Culture Chat

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The Culture Chat Podcast: How Employee Benefits Can Impact Culture

The Culture Chat Podcast: How Employee Benefits Can Impact Culture

December 22, 2016
Maddie Grant

Today's episode features Jovan Hackley, Director of Marketing and PR for Student Loan Genius, an employee benefits company that believes in benefits as a way to build a relationship with employees--related to culture, that can give organizations the edge, particularly in recruiting the younger generation in the workforce.  

Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite!

Jovan: My question to you both would be what is customization? When you say customization, like, how tailored are we talking when it comes down to benefits?
 
Charlie:  ...I do think that there is always this continuum. When you look at programmatic responses to the workplace, so things that we all can identify with pretty readily and most of us have been familiar with for years and years, stuff like benefit plans, and let's just make this easier and call it healthcare plans, there’s this continuum, you know, that employers have options around. And they've gotta make a choice, right? They can live on one end of the spectrum and say, “You know what? We choose, you know, for benefit plans not to be a differentiator for us. And we're gonna choose to invest elsewhere.”
 
There is the other end of the spectrum which says, “We want this to be a differentiator for us. We want it to be a part of the experience of visible and tangible part of the experience.” And then there’s, of course, everything in between that the problem is when employers don't make a conscious decision about where they wanna be on that continuum and that they don't understand the implications of choosing where they want to be on that continuum.
 
So I would say that there are many organizations that are making the conscious decision to have a more customized experience in the realm of employee benefits. And that could mean a lot of things. It could mean more choices. It could mean even option to completely shift the level of coverage and the provider networks. Certainly, there are lots of new ways to customize benefit plans. As long as that's an important thing for, again, supporting what is the broader goal, objective, ambition of your culture, I think that's okay, just as much as I think it's okay to take the other end of the spectrum, which is “Guys, we're gonna be barebones on this benefits plan because we're going to invest in other things that should be part of your experience that we believe are more important in this culture.” I think that's kind of what I was getting at, Jovan, in this whole conflict. You know, it's you got to understand what you're implementing and what the implications are to the rest of your organization, irrespective of what it is in fact you're implementing. I guess that was kind of my point.
 
Jovan: It's funny. Charlie, as you’re talking, I started to think that I would love to sort of take issue with one part of that argument.
 
Charlie: Please do.
 
Jovan: And that’s this whole idea or construct of a plan, okay? Plans and providers and coverage amounts and deductibles, very tangible things that the CFOs and, you know, those that have to deal with the numbers really do have to think about and discuss. And that's great. But let's not forget what the heart of employee benefits was or is, has been for the last 40 to 50 years. We saw the surge in 401(k) coming out of the '60s into the '70s, because we realized that people were going to need help retiring. The employees, the people that help drive our business had a need. And so we found a way to meet the need. In the same way, tuition assistance came about. Employees had a need for education in the '80s. Since the '80s, we've almost...I think the numbers behind how many people are college-educated within the workforce have jumped almost 20%, because employers realized that we need a more educated workforce. There is an issue. Our employees need to be smarter and better in this new technology environment. So we're gonna invest in them and solve the problem.
 
If we look at benefits as solving a problem and get away from this whole plan and coverage and administrator and who provides it, then it really does open us up to do some really important work, number one, in terms of making employees’ lives better. But number two is to see the real connection between culture and benefits. You know, one of the things that I’d like to cite is there was a Maryland study last year that showed that about 80% of employees look to their employers for financial guidance. So if their company provides financial benefits help, they're likely to take advantage of it, the things that are in that financial package. Like, retirement’s in that package. Tuition assistance is in that package, health…those are things that they consider and think are important.
 
And so when there are holes in what we provide in terms of the benefits package or the benefits overall, then the employees are inclined to think that things that aren't in that package aren't necessarily important, number one. And number two is that they've got a need that falls outside of that that's critical, like a student loan problem or anything else, maybe healthcare. Like, I love what Teladoc is doing with healthcare. Then, you know, they're kind of left to themselves to de-prioritize that, whether that's health that gets de-prioritized or student loan debt which gets de-prioritized or whatever it is. And so, you know, if the employer ignores the problem, then we've really locked ourselves into the structure of thinking about plans and forgetting the heart of it, which is benefits, which is solving problems for employees. And so, you know, if you're solving problems for employees, that's an obvious culture connection. And if you are not, then, honestly, whatever you're doing is probably missing the boat in some major ways.
 
Charlie: Yeah. I don't think we are...I'm not sure we disagree there at all. I'm not sure you took issue necessarily. I think a lot of this...
 
Jovan: Normally, I want to disagree with you. No, I’m joking.
 
Charlie: If you wanna go down that rabbit hole, we can start it right now. I mean, let's go.
 
Jovan: It's good for TV.
 
Charlie: This is no longer gonna be the Culture Chat. It's gonna be the Culture Slam Down. 

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