Allowing emotions at work may lead to better decisions

Today, employers spend a lot of time and money training employees to make better decisions.  Generally employees are taught to be more rational and less emotional.

Recent research by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) questions this type of training style and shows how certain moods or emotional states can actually lead to more accurate and effective decisions.

Researchers found evidence that when people were emotionally uncertain, they felt positive and negative simultaneously.  Their emotional state was conflicted, making them more open to considering conflicting information, which can be critical to making good decisions.   For example, think of your dependent child leaving home to attend college.  You are excited about their future; however, you may feel nervous about them leaving home.  That is simultaneously feeling positive and negative.

Subjects were asked to write about a life experience or watch a movie.  Researchers recorded the participants’ accuracy in making predictions and forecasts.  Those who showed mixed emotions in the study were consistently more accurate.

Today’s business leaders can discard the idea that employees should be emotionless.  Resist the urge to try and alter the moods and emotions of employees and teams when you need them to make important decisions.

Allowing employees to take the natural course with their emotions will increase the chance that people will not be solidly positive or negative, but make good, solid decisions.




Debbie Strahle, Partnership Manager

Landmark decisions affect social media in the workplace

Because use of social media in the workplace is not going away anytime soon, it is an employer’s responsibility to ensure distribution of an up-to-date Social Networking Policy in an employee handbook.

Clients of BCN Services have access to the most up-to-date policies based on recent litigation involving discipline for social media postings that are affecting this ever-changing landscape. Below are two of the most recent landmark decisions that are shaping what is an appropriate employer response.

NLRB decisions address personal social media

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an independent federal agency that enforces the Act, first began receiving complaints in its regional offices related to employer social media policies and specific instances of discipline for Facebook postings in 2010.  More recently, in the fall of 2012, the board began to issue decisions in cases involving discipline for social media postings. Board decisions are significant because they establish precedent in novel cases such as these.

In the first such decision, issued on Sept. 28, 2012, the NLRB found that the firing of a BMW salesman for photos and comments posted to his Facebook page did not violate federal labor law. The question involved whether the salesman was fired exclusively for posting photos of an embarrassing accident at an adjacent Land Rover dealership (which did not involve fellow employees), or for posting mocking comments and photos with co-workers about serving hot dogs at a luxury BMW car event. Both sets of photos were posted to Facebook on the same day; one week later, the salesman was fired.

The board agreed with the administrative law judge hearing the case that the salesman was fired solely for the photos he posted of the Land Rover incident, which was not a planned (concerted) activity and so was not protected.

In the second decision, issued on Dec. 14, 2012,  the board found that it was unlawful for a non-profit organization to fire five employees who participated in Facebook postings about a co-worker who intended to complain to management about their work performance. In its analysis, the board majority applied settled law to the social media case and found that the Facebook conversation was concerted activity and was protected by the National Labor Relations Act.

Be cautious not to use social media websites in hiring

BCN cautions managers responsible for hiring to not use social networking web sites to assist you in making any employment decisions, specifically in hiring.

Employers viewing their employees’ or job candidates’ social-networking web sites may open the Company to claims under the employment-discrimination statutes or your state. This is the case especially if a decision not to hire is made immediately following such viewings that the employee or job candidate claims was because of a legally protected status or activity.

If you have a current employee handbook without an updated Social Networking Policy, please notify BCN’s Human Resources Department to include that in your next handbook order. If you do not have an employee handbook, contact us to develop one for you. Lastly, please contact BCN’s Human Resources Department with any inquiries regarding social media use in the workplace.



Kate Douglass (200x174)

Kate Douglass, Senior HR Generalist

Follow these 4 steps to achieve a successful safety program in your workplace

Implementing a quality safety program is essential to reducing workplace accidents.  This is an effective way to ensure you stay in compliance with safety standards.

More importantly, it is the cornerstone of building a comprehensive safety culture, which is the best way to reduce work-related injury and illness and their associated costs.

Four basic elements of a successful safety program are strongly recommended:

Management Leadership and Employee Involvement

The highest levels of management commitment are necessary to ensure that everyone at work is protected from injury and illness hazards. Without continued management support there is no way a safety program will get off the ground.

Annual safety goal-setting and action planning with employee input sets the stage for the company’s safety culture.  BCN Services can provide you with the tools and assistance you need in establishing a safety program at your place of business.

Worksite Analysis

A worksite analysis involves a basic self-inspection checklist to help identify safety hazards at your place of business.  This checklist covers such items as a review of general housekeeping, condition of tools and equipment, status of fire extinguishers, first aid supplies, ladders, personal protective equipment, office safety, etc.

In addition to identifying existing hazards so they can be dealt with, a self-inspection will denote safety conditions at the start of your program, establishing a baseline that will allow you to measure improvement going forward.

Reviewing employee injury records can also be a valuable exercise to help identify a common cause for injuries.  BCN Services provides you a report on the status of your injuries four times a year in the Quarterly Report.

Periodic review of your program’s effectiveness, along with ongoing monitoring of employee injuries, is needed for your safety program’s continued success.

Employee Training

All employees should receive sufficient training to understand their individual safety and health responsibilities and how to fulfill them. Supervisors should provide each employee with safety materials and personal guidance pertaining to his or her job. These measures might include:

  • Making sure that each employee has access to a safety manual for review and future reference.
  • Delivering a personal copy of safety rules, policies and procedures pertaining to safety in the workplace.
  • Asking questions and answering employees’ questions to ensure knowledge and understanding of safety rules, polices and job-specific procedures described in the safety program manual.
  • Training each new employee using verbal instruction and demonstration on how to perform assigned job tasks safely.
  • Observing employees performing their work and making sure they are doing it safely. If they are not, the supervisor must provide additional training before permitting the employee to work without supervision.

Refresher training should occur periodically to keep standards high. If work environments or job tasks change, employees should receive updated instruction.  BCN Services’ on-line safety course library is rich in training material and is available at under the login section > Online Safety Training.

Hazard Prevention and Control

All hazards discovered during the worksite analysis should be eliminated if possible and alternate control methods should be used for hazards that remain. This may include engineering or administrative controls or the use of personal protective equipment.

It is also recommended that you determine which safety standards apply to the work being conducted at your place of business so individual safety and health programs can be established for each.

Creating an effective safety program for your organization based on the above Four-Point Program is a great first step in reducing your organization’s workers’ compensation costs. Coupled with ongoing safety initiatives and program benchmarking, this can mean thousands of dollars saved in premiums, increased productivity and reduced claims costs.

Do you have questions about safety in your workplace?  BCN Services can help you assess your situation and create a safety-oriented environment.  Contact us at 1-800-891-9911 or contact us here.


Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager

Health Care Reform: What Small Groups Can Expect for 2014

Large employers with 50 or more full time and full time equivalent employees have been given an extension of one year (until 2015) before many of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requirements will need to be met to avoid fines.  The focus has now shifted to small employer groups with 50 or less full time and full time equivalent employees.  Although small employers are not required to provide a group health plan for their employees, most will continue to do so in order to remain competitive within their industry.  These employers will see many changes occur with their group health plan during the coming year.

Starting with all small group (group size 2-50) renewals after January 1, 2014, we will say goodbye to the traditional 3-or-4 rating tiers that employers/employees are accustomed to.  There will be no more Single, Two Person, and Family tiers.  There will be no more Employee, Employee with Spouse, Employee with Child(ren), and Family tiers.

Premium rates are age-banded

This method of attaching a premium rate to each individual in a contract has been coined “counting belly buttons.”  Rates will be age banded, which means that premiums will be based on age ranges.  There will be an age banded rate applied to each subscriber, another to their spouse, and then a rate for each of their first 3 children under the age of 19.  If a family has more than 3 children under the age of 19, an additional rate will not be applied to those children.  But for each child over the age of 19 until their 26thbirthday, an additional rate will be applied regardless of family size.

On a positive note, carriers will no longer be able to rate group plans based on medical conditions, or exclude member coverage of pre-existing conditions.

Essential Health Benefits (EHBs) coverage will be mandatory for all small group plans renewing after January 1, 2014.  The Affordable Care Act has a list of compiled services which they consider to be essential to a person’s well-being.  These EHBs are:

  1. Ambulatory Patient Service
  2. Emergency Services
  3. Hospitalization
  4. Maternity and newborn care
  5. Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment
  6. Prescription drugs (this will no longer be optional with small group plans)
  7. Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
  8. Laboratory services
  9. Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
  10. Pediatric services, including oral and vision care

For small group health plans, the additional requirement of providing pediatric (birth to age 19) oral and vision care will also mean additional cost added to each child’s premium.  Vision will be a nominal upcharge but the addition of pediatric dental care will increase the cost for each child by an estimated $22-$24 per month.  Families that already have dental coverage through a dental carrier, such as BCN Services’ Delta Dental plan, will be able to “carve out” that extra premium added to their children’s health coverage.

Small group health plans cannot be customized with flexible options for office visit co-pays or additional riders to enhance or decrease the cost of your plan.  In order to comply with meeting certain levels of coverage of EHBs, all plans sold by health carriers will be packaged and will not be able to be altered.

Health plans designed to cover actuarial value

Health plans will be designed to cover the “actuarial value (AV)” of EHBs on 4 different metal levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.  The AV is the estimated amount of coverage a subscriber will receive for EHBs.  The AV of each metal level will be as follows:  Bronze – 60 percent, Silver – 70 percent, Gold – 80 percent, and Platinum – 90 percent.  All plans must fall within these percentages of AV with a 2% margin either up or down.

For example, a Gold metal level plan will cover between 78 percent and 82 percent of AV of EHBs (with the margin of 2 percent taken into account), and a Platinum level plan will cover between 88 and 92 percent of AV of EHBs.  Would your plan be compliant if it covered 85 percent of AV or EHBs?  No, it would not.  Plans must fall within these metal bands to be compliant with ACA requirements.

Small group health plans will be required to have a maximum Out-of-Pocket (OOP) amount for all of their plans starting at the group’s renewal after January 1, 2014.  The 2014 OOP maximums will be $6,350 for individuals, and $12,700 for families.  After these OOP maximums are reached, all EHBs will be covered at 100 percent for the remainder of the plan year.  However, pediatric and adult dental costs will not apply to the OOP maximum even though pediatric dental is included in the list of EHBs.

Throughout this blog, I have indicated that all of these requirements and changes take effect upon the group’s renewal after January 1, 2014.  To clarify, if your current small group plan does not have its annual renewal until, for example, November 1, you will be able to keep your current plan design and rating structure until that date.  Upon renewal after January 1, 2014, is when your plan will need to comply with these ACA small group requirements.

The health insurance landscape will be a strange new world in 2014.  BCN Services will be blazing the trail for you and your employees to be able to navigate through all of these changes and the questions they will bring.  Please contact your BCN Partnership Manager if you’d like to discuss in further detail what to expect in 2014.




Frank Lewandowski, Partnership Manager