IRS Announces 2021 HSA and HDHP Limits

On May 20, 2020, the IRS released Revenue Procedure 2020-32, which provides the 2021 inflation-adjusted limits for HSAs and HSA-qualifying HDHPs. According to the revenue procedure, the 2021 annual HSA contribution limit will increase to $3,600 for individuals with self-only HDHP coverage, up $50 from 2020, and to $7,200 for individuals with anything other than self-only HDHP coverage (family or self + 1, self + child(ren), or self + spouse coverage), up $100 from 2020. For qualified HDHPs, the 2021 minimum statutory deductibles remain at $1,400 for self-only coverage and $2,800 for individuals with anything other than self-only coverage (the same as for 2020). The 2021 maximum out-of-pocket limits will increase to $7,000 for self-only coverage (up $100 from 2020) and up to $14,000 for anything other than self-only coverage (up $200 from 2020). For reference, out-of-pocket limits on expenses include deductibles, copayments and coinsurance, but not premiums. Additionally, the catch-up contribution maximum remains $1,000 for individuals aged 55 years or older (this is a fixed amount not subject to inflation). The 2020 limits may impact employer benefit strategies, particularly for employers coupling HSAs with HDHPs. Employers should ensure that employer HSA contributions and employer-sponsored qualified HDHPs are designed to comply with 2021 limits. Source

Categories: News


Five Things to Plan for as our Workforce Returns Post-COVID-19

As recent as a few weeks ago, we were still talking about going “back to normal."  But as we’ve learned and observed alongside our clients and our own staff, it’s obvious that work life and culture as we know it have been forever changed. We will “go back,” just not to normal. When employees who have been working remotely or have been furloughed go back to their workplaces, things will be different. This is an opportunity for leaders to “reboard” employees, and even strengthen or reinforce culture and values through clear communications and human centeredness. Together with Katherine Coble of Borshoff, we are sharing five areas employers should address in their return-to-work strategy:

1. Leadership visibility

During the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, many leaders became chief empathy officers. They focused on their people, and they ensured employees felt heard and cared for. Don’t lose the momentum you may have built during this time by assuming your people know you still care. Stay visible and keep up frequent, empathetic communication.

2. New world, new messaging

Especially in the first weeks back, you’ll have to address topics you may have never addressed before or need to address in new ways. Employees will want to know what safety procedures you’ve put in place. They’ll want to know how they should handle customer interactions. Will they be expected to follow the same processes, or have things changed? And what is our priority now? Are there opportunities for employees to help shape the way you operate in a post-pandemic world? You’ll want to address all these questions in a well-thought-out way. Even if you don’t have all the answers (spoiler alert: no one does), let your employees know that you understand their concerns and their need for direction.

3. Internal communication tools/channels

Are the days of in-person all-staff meetings over, or dramatically changed? In the midst of the pandemic, did you start using a tool or a channel you hadn’t used before? How did your technology help or hinder you? Consider the lessons learned and use this opportunity to shore up your communications channels to take advantage of any new habits your organization built during the remote working time. If communication was a challenge, survey your employees to gather their ideas on how you could overcome challenges in the future with new technology or processes for staff communication.

4. The evolving role of the frontline and mid-manager

Did your frontline managers step up to the challenges your business faced during the COVID-19 crisis? Are they well-equipped and willing to embrace their critical role as chief communicator to their teams? We often promote people into management positions because they were good at a technical skill. But management skills are much broader than technical skills and really boil down to the ability to make good decisions and to bring teams together. If they struggled with these two actions, what can you do to help them grow into better managers?

5. New norms

Chances are, there are some healthy new organization and individual behaviors that were developed during shelter in place. Perhaps work life is actually in “balance” for many for the first time in their careers. Perhaps you’ve innovated and implemented new solutions at a pace never before seen. You want to keep these things, right? What are you planning to help the positive change stick? This list provides a few important things to consider as you plan for your employees to return to the workplace. Ultimately, effective reboarding will require taking the best shelter-in-place learnings and carrying them forward. It will also require that you clearly define expectations for the next iteration of the work environment so your team knows what to expect. And, if you haven’t invested time and energy into building empathetic, people-focused leaders, there’s no time like the present. Contact Rebecca Ellis if you need additional support or training when it comes to developing your communications strategy and plan for employee reentry post-COVID-19. This blog was originally posted on May 26, 2020 by

Categories: Leader


Rightsizing with Empathy

Making the decision to reduce employment expenses is one of the most challenging situations a leader can face.  Although there are many options, such as reducing or eliminating retirement plan contributions, pay cuts and other operating expense cuts, staffing reductions may be necessary.  Rightsizing with empathy will help position your organization as strongly as possible during and after this crisis. Here are three steps you can take: 

Step 1: Carefully prepare communications 

Communication and transparency are key.  Both impacted and surviving employees will be watching your words and actions, and this will leave a lasting impression on your employer brand.  In addition to creating talking points, train your leaders on how to deliver the message to impacted individuals and their teams.  Create and follow a communication timeline that ensures everyone hears the same message at the right time.  Finally, provide separated employees with as many resources as possible, including outplacement and mental health services.   Worried you can’t afford these resources?  There are many free ones available – and it will mean so much to your employees if you do the work to share them. Here are a few our team has put together: 

Step 2: Deliver the message 

Whether you need to deliver the message virtually or can meet in-person, a one-on-one meeting and good follow up is essential.  Don’t assume the impacted employee will remember any of the details you share in the meeting.  They will likely be overwhelmed by the emotion of learning they will no longer be employed, whether it is for a temporary period (furlough) or permanently (lay off).   Confirm their contact information and let them know when you'll be calling to follow up on any questions.  We suggest calling 24 hours later and at least one more time within the first week after separation.  With furloughs, you will likely want to keep consistent communication to help ensure they will return to work when needed and feel connected to you as their employer. 

Step 3: Follow up with the survivors 

In addition to a follow-up plan for those impacted, it’s critical to have a solid plan to follow up with the survivors.  Survivor guilt is a real state of mind, and employees can quickly sink into, “Why was my co-worker impacted and not me?  What could I have done differently to prevent this outcome?”   It’s proven that more attrition will occur among those who remain.  In fact, just a 1% workforce reduction can create an average 31% increase in voluntary turnover, according to a study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  There is a direct link between reductions and how survivors think about their commitment to their employer.  Do everything you can to prevent it.  Engage survivors on a defined rhythm for 30-45 days.  Clearly outline your objectives, audience, key points and communication channels.  Start with key talent/individuals and then quickly work toward broader team communications.   This is a time to be transparent and courageous.  Consistent messages from leaders are key but allow for honesty and candor.  Finally, reinforce your gratitude and support for their new work environment and way of working. 

In summary 

With careful planning and empathy, it’s possible to preserve and even strengthen your employer brand during the difficult situation of a staffing reduction. Looking for more resources?  Download our Staffing Reduction Toolkit or visit the FirstPerson Resource HubIf you’d like to talk one-on-one, contact our Concierge Advisor service for free at (855) 978-6677 or 

Categories: Communication,Human Resources,Leader


A Volatile World Requires Vulnerable Leadership

The rate of change in the global economy has hit a new level of importance and speed. One can argue that things have always changed quickly but, research shows today’s new level of change and disruption is the norm.  This is brought about by several factors including, widespread access to information, technology disruption and, the globalization of the economy. Regardless of the myriad reasons, let’s explore the need for leadership in this new reality, especially in the context of our current pandemic.

VUCA: A Business Complexity Model

The backdrop for our thinking on change is the VUCA model, as researched and described originally by the US Army in the late 1990’s. Today this model is applied to management and leadership strategies in business as a way of sensemaking what the modern world brings to us. The acronym itself was not created until the late 1990s, and it was not until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, that notion and acronym really took hold. VUCA is defined as Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. The model was subsequently adopted by strategic business leaders to describe the turbulent, rapidly changing and, sometimes chaotic, business environment that has become the ‘new normal’. In general, the business world has begun to adapt this model for how to think about making business decisions in the modern world. In other words, how to live with these things and still make solid, strategic decisions – to lead.  The following illustration shares more details on VUCA. Source

This model presents the idea that leadership and decision-making in the modern business world is not straightforward and not terribly predictable. However, the ideas around VUCA theory suggest this new reality is here to stay and that the best leaders will understand it, reckon with it and do their best to make the best decisions possible – perhaps beating their competitors at being right more often than not.  Or, at least, choosing well for their own situations and circumstances.

VUCA: A Leadership Behavior Framework

VUCA can also be used as an acronym to explain the key leadership behaviors we need to show up with when confronted with VUCA business complexity situations. In these situations, we need Vulnerability, Understanding, Casting a Vision, and Accountability.


Let’s start with vulnerability. There’s a reason this has risen to importance in leadership research and popular management books like what Brene Brown is writing. If you look up definitions of “vulnerability,” you’ll see words like “exposed” or “liability.” It’s true, being exposed as a leader can definitely be a liability, but we believe the risk/reward ratio is solid here. Leaders who show up as their authentic self and share intimate thoughts, concerns and struggles are quite desirable in most work environments. Even those in your organization you think would not enjoy or tolerate such a leadership method often do. Vulnerability helps us see leaders as human and as a result helps us be seen. This doesn’t mean you cross boundaries sharing personal or company data that could be harmful, but it does mean you push traditional boundaries that might be preventing you from being the same person you are at home when you are at work. Who wants to try to maintain two personalities, two value systems, two identities? It’s not productive and just flat out exhausting. This pandemic has created an opportunity to blend our worlds in new ways. Leverage that and good will come of it.


In chaos and not, it is necessary to lean into empathic ways of leading. For some, this comes easy. We’re altruistic and looking for ways to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” For others, it may feel like we need to be weak and displace our own feelings and desires to be more attuned to what others may be feeling. Somewhere in the middle is likely most advantageous. You need to collect different points of view and be open to changing your mind – the highest level of active listening. Often, you need an established point of view to serve as your guiding principle on many topics but, again, willing to change your mind. Truly understanding where your employees are coming from and how decisions impact them will guide you to the right answers on tough issues. And the same can be said for listening and acting with empathy for your customers.

Casting a Vision

It’s likely you had a strategic vision driving focus in your organization before COVID-19 created a new direction. Maybe your new direction is still unveiling itself. If so, make finding it a top priority. There are many evidence-based ROI stats that cause this to rise to the top for us. Communicating a focus and casting a strategic vision with tactics that match is one of the best things you can do to create optimal performance for your teams. Keep your three- or five-year strategic plan on your bookshelf. Hopefully you can dust it off and return to those plans in a few months. For now, you have permission to think shorter term and stabilize. Annual performance goals need put on pause. If your performance review cycle is approaching, pause it. This isn’t the time or place for it. Instead, create a nine-week or nine-month plan, whatever fits for your business. Narrow the focus to what is absolutely necessary to survive these turbulent times and then get laser focused on it as far and deep as you can. If projects don’t fit this focus, abandon them and return when the time is right. And, if you communicate clearly about the “why,” everyone will support it and create momentum to achieve the goal.


Holding people accountable is one of the best things you can do for your company – pandemic conditions or not. Yes, we’ve just talked about empathy and understanding but those don’t equate to sympathy and lax oversight. You’ve long heard people will rise to the expectations you set for them. Right? So why do we often find ourselves hesitant to set expectations and hold people accountable? One guess is because it’s hard to do. And it sure isn’t getting easier as goals and related expectations have likely shifted due to this pandemic. Here’s a chance to inject a new norm or two in your business. We know many business leaders who are attracted to EOS and other operating system concepts because they help drive accountability. We’re big fans of a monthly business review (often called “MBRs”) and quarterly deeper dives (“QBRs”) with mid-year strategic refreshers and annual strategic planning workshops. These processes help drive a level of visibility and, therefore, increased accountability deep and wide in an organization.

Closing Thoughts

As you deal with volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous conditions, we encourage you to be vulnerable, understanding and casting a vision with accountability. A VUCA world requires VUCA leadership. We know this looks much simpler than it is, but we also know you are capable of mastering these leadership behaviors if they become a focus. FirstPerson and the Performance Lab are in conversations daily with leaders just like you who are interested in stepping up their game. If you’d like a trusted advisor and/or thinking partner for any of what we’ve outlined, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Bryan Brenner 317.218.1500 317.408.9189 cell Rebecca Ellis, PhD 317.218.1568

Categories: Leader


Tips for Effectively Engaging Your Employees Remotely

FirstPerson has long had a remote culture, allowing employees to work from wherever they needed. Accommodating schedules with flexible work locations has always been important. Through the coronavirus pandemic, we continue to encourage flexibility. Employees aren't expected to be glued to their home workspaces eight hours straight each day. We understand that children need additional attention because they are also at home, and employees are encouraged to block time throughout their day to do so. We have found it critical to stay connected and provide as close to an in-person experience as possible. To start, we instituted all-company Zoom meetings at 9:00am on Mondays and Thursdays. The purpose is twofold:
  1. to "see" everyone and
  2. to give critical, timely updates about the business
As a result, we've facilitated great conversations that help maintain transparent communication throughout the organization. If your company is too large to have all-company calls, consider implementing this on a smaller scale where the leadership team meets frequently and then cascades messages throughout their respective teams. This will send a strong message that the company is committed to transparent, two-way communication. We've picked up a thing or two as we support a fully-remote team during this period of social distancing. Here are a few of our tips for effectively engaging a remote team:
  • Convert all phone calls to video meetings. It can help you better understand the context of a conversation, and more importantly, it provides a sense of community to "see" and interact with your co-workers.
  • Ensure employees have the tools and resources they need in their home workspaces.  We've allowed employees to expense a few necessary items to make working from home more productive (think: second monitor, wireless keyboard, laptop trays, etc.) This could be a rather expensive endeavor, but we have found employees to be responsible and thoughtful with their asks.
  • Delight your employees. Our CEO and Founder, Bryan, graciously offered Apple AirPods to anyone that needed them. We also surprised employees with porch-drop-off treats that let them know we’re thinking about them, all while supporting local businesses.
  • Connect one-on-one with your employees. At FirstPerson, several members of leadership, myself included, have spent countless hours connecting with employees and have made it a priority to reach out to two or three individuals each day. These calls have proven difficult and rewarding at the same time. On the one hand, we have conversations about fear and other times we hear stories of courage.
  • Support your employees. We have been open with employees about reaching out for support if they need it. Anyone experiencing a challenge can reach out to any member of the leadership team or HR and be afforded complete confidence with what they need. Like you, we've had employees affected by COVID-19 in some shape or form, and it's important to show empathy and be supportive, no matter how unfamiliar we are with the situation. We also supplied employees with alternative support methods if they are uncomfortable talking with leadership. Check out what we put together here.
  • Find new ways to communicate and collaborate. We rolled out Slack in the middle of this new way of working. It has prompted conversations about fitness and pets, mothers to exchange tips on entertaining kids, and a place for random banter. Employees are enjoying this outlet to connect with their co-workers as the alternative to our usual water cooler chatter, which we miss terribly.
  • Continue hosting social events. We wrap up each week with a virtual happy hour. Everyone in the company hops on Zoom to share a drink and conversation.  Last week, we even found a way to play trivia. It's been a great way to unwind.
Shifting to a full remote workforce is new to many of us, but I hope that sharing what has worked for the FirstPerson team will help guide you to engage your remote team as best as possible. If I were to sum up our approach, I would tell you this: Treat people like people. It’s that simple.

Categories: Culture,Leader


Using the SCARF Model to Lead Through COVID-19

Yes, warmer days are ahead. You’ve likely started to pack away your winter scarves, but I’d suggest keeping them out a little longer… your leadership SCARF, that is. SCARF is an acronym created by Dr. David Rock, a leading scholar of neuroleadership. It stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. Our brain is in the highest state of engagement when we have SCARF. Subconsciously, we process these variables, which drive how we feel. When we find positives around SCARF, we want to run toward the reward (e.g., work, organization, change). When we find the variables trending more negative, we want to run away from it. As leaders we must be purposeful about how our words and actions relate to SCARF if we want to increase the brain state of engagement. If we are intentional, we can positively impact conscious and subconscious reactions to the workplace and change. Certainty is the one variable that is a real challenge in today’s COVID-19 situation, as our ability to predict the future diminishes. There is increased uncertainty in nearly every aspects of people’s lives, and business leaders can’t give much certainty to the aspects of people’s lives that are typically under their control. So, let’s focus on what we can control and work to beef up the other components in an attempt to make up for the lack of certainty.


Status is how important we feel relative to others. If a person feels they have equal or elevated status when compared to peers, this will be more of a reward brain state as opposed to a person who feels peers are seen as more important than they are. Ideas for increasing status:
  • Involve others in decisions, where possible, especially ones that impact their work.
  • Elicit feedback from your direct reports on what you can do better and how you can support their success.
  • Assign stretch projects that give your employees a chance to shine and explore new skills and abilities.
  • Give consistent, specific feedback on what your team member does well.
  • Ask your team member for their view on strengths and opportunities.


Autonomy is defined as the “right to self-govern.” Basically, it means giving a person as many decision rights as possible so they can act independently without checking in with a leader. During change and/or chaotic times at work, it’s likely decision rights are up in the air. That would be the first thing to try to nail down, where possible, to increase autonomy. Ideas for increasing autonomy:
  • Share as much as you can about the company’s strategy and long- and short-term direction. This will help your employee take independent actions that are aligned.
  • Create RASCI charts that spell out decision rights for various roles that collaborate on a process together.
  • Empower employees. Support them to make independent problem solving by complimenting what you see them doing and letting them know you trust their judgment.
  • Resist the urge to give too much direction. Very few people enjoy being micromanaged with step-by-step instructions on how to do the job.


I’m betting you’ve heard the phrase, “there’s safety in numbers.” In this case, it’s not physical safety but psychological safety people are seeking. More than ever, we need connectedness and relationships with peers who can relate to what we’re going through. We need a place where we can bring our whole self and be fully valued. Ideas for increasing relatedness:
  • Hold regular 1:1s with each team member, as well as team meetings where everyone has a chance to connect on something informal before you dive in to work.
  • Look out for colleagues who might be more isolated in their work. Connect with them more regularly and consider creating a mentorship between them and another leader in your organization.
  • Use video for virtual meetings. The use of nonverbal communication helps limit the potential for miscommunication.
  • Schedule monthly happy hours – or virtual happy hours – or other activities that allows a team to socialize for a bit outside of work.
  • Celebrate diversity of thought. Help employees see examples of where someone bringing a different idea or opinion helped the team get a better solution.


This one is just as it sounds. Fairness is about an individual feeling what is happening to and with them is fair. This could include job assignments, position in the hierarchy and pay. Ideas for increasing fairness:
  • Share details around why decisions are made.
  • When possible, allow individuals and teams to weigh in on options.
  • Be transparent on how changes affect various stakeholders so there are as few surprises as possible as to how individuals and teams are impacted.
  • Follow best practices around pay for performance and compensation to increase equity.
  • When filling roles and considering succession plans, create a list of skills, attitudes and behaviors to evaluate individuals against to limit the chance of emotional decisions.
I hope that introducing a model like SCARF gives you tangible ideas for leading with confidence during this complex environment of COVID-19. While you may already use some of these methods, let this blog confirm your instincts and give you some things to reflect on. Knowing how to lead the brain is useful in normal conditions, and it will be immensely powerful in times of turbulence and change such as these.

SCARF Resources

If you want to learn more about this topic, here are some resources:

Categories: Leader


Thriving During COVID-19 While Social Distancing

Thriving during COVID-19 will take a shift in mindset, and that's tougher than we think—especially when we're afraid. Fear and anxiety can drive us to become very self-focused. The evidence from public health experts is clear. The threat from the COVID-19 virus is real, but it's not absolute. Denial is unsafe, and panic never served anyone. When we go into fight or flight response, the executive functions of our brains go offline, and we can't see clearly. This makes us prone to bad decisions that at best waste our time, energy and resources when we need them most, or at worst put ourselves and others at risk.

What can I do to stay calm?

If you're feeling stressed, pay attention to how you're feeling and breathing. Take a deep breath in through your nose and let it out slowly from your mouth, focusing in on belly breathing. This will calm the fight or flight response and reboot your prefrontal cortex so you can use your critical thinking. Then, get curious about what's happening. What do you really know? What's most important right now for you? Your employees? Your organization? What information, resources and other support do you need or can you provide to others through this challenge? This is what it means to keep our wits about us.

What resources are available?

Today, there are many resources we have access to—whether you need to destress, stay active and healthy, or talk to a therapist. Here are just a few:
  • Calm
  • Headspace
  • Talkspace
  • Happify
  • MyFitnessPal
  • Telemedicine (e.g. Anthem LiveHealth Online, which is free to all members through June 14, 2020)
  • Employee Assistance Programs, if your employer offers one, can offer support to find the right solutions for your needs
Remember, our fight or flight response evolved to help us overcome simple challenges, and our prefrontal cortex evolved to help us overcome more complex ones like this. By paying attention, taking a deep breath, and remaining curious, we can ensure we see clearly so we can act wisely in response to these challenges. We can all get down fast when we're afraid. I'm using deep breaths along with my own personal mantra: "Get comfortable with being uncomfortable." Feel free to borrow both, as they can be helpful. Stay brave and kind. Spread calm and love each other.

Categories: Well-Being


Samuel Dziwlik

Small Group Specialist

Categories: Client Experience,Team,Team Members


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