Nate Randall is the Founder and President of Ursa Major Consulting. He's an accomplished benefits leader who has held roles at prominent companies like Tesla Motors, Safeway, and Washington Mutual. Nate's expertise is in employee benefit plan analytics, compliance, design, innovation, management, and strategy. His goal with all his clients is to push the envelope to change health and wellness benefits in meaningful ways.
Tell us more about Ursa Major Consulting and why you decided to found this company.
I’ve been fortunate to be involved with healthcare, benefits and employee experience innovation at Washington Mutual, Safeway, and most recently Tesla Motors. With Ursa Major, I wanted to continue my career focus on innovative and forward-thinking employee benefits solutions while going beyond one employer. I love the energy of working with young companies that are solving big problems and really enjoy the process of building something new. By thinking big and employing an entrepreneurial mindset, I believe creative solutions to employee health, financial wellness, fitness, and lifestyle rewards are within our grasp.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the benefits space, what would it be?
I would give benefits managers more freedom to experiment. We're responsible for large portions of spend at our companies, and employee benefits are extremely important to the families that work for us. We should, and can, take more opportunities to try something new, test ways to make benefits more useful and valuable, and generally move benefits into the modern age.
What were some of the biggest pain points or challenges you experienced in past roles?
Although I’ve worked in dramatically different industries, at companies of all sizes and varying maturity, the one constant struggle is advocating for innovation and new ideas in the employee benefits space. Benefits have some very entrenched traditional operators who would rather things not change. In addition, much of the system is set up in a way that makes adopting new technologies very difficult. However, part of the fun is the challenge of working through difficult problems, influencing change, and ultimately seeing new ideas serve the families we are responsible to.
"Part of the fun is the challenge of working through difficult problems, influencing change, and ultimately seeing new ideas serve the families we are responsible to."
What are some learnings you picked up in previous roles that you’re applying at Ursa Major?
The top learning I try to leverage is to have a keen sense of crafting and adopting solutions that work for the culture. Each company is unique in their employee experience and your benefits, every decision, needs to reflect that. Start small, experiment, try new things, and empower your teams to own smaller projects. By trying and testing, the impact is lower but so is the risk.
Finally, when hiring in benefits I always try to look for passion over experience. If someone personally cares and has an energy around what we do, it comes through in the work and results our employees see.
Healthcare is a tricky aspect of benefits. What's your advice to benefits managers who are trying to understand this space, while still being helpful to their employees?
Be the expert. Honestly, this is what we do. If you expect to be a professional and make a career in the employee benefits space, you should have the curiosity to learn as much as you can about every aspect of our industry, including healthcare.
You don’t need to know every detail about how healthcare works, but you should be able to to explain the reason your plans work the way they do. You should be able to help employees navigate difficult situations and point them to resources and answers. If you don’t know the answer, say so and use the opportunity to learn something new. The single most important thing we do as benefits professionals is help people with their personal medical situations. My advice is to always try to take a step back, see the person, the family, or the child you're trying to help and let doing the right thing guide your actions.