Can Manufacturing Overcome the Widening Skills Gap?

Can Manufacturing Overcome the Widening Skills Gap?Manufacturing has always correlated with rapid economic growth. Time and time again we’ve seen manufacturing businesses create jobs and elevate a community’s standard of living. The development of a factory is the saving grace of poor communities all over the world.

The International Monetary Fund and U.S. government projections expect our manufacturing sector to grow by 3 or 4 percent over the next two years. It’s good business for investors, too: we add $1.37 to our national economy for every dollar invested in manufacturing. Despite this optimistic future, the industry is poised to face some familiar challenges.

Like other wealthy nations, the general population of the United States is aging. By 2025, nearly 25% of all persons will be older than 60.

The manufacturing sector is experiencing this trend the hardest. In 2000, the median age of the manufacturing workforce was 40.5 years old. In 2012, the median age climbed to 44.7 years, significantly higher than other sectors.

This aging of the industry has created a skills gap that is getting wider every year. Over the next decade, two million of the available 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will go unfulfilled. Employers won’t be able to find skilled workers.

Experts believe the talent gap is caused by a number of reasons:

  1. Baby boomers are beginning to retire in tremendous numbers, leaving more positions vacant than the up-and-coming workforce can fill.
  2. Trending economic expansion continues to create more jobs (about 700,000 over the next decade) that can’t be filled.
  3. There is a negative image of the manufacturing industry among younger generations. Even though executives are willing to pay higher than market rate, positions remain unfilled.
  4. There has been a slow decline of technical education in public schools, leading to fewer graduates pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math degrees.

The Manufacturing Institute found that a majority of manufacturing executives consider talent loss their toughest struggle. They fear the skills gap will cause an inability to create and implement new technologies to meet customer demand and increase productivity. Naturally, these challenges will deter profitability and growth.

The industry has come become quite diverse. Automation, data, robotics and engineering play a big role in nearly every manufacturing facility in the United States. Manufacturing is expected to continue changing, which means the industry desperately needs tech-savvy young people who can adapt to new processes and technologies.e a long way. Instead of easy-to-replace repetitive jobs, industrial operations hav

Admittedly, attracting a new workforce is challenging. In order to maintain some manufacturing status in the global economy, we have to infuse the industry with younger talent. Companies need to feed young people’s interest and show that manufacturing can be a rewarding career.

This can be best achieved by creating partnerships with schools (at the secondary and collegiate levels) to invest in technical education and offering extra-curricular programs that inspire manufacturing-related skills.

To combat the skills gap, employers need to view training and workforce development as an investment in their company, not an inconvenient expense. They must build never-ending learning into their employees’ roles so skills can stay sharp and agile. Furthermore, they need to find effective ways to transfer the knowledge of their aging population to the young recruits or risk losing competitive advantages.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
Spring Hazards: Worker Safety During Warmer Weather

The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Private Pay Division

is a private pay division right for your business?Every day, countless patients are cared for by private nursing divisions of healthcare organizations. The National Association for Home Care estimates this is a $40 billion market.

These healthcare providers handle anything a patient needs. They assist with feeding and hygiene, transporting patients to appointments, wounds and injury care, medication organization and distribution, equipment maintenance, and countless other tasks.

These divisions employ licensed, qualified medical personnel who help patients manage complex medical tasks in their own home. They’re often available at all hours of the day.

But is a private pay division right for your business?

The advantages

Private duty nurses typically perform tasks that patients would otherwise handle themselves or get help from a friend or relative. Providing these solutions for your clients creates an additional revenue stream that doesn’t compete with your other services.

The services you provide can range widely, which puts your business in a flexible position. Not every home-based task requires an RN or LPN. Some patients need basic help at home (like preparing meals and bringing them to their doctor) while others need complex education and monitoring. Plus, you don’t have to expand into all home services at once, which may allow you to use existing resources to meet patients’ needs.

Furthermore, serving clients in their home opens new groups of clientele: patients who are well enough to stay home and patients who are unwilling to stay in a healthcare facility. In many cases, hospitalized patients are desperate to return home, but they still need care. Again, this is an entirely new revenue stream that your business shouldn’t ignore.

The disadvantages

Unfortunately, no business expansion is without risks.

First, there is always risk when an employee is sent into a client’s home. Employees are exposed to pathogens, blood borne illnesses, transportation accidents, pets, unsanitary conditions, and physical injuries due to unsafe environments and poor patient handling. These risks may create a liability.

Second, in most areas, your clientele is limited. Private care services are not cheap. Since private pay divisions don’t instigate insurance or Medicare claims, patients are billed the entire invoice. While there may be a serviceable short-term market, there aren’t many people willing to invest in long-term private care.

This means any healthcare organization with a private division is forced to engage in marketing to drum up business, which, naturally, affects the bottom line. You must grow your hiring, marketing, and clientele equally or risk inefficiency. 

Finally, you absolutely must conduct exceptional customer service. There’s no middle ground here. Unwell patients who invite strangers into their homes are in an extremely vulnerable position. The care provider must not only be supremely qualified, but he or she must have a pristine bed-side manner. If a patient is made to feel uncomfortable or disrespected, they will discontinue services.

Only you can decide if developing a private pay division for your healthcare organization is the right path. It’s a tricky business, but if you already offer numerous healthcare solutions and products, you’re likely to find success.

Heather Sinclair

Risk Management Consultant

The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Private Pay Division

Helping Your Employees Get the Most Out of Their Benefits – Part 2

Helping Your Employees Get the Most Out of Their Benefits – Part 2Employers know that carefully crafted benefits packages are an integral way to attract and keep the best talent. Employees are looking for more than base compensation: they want vacation time, retirement account access, on-the-job perks, and, of course, company subsidized health insurance.

Benefits packages aren’t just bonuses. 41% of employers say their benefits are a key component of their employee retention strategy because benefits can actually improve company loyalty.

But offering quality benefits packages isn’t enough. You have to make sure your employees actually use those benefits so they can realize that side of their compensation.

Make setting up benefits easy

Enrolling in health insurance, setting up a 401k, and even scheduling vacation time can be a challenge at some companies. Many employees don’t bother using their benefits because getting to them is a pain. If your employees can’t use their benefits, they essentially don’t exist.

In fact, a study in Health Services Research found that a large portion of work-related illnesses and injuries are never billed to worker’s comp insurance because employees aren’t aware it’s an option.

Use a system that allows employees to self-sign-up without bothering an office manager or human resources desk. Provide digital guides that clearly explain each step. If you do need them to talk with someone to set up their benefits, make sure this person is available all the time, not just during arbitrary enrollment periods.

Summarize benefits packages clearly

Many employees offer extensive benefits packages that can be quite complex. In fact, 40% don’t even understand their options.

If your employees don’t understand their benefits, they can’t use them properly. Most of your employees aren’t going to dig through their insurance packets or retirement account booklets. They are likely ignorant to many benefits that apply to them.

Use an online web portal or cloud-based documents to simply and clearly list the benefits that apply your employees and notify them when something changes. Ensure that there is always someone at your company (usually in HR) that thoroughly understands the benefits you offer.

Personalize their benefits

The best benefits packages are the ones your employees truly love. If you can appeal to their needs, you’ll build compensation packages your employees can’t find anywhere else.

For every employee, you surely have a number that accounts for their benefits package. Be willing to adjust this package based on your employees’ preferences. Instead of laying out a package, ask them directly what would make them happy. A younger person may be happy with a reduced healthcare plan in exchange for more vacation, whereas a family man/woman may trade in vacation time for a better health package.

Speak openly about your employees’ compensation

No, you shouldn’t announce everyone’s pay in a memo. But you should make it clear through positive interaction that your employees should be taking advantage of their benefits package because it’s part of their compensation. Instead of keeping quiet about that monthly gym membership to save a few dollars, encourage your staff to go with you to sign up. If your benefits package is well-budgeted, you shouldn’t hide it.

If you help your employees take full advantage of their benefits packages, you’ll foster a happy, loyal and productive workforce. Check out part one of this series for more tips!

Lori Newsome
Account Executive, Group Benefits

Sinclair 7-22-15-9



Screening, Managing and Terminating Your Healthcare Organization’s Volunteers

Helping Hands! Volunteers pack medicine. Shipping to needy countries.Millions of volunteers donate their time and sweat to healthcare organizations every year, fueled by their desire to support their communities. Whether they’re changing bedpans, entertaining kids, delivering meals, or providing disaster aide, volunteers are an important part of the healthcare industry.

Unfortunately, however, there are cases of volunteers causing harm due to malice or negligence. Healthcare organizations are challenged with using volunteers effectively without compromising the safety and care of their patients.

The first step to utilizing volunteers effectively and at scale is to hire a Volunteer Manager. This person should be in charge of screening, managing, and, if the need arises, terminating volunteers.

Screening your volunteers is essential, even if the volunteer isn’t directly involved with patients. Patients and parents want to know that your staff is safe and trustworthy. Failing to keep harmful people out of volunteer roles can damage your organization’s trust, which can erode community support and funding.

The goal of a background check is to verify the identity of the volunteer and uncover potential problems. These investigations look into criminal histories, sex offender status, and other records.

Your policies should identify volunteer positions that should be screened, identify the type of screening necessary for each position, how the background check will be conducted, and what sort of findings would disqualify an applicant.

If the volunteer is involved with any service that will be paid directly or indirectly by a federal care program, your healthcare organization is mandated by the Depart of Health and Human Services Office to screen them against the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities. The average penalty for failing to catch an excluded person is around $300,000; a serious blow for any healthcare agency.

Managing your volunteers means enacting a strategy that properly involves them. Volunteers should be strategically inserted into operations throughout your healthcare organization. They should be placed in natural, organic places where work needs doing, not standing along the sidelines until someone calls for help.

In many settings, medical professionals are forced to tolerate volunteers who get in the way more than they help, which harms the organization. Assign roles, duties and schedules to volunteers just as you would regular employees. The Volunteer Manager needs to work closely with the heads of other departments to ensure volunteers are being used effectively.

Terminating a volunteer can be just as stressful as firing an employee. There’s always the possibility of legal and political consequences. But the most important goal is the quality of your care to your patients, which means occasionally removing a volunteer.

First, make sure you’ve exhausted all alternatives. Attempt to supervise the volunteer more closely and enforce your rules, assign the volunteer to another position that might suit them better, re-train them in a particular task or technique, give them a break (even well-intentioned people burn out), or refer them to another healthcare agency setting where they may excel.

Second, use a system for all firing decisions that applies to volunteers as well. Usually these systems include conducting investigations and giving warnings/notices.

The actual termination is never pleasant, so do it in a private setting. Inform the volunteer of the termination; don’t argue about it or attempt to counsel.

Volunteers are an essential resource for all healthcare organizations, but only if they are used strategically and treated fairly. With their help, your organization will provide quality service to your community.

Heather Sinclair
Risk Management Consultant

Screening, Managing and Terminating Your Healthcare Organization’s Volunteers

The Key to Controlling your Workers’ Compensation Costs

The key to controlling your workers’ compensation costsThe key to controlling your workers’ compensation costs is understanding your experience modification factor and its effect on your insurance premium. Workers’ compensation costs can make or break your bottom line. But control over these costs is more attainable than you may think if you understand your experience modification factor and its effect on your insurance premium.

Use Your Mod Factor

The key to controlling your workers’ compensation costs is understanding your experience modification factor, or mod factor. Your mod factor is an adjustment to your workers’ compensation premium. It’s based on your company’s actual losses compared to its expected losses based on the industry you’re in.

The mod factor represents either a credit or a debit that is applied to your workers’ compensation premium. A mod factor greater than 1.0 is a debit mod, which means that your losses are worse than expected and a surcharge will be added to your premium. A mod factor less than 1.0 is a credit mod, which means losses are better than expected, resulting in a discounted premium.

If your mod factor is over 1.0, show management how controlling costs can save you money on your insurance premium when it falls below the 1.0 threshold.

Control Your Mod Factor

You may not know it, but you do have control over your mod factor—and control over your workers’ compensation premium.

Your mod is calculated based on data reported to the rating bureau by past insurers. Incorrect or incomplete data can cause inaccurate mod factors. Review your loss and payroll data to ensure that your calculation is complete and accurate.

You can also control your mod factor by encouraging everyone to focus on safety—especially management and anyone else who is involved in controlling costs. Everyone working safely means fewer accidents to report to your insurance carrier and a lower mod factor.

Control Costs with a Return to Work Program

Another way to control your costs is to establish a return to work program and give modified or light duties to injured workers who can return to work.

Finding modified or light-duty tasks may seem inconvenient, but this is an important way to reduce your workers’ compensation costs—you pay for fewer days away from work and you keep regular contact with employees, so you can see how their recovery is progressing. The most successful return to work programs can accommodate almost any restrictions. 

Workplace Policies Help Control Costs, Too

Your workplace policies should encourage safe working habits and prompt reporting of injuries and accidents. Many companies have accident reporting policies in place but do not bother to implement them, which is dangerous because employees’ injuries could go untreated and hazardous situations will not be improved.

When you receive a claim for an on-the-job accident or injury, report it to your workers’ compensation provider as soon as possible.

After an accident or injury, investigate the event right away. Prompt investigation helps you preserve evidence and can deter employees from making fraudulent claims in the future.

If workers’ compensation costs are hurting you financially or if you want to learn more about how your mod impacts your premiums, Sinclair Risk & Financial Management is your resource for policies and guides to keep your costs in check. We’re here to help you protect your company and your bottom line.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant

The key to controlling your workers’ compensation costs