EP 46: Demystifying Employee Benefit Plans with Rachel Leader

Demystifying Employee Benefit Plans

There is so much involved in designing a culture within an organization where we show gratitude towards our staff day in and day out. One of the ways we can do that is through our policies and our benefit plans. Here to help us dive deep on the topic of gratitude is Rachel Leader, an employee benefits consultant at Johnson Financial Group. She works to demystify and simplify employee benefit plans so that employees and staff always feel valued, and she breaks down this topic for us today.

What You’ll Learn In Today’s Episode

  • How to create a benefits program that ensures employees’ needs are being met. (2:50)
  • How to provide an environment where every employee can thrive. (4:20)
  • How to ensure your benefits are diversified and inclusive. (7:55)

Actionable Takeaway for HR Professionals

  • Find opportunities to engage with employees in a meaningful way. (13:28)

Actionable Takeaway for Executives

  • Have clarity on what you’re trying to accomplish. (12:55)

Ideas Worth Sharing

“Helping the employees access the information {for their employee benefits programs} will help the employees feel like they belong in that company culture.” - Rachel Leader Click To Tweet

Resources In Today’s Episode

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Click Here for Audio Transcript

Traci Scherck: gratitude, what exactly is gratitude, especially when we’re showing gratitude to our staff and so often when we’re having conversations with staff.

Traci Scherck: andn with managers it’s giving that really simple, thank you, but there’s so much more to designing a culture in an organization, where we actually show that gratitude towards our staff.

Traci Scherck: Day in and day out, and one of those key ways that we can really do that is through our culture is sort of policies and through how we create our benefit plans and programs.

Traci Scherck: So with me today as a guest on our show is Rachel leader and Rachel is a benefits consultant with Johnson financial group.

Traci Scherck: And I have to say, one of the things that it had me so attracted to reach Oh, is how she was able to look at things that are boring benefits boring and actually really tie that into the why individuals come to work and why organizations are in business so Rachel welcome to talent optimization.

Rachel Leader: Thanks Tracy i’m so excited to be here, you know, thank you for the introduction and it really is an interesting time in the world, obviously, but really taking that benefit perspective of.

Rachel Leader: People come to work as their whole selves so really looking at a multi generational workforce of where are we.

Rachel Leader: Where can we go and what do we really want our company culture and our benefits to look like is kind of that unique intersection of kind of where we’re headed in this post pandemic world.

Traci Scherck: yeah and you said something really interesting and that was people come to work as their whole selves.

Traci Scherck: And when they bring their whole selves to work they’re not only bringing that knowledge that skill that ability they’re bringing those values that they have in kind of what those behavioral drives are that they have, which means not every person wants the same thing.

Traci Scherck: So how do we create a benefit program that actually shows how much gratitude, we have for our staff, while ensuring you know we’re meeting our business results and we’re meeting our metrics and our staff have what they need to live that fulfilling life.

Rachel Leader: Absolutely, I was just reading a study from that life that said 72% of employees, say that having the ability to customize their benefits would increase their loyalty to their current employer.

Rachel Leader: So when you’re we’re looking at that generational shift of millennials and gen Z and the Apps where you can customize your starbucks order.

Rachel Leader: they’re looking at employers have, if I can customize every single other aspect of my life, why can’t I do that on my benefits, what can my employer offer that gives me that independence and that you know self service aspect that we don’t currently have in a lot of smaller employers.

Traci Scherck: yeah absolutely and I think that that’s key, especially for our listeners, who for the most part, are smaller employers right.

Traci Scherck: You know those individuals that you know have groups of 50 100 200 individuals that they’re serving and saying how do we make these numbers work in a way that we can really.

Traci Scherck: provide what are what are individuals need, and so one of the things that i’m you know that i’m curious about Rachel is you know.

Traci Scherck: When we talk about you know, an inclusive work culture, you know, ensuring that we’re providing an environment for every individual to thrive, regardless of what that background is regardless of.

Traci Scherck: kind of what their preferences are all of those things, how do we specifically do that with benefits.

Rachel Leader: yeah So the first thing that every employer should really be thinking about is communication, there is a huge gap between.

Rachel Leader: An employer’s expectations of an employee’s understanding of benefits and how an employee actually understands their benefits.

Rachel Leader: And you know it kind of is showing up more in a financial literacy sense but it’s also a benefit literacy sense of.

Rachel Leader: Do you know what a deductible means do you know what a Co insurance means depending on your family background that might not be something you’ve ever been taught by your parents by your.

Rachel Leader: You know peers by schooling definitely doesn’t touch on any of that sort of stuff so it’s, how do you teach employees to be better consumers.

Rachel Leader: And so it’s building communication plans, starting from the ground up, but making it accessible, so that no one feels uncomfortable asking or being shown kind of the basics and the foundations that they can build upon from there.

Traci Scherck: So, when you say that this Ask Alex app you know i’m talking about essentially it was you know.

Traci Scherck: It was this out that I could go home and as i’m sitting with my husband, we could actually go through this APP and say hey we’ve got two kids or hey we’ve got this coming up or that coming up.

Traci Scherck: It would really help us to understand here’s what your benefit plan offers based on what you put in here some of those key things to really think about.

Traci Scherck: Whereas it’s not me calling my HR person in sharing information I don’t really want to share with them as i’m sitting here as the HR person right.

Rachel Leader: Right absolutely you know it’s protecting your privacy and also recognizing that.

Rachel Leader: Family decisions are made by the family, not necessarily in the workplace, so having the open enrollment meetings during the day is very common but.

Rachel Leader: Do you also record them or give the family, an opportunity to hear the same information or does it become a game of telephone for the staff member to then tell their spouse who might be the decision maker within their household.

Traci Scherck: yeah absolutely and I want to just kind of take this whole conversation on communication and really look at it as an organizational, you know as an organizational item.

Traci Scherck: And you know if you go back to podcast number 26 where we are specifically talking about creating your dream teams, you know it’s it’s essentially what the Harvard study states

Traci Scherck: As we’re having the benefits conversation today, I really want you to be thinking about it in terms of what about all of those things that we’re doing in our organization and how do we look at this across the board, because we can make those same incremental changes in all of our areas.

Rachel Leader: Absolutely and it’s definitely one of those things that like employee communication is not just a benefits issue and it’s not just communication of.

Rachel Leader: The basic benefits but, as you start looking at diversity and inclusion initiatives, how did those get communicated to the employees and how would an employee know where to go to access those benefits, because to your point.

Rachel Leader: You may not be comfortable asking your HR person every time you have a question or, if you have a question about you know fertility benefits, you might not want to share that.

Rachel Leader: So it’s having that open communication of here’s where to access the information and having it be consistent enough that the employees don’t hear it once a year and forget about it.

Traci Scherck: yeah absolutely you know, and when we think about our employees and fully having gratitude for who they are, because that whole person comes to work.

Traci Scherck: Having your benefits be inclusive of what our population is right, you just talked about fertility benefits, but I know that there’s several others out there, what are they.

Rachel Leader: yeah so other things you know fertility benefits is probably the biggest topic when we’re talking about diversity and inclusion.

Rachel Leader: Because that’s when you can really help you know the LGBT Q plus community do adoptions ibs surrogacy all of those things.

Rachel Leader: But it’s really on a broader spectrum looking at student loan repayments or.

Rachel Leader: caregiver leave you know as the boomers continue to age and our age, demographic and millennials and gen Z are going to become caregivers, how can your employer support your family makeup and how you need to care for your loved ones.

Traci Scherck: Like sometimes I hear my listeners speaking my year and going, you know Tracy this sounds really big what are some really easy quick hits that we can do that don’t sound like they’re going to cost us a ton of money and be really hard to implement.

Rachel Leader: yeah absolutely you know, first and foremost, is just that communication piece, you know sending an email doesn’t cost anything so it’s helping employees access the information.

Rachel Leader: From you know anything from awards programs or doing a team building activity can really help in that inclusive city aspect and really helping an employee feel welcome and that they belong within the company culture.

Traci Scherck: awesome Thank you so much for that and that company culture is something that’s really important because, yes, its benefits but it’s also how we’re having those conversations at the water cooler if we’re back at work right.

Traci Scherck: Or how we’re creating you know those conversations even virtually, especially as we’re blending individuals and saying hey you know what.

Traci Scherck: we’re going to be an organization that you only need to be in the office 20% of the time, and some of our staff will be 100% virtual.

Traci Scherck: So, ensuring that we’re still creating that inclusion in our work by creating those spaces, is a communication piece and not everybody loves the email So what are those other ways we can do it.

Traci Scherck: You know that there’s something really kind of antiquated out there called a letter and a stamp and sometimes it really means a lot.

Rachel Leader: You know, it is a funny you know cultural shift that now getting a letter in the mail is exciting, whereas before it was so basic.

Traci Scherck: yeah absolutely absolutely you know, and I think that this takes us into what are some really budget friendly ways to do it, you know, yes stamps are going up, I think they’re 39 cents, or maybe they’re 42 I don’t even know.

Rachel Leader: Nowadays.

Traci Scherck: You know, but what are some of those really budget friendly things that we can do to bring inclusion to our workplace really look at that within our total COMP and benefits packages.

Rachel Leader: yeah so a lot of it, you know comes around team building activities, you know you’re really looking at volunteerism, how can you create like a focus group and employee resource group.

Rachel Leader: Really opportunities for the employees to interact and really build upon each other and how they want to.

Rachel Leader: build that company culture and have that inclusivity, you know if you do have a slightly bigger budget, you can do.

Rachel Leader: You know, a broader spectrum of like fringe benefits or doing you know rewards programs on a more robust level, but really quick and easy wins, you know so it’s a policy perspective to have.

Rachel Leader: If your initiatives are supporting diversity and inclusion, but your benefits don’t cover domestic partners, you know that’s an easy policy change that can push you in a more inclusive direction.

Rachel Leader: But a lot of it, you know it’s really, what does the company want to do and taking that look in the mirror Where are you today.

Rachel Leader: And where are you trying to get to and getting the leadership buy in and the HR team in cohesion of what are we trying to accomplish and by what metrics are we going to measure success.

Traci Scherck: Absolutely, and having those metrics there’s incredibly important, and he had mentioned employee resource groups or ERG’s is previously.

Traci Scherck: If you’re interested in learning more about ERG’s you know, take a listen to podcast number 43 where we talk with toby you just enough.

Traci Scherck: With josie is specifically about how he is really kind of created almost a glass door for culture for individuals.

Traci Scherck: You know, with diversity inside organizations and we chat in that podcast a lot about how to actually build effective employee resource groups, so I love that you brought that up Rachel.

Rachel Leader: I love ERG’s we have a three ERG’s at Johnson, and they have done wonders for just getting people connected, more than anything, knowing that you’re in a group that has a similar mindset and trying to achieve the same goals is fantastic that’s.

Traci Scherck: amazing so as we kind of round out our conversation around you know the gratitude towards our staff

Traci Scherck: Every day, ensuring that we’re together right so i’m curious what’s one key takeaway that you have for executives listening to our show today.

Rachel Leader: yeah so on the executive level I think it’s really having the clarity on what they’re trying to accomplish you know you can see the metrics of.

Rachel Leader: You know 37 cents of every payroll dollar is lost to poor employee engagement so it’s what is that.

Rachel Leader: One thing that their employees are looking for that you can move the needle in a meaningful way and that’s going to be different for every employer, but it’s really being open to that conversation of maybe doing things a little bit differently than you used to.

Traci Scherck: What about for HR professionals listening in.

Rachel Leader: yeah so HR really you know gets the brunt of the actionable steps of how to implement.

Rachel Leader: You know they’re kind of sold the dream and they have to make it work in some respects, and so, for HR you know it’s really I think more on a policy level but also finding those opportunities to.

Rachel Leader: engage with the employees in a meaningful way so executives might be looking at the strategic of where do we want to go or HR might be more boots on the ground of I know my employees are going to react better if we do a company picnic versus a virtual trivia night.

Rachel Leader: So, really, you know, having that.

Rachel Leader: You know finger on the pulse of what your company is looking for.

Traci Scherck: Absolutely, and I think a key here, too, is that authenticity of you know that as leaders as HR you know you have an incredible amount of clouds.

Traci Scherck: In that organization and you’re being watched and when you can show off and be truly authentic in your role guess what that will be replicated throughout the organization.

Rachel Leader: Absolutely.

Traci Scherck: awesome so

Traci Scherck: You can find Rachel by pulling up her linkedin profile, which will be in our show notes and the link to the Johnson financial group website is also in those show notes.

Traci Scherck: If you are looking for some additional information on how we’re actually implementing these talents strategies in this people plan into the organization, please feel free to join us in our.

Traci Scherck: talent optimization foundation program and thank you so much for being with us today and Rachel Thank you so much for your insights.

Rachel Leader: Thanks Tracy happy to be here.

Traci Scherck: Have a great rest of your day.