On June 25, 2019, Governor Pritzker signed the Illinois
Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act into law, making Illinois the 11th
state to legalize recreational cannabis. The law went into effect this January
and dispensaries sold over $10 million worth of recreational marijuana in the
The legalization of Illinois recreational cannabis has
potentially serious ramifications for business owners, HR professionals, and
managers. Many fear that their employees will show up high at work or get high
at work during breaks. And because using recreational marijuana is no longer in
itself illegal in Illinois, employers can’t enforce zero-tolerance policies
towards its use – just its use at work.
While there are valid concerns, Illinois recreational
marijuana legalization doesn’t pose an existential threat to employers. As long
as you are careful and implement a few straightforward policies, there is no
reason to fear legal recreational cannabis.
So, how can you protect your business from having employees
show up high at work and from discrimination suits for taking action against
employees for being high at work? In this article, we’ll explore:
Concerns About Recreational Marijuana in
Preventing Employees From Being High at Work
Protecting Yourself Against Lawsuits for
Policies Against Marijuana in the Workplace
Why Illinois Recreational Marijuana Legalization
Isn’t a Threat to Businesses
How to Learn More
Concerns About Recreational Marijuana in Illinois
Whether you support it or not, Illinois recreational
cannabis legalization is a reality. What does that mean for you as a business
owner, manager, or human resources professional?
For the most part, your policies on recreational marijuana
and drug testing in the workplace shouldn’t have to change. But the way that
you enforce those policies may need to be modified.
Despite what some business owners think, and some overeager
employees might insist, your employees aren’t suddenly allowed to show up high
at work. Employers are still allowed to have zero-tolerance policies for the
consumption of recreational marijuana, intoxication from recreational cannabis,
or the storage of marijuana during work hours or while on call.
But you’re no longer allowed to take action against
employees who use recreational marijuana outside of company time and are not
high at work. Many employers might not have a problem with this on the face of
it. After all, off the clock employees’ time should be their own unless the
after-effects impact their job performance.
However, even if you fully support the use of recreational
cannabis outside of work, the legalization of recreational marijuana in
Illinois makes it harder for you to prevent employees from being high at work.
And it exposes you to potential discrimination lawsuits if you take action
against employees for being high at work based on evidence of their use of
recreational cannabis in general rather than just at work.
After all, there is no equivalent of a breathalyzer for
marijuana as of yet. That means that there is no surefire way to tell if an
employee is high at work. And methods for drug testing in the workplace have
varying degrees of accuracy. Many companies that are currently drug testing for
marijuana are using hair follicle drug testing. But hair follicle drug testing
is only useful to tell whether or not an employee has used recreational
marijuana in the past several weeks or even months. That means that hair
follicle drug testing is now more or less obsolete for drug testing in the
workplace in states with legalized recreational cannabis. And urine tests are
not even a reliable solution for drug testing in legal states as they can
deliver positive results for recreational marijuana use anywhere
between two weeks and a month in the past.
You might think that you can still take action against
employees for using recreational marijuana during off hours because recreational
cannabis is still illegal on a federal level. That might be true if the
Illinois law simply allowed employers to control marijuana use at work and did
not give the same right for off-work hours. But the 600-page law amends the
Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act that prohibits employers from
punishing employees for using legal substances outside of work to expand the
definition of legal substances to include recreational cannabis and medical
marijuana. So while you won’t break federal law by punishing employees for
consuming recreational marijuana outside of work, you will be in violation of
So, how can you stop employees from being high at work
without breaking the new Illinois recreational marijuana legalization law or
exposing yourself to lawsuits?
Preventing Employees From Being High at Work
If you can’t rely on traditional drug testing in the
workplace to prevent employees from being high at work, what can you do?
The Illinois recreational cannabis law establishes reasonable
suspicion or good-faith belief that an employee is high at work as a legitimate
standard for taking action against that employee. So, until somebody invents foolproof
technology for marijuana-use testing to see if an employee is currently high at
work, your best bet is to leverage the reasonable suspicion standard.
How can you take advantage of the good-faith belief standard
as laid out in the Illinois recreational marijuana bill? The first step you
should take is to train supervisors and managers on how to identify drug use,
including distributing reasonable suspicion checklists that they can fill out
for incident reports, and educate all of your employees about the reasonable
suspicion standard that will be used to tell whether they are high at work.
That way, your team will be prepared to meet the standard and your company will
be sheltered from liability for enforcing the standard. You should also include
the reasonable suspicion checklists in all of your accident report forms,
especially if your business is especially susceptible to workplace-safety
According to the Illinois recreational marijuana
legalization law, these are the symptoms that your team should record if they
suspect an employee is high at work and that you can use to meet the good-faith
Changes in speech, dexterity, agility or
Irrational, unusual or negligent behavior when
operating equipment or machinery
Disregard for the safety of others
Carelessness that results in any injury to
Involvement in any accident that results in
serious damage to equipment or property
Production or manufacturing disruptions
So long as you are meticulous about recording symptoms at
the time, you should not have to fear reprimanding employees for showing up
high at work. Under the Illinois recreational marijuana bill, if an employer
demonstrates a good faith belief that an employee is high at work, the burden
shifts to the employee to prove that they were not impaired.
And you can still use drug testing in the workplace as part
of your efforts to dissuade employees from being high at work. Random drug
testing for marijuana is explicitly permitted under the new law and can provide
additional support for reasonable suspicion claims. And you can maximize the
usefulness of random drug testing by reviewing your methods for drug testing in
the workplace to ensure that you are testing for use in the past 6-12 hours
rather than the past 30+ days. For instance, replace hair follicle drug testing
with more accurate saliva or blood testing. Just don’t use drug testing as the
sole justification for any disciplinary actions.
Protecting Yourself Against Lawsuits for Policies Against Marijuana in the Workplace
Now that you know how you can effectively address the use of
recreational cannabis in the workplace, let’s take a look at how you can
safeguard yourself against lawsuits when you take action against an employee
for being high at work.
First and foremost, don’t take action against employees
without the standards we outlined in the last section and always air on the
side of caution, even if you meet the reasonable suspicion standard. It’s
generally not worth risking serious disciplinary action against an employee
unless their use of recreational marijuana poses a threat to their productivity
or workplace safety, and if that is the case, then they have probably well
surpassed the good-faith suspicion standard.
Beyond following proper enforcement procedures, another step
that you can take to minimize your liability is to give employees advanced
notice regarding any changes in drug enforcement policy and to provide
comprehensive education about the recreational marijuana policies and their
enforcement. This can head off claims of unfair surprise, prevent unnecessary
lawsuits from being filed because an employee didn’t know what the policies
were, and ensure that managers enforce the policies properly.
You may well have to review your drug enforcement policies
as well as your anti-discrimination policies because Illinois recreational
cannabis legalization adds pressure behind previous discrimination issues.
Recreational marijuana enforcement has a history of racial bias and you have to
tread especially carefully to avoid any semblance of bias, whether conscious or
unconscious. So, conduct rigorous implicit and explicit bias training and make
sure that random drug testing in the workplace is genuinely random and applies
to all employees equally.
So long as you follow these steps, you shouldn’t have too
much to worry about regarding discrimination lawsuits as a result of the
legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois.
Why Illinois Recreational Marijuana Legalization Isn’t a Threat to Businesses
The good news is that unless you work in an industry fraught
with workplace-safety concerns, such as construction, Illinois recreational
marijuana legalization is cause for caution rather than concern. As long as you
put the right systems in place, there’s no reason to be too worried about the
legalization of recreational marijuana. You will still be able to stop
employees from being high at work and take action against employees who do use
recreational marijuana at work, without fear of damaging lawsuits.
And while you should protect yourself from repeated
workplace intoxication that causes performance or cultural issues and from
discrimination lawsuits, casual use by employees should not be an issue for
most employers. Ten other states have legalized recreational marijuana and
businesses continued to thrive. States with legalized recreational cannabis states
out of the top five state economies in the country and California, the
poster-child for legalization, is the largest state economy in the country.
Illinois business owners will be fine – so long as they handle the transition
Illinois recreational cannabis even presents opportunities
for employers to set themselves apart and win the war for talent. According to
a 2019 survey
by PBS Research, Civilized, Burson Cohn & Wolfe, and Buzzfeed News,
half of Illinoisans surveyed said that their ideal workplace would permit
marijuana use outside of work but that two-thirds were uncomfortable with use
in the workplace. If those numbers are accurate, most employees are likely to
respect the prohibition of marijuana use at work and business owners can
improve their employer branding by taking a hands-off approach to recreational
cannabis use outside of work.
How to Learn More
The legalization of Illinois recreational cannabis has made things a lot more complicated for business owners and HR professionals throughout Illinois. There’s no way that we can cover all of the complexities and details of how you should handle the legalization of recreational cannabis, prevent employees from being high at work, and protect yourself from discrimination lawsuits in one article. Nor are we attorneys who can give you sufficient legal advice.
That is why we’ve enlisted the help of an attorney who is well-versed in all things employment law to help guide business owners and HR professionals through this turbulent transition. Heather Bailey is a partner at SmithAmundsen’s and an expert in employment and labor counseling and litigation. She’ll be joining our very own HR Client Manager Karina Castaneda for a comprehensive free webinar on understanding the ins-and-outs of the Cannabis Regulation Act and how it affects Illinois employers.
Before we dive deep into the power of Diversity and
Inclusion, let’s take a second to establish our terms and clarify what D&I
actually looks like.
Diversity: The practice of hiring, promoting, and building a team in a way
that brings together people of different backgrounds, educations, personal
histories, experiences, and areas of expertise.
Inclusion: The practice of ensuring diverse voices are fully comfortable,
integrated into, and valued as members of a thriving, complementary,
To be clear, diversity is nothing without inclusion!
It’s pointless and somewhat dishonest to build a diverse team only to
maintain a leadership framework where a certain “in-group” maintains the power
to impactfully steer the ship while a nominally diverse team underneath them
feels disenfranchised or fearful.
Why Diversity and Inclusion Build the Best Possible Team
The true potential of humanity lies in our ability to come
together and build a unit that’s more powerful than the sum of its parts. A
group of people from similar backgrounds, educations, and ways of navigating
the world might be able to put their heads together to come up with one, two,
or even three ways of solving a given problem, but when you invite
professionals of diverse backgrounds to the table, the possibilities are far
When businesses make diversity and inclusion main values and
priorities, they can gain incredible benefits, includes:
Increased brainstorming/innovation potential
More access to outside-the-box problem-solving
A wider skill and knowledge base across the
A thinktank and business team that accurately
reflects the national and global marketplace
Building a Foundation for a Great Team
There’s no magic recipe you can learn to turn D&I into
areas of pride and opportunity for your business, but the key is to foster a strong
culture. If that culture is one that values diversity of people and ideas,
fights for representation and inclusion in every situation, and works to give
everybody a voice, then you can really capitalize on the innovative power of
Workplace culture determines both the levels of buy-in,
engagement, and persistence your team will put into their work on a day-to-day
basis, their feeling of personal investment and their job, and the dedication
they put into embracing and maintaining the company culture. Great talent wants
to work in a culture that supports them and sets them up for success. When they
encounter a situation where they don’t feel comfortable, valued, or positively
plugged in, they leave quickly.
Creating a Level Playing Field Through Education
While diversity hiring programs are nearly ubiquitous in the
big business world, they often lack the crucial, consistent ground-level
follow-through (inclusion) that turns that diversity into business power. Employee
education (in the form of in-house training or formal professional development)
is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to shaping your existing culture
into the kind of inclusive environment that sets the business up to win big
Of course, you can’t just do diversity and anti-harassment
education to check them off the list for compliance purposes – employees can
smell that from a mile away, and it directly affects their ability to engage
authentically with the training and reflect on the information in a way that’s
going to augment their mindset or behavior at work. Discussions of diversity
and inclusion need to be powerful, real, and backed by thought-provoking
human-to-human engagement – not a comprehension quiz at the end.
Designing and building that education program is a key step
in articulating, fostering, and supporting a great employee culture. When you
give great talent something important to aspire to and make it real for them,
the possibilities are endless. At the same time, worker education creates a
foundation for accountability and makes it easier to remove toxic mindsets that
do damage to inclusion or morale.
Don’t Hesitate to Be Great!
The biggest mistake organizations make is waiting to
articulate the perfect approach to D&I. Every business can and should be
doing something about diversity and inclusion at scale today. If you think
diversity training or inclusion workshops would be valuable to your team, seek
out a great independent PD provider who can help you today – don’t form a
committee to discuss what the training might look like two years from now.
Of course, long-term initiatives are key to harnessing
diversity and inclusion as business strategies over time, but the best thing
any organization can do from a talent-centric and corporate decency standpoint
is to identify a starting point and dig into exploring the challenge and
addressing the issues at hand.
In the next section of this book, we’ll explore some of the thinking
points and strategies businesses can use to find a starting point for their
D&I program, articulate a commitment to diversity and inclusion and begin
creating that great culture and winning team. Depending on the size, industry,
or existing culture of your business, some of these approaches might be more
relevant or feasible early-on in the process than others, but any of these
strategies will help you grow in your ability to embrace D&I in a powerful,
Part 2: Planning to Become Unbeatable
Aligning Your Values
Everybody knows diversity is good, right? Everybody believes
people should be represented and have voice at the table, right? Those
statements are hopefully true, but creating a culture of excellence through
diversity and inclusion requires that you as a business shout those values from
Articulation is the first step for you as an employer to
tell your team members what you really stand for as an organization and what
you expect out of them as employees. At the same time, your company values help
you establish a public face that can be used as part of on-going marketing or
When you as an organization show your employees and
the public through your actions and business practices that you care about
diversity and value inclusion (and don’t just tell them), you set
yourself up to win big on many levels including:
Improved recruitment capabilities
More talent from diverse backgrounds
Fewer toxic team members who don’t embrace
Improved reputation in the public space
Improved opportunities for partnerships with
other diverse companies
Improved ability to create logical, powerful
procedures that are rooted in established values
Building the Strongest Possible Understanding of Your
Of course, before you can hone yourself into a diversity and
inclusion powerhouse, you need to build a rich understanding of the current
state of D&I in your organization. Without that foundation of data, it’s
hard to know what the challenge/opportunity really looks like and what you need
to do to get there.
A few years ago, gathering that data would’ve been pretty
tough, but thanks to advances in human capital management technology such as
Paylocity’s demographics dashboard, mining your HR records to create a “state
of the business” diversity report for your business only takes a few clicks.
That data can help you understand your workforce in terms of:
Education level/background diversity
Diversity among leadership
Diversity by department
Diversity by team
Once you’ve created that roadmap of your current state, it’s
much easier to understand the work at hand. When it comes to understanding the
state of inclusion in your organization, that can be a little trickier, but
employee surveys and other engagement markers can be useful to fill out the
Setting Ambitious but Achievable Goals
With your commitment to diversity and inclusion articulated
and a rich understanding of your existing team’s make-up and culture, it’s time
to roll up your sleeves and get down to the work of determining what your
D&I strategy is going to look like and how it will impact your business.
The key here is to be sure you’re setting data-driven goals – things that you
can measure either through qualitative or quantitative means to determine your
If your program is going to grow into something great, you
need to dream big, but it’s important to think at scale and in a logical order.
When it comes time to set those tentpoles that will guide the vision and work
moving forward, ask yourself:
If we’re not satisfied with the current state of
diversity in this organization, what would we like to look like three years
Does the diversity of our leadership
align with the diversity we envision for our workforce?
If not, how can we step up recruitment and
promotion of diverse leaders? Where would those leaders fit best?
How will our regular recruiting, on-boarding,
and P.D. approaches need to be modified to support our commitment to making
these things happen?
What can we do to improve workplace culture
in a way that maximizes talent and invites everybody to the party?
How will we use data to measure whether
or not this is happening?
What will we do on a daily, weekly, and monthly
basis to reinforce our commitment to D&I and ensure the work environment
Creating Powerful Policies & Procedures
The answer to some of those questions will likely lie within
your policies and procedures. The best way to guarantee the success of your
D&I initiatives is to give them real teeth by backing them with official,
well-defined rules and policies. It’s one thing to say you value diversity and
inclusion, it’s another to codify your beliefs in a way that make it easier to
hold everybody accountable to organizational ideals.
Some of those procedures will be dictated by government
compliance. The EEOC is responsible for ensuring that diversity and inclusion –
at least to the levels articulated by the federal government – occur in the
workplace, and many states are adopting increasingly specific racial or LGBTQ+
inclusion laws to hold businesses to a higher standard.
You’ll never become a leader in the fields of diversity and
inclusion by sticking to government guidelines, however! If you’re looking to
get a better sense of how your HR department can support a diverse workforce
better, take a look at some of your industry’s identified diversity leaders.
What do they do to attract talent? How has that diversity, inclusion, and
strong culture created wins for them? What can you do at scale to replicate
By using legal guidelines, industry best practices, and
emerging trends, you can create a D&I framework that speaks to both the
current climate and what’s unique, special, and exciting about your business.
Building Benefit Packages that Truly Value Diversity & Inclusion
Part of inclusion is recognizing everybody’s needs and
ensuring they are met in a way that supports productivity and a positive
relationship with work and the workplace. That means taking care of your
diverse workforce away from the office is just as important as building a great
environment for them to work in.
Employee benefits are an area in which businesses frequently
send subtle, non-inclusive messages that employees pick up on. For example,
many health plans provide no coverage for same-sex couples. For organizations
that value diversity and inclusion, those kinds of biases must be eliminated
from your compensation, benefits, and healthcare packages in order to build a
system that’s truly valuable and authentic for everybody.
At the same time, it’s important for HR to consider how
their offerings will support a wide variety of workers from different
backgrounds. Ask yourself questions like:
How can you build value for young families?
What about single, relatively healthy folks? How
can you save them (and yourself) money while still providing a strong healthcare
What about transgender or intersex employees who
need access to preferred doctors to get their medical needs met?
What about employees with long-term medical
issues who require expensive medicines and therapies?
How can we help provide culturally responsive
medicine and services? How can we make sure all our employees have access to
services that make them and their families feel comfortable and happy?
In order to support a diverse workforce and live up to your
values as a progressive, inclusive employer, you need to find a way to answer
those questions without making the classic benefits plan design error of trying
to offer everything. It’s important to remember that more doesn’t always mean
better when it comes to benefits. Building a truly inclusive benefits framework
is a tall task, but it’s incredibly rewarding and can set your business apart
from the pack at a time when talent is more conscious than ever of their
Part 3: Staying Unbeatable
Keep Your Eye on the Data
So, you’ve established diversity and inclusion as core
values, devised a recruitment and promotion initiative, beefed up your policies
and training procedures, and gotten the feedback you need to build a really
great culture. It’s tough work, and it’s rewarding, but it’s important not to
fool yourself into thinking the work is done once your program has been created
and rolled out in its initial form.
Part of inclusion is being responsive to the evolving needs
of your team members as individuals and a community. Those targets move
month-from-month and year-to-year, and for your organization’s D&I approach
to remain strong over time, you need to keep evolving to keep up with shifts in
your employee culture.
Of course, your most powerful ally in this work is data! You can and should continue to monitor your HCM data and survey your employees regularly to provide yourself with a strong understanding of the state of diversity and inclusion across the organization.
Create a Built-in Feedback/Assessment Loop
Part of getting the data you need to stay unbeatable is
creating a formal framework through which employees can conduct on-going
discussions about diversity and inclusion to help you, the employer, understand
how well you’re doing and what they need from you.
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are a great way to support a
diversity and inclusion strategy, as they provide tremendous two-way value. For
employees they provide the opportunity to speak frankly with their most direct
peers about the needs of their specific community or interest group and finally
create a space that’s specifically designated for talking about the personal
side of work at hand. For the employer, ERGs are a great way of making sure
team members feel empowered to discuss the issues that concern them in the
workplace, and they create a feedback loop that lets you know very clearly what
people’s needs, wants, and goals for the office culture are.
Once again, it’s important to mention that you can roll out ERGs at any point in your D&I journey. As soon as you’ve identified particular communities or interest groups within your team, create a framework for them to get together, talk about their shared experience, and discuss their vision for the workplace and issues that are relevant to them. There’s no need to wait until you’re three years into the initiative and have greatly increased the diversity of your workforce – in fact, it’s better for you to start small early on and allow the ERG program to scale up with your business.
Maintaining the Commitment to Greatness Together
Diversity and inclusion are all about commitment –
commitment to talent, commitment to values, and commitment to greatness
together. When you create a great cultural platform, create a diverse,
complementary team, and focus on inclusion in a way that ensures everybody is
heard and their abilities are maximized, you set your business up to maximize
its potential for profit, innovation, and high-level problem-solving.
Diversity is nothing without inclusion – A
hiring/recruiting initiative is just one piece of a much larger picture
A strong, positive culture and employee
education framework must be in place in order for a D&I initiative to be
successful in the long term
Every business should be doing something to
tackle D&I at scale today – Progress over perfection
Good HCM data is necessary to benchmark your current
state of D&I and measure the success of your initiatives over time
HR policies and procedures, along with employee
benefit offerings, must reflect the organization’s deep commitment to diversity
Diversity and inclusion is a complex, evolving
challenge/opportunity, but businesses that get it right have the power to
maximize the potential of their individual team members and their organization
as a whole.
Enter Your Information to Read The Rest of This Guide!
Do you want to access a foolproof step-by-step method to rolling out an impactful D&I program? Enter your information to unlock the rest of the guide.
Captive insurance programs enable businesses to reduce their
insurance overspend, fully control their coverage, and turn safety initiatives
into profitable returns.
Unfortunately, though, many organizations shy away from
forming or joining captives because, when they start doing online research,
they often run into incorrect and damaging myths about captives.
Moving forward, we’ll:
Identify the top five myths about captive
insurance programs that are prevalent on the web
Debunk each myth using evidence
Describe the true value and possibilities of a
captive insurance program.
Myth #1: You have to be a huge corporation to benefit from a captive
Why is this myth so prevalent?
When you first start researching captive insurance programs,
most of the messaging on the first page of search engine results focuses on how
captive programs are used by large corporations who hold multiple businesses
and operate facilitates across the globe.
Why is this a myth?
It’s true that single-member captives (in which one business
creates its own insurance company) are generally formed by large corporations,
but that’s not the full story! Group insurance captives or “pool” captives
specifically exist to bring together medium-sized businesses so they can gain
the insurance negotiating power of their bigger competition.
When it comes to whether or not your business is a good
candidate to join a group captive, your business’ size, headcount, or profits
don’t enter into the equation at all. It’s all about the scale of your business
The Bottom Line
If you pay more than $150,000 annually in premiums, you are
a strong captive pool candidate. You don’t need to be a multi-national
corporation or a Fortune 500 giant – just a business with a goal of doing
Myth #2: Entering a group or pool captive exposes your business’ health to
other people’s risks
Why is this myth so prevalent?
The idea that group insurance captives expose your money to
other business’ risks is a logical fallacy. That is, it seems right on its
surface when you have a cursory knowledge of the topic, but a deep dive proves
it to be completely false.
When businesses hear the words “group” and “insurance”
together, they incorrectly assume risk and responsibility are shared equally
among the pool members for claims. They connect the dots and assume that if one
pool member has a “bad year,” it damages their business allies as well.
Why is this a myth?
Pool captives are specifically structured to protect the
vast majority of each member’s investment from the risks and claims of others.
Over 90% of your premiums are specifically set aside for your use.
That means less than 10% of your total investment can be
lost due to claims made by other members of your pool.
In fact, in Launchways’ group captive program, each member retains complete ownership of 98% of their funds. This means that with the Launchways group captive, only 2% of your investment is considered “at-risk.”
The Bottom Line
Yes, group captive membership requires the willingness to
take on increased risk compared to the traditional insurance marketplace, but
it’s absolutely false to say that your potential for profits is at the mercy of
your pool partners.
Myth #3: When you’re in a captive, one big claim can blow up your business
Why is this myth so prevalent?
Like Myth #2, the “catastrophic claims scenario” is a
logical fallacy: it sounds right, but it isn’t! When people hear “self-insurance,” they assume
that means “we’re on the hook for every dollar and cent of every potential
Unfortunately, this myth is also sometimes perpetuated by
insurance providers and brokers who are hesitant to work outside the traditional
marketplace. Their motivation is to protect their own interests and ease of
doing work, not yours!
Why is this a myth?
One word: reinsurance. Whether you operate your own
single-member captive or participate in a group or pool program, part of your
investment is always in reinsurance to prevent exactly this scenario.
That reinsurance policy prevents unforeseen or
much-larger-than-expected claims and issues from damaging your business’
long-term viability or standing as a strong group captive partner.
The Bottom Line
Reinsurance is a part of every captive program, and it’s
there to protect you from potentially harming the health of your business.
Myth #4: We’d have to change the way we do business to form or join a
Why is this myth so prevalent?
The idea of creating your own insurance company sounds
pretty daunting at first. Many people assume they’ll need to restructure their
organization to make the captive viable or transform themselves into a more
attractive group pool member.
Like so many other myths we’ve tackled, this one is at least
in part in heavy circulation because many insurance package providers aren’t
crazy about the idea of businesses cutting them out as middlemen.
Why is this a myth?
The whole point of a captive insurance program is that it
allows your business to be itself more fully – you gain the ability to insure
outside-the-box risks, gain ownership over the claims management process, and
reclaim power and autonomy that traditional business insurance limits.
Captive insurance programs aren’t about changing your
business, they’re about changing the circumstances under which you do business.
Furthermore, in the case of group captive programs, independent managers handle
pool responsibilities, meaning there’s minimal change to your day-to-day
operations and responsibilities.
The Bottom Line
A captive is about supporting your business better and
providing greater economy of scale. The idea that you need to significantly
“whip yourself into shape” to be a captive candidate is false.
Myth #5: Captive programs used to offer great perks, but the value isn’t
Why is this myth so prevalent?
Anytime people perceive the value of a product or service
has been reduced even a small fraction, there’s often an impulse to throw out
the baby with the bath water.
Single-member captive programs used to offer large
corporations significant benefit as tax shelters, and it is true that most of
those incentives have been removed. In reactionary style, many of the big business
blogs have published content claiming captives “aren’t what they used to be.”
Why is this a myth?
As we’ve established repeatedly in our myth-busting
exercise, insurance captives aren’t just for the biggest companies in terms of
workforce or economic power. Just because those industry leaders are upset about
changing regulations, doesn’t mean you should be tricked into thinking like
In fact, some of those same regulatory changes that have
made captives slightly less profitable for large, multinational entities have
actually made it easier for medium-sized businesses to form effective
pool captives. Even if captives have slightly declined in value for the biggest
business, they’re still loaded with potential for mid-sized businesses.
The Bottom Line
Captive insurance programs still offer tremendous value:
independence, authentic ownership of your business’ insurance and claims
process, and the potential to make a dividend instead of turning overspend into
loss are just three examples of why they’re still relevant and extremely
useful. Don’t be scared off just because they’re not the big-money tax shelter
they used to be.
As we’ve seen, captive business insurance programs (both
single-member and group or pool) allow organizations to navigate the insurance
market in a more personalized, powerful manner.
Even though most entities aren’t big enough to pull off a
single-member captive, medium-sized businesses are increasingly forming
alliances that provide big value and the potential for profit.
There are plenty of myths out there about captives, most of
them designed to make the programs seem scary and risky, but it’s important to
You don’t need to be a gigantic corporation to qualify for a group or pool captive – you just need to pay at least $150,000 in annual premiums
Within a group insurance captive, over 90% of your investment is protected and sequestered for your use only
Reinsurance is built into captive programs to prevent catastrophic claims events
Captives should be about enabling you to do better, not forcing you to jump through hoops
Even if they’re not spectacular tax shelters anymore, there’s still immense value in the independence and negotiating power captives create
Just about every company these days has a mission, vision,
and set of core values. But all too often, these documents are reviewed once a
year by leadership then filed back away in a drawer. In these cases, they
remain hollow ideals rather than a reality of life at the company. Sometimes
this happens because the company followed the trend without really knowing what
it meant. Other times, businesses want to live their values, they just don’t
know how to realize their values in their business goals and day-to-day
Through our role as HR and benefits consultants, we’ve
gotten to know hundreds of companies over the years who struggle with this exact
challenge. And we’ve had the chance to guide them through the process of
integrating their values into everything that they do, particularly by crafting
values-driven benefits packages and human resources processes.
We’ve seen what works, and we’ve also seen what doesn’t. And
we have also seen how businesses transform and grow when they start realizing
their values in their day-to-day work.
This is one of the best things about being part of the
Launchways team. We’ve taken the lessons we’ve learned from working with our
clients to heart and live our values every day, in every way.
Our values shape who we are as team members, collaborators,
and consultants. They fuel our personal growth and make us invested in the
success of our coworkers, our company, and our clients. And we get the chance
to help our clients live their values and build more productive, engaging, and
Let’s take a look at what it means to live our values at
The Launchways Core Values
How We Make Our Values a Reality of Life at
We’re a community-minded team. We’re always looking for new
ways to support members of our Launchways community while also engaging with
the greater Chicago community.
How We Make Our Values a Reality of Life at Launchways
A values-driven workplace starts from the bottom-up. No
amount of cajoling from the C-Suite can make a company’s values a reality.
Every employee has to buy into the values and make them an intentional part of
how they interact with their work, their coworkers, and their clients. Only
then will a company’s values become a driving force in the company culture.
That said, there is a lot that a company’s leadership can do
to get employees to take ownership of company values. Unsurprisingly, with over
fifteen years of experience consulting with thousands of businesses, Jim knows
a thing or two about how to build a values-driven organization. And he built
Launchways around our core values from the ground up. Every process is shaped
with the company’s values in mind – how and who we hire, how we run our
meetings and share feedback, how we talk to each other across every level of
the Launchways team, and how we are encouraged to grow and advance within the
And it’s worked. Our values are an integral part of what we
do and how we do it. They help us treat each other with honesty and integrity,
encouraging us to be our best and most authentic selves, to genuinely care
about our fellow team members, and to be deeply invested in our clients’
It makes all the difference in the world to go into the
office every day and work alongside friends and peers towards common goals with
a shared vision, mutual respect, and open communication.
Values-Driven Customer Relationships
At Launchways, we know that we do best when our customers
thrive. And our values define every aspect of our relationships with our
customers. We become an extension of our clients’ teams, as invested in their
success as we are in our own.
One of the main expressions of our values-driven approach to
our client relations is our consultative sales model. Essentially, we provide
our clients with solutions rather than products. We never go into a client relationship
with the plan to “sell them” on specific products. Instead, we identify their
needs first and then find the HR technology, benefits, and business insurance
solutions that meet those needs and that help our clients accomplish their business
At Launchways, “out-of-the-box” packages are out of the
question, and it would be anathema to us to suggest that a client adopt a
product if it isn’t the absolute best solution for their business.
This approach doesn’t just deliver better results for our
clients, it also makes our work a lot more rewarding and engaging. We approach
each new client with a fresh perspective, using our skills and experience to
develop unique solutions and solve their specific challenges.
In short, we get to be strategic problem-solvers rather than
succumbing to the uncaring monotony of the hard-sell.
Helping Our Clients Live Their Values
A significant part of living your values is making sure that
the way you treat your employees aligns with your company’s core values. That
means that your benefits and human resources processes need to be aligned with
In our role as benefits and HR consultants, we get to help
our clients align their people-processes with their values. For example, we’ve
helped companies who value employee safety overhaul their workplace safety
practices and we’ve helped companies who value diversity and inclusion
implement more inclusive benefits packages.
Even after we’ve implemented the initial values-oriented
solutions, we continue to help our clients live their values over the long run.
Because we deliver scalable solutions, we build long-term relationships with
our clients. Our clients regularly turn to us as they face different business
or human resources challenges, and we guide them towards the strategies and
solutions that will keep them faithful to their core values.
This is a unique aspect of our client problem-solving that
goes beyond reducing their costs, expanding their benefits, or streamlining
their processes. We don’t just get to help our clients succeed – we empower
them to make sure their employees succeed as well.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from our years of guiding
businesses through the process of maximizing their human potential, it’s the
importance of company values. That is why we live our values in every aspect of
how we work and do business at Launchways. Here’s what living our values looks
like at Launchways:
Putting our values at the center of everything
Developing relationships with our coworkers and
clients that are based on trust and honesty
Delivering meaningful solutions for our clients
through a consultative sales process
Helping our clients live their values by
aligning their benefits and HR processes with their company values
Founded in 1957, The Spice House
is a purveyor of the finest spices, herbs, blends, and extracts to customers
ranging from renowned Michelin-star chefs to home cooks everywhere. They’ve spent
over 60 years curating their global network of premium growers and distributors
to offer their customers unrivaled quality and selection. Spice house is now the fastest-growing craft spice
merchant in the Midwest, thanks to a booming eCommerce business.
Spice House started working with
Launchways during a change of ownership amid a period of rapid growth. When a
Private Equity firm initiated the process of buying Spice House from its
original owners in 2017, they brought on Charlie Mayer as the company’s new
CEO. Immediately upon assessing the business’ processes, Charlie knew that he
had to overhaul the company’s HR systems, payroll operations, and benefits to
accommodate Spice House’s growth and help it grow at an even faster rate.
While he considered working with a
PEO, Charlie decided to work with Launchways instead because we offered customized
solutions with the one-stop-shop appeal of a PEO. Our HR advisors were also
able to provide expert guidance to Charlie and his team through the change in
ownership and guide them through any challenges that arose during Spice House’s
continued growth. And unlike a PEO, we were also able to replace Spice House’s
existing business insurance, which could not meet the needs of a rapidly
expanding eCommerce food industry company.
Because Spice House lacked any
centralized HR systems, Launchways implemented an all-in-one HRMS platform that
handles employee record-keeping, new-hire onboarding, time and attendance, and
payroll using systems that could scale with Spice House’s rapid growth. We also
consolidated employee benefits to a single vendor, made benefits available to
all Spice House employees, and increased coverage for health, dental, vision,
life, and added a 401k at a cost-savings of 16% a year compared to their
previous benefits package.
But one aspect of our partnership that turned out to have an
extremely significant impact on Spice House’s ability to continue to grow and
succeed was our work revamping the company’s business insurance. Their previous
vendor refused to renew the company’s coverage due to the change of ownership
and rapid expansion, so Spice House needed a business insurance solution that
would meet their current and future needs. Our insurance experts conducted an
audit of the business and put together comprehensive and cost-effective
coverage package that could scale as the company grew.
Little did anybody know how important that coverage would
become to Spice House’s future just two years later.
In early July 2019, a repairman sent by Spice House’s
landlord to fix the store’s roof accidentally lit the roof on fire with a
blowtorch. The response by the fire department was swift and effective but it
wasn’t enough to save the company’s inventory as Charlie reports,
“The fire department put the fire out quickly but they used a lot of water, so everything on the floor and in the basement was ruined.”
But the damage to the building was an even greater risk to
his company’s ability to stay open, let alone expand. If he hadn’t had
comprehensive business insurance, that Spice House location might have been
driven out of business. But the coverage that Launchways had previously negotiated
ensured that Spice House could weather the fire damage,
“In addition to having a significant loss in terms of our building and our product, we were closed for four months. Because we had business interruption insurance we not only recovered our lost income but we were also able to keep our staff employed through the interruption.”
One reason why the store was closed for so long was the
complexity involved in resolving the claim. Since the fire was started by a
contractor hired by the landlord, Spice House had to navigate shifting
liability between multiple parties.
The landlord had to get the contractor to pay for the damage
to the building before they could begin repairing the damage, greatly
increasing the amount of time that Spice House’s store was closed. At the same
time, Spice House’s initial insurance adjuster worked extremely slowly and was
eventually fired by the insurance company. Launchways worked diligently to get
a new adjuster on the case immediately, and then worked hand-in-hand with that
party to ensure the claim was paid out quickly.
Throughout the process, the Launchways team handled the
communications between the different parties and insurance companies so that
Spice House could focus on their business, as Tim Taylor, the head of the
Launchways business insurance team, explained:
“Because the fire was caused by a third-party roofing company that was fixing the roof, we had to work with not only the landlord and the roofing insurance company but also our insurer. When there is a large claim like this, we check in twice a week with the end adjuster at our insurance company and also check in with our insured to make sure that they don’t have any questions, that they know the timeline, and that they know when they can expect the money to be paid out for this type of a loss.”
Launchways’ hands-on approach made all the difference for
Charlie, making a stressful and potentially costly process as easy and
productive as possible,
“Having Launchways to talk to is kind of like having an older sibling who’s been there before and can tell you what to expect. About once a week I would get on the phone with Tim and say okay, here’s what’s going on, is this normal, should we expect more, what can I do? And he would tell me what to do and occasionally take it upon himself to go figure out what was broken and get it fixed.”
With Launchways handling communications with the insurers,
landlord, and contractor, Charlie was able to focus on rebuilding Spice House’s
store better than ever.
“I’ll never say that having a fire is a good thing but in the end, it was an opportunity to think about the store we wanted to have and to build that store. We had that opportunity because we had the right team together to help us recover and help us think about rebuilding. Tim gave us the confidence we needed to just proceed. When the process finally started to click, the fact that we had everything ready to go made it all work.”
Now, Spice House is stronger than ever with a new storefront
that fits their brand and is helping them grow even faster. This challenging
chapter ended up fueling their business because they had the proper coverage
and an active partner and consultant in Launchways. It’s rare for a company’s
business insurance coverage to be put to the test as Spice House’s has been and
Charlie is more than pleased with the results. Going forward, he can run his
business with more confidence than ever, knowing that Spice House can withstand
anything that fate sends its way,
“I just don’t lose sleep about insurance because you just need someone who understands the process who will talk to you honestly about what to do and that’s what Launchways did for us.”