Group, as we look to further expand our services in HR consulting.”

The Blue Communications team will continue serving clients in its existing roles. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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About Alera Group

Alera Group is an independent, national insurance and wealth management firm with more than $850 million in annual revenue, offering comprehensive employee benefits, property and casualty insurance, retirement services and wealth management solutions to clients nationwide. By working collaboratively across specialties and geographies, Alera Group’s team of more than 3,000 professionals in more than 120 offices provides creative, competitive services that help ensure a client’s business and personal success. For more information, visit www.jmjwebconsulting.com or follow us on LinkedIn.    

 

Bagwell & Bagwell Insurance Joins Alera Group

Posted on October 22nd, 2021

Alera Group, a top independent, national insurance and wealth management firm, today announced it has acquired Bagwell & Bagwell Insurance, a leading property and casualty agency providing risk management and personal and commercial insurance to clients from the coast to the mountains of North Carolina.

“Bagwell & Bagwell Insurance has been in business for more than 100 years and is one of the most trusted agencies in the market,” said Alan Levitz, CEO of Alera Group. “Each team holds a firm belief in the value of the independent agency and embraces the opportunity to offer personalized products for each unique client. We’re pleased to welcome them into the Alera Group family.”

Founded in 1919, Bagwell & Bagwell is Raleigh, North Carolina’s oldest independent insurance agency serving clients for more than three generations. The firm brings an extensive list of reputable insurance carriers and provides extensive personal lines and commercial lines solutions. Bagwell & Bagwell’s holistic risk management philosophy leverages loss control resources to build a comprehensive risk management program and help clients prevent claims and better protect their assets.

“Our team is comprised of a group of talented, knowledgeable, and dedicated individuals; all of whom are committed to continuing our tradition as North Carolina's leading independent agency,” said Haynes Sherron, co-owner of Bagwell & Bagwell. “Access to multiple carriers allows us to explore the insurance marketplace and focus our energy on finding the best solution for our clients’ unique coverage needs. We’re excited to join Alera Group’s robust property and casualty practice.”

“For more than a century, Bagwell & Bagwell has served clients throughout North Carolina and throughout the country, and we are thrilled to enhance that service with the robust resources available as part of Alera Group,” added Clark Woodard, co-owner of Bagwell & Bagwell.

The Bagwell & Bagwell team will continue serving clients in its existing roles. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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About Alera Group

Alera Group is an independent, national insurance and wealth management firm with more than $850 million in annual revenue, offering comprehensive employee benefits, property and casualty, retirement services and wealth management solutions to clients nationwide. By working collaboratively across specialties and geographies, Alera Group’s team of more than 3,000 professionals in more than 120 offices provides creative, competitive services that help ensure a client’s business and personal success. For more information, visit www.jmjwebconsulting.com or follow us on LinkedIn.   

Is Your Insurance Program Aligned with Your Behavioral Telehealth Services?

Posted on October 20th, 2021

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced health-service providers to move patient appointments from offices to online platforms, behavioral health practitioners were already well-suited for the telehealth medium. Unlike, say, orthopedic surgeons, behavioral health practitioners could deliver most of their care modalities online, enabling them not only to continue services but to expand them. 

So when the pandemic increased the demand for behavioral healthcare — not only because of a growing need brought on by heightened levels of stress but also due to the de-stigmatization of behavioral health treatment — providers who still had openings for new patients quickly found their calendars fully booked with telehealth appointments. In fact, demand for online mental health services is so great, the Boston Globe recently reported, “It’s becoming impossible to find a therapist.” 

Given the demand for behavioral health services, the convenience of telehealth for both patients and practitioners and the suitability of the medium for the delivery of services, it appears behavioral telehealth may be not only the “new normal” for the pandemic but also the primary solution to service needs for the long term — at least when service needs are limited to counseling and where delivery is viable. 

Yet with new service-delivery practices and new technology come new risks and the need to manage them. The rapid adoption of telehealth has introduced or broadened multiple exposures, especially those related to cyber liability and technology errors and omissions (E&O).  

As Insurance Business magazine reported in its April 2021 article “The rise of telehealth”: “The digital transfer of information between patient and provider, followed by the online storage of healthcare data, can be a tempting draw for cybercriminals. Theft of healthcare records is arguably the most lucrative form of cybercrime; a healthcare data record can be valued at up to $250 on the illegal market. By comparison, a payment card is valued at just $5.40, according to Trustwave.” 

With that in mind, behavioral health providers should be asking themselves: Is my insurance program aligned with my practice’s telehealth services? 

General Coverage Needs 

For obvious reasons, all healthcare practices need to protect themselves with insurance covering general and professional liability, including MedMal Insurance. Larger telehealth practices that utilize customized platforms should carefully evaluate their technology exposures. Finally, the explosive growth in ransomware attacks over the past two years has made cyber insurance top-of-mind for businesses of all kinds, though, as the industry website GoodTherapy reports, too many practitioners overlook this important coverage. 

“Mental health practitioners have a legal and ethical duty to protect their clients’ privacy,” GoodTherapy notes. “Cybersecurity attacks can expose clients to financial harm, fraud, and even physical danger when abusive partners and other criminals seek access to private data.” 

“Many therapists think their businesses are too small to warrant the attention of cyber criminals, but 58% of cyber attacks in 2017 targeted small businesses. These attacks can be devastating. In some cases, they even include exorbitant ransom fees to regain access to critical data. Sixty percent of small businesses go out of business within six months of an attack. You may also face lawsuits and licensing board complaints from clients. If your security practices are severely or knowingly negligent, you could even face criminal charges.”  

Customized Coverage 

While blanket insurance solutions are available to behavioral health practices, the customized coverage a knowledgeable, experienced agent or broker can write is advisable to: 

  • Meet your practice’s specific needs. Just as each of your patients is unique, so is your practice. Where you’re located, how many employees you have, areas of specialty – all are vital considerations in determining what coverages you need and how much those coverages will cost. If your coverage isn’t designed specifically for your practice and your risks, it may include gaps that leave you unprotected against certain claims, and it may include unnecessary coverage that drives up your premium.  
  • Comply with state regulations, especially those related to MedMal. State regulations surrounding physician MedMal coverage vary widely, so MedMal Insurance cannot be a one-size-fits-all product. It’s important to work with an agent who can review your policy and, if you do business in multiple states, ensure the policy complies with requirements.  
  • Ensure you’re not overpaying. Quotes on coverage vary from carrier to carrier and underwriter to underwriter. Working with an independent agent or broker who knows your industry and understands your practice enables you to market your practice to multiple carriers and ensure an exemplary claims history is duly recognized during the underwriting process.  

As a behavioral healthcare professional, you understand the benefits of working with a specialist. Alera Group has a specialty division devoted to healthcare professional liability, Alera HPL, which includes medical professionals and associates in offices around the country. 

Whitepaper: 'Cyber Risk in a Post-COVID Landscape' 

Cyber exposures and breaches have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with consequences that are far-ranging in both depth and scope. Organizations that don’t keep up and adapt run the risk of breach and damage that could be irreparable.  

To help behavioral health providers and other businesses protect themselves, Alera Group has created an in-depth guide to managing cyber risk, “Cyber Risk in a Post-COVID Landscape.” In it, you’ll find information on topics including: 

  • Recent trends and claims 
  • Cybersecurity plans and functions 
  • Resilience 
  • Risk management  
  • Insurance 
  • Claims 
  • Compliance 
  • Best practices 
  • Anticipated risks. 

To obtain the whitepaper, click on the link below. 

GET THE WHITEPAPER 

About the Author  

Jason P. Shah, MD
Managing Partner
Alera Group Healthcare Team 

Contact information: 

Jason P. Shah, MD leads the Alera healthcare liability team and has helped develop Alera's healthcare practice into a national leader. He has a background in medicine, information technology and business development. Jason utilizes his physician experience and insurance expertise to develop risk management and insurance programs for hospitals, health systems, physician groups and other healthcare practices around the country. Jason studied computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago and later completed his MD from the UIC College of Medicine. 

Alera Group Names Kathy Seabold as Senior Vice President of Marketing

Posted on October 18th, 2021

Deerfield, IL., October 11, 2021 — Alera Group, a leading independent, national insurance and wealth management firm, today announced the appointment of Kathy Seabold as Senior Vice President of Marketing. In this new role reporting to Alera Group President, Jim Blue, Seabold will be responsible for corporate brand management and developing marketing strategies and programs that help drive revenue growth nationally and throughout Alera Group’s 120 locations. 

Seabold brings more than 20 years of experience in building marketing programs that produce measurable business impact. She most recently served as Executive Director of Marketing and Content at JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking. At Alera Group, Seabold will play a critical role in supporting continued acquisitions and organic growth by forging collaborative partnerships with the sales organization, practice leadership and the many subject matter experts across the organization. She will oversee all external communications, digital marketing, public relations and creative services teams.

“We are a company that values collaboration for the benefit of our clients, and Kathy is a seasoned veteran with a proven leadership style and a history of building client-centered teams,” said Blue. “She will be instrumental in amplifying the Alera Group brand and developing strategic marketing programs that allow producers and advisors to have more productive conversations with prospective and current clients. We are fortunate to have such an outstanding professional join our leadership team, and we warmly welcome her to the company.”

“I have been impressed by the rapid growth of Alera Group and its remarkable focus on enhancing the client experience,” said Seabold. “I am honored to join the team and look forward to working nationally and locally to further strengthen the company’s leadership position.” 

Seabold holds an MBA in International Marketing from DePaul University and a Bachelor of Arts from Northern Illinois University. She will be based out of the Greater Chicago area.

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About Alera Group

Alera Group is an independent, national insurance and wealth management firm with more than $850 million in annual revenue, offering comprehensive employee benefits, property and casualty insurance, retirement services and wealth management solutions to clients nationwide. By working collaboratively across specialties and geographies, Alera Group’s team of more than 3,000 professionals in more than 120 offices provides creative, competitive services that help ensure a client’s business and personal success. For more information, visit www.jmjwebconsulting.com or follow us on LinkedIn.    

Education, mitigation the keys to ransomware risk management and cyber expenses

Posted on October 15th, 2021

No cybersecurity program is invulnerable to ransomware or other form of attack. No firewall is impenetrable, no organization immune to breach.  

The most sophisticated cybercriminals typically are a step or two ahead of the world’s foremost security experts and light years beyond the general public — hence the time-worn saying that an attack isn’t a matter of “if”; it’s a matter of “when.” The best we can do is to mitigate the risk of attack, protecting ourselves with cybersecurity products, policies and procedures, along with a custom-designed program of cyber insurance. 

Sadly, too many organizations find this out the hard way. Some pay a steep price in time, money and reputation before implementing the risk management program they should have established before a breach. Others never recover. 

Why the delays in implementation? Two main reasons: 

  1. Insufficient information. Otherwise savvy business people often don’t understand the range and scope of cyber vulnerabilities, underestimating the number of ways hackers can extract data and currency, and failing to recognize the extent of the damage a breach can cause. 
  2. Cost. State-of-the-industry cyber security is expensive, and the price of cyber insurance — once a greatly underappreciated bargain — has escalated significantly as attacks have become both more common and more exorbitant in recent years. In response to the number and scale of breaches, insurance carriers have become increasingly selective and restrictive in terms of capacity, forcing consumers into secondary markets, where premiums are even higher. 

The first steps to addressing these issues are education and mitigation. Learning more about the exposures your organization faces and the protection available to respond to the inherent risks won’t prevent attacks, but it will put you in better position to defend against them and respond in the event an attack is successful. Preparing for attacks with the three P’s of risk mitigation — products, policies and procedures — will make you more attractive in the insurance marketplace, increasing the likelihood an underwriter will agree to coverage and positioning yourself for more favorable terms and premiums. 

Just as businesses protect themselves with risk management programs for workplace safety, driver safety and property safety, they should have in place a program for cyber safety for protection against inevitable and relentless attacks.  

Ransomware Awareness 

At the very core of the rise in cyber insurance costs and reduction in carrier capacity is ransomware, the No. 1 issue in all matters cyber today. As the insurance industry publication Carrier Management explains: “Ransomware is a form of malware that enters an insured’s network (and causes) an encryption of data and systems, rendering them unusable until the victim restores their data and systems from backups, and incurs the relevant business interruption costs, or the victim pays a ransom demand to the hacker to provide safe return of the encryption key to restore access to the data and systems.” 

Carrier Management cites a study by the ransomware mediation firm Coveware that shows the average ransom payment in the first quarter of 2021 approaching $221,000, up from the “low hundreds of dollars” in the third quarter of 2018. Ransomware is why on October 13-14, 2021, the Biden administration hosted a meeting of ministers and senior officials from more than 30 countries (excluding Russia) and the European Union to address such attacks and how to combat them, and it’s why businesses are finding cyber insurance both more expensive and more restrictive. 

While other lines of coverage experienced rate increases amid a hard market for property and casualty insurance over the past two years, pricing for cyber insurance has increased most dramatically during the past six months. As Steve Robinson, Cyber Practice Leader of Risk Placement Services, noted in a recent video, this ransomware-driven inflation will continue, accompanied by tighter underwriting, restricted coverage terms, increased deductibles, the addition of co-insurance with lower available limits of liability. 

Global summit and price mediation notwithstanding, the rise in number and scope of ransomware attacks is expected to continue, with the most frequent targets in industries including public entities, government, education, manufacturing, construction and healthcare. 

Specialized Consultants and Services 

Insurance is the ultimate backstop when it comes to mitigating cyber risk, but how it plays is directly related to preparedness. The level of protection cyber insurance provides, how it responds in the event of a breach, what it costs to put the protection in place – all are contingent on risk prevention and risk mitigation. 

Most middle-market businesses have an IT director who focuses on maintaining the organization’s network — including protecting it with anti-virus and cybersecurity software — but not necessarily on other forms of cyber protection. Organizations need to engage outside resources to fill in the gaps, to: 

  • Implement penetration tests — benign breaches by ethical, so-called “white hat” hackers — and provide risk-vulnerability assessments; 
  • Monitor network security 24/7, just as criminal cyber organizations work around the clock; 
  • Educate employees on identifying potential business email compromise and the cyber social engineering tactic known as phishing
  • Design and, when necessary, implement a disaster recovery program including mandated reporting and notification, as well as public-relations response. 

Cyber Risk in a Post-COVID Landscape 

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a perfect storm of events that exposed organizations to increased, emerging and atypical cyber risks. Work from home (WFH), cloud computing, 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) all existed before the novel coronavirus, but the pandemic made them ubiquitous, expanding personal and organizational vulnerabilities and exponentially expanding opportunities for cyber criminals. According to a 2021 report by Cybercrime Magazine, global cybercrime already is responsible for the greatest transfer of wealth in history, with the cost of attacks expected to grow by 15 percent annually over the next five years – up to $10.5 trillion by 2025. 

To help organizations combat this wave of cybercrime, Alera Group has created a guide to best-in-class loss prevention, risk mitigation and insurance coverage placement. In our new whitepaper “Cyber Risk in a Post-COVID Landscape,” you’ll find information on topics including: 

  • Establishing priorities 
  • Recent trends and claims 
  • Cybersecurity plans and functions 
  • Resilience 
  • Risk management  
  • Insurance 
  • Claims 
  • Compliance 
  • Cyber insurance market outlook 
  • Best practices 
  • Anticipated risks 
  • Reimagining cyber protection through a holistic approach. 

To obtain the whitepaper, click on the link below. 

GET THE WHITEPAPER 

About the Author  

Stephen Paulin, CIC
Cyber Risk Strategist
Orion Risk Management, an Alera Group Company 

Stephen Paulin, a Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC), has more than 35 years of experience as a risk strategist helping privately held, mid-market businesses reach their profit goals by improving risk management outcomes that optimize the insurance program’s financial efficiency and produce better long-term business performance. Steve’s innovative, results-driven approach, exacting research and diagnostic process make businesses safer, more productive and profitable by delivering a proven methodology to: 

  • Identify the risks facing your business 
  • Develop strategies to mitigate the total cost of risk 
  • Attain “best in class” status to create intense competition in the insurance marketplace 
  • Deliver personalized metrics to measure broker performance and ROI, and to achieve improved bottom-line results. 

Contact information: 

Wellbeing Resources: Task Prioritization, Working Parents and More

Posted on October 11th, 2021

When it comes to wellbeing, employers often find themselves challenged by how to approach a shift from a traditional wellness model to a comprehensive and holistic program that supports the whole person.

Career Wellbeing

  • 10 Things We Don’t Do That Help Us Get Our Important Tasks Done – When we talk about productivity, we typically lean into tips and tricks that help us cross everything off our to-do lists. But oftentimes, the little things we don’t do are what help us ultimately accomplish the most important tasks. Which of these can you give up?
  • Are You Suffering from Collaboration Overload? Are we too eager to jump into (or be nudged into) collaborative projects that might run just fine without us? The benefits of collaboration are bountiful but excessive collaboration can create superfluous meetings, emails, slack messages, etc. Here are the 9 most common beliefs, motivators, and triggers that put people into collaboration overload and some tips on what you can do about it. 

Social & Family Wellbeing

  • Reminder: Whenever You Say “Yes” to Something, You’re Saying “No” to Something Else – We identify with being busy, and we think being busy will take us towards our best work but that’s because we’re blinded to the long-term costs. Saying “yes” might mean saying “no” to exercise, dinner with our family or even just downtime to do some reading. Here are some thoughts on how to say “yes” to our most important work and also say “yes” to the time needed for the things that are most important to us personally.
  • How to Get Kids to Tell You About Their Day – If the response from your child to the question “how was your day” maxes out at “fine”, you are not alone. Here are some strategies to help kids open up

Financial Wellbeing

  • Estate Planning 101 – Whether you’re just settling into your career, or you’ve been working hard and achieving your financial goals for years, estate planning can help formally protect your assets, allow you to have control over your health care decisions, and provide for loved ones. Join Principal for a webinar to learn what’s included in an estate plan and the steps you can take to create one, so your wishes are carried out the way you choose. Join the event on Wednesday, October 30th at 12 PM ET. 
  • 8 Tips to Help You Control Holiday Spending – Think you can't get through the holidays without spending a fortune? It can be easy to go overboard on holiday shopping, but with a little bit of planning and budgeting, it is possible to celebrate without spending your last dime. Use these eight practical tips to ensure you stay on budget for the new year.

Physical Wellbeing

  • The Podcast for All Things Sleep – Dr. Matt Walker is a Professor of Neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley, a recognized expert in the world of sleep. This podcast is all about sleep, the brain, and your body. All episodes are kept to short, 10-minute segments for ease of listening.
  • How to Master Hunger and Cravings – Many people feel like their food cravings control them and that a lack of willpower is driving their weight gain. The truth is that our modern diet, elevated stress, and inadequate sleep has impaired the body’s system to manage our hormones and control appetite. In this podcast, Dr. Elizabeth Boham discusses how our bodies may get off track and strategies to help the body regulate hunger naturally. 

Emotional Wellbeing

  • The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time – Recent studies show that taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy and facilitates clear and creative thinking. Here are four practical ideas to help busy people cultivate periods of sustained quiet time. 
  • Mental Health Resources Guide for Individuals – From apps to podcasts to YouTube channels to organizations, there are many tools out there to support our mental health. Please peruse this curated resource list to see which items might be helpful for you. 

Community Wellbeing

  • Meet the Photographers Who Volunteer Their Time to Help Pets Get Adopted – Many pets who enter shelters, understandably, can be scared and nervous. When the pet has their photo taken to appear in online adoption searches, families see a picture of a scared animal and they can’t visualize that pet in their home. A Tampa couple, photographers, have spent much of their free time over the past 5 years photographing shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to help them get adopted. See this heartwarming 4-minute video story. 

Employer Focused Wellbeing

  • “Parenting Loudly” is the Secret Anti-Stress Weapon for Working Parents – Over the last 18 months, the realities of daily life have made it difficult for most employees to hide their parenting struggles (e.g., toddlers walking in on a zoom meeting). What if, instead of hiding the messiness of life as a parent, we openly acknowledged there are times we need to step away to deal with family needs? Read on to learn about how to embrace “Parenting Loudly” at work to allow employees to feel more connected to their organizations and to alleviate some of the stress many workers are feeling. 
  • It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work – In 2019, employers were just starting to grasp the prevalence of mental health challenges at work, the need to address stigma, and the emerging link to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). One silver lining amid all the disruption and trauma over the last two years is the normalization of these challenges. In Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work Report, the authors offer an excellent comparison of the state of mental health, stigma, and work culture in U.S. workplaces before and during the pandemic. They also present a summary of what they learned and their recommendations for what employers need to do to support their employees’ mental health.

Health Plan Forecasting: How Analysis and Budgeting Lead to Long-Term Success

Posted on October 5th, 2021

Many organizations have a goal of making their group health plan expenditures cost-neutral for the coming fiscal year. Although that may sound sensible, viewing healthcare spending on an annual basis is actually a bit myopic, disregarding the volatility of healthcare expenses from year to year while overlooking needs and challenges that may lie ahead.  

COVID-19 has created an environment of uncertainty for companies when it comes to forecasting and budgeting. From a budgeting perspective in particular, remaining cost-neutral may be required for your company’s total employee benefits spend. And just as your overall business plan is long-term, your strategic plan for group healthcare should go well beyond the coming year.  

Constructing your healthcare budget should be a methodical process of analysis and financial planning that: 

  1. Aims to achieve cost neutrality over a period of three to five years; 
  2. Takes into account the organization’s Total Rewards program, rather than your group health plan alone; 
  3. Reduces impact of changes to the plan on current employees. 

Having a longer-term plan enables an organization to anticipate extraordinary occurrences and, when they happen, place them in a broader context, lessening the impact of a single, costly event on the healthcare budget. Determining the features and offerings of a group health plan based on the goals of a Total Rewards program enables the organization to make its overall budget cost-effective while offering compensation that attracts and retains a talented workforce. 

To help you protect your organization’s long-term future, join Alera Group on Thursday, October 21, for a one-hour webinar, “Forecasting to Avoid Surprises in Your Healthcare Budget.” Members of our consulting and finance teams will provide guidance on: 

  • Assessing your group health plan 
  • Implementing a long-term strategy 
  • Containing costs  
  • Aligning your Total Rewards offerings with a long-term strategy for sustained growth that includes attracting and retaining talent. 

In addition to gaining invaluable insights, participants who remain online for the duration of the 1-2 p.m. CDT presentation will be eligible for continuing education credits from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). 

Benefits of Financial Analysis and Long-Term Planning 

While the hallmark of a smooth-running business is the simplicity of its day-to-day operations, achieving such simplicity requires complex thinking and hard work. You spend the time designing and constructing your group health plan so when the time comes for your employees to use it, they have the benefits they need and the resources to implement them. 

Elements of a carefully designed healthcare program typically include: 

  • Benefit-level options — Also known as “metal categories,” these range from bronze (lowest monthly premiums, highest point-of-care costs), (highest monthly premiums, low deductibles and point-of care costs), with silver and gold in between. 
  • Plan type — The most common of these are health maintenance organizations (HMOs), preferred provider organizations (PPOs), exclusive provider organizations (EPOs), point-of-service (POS) plans and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). 
  • savings account component — The health plan you design may offer a flexible savings account (FSA), which the employee can control; a health savings account (HSA), which allows contributions to roll over; or you may offer employs the option of choosing. Employers who offer an HSA may also offer a limited-purchase FSA (LPFSA), which is applicable only to dental and vision expenses. 
  • Use of a prescription benefits manager (PBM) — As BenefitsPro recently noted, “With robust access to pharmacy data … PBMs can identify opportunities to recover claims, provide education or apply controls to prevent financial loss, improve safety and support claims integrity." 
  • Stop-loss insurance — This provides organizations that opt for greater control of healthcare spending by self-insuring their medical benefits programs with protection against catastrophic or unpredictable losses. 

With prescription drug prices soaring and the COVID-19-driven Great Resignation largely excluding older workers who fear losing valuable benefits, many employers are finding their drug expenditures increasing exponentially. In a recent article underscoring the importance of financial analysis and long-term planning, Harvard Business Review cites workers ages 60 to 70 as the only age demographic experiencing a decrease in pandemic-era job resignations, compared to those ages 25 to 30 and 30 to 45. The piece goes on to outline “three steps that can help any employer more effectively leverage data to improve employee retention”: 

  1. Quantify the problem. 
  2. Identify the root causes. 
  3. Develop tailored retention programs. 

All great suggestions. As for the problem of prescription drug spending, forecasting may also lead you to explore other PBMs – a step that not only could lower costs but also provide your employees with better medications.  

Success Through Collaboration 

Designing a robust yet cost-efficient Total Rewards program — including a valuable group health plan — requires the collaboration of experts from various departments and organizations, including an employee benefits broker who can provide state-of-the-industry products and services. Alera Group is built on a culture of collaboration, with experts in benefits, property and casualty insurance, wealth services and retirement plan services working together and with our clients to provide holistic, forward-thinking solutions. 

You’ll experience some of that collaboration during our October 21 webinar, as members of our team combine their knowledge of data analytics, financial planning and health insurance to help you forecast your long-term healthcare expenses and construct a budget that protects your organization while meeting your employees’ needs.  

REGISTER FOR THE WEBINAR 


About the Author 

Jessica Proctor
Senior Financial Analyst
Lighthouse, an Alera Group Company 

Jessica Proctor has almost 15 years’ experience in healthcare-related financial analysis and planning, including her current role as Senior Financial Analyst with Lighthouse, an Alera Group Company. She combines a passion for employee wellness with a clear-eyed approach to analyzing, planning and budgeting employee benefit plans of value to both employee and employer. 

Contact information: 

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