Corra Daily Planet » 2006 » September

Innovative Companies and Job Candidates Will Always Stand Out From the Pack

Fri, September 29th, 2006 - 12:59 pm - By Gordon Basichis

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We found this terrific article at Peppersand

Innovation, Employees and Customer Value
By Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D.

There simply is no hotter word for senior level executives right now than innovation. It drives almost every discussion of growth that we hear and one factor contributing to this push for innovation is the increasing amount of attention companies are paying to customer value — not just in the short term, but in the long term as well.

These days the business journals and news magazines are filled with examples of bellwether companies driving innovative services and products forward. It’s not just the innovative “usual suspects” like Apple, Tesco, Google, Zara, Intuit, Nokia, or GE, either. Even Wal-Mart is coming up with new ideas to improve its already highly successful retailing formula. In addition to its efforts to tailor individual store product inventories to the local demands of the communities being served (see related article), the company recently launched an innovative pricing program for prescription drugs, announcing that it plans to sell generic prescriptions for as little as $4 per.

Whirlpool innovates customer value
But if innovation is to mean more to a business than a momentary fashion, the business itself has to organize around the creation and implementation of new ideas. Among the success stories in terms of creating innovative customer value is Whirlpool. Its executives are held accountable not only for the development of new products and services, but also for the creation of processes and systems that foster innovation.

Whirlpool uses a knowledge management system called “Innovation E-Space” to provide a ”dashboard” view of its innovation activities, track the mix of incremental versus radical ideas and to engage innovators throughout the organization. To debunk the myth that innovation has to be risky and costly, it has established a seed fund for innovation in each region that is accessible to all employees, not only business unit heads. Whirlpool has also created a team of Innovation Consultants whose job is to teach others in the organization about innovation. In the first quarter of 2006 this approach contributed to a 37 percent increase in earnings, record unit shipments and “productivity improvements.”

As the executives at Whirlpool know, the surest way to strengthen a firm’s “innovation quotient” is through its employees. Successful, consistently innovative companies encourage and cultivate new ideas from employees, and measure the results from the ideas that employees generate. In their April Harvard Business Review article “Manage Customer-Centric Innovation Systematically,” Larry Selden and Ian MacMillan point out that employees must be relied on to fuel the innovation engine. “It is essential for frontline employees to be at the center of the customer R&D process,” they wrote. “The only way to sustain customer R&D is by putting customer-facing employees behind the wheel. The benefit is two-fold: Companies exponentially expand their knowledge of their customers and employees become engaged as they contribute their insight and energy.”

One tactic for engaging employees in the innovation process is something Carlson Marketing’s Director of Performance Improvement Jennifer Rosenzweig, calls “appreciative inquiry.” This is a technique for emphasizing a company’s unique strengths (appreciative) while at the same time developing a meaningful and robust dialogue with employees (inquiry) that seeks to help management understand when the company is moving in the right direction or not.

Carlson Marketing’s research shows that given the opportunity, nearly 50 percent of employees will engage in identifying and implementing ideas. But “squandered” or untapped ideas are a major source of employee frustration and disengagement. A recent Gallup report shows that 17 percent of all the employees it surveyed consider themselves “disengaged” at work.

Toyota engages innovative employees
Toyota may be one of the world’s most accomplished companies when it comes to engaging employees with this kind of strength-based questioning and dialogue. They don’t call it “appreciative inquiry,” but the Toyota Way is well known and has been written about extensively. According to the Economist (19 January 2006), Toyota’s strong corporate culture of employee participation and engagement is what generates a nearly constant stream of innovation at the firm.

Once everyone has bought in to the Toyota Way, decision-making can be pushed down into the very front-line organization, whether it’s manufacturing, distribution, or sales. Toyota’s famous “just in time” provisioning, enabling it to operate manufacturing plants efficiently in 58 countries around the world is only made possible by the fact that line employees are actively engaged in making decisions with respect to parts supply and production. Part of the Toyota Way leads employees to come to work each day with a determination to become just a little better at their job than they were the day before. Continuous employee engagement like this increases the likelihood of developing consistent innovation. Inquiry, recognition and reward must all be part of an organized process. (see for rest of the article)

Corra prides itself in innovation and flexibilty. As such, we can’t agree more with this article in acknowledging that employee innovation provides a company with that added, special dimension that will ultimately move it to the top of its industry.

The article also admonishes that employers should be patient, since innovation takes a bit longer to generate its much appreciated advantages. Your Human Resource Department should also exhibit that patience in making sure they hire the right top of employee, those are not only able to be innovative but who can also adapt to the innovation of others as well.

Like always, the selection of the right candidate begins with a pre-employment background check. It is most important to review a candidate’s possible criminal record as well as the patterns of behavior certain pre-employment searches will reflect. To assess patterns, an HR Manager may want to offer credit checks, MVR Records as well as education and employment verification. You may want to look into a candidate’s civil records to examine how he behaves with neighbors and others with whom he has been involved.

So seek to be innovative, and have the patience necessary to allow innovation to take root as part of your company culture. And remember, as Corra says, check them out before you hire.

A Seminar to Benefit Your HR Department in California and the Nation

Thu, September 28th, 2006 - 3:10 pm - By Gordon Basichis

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Silver and Freedman A Professional Law Corporation, known for its fine work in employment law as well as other disciplines, sent us this email.

If you are in California, you may wish to attend.

If not, you may want to access as a webinar.

California’s employment laws are among the most demanding in the country.

As an added drawback, they are constantly changing, sometimes requiring significant modifications in the way your company does business. This program will help you identify and properly respond to the numerous challenges in administering time off for California employees.

Learn How To:

  • Recognize the interplay between the various types of leaves – pregnancy, workers’ comp, FMLA, CFRA, PFL and more
  • Determine who is eligible for which leaves and when
  • Navigate the interplay between leave laws and the ADA
  • Handle employee requests for light duty and return to work
  • Counsel employees about attendance issues
  • Receive the latest developments in leave legislation


November 3, 2006

Four Seasons Hotel
Grand Ballroom
300 S. Doheny Drive, Los Angeles

Registration and breakfast — 8:00 am to 8:30 am
Seminar — 8:30 am to 10:30 am

$85 per pre-registered person
$90 per person at the door
(fee includes continental breakfast and valet parking)

Unable to attend this seminar?
Attend our LIVE online “Wage & Hour” Webinar on Wednesday, November 8 2006, from 9:00 am to 11:00 am.

We all that when it comes ot employment law there is nothing more important than staying current. Laws can change at any time and taking action in accordance with obsolete statutes can cause serious problems for your business. Seminars, such as the one offered here by Silver and Freedman, will keep you up to date on the changes in employment law.

But the main thing for any Human Resources deparpment is to run background checks on all your employment candidates. Perhaps, too, to remain current on the habits and practices of your existing employees you should also be running pre-employment screenings. Corra suggests you always run a Social Security Trace and Crimchecks, that is one or several of a range of criminal searches. The Social Security Trace will not only verify the leigitimacy of the number and the fact it belongs to that canddiate, it will help your avoid growing legal pressures against hiring undcoumented workers.

So stay updated, and run pre-employment screening on every candidate.

Remember, Corra says–Check them out before you hire.

Identity Thieves Are Stealing Your Health Insurance

Mon, September 25th, 2006 - 2:56 pm - By Gordon Basichis

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We saw this frightening article in the LA Times.

ID Theft Infects Medical Records

Victims face bogus bills and risk injury or death. Privacy laws make such fraud hard to pursue.
By Joseph Menn, Times Staff Writer

After shoulder surgery last year, Lind Weaver was stunned when hospital bill collectors demanded that she pay for the amputation of her right foot.

“Either you didn’t do the surgery, or you did a really [shoddy] job of it,” Weaver told them, sending along notarized photos of her toes, all still attached. “Either way, I’m not paying.”

But the 56-year-old retired schoolteacher quickly discovered she was dealing with something more nefarious than a simple clerical error: An identity thief had obtained medical care under Weaver’s name and had the bill sent to her insurer.

A year later, Weaver is still trying to catch errors in her medical records and clear the hospital bills fraudulently run up in her name.

“It became a 40-hour-a-week job,” Weaver said. “I put my phone to my ear and sat there listening to elevator music.”

Although the most typical of the millions of identity theft cases in the U.S. each year involve credit cards, a 2003 federal report estimated that at least 200,000 instances involved medical identity fraud. Experts believe that the rising cost of healthcare is driving more identity theft, and that many people are unaware they have become victims unless they receive a hospital bill or query from their insurer.

“There’s no reason to assume the patients ever find out,” said Harvard University management professor Malcolm Sparrow, an expert on regulatory agencies who has written books on healthcare fraud. “The bulk presumably remain invisible.”

With their medical records compromised, victims of this kind of fraud face a greater risk of injury or even death if doctors make treatment decisions based on bad information. Files might list incorrect prescriptions or the wrong blood type. Or, as in Weaver’s case, an erroneous diagnosis of diabetes.

Bad information can also put careers and insurance at risk. Many employers, including more than a third of the Fortune 500 companies, demand access to medical records when making hiring, promotion or benefits decisions, according to the nonprofit Patient Privacy Rights Foundation. Health and life insurance companies routinely scan medical files or payout reports before issuing new policies.

Victims, though, often find that clearing their medical records of bad information is much more difficult than fixing credit reports, which are centralized in three major credit bureaus.

Consumers have the right to obtain one free credit report annually, and to demand an investigation of information they believe is fraudulent or incorrect. Unverified reports must be removed promptly.

Medical records, in contrast, can be scattered across dozens of doctors’ offices, hospitals and clinics. And federal privacy rules intended to protect private information can make it difficult for patients to even obtain their own records when identity theft is suspected.

“These privacy rules might put you in a situation where you can’t even investigate,” said Wilma Kidd, chief privacy officer at WellPoint Inc., the largest U.S. health insurer for employees and other groups.

A big reason most people never find out about erroneous records is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. The law can make it difficult for patients to see their own medical records, since the penalties for improper disclosure prompt some hospitals to set up roadblocks including demands for multiple forms of identification.

The bitter twist on medical identity theft is that once a person tells a keeper of records that someone else’s data might be intermingled, the file becomes even harder to obtain. Why? Because it includes another person’s medical history, which many hospitals argue can’t be turned over without consent.

Even when patients do see their records, they have no automatic right to fix errors they find.

As she battled collection agencies last year, Weaver fought to see her medical files. She suspected that someone had used her identity to obtain a foot amputation, but hospital officials wouldn’t help.

Weaver marched into the hospital waiting room in Bunnell, Fla., and started shouting that the doctors didn’t know who their patients were. That got her service in a hurry. After she was shown to a consulting room and given the file, she soon thought she had weeded out her impostor’s medical history.

In May, Weaver suffered a heart attack at her home in Palm Coast, Fla., and was in and out of consciousness.

When she awoke in her hospital room two days later, a nurse asked Weaver what drugs she had been taking to treat her diabetes. Weaver has never had diabetes, a disease that can lead to foot problems severe enough to require amputation.

“They could have given me insulin,” Weaver said. “There’s a whole different heart procedure that covers people with diabetes.”

Diabetes experts said those procedures would have been unlikely to threaten Weaver’s life. A hospital spokeswoman declined to answer questions about Weaver’s case.

Weaver doesn’t know how her identity was compromised, but identity fraud is easy when so many in the medical field have access to intimate records and patients are admitted without having to prove who they are.

At New York homeless shelters, state Medicaid identification cards once could be rented for as little as $2 a day, said Harvard’s Sparrow, who has seen overlapping pregnancies claimed under the same name. In Veterans Affairs hospitals, some eligible veterans have their identities assumed by brothers or cousins who have easy access to their documents, said Richard Ehrlichman, the department’s assistant inspector general.

Sometimes it’s the doctors who commit identity fraud to collect insurance payments for work they didn’t perform.

A Boston-area psychiatrist, Richard Skodnek, was convicted a decade ago of fraud after falsifying diagnoses, treatment sessions and entire patient histories. His victims, some of whom discovered that their insurance benefits had been exhausted, had to struggle to clear their records.

In perhaps the most sensational case, a Chicago podiatrist under grand jury investigation for exaggerating the work he performed shot and killed one of his patients in 2002 when she refused to lie on his behalf. Ronald Mikos was convicted of the murder last year.

Many insurance companies have hotlines for reporting fraud against them, and they sometimes refuse to pay suspicious hospital bills. But that often doesn’t do the identity theft victims any good: They still have to make their own cases to the hospitals, the bill collectors and the credit agencies.

In Weaver’s case, getting the insurance company involved made things worse.

After Weaver realized she was being billed for an amputation she never had, she told her insurance company, which refused to pay as well. In the hospital’s eyes, that left Weaver responsible for the whole $66,000 surgery bill, instead of just her deductible.

Collection agencies didn’t care about her explanation. Each tacked on a fee and resold the collection contract to the next agency down the line. That made correcting Weaver’s credit report especially difficult, because after she established that she wasn’t responsible for one amount billed on a certain day, the credit bureau would receive notice of a new amount with a different date, even though it was based on the same bogus debt.

Even when identity theft victims avoid health complications, the legal side effects can be terrible.

Anndorie Sachs of Salt Lake City found that out in April during a phone call from Utah’s social services department. The social worker told Sachs that her hospitalized infant had tested positive for methamphetamine. The state planned to take away the baby, along with her siblings at home.

Sachs, a mother of four, said that she hadn’t delivered a baby in two years.

“I was freaking out,” said Sachs, 27. “She was not going to believe a word. She said: ‘You’re Anndorie Sachs. You’re on the birth certificate. We know your other kids are being exposed to this too.’ ”

After the social worker grilled Sachs’ 7-year-old about whether her mother had been to the hospital lately, the agency relented.

Months earlier, Sachs’ driver’s license was stolen from her husband’s car. It eventually emerged that a woman named Dorothy Bell Moran had used that license when she checked into the hospital to give birth. Already wanted on other charges related to identity theft, authorities said, Moran hadn’t wanted to use her own name for fear of getting caught. (She was later arrested on the earlier charges.)

Sachs had to hire a lawyer to disentangle the legal and medical records, and she is still fighting a collection agency over the medical bill.

As with Weaver and other victims interviewed, the Utah hospital cited the health insurance law and refused to show Sachs her files after she told them someone else’s paperwork was included. After Sachs went to the local media, officials agreed to delete both women’s records.

Just to be safe, when Sachs contracted a kidney infection, she chose a hospital that neither she nor the impostor had used. But some records had been shared electronically, and the hospital had the impostor’s blood type down as Sachs’ — setting up a possible fatal error. Fortunately, staffers had drawn blood and double-checked. When they reviewed other data with Sachs, she found they also had the wrong emergency contact name and number.

The increased use of electronic records such as the ones that dogged Sachs could worsen the spread of medical errors caused by identity theft.

In the last year, the Senate and the House have passed broad bills pushing for wider use of electronic health records. Supporters, including many big technology firms and insurers, said the plan would increase efficiency, reduce error rates and provide earlier warnings about public health problems.

Such a system could also make correcting medical errors easier — but only if patients catch them beforehand, and only if the service providers agree to change them.

As the web of electronic distribution expands beyond the current pilot projects, more people will see medical records. That could increase identity theft while making existing errors harder to resolve, said Joanne McNabb, chief of the California Office of Privacy Protection.

“There is added risk that we’ve seen all over the place with electronic data,” McNabb said. “It can go to the wrong place at the wrong time very easily.”

Corra found this article to be particularly scary. Not only will you feel victimized when someone commits healthcare fraud with your medical insurance policy, but you will spend eons of time trying to straighten it out. We all know how long it takes to get a simple answer from a health care provider. We all have spent hours in phone menu hell, listening to bad music while waiting for someone to talk to. Just imagine trying to explain to the first three people you talk to that someone identity thief used your insurance policy for his or her medical needs. Years, and I mean this literally, could pass before your straighten things out.

Then there is the matter, mentioned in the article, that the hospital or doctors can mistake your medical condition for that of the identity thief. Suddenly, you could find yourself taking the wrong pills or worse, much worse, udnergoing the wrong surgery. This kind of treatment happens on a good day, yet alone when supported by an erroneous but official medical file.

As we have said before, identity theft begins with two pieces of information–your date of birth and your social security number. These two bits of information are the keys that can potentially unlock your credit and finances, and your health care policy. Not only is this a painful experience, and not only can you spend years awash in red tape, it can also be terribly expensive.

Do yourself a favor and run a Social Security Trace, periodically. The Social Security Trace will inform you who else may be representing your number as their own. Awareness, after all, is the first step toward being proactive, and the SSN trace will make you aware of interlopers.

Run a credit check periodically to see who else may be using your hard earned credit. Run your credit and look for names other than your own. If you find any, notify the credit agencies right away. If the identity thieves have taken cards in your name, then notify the credit providers immediately. Certain undocumented workers may get hold of your number and use it to pose as legal workers. This may be benign and simply stop there, or they may become more creative and try to open up credit on your account. More often than not, it is simply for work purposes, although they can pass it out to their twenty best friends. We have seen it at Corra, and have reviewed more than our fair share of undocumented persons with criminal records in possession of someone else’ social security number.

Remember, all this talk about Homeland Security and Personal Security isn’t just talk. Bad stuff is really happening out there and, largely, you are on your own in finding protection from the predators and identity thieves that have no compunction about causing you grief.

Corra says–You have one identity. Keep it for yourself.

The Importance of Background Checks for Joint Ventures and Partnerships

Fri, September 22nd, 2006 - 10:59 am - By Gordon Basichis

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We saw this most interesting article on

Congress Approves Online Database to Track Federal Contracts

The system seeks to place greater scrutiny on small-business contracts erroneously awarded to larger firms.

By: Angus Loten

Congress has given final approval for a Google -like online search engine designed to track more than $1 trillion a year in federal contracts, loans, and earmarks.Small-businesses owners and trade groups have long complained about a lack of transparency in the federal procurement process. Despite a mandated goal of awarding 23% of all federal contracts to small businesses, many say the process is marred by miscoding and mismanagement.The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which seeks to boost public access to federal spending data by creating a single online database, passed the House in a procedural voice vote on Sept. 13, after receiving unanimous consent in the Senate a week earlier.

President Bush, who has shown strong support for the measure, is expected to sign it into law within the next few months.

By making the data more accessible, lawmakers hope to “reduce wasteful spending by empowering every American to be a citizen investigator capable of holding the government accountable for spending decisions,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the bill’s co-sponsors, said in a joint statement last week.

“This reform would help improve the legislative process by making sure both lawmakers and the public are better informed before Congress votes to spend the taxpayers’ money,” President Bush said in a statement released after the House vote last week.

Business and trade groups had rallied behind the bill in August when two senators put an anonymous hold on a vote days before the congressional summer break.

“Citizens should no longer be forced to navigate the confusing labyrinth of bureaucracy just to find out how their tax dollars are spent,” John Berthoud, the president of the National Taxpayers Union, said on Sept. 6, in a letter to Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on behalf of a broad coalition of over 80 national interest groups — including the American Association of Small Property Owners, Friends of the Earth, and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, among others.
In July, a report by Democrats on the House Small Business Committee claimed that as many as 2,500 large companies received federal cash set aside for small businesses in 2005, accounting for nearly $12 billion in federal contracts.
Earlier this month, the Court of Federal Claims stripped an Arlington, Va.-based firm of a $17.4 million federal contract to upgrade, an online listing of government contract opportunities.

Symplicity, an 8(a) designated information-technology firm, was re-awarded the contract in July 2005, after competitors successfully challenged an earlier decision by the General Services Administration.

The latest ruling, which will be released in detail later this month, reopens bidding on the lucrative eight-year contract for the third time since March 2004. Over 100 small businesses have identified themselves as interested vendors.

If the Federal Government finds it difficult to keep track with whom it is actually doing business, just imagine what your chances are about obtaining background information about potential partners and joint venture prospects. The government affiliate system is labrynthine, bogged down by endless paperwork, hoop jumping, bureacratic meddling and, all right, possibly a touch of corruption.

With the speed of business as fast as it is, you don’t want opportunities to get away from you. Yet you don’t want to enter the wrong deal with the wrong deal, which can create unforeseen challenges and liabilities. So if you are contemplating joint ventures or stratigic partnerships, perhaps the first thing to run is a background check. You can run run criminal checks on the partners and principles, or see if there are any bankruptcies, liens and judgments.

Corra offers the business partner/owner check that some of you will find very handy. The business partner/owner background check will list ownership of properties, bankruptcies, liens and judgments, business associations, licenses and a host of other topics.

Remember, it pays to check them out before you do business.

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