4 Areas That Kept Popping Up at the DMEC Annual Conference

Now that the dust has settled and we are even ahead to next year’s conference, we’ve had the time to reflect on key learnings from the 2019 DMEC Annual Conference. Spring, and myself, have been active participants in the organization’s events and programs for many years, and the Annual Conference is one of the industry’s largest hubs for thought leadership. This year was no exception. Between cocktail receptions and dueling piano bar outings, there was a lot of knowledge shared among the (approximately) 500 professionals who came together from August 5th-8th in the D.C. metropolitan area.

As a general practice, we at Spring like to reinforce a conference’s highlights by putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards) and jotting them down to share with our colleagues. While the pre-conference material was focused on behavioral health in the workplace, there were four other hot topics that we couldn’t help but notice creating a thematic backbone to the main conference. Generally, what piques people’s interest most at a conference like DMEC is a good indicator of trends in the HR and benefits market at large. So, here they are!

  1. Paid Leave

I wasn’t surprised that paid leave was on a lot of people’s minds at the conference. After all, eight states and Washington D.C. have now enacted statewide paid leave policies, and there are several more, similar legislations being proposed in other states. While this is all great progress for the American workforce, it does complicate things from an HR and leave administration and compliance perspective. Various DMEC presenters were out to share their experience to help employers across the country who are grappling with the policies.

 

There was, “A Case Study: Developing a Paid Parental Leave Program”, which walked the audience through Halliburton’s approach. We also heard from an attorney on how to design a compliant paid sick leave policy, and in “They’re Here! A Deep Dive Into Paid Family and Medical Leaves”, we were given a national, trend-based overview as well as a granular, state-by-state look at the existing paid family and medical leave programs, as well as tips for employers getting started with a program.

  1. Data

Not all of the work of benefits and disability management professionals is always at the forefront of a business, but it sure does make an impact. As such, there was a heavy focus on the data and numbers behind all of that work being done. In “Got ROI?”, led by two of our Senior Vice Presidents, Teri Weber and Karen English, data was name of the game  – what types to look for, how to collect it, how to measure success, and how to take numbers and turn them into actionable insights.

 

Further, one session focused on paid leave data, and how it ties into corporate communications, cyber security and onboarding. CoreHealth Technologies presented on data specifically for healthcare organizations, focusing on their unique challenges. Lastly, in “How to Use Absence and Disability Data to Understand Your Workforce”, discussions revolved around turning health and populatio

Employee Absence Management

n data into insights you can use for various early intervention tactics.

 

  1. Employee Experience

It’s the employee’s world and we’re just living in it. Not really, but there was a definite emphasis at DMEC on the customer, which in many cases means the employee. Our very own Teri Weber led a workshop called “Your Self-Audit Checklist”, which, at its core, is really centered around making processes more seamless and compliant-friendly so that employee and employer alike have a more pleasant work environment. Another session revolved around advocacy, and how it can be used to elevate the employee experience. In “Winning the War for Talent by Perfecting the Employee Experience”, a panel discussed the importance of the employee experience for retention and recruitment, and suggested strategies for improvement.

 

  1. ADA/FMLA

With a name like Disability Management Employer Coalition, the ADA and FMLA are always prevalent at the conference. This year, however, with the DOL’s proposal of form changes for FMLA and several high-profile court cases around both policies, we wanted to make sure to note it yet again as a pressing priority for professionals in this space. The topic(s) appeared in the following presentations:

  • “It’s Complicated: The Always-Evolving ADA/FMLA Relationship”, which covered how shifts in technology and business needs necessitates pivots to your FMLA and ADA approach.
  • “Opioids and the ADA/FMLA”, where a doctor and a representative from Lincoln Financial Group discussed the opioid epidemic, how it came about, how it impacts the workplace, what to watch out for and how to develop employer policies and strategies for prevention and management.
  • “Reducing Your ADA Burden by Implementing a Return to Work Strategy” outlined myths and benefits of return-to-work and stay-at-work programs, an employer’s ADA obligations, EEOC guidelines and tips for a successful program.
  • “FMLA/ADA Lessons Learned: Jury Verdicts, Settlements & Recent Court Cases” provided an overview of court cases like Gunter v. Bemis Company, Hawkins v. Grinnel Regional Medical Center, Jacobs v. Wal-Mart Stores, and Ramirez v. Jack in the Box. The presenters reiterated what it means to be compliant in areas such as reasonable accommodations and “essential job functions”, so that employers in the audience were better equipped to prevent having their own court case on their hands one day.

I hope you found our event recap useful. From attending great industry events like DMEC, we know that sharing knowledge is the best way to make progress, so we wanted to pay it forward. You might also be interested in this summary on another session my colleague Karen English led, called “The RFP Process: A Deep Dive”.

We are already looking forward to – and planning for – DMEC’s two annual conferences next year.

5 Times Inclusivity Took the Stage at DMEC

As a national sponsor of the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC), Spring has been involved in the organization and its events for over a decade. Each year the team

DMEC

looks forward to the Annual Conference, among other DMEC events and initiatives. This year it took place in the fun city of Austin, and we made sure to do some sightseeing while we were there.

This was my first DMEC conference and I was amazed at the wealth of knowledge present. There was an obvious eagerness to learn that hung in the air, and learn we did. Over 700 professionals specializing in areas like occupational health, disability management, FMLA/ADA, claims management, HR and more gathered to share best practices and experiences. The resulting 40+ educational presentations and workshops did not disappoint.

Spring attends and sponsors a range of events throughout any given year. After each one, we take the time to reflect on key takeaways and then share them with our peers (like you!).

The name of the game in Austin this year was inclusivity. Here are five featured topics that explain why.

  1. “Impactful Diversity and Inclusion Strategies for the Workplace”

    This session highlighted the importance of workplace diversity and the trend towards it as a corporate goal. The presenter walked the audience through the different types of diversity, including the more obvious such as race, sexual orientation and gender, as well as the areas of diversity often over-looked: veteran status, education, tenure, full-time vs. part-time status, etc. We learned that these different demographics may have varying degrees of stress, pain, or health issues based on that one facet alone. Generational differences in things like returning to work and communications tendencies and preferences were also discussed.

  1. “Neurodiversity: Driving Innovation from Unexpected Places”

    A small team from EY led this discussion around neurodiversity, which is not a term you hear every day. The session focused on the importance of including autistic employees and understanding their specific needs from an employer. A shockingly low 32% of autistic adults are engaged in some form of paid work, a statistic which needs upward improvement.

  1. “Tools, Techniques, and Technologies for Creative Inclusive Workplaces”employee disability

    Anne Hirsh and Deb Dagit started out this presentation by opening the audience’s eyes to “Five Signs of Inclusion”: ethos, public relations/marketing, policies and practice, physical accessibility, and technical accessibility. They then walked through several tools and platforms that can help employers exhibit all five signs of inclusion.

  2. “Disability and Fitness for Duty in Transgender Employees”

    Brian Hurley, a medical doctor and expert in addiction and mental health, led an interesting session that educated attendees on sex development, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and gender dysphoria. He helped raised awareness around issues in the workplace, citing that 90% of transgenders surveyed reported experiencing harassment at work, and ended with an outline of model employer practices pertaining to transgender employees.

  3. “Get Explicit About Implicit Bias Using Compassionate Dialogue”

    In this presentation, more indirectly related to inclusivity as some others, a woman led an interactive discussion around implicit biases and the fact that we all have them. These are involuntary, inherent attitudes and stereotypes that we may not know we have. This of course can be problematic in the workplace, so audiences were given “debiasing” techniques to prohibit their implicit biases from interfering in fair and compliant practices.

absence managementWith over three full days of educational presentations, there were plenty of other hot topics such as mental health, return-to-work strategies, FMLA and ADA issues, and data and technology trends. The Spring team partnered with clients to present “Implementation Done Right”, where they highlighted best practices and tips for top-notch absence management programs.

All in all, the event was a valuable learning experience. But it wasn’t all business – we hosted an “extracurricular” activity at a local Austin brewery to relax and mix things up, and there were all sorts of networking opportunities throughout. We are already looking forward to next year’s conference.