SMB Matters

Day Three of TriNet PeopleForce Headlined by Former U.S. President and Rounded Out by Pivoting During the Pandemic, Healthcare and Where We are Headed

October 23, 2020

Day Three, and the final sessions, of TriNet PeopleForce started out the gates strong with former President George W. Bush having a candid conversation with his daughter Jenna Bush Hager, former first granddaughter and first daughter, NY Times best-selling author and co-host of NBC News “Today with Hoda & Jenna”. He discussed his time in the Oval Office, the challenges facing our country and businesses, the power of freedom, and the importance of resilience.

Last day of PeopleForce showcased another fantastic line up of distinguished speakers, health care experts and thought leaders who provided insight into small and medium size businesses (SMBs) during the pandemic, critical healthcare issues to consider and what the future looks like.

In case you missed the lessons, advice and incredible business insights from the first two days of TriNet PeopleForce, you can catch the recap here or visit on demand video sessions here.

Highlights included:

Pivoting the pandemic and getting a head start on the future of work

David Faber, award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author, co-anchor of CNBC's "Squawk on the Street", was joined by panelists Michael J. Angelakis, Chairman and CEO, Atairos (and member of TriNet’s Board of Directors), Jacqueline Van Dine, VP of Merchandising, Birkenstock, and Samantha Snabes, Co-Founder, re:3D.

Collectively, the panelists believe that we have entered a new normal, one that is difficult and foreign, but also one that will shape the way business is conducted moving forward. Michael acknowledged three phases of the pandemic – the first being survive and protect, moving into a summer of execution, and now evolving into our current state of business stabilization and opportunistic and offensive tendencies.

re:3D is an example of a small business that quickly pivoted and shifted their business focus to mobilize their global print peers and customers to produce necessary healthcare equipment to fill supply gaps. “You have a choice to lean in or give up during a crisis. For us, we chose to lean in,” added Samantha.

The pandemic has taught these leaders, and all those in the business environment, to keep a tight watch on supply chains and zone in on the uniqueness of the company and its product. But, more importantly, it has taught us that we are moving in the direction of a digital economy, at least to some extent, and we have the tools and resources to succeed in this new climate, one that will soon be our norm.

How COVID-19 is Accelerating the Future of Work

One thing we have heard consistently from our experts is the importance of culture particularly for small and medium size businesses. And as we survive this crisis, it is critical for businesses to create a culture of inclusivity, authenticity, and transparency. According to our live poll taken during the conference, 48% of attendees think that their company culture is holding up stronger than ever through COVID-19.

Our next panel was moderated by Josh Newman, executive director of product marketing, TriNet on the very important topic of company culture. Josh was joined by Gina Hartigan, vice president human resources Mavenlink and Shannon Adkins, CEO Future State as they discussed trends that seem to be gaining ground and what that means for employees and managers.

Gina dug deep into Mavenlink’s award winning culture. Pandemic has shifted the way they think about their priorities and people are encouraged to show up unapologetically and bring their whole self to work at her company. “Culture is our secret sauce, and it starts with knowing and celebrating the human and not the employee.”

Against the backdrop of the social unrest, a company’s DE&I strategy is more critical to their culture than ever before. 58% of our attendees participating in the live poll think diversity fares stronger than ever amongst all other company initiatives. And 67% attendees seek diverse partners, suppliers and vendors.

Shannon shared how DE&I initiatives were important to the culture at Future State. The company has invested in training and arming the workforce with knowledge and training to be aware of their own biases in order to become an inclusive organization. Future State is deeply invested in the community and is making donations to organizations that are aligned to their DE&I commitment.

They have also put resources in up leveling the skills and competencies of the workforce during these challenging times.

The three-fold pandemic and the way forward

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, Physician, Podcast Host, Author and former Public Health Commissioner of Detroit, kicked off the fireside chat with Michael Mendenhall, SVP and CMO, CCO, TriNet, saying, “We have the pandemic of COVID-19, which is a biological pandemic caused by a virus, that is lending into a pandemic of systemic racism that helps to reinforce and continue to strengthen an overall pandemic of insecurity.”

So, how do these pandemics co-exist, or rather, fuel each other? It is a tale as old as time; SMBs struggle to compete with larger corporations in the fight for talent, unless they bring a third-party to help level the playing field. You are seeing a decoupling of the stock market. Larger corporations have a lot of capital to invest, yet that is not the case for SMBs, hence the loss of an estimated 100,000 small businesses to the pandemic. The stock market doesn’t tell the whole story, but it does add to the lack of diversity and increased insecurity. Moving forward, SMBs must collectivize that bargaining and come together advocating for a better package of insurance for all of the employees.

The pandemic of systematic racism is a result of the ways that historical racism has patterned into building the present that we now live in. How do we change this? Invest, invest, invest. Investing in diversity & inclusion and access and equity is investing in your future because that's what allows you to win the day for innovation – it opens the door for more creativity, collaboration and success.

Although, we are facing challenging and unpredictable times in the U.S., the beautiful thing about this country is that it’s always correcting. 

Drivers of healthcare costs and ways to curb it

“The last 20 years, U.S. health premiums have increased on average, about 6.5% per year. That's about 250% over 20 years. And that is about 2.8 times more than inflation,” led off Mike Murphy, VP and Interim CFO, TriNet, and moderator of the panel. This laid the foundation for the pivotal discussion around the outlook of healthcare that included Richard Migliori, MD, EVP and CMO, UnitedHealth Group, Ed Mullen, CEO, Cyprexx Services, and Edward Griese, SVP of Insurance Services, TriNet.

Dr. Migliori acknowledges that the healthcare system isn’t perfect, and needs to improve, but it’s not monopolized nor does it lack talent. It is the battle of keeping up with the patient-base and knowledge-base and the nature of the system itself, the infrastructure and the disruptive level of fragmentation and the information flow. That’s why it’s underperforming.

2021 medical cost trends or premium increases are between 4-10%, both higher and wider than years prior, so, how can the healthcare system improve? People must get off of fee for service and have the physicians fully aligned with the needs of the clients – better care at a lower cost. There also must be a focus on the benefits themselves, to make sure that the other person in that exam room will also financially follow the guidance of that physician.

From the SMB viewpoint, to manage healthcare costs and educate its employees, a partner should be brought in to teach the wellness topic until the company is fit to issue its own program and teach the necessary material around high-cost medicine. For this to happen, SMBs must do their due diligence and collect the necessary data, analyze it, and share it with the employee-base in order to leave them better prepared.

Our experts confirmed the gaps in the healthcare system, but they didn’t leave us with a lack of hope. There is a solution in this fight with every member playing its part, from the physician to the SMB.

To bring it home, Scott Galloway, NYU Stern Professor, public speaker, author and podcast host had a compelling and thought-provoking conversation with Michael Mendenhall, SVP, CMO and CCO TriNet. Scott recognizes that SMBs have had it hard and his advice to businesses is, “if you are a small or a medium-sized business, you have to make hard decisions fast around cutting costs. And this isn’t fun. It is not aspirational, but go through every cost, every expense line and either renegotiate or eliminate and put yourself in fighting shape.”

Scott believes that this is a moment where our actions will echo for a long time. “I don’t see things getting better unless we recognize fast that capitalism only works when it sits on top of a body of empathy and redistribution.” A powerful message leaving our attendees feeling optimistic and hopeful.

In fact, it is refreshing to see that in the most challenging time in modern history, SMB pride prevails. According to TriNet SMB Pulse survey* at mid-size level one in three business owners feel better about being a business owner now than they did prior to the pandemic. And we wish them luck to preserve and persist!

For a full recap of live poll results from TriNet PeopleForce, click here.

*SMB Pulse, conducted with third-party research firm Bredin, surveyed 500 principals of U.S. companies between September 26 – October 13 with 1 to 500 employees, including: 250 Very Small Businesses (VSBs) with one to 19 employees (97.7% weighting); 150 Small Businesses (SBs) with 20 to 99 employees (2.0% weighting); 100 Mid-sized Businesses (MBs) with 100 to 500 employees (0.3% weighting). The data cited in the research represents the opinions of the survey respondents and not those of TriNet or its employees.

This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance. 


This post may contain hyperlinks to websites operated by parties other than TriNet. Such hyperlinks are provided for reference only. TriNet does not control such websites and is not responsible for their content. Inclusion of such hyperlinks on TriNet.com does not necessarily imply any endorsement of the material on such websites or association with their operators.


By TriNet

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