The Benefits Chef: The Kebab Connection


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The Benefits Chef: The Kebab Connection

In my day job, I have the distinct privilege of leading a team that administers employee benefits for 44,000 Saskatchewan health care workers and their families. My employee benefits team includes administrative staff, benefit services officers, payroll officers, disability adjudicators, mental health and rehabilitation advisors, systems analysts, and our leadership team. Everyone works very hard at their job and we are all incredibly focused on our plan members. But we didn’t really understand how our work fits together – that each person on the team plays an integral role in the end to end process of delivering benefits to our plan members. A person on a disability claim still has group life insurance and health and dental benefits. Shouldn’t we see our plan member as one person instead of different departments?

As a leader, I believe that the best way to help people understand a complex problem is to relate it to something that is simple and familiar to them. And so the “shish kebab” was born – our work fits together like the lovely little pieces of chicken, mushrooms, peppers and cherry tomatoes on a stick grilled to delicious perfection that is a shish kebab. This concept of the shish kebab helped my team think about our work in a different way. That each of our departments are a connected value stream with each “piece” playing an equally important role in delivering benefits to our plan members. “Shish kebab” is now a regular part of our team vocabulary that you hear in our office every day. The team has embraced the concept and actively looks for opportunities to share information, improve our processes, work together and make sure that nothing falls off the stick and into the fire.

I want to share a really powerful example of the shish kebab in action. Recently, we received a disability claim from a plan member who was severely injured in a car accident. The adjudicator approved the plan member for disability benefits but also recognized she was eligible for accidental death and dismemberment benefits. The adjudicator reached out to our benefit services team and they immediately filled out the AD&D claim forms and sent them to the plan member to sign. The plan member didn’t even realize she was eligible for the AD&D benefit before we reached out. Receiving both LTD and AD&D was life changing for our plan member. And it happened because we now see how our work fits together. Who knew a little chicken and a few vegetables on a stick could do that!

Hellen Keller once said - "Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much." I encourage you to think about how connecting your work can make a difference for your plan members.

This wouldn’t be complete without a little chicken humor… What is a chicken’s least favourite day of the week? Fry-day!

Wishing a wonderful shishka-week,


Alana Shearer-Kleefeld is Director of Employee Benefits at 3sHealth and Volunteer Content Creator for CPBI Saskatchewan.

CLICK HERE to learn more about CPBI Saskatchewan!

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