“Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.” – Mother Teresa
As much fun as conversations are with businesses are about innovations in health plan financing, direct contracting, and alternative arrangements for employer-based care plans, I am challenged frequently with hypothetical, worst-case scenarios posed by employers who construct the hypotheticals as a way to better understand the mechanics of what is being proposed. Questions often start with “What happens when….” or “What if…”
I understand why the questions are asked, and typically, advisors are programmed to reply with the numbers, the process, and the mechanics of how a plan impacts the employee and how a claim is handled. The incentive was to promote the “product” and illustrate its usefulness.
But is it really all about the numbers?
During a recent meeting, however, where we were discussing the group medical cost-sharing approach as an affordable health plan option, the employer asked this simple question: “What if someone gets cancer?”
Each party knew where the question was coming from, and I don’t mean to disparage, but in that moment, I thought — I am expected to answer in robotic fashion on how the dollars will move and what copay or deductible amounts will apply, but is this the “right way” to answer the question?
Inherent in the approach to restoring sanity to health care financing is to focus on the human element of what we are doing. So in that moment, rather than spouting off on how “the plan operates”, I responded, “We love that person.”
Does Love had a place in business?
By injecting the word ‘love’ into the conversation, the tone of the meeting changed. Suddenly, the viewpoint of those people who are actually afflicted with major medical conditions was taken first, rather than a cold and calculating viewpoint of bystanders speculating about the numbers of a costly and catastrophic situation.
‘Love’ is a word we avoid in business. Conventional wisdom tells us that it conveys weakness and vulnerability, and in a dog-eat-dog world, those are two things we cannot afford to show. Or can we? As we reflect upon the word ‘love’ in the context of business, is that actually the truth?
Think of all the sayings invoking the word when it comes to work and labor, such as “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life”, or “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” Most of those sayings are aimed at the individual laborer, also known as the employee.
Well, what about the employer?
Jim Collins has written books analyzing successful companies – why they become successful, how they stay there, and conversely, why successful companies fail.
There is a common denominator among those that are successful and it comes down to love of fellow man. In “Good to Great”, he concludes that successful companies start with “first who, then what.” Find good people, take care of them, then chart a course of what your company is going to do.
This is so simple, and it highlights the importance of Human Resources as an essential business function while loving the people we hire to join in the task of becoming a successful company to bring about positive change to society. Conversely, the companies that fail, he concludes, lose the intense focus on the human impact the company has on employees and customers.
Again, there is the invocation of love.
Most employers I speak to cite people and personnel issues as their number one frustration, especially in this economy. It is the hope of every employer that those they hire love their job and the company so as to keep the employee and develop that person into a true asset to the department or company.
How do we get there?
At risk of sounding like Pollyanna, in the context of giving to get, you as the employer must love first before your employees love you. At the expense of company finances? Yes, sometimes that sacrifice is necessary. As Mother Teresa once said, “Love causes pain…a mother, in order to give birth to her baby, has to suffer. If you really love one another, you will not be able to avoid making sacrifice.”
Of course, not recklessly, but rather than looking at a return on investment (ROI), a close friend introduced me to an undervalued metric in business; ROY, or return on loyalty. To gain loyalty, first it has to be shown, often in the form of love.
So what does showing love in business look like? First and foremost, profit must be a central focus. Without profit and the profit motive, essentially nothing happens. There is no incentive for a business to exist if there is no profit. There is no harmonious exchange of goods or the labor to produce them. Fee enterprise, profit, and economics are inextricably linked by love.
In his article on Free Enterprise and Love, Jeffrey Tucker states that “material acquisition and love of one’s neighbor are harmonious”, and “it is the natural human desire to love their fellow man/woman that drives the desire to serve and be valuable to others.”
With profit comes reinvestment into the company, which starts with employees and therefore, Human Resources. For decades, Human Resources managed the budget for employee benefits, and sadly, employee benefit management today involves spreadsheet management. Numbers on a spreadsheet, sometimes with highlighted cells and arrows are cold and inhuman. They take the human out of human resources.
In your benefits planning, look to provide direct, frictionless access to healthcare first, and not the analysis insurance premium, when designing a health plan. After all, when you take that approach, premiums will logically decrease over time. Look to offer a path to financial security first when designing an income protection plan, rather than only considering the premium shown on the spreadsheet. Don’t be blinded by ease of administration and phrases like “defined contribution” without first looking at the human impact you can have on employees by offering a benefit versus an insurance plan.
Injecting love of fellow man into all of your business dealings and Human Resources planning for employees will not only help your business, but as humans, we will certainly feel more purposeful, fulfilled, and subsequently rewarded in our work.