Allstate CHRO outlines 3 ways ‘new technologies and capabilities can bring new outcomes’ in the HR organization

Four coworkers wearing masks sit in an office together, talking and working on laptops
Allstate CHRO Carrie Blair told Insider that companies that don’t advance their internal technology tools will fail their employees.

  • Allstate CHRO Carrie Blair believes technology innovation in HR is a crucial preventative measure.
  • Blair told Insider it’s important to design tech for employees from a human-centered perspective.
  • This article is part of the “Innovation C-Suite” series about business growth and technology shifts.

Insurance leader Allstate has a tradition of technology innovation, implementing everything from usage-based insurance to telematics and quick mobile payments. Recently, the company has turned to focus on its entire approach to technology in HR, Carrie Blair, Allstate’s chief human resources officer, said.

“We’d had some really good innovation on the consumer side over the past few years,” Blair added. “On the employee side, the challenge has always been how to prioritize consumer-grade experiences for people inside the company.”

Now, she said, Allstate is working to deploy a variety of digital solutions, including self-service tools for tasks that are repetitive and frequently used; hybrid workspace options such as remote collaboration; a curated learning platform to support employee development; and a tool called MyAnalytics that offers employees insight into their work patterns.

In a post-pandemic world, all HR organizations need to focus on advancing innovation, Blair points out. “I think we will fail our employees if we don’t embrace new technology,” she said. “They really want the experience of interacting with their organization to be like they’re interacting as a consumer.”

Blair suggested three ways HR leaders can advance human-centered technology innovation:

1. Change the HR mindset and skillset around technology.

“You can’t just force technology on employees and tell them to use it,” Blair said. “You have to help them see that new technologies and capabilities can bring new outcomes.” It’s also about shifting the department’s mindset away from the idea that the technology team will always be the one to bring new ideas forward, as well as making sure HR team members develop more tech-related skills. “You have to open your aperture and bring the outside in,” she said.

2. Think about HR technology design.

Consider how technology is designed from a human-centered perspective, Blair said. That means moving beyond the process of implementing a technology solution to thinking about the whole interaction from end-to-end, as an experience. “I really think about the employee experience throughout the entire life cycle, every time they want to interact,” she said.

3. Instill organizational agility.

HR organizations need to be open to testing, learning, and changing over and over again, Blair said. “Traditionally, we have never rewarded failure,” she explained. “We come from areas that are risk-averse, wanting perfection.” Now, however, agility, including a willingness to fail, is essential. “We should reward people for learning lessons and sharing them with others,” she said.

Blair also believes in cross-functional collaboration.

In addition to the three tips, Blair said that HR leaders need to learn as much as they can about technology innovation, whether it is reading reports from Gartner and Accenture or bringing in consulting teams who can advise about what technology would make the organization more efficient and effective. She adds that she is looking at a professional development course in digital disruption.

Blair also gained important knowledge by being part of an advisory board of an AI-driven startup focused on technology to upskill employees. “Being part of that and going to pitch meetings was really helpful because I could hear what their customers were learning,” she said.

Finally, having a great network to share ideas and experiences is crucial. “I have a number of CHROs that have been colleagues for many years, they are at all different stages of the technology innovation journey,” Blair said. “I learn from them, and I can also share ideas so they can continue to deliver amazing employee experiences.”

Embracing tech innovation is an enterprising measure.

HR organizations that don’t embrace and advance technology innovation face significant consequences down the road, Blair said. Companies might not achieve business and growth objectives because falling behind on technology innovation can impact effectiveness, efficiency, or productivity.

In addition, it may exacerbate an employee engagement gap. “If you don’t use technology and leverage it in a way that engages employees and how they interact with the company, I think over time it will really erode the relationship,” she warned. “Then, ultimately, I think you’re going to lose talent.”

That’s why Allstate is working to make its HR technology ecosystem as effective as possible and determining where gaps remain, Blair said. “I’ve always believed in taking care of people, and I think that’s what insurance does,” she added. “I’m excited that HR has a significant role to play both in terms of using technology to help our people grow and develop so they can do higher value-added work for consumers.”

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How healthcare providers are the key to building patient trust in telehealth care

Close up of a father with his son in the lap consulting with the doctor over a laptop
  • Patient trust in telehealth is largely reliant on physician support and doctor-patient relationships.
  • Improving the overall patient experience of telehealth appointments builds confidence in the technology.
  • Training physicians on technology is an essential part of medical education.
  • This article is part of the “Healthcare Innovation” series, highlighting what healthcare professionals need to do to meet this technology moment.

Doctors and healthcare systems are playing an important role in boosting patient confidence in telehealth, which has become integral to ambulatory care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic really pushed telehealth to the forefront of patient care,” Dr. Michele Mitchell, regional medical director and family medicine physician at Oak Street Health, said. The center provides primary and preventive care to Medicare recipients in 19 states. “It’s our responsibility to make sure that we are giving patients all the tools and support to be successful when they’re using it.”

To create trust in this new virtual model, providers have worked to improve patient access to care. They use varying levels of technology, offer ongoing technical support, and work to improve the overall patient experience of a telehealth appointment. Because this model is so pervasive, medical trainees are learning how to best engage patients in the technology.

Recognizing patient level of technical access and ability builds confidence

At the beginning of the pandemic, physicians at one of Oak Street Health’s Detroit locations conducted phone visits with patients, as the tools were easy to use and provided more accessibility. Weeks later, the healthcare organization surveyed patients to learn more about the reality of their video capabilities.

Once these individuals were identified, medical assistants helped address patients’ technical issues with video conferencing before their actual appointments. And providers are always ready to convert a telehealth video appointment to a phone call, especially if Wi-Fi access is a problem. “We don’t want to compromise the time we have with the patient,” Mitchell said.

Laura Semlies, vice president of the digital patient experience at Northwell Health in New York state, says the rapid adoption of telehealth during the pandemic required flexibility. “In the early days, in a lot of ways, our providers became tech support, distracting them from clinical care. It was critical that we flip the paradigm immediately.”

In response, Northwell Health invested in demystifying technology – so even patients with limited proficiency could easily navigate a virtual visit. This included communications to prepare patients for a successful telehealth appointment, pre-visit technical checks of audio, video, and bandwidth capabilities, and proactive, personalized support for those who needed it.

Improving the overall patient experience creates trust in technology

In addition to ensuring access to appointments, healthcare systems can use technology to improve the overall patient experience to build trust, Semlies said. For example, this includes rooting virtual visits in traditional practice operations, such as language translation, pre-visit testing, and post-visit follow-up coordination.

According to Semlies, including caretakers and other members of the healthcare team in telehealth appointments can streamline care and help patients feel supported. This includes ensuring that patients are seamlessly transitioned to administrative staff at the end of the telehealth visit to schedule any needed follow-up appointments.

Healthcare providers are adding some at-home services to telehealth care to improve the patient experience. For example, Northwell Health uses LabFly, an app that allows patients and their caregivers to schedule blood work with a phlebotomist who visits them at home. Other services, including electrocardiograms, glucose and blood pressure monitoring, and ultrasounds, are also moving to the home.

Learning to build patient trust in technology starts during medical training

Building trust with patients and hands-on experience with telehealth technology are addressed during medical training, which helps to prepare tomorrow’s physicians for the rapidly changing model of care, Dr. Michael Kanter, chair and professor of Clinical Science at Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine, said.

Through clinical rotations with their preceptors, students are learning how their patients can best engage with telehealth. And they’re also finding the best times to use it. “We’ve found some patients just won’t use the technology because they feel like they can’t connect with their doctor well virtually,” Kanter said.

“The challenge is the landscape is changing dramatically, both as the technology evolves and as our understanding of what the technology can and cannot do,” he said.

“Having students learn how to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of new technologies based on available evidence, just as they would a new medication or treatment, is critical.”

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Alternative proteins have come a long way, and with the recent surge in interest in China and India, brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods aren’t going anywhere

Three Beyond Meat Chicken Tender Sliders on small potato buns
A Beyond Meat chicken-tender slider.

  • Alternative protein brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are now options for meat eaters.
  • Fast-food chains and restaurants like Starbucks and McDonald’s helped increase their popularity.
  • Places like China and India are huge opportunities for the growth of plant-based meats.

Significant improvements in taste and texture, especially from brands like Impossible Meat and the publicly traded Beyond Foods, have helped push the popularity of alternative proteins beyond vegans and vegetarians to omnivores.

Experts say the two brands have led a wave of mainstream awareness and greater sales of alternative-protein items in grocery stores, major fast-food chains, and restaurants, along with growing interest in personal health.

Alternative proteins are products made of plants – including beans, soy, mushrooms, and other ingredients – that primarily mimic beef, pork, and poultry products but also a rising number of dairy and seafood items. Interest in alternative proteins from vegans and vegetarians was primarily focused on concerns about animal welfare initially but has recently broadened based on greater awareness of the environmental impact of livestock and public-health campaigns about nutrition.

Plant-based alternatives have existed for decades, but until very recently, few of them successfully came close or matched the way chicken, beef, and pork looked, tasted, and cooked. “They didn’t taste like real meat,” said the Morningstar equity analyst Rebecca Scheuneman.

The market for these items was also relatively small due to the 5% of Americans who identified as vegan or vegetarian over the past 30 years. “It’s a small portion that is willing to make substantial sacrifices for their beliefs about animal welfare. But I think a larger percentage of the population is concerned about animal welfare and the environment,” Scheuneman said.

To succeed as an industry, plant-based protein alternatives needed to taste significantly better and draw in a much broader group of consumers, according to Alon Chen, cofounder and CEO of Tastewise, an artificial-intelligence platform that analyzes data for food and beverage companies. Other experts told Insider that the shift in demographics was largely led by Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods in the past few years.

“The new products being released now have the technology and food science to replicate the experience of eating the original product,” Chen said.

The appearance of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat products in restaurants and major fast-food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Starbucks, was also significant in making them widely available to consumers across Canada and the US. Scheuneman called it a large-scale taste test that helped prompt follow-up sales at grocery stores. “Once people tried them and realized they were very similar to meat, then they wanted to make them at home,” she said, noting the companies disclosed that plant-based meats were more popular in city areas compared to other locations.

A positive long-term view

Scheuneman said she expected products that feature plant-based alternatives will be very popular over the long term based on the growing demand for protein worldwide as well as the fixed agriculture resources in markets like China and India for producing livestock. India’s large vegetarian population, along with a high willingness to try meat alternatives in China and India compared to the US, are additional reasons international markets are considered a significant growth opportunity for companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Food.

“These products are truly effective at helping solve the problem of how to sustainably feed the world,” Scheuneman said.

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How 2 organizations are helping offices reduce waste by selling or donating their furniture

woman sitting in office chairs
Brandi Susewitz, founder of furniture resale marketplace Reseat.

  • Tons of office furniture ends up in landfills, and it’s getting worse as workplaces go remote.
  • Companies like Green Standards and Reseat sell, recycle, or donate the unwanted furniture instead.
  • Green Standards helps offices downsize sustainably, and Reseat is a used furniture marketplace.
  • This article is part of a series called “Partners for a Sustainable Future,” profiling innovative alliances that are driving real progress in sustainability.

Almost 10 million tons of furniture and furnishings end up in landfills each year, according to 2018 data from the US Environmental Protection Agency. Experts told Insider a large portion of that is office furniture and predict the problem will get worse as more companies rethink their workspaces post-pandemic.

Nearly 90% of executives plan to shift their office real-estate strategies in the next year as they go fully or partially remote, according to a recent PwC survey. This includes consolidating office space and opening smaller locations.

“It’s going to have an impact on the amount of furniture coming out of buildings because companies are making decisions that are going to change the layouts of their workplaces,” Trevor Langdon, president of Green Standards, told Insider.

Green Standards works with businesses across the globe to donate, resell, and recycle office furniture. Similar companies, like preowned office furniture marketplace Reseat, are helping companies buy and sell used furniture and keep it out of landfills. Here’s a look at how exactly they partner with outside organizations to reduce waste and promote sustainability.

Green Standards shows the impact of furniture resale and donations on the environment

Green Standards, which has worked with General Motors, United Airlines, and Expedia Group, uses an assessment to decide whether reselling or donating an office’s items is the best fit. It then facilitates donations by identifying nonprofits, such as schools or charities, that could use the items and handles the removal and delivery of the furniture.

office furniture packed up in piles
Green Standards removing office furniture from General Motors.

Social-media management company Hootsuite recently redesigned its workspaces in Vancouver, London, and Bucharest, replacing rows of desks and large conference tables with standing desks and comfortable, upholstered seating to offer work-from-home employees a place to collaborate. Instead of throwing away unused items, Hootsuite donated about 80% of the leftover furniture to community organizations through a partnership with Green Standards.

“We had an opportunity to have all this perfectly good office furniture that just didn’t meet our needs anymore go to somebody who could use it,” Carol Waldmann, Hootsuite’s director of global facilities and real estate, told Insider. “It just made sense to try to find a new home for it rather than throwing it in the trash.”

Though he wouldn’t provide exact figures, Langdon said the cost of Green Standards’ services is the same or less than hiring liquidators to remove furniture, most of which gets dumped in a landfill. He said his company has a 99% landfill diversion rate for the furniture they encounter and has arranged more than $32 million in donations.

a high school classroom
The donated General Motors furniture in Cody High School.

Green Standards also provides companies with a report that shows how much office furniture they diverted from a landfill and how it reduced their carbon footprint. For example, Waldmann said Hootsuite’s project equated to reducing gas consumption by 7,200 gallons and offset electricity use for nine homes for a year.

“I would love more organizations to look at how they can support communities that they’re in and just try to find ways to reduce their impact on the environment,” she said. “It’s a powerful tool for all of us to help reduce the impact of climate change as much as we can.”

Reseat turns ‘waste’ into profit for businesses

Brandi Susewitz founded Reseat (formerly Clear Office) last year to help companies buy and sell used office furniture. She’s worked in the office furniture industry for more than 20 years and saw the need for a solution to its waste problem.

Reseat has worked with organizations like Uber, Oracle, and GoDaddy, as well as with real-estate brokers, interior designers, architects, and company leaders to furnish a space with pre-owned items. Susewitz said the company is growing and will close its first year with about $3 million in revenue. Recently, it also added Reseat ID, a “second life-cycle passport” that will be issued with each purchase and include a company’s furniture drawings, specifications, layouts, fabrics, and quantities to help them later resell the items more efficiently.

Companies can handle the resale process – including uploading photos and delivering items – themselves and keep 70% of profits, or let Reseat handle everything for them and keep 10% of the sales.

Susewitz said the problem of office furniture waste is at its worst. She hopes her platform will make it easier for organizations to be proactive in reducing waste.

When designing its first office in San Francisco recently, Modern Treasury, a payment-operations software company, worked with Reseat to purchase about 100 sitting and standing desks, as well as sideboards, tables, and soft seating, Rachel Pike, Modern Treasury’s chief growth officer, told Insider. With recent supply-chain issues, she said pre-owned furniture can often be obtained more quickly.

“There’s just no reason to buy something new when you have exactly the same thing that’s perfect and ready to go,” she said.

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How one company partners with brands to recycle ‘unrecyclable’ items and give them a second life

the TerraCycle building with a green wall and logo
The TerraCycle building in New Jersey.

  • TerraCycle is a company that specializes in recycling non-conventional materials, like chewing gum.
  • It partners with businesses to reduce their waste and offers many different recycling options.
  • There’s also an option for individuals to partner with TerraCycle to recycle things like diapers.
  • This article is part of a series called “Partners for a Sustainable Future,” profiling innovative alliances that are driving real progress in sustainability.

When Casey Dworkin founded luxury shoe brand Sylven New York in 2017, she wanted sustainability to be a top priority not just for her business but also for anyone she partnered with. So she took steps to ensure her products and their packaging were made with environmentally friendly materials and in ethical factories.

headshot of Casey Dworkin in black and white
Casey Dworkin, founder of Sylven New York.

Then in 2019, she partnered with TerraCycle, a business that specializes in recycling non-conventional materials. TerraCycle melts down waste, pelletizes it, and shapes it to be repurposed into anything from shipping pallets to park benches.

“While the vast majority of recycling companies tend to concentrate on traditional waste streams like aluminum, paper, or specific types of plastic, TerraCycle has made a name for itself in recycling ‘the unrecyclable,'” Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle, told Insider. “This type of hard-to-recycle waste takes the form of virtually anything from cigarette butts to plastic snack packaging to used chewing gum.”

Here’s a look at how TerraCycle helps companies like Sylven recycle their products.

Recycling for businesses and products of all shapes and sizes

the outside of the TerraCycle building with a tire display
The TerraCycle building exterior, made with recycled material.

TerraCycle offers different options to its partners, depending on the size and needs of the brand:

  • Zero waste box: This is what Dworkin and many other small-business owners use. Szaky calls it a “turnkey, all-inclusive recycling solution for hundreds of typically non-recycled items, from coffee capsules to the entire contents of your bathroom.”
  • Mail-in envelope recycling programs: These are typically for mid-sized brands with products that can fit in mailable envelope pouches.
  • Brand-sponsored national recycling programs: This option is for large-scale businesses that have a substantial amount of products to recycle. Companies that opt for this program also receive assistance from TerraCycle with social-media engagement and press outreach designed to drive consumer awareness of the policies.

Brands interested in integrating TerraCycle into their operations work with their business development team to develop a custom program and learn what their product may be turned into. “I’m sending them one of my shoes so that they can actually analyze the different components within it and give me a breakdown of exactly how each item and how each material can be recycled,” Dworkin, who used to create shoes with Italian leather but recently switched to apple leather, said.

a black shoe propped up by apples on a red table
Sylven shoes are made with apple leather. TerraCycle’s Tom Szaky says their recycled materials could work for playgrounds.

Her products are likely to be converted into material placed under playgrounds. “I don’t have shoes that are at the end of their product life, but my goal was to set a system in place so that when that time comes, we can be as responsible about their end life as possible,” Dworkin added.

TerraCycle works with third-party subcontracting facilities for processing and conversion work and a network of end users who implement the recycled material into their end-products, Skazy said. In one instance, TerraCycle partnered with Head & Shoulders to create the first recyclable shampoo bottle out of beach plastic.

Individuals can recycle almost anything, from diapers to 3D materials

plastic bottles used as decoration in the TerraCycle office
Plastic recyclables in the TerraCycle office.

While TerraCycle focuses on helping businesses, they also have options for individuals looking to recycle beyond paper and plastic products. Once a person makes a TerraCycle account, they have the opportunity to send in waste by purchasing specific product boxes to ship in or utilize a local drop-off location.

“I’m almost doing it on a consumer level,” Dworkin said. “I’m essentially purchasing their boxes that you use for footwear specifically, and I’ll be filling it and sending it to them.”

Pricing for these boxes range based on what a person wants to recycle. For example, boxes for 3D printing materials start at $149. Alternatively, a box for diaper and waste packaging begins at $72 for the same size. These price variations account for the cost of shipping and recycling the specific item.

Individuals shopping from brands who partner with TerraCycle can return their ready-to-be-recycled products to the company they purchased from. The brand then adds it to their pre-purchased containers to send to TerraCycle.

“During the lockdown, individuals also became more conscious of the volume of waste generated by themselves and their families. People had more time to think about the products they used, the amount of waste they were producing, and viable solutions for the packaging,” Szaky said.

Keeping the environment top of mind

In August, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change released a report stating that human influence has “unequivocally” warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land.

“Now more than ever, consumers expect the brands they support to be as committed to their mission as they are to their actual products and are demanding that companies be transparent about their sustainability efforts,” Szaky said. He believes that a brand partnering with TerraCycle shows its customers that they’re taking actionable steps to fight climate change.

As Dworkin scales up her business, she hopes to create custom systems with TerraCycle. “Before recycling, we always promote care and repair,” she said.

She speaks with admiration for the steps in place for bigger shoe and apparel brands TerraCycle’s partnered with, especially the analysis of each product to determine the most energy and cost-efficient methods of recycling each material.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for us to make custom solutions further down the road,” Dworkin said. “It’s super dependent on the specific materials that they’re looking at. So because my materials are so specific, it’ll be really cool to see exactly what solutions are possible.”

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Agriculture produces more methane than oil and gas, making it a focus in reducing warming temperatures. Here are some of the best solutions.

cows beef cattle
Reducing carbon emissions means changing the diet of these cattle.

  • Methane is a huge problem in the agriculture industry because of rising demand for animal protein.
  • Manure storage and livestock digestion produce more methane than the US oil and gas industry.
  • Several feed supplements hope to significantly reduce livestock methane production.
  • Subscribe to our weekly newsletter Insider Sustainability.

One of the biggest sustainability issues in the agriculture industry is relatively invisible and odorless, but has an even larger effect on the climate than carbon dioxide.

According to the United Nations, methane gas has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. It’s found in the natural gas used in kitchen stoves and home heating, as well as in decomposing vegetation and exhaust from volcanoes. But the dominant man-made sources are from the oil and gas industry, landfills, and, most of all, livestock.

Methane-reduction efforts are seen as a crucial solution to the climate crisis because it takes only about a decade for the gas to break down, compared with the hundreds or thousands of years carbon dioxide can remain in the atmosphere. Climate experts say a rise in global temperatures even half a degree Celsius causes serious effects.

“The fastest way that we might mitigate some of the climate change that we’re seeing already in the short term is by reducing methane,” Charles Koven, a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in the summer, told CNN. “If we were to reduce methane emissions, it would act to offset one of these sources of warming.”

In 2019, the combination of digestion activity from domestic livestock (known as enteric methane) and manure storage was the source of about 32% of human-caused methane gas in the US, more than the amount from fossil-fuel producers.

Corporations and governments are investing in methane-reduction programs in the agriculture industry as part of sustainability strategies and goals for carbon-emission reduction. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California included $60 million for dairy-methane-reduction programs in his revised budget for the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture.

Last month, the Dutch chemical company Royal DSM secured regulatory approval to commercialize a feed additive that can reduce methane emissions by up to 90% in beef cattle.

A joint venture led by Australia’s national research agency is commercializing a feed supplement containing seaweed, which has been found to reduce enteric methane emissions by as much as 80%.

The British-Swiss agriculture-technology startup Mootral has also produced a methane-reducing supplement based on garlic and citrus extracts. The company estimated cows fed with its supplement produced one fewer ton of carbon dioxide per cow per year, a reduction that Mootral has converted into carbon credits that other businesses can buy to offset their emissions.

On the infrastructure side, a report from the nonprofit Farm Journal Foundation found the installation of methane digesters on large and medium-size livestock farms could convert the methane emitted from manure into natural gas, which would provide an additional source of electricity for up to 10% of US homes. But the report emphasized the need for more government incentives and research resources to make this switch happen.

Methane emissions are a global agriculture problem, and the issue of how to reduce them will be a major part of how many corporations continue to design and implement their sustainability strategies. But it requires a level of widespread action and investment that goes far beyond eating fewer burgers.

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A closer look at the changing landscape of cyberattacks and what they mean for worldwide security

cyber security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees work during a guided media tour inside the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia June 26, 2014. Picture taken June 26, 2014.

  • President Joseph Biden’s executive order emphasizes good cybersecurity hygiene for federal contractors.
  • The executive order could increase the cost of becoming a federal contractor, pricing out small companies.
  • Third-party and supply-chain risks are increasing across enterprises, healthcare facilities, agencies, and other organizations worldwide.
  • This article is part of the “Cybersecurity Briefing” series focused on the country’s state of readiness, and what company IT leaders think are the top policy priorities.

Cybercrime means the future of international conflicts may be stealthier and quieter than battles of the past.

State-sponsored cyberattacks can take out critical infrastructure facilities and cause massive computer systems failures to information or operational technology networks. They can simply create financial chaos by deploying ransomware and encrypting data without anyone knowing about it until it is too late.

In the first seven months of 2021 alone, the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a Washington DC-based think tank, identified 87 state-sponsored attacks worldwide. That said, some major cyberattacks are not state-sponsored. The Colonial Pipeline attack is believed to be a criminal ransomware attack designed simply to extort money – $4.4 million – by the DarkSide hacking group in Eastern Europe rather than a politically motivated incident.

President Joseph Biden’s executive order on improving the nation’s cybersecurity addresses many of the key concerns federal agencies and corporate America face today. The order requires agencies to address vulnerabilities in software and networks, and guidelines to remediating those issues. Specifically, the address calls out enhancing supply chain security – a major issue that not only influences national and corporate security but can also affect the economy.

The Biden executive order expands information sharing currently banned or restricted by contracts to agencies including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, FBI, parts of the intelligence community, as well as cloud service providers and other enterprises and agencies.

In contrast, President Barack Obama’s 2013 executive order on cybersecurity was much less comprehensive and focused mainly on critical infrastructure. Obama’s key takeaway was an order for the National Institute of Science and Technology to create a Cybersecurity Framework. Like Biden’s order, these security controls are voluntary.

That said, this action appears to only be the first warning for government contractors. “There was a lot of good intention put into the presidential executive order of May 12, 2021,” John Young, founder of Young Cyber Security and a former cybersecurity defense expert at IBM, said.

He cautions that this order could price smaller and potential new companies out of the government contractor market. “The added costs for new contractors to comply with the order could tip the balance to those that already have a compliance infrastructure,” he said. “Most government contracts are granted to the lowest bidder.”

Changing landscape

The changing landscape of cyber threats makes it imperative for companies to understand their own cyber risks. One cannot fully understand the vulnerabilities without a complete audit of their data – what it is, where it exists, how it is protected, and the data’s value in relation to other corporate data.

A full assessment of all data assets is essential before a company can begin to build defenses against different risks, whether they be criminals out to sell your data, ransomware attackers, political or social actors bent on damaging or destroying data, state-sponsored attackers, or simply newbie attackers out to make a name for themselves.

As the Biden executive order indicates, third-party risk management is becoming much more of a threat. The most recent example of a major third-party breach was SolarWinds, where a trusted third party’s software was corrupted and ultimately attacked companies, healthcare facilities, and government agencies worldwide.

In order to ensure that enterprises, healthcare facilities, agencies, and other organizations are protected from a supply chain or a business partner, security teams should perform a baseline analysis of their network and all network traffic. Then, they should immediately begin remediating the most serious potential threats identified by that analysis. Neglecting to do so could be a violation of governance and compliance regulations.

Young recommends companies conduct regular compliance and device evaluations, along with internal auditing, to ensure that potential attackers are not entering networks through third parties and supply-chain partners. “Each server will have its own data collection in a repository, and when it’s examined, will reveal if they’re compliant; if not, a close investigation will also reveal when, where, why, and how deviations occurred,” he said.

“An audit will reveal if the cybersecurity team has followed company policy. For each data point a server could fail on – and there are hundreds of them – that’s an exposure hackers could exploit if they were able to penetrate the network.”

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SIGN UP: Top CEOs and government leaders discuss what companies needs to do to address the climate crisis

California Wildfires (2019)
Catastrophic weather events like wildfires are on the rise.

  • The recent IPCC report put the world on red alert. The world is losing the battle against the climate crisis.
  • Leaders in the climate space will share what needs to happen to unlock dramatic improvements in policy and progress.
  • On October 28, 2021, Insider is hosting “Insider AT COP26: Accelerating Action to Combat Climate Change,” a free virtual event at noon ET, presented by Deloitte.
  • Click here to register for this free virtual event.

Even as corporations adopt green standards and goals, scientists have declared the world faces an uphill battle against the climate crisis. We’re losing crucial time. Conversations on what needs to be done are more important than ever.

In association with the annual COP26 conference, Insider’s virtual event “Insider AT COP26: Accelerating Action to Combat Climate Change,” presented by Deloitte, takes place Thursday, October 28, 2021, at noon ET.

In a virtual panel event, a group of global stakeholders from government and the corporate world will help our audience understand what needs to happen in order to create national action.

COP26, scheduled between October 31 and November 12, will bring together government, business, and finance leaders to provoke action ahead of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Register now:

We hope to see you there!

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The technology innovation behind Hyatt’s pandemic pivot indicates a long-lasting change in the hotel industry

Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow hotel in central Moscow, Russia
When the pandemic hit, Hyatt quickly pivoted to address business challenges and develop their consumer-facing technology functions.

  • At Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Chief Commercial Officer Mark Vondrasek tackles business challenges.
  • The pandemic hit Hyatt hard, with bookings down around 90% by April 2020, Vondrasek told Insider.
  • Technology innovation and initiatives that resonate with guests have become key to Hyatt’s recovery.
  • This article is part of the “Innovation C-Suite” series about business growth and technology shifts.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, as occupancies quickly dropped into the single digits and bookings sank up to 90% by April 2020, hotel leader Hyatt’s top priority was the safety and well-being of guests who still came to its properties.

But Hyatt’s Chief Commercial Officer Marc Vondrasek says that his role, which was created to pull together all top-line revenue-generating and guest experience functions, was key to addressing the unprecedented business challenges of the pandemic.

“It allowed us to be more efficient, to ideate differently, and to drive personalization across our platform,” Vondrasek told Insider. “The speed of change during COVID was something we had never seen.”

Addressing consumer needs

The company quickly brought together a group of loyalty program members to talk in detail about offers that might address their needs. One member interrupted them a few minutes into the company’s presentation: “She said, ‘You’re not listening to what’s in front of me right now. I’m the mother of two school-aged kids, and I haven’t left my home in weeks, and you’re talking to me about a business trip,'” Vondrasek recalled. That led to the October 2020 launch of Work From Hyatt, which offered options to temporarily relocate to Hyatt resorts and receive everything from pet care and laundry services to workspaces.

Not only did Work from Hyatt deliver four times as much revenue as expected, but it has also served as an example of the company’s ability to quickly pivot in response to customer needs, Vondrasek said. “Our speed to market was very fast,” he explained. “From concept to execution, it was only 60 days.”

Developing technology capabilities

Eventually, Hyatt focused on what technology-driven initiatives would really resonate with its guests. They found that digital options were particularly relevant around helping guests control their on-property experience, such as scheduling housekeeping, mobile food ordering, and seamless check-ins.

That desire for control and flexibility will likely continue long after COVID-19 concerns wane, Vondrasek said: “The ability to schedule different interruptions for your space is a good example of something that was born during this time but will live far past it.”

Mark Vondrasek Hyatt
Vondrasek said Hyatt needs to continue experimenting as it navigates day-to-day market changes.

Hyatt also used technology to target meeting planners who were desperately seeking to pivot to virtual or hybrid events. In April 2021, Hyatt debuted Together By Hyatt, which included a partnership with Swapcard, an integrated virtual and hybrid events platform that unifies on-site and virtual experiences and uses AI to enhance remote attendees’ experience. Hyatt also focused on digital options to boost wellbeing during meetings such as guided stretching exercises from Hyatt experts, remote food and beverage offerings, and curated content from the meditation app Headspace.

“We had 1,200 bookings in July on this platform alone,” Vondrasek said. “I think it’s a nice example of technology that is not for technology’s sake but that is really meeting people where they are at the moment.”

Evaluating the takeaways

Overall, the pandemic made it clear that Hyatt needs to be comfortable with experimentation, Vondrasek added. For example, many market challenges change day to day – something that resonates in China one day can turn out to be the wrong solution two weeks later. “You have to be very willing to try a lot of initiatives, figure out what connects, and be comfortable in failure when they don’t,” he said. “Leaders need to be able to test and learn and be agile.”

The organization also realized that gathering data will be more challenging going forward. For example, hotels often rely on seasonal data over the prior five years to understand what business will look like. “Over the past 18 months, traditional data inputs have been far less valuable,” he said.

That means looking for non-traditional data sources to support decision-making: getting feedback from guests, listening to other travel partners, such as airlines, about what they are seeing, and gleaning insights from credit card spending trends.

“Looking at what people spend on things when they’re not in our hotels can open up non-traditional partnerships, but you need the right data to point to those opportunities,” he explained.

All of Hyatt’s innovative technology efforts since the beginning of the pandemic have been tightly focused on getting closer to its customers – and being flexible as things change. “We’re not an organization that has a scale advantage on our competitors,” said Vondrasek. “We have to think about playing the game differently, and I think it means we listen more.”

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AI’s push to understand psychiatry research has the potential to tackle mental illness

Artificial Intelligence.
Artificial intelligence.

  • AI enables researchers to better define mental illness subtypes and understand patient symptoms.
  • The technology may one day help guide psychiatry diagnosis and patient care.
  • Addressing ethical concerns surrounding AI in psychiatry may encourage clinicians to adopt the technology.
  • This article is part of the “Healthcare Innovation” series, highlighting what healthcare professionals need to do to meet this technology moment.

Psychiatry researchers are using artificial intelligence to develop a better understanding of mental illness, with the goal of creating more effective and personalized treatment plans.

“Psychiatry is a unique field because mental healthcare providers generally don’t have specific biomarkers or clear imaging findings indicating mental health pathology to make a diagnosis,” said Dr. Ellen Lee, assistant professor of psychiatry, University of California San Diego, and staff psychiatrist, VA San Diego Healthcare System.

Instead, practitioners largely rely on the patient’s self-reported symptoms and medical history, she said. To further complicate matters, patients with the same diagnosis may have different symptoms.

Artificial intelligence is helping researchers to assess the heterogeneity of psychiatric conditions more fully, said Dr. Charles Marmar, Lucius N. Littauer psychiatry professor and Department of Psychiatry chair at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. “It can help us determine whether there is one kind of depression or seven kinds of depression.”

The technology can sift through data about varying patient behaviors, medical, social, and family histories, differing responses to prior treatments, and information acquired through new forms of monitoring – such as wearable technology – to help fine-tune decisions about care, Lee said.

“AI in psychiatry has been a real revolution in many ways,” Lee said. However, clinicians may need some time to adapt to the idea of relying on this technology in the clinic. As AI becomes more available, participating in educational opportunities that address how algorithms enhance clinical decision-making and what data they contain can help with the transition process.

Refining diagnosis and patient monitoring

One goal of AI research is to hone patient diagnoses into different condition subgroups so doctors can personalize treatment. “It’s really about precision medicine,” Marmar said.

For example, he and his colleagues have been using machine learning – a form of AI that employs computer algorithms and decision rules to analyze and classify large amounts of data – to evaluate the heterogeneity of psychiatric illnesses. The more data these algorithms process, the more accurate they become.

They recently published a study in Translational Psychiatry using machine learning to identify two forms of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans, a mild form with relatively few symptoms and a chronic, severe form in which patients experienced high levels of depression and anxiety.

Using machine learning, Marmar plans to further explore and validate a possible five PTSD subtypes, including anxious and dissociative, depressed, cognitive functioning impaired, mild, and severe. The research team will also look at molecular and brain circuit markers, genes, and gene products such as proteins and metabolites to see how they are associated with each form of PTSD. “In the end, we hope to have a diagnostic blood test for each subtype,” he said.

Another avenue in AI research is incorporating sensor data through wearable health technologies such as a Fitbit to help determine how to better manage patients, said Lee. For example, mental healthcare providers can ask patients to report on how they’ve been sleeping for the last month or they can assess data from technology that monitors sleep patterns.

“There’s a real disconnect between how people perceive they sleep versus how they actually sleep,” Lee said. Sleep monitoring technology combined with AI may be much more objective. Accurately tracking sleep patterns could give providers an indication of which patients with bipolar disorder might be more at risk of experiencing an episode of mania, allowing for adjustments in medication, she said.

Physician training and ethical concerns

Mental-health professionals will likely need to shift from patient self-reports and caretaker reports to incorporating AI technology in their clinical decision-making, Lee said.

“There are opportunities to learn about AI for physicians who are interested,” she said, adding that annual psychiatry conferences and continuing medical education events are trying to make AI more accessible to clinical audiences.

NYU Grossman School of Medicine also offers AI and machine learning courses to medical students interested in radiology. Those who are also studying psychiatry can focus on neuroradiology within this program.

Psychiatrists need to be informed about what types of data are being used to develop AI algorithms to be comfortable with using the technology, Lee said. Decisions made in clinical practice can have serious repercussions in a patient’s life, such as hospitalization or the loss of capacity to live independently. Physicians may be hesitant to hand this power over to an AI algorithm, Lee said.

“AI algorithms and models are only as good as the data they’re built on,” Lee said. “We need data built on diverse types of patients, from different racial, ethnic sociodemographic backgrounds.”

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