Workplace MVP: Stephanie Savoy, American Renal Associates, and Geoff Simpson, Presagia
Managing leave of absence requests can be an overwhelming and complicated task for any company. Stephanie Savoy, Senior HR Manager at American Renal Associates, admits to using an “unruly” spreadsheet and relying on multiple sources to monitor changes in the law. She and Geoff Simpson with Presagia joined host Jamie Gassmann to talk about the challenges compounded by Covid, and the solutions offered by Presagia that helped American Renal Associates get a handle on their leave tracking and the confidence that they can remain in compliance. Workplace MVP is underwritten and presented by R3 Continuum and produced by the Minneapolis-St.Paul Studio of Business RadioX®.
American Renal Associates
American Renal Associates (“ARA”) is a leading provider of outpatient dialysis services in the United States. ARA operates more than 240 dialysis clinic locations in 27 states and the District of Columbia serving more than 16,900 patients with end stage renal disease. ARA operates principally through a physician partnership model, in which it partners with more than 400 local nephrologists to develop, own and operate dialysis clinics.
Stephanie Savoy, Senior Human Resources Manager, American Renal Associates
Stephanie Savoy, SHRM-CP is currently a Senior Human Resources Manager overseeing the Leaves Administration department at American Renal Associates (ARA).
With over 13 years in the human resources field, Stephanie has worked in non-profit biomedical research, higher education, and healthcare settings. Prior to ARA, she worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Sloan School of Management as well as the Office of Resource Development. In addition to her expertise in leaves of absence, she has experience in a variety of HR facets including compensation, recruiting, organizational development, rewards & recognition, and D/I.
Stephanie continues to mentor and coach her staff and the entire American Renal leadership team on the leaves process and its operational impact on the organization.
Geoff Simpson, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Presagia
Geoff Simpson holds a B.A. in Political Science from McGill University and has been with Presagia since 2004 in a variety of roles working on sales, marketing, and partnerships.
Working closely with companies ranging from a few hundred employees up to Fortune 500 and reviewing their issues and requirements has strongly positioned him to understand the needs of employers today while retaining extensive knowledge of Presagia’s technology.
He has authored articles, whitepapers and case studies on absence management best practices and presented at industry events.
R3 Continuum is a global leader in workplace behavioral health and security solutions. R3c helps ensure the psychological and physical safety of organizations and their people in today’s ever-changing and often unpredictable world. Through their continuum of tailored solutions, including evaluations, crisis response, executive optimization, protective services, and more, they help organizations maintain and cultivate a workplace of wellbeing so that their people can thrive. Learn more about R3c at www.r3c.com.
About Workplace MVP
Every day, around the world, organizations of all sizes face disruptive events and situations. Within those workplaces are everyday heroes in human resources, risk management, security, business continuity, and the C-suite. They don’t call themselves heroes though. On the contrary, they simply show up every day, laboring for the well-being of employees in their care, readying the workplace for and planning responses to disruption. This show, Workplace MVP, confers on these heroes the designation they deserve, Workplace MVP (Most Valuable Professionals), and gives them the forum to tell their story. As you hear their experiences, you will learn first-hand, real-life approaches to readying the workplace, responses to crisis situations, and overcoming challenges of disruption. Visit our show archive here.
Workplace MVP Host Jamie Gassmann
In addition to serving as the host to the Workplace MVP podcast, Jamie Gassmann is the Director of Marketing at R3 Continuum (R3c). Collectively, she has more than fourteen years of marketing experience. Across her tenure, she has experience working in and with various industries including banking, real estate, retail, crisis management, insurance, business continuity, and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communications with special interest in Advertising and Public Relations and a Master of Business Administration from Paseka School of Business, Minnesota State University.
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting from the Business RadioX Studios, it’s time for Workplace MVP. Workplace MVP is brought to you by R3 Continuum, a global leader in workplace behavioral health and security solutions. Now, here’s your host, Jamie Gassmann.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:00:26] Hi, everyone. Your host, Jamie Gassmann, here and welcome to this episode of Workplace MVP.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:00:33] Navigating the various leaves of absence cases and laws can be complicated under normal circumstances. Well, over the last year and a half, employers have had to navigate anything but normal. In fact, the leave laws continue to change regularly, making it complex and difficult for H.R. leaders to stay current and knowledgeable across all the various state and federal leave laws. Combine that with helping your employees to understand what is available to them and what they need to provide to be eligible, and along with the navigation of supporting the daily needs of the workplace, H.R. leaders and business leaders have a lot to navigate.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:13] So, how do they find a solution that helps to ease the complexity and challenges with leaves of absence? And how can they stay current and on top of the constantly changing laws? And what are some best practice approaches to creating a seamless process in your organization?
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:30] Well, joining us today to share their experience, both as an H.R. leader navigating the complexity of the leaves and as a solution provider, what they have seen work and not work, are Workplace MVP’s Stephanie Savoy, senior human resources manager for American Renal Associates, and Geoff Simpson, vice president of sales and marketing for Presagia. Welcome to the show, Stephanie and Geoff.
Stephanie Savoy: [00:01:56] Thank you so much. Happy to be here.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:02:00] So, let’s start out with our first Workplace MVP, Stephanie Savoy, senior human resources manager for American Renal Associates. Now, you mentioned on a previous call that you sort of fell into your H.R. career. Can you share with our audience your journey that you’ve taken with your career to this point?
Stephanie Savoy: [00:02:22] I did. Yeah. So, I think like most H.R. professionals, I definitely did fall into the H.R. world. I started my working career as a front desk receptionist at a biomedical research institute in Cambridge, Mass. I may have smiled at the right person. I landed up at MIT as an AA to an H.R. director and expanded my HR knowledge there over about eight years. Until the traffic into the city got a little bit too much for me, that’s when I found American Renal and I’ve been here for about five years now.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:02:59] Wonderful. It must have been one heck of a smile. So, tell us a little bit about what does American Renal Associates do and how big is the employee base, and just kind of any details you’d like to share about kind of what you navigate on a daily basis with that organization.
Stephanie Savoy: [00:03:17] Absolutely. So, American Renal is a provider of outpatient services for dialysis. We serve close to 17,000 patients with end-stage renal disease, and we have about 4500 employees. We have 240 clinics across the country. We are in 27 different states, including District of Columbia. So, our employee base is really varied. So, we have California, super employee-friendly; Texas; South Carolina; Massachusetts. We are all over the place. So, we definitely have to be flexible and be on our toes constantly.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:03:59] Yeah. Absolutely. It sounds like, especially when you’re navigating all those different states and having to be aware of what their rules are and their laws. So, in taking your role at American Renal Associates, what was the leave of absence management process like when you first came into the position?
Stephanie Savoy: [00:04:20] Oh, goodness. It was very, very manual. Looking back, we had multiple Word document templates for our eligibility and designation notices so that was for each and every leave situation you can imagine. We had to make sure we picked the right one. If there were any updates, we had to manually update all of our letters so that was very time-consuming.
Stephanie Savoy: [00:04:45] In addition to that, in order to track our leaves, we had an Excel spreadsheet, which over the years just grew to be giant and unruly. We just kept adding tabs for each year as each year went by. Funnily enough, we actually kicked the Excel spreadsheet once we moved to Presagia, and I tied it up with a nice, pretty bow, February 28, 2020. And then, two weeks later, the world just went upside down, so that was really great timing.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:05:20] Oh, my goodness. And what great timing. But before, you know, before you – with the Excel spreadsheet. So, obviously, there had to have been some kind of red flags you were seeing where you’re like this process is just not going to continue to work. But what were some of the kind of final, you know, “we really have to make a change”, like those final signs where you were like this is just not going to cut it going forward. What were some of those that were kind of presenting themselves that helped to kind of move in the direction of bringing on a software platform like Presagia?
Stephanie Savoy: [00:05:55] Yeah. So, we’re always looking for ways to be more efficient whether it’s saving time, saving money, making a better experience for my team and for our employees, not to mention the unruly spreadsheet kept freezing, you know, computers would just implode. It was really terrible.
Stephanie Savoy: [00:06:15] So, when I was tasked with, you know, taking a look at what can we do as a solution, I looked at different providers and services out there, and that’s when I found Presagia and they definitely offered the most robust solution for us. And not only did they have letters that would be automatically generated for each leave case, it was a tracking tool and best yet it was a compliance tool as well. Being in 20 different locations, it was wonderful to just put in someone’s details and then come up with all the information on what would apply for their specific situation.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:06:54] How did you do that beforehand? I mean, how did you – how would you keep up with like the leave laws? I mean, obviously, I know, and we’re going to get to talking about over this last year, a year and a half, you know how quickly laws continue to change. What was that like for your group prior to having a platform like Presagia? Like, how – what did you do?
Stephanie Savoy: [00:07:19] Yeah. So, it’s actually one of my favorite parts of my job is to keep up on all the regulations. I love to read. I love to just research. And so, we would rely on blogs that would have just kicked out emails every week with updates. We have outside legal counsel that we rely on to help us make sure that we’re in compliance.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:07:40] And then just kind of the news, too. We would just see the updates and be like, “Oh, we have a location in that state. We should probably look that up.” And then, you know, apply the different situations.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:07:55] That sounds very manual and time-consuming, but probably potentially a little risky to it. For some reason, you missed one clause or shift to that. You know, they changed. So interesting.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:08:07] So, now looking at, I mean, you said you tied your bow on the spreadsheet, which I’ve, you know, been in roles were the spreadsheet is the source. And then, somebody missed data sorts and everything is jumbled and you’re going, “Oh, my gosh, how do we reorganize that?” So, I can imagine what the complexity if something were to get out of sorts with, you know, where you’re managing your leaves of absence.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:08:33] So, looking at the last year, you know, you brought on Presagia right at the right time because obviously March is where a lot of organizations experienced, you know, various levels of different types of leaves, but also just changes in H.R. in general with, you know, remote work and things of that nature.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:08:52] So, talk to me about what were your leave volumes, you know? What have they been like, you know? And, did you experience a change within your organization? Because I know you mentioned before you have frontline workers, so people who would have been still, you know, accessible to the public during the last year and a half, and then you have probably some that are in a remote setting because they’re more kind of office working. So, talk to me a little bit about the dynamics of, you know, what it was like going through the last year and what kind of experience did you have with your volumes of leave?
Stephanie Savoy: [00:09:25] Yeah, definitely. So, we provide life-sustaining treatments to patients, so there’s no days off. We have to have people there administering that treatment.
Stephanie Savoy: [00:09:39] So, throughout the pandemic, it was, we need to step up for our frontline responders to deliver that treatment to our patients. Obviously, there were other situations going on where people may not have been able to be there. So, our leaves definitely increased.
Stephanie Savoy: [00:10:01] We saw pre-COVID about, you know, we were handling about 120, 130 leaves per month. At the height of the pandemic, probably in July 2020, we got to 201. It was varied reasons. You know, in the beginning of the pandemic, I think there was a lot of fear of the unknown. We saw people with underlying health conditions that if they were to get COVID, it would be really detrimental to their health and their livelihood.
Stephanie Savoy: [00:10:31] We saw COVID positive leave themselves and we saw child care leaves, too. You know, staff who maybe their children’s daycares had closed or their children’s school went remote and they had to be there to ensure that they logged in and got their education. It was definitely a test to the work-life balance scales.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:10:55] Absolutely. And so, looking at that, you know, you kind of mentioned a few of the common ones over the last year. You know, typically what are some of the common leaves or common reasons that employees are taking leaves from your experience, from what you’ve seen?
Stephanie Savoy: [00:11:11] From my experience, we usually see routine, planned surgeries, you know, unexpected injuries or illnesses, pregnancy. There’s always babies, which is the happiest leave that we can process. We love the baby pictures over here. So, those are most of the common types of leaves.
Stephanie Savoy: [00:11:31] In March 2020, we surprisingly saw an increase of military leaves, of extended military leaves, because of the National Guard. They got called. So, we saw a good amount of those come through and we’re seeing more anxiety and depression leave-related reasons. You know, just whether it’s directly related to COVID or indirectly related to COVID.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:11:58] And now, that we’re coming, you know, obviously we’re at the end of 2021, you know, still facing some of the same challenges that we started facing back in March of 2020. Are you seeing any shift in the types of leaves? Have they kind of moved in, you know, changed like all the kind of ups and downs that we’ve gone over the last year? Are you seeing that or is this kind of tapering out to be a little bit more consistent with depression, anxiety, and those types of leaves? Or is it, you know, what are you seeing?
Stephanie Savoy: [00:12:29] Yeah. We’re definitely seeing long-term effects of COVID, again whether it’s directly related or indirectly related. We are seeing more planned surgeries that get back on the schedules, which is a nice thing to see. You know, people are opening up their offices again and those are, you know, deemed okay to move forward with, and always babies, always babies.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:12:57] And that’s always a good thing, though. I agree with you. It’s always kind of fun to see the baby pictures. So, and obviously with that is the fast pace of law changing that’s happened both at a federal and a state level. So, how do you keep on top of ensuring that your organization is aware and following them? I know you mentioned the news, but I’ve got to imagine now with the Presagia solution, you have a better way to do that. Can you speak to that a little bit?
Stephanie Savoy: [00:13:31] Yeah. So, Presagia is great. They do keep up to date on the regulations. Things are coming out so fast and furious, and sometimes we’re working with Presagia to say, “Hey, have you seen this? Are you going to add that to the system?” And so, they have a compliance team themselves and we have a contact over there that we all kind of huddle together and say, “Okay, we saw this. How does it apply to us and when can we get this in the system?” So that’s been really great to just know that, okay, the system will let us know exactly all the new leaves and how it applies to our specific staff and their situations.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:14:09] Wonderful. Now, you also shared with me at a previous call that you have a motto that you’ve set for the last two years and you’re going to continue that motto going into 2022. Can you share with us your motto and why you have that as your kind of theme for the year?
Stephanie Savoy: [00:14:28] Absolutely. Yeah, for the years. I can’t believe that we’re on year three. I think pivot was a really big word in 2020. Mine is similar, but it’s patience and flexibility. Whether I’m asking that of my team to be patient and flexible with me, you know, as our workload increases, having patience and flexibility with themselves. You can – we only have so much time in the day and I’m not asking them to work nights and weekends if they don’t want to. If they want to, wonderful. I’ll take it. But I don’t want them – you know, I want them to have a really good work-life balance. So, the work is the work. You know, be patient and flexible with what comes in and just, you know, take your time. Do one thing at a time and just touch each case and tie it up at the bow and move on to the next one.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:15:20] Yeah. I love that. That’s a great motto for both professional and personal situations, especially, you know, going into the third year of some of the challenges we’ve been experiencing. So, thank you for sharing that with us.
Stephanie Savoy: [00:15:32] Thank you.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:15:33] So, now let’s shift to our second Workplace MVP, Geoff Simpson, vice president of sales and marketing at Presagia. Hi, Geoff.
Geoff Simpson: [00:15:43] Hello, Jamie. Thanks for having me.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:15:46] Absolutely. So, now you’ve been with Presagia for a while now. Can you share with us your career journey and how you’ve gotten to where you are today?
Geoff Simpson: [00:15:57] Absolutely. So, like with Stephanie, I kind of fell into the whole absence management H.R. world. I actually began with Presagia straight out of university, which is longer ago than I would like to admit at this point.
Geoff Simpson: [00:16:10] And at the time, we actually developed electronic health records for the sports medicine world. So, I began in marketing at the company, and at that time we were looking at a way to really get into the whole workforce management world. And, I worked with our leadership team, did a ton of research, and we found that there was just this huge gap in absence management and compliance with all the different leave laws out there. So, we work to really figure out what is the solution that we can provide to that market.
Geoff Simpson: [00:16:41] I then worked with the whole launch of the product, marketing of the product to eventually start working more on alliances as well, and then picked up sales, too. And that kind of led us to where we are today. Right now, I run sales marketing alliances.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:16:57] Awesome. Great story. So, tell us a little bit about what Presagia does.
Geoff Simpson: [00:17:02] Absolutely. So, we are a software company and we really focus on absence management and compliance with all of those regulations out there. And, if you think about in the U.S. alone, you have more than 500 federal state and local leave rules. We also cover Canada, and that adds about another 150 leave rules. So, there’s a lot out there.
Geoff Simpson: [00:17:24] And what we did is we actually built a Leave Rules Engine that contains all of those rules, and we did that in partnership with a large employment law firm who really helped us initially look at all the laws across the country and then figure out how do you translate those laws into technology and create solutions that really employers can use.
Geoff Simpson: [00:17:46] So, we’ve developed solutions now that go across all types of organizations that manage leave. You have our Presagia Leave Solution, which is really for typically employers with a thousand or more employees. We have our Leave Genius Pro Solution, which I’ll talk about a bit later, which is designed for small, medium businesses.
Geoff Simpson: [00:18:04] We have our Absence Compliance Engine, which is actually our rules engine, which we can license out to like software companies that want to build their own leave technology, as well as an H.R. solution for groups to provide leave administration services. So, again, software at the end of the day, but really just helping any company that needs to be able to manage leaves, accommodations, that whole absence management world.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:18:27] Wonderful. And, now you kind of – you’re touching on this but supporting many organizations through your software and your leave of absence management and their leave of absence management. So, when they first come to you, what are some of the challenges that you commonly hear that workplaces are experiencing when it comes to their leaves of absence?
Geoff Simpson: [00:18:48] Okay. So, I think this goes back a little bit to what Stephanie was saying, where there were spreadsheets that were being used. And, I think this is really common. There’s still a lot of employers who are managing leaves and absences with spreadsheets and sticky note and Outlook tasks and that very manual world.
Geoff Simpson: [00:19:10] So, the issues that you tend to see there, there are a number of them. So, there’s the efficiency side of the equation. So, it just takes a lot of time to break out a calculator and calculate does an employee have enough hours’ work to actually be able to take things like the FMLA. They have to fill in letters and all the forms need to be sent out. Huge, huge, time-consuming process. There’s compliance.
Geoff Simpson: [00:19:33] So, not everyone loves to research the laws like Stephanie, but you actually do have to always make sure you’re up to date on all those laws out there across all the jurisdictions you have your employees in.
Geoff Simpson: [00:19:47] High absence rates. That’s another piece of the equation. So, if leave is not really under control, quite often employees are taking more absences than maybe they’re even entitled to. Maybe it’s that some employers we’ve talked to they’re forgetting to return employees to work on time, so people just stay out, which has productivity impacts.
Geoff Simpson: [00:20:07] There’s poor visibility into trends. So, if you’re managing things on spreadsheets, you’re not really going to be able to report on your absence trends. So, where are you having more lost workdays? Are people not reporting leaves at all? That type of thing.
Geoff Simpson: [00:20:22] And then, also there’s the employee experience piece of the equation. So, oftentimes when employees need to take or when an employee needs to take leave, it’s oftentimes a major life event and they want to have some hand-holding going on there. And if you’re too focused having to just keep up with sending letters out and doing the tasks you have to, you’re not really able to provide that hand-holding that really leads to a better employee experience. So, those are some of the issues we see.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:20:52] Yeah. And I mean, I can see, like, you know, if there’s an intermittent leave, where they’re, you know, on, you know, part of the time off, part of the time, you know, that could get really complicated to track as well, and how do you manage that.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:21:06] So, but from an employee perspective, you know, a lot of the times employees aren’t aware of what they’re eligible to take. And to your point of the hand-holding, they’re probably not even aware of how to even handle that process. I mean, is that some of the things that you’ve heard from the employers you’ve worked with?
Geoff Simpson: [00:21:25] Definitely. And I can say just personally if I wasn’t in this world, I wouldn’t have a clue about the different leave laws that are applicable to any leave requests that I would want to make. So, I think we hear that quite a bit, that employees, they need support. They need someone who can really guide them through this process.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:21:42] Yeah. Wonderful. So, talking about the process, from your perspective, why is it so important for it to go smoothly for both the workplace and for that employee? You know, what kind of impacts can it have overall? I know you mentioned productivity. But what are some of the other impacts it can have on the organization?
Geoff Simpson: [00:22:03] Yes. So, we’ve kind of already touched on this a little bit, but one of the big ones is non-compliance. So, if you’re not knowing what laws are out there or what the laws actually provide, then you may not give employees what they’re actually entitled to, which obviously has an employee experience impact but it also has the impact of you’re not compliant with the law, which can put you at risk of backlash.
Geoff Simpson: [00:22:28] Oftentimes, letters are not set on time. So if you’re struggling, you just keep up with the very manual process. Getting things out on time and making sure you’re checking all those boxes to follow the legally required timeline may not be happening. And, again, this can just lead to lawsuits, which can be very costly. Even if you win them, they’re costly to hire a counsel and so on.
Geoff Simpson: [00:22:51] There’s also just excessive absences. So, employees staying out longer than they should, as we mentioned. Productivity impacts there. Also, just lacking lower workforce morale when other people are having to cover for an employee who is out and out for an unexpected amount of time.
Geoff Simpson: [00:23:10] Intermittent FMLA abuse, which you just met brought up, that’s a huge problem. So, intermittent FMLA is that unpredictable FMLA. You don’t know when someone’s going to be taking it, and you need to be able to stay on top of those cases to make sure that employees really are taking the amount that their healthcare providers said they need.
Geoff Simpson: [00:23:29] And then, there are also just some costs around excessive absences. So, productivity we talked about. But there’s also the cost around benefits. So, when employees are out on leave, you’re having to pay for benefits continuation and so on and they’re not actually – they’re not working at that point in time.
Geoff Simpson: [00:23:45] There’s also just the whole inefficiency piece. So, managing leave, very time-consuming, as we’ve already mentioned.
Geoff Simpson: [00:23:55] Also, oftentimes which I’m hearing that leave managers, in struggling to keep up, quite often are putting in overtime just to be able to handle the volume of the cases out there. So, it sounds like Stephanie has a better handle on that and makes sure that that’s not happening. But oftentimes there are employers when they’re still doing things very manually, they’re putting in overtime just to stay on top of things.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:24:18] Yeah, which can ultimately lead to burnout and stress in that department. So, it sounds like there’s definitely a lot of areas of ripple effects that can occur when these are poorly managed.
Geoff Simpson: [00:24:29] Yes.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:24:29] So, looking out over this last year, and I know Stephanie kind of talked to some of the interesting, you know, changes and leaves that she saw as a result of the pandemic and some of just the, you know, the shifts and turns that came as a result of us moving through the last year, year and a half, and now into the third year of this. From your knowledge of what you’ve seen with clients or just monitoring the absence management industry, what are some of the challenges that workplaces had to face with their leave management processes? And, I mean, I’m guessing some of it is just the constant change in regulations. But can you talk to some of the things that you were navigating as an organization trying to support workplaces with the leave management processes?
Geoff Simpson: [00:25:19] So, really what we were seeing there, and first off, there were a lot of challenges across the board, but really some of the things [inaudible].
Jamie Gassmann: [00:25:27] That is so true.
Geoff Simpson: [00:25:28] Absolutely.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:25:29] So true.
Geoff Simpson: [00:25:29] So, one of the things we were seeing that a lot of our clients were having was they were just downsizing. So, either people were being furloughed, downsized, whatever it may be, that led to oftentimes the H.R. and benefits teams who were responsible for managing leave, they now still had to do the same stuff as they did before, but do it with fewer actual people resources. Combine that with leave volumes went way up. So, suddenly people were taking more leave, which means you actually have a ton more case management to do with, again, fewer resources.
Geoff Simpson: [00:26:07] And then the other piece, which you just touched upon was really just around there were so many laws coming out. So when the pandemic first hit, there was an initial onslaught of, I think it was between like 10 or 20 different laws at federal state and local levels that came out. And there’s kind of the idea I think initially that that would be it. But then those laws oftentimes they sunset. Sometimes they got unexpectedly extended. Sometimes they were made permanent. Then more laws kept coming out over the last year and a half.
Geoff Simpson: [00:26:39] So, it’s really just been one of the biggest challenges that we’ve really been working to support. It’s just making sure that we’re always keeping our systems up to date with all those laws so that in turn our customers who really are stuck having to manage these are able to stay up to date with them as well.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:26:56] Yeah. Because I can imagine, you know, employees that are researching on their own with maybe not as much of the knowledge as like what somebody who’s familiar with that compliance area. It could get – I’m guessing, it could be really confusing for them. And so having clear information that’s, you know, that they could speak to those employees, I got to imagine has been a helpful hand navigating the different, you know, absence management challenges.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:27:30] So, looking at your organization, you just launched an updated version of a software that supports small to midsize businesses. So, can you talk a little bit about that and share some information around what that is and how it was created, and anything else you want to share on that?
Geoff Simpson: [00:27:50] I can. So, this is actually a really interesting one. So, I mentioned Leave Genius Pro a little bit earlier. This is the new product that we launched. And what it comes out of is we recognize that small, medium businesses, so groups that really have under a thousand employees or so, they really didn’t have any absence compliance solution that was available to them. Oftentimes, they’re too small to be able to afford to outsource, and then they’re also too small to be able to really afford the enterprise solutions that we’ve seen in the market, and that largely just comes down to cost and the resources available.
Geoff Simpson: [00:28:31] So, enterprise solutions, because they’re very complex, they’re integral system integrations that go on their full implementations go on, there’s a cost associated with that. There’s also a requirement to bring in things like I.T. resources, potentially legal resources, and others to really be able to implement these solutions.
Geoff Simpson: [00:28:51] So, the question for us became, how do you provide really a complex compliant solution to groups that can’t actually afford a comprehensive software platform? It’s not so easy.
Geoff Simpson: [00:29:04] So, we have our rules engine. And, what we did was we worked to build an incredibly easy-to-use web app called Leave Genius Pro. It’s designed to work on all devices, so your computer, your phone, your tablet, whatever you want to use it on. And, what we saw was with the small and medium business world, they need to comply with the regulations. But due to their size, they’re not going to have the same volume of leave cases that a larger employer is going to have. So, their main concern is around compliance versus when you’re talking about a larger employer that concerns are going to be compliance as well as gaining efficiencies to be able to just keep up with all the cases.
Geoff Simpson: [00:29:52] So, what we could do is we could create a tool where you remove some of the more costly items like system integrations, system training, and all those things, and just package it up in a really easy to use system that has the basics of leave administration, but also access to the entire Leave Rules Engine.
Geoff Simpson: [00:30:12] And then, we were able to basically get the price point down to a thousand a year. So, it’s something where, quite frankly, my cell phone bill is more in a given year. So, it’s something that really those small and medium businesses can actually afford and really get that compliance support that they need.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:30:29] Yeah. I mean, honestly, if you think of a thousand a year compared to a lawsuit for not complying with one of the laws, you know, you’re really – it’s an investment into kind of risk management in a way in some degree.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:30:43] So, I mean, and I got to imagine, just the thought came to me thinking about, you know, as workplaces continue to change the work environment going forward and we have more and more of this hybrid or more and more of this remote type setting, and you have employees who now can work really from anywhere. So, employers that maybe we’re used to, you know, all my employees are in one office location in this particular state that’s all I have to navigate, are now being, you know, having to kind of rethink that and realize that they need to stay compliant when they have a remote worker in a different state. Would that be correct from your perspective?
Geoff Simpson: [00:31:24] It really is going to depend a bit. In some cases, yes. In some cases, no. So, this is a thing where every employer should really talk to their legal counsel and see how they want to interpret it because oftentimes the consensus will be that it’s the office that the employee reports back to. That is going to be where essentially where the laws are applied from. But, sometimes that varies. So, it’s really about talk to legal counsel and make sure you’re covered on that.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:31:55] Yeah. Absolutely. And then circle back to Presagia to get a platform that helps you to manage it if you are needing to be in compliance.
Geoff Simpson: [00:32:04] Definitely.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:32:05] From your perspective, what are some of the benefits to leveraging a leave management platform?
Geoff Simpson: [00:32:12] So, these are, again – these are things that we’ve touched upon a bit already, but it really comes down to compliance, just efficiency and time savings. So, trying to process those letters faster, do those calculations faster, have the system track entitlement usage alert you when things are coming due or when things like entitlement exhaustion happen. Control of our absence is a big one. That visibility into your trends and risks, so being able to say in Division A I’m seeing a spike in lost workdays over the past year and things like that. And then, just again the improved employee experience is another huge benefit.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:32:56] Great. So, looking at the work that Presagia does and what you do for the company, what would you say you are most proud of?
Geoff Simpson: [00:33:07] Okay. That’s a good question. So, I would say what I’ve been most proud of is really listening to employers and working with them to find solutions to their complex problems. And, it’s really been about just throughout my career, I’ve been working with them to really try and understand their challenges and identify solutions. And then, going a step further, what I’m proud of as more a company is that we’ve really worked to constantly innovate and take all of these different challenges that employers are seeing in the market and really create solutions that are going to help make their lives easier through just being able to better manage absences and comply with all those laws out there.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:33:57] Wonderful. Always good to hear what people are most proud of. That’s a fun question to ask.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:34:03] At this point, we’re going to hear from our show sponsor. So, Workplace MVP is sponsored by R3 Continuum. And R3 Continuum is a global leader in providing expert, reliable, responsive, and tailored behavioral health disruption and violent solutions to promote workplace well-being and performance in the face of an ever-changing and often unpredictable world. You can learn more about how R3 Continuum can tailor a solution for your organization’s unique challenges by visiting r3c.com today.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:34:36] So, now I’m going to bring both of our guests back for some questions and have a little conversation around this topic a little further. So, in your opinion, what would be some of the telltale signs that it’s time for an organization to look into a resource for managing their leaves? Geoff, let’s get that perspective from you first.
Geoff Simpson: [00:34:57] Okay. Well, I’m probably a little biased here being the software guy, but I’m going to say everyone needs a solution for managing their leaves. So, but going a step further, if you’re still managing these manually, you really need to change and get a system in place. There are systems out there for all sizes of employers.
Geoff Simpson: [00:35:18] The other thing that I oftentimes will see being on the software side of the equation is there will be companies that have outsourced their leaves. And, what they will decide at some point is that they don’t have enough control over the leave process and feel that their employees are unhappy with the experience they’re receiving. So, at that point in time, they want to look and see how can we actually bring this back in-house to really up that level of customer service to their employees, then they start to look for technology.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:35:47] Great. Great answer. And how about you, Stephanie? I know you touched on this a little bit when you were sharing your own personal story. But if you were going to provide kind of a checklist for other H.R. leaders like yourself, what would you say the telltale signs are?
Stephanie Savoy: [00:36:03] Yeah. I think we mentioned this before. Missing deadlines. You know, sending out those eligibility notices and designation notices. The regulations are very clear as to the deadlines that you have to do that by. So if you’re missing deadlines, that’s really a red flag that you have to look into your process a bit further. But also turnover, burnout, and just taking advantage of your resources on your team. If somebody wants to free up their time to learn something else, you know in H.R. world, well, if there’s a solution that can free them up, that’s really wonderful.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:36:41] Yeah. Absolutely. It gives them opportunity to continue to grow in their role and then the organization. That’s great, a great tip to put on there.
Stephanie Savoy: [00:36:48] So looking at, you know, obviously, you know, as an H.R. leader, realizing you’ve got a need for an external platform or an external vendor or anything like that to help kind of manage that process, there’s going to be a cost that’s associated with it. So, you know, what recommendations do the both of you have for how a leader might put together kind of they’re basically, you know, their best case to an executive team for getting approval to move forward with bringing that solution on to help manage the claims? So, Stephanie, do you want to take that on?
Stephanie Savoy: [00:37:29] Yeah. Absolutely. I think it’s always helpful to speak the same language as your leadership team, so find out what really drives them. For us, it was to get down to the bottom dollar. What are we wasting resources on? How can we make that more efficient?
Stephanie Savoy: [00:37:48] So, I had my team track their time. How long does it take to check someone’s FMLA eligibility to get those hours? Look at the leaves in the past year. How long does it take to do one letter? And then multiply that out by a month, by a year, and just say this is the amount of money that we are spending right now. This is what we’re projecting and nobody could, you know, predict COVID. So, but, you know, this is what we’re projecting for increase in leaves and this is how we can save resources. We can save our team and really just be better for our staff members in the field.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:38:29] Great. All right. How about you, Geoff?
Geoff Simpson: [00:38:32] Yeah. So, I think actually Stephanie’s approach was really good. I think at the end of the day numbers tell a great story, and that’s a huge piece of the equation when it comes to making the case for putting technology in place.
Geoff Simpson: [00:38:45] I would just add that you should try and work with your vendors. So, if you don’t know, as much as Stephanie on kind of figuring out the numbers side, vendors have done this before. So, they can really help you articulate why you need a solution and also just the path forward on how to implement it.
Geoff Simpson: [00:39:02] At the end of the day, you need to basically build a business case. So, identify your specific challenges, be it compliance, efficiency, leave spikes, whatever that may be. Map out how you’re doing things now. And then, also just identify the gaps where you’re seeing there are issues and then determine how a solution is actually going to fill those gaps. From there, it’s about that ROI members piece that Stephanie was mentioning.
Geoff Simpson: [00:39:29] So, this can come in different forms. So, it could be that you’re looking at lost workday reductions, which then impact productivity and can lower your absence costs and things like benefits continuation. It could be about reducing your leave administration overhead so that efficiency and not spending as much time on each step in the process.
Geoff Simpson: [00:39:49] It could be around explaining just the cost of a lawsuit due to non-compliance, or just looking at how many queries you’re having to make to your legal accounts in a year about actual leave laws because there’s usually a cost associated with that.
Geoff Simpson: [00:40:02] And then, to Stephanie’s point, knowing your audience. So, a CFO is going to be very much focused on things like financial savings, whereas if your legal counsel is involved, they’re going to care more about compliance.
Geoff Simpson: [00:40:16] And then, from there, you need to figure out what is the path forward and be able to really explain it. So, what’s the cost going to be? What’s the implementation process going to look like? What are the resources that you need to bring in, like I.T., to be able to make sure that it’s going to be a successful project?
Geoff Simpson: [00:40:36] So, really it comes down to making sure you do your research and then really just clearly demonstrating that there’s a reason that you need to make that change.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:40:46] Yeah. Great advice. And, you know, and obviously, it’s timely because, you know, we talked about, you know, the last two years of the pandemic and kind of going into 2022, we still have some of that lingering and still continuing to present itself as a challenge.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:41:03] So, for our audience, you know, looking into 2022, from your perspective, what do you think it’s going to look like from a leave/absence management perspective for organizations? Geoff, why don’t you go ahead and kick us off?
Geoff Simpson: [00:41:27] All right. I’ll jump in there. So, I think to take it back a step, 2020 was a year of just trying to keep up. So, everyone was whacked in the face with this, and budgets were cut, teams shrunk, leave volumes went up, new laws came out. It was all about just do what you can and keep it going. 2021 when budgets actually came back. What we saw was a huge surge in people really looking for solutions to address leave management. And I think we’re going to continue to see that.
Geoff Simpson: [00:41:59] I think in the coming year, one of the things we’re all kind of, I think all employers are a bit worried about right now is the whole concept of the great resignation. And, a lot of employers are really trying to figure out how can we focus on the service level that we provide to our own employees to make sure that they’re happy, they feel valued, and so on.
Geoff Simpson: [00:42:24] So, I think there’s going to be a trend in looking for solutions that are going to really help employers achieve this. So, just being able to really up the level of care. I think we’re also going to keep seeing more leave laws come out and leave laws get extended.
Geoff Simpson: [00:42:41] So, I think in the next year, it’s going to be all about still paying attention to paid, unpaid leaves that keep adding more complexity to the equation.
Geoff Simpson: [00:42:51] Vaccination laws. They’re a little bit of a curveball. No one quite knows how to handle them just yet. But these are a piece where their lead management impacts are also accommodation impacts. So, I’ve heard many employers who are seeing accommodations pop up related to vaccinations, nonvaccinations, and so on.
Geoff Simpson: [00:43:12] And the other piece that keeps being an ongoing trend is ADA accommodations. So, as the law broadened, as the ADA kind of the law and the term and the definition of disability broadens and as employee awareness of the law has also grown, more and more there are requests for ADA accommodations, be it leaves or others. And I think that’s going to continue. Especially with the ongoing pandemic happening, we’re going to see more and more accommodation that’s going on.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:43:46] How about for you, Stephanie? What are some of the things you predict could 2020 would look like?
Stephanie Savoy: [00:43:52] Yeah. I echo everything Geoff said but highlighting the accommodations. Definitely, I think staff members are more familiar with the accommodation process going through 2020, and they’re more willing to speak up and say, “Hey, I need this to be able to do my job better.”
Stephanie Savoy: [00:44:11] Personally, we’re seeing increase in just accommodation requests, whether it’s, you know, work from home, medical marijuana. We’re definitely seeing an increase to all of those. So, we’ve actually just launched the accommodation module within Presagia so we’re looking forward to launching that, and definitely the vaccination as well religious and medical accommodations and tracking those and responding to those. So, that’s definitely going to be a hot topic for 2022.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:44:45] Very interesting. So, if you could give any piece of advice to our listeners, what advice would you give? And Stephanie, we’ll go ahead and start with you.
Stephanie Savoy: [00:44:54] Sure. So, I have a saying up on my wall. You can’t make everybody happy. You’re not pizza. And I think that’s really important to keep in mind. You know, as long as you treat people consistently and fairly and with respect, you’re not – not everybody is going to like what you have to say and that’s okay. You have to be okay with what you’re saying and, you know, be true to yourself and your policies and your company. So, you know, again, you’re not pizza. You can’t make everybody happy.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:45:25] I’m going to have to steal that one. I love that. That’s great. You have some great mottos. How about you, Geoff?
Geoff Simpson: [00:45:32] I mean, as somebody who had pizza for dinner last night, I can definitely attest to pizza. It really does make you happy. I want to say just not to sound like a broken record, but it’s about finding a compliance solution.
Geoff Simpson: [00:45:47] So, at the end of the day, there are just too many laws out there for any person to stay up to date on all of them so find a compliance solution. And also when you start looking, don’t be afraid to ask vendors for support as you go down this path, especially with things like helping to build a business case and figure out how to actually sell essentially the concept of a solution in-house.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:46:09] Wonderful. You both have shared some great information along with some great mottos for today, making all of our listeners hungry for pizza now. But if our listeners wanted to get a hold of you to get more information or ask questions, how can they do that? Geoff, do you want to go ahead and start that?
Geoff Simpson: [00:46:30] Yes. Absolutely. So, easiest thing is just to email me. My email is email@example.com. You can also always go to our website, presagia.com, and submit a request through there and it will definitely make its way to me. And I’m always happy to answer any questions, help anyone out with anything related to absence management.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:46:49] Great. And how about you, Stephanie?
Stephanie Savoy: [00:46:51] Yeah. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m happy to connect with anybody who wants to chat more about leave of absences. So, Stephanie Savoy at LinkedIn.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:46:59] Wonderful. Well, thank you both so much for being on our show and letting us celebrate you, and for sharing your stories and great advice with our listeners. We truly appreciate you being a guest. So, thank you both.
Stephanie Savoy: [00:47:11] Thank you so much.
Geoff Simpson: [00:47:12] Yes. Thank you.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:47:14] Yeah. And we also want to thank our show sponsor, R3 Continuum, for supporting the Workplace MVP podcast. And to our listeners, thank you for tuning in. If you’ve not already done so, make sure to subscribe so you get our most recent episodes and other resources. You can also follow our show on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter at Workplace MVP. And if you are a Workplace MVP or know someone who is, we want to know about it so email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you all for joining us and have a great rest of your day.