How Innovative Employers Are Making Their Benefits More Inclusive

BY Carrie Snider | December 04, 2023

Company benefits have never been one-size-fits-all, but today the employee landscape is changing even more rapidly than ever. The more varied the workforce, the more varied their benefits needs are going to be.

That’s certainly true for Liz Pittinger, head of customer success at Stork Club. In the last three years alone, family planning and fertility benefit needs have drastically changed.

Pittinger spoke to this at a From Day One’s webinar along with three other panelists. Lydia Dishman, senior editor of growth and engagement, at Fast Company, moderated.

Millennials are further in their careers now and want company benefits to better reflect the changing workforce as well as align with diversity, equity, and inclusion, Pittinger says. That has opened the way for Stork Club to create a more inclusive path for people to start families.

“People are waiting later and later to start their families, so you have single women in their 30s and 40s, who are concerned about fertility preservation,” Pittinger said. “Then there are same sex couples who have typically been excluded from a health plan and fertility solution.”

Companies now can’t afford not to offer these inclusive benefits. Especially if they want to attract and retain the talent they need.

“I think it's really important to ground ourselves on why DEI is important,” she added. The answer: because it’s important to employees who are searching for and staying at jobs for different reasons than previous generations. 

According to a study by Fortune and the Institute for Corporate Productivity of 1,200 HR professionals around the world, overperforming organizations are those that focus on DEI. “In other words, company culture, even over compensation,” said Pittinger.

That is to say, however, not every company needs to offer every type of benefit. Organizations must cater to their workforce, their unique makeup, and their unique needs. “It’s about understanding the company goals and demographics,” she said. “Some industries just traditionally run heavier on single women in their 30s and 40s. You may have a large LGBTQ community.” It goes back to understanding their needs. How? Be in close contact with them, offer surveys, get feedback from the hiring team and managers.

Then, once HR managers understand the gaps, they need to make changes, circle back and make sure their people know what’s being offered.

Growing Need for Mental Health Benefits

When reporters at the Los Angeles Times had to stay out of the office due to Covid, they felt the disconnect. They were doing their jobs, telling the hard stories, but didn’t have that natural way of talking things out with colleagues.

Nancy Antoniou, SVP of strategy and CHRO at the Los Angeles Times, recalled how difficult that time was. Rather than expressing and sharing, the reporters were internalizing what they were seeing.

“We had a situation where an employee called our EAP (Employee Assistance Program) vendor, and the story that they were sharing about what they were experiencing during one of the protests was so impactful to the EAP counselor, that the counselor themselves started breaking down,” Antoniou said. “It was a role shift for the employee, where they felt like they had to now counsel the counselor.”

With that information, they now had the responsibility to do something about it. So they implemented a peer-to-peer support group, and hired clinicians to train employees. It’s really made a difference in how they share and work through the emotional side of the job, Antoniou says. “Having the ability to talk to your peer who has potentially experienced something similar is where that inclusiveness and belonging came in,” she added.

The bottom line is you have to listen to your people, and then you must follow through and give them what they need. “There's no greater disservice than taking a survey and asking employees to share their opinions and thoughts about our culture or offerings, and then doing nothing with it,” said Antoniou.

Putting On Your Listening Ears

Of course, there are benefits that everyone needs. Kristy Lucksinger, head of global benefits at JLL, said that during the pandemic many people were reactively addressing health issues. More recently at JLL, they’re trying to close that gap and help people focus more on preventative care. One tool to accomplish this has been virtual health care.

“We truly believe that virtual care is absolutely critical in this environment, ensuring our employees really know and understand how virtual care works; and when it's appropriate to use virtual care versus when it’s not,” she said.

In a conversation moderated by Lydia Dishman of Fast Company, the panelists discussed the topic “How Innovative Employers Are Making Their Benefits More Inclusive.”

Relaying benefits information to employees is key. One way they do that at JLL is training managers to recognize symptoms or indications among employees so they can help them take the next step.

An employee came to Lucksinger with personal issues at home, specifically an adult child with mental health concerns. 

“They were dealing with their gay son who needed some mental health services provided to them because they were experiencing a couple of their friends who had just committed suicide.”

Any parent with stressed children is also stressed themselves, she added. Acknowledging that hardship, and the impact on the employee’s life, were important first steps. Next was to ensure the employee and their child got the help they needed with a professional with experience in the LGBTQ+ space.

“Just having had that conversation with this employee, you could just see the relief in that employee,” explained Lucksinger. “We are trying to go that extra mile to ensure that our employee experiences go above and beyond.”

Take the Proactive Approach

The key takeaway from the panel was thinking outside the box. Straying away from the traditional approaches to company benefits and incorporating the values of DEI into offering the benefits people really need. And it all goes back to listening. Sometimes employees will come to you, but you also need to proactively seek them.

In the case of Lisa Singh, managing director of global benefits at Silicon Valley Bank, they met with their military and veteran employees to get their specific feedback. The employees gave their thoughts on experience and processes, which Singh said they took into consideration and made adjustments to their policies. 

Education goes a long way, too, Singh added. At the bank, they hold mental health safety trainings and offer other ways to educate so employees are better equipped to help themselves and others. They hold regular webinars about different aspects of health, which is an opportunity for the company to let employees know about their benefits. 

One piece of key advice to make sure this kind of change happens? Take matters into your own hands to best serve your employees.

“Your healthcare vendor may say, ‘yes, you’re competitive. You have fertility coverage, don't worry about it.’ But we really need to look under the hood at that,” she said. “If we don't ask the questions, if we don’t work with our consultants, even push our consultants, then we’re going to have these gaps that we don't know of, and we’re not going to be meeting the needs of our diverse population.”

Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.

 


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