Archives for July 2013

The Secret to Building Dream Teams: Pre-Hire Assessments

Problem: Reebok retail had high-volume recruiting plans to open more stores, but the process was manual, which limited candidate pools, was time-consuming and added pressure to fill staffing needs without ensuring fit.

Solution: Using pre-hire assessments, Reebok is able to identify the behavioral attributes that support the company culture and individual job requirements. The candidate workflow is automated so the recruitment and hiring process provides better, more consistent hiring decisions and gets new employees on the job faster.

As recently as 2010, when prospective candidates wanted to apply for a job at a Reebok store in North America, they stopped by and filled out a paper application. Then hiring managers flipped through stacks of applications, searching for candidates who looked like they might fit.

The process was subjective, slow and the candidate pool was limited. Sometimes hiring managers needed to fill positions fast, so they hired the first candidate they could find without analyzing whether the person was the best fit.

In 2011, Reebok was in retail growth mode. While still focused on wholesale to major accounts, the Adidas subsidiary had plans in 2012 to add eight Fitness Concept stores — a partnership between Reebok and fitness company CrossFit — to the 121 Reebok outlet locations in the U.S. and 17 in Canada. Hiring managers needed more contemporary recruiting and hiring practices and predictive systems to speed up and simplify the recruitment process.

They wanted to hire better people more consistently.

Science Improves Decisions

Reebok managers knew they needed qualified, intelligent and product-focused people who could answer customers’ fitness questions with credibility. They also wanted employees with passion for fitness.

The new Fitness Concept stores are branded as being the experts on training and fitness, and Reebok wants customers to know this value proposition every time they walk into a store. Each location needs a staff interested in and knowledgeable about fitness and nutrition to deliver this.

Reebok leaders knew some employees embraced the brand and provided great service, but they needed a way to find more people like this across all


Reebok leaders knew that automating their paper-based hiring process wouldn’t achieve their goals. The process was too subjective and labor intensive. Instead, the company looked to its peers and found most used assessment technology to improve customer service and hire better people.

Reebok used assessment software from PeopleAnswers to understand the behaviors most relevant to real-world performance in these customer-facing roles. The technology collected behavioral information based on existing employees, which served as a benchmark to help Reebok hire new staff who were better fits for each role, more productive and lived the brand.

Today Reebok sees 3,000 to 5,000 candidate applications per month for its retail stores, and it has achieved its goal to hire better people and lower turnover. In the most recent 20-month study including hires and terminations from January 2011 through October 2012, new hires who completed the assessment during their application process had a 32 percent lower turnover rate.

During mid-year employee reviews, these employees also achieved 13 percent higher average performance ratings than those who had not completed the assessment.

During the same study period, the new hires ranked by the software in the

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top two recommendation categories had a 20 percent lower turnover rate and 11 percent higher average performance rating than new hires who scored in the bottom two categories. These employees generated more sales and were happier, and more productive employees lead to more engaged customers.

Better People, Better Performance

Now when a candidate applies for a management or associate position at Reebok or Fitness Concept stores, he or she goes to the company’s website and completes the employment application and a one-time assessment, a process that takes about 30 minutes. Instead of being restricted to hours when stores are open, candidates can apply online 24/7.

Candidates complete a questionnaire on a computer or mobile device that evaluates more than three dozen cognitive, behavioral and cultural attributes such as energy, flexibility and ambition. These traits are the most difficult to uncover in a resume or traditional interview.

Whether someone is applying for an associate or management position, he or she completes the same comprehensive questionnaire that measures more than three dozen attributes. The software then compares the attributes — behavioral DNA — with custom performance profiles unique to each Reebok role to determine how well each candidate will fit with the company and role.

Ultimately, the software verifies the presence of similar behavioral traits in every new hire and recommends the best-matched candidates. This way, hiring managers can focus on the candidates recommended to be the best fit. And, with no right or wrong answers, each candidate response is evaluated instantly and ranked, and the software provides a comprehensive report that guides the interview, hiring and on-boarding process.

Early each year, Reebok brings its store managers in for a weeklong business review meeting. During last year’s meeting, managers had a short training session to learn how to use the new technology. Reebok started by using the software in hiring strategic leadership roles and added sales associates soon after.

Hiring managers appreciate moving from a paper-based system to one that provides on-demand access to their candidate pool, real-time reporting and helps them automatically track metrics related to the hiring process.

Now store managers lean on the software for more effective interviews and more informed decisions. They expand on behavioral-based interview questions to gauge candidates’ capabilities to meet the expectations of the role and fit into the unique environment and culture.

Judy Luevano, a Reebok area manager, said her teams are noticeably stronger and more competitive. “The culture fit recommendations for candidates have been accurate in predicting successful personalities and behaviors needed for individual profile positions,” she said.

Further, Reebok leaders now have a map of possible career paths for candidates based on these qualities. This allows hiring managers to immediately view candidates’ behaviors against multiple positions, not just the one they apply for.

Time for Change

In some cases, habits are hard to break. District and store managers were used to their old process. When they felt a candidate was right for the business but the assessment indicated otherwise, it was sometimes difficult for them to trust the tool’s value. However, after using it a short while, many hiring managers determined the software’s recommendations were accurate and beneficial in guiding hiring decisions.

“[These assessments] give me the ability to zone in, probe and question on very specific strengths and weaknesses that my potential candidate possesses, which helps me make my hiring decision versus relying on generalities,” said Todd Corrente, a Reebok district manager.

Similarly, some hiring managers viewed the assessment as an obstacle for candidates, even though overall candidate volume actually increased by moving the process online. In time, the group found they needed candidates who truly wanted to work for Reebok and, regardless of the required time, would complete the process to be considered.

In both scenarios, seeing how the tool worked and the results it yielded in increasing the quality of hires led to team-level buy in.

Combining science with technology takes the guesswork out of hiring decisions for Reebok. And linking recruiting and retention to business objectives transforms HR from an administrative function to a strategic business process. The evidence shows improved retention and cost savings that allows Reebok to build strong teams made up of people who will project its brand essence and deliver service that will keep customers coming back.

About the Authors:

Ira Grossman is chief operating officer at PeopleAnswers, and Bill Holmes is senior vice president of human resources at Reebok International.

Reprinted from Talent Management Magazine

Using Micro-Videos as Effective Recruiting Tools

By now everyone knows that the future of recruiting will require the effective use of both the mobile phone and social media. However, you may not be aware that new features on social media giants Twitter and more recently on Instagram now provide the opportunity to effectively sell recruits with short micro-videos that are sent to their mobile phones.

Videos are superior to words because they can more effectively reveal the passion and excitement that occurs at a firm. If

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a picture is worth 1,000 words, imagine how powerful a moving picture can be. Although videos in recruiting are certainly not new, they have suffered from three significant weaknesses.

First, they have often been expensive and time-consuming to create if they were shot by professionals. Second, the content has not always been particularly authentic. Third, their length caused many who received them to postpone viewing them.

There are numerous ways for employees to share videos. Some micro-videos will be attached to your employees’ tweets, while others will be made using the Instagram app and placed in their Instagram profile and feed.

Independently created micro-videos can be added to your Facebook profile or attached to text, email, or other social media messages that your employees send to friends and potential referrals. If you create a company micro-video library, the videos can also be used by recruiters.

How Micro-videos Can Be Superior

Micro-videos which last less than a minute have many advantages, which include:

Increased authenticity – because micro-videos are unedited and they are created by your employees, they cover the employee perspective, which makes them more credible, believable, and authentic to those viewing them.

Feel the passion – the pictures and the sounds of videos have proven to be effective in revealing the passion and the excitement that your employees feel about their job and their firm.

The length increases the likelihood that it will be viewed – the minimum length of the video (Twitter Vine allows six seconds and Video on Instagram allows 15 seconds) forces your employees to be concise. The micro length almost assures that many more prospects will be willing to watch them and also that the video will be viewed without delay.

Skeptics may think that a video that only lasts seconds couldn’t possibly have much of an impact, but there is plenty of evidence to show that micro-videos can be compelling, especially among newer generations that have learned to love the brevity of texting and Twitter. The short length also forces employees to be creative in their messaging.

The mobile platform is accessed 24/7 – because recruiting prospects carry their mobile phone with them constantly, micro-videos are more likely to be immediately viewed and immediately responded to. Obviously, it will also be smart to allow individuals to apply for open jobs using only their mobile phone.

Wide social media coverage – because both Twitter and Instagram (other social media sites also allow videos) are incredibly popular, recruiting messages, pictures, and videos are all likely to reach and be forwarded to a broad and technology savvy audience.

Minimal costs – because micro-videos are normally created by your own employees using their mobile phone camera and easily available video editing software, there are no production costs.

Constantly being refreshed – because these micro-videos are so easy to create, if the program is fully supported by management, you will have a continuous flow of new and timely videos.

Diverse perspectives will be covered — because many different employees can create micro-videos, the volume increases the likelihood that the content will reflect many different positive aspects of the firm. Corporate created videos tend to reflect a headquarters perspective, but employee videos are more likely to include regional features and diverse perspectives.

And because many are likely to be created by field employees, the videos may cover positive features of the firm that “corporate” might not even be aware of.

A video contest can create a large amount of content – Deloitte, Hyatt, and Marriott have each successfully used video contests to create a significant volume of employee videos. A contest is a good way to build up your initial volume of videos, but with the right management support, the initial library will be continually supplemented.

Create a video library as part of the referral program – rather than making videos an independent program, associate it with your current employee referral program. The referral program is an excellent mechanism for making micro-videos available to all employees. Companies can create a micro-video library that contains all of your employee-created videos. Employees can then, if they want, have the option of selecting existing relevant videos for use during their attempt to create referrals.

Obviously corporate recruiters can also use videos from the inventory. Employees can also be asked to rate the videos, so that everyone knows which ones are the most powerful.

Use videos internally also – the most compelling micro-videos can also be used internally by individual managers, during onboarding, and to improve your internal employment brand.

No corporate screening — traditional full-length videos are almost always screened by lawyers, HR, or PR, often making them bland. Obviously, allowing your employees to make videos without approvals or pre-screening carries some risks, but firms that have allowed it for tweets and blogs have actually had very few issues. You simply have to trust the judgment of your employees.

However, be aware that even if a negative item occasionally gets covered in a video, that “tolerance” by corporate may actually help to improve the credibility of your micro-videos and reinforce the authenticity of your corporate employer brand.

Coaching Your Employees

Obviously you want to provide your employees with a high degree of freedom in making their micro-videos. However, that does not prohibit you from offering them guidance and coaching on the content that will likely be the most effective in recruiting micro-videos. Those safe content areas include:

A mini-profile of an individual employee or their coworker
A “why-I-work-here” testimonial video covering a critical recruiting factor
A snapshot view of an employee’s day
A video of one exciting aspect of an employee’s job
A humorous video demonstrating that your firm is a fun place
A video highlighting a unique company perk or benefit
A video highlighting an exciting technology, tool, or piece of equipment
A snapshot video of an exciting company event
A video demonstrating the company culture and employer brand
A quick facility tour
A video displaying diversity or a global reach
A video showing that a particular executive is “real” and approachable
A video highlighting the exciting aspects of the region where your facility is located

Final Thoughts

Micro-videos on Twitter and Instagram provide a great, inexpensive opportunity to continually spread authentic recruiting messages by taking advantage of the time and the creativity of your own employees. I have found

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that employees enjoy making the videos and contributing to the recruitment effort.

The primary roadblock unfortunately may come from recruiting leaders, who are afraid to give up their current “total control” over the process of creating recruiting videos. Smart recruiting leaders will simply have to trust their employees to create compelling but positive micro-videos.

Initial action steps for setting up a micro-video program starts with benchmarking what others have done. Next you will need to put together an initial marketing campaign to encourage employees to make videos along with good and bad micro-video examples for them to view.

Next, hold an employee video contest to initially fill your micro-video library. Metrics for measuring effectiveness are also required, so new hires should also be asked during onboarding whether the micro-videos had a significant impact on their decision to apply and accept.

Reprinted from

Pave the Way for Mobile Learning with Mobile Support

Almost one-third of the global information workforce can work at any time, in any place they happen to be. The rest of the workforce have moments in their day when they ought to go mobile, and would if they could.

Look at sales, medical care, emergency services, transportation, repair and maintenance services, law,

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or anywhere else, for that matter. More and more, workers are on the move, and mobile provides the means for untethering them from the confines of a specific workspace.

According to Gartner, over the next two years the number of PC (desk-based and notebook) devices will drop (14 percent), while at the same time, the number of mobile phones will grow from 1.9 billion to 2.1 billion, and tablets in the workplace will more than double.

Although this mobile elephant’s been in the room for a while, it’s becoming enormous. No organization can or should ignore it. Nor should we limit mobile’s usefulness with an mobile learning (mLearning)-only mindset. We have understandably been mesmerized by the glimmering promise of mLearning for some time now. But mLearning barely taps mobile’s capacity to deliver business benefit.

Add mSupport — performance support delivered on mobile devices — to the mix, and you deliver immediate and measurable business impact and actually pave the way for a more sustainable mobile learning strategy.

Delivering measurable business impact

Training has always struggled to directly connect an organization’s learning investment to its profitability. ROI is elusive to training, whether mobile or not. This isn’t the case with performance support. The difference? Performance support (PS) is, by its very nature, embedded within the workflow.

This is especially the case when PS goes mobile. It’s on the scene all the time, everywhere, while people are performing the work of the organization. This allows real-time measurement of business impact (See Show Me the ROI!).

When it comes to mobile, mSupport is a rising star. If an organization is intent on supporting workers whenever and wherever they are—exactly at their moment of need—then mSupport needs to be a key component in its performance-support strategy. It shouldn’t be the only option, though. Learning and performance support need to be able to span the many mobile and not-so-mobile devices. (See From Scattered Information to Transformational Performance Support.)

Pave the way for a sustainable mobile learning strategy

Actually, if you take a hard look at existing mLearning solutions today and check their functionality against the five moments of need, you will most likely find that many do not map to the moments of learn new and learn more. Instead they primarily address the moments of apply, change, and solve—which is mSupport.

The reason? mSupport is the fast track to business impact, and it is a very effective forerunner for mLearning.

If you are thinking about pursuing mobile learning ahead of mobile performance support, you take on some real challenges beyond measuring business impact. For example, we know the following principles govern effective learning:

Gain and maintain attention
Deliver content
Provide meaningful examples
Model skills
Provide guided and unguided practice
Integrate review
Give meaningful feedback
Check for mastery and remediate

Years ago, we developed a tool for assessing the integrity of eLearning courses against these principles. As measured by the tool, most eLearning falls short of fully supporting the principles. The same holds true with mLearning. Engaging these principles to facilitate optimum learning outcomes on any device is no small task. It can be especially so for mobile.

It’s difficult to balance methodology requirements with development and maintenance costs across mobile’s many form factors—cloud and all. Certainly it can and is being done, but no matter how effectively you orchestrate these principles into an mLearning solution it will fail to deliver strategically.

Learning solutions, regardless of their mode of delivery (classroom, desktop, mobile) need to provide three things to an organization:

Measurable financial and strategic benefit
Optimum time to effective on-the-job performance
Sustained competency in an ever-changing work environment

Without performance support, even the most instructionally sound courses fail here. Hence the need to consider mSupport along with mLearning.

Actually, the best-practice path is to let mSupport pave the way for mLearning. Doing this establishes the framework needed to facilitate measurement, the speed of skill transfer, and the ongoing adaptation of learning outcomes. What’s more, mSupport can help secure the institutional will to make, and sustain, the investment required for effective mLearning.

Reprinted from Learning Solutions Magazine

Conversation ‘Crutches’ Make Difficult Discussions Easier

One of my close friends is a fitness trainer who often encounters difficult clients disagreeing with his professional judgment and demanding changes to their fitness regiment, nutrition plan, etc. He’s shared his frustration with me time after time as he tries to placate them and provide great “customer service” in the midst of delivering a difficult message (i.e., they need to lose weight to improve their health).

I gave him the same advice I give many managers and leaders: Develop a handful of “conversation crutches” you can sprinkle in here and there to make the difficult conversation a lot easier (and quicker in many cases).

If you polled 100 managers asking what they dreaded most in their leadership role, I’m sure many would say they’d prefer a trip to the oral surgeon to having a difficult discussion with an employee. No one wants to tell an employee he or she is not meeting expectations in one area or another.

We all know that no one is perfect—everyone has weaknesses (which we prefer to call developmental areas )—but the thought of having to provide that constructive criticism or provide feedback that may cause conflict is gut wrenching nonetheless. To make matters worse, we realize that as managers, it’s a large part of our job (if we’re doing our job) to help others identify and improve areas of weakness.

Deep down we know that the best bosses are not the ones who tell us we’re so wonderful that they can’t think of anything to improve but the ones who highlight areas for improvement and motivate us to become even better.

Delivering constructive criticism may never feel good, but it’s certainly a critical element along the path of employee development. Unfortunately, many managers make one of two common mistakes. They often either…

1) Avoid the conversations altogether and thereby rob the employees of the opportunity to improve.

2) Provide such vague/sugar-coated feedback that the constructive message is lost and/or misinterpreted (e.g., Jeff who’s chronically late to team events leaves the meeting with his boss thinking that his chronic tardiness is really an asset as it shows his dedication to juggling so many events and demands at once!).

So the question is: How can you deliver the message in such a way that gets the point across while preserving the relationship?

While there’s no foolproof easy answer, a key for me has been developing “conversation crutches”—easy-to-remember phrases/vignettes you can sprinkle into conversations as needed to help deliver a difficult message with candor, tact, and sensitivity.

Approach #1: Ask employees to evaluate the situation or identify the issue/development area first.

This is a powerful technique because it not only typically softens the feedback you need to give but it also provides a deeper coaching opportunity because it provides insight into an employee’s perspective. This insight can further inform your subsequent feedback for them as appropriate:

“I’ve usually found that if I’m open to it, I can learn more from ‘failures’ than ‘successes,’ so I encourage you to not shy away from identifying improvement areas. I think this position is a great fit for you in part because there is a bit of a learning curve so you’ll learn a lot if you’re open. As part of that process, you’ll likely have a few mishaps early on. Let’s expect those and take some time periodically to check in and analyze areas where you’re excelling and areas where you might need a bit more training and coaching over the next few months. How does that sound?”

“Jill, what a long meeting yesterday. If you don’t mind, I’d like to take a few minutes to debrief it—discuss what worked well and what we might have done differently. Is that OK? Why don’t you go first? What do you think worked well? Now, what do you think you might do differently next time? Can I offer my thoughts?”

“If you had to pick your top two strengths and weaknesses, what would they be?”

“Jill, of course we all have weaknesses and I know your standards are so high that I’d like to share an observation with you from the meeting yesterday if I might. Are you open to that?”

Approach #2: Emphasize that your responsibility as their manager is to point out areas of weakness. Indeed, you’re helping them by raising difficult issues.

Example: “I feel that a perception is being created, and I want to make you aware of it as soon as possible so we can decide how to best move forward. You’ve been out of the office quite a lot this month due to training, vacation, and telecommuting, and I think it’s creating a perception that you’re not as available as others on the team. I want to be sure we correct that perception as soon as possible because I know that isn’t your intent. What are your thoughts?”

Example: “I feel like a large part of my responsibility as a manager is to alert you anytime I see an area for potential improvement so you have every opportunity to address it before it becomes an issue. Also, I don’t believe in surprises during appraisals or formal evaluations. I remember as a team member early in my career feeling it was unfair for my boss to bring up issues during formal evaluations that hadn’t been previously brought to my attention, so I vowed not to do that when I became a manager.”

(I don’t suggest saying anything that isn’t true. In my case, this was my experience early in my career and I found that sharing it was helpful context for me to share difficult information with team members. Some fully agreed and made a point of thanking me for raising the issue to them early so it didn’t necessarily affect their evaluation at the end of the year.)

Approach #3: Part of the difficulty with delivering constructive criticism is that it can be hard to do it without the employee feeling attacked and becoming defensive. As a result, it’s important to remember crutch phrases that minimize this potential impact.

Instead of saying “No” to a request, consider saying, “What would work better for me is….”
Remember that people often feel attacked when “you” language is used. For particularly sensitive discussions, try to use “I” language, which minimizes the likelihood of feeling attacked. (Don’t try to do this all the time, though, as it may dilute your message too much if overused).

Example: “Jill, I’m somewhat concerned about our cycle time producing the marketing report. I understand it’s been late the last two months. What are your thoughts about that? What could we possibly do to ensure the report is delivered on time moving forward?”

Everyone responds defensively to labels whether the label is accurate or not. So, avoid labels at all costs and instead cite behavior/objective facts. Also, remember that as soon as you label someone, they’re going to ask for an example immediately anyway, so just skip to the example.

Don’t say: “Jill, you seem a little antisocial and I’m concerned about that since it’s so important to build a strong relationship with this client.” Instead, reword it this way: “Jill, I noticed last week that you didn’t eat lunch with the client team during the kickoff meeting or attend the social Friday night. It’s so important that we build strong relationships with their team so that concerned me a bit. Your thoughts? What can we do moving forward to ensure we’re building strong relationships with them?”

To enhance the effectiveness of these interventions/discussions in general, it can help immensely if you establish ground rules/practices early on before there’s a need for a difficult discussion. Some of these practices might include agreeing to debriefing meetings afterward to consider what worked and what didn’t, conducting standard feedback sessions every 90 or 120 days, or agreeing to ask permission to raise a “hard issue” when necessary.

Although these crutches can be helpful, don’t misconstrue them as a blanket recommendation to soften all constructive criticism or difficult messaging. Sometimes, softening the message can be the wrong move, so you should be as direct as your personal comfort level and the maturity of the relationship will allow.

Often, it’s appropriate (and necessary) to be firm, direct, and to the point. However, if you have situations where you run the risk of avoiding the conversation/issue because you just don’t know how to deliver the message, consider using these “crutches” to help you say what needs to be said.

Dana Brownlee is a keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and teambuilding consultant. She is president of Professionalism Matters, Inc., a boutique professional development corporate training firm.


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from Training Magazine

Study: Age Becoming an Issue with Health Care Benefits

The effect of the health care reform law on employer benefit plans can be found in the data, according to a recent study by Automatic Data Processing Inc., which shows that enrollment rates for older employees is steadily increasing while enrollment for younger ones is declining.

It is shifts like these that will prompt employers to make changes to their benefit plans in an effort to lower health care costs as key provisions of the Affordable Care Act take effect in 2014, says Christopher Ryan, vice president of strategic advisory services for the Roseland, New Jersey-based payroll processing giant.

On July 2, U.S. Treasury Department Assistant Secretary Mark Mazur announced in a blog post that the employer mandate has been postponed until 2015.

According to the 2013 ADP Annual Health Benefits Report, which was released in June, 50 percent of eligible employees under age 30 participate in their company’s health plan compared with 72 percent for those over 50. Among the reasons cited for low participation among younger workers is a provision in the health care reform law that allows dependents up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ health plan.

This may also provide “additional motivation for older

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parents to participate in their employer-sponsored health insurance,” according to the report, which cites the growing number of baby boomers working into their later years as a key reason for the higher enrollment figures.

“The ACA is prompting many organizations to re-examine their benefits strategies as they move into 2014, when the major provisions of the law will go into effect,” says Ryan, who co-authored the study. In response, employers will be making changes to their benefit plans to lower costs, like reducing their contributions to dependent coverage or offering health insurance to workers who were not previously eligible in order to reduce the risk in their pool of insured workers, Ryan says.

“These strategies and others could have a far-reaching impact on employers and employees,” he says.

ADP studied enrollment data between 2010 when the health care reform law was passed and 2013 in an effort to collect hard evidence on how reform will change employee benefits.

“A challenge with ACA is that there’s been hype and controversy but very little empirical data,” Ryan says. “We wanted to provide objective data. Right now we’re at the point where rubber meets the road. HR departments will have to figure out how this is going to work.”

The study, which ADP plans to release annually, will track eligibility, participation and premium trends before and after the Affordable Care Act is fully in place in order to create a benchmark for changes in 2014, according to the report.

Other key findings include:

1) Employers increased their contribution share for single coverage health plans and decreased their share for family coverage. In 2013, the largest employer contribution share was for single coverage at 77 percent.

2) Increases in monthly health insurance premiums have leveled off after a 7.6 percent spike between 2010 and 2011. Premiums rose 3 percent in 2012.

3) An analysis of 21 states with the largest employee populations shows that health plan costs vary dramatically from state to state. In 2013, New Jersey had the highest monthly premium at $968, and Colorado had the lowest at $733.

Rita Pyrillis is Workforce’s senior editor. Reprinted from

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