An apple a day... (PaulPaladin/Shutterstock)
High-deductible health plans have emerged in recent years as an increasingly popular means of controlling the growing costs of employer-sponsored health insurance in the US, particularly for healthy employees who don’t anticipate significant health care expenditures and would prefer to pay lower health insurance premiums, even if it means paying higher out-of-pocket costs when these expenditures do arise.
The State of Employee Benefits 2018 report from the benefits technology and services company Benefitfocus indicates that the shift to HDHPs accelerated last year among large US employers, though in most cases, these plans are offered to employees as a choice alongside traditional plans like preferred provider organizations. SHRM’s Stephen Miller outlines the key findings from the report, which analyzed data from 540 large employers with over 1.3 million insured employees:
For 2018, 70 percent of large employers offered at least one HDHP—either in addition to a traditional health plan (65 percent) or exclusively as a full replacement for traditional health coverage (5 percent). … When employees at large organizations were given options, 35 percent selected an HDHP while 48 percent chose a PPO for 2018. The remainder opted for other types of traditional plans, when available, such as health maintenance organizations.
Screenshot/CEO ACTION Participant List
The CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, launched on Monday, is an alliance of major US companies whose chief executives have agreed to work towards advancing diversity and inclusion in corporate America both individually and collectively. The CEOs pledge to “continue to make our workplaces trusting places to have complex, and sometimes difficult, conversations about diversity and inclusion,” to expand unconscious bias education in their companies, and to learn from each other both by sharing best practices and by being honest about what doesn’t work. Notably, the pledge frames diversity as both a social issue and a business opportunity:
The persistent inequities across our country underscore our urgent, national need to address and alleviate racial, ethnic and other tensions and to promote diversity within our communities. As leaders of some of America’s largest corporations, we manage thousands of employees and play a critical role in ensuring that inclusion is core to our workplace culture and that our businesses are representative of the communities we serve. Moreover, we know that diversity is good for the economy; it improves corporate performance, drives growth and enhances employee engagement. Simply put, organizations with diverse teams perform better.
Participants in the initiative include around 175 companies, including some of the largest employers in the US like Cisco, HP, Home Depot, IBM, Kroger, PepsiCo, Target, and Walmart. The CEO Action is the brainchild of Tim Ryan, the US chairman of PwC, who began assembling the coalition in February and soon found many of his fellow executives were enthusiastic to take part, Fortune’s Ellen McGirt explains:
Staples CEO Shira Goodman (Staples)
Fortune Magazine released its 2017 list of the Fortune 500 this week, along with the news that a record high number of the largest companies in the US are managed by women. While there are only 32 female CEOs on the list, representing just 6.4 percent of the exclusive club, that is the highest proportion of women on any Fortune 500 list since the magazine began compiling the annual ranking in 1955. The women of the Fortune 500 run companies in a wide range of industries and include Mary Barra of General Motors, Ginni Rometty of IBM, Indra Nooyi of Pepsi, Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin, and Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard. The list includes just two women of color: Nooyi and PG&E Corp CEO Geisha Williams.
The number of women CEOs on this list is a big jump from recent years—from just 21 last year and 24 in 2014—and as Washington Post columnist Jena McGregor remarks, this may reflect the increasing attention investors are paying to diversity in leadership:
Roughly a third of the women running companies on the list are new to the job: A startling 11 women were named CEO of companies in 2016 or early 2017 that are on this year’s Fortune 500 list, including Vicki Hollub at Occidental Petroleum, Tricia Griffith at the insurer Progressive, Shira Goodman at Staples, Margo Georgiadis at Mattel and Michele Buck at Hershey. At Hertz Global Holdings, Kathryn Marinello was named to the top job late last year, as was Anna Manning at Reinsurance Group of America.
The advent of the coworking space has been a boon to freelancers, startups, and nonprofit organizations, but last summer, the flexible workplace vendor WeWork revealed that its long-term strategy involved selling the coworking experience to major legacy corporations as well. On Wednesday, WeWork’s chief product officer David Fano and head of product research Joshua Emig announced that their company was working on a suite of “space as a service” offerings to help big companies revamp and better manage their existing office spaces, Fast Company’s Ruth Reader reports:
The new offerings would include everything from building out interiors to managing guests, booking conference rooms, coordinating events, analyzing office data on space usage, and providing a human community manager to instill WeWork philosophies. …
[Fano] says WeWork is only willing to architect and construct offices because it has design principles that play into how it manages office spaces. Additionally, he’s not looking to make money on overhauling other people’s workplaces. Rather, he and Emig see it as a way to give customers the cost savings that WeWork enjoys, because of its vendor relationships. The build-out also serves to entice businesses into its cultural management subscription as well as other possible uses for WeWork. As an example, Fano described how it whittled one Chicago business from three floors of office space down to two floors, while retaining the same number of employees. WeWork made up some of the square footage loss by giving the company desks inside of its own co-working network.
At Quartz, Alison Griswold points out that WeWork’s $17 billion valuation is “largely tied to WeWork’s ability to brand itself as more than just another property management firm”:
Over the past year, we’ve looked at a few examples of a phenomenon that has been referred to as “corporate inequality”—referring to a significant and ostensibly widening gap between the profitability of high-performance firms with lots of cash on the one hand, and less productive, less wealthy companies on the other. This profitability gap naturally leads to another gap in the compensation, benefits, and perks these companies are able to afford for their employees, and according to one scholar’s theory, these differences are even a key contributor to income inequality and social stratification in the US today!
One area in which larger and wealthier organizations would seem to have a definite edge is in acquiring scarce and expensive talent in emerging technological fields like AI and machine learning, raising concerns that tech giants like Google and Tesla rushing to grab up all the AI talent they can will lead to brain drain at smaller firms and even at universities.
There’s another reason why these companies might have a head start in profiting from these new technologies, however. In a keynote address at last week’s Strata + Hadoop World conference in San Jose, California, Cloudera co-founder Mike Olson warned that because machine learning depends on access to enormous data sets, its main beneficiaries will be big companies that already own vast amounts of data and can already implement these technologies to scale, according to Matt Asay at TechRepublic:
Last year, Harvard Business Review senior associate editor Walter Frick identified “corporate inequality”—a widening gap between the profits of the most and least productive companies, and an ensuring disparity in how well these firms are able to compensate their employees and attract top talent—as a distinctive yet underappreciated feature of today’s business environment. It’s also an important problem, Frick argued, because corporate inequality contributes to income inequality and harms competition.
Earlier this month, Frick highlighted some new research showing finding that the pay gap between large and small firms has actually declined in recent decades, but the shrinking overall gap conceals growing inequality between highly skilled, highly paid employees and the rest:
Since the late 1980s, the gap between how well big and small firms pay has shrunk, according to a recent paper by J. Adam Cobb of the University of Pennsylvania and Ken-Hou Lin and Paige Gabriel of the University of Texas at Austin. But the gap hasn’t shrunk equally for everyone. Highly paid workers at big companies continue to make a bit more than their counterparts at smaller firms, and this gap hasn’t changed. The shift has been in the pay premium for their colleagues further down the pay scale. Mid- and low-wage workers at big companies still make more than their counterparts at small ones, but nowhere near as much more as they used to.
As organizations grow, they often find that their ability to respond to challenges quickly and decisively is diminished; size and structure, by their very nature, have a tendency to slow things down. At the Harvard Business Review, Greg Satell admiringly profiles Experian’s DataLabs unit, a dedicated problem-solving team aimed at overcoming this downside of scale and giving the major multinational corporation the ability to think and act more like a startup:
Part skunkworks, part research lab, Experian DataLabs keeps a running list of the data problems customers want them to solve. As Eric Haller, Global Head at Experian DataLabs, told me, “We regularly sit down with our clients and try to figure out what’s causing them agita, because we know that solving problems is what opens up enormous business opportunities for us.”