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Fast Forward Blog

Hiring well, and whether offering health care will be your job in the future

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Hope Stephan
Hope Stephan

Short week, short blog? Let's get down to business, since that's what we're all here for.

At the Business Journal's annual Health Care Symposium on Friday, the keynote speaker made a point that really resonated. Brian Melanson, who is director of distribution and ancillary strategy for Premera Blue Cross near Seattle, spoke in detail about how the health insurance landscape is changing – now and over the next few years.

Choice -- thanks to what we used to call the exchanges but the government has dubbed "marketplaces" – is going to throw a lot of responsibility back onto consumers as they sort through their options, and that will create opportunities for businesses as they craft those offerings.

He noted that the PPACA has traditional retailers such as Wal-Mart eyeing the new insurance market, and he offered the provocative thought that, within a decade, employer-sponsored health insurance as we know it will be a thing of the past.

Then he said this about the decisions employers need to make now about how they will move forward with their employees' benefits packages: Do you consider your employees an asset or an expense?

The way you answer that question will guide how you make your choices for them and your business, he said.

That rather brings us back, I think, to the origins of employer-provided health care as a way to retain workers and boost their compensation without giving them taxable cash. What started as a company-specific perk became a broad expectation and may go back to being a perk in some form.

Perks tie into hiring and retaining the right people. And that was a topic at the conference I attended last month. Never have recruiting and "fit" been more challenging for businesses, for a variety of reasons. I've touched on this before, so let's, uh, just fast forward, shall we?

Here was my takeaway from the excellent sessions presented to editors at the AABP conference in Nashville by Butch Ward, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute:

By the time we get to the interview stage with a job candidate, we're predisposed toward them already, he noted. We delve into the usual in that face-to-face meeting (career goals, interpersonal skills and so on) but rarely do we ask ourselves a key question.

"What is this person going to need from me?"

The question isn't necessarily aimed at training or job support but opens up a broader discussion of how you're going to keep this person when (let's be positive here) he or she turns out to be an asset to your organization. When valuable staffers are getting ready to go out the door is not the time to wonder what you can do to stop them.

You start at day one. And there's no cookie-cutter solution.

The week ahead

By the time you read this, we should know whether the state has a third-in-a-row on-time budget. If the answer is yes, reporter Jason Scott will have a business-centric look at those who promise to be the winners and losers in the coming year's fiscal plan.

Meanwhile, the second major summer holiday arrives this week – and with July 4 on a Thursday, a lot of people are looking forward to a nice, long four-day weekend. That includes us here at the Business Journal, where our offices will be closed both Thursday and Friday. (Thanks, Dave!)

Kurt Bopp at our sister publication, Central Penn Parent, put together this guide to Independence Day fireworks in the midstate.

Of course, this is THE big week in Gettysburg, the peak of the Civil War 150 commemorations for Pennsylvania.

Whether you decide to be out and about or celebrate our country's freedoms in your own backyard, may your day be happy and safe.

Business, regardless of the shortened week, goes on, however. Here's a link to some midstate networking opportunities.

And the first week of a new month brings with it reports on construction (Monday) and factory orders and motor vehicles sales (Tuesday). With the consumer confidence index up, it will be interesting to see whether that's reflected yet in those numbers.

Friday, of course, brings the monthly unemployment report.

The rewind

Last week was filled with significant news, from a major policy speech on energy from the president and emotionally charged Supreme Court rulings on voter rights and marriage to the disappearance of NSA leaker Edward Snowden. And then a panda went missing from the National Zoo.

Here's how one daily newspaper made sense of the chaos on Tuesday.

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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