One of the hot topics at this year's KronosWorks 2013 was the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Even with the delay in the company mandate, employers are taking this time to do extra research, specifically where it applies to implementation best practices.
The sessions I attended regarding the ACA were a reminder that, while strategy is important, execution is critical. Organizations are taking the implementation of ACA very seriously. The conversation was a thoughtful and lively exchange about how to implement this very complex law while maintaining the business operation and keeping employees satisfied with their jobs. Some of the key takeaways I learned during the ACA sessions include:
The Affordable Care Act requires a culture change. The ACA isn't considered an HR issue. It's a law. And organizations have to develop and implement a strategy that will be used on a daily basis. Organizations are viewing the decisions they make regarding the ACA as culture decisions (versus benefits decisions).
Every department needs to be involved in the strategy and implementation of ACA. This directly reflects the first point. Business professionals agree - you cannot manage the ACA after the fact. The professionals I spoke with talked about the many departments being touched by the ACA:
Senior leadership to set the strategy.
Human resources to ensure compliance and craft the policy.
Finance to manage resources and finances associated with the Act.
Operational managers to monitor schedules and manage daily activity.
Many organizations are having to revisit their staffing models. As a result, some employees will become full-time. Instead of trying to figure out ways to keep employees part-time, many organizations acknowledge that the ACA is making them ask the question “Should this be a full-time position?” In some cases the answer is yes.
Speaking of staffing models, another topic brought up was the notion of giving hours to the best workers. We all know how this works. There's a last minute project to be completed. Often because both skill and speed are required, we ask the fastest, most qualified employee. But what if we can't now because the extra hours will reclassify their status? Organizations are trying to figure out how this potentially impacts the talent they currently have and skills they might need if they have to develop a contingent workforce.
Employers are concerned about losing employees who don't want to be full-time. We often make the assumption that everyone wants to be full-time and it's simply not the case. Employers who have created part-time positions to accommodate employees are concerned that employees will leave because the positions aren't as flexible as they used to be.
Full-time employees who currently have benefits are impacted as well. In the past, full-time employees who wanted to cut back a few hours were fine - it didn't jeopardize their status and another part-time employee could pick up the hours without overtime. Now, full-time workers will need to maintain their full-time schedule because those hours being passed along to a part-time employee have greater implications than just payroll.
Everyone agreed the key to managing the ACA successfully will be effective management of workforce data, reports and analytics. Debbie Baum, HRIS director at the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas shared their plan. “We're not changing our full-time/part-time mix of employees because of the Affordable Care Act. We're not going to cut hours to avoid paying healthcare. We are going to manage the scheduled hours staff were hired to work.” Unlike the YMCA, this level of data collection and review could be new and different for some organizations. It might take some getting used to.
The Affordable Care Act's complexity mandates that organizations dedicate time getting their strategy right on the front end. Smart organizations are using this additional time wisely, to identify their focus as a result of the ACA. Troy Jackson, employment and performance manager at Firekeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek, Michigan said it best - “We want to be an employer of choice. Employees who work full-time hours will get full-time benefits. It's the right thing to do.”
The Affordable Care Act is more than a new law about health care benefits. It's a definition of corporate culture.
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