Overcome Stubborns

Holistic Wellness for Women: Supporting Health in Every Life Phase

When Shauna Murphy Cour, the vice president of employer sales at Ovia Health, had her three kids, she was working for a tech company. From the outside, it looked like she had all the right benefits to support her journey through pregnancy and early motherhood.“I had 20 weeks paid leave, but the culture, at the time, had me sneak out of the back door [for family obligations and for doctors’ visits], I’d be pumping in the storage closet,” she told journalist Kelly Bourdet during a From Day One webinar on fertility and parental benefits titled “Why Fertility and Maternity Care Management Are a Perfect Pairing for Workers and Their Employers.”And while stigma for conditions such as mental health and fertility issues has decreased, the truth is that many still consider women’s health a niche benefit, even though it’s an extremely vast industry with different goals and facets. In the case of fertility, there is an overall lack of awareness on the matter, which is a missed opportunity in terms of proactive family planning and early detection.A platform like Ovia, a maternity and family-planning benefits solution for employers and health plans, allows patients to explore all paths to parenthood, including ART, adoption, and the collaboration with a gestational carrier. That’s where Cour eventually landed, and she currently leads Ovia’s sales team. “I was fed up with the lack of focus on women’s health.”A Proactive Approach, Before the Family-planning StageOvia’s platform includes preventive care, such as preservation, but it can also include the diagnosis and treatment of infertility. “In terms of treatment, most of us think of IVF, but there’s also medical treatments: drugs, IUI, it can also include donor sperm for male infertility, which involves 30% of infertility cases,” says Dr. Leslie Saltzman, Ovia’s chief medical officer.Other benefits also include gestational carrier services. That’s the competitive advantage of a platform like Ovia, an exclusive focus on fertility care as opposed to preventive care and assistance through early parenthood lacks understanding of what can happen downstream. “The thing about fertility service is that there’s all types of data: all types of medically assisted reproduction, including taking medicines, make pregnancies higher risk,” says Saltzman.It’s not an assessment based on gestational age, but it’s the result of the comparison of an unassisted vs an assisted pregnancy among women of the same age. Other higher-risk factors include: multiple gestation, preterm birth, preeclampsia, abruption, and C-section delivery. “We also see other types of risk factors: Black women using ART have higher rates of infant mortality,” continues Dr. Saltzman.The leaders from Ovia Health were interviewed by journalist Kelly Bourdet (photo by From Day One)Still, it all starts with preventive care and a proactive approach to reproductive health. “We’d prefer that a person with PCOS and endometriosis be diagnosed earlier, so they can learn how to best maximize their chances,” she explains. “And because these pregnancies are higher-risk, it’s good to have the resources.” Such an approach will, ideally, avoid using unnecessary technology, and prevent high-cost outcomes because people are supported through their pregnancy.Support in All Stages of Life“What happens, often, is that when you try to get pregnant, you try to jump into the deep end,” says Cour. “By that point, you should have been monitoring for many years, and we have women starting at age 18.” On the other end of the spectrum, last year Ovia added perimenopause focused care, which has historically been massively underserved, both in terms of research and science. “Like many things, we’re told to muscle through it,” says Cour. “That’s where we have people come in. We understand where they’re at, what they’re looking for. We’re that source that’s there.”This also means supporting patients in their day-to-day management of their fertility and family-planning journey. “It can feel dark and isolating, but after a few appointments, appointments happen very frequently,” says Betsy Akins, Ovia’s VP of client success. “It’s all based on your ultrasound schedule, and when you’re attending with someone else, it’s also difficult for their schedule.” This means it’s also important to be empowered to learn what benefits are readily available: sometimes you’re unaware that you have, say, 10 free sessions of therapy, or mental-health screenings. And, ideally, when people are aware of their suit of benefit, they can help their coworkers, by pointing out something that they were unaware of.Benefits as a Catalyst for Gender Equity in the WorkplaceMaking fertility benefits accessible is essential. Especially in an era where women’s representation in the workforce is lower than in the 1980s. “Now it’s about DEI and retaining talent: how do you make it real, so that’s tangible and quantifiable?” Cour asks rhetorically. That’s when fertility and family-planning benefits become huge: women start trying later, and might want to freeze their eggs to keep options open. “Having alternative pathways has become such an important benefit,” she says.Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Ovia Health, for sponsoring this webinar.Angelica Frey is a writer and a translator based in Boston and Milan.

BY Angelica Frey | June 09, 2023


The From Day One Newsletter is a monthly roundup of articles, features, and editorials on innovative ways for companies to forge stronger relationships with their employees, customers, and communities.

Overcome Stubborns
By Krista Sherer | June 09, 2023

Compassion and Transparency in Performance Management

“We need to know what we do matters,” Janet Ahn, president of Americas and chief behavioral science officer of MindGym said with regard to employee needs and the evaluation of their work. “How does my personal purpose grow and align with the wider organization's purpose?” Ahn introduced the panel session titled “Performance Management in an Era of Rising Worker Expectations” at From Day One’s Silicon Valley conference. Steve Koepp, co-founder and chief content officer at From Day One moderated the panel of four expert leaders to discuss the changing landscape of reviews, compensation, feedback, and employee wellness.Swati Sarupria, the senior director of talent and organization effectiveness at Splunk, said that many companies are creating clearer guidelines with more structure and transparency around performance management, and embracing employee feedback. “When I hear about the feedback from the employees, it's welcoming because it has always been this black box,”  Sarupria said. “I think the structural changes and the transparency are also welcome.”Laura Lomelí, Ph.D. the area vice president of people insights at BetterUp said she is pleased with what she and her colleagues see in their partners. “Our partners are spending a lot of energy on up-leveling their managers and their skill sets to provide effective and kind feedback,” she said. “This investment reinforces a culture of feedback, which ultimately makes these performance conversations a lot easier.”Leah Pimentel the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and culture with the University of California (UCSF) said that a performance review should not be the first time an employee gets feedback.“You should be getting feedback at every one-to-one with your manager, and they should be very clear about your goals, where you want to go, and how you get there?” she said. Pimentel said the review is a partnership and that managers should look at how to help their employees grow, achieve in their job, and assess what training and resources they need to excel. “I believe the pandemic renewed these conversations with a breath of fresh air,” Pimentel said. “It allowed us to pivot in a new direction, make sure that our managers have enough training, and look at how we were equipping our managers to be better performers and better givers.”Having consistent feedback is vital, Pimentel said, and having a six-month check-in on an employee's career path is also helpful, so no one is blindsided. “Having employees feeling empowered with the ability to paint their own career is something that can inspire people,”  she said. “Asking them, ‘what do you want to do? How do you get there? How can we work together to achieve it?’”The full panel of speakers during From Day One's Silicon Valley conference (photos by David Coe for From Day One)Rekha Gurnani Chowdhury, senior director of global compensation and people analytics at Box said that the future of performance management will be the transparency between pay and performance. “Ultimately what employees want is a feeling of control,” Chowdhury said. “They want to know that they have a way to influence their outcomes, whether it is pay related, or other organizational outcomes.”The way to do this is to make the outcome very clear, Chowdhury said, and that there is an assumption we don't know how compensation is determined or that these decisions are being made somewhere in secret. “If anything, we're actually getting more clear with how we think about performance, how we make the connection between your position and range and how your performance for the year is,” she said. “We are enabling managers to have these conversations and to make that link.”Creating a Safe Space in Your WorkplaceAs for the question of employees asking for empathy in the workplace balanced with the need for managing employee evaluations, Lomelí with BetterUp was happy to lean into the challenge. “I love this question. So recently, the U.S. Surgeon General put forward workplace well-being as a top priority. And one of the components of workplace well-being is mattering at work,” she said. “And, I think that compassion and empathy are really critical for people to feel that they matter at work.” Lomelí said it’s important when we think about performance management systems and the process when assessing how we deliver feedback. “If you think about the system that you might be developing, it’s important to ask, ‘how do I actually deliver the feedback within that system?’” she said. “It’s about appreciative feedback, and appreciative feedback doesn't mean you only say good things. It's actually clear, very prompt, and kind.”Pimentel said that oftentimes people are worried about how they will be perceived or are fearful of speaking up because of possible retaliation. She said she and her counterpart worked on creating psychological safety with confidential safe spaces for staff, faculty, and residents of the University of California (UCSF) to address the issue.“You can come and say what you wish, come up with ideas and we can implement them,” she said. “We take all of that data and we share it with the chair of the department, and we work to use my budget to implement solutions.” With a rising competitive job market, Pimentel added that giving new hires welcome kits to understand their brand and feel appreciated is helpful. “You spend more time at work than you do at home,” she said. “And with this competitive market, you want people to realize why they are working with you, and that you care about them and value them.”DEI Efforts in a Changing Work SettingAs for the hot button regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, Sarupria said that as companies are acquiring people to come back into the office more, there will be an impact of diverse representation and that in the context of performance management, the missing element in traditional practices has been the appropriate conversation about equity and talent, and not ratings. “The conversation between managers and their peers and the conversation between managers and their senior leaders needs to provide equal access and visibility to talent,” Sarupria said. “And typically under ratings, the quality gets masked because you're just talking about numbers and who needs to go where.”Sarupria said at Splunk they are working through a structured guide overlaid with data to highlight certain pools for what these review conversations look like. “I think the more we can overlay data and the more we can provide structure, there is going to be equity naturally in the process itself,” she said.Lomelí added that focusing on teaching managers how to lead inclusively and being cognizant of cultural differences are also important when focusing on DEI practices. “So what are those key behaviors and mindsets that managers need to be working on in order to be inclusive, how they provide those ratings, and how they're providing that feedback?” She said it is also key to prepare employees for these conversations, so both parties are set up for success. Koepp asked the panel about compassionate feedback and Lomelí said that in the gathered metrics at BetterUp, they have more than 2 million coaching sessions added to partner data. The metrics show that in times of uncertainty, having a strong culture of feedback and a well-built coaching structure, employees feel more supported by their manager, peers, and their organization. “And because employees feel more supported, we see improvements in team innovation, agility, resilience, and performance,” she said. When it comes to burnout and highly motivated people such as healthcare workers, Pimentel said UCSF saw a great deal of disengagement from their faculty during the pandemic. Her team’s solution in addressing the issue was offering appreciation and increased communication about employee needs such as pay. “We started having different cultural events with the faculty and residents to show them our appreciation,” she said. “We did an underrepresented minority bowling event so people could meet one another and feel that there are resources, and others that care about them.”Transparent and Contextualized Compensation With the goal of increased transparency and reducing gender and racial pay gaps, new laws in California and other states require the position’s salary or hourly wage range to be posted in any internal or external job announcement.As the compensation expert based in a public company in California, Chowdhury said this conversation has been her focus for the last few months. There are different ways companies are sharing their pay structures, some upon request, others publishing on an accessible shared site. “Most companies have really embraced this change, it’s the way of the future,” she said. Chowdhury said Box has decided to share their salaries globally, not just in the states where mandated.Chowdhury shared the importance of context in compensation.“We wanted to have consistent treatment,” Chowdhury said. “We didn't want employees in California to feel like they had to ask to get that information, and then if you're in New York or Poland you can't.”Additionally, conversation and context are important before sharing numbers, Chowdhury said. “You have to help people understand how these ranges are developed and what their position and range is,” she said.Although it can be tricky to communicate about pay without sharing performance ratings, Box’s process with employees is about sharing feedback, sharing the message behind the rating, and avoiding labels. “I feel like more and more, we will have to be very transparent,” Chowdhury said. “We are going to have to share that if you have this specific performance rating, this is the kind of increase you're gonna expect to get, with this as the multiplier.”Chowdhury said she believes we are also going to start seeing leaders and managers being more regimented in their compensation decisions. “They have to own those decisions, be able to talk about it, and explain it to their employees,” she said.The concept of pay parity, ensuring that employees in the same job and location are paid fairly to one another regardless of gender and ethnicity, is also being added to the conversation. “I think there's gonna be more discipline and more focus on the internal parody of making compensation decisions,” Chowdhury said. “ I see it as a positive thing with pay transparency. The more knowledge we can share, the more we're all on the same page, the better.” Chowdhury said this will all take some time but that she was interested in how other companies are managing these conversations and enabling managers.Sarupria said Splunk uses segmentation (a tool in performance management that defines different groups of employees) for their talent acquisition decisions, which does affect an employee’s goals and compensation. “People do not know where they stand relative to certain individuals, but they do know what percentage of the work they're getting right,” she said. “So from there, they can gauge how they're performing.” Compensation is intricate and involved, Sarupria said, adding the whole pay-for-performance branding needs a refresh.Chowdhury agreed and said there are multiple elaborate factors that play a role in determining how someone is paid but that the future of compensation will be market driven. “Payment decisions are not just made on performance, it's about location, relocation, and even a company’s tier system,” she said. “I think we will see that base pay will just be market driven. Performance is going to be removed from this whole conversation.”Chowdhury said companies may reward performance somewhere else, like with bonus scales and perhaps will be based on equity. However, the conversation and debate are ongoing with pay transparency laws and inflation in play. “The conversation is shifting,” Chowdhury said. “We all need to get on the same page and have enough data to make these decisions.”Focusing on a Flourishing WorkforceNearing the end of the discussion, Lomelí was asked to define well-being as opposed to wellness. “That is a wonderful question,” she said. “The way I would think about it is that well-being is something that we can drive to and there are different predictors for it. It's your physical wellbeing, your emotional cognitive wellbeing, all of those striving behaviors impact your wellbeing.”Wellness is more of a driver of well-being, Lomelí said.“What's most important is that being well and flourishing has a huge impact on your performance, your ability as a manager, and your team's performance innovation,” Lomelísaid.  “And, it serves as a buffer, especially in the environment that we're living in today, especially here in Silicon Valley.”Krista Sherer is a strategic communications consultant with a background in journalism and corporate communications. She resides in Sebastopol, Calif. 

Overcome Stubborns
By Sybil Fitzpatrick | June 08, 2023

How Well-Being Is a Key Ingredient in Healthy Work Lives and Company Success

“It’s a normal part of our company culture to engage with our system of well-being. And that's [the culture] we want to create,” said Dr. Jeff Tzeng, the newly appointed senior vice president of health and well-being at AT&T in a fireside chat conversation at From Day One’s Dallas conference. AT&T is focusing on this culture of well-being because they want to increase productivity and make it a better company, says Dr. Jeff, as his colleagues call him.Interviewed by Shelly Hagan, economic development and government reporter at Bloomberg, Dr. Jeff shed light on their renewed focus on employee well-being and the path to a more holistic individual approach.Like many companies, the COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst for the adoption of mental health strategies. With a growing recognition of the importance of mental health in the workplace, AT&T has made significant strides to enhance its offerings and support systems. Dr. Jeff’s role exemplifies the commitment AT&T has for fostering a positive work environment and prioritizing the overall well-being of its employees.While the emphasis that AT&T places on health and well-being is not new, it represents a dedicated effort to formalize and elevate their employee initiatives. By understanding the needs of their workforce and studying industry trends, AT&T aims to create a comprehensive framework that caters to employees mental, physical, financial, and career well-being.They recognize that supporting employee mental health requires a multi-faceted approach. Dr. Jeff highlighted the importance of both products and policies in this endeavor. From a product perspective, AT&T offers a range of services, including employee assistance programs, therapy, coaching services and self-serve apps. These resources are designed to provide timely, accessible and comprehensive support to employees.Dr. Jeff also emphasizes opportunities for the “sandwich generation,” or workers who are caretakers for both young children and aging adults. “We traditionally think about our employee services for caregiving for children. Right? But you know, many of you are probably in the same age bracket as me…[in which] you're also fortunate to have parents who are still here, maybe they're aging a little bit.” By broadening their perspective on what caretaking is and who it impacts, they offer more beneficial initiatives like caregiver leave, extended parental leave, and reimagined, broader sick leave policies that ensure employees have time dedicated to their well-being.Dr. Jeff Tzeng and Shelly Hagan spoke during the grand-finale session of From Day One's Dallas conference (photo by Steve Bither for From Day One)Dr. Jeff acknowledged that employee utilization of these offerings remains a challenge. Traditionally, employees often underutilize traditional benefits like 401(k) matching and free employee assistance programs. Dr. Jeff is actively seeking solutions to encourage greater participation in employee benefits. He acknowledged that there is persistent stigma surrounding mental health benefits and opportunities for self-care.AT&T recognizes the need to destigmatize mental health concerns and foster an environment where employees feel comfortable seeking assistance. The company is taking a proactive approach by engaging in open conversations that normalize discussions around mental health. The aim is to create an environment where seeking support is viewed as a normal part of self-care while de-emphasizing the pervasive “Hustle Culture”. The journey to destigmatization requires ongoing efforts at all levels, understanding that everyone’s comfort level may vary. Being such a large corporation with multiple generations and viewpoints, change can take time.Investing in employee well-being is not just for the workers but also a strategic business decision. The direct correlation between employee well-being and productivity is easy to see. When employees' physical and mental health needs are addressed, they can fully dedicate themselves to their work. By offering comprehensive well-being benefits, AT&T strives to create an inclusive and thriving work culture. This commitment to employees' well-being enhances the company's brand and ensures a win-win situation where employees are happier, productivity soars and employee retention is high.Sybil Fitzpatrick is a Dallas-based freelance writer, passionate about storytelling, evangelizing products and ideas, and leadership principles. 


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