One of the biggest challenges HR pros face is getting upper management to view them as trusted, vital partners – not a department that’s essentially an ever-expanding expense item and necessary evil.
During a presentation at the National Business Group on Health’s Workforce Strategy 2017 Conference, Comcast’s executive VP of HR, Bill Strahan, pulled back the curtain on his own strategy and offered some invaluable tips on how HR and benefits pros can speak C-Suite to get full support for their initiatives.
Here are some of the highlights of Strahan’s presentation:
1. Find the numbers
Your project may seem like a no-brainer to you, but upper management simply doesn’t see things the same as HR and benefits pros. All executives are numbers-oriented and need some concrete data to make any type of actionable decision.
With all of the tech advancements in HR and benefits, employers can measure virtually everything. So there’s no excuse for not presenting measurable data to the C-Suite.
Strahan himself used this strategy to convince Comcast’s CEO to invest in a leave-tracking software upgrade that wound up reducing the company’s leave of absence by a third and helped several other business areas.
2. Earn the right to invest in your benefits
Strahan raised some eyebrows when he said he never asks for money from execs. Instead, he treats the company’s benefits department as a business and expects upper management to respond accordingly.
Example: Strahan simply lays out what they’re going to spend on benefits and the very specific ways that spending is going to impact business (e.g., leaves of absence will be decreased by X, which will lead to X in savings).
And this isn’t something that takes place only during open enrollment. Every quarter, Strahan and his team report on progress of their benefits investments. In fact, they actually create a profit/loss statement for Benefits that accounts for all of the department’s spending and then lists the net outcome.
3. Stress the importance of personalization
To get the biggest bang for your Benefits’ buck, firms must find ways to tailor their offerings to their diverse workforces.
Strahan approaches this by thinking about benefits from a customer (i.e., employee) perspective. The company will develop different worker personas, roll out products to specific groups of personas for a year or two and then do a detailed analysis of the results. It’s led to some huge successes. Example: When the company invested in a personalized health assistance software program, 80% of its high-cost claims folks engaged with the program – and costs among this group decreased.
4. Collaborate with start-ups
Strahan says 10% of his department’s time and resources are dedicated to healthcare innovations. In other words, the company spends 10% of its time and money trying out new and exciting technology offered by start-ups and international companies.
These collaborations can do wonders for your analytics (a huge plus for the C-Suite) and your ROI.
Thanks to advancements in tech, these opportunities aren’t only available to the largest employers, either. Even the smallest firms can now find benefits tech vendors that fit their budgets.
5. Measure constantly
With so many variables in play, employers can’t presume their benefits initiatives are working; they need to be sure and measure everything regularly.
To ensure his benefits goals stay on track, Strahan has a Benefits Committee that gets together several times during the year. The committee looks at the details of the department, the associated risks and what can be done to mitigate those risks.
Based on “Speaking C-Suite: Dialogue with the CHRO on Well-being as a Workforce Strategy,” by Bill Strahan, EVP of HR, Comcast, as presented at the NBGH Workforce Strategy 2017 Conference in Austin, Texas.