PFY: How do you determine which benefits are most important to our employees?
Dana: We try our best to evolve our benefits to the changing needs and changing demographics of our employees. So we look at our demographics every year and think strategically about what will best serve our population. For instance, what’s important to a recent graduate who may still be on their parents’ health care, or who cares most about low monthly premiums, will not be the same as what is important to the same person in five years, when they consider starting a family of their own.
Our team has supported each other through significant life challenges, both good and bad–through the birth of babies (8 in 2018!), cancer, infertility, and loss. Even before the ACA, it was important to our company’s founders that our team had access to expansive health benefits that would protect them and their loved ones. And beyond health benefits, we try to think of the wellness that serves the “whole person”–such as supporting people’s family needs and mental and emotional health.
But we didn’t just think in a vacuum. We talk to our team. We solicit feedback in biweekly engagement surveys. We have quarterly town halls. We had focus groups with our Culture Committee and with our parents groups. And we listen and adapt. As a result of employee feedback, we rolled out a benefits refresh that added even greater flexibility for our working parents and maturing employee base. We already had flex time, but we expanded a work from home program that we think will help those with long commutes, those with families, and those who have a greater need for work/life integration. We also expanded our vacation benefits because we absolutely believe in the value of restorative time for mental and emotional health. We believe that our team is even more productive, creative, and collaborative when they’ve had the opportunity to set down work, and spend time on friends, family, and self-care.
PFY: How do we benchmark Personify’s benefits against competitors?
Southie: In the current job market, benefits seem to be more and more important to both current and prospective employees. We started to notice that benefits that fail to stay relevant and competitive can ultimately lead to a loss in talent. On the other hand, strong/competitive benefits can not only attract new employees to the company, but they also give current employees less reason to want to look elsewhere (retention). Personify is still a smaller company and we don’t always have the resources that the larger companies do. We realized we have to work harder than our larger competitors with endless resources to keep up with the market standards. We researched market norms, talked with our current employees, as well as employees elsewhere, to help identify the strengths and weaknesses of our current plan. In doing so, we realized we needed to increase rewards for tenure—more paid time off with years of service, a work from home policy, and reevaluated the health benefits and 401(k) plans.
Overall, benefits will always need to change and evolve with time, but for now I feel that Personify has really stepped up the game and is a top contender in this area.
PFY: What change management policies are needed to successfully implement a new benefits program?
Dana: You need to ensure that there’s sufficient management infrastructure to support your programs. For example, an expanded work from home policy requires a lot of administration on the part of leaders to manage a rotational program to ensure that teams are appropriately staffed on any given day. You need to change your operations if they rely on impromptu face-time meetings to accomplish work by being mindful of remote-workers and ensuring that meetings have dial-in and video-conference capabilities, and that decisions aren’t made without the involvement of the whole team—regardless of where they’re working. You need to ensure that communications about your benefits are made in terms that provide the right balance between clarity and flexibility.
PFY: What is the greatest challenge when implementing a new benefits program? What is the greatest opportunity?
Southie: One of the biggest challenges when implementing a new benefits program is deciding exactly when and how to roll out the new program. Ultimately, you have to have the entire team on board to understand that it might not be perfect right off the bat and that some things might have to be added or adjusted once the program gets rolling.
Another challenge is reaching a mutual agreement that these benefits are earned with mutual trust between employees and the organization, rather than entitlement. Having mutual trust can also be a challenge. Employers ultimately have to trust that they have hired the right group of people to use benefits responsibly. Employees that cannot be trusted, have to understand and accept that they might not see all of the benefits other members on the team do.
The greatest opportunity that we see when implementing a new benefits program is having more engaged employees to help increase overall productivity of the organization. Better benefits also help to attract and retain talent within companies.