Re­think­ing to­tal com­pen­sa­tion

Lead­ing in­no­va­tors, in­clud­ing Aka­mai, Rackspace, South­west Air­lines and Vivint, are fo­cus­ing on “qual­ity of life” perks and other ben­e­fits that our grand­fa­thers wouldn’t have dreamed of — or thought pos­si­ble.

Employee Benefit News - - CONTENTS - BY RANDY BAR­RETT

Aka­mai, Rackspace, South­west Air­lines, Vivint and other cor­po­rate in­no­va­tors are fo­cus­ing on ‘qual­ity of life’ perks to at­tract and re­tain top tal­ent.

In to­day’s war for tal­ent, the num­ber on the pay­check is just one of many as­pects prospec­tive em­ploy­ees con­sider when de­cid­ing where to work. Mil­len­ni­als are largely driv­ing this shift, as they look for work/life bal­ance and a so­cially con­scious cor­po­rate cul­ture.

Lead­ing in­no­va­tors, in­clud­ing Aka­mai, Rackspace, South­west Air­lines and Vivint, are fo­cus­ing on “qual­ity of life” perks and other bene ts that our grand­fa­thers wouldn’t have dreamed of — or thought pos­si­ble. ey in­clude day­care as­sis­tance, adop­tion and fer­til­ity fund­ing, on­site med­i­cal scans, ID-theft ser­vices and en­hanced op­tions for work­ing re­motely.

“Bene ts, or what we re­fer to as WorkPerks at South­west, are a big driver when it comes to at­tract­ing, re­tain­ing and en­gag­ing [em­ploy­ees],” says Julie We­ber, VP of peo­ple at South­west Air­lines. She adds that the com­pany “doesn’t just fo­cus on tra­di­tional bene ts like well­ness, health­care and re­tire­ment.” For the air­line, that means a pos­i­tive work cul­ture, ca­reer de­vel­op­ment and gen­er­ous travel priv­i­leges.

Sarah Sardella, se­nior di­rec­tor of global bene ts for Aka­mai Tech­nolo­gies, a dig­i­tal con­tent de­liv­ery com­pany based in Cam­bridge, Mass., has come to the same con­clu­sion. She says many com­pa­nies fo­cus on health in­sur­ance, which is im­por­tant, but it doesn’t have to be in the gold-plated cat­e­gory to at­tract tal­ent.

“If we’re go­ing to spend more money, I can take that and spend it on en­hanced care­giver bene ts,” Sardella says. “ ose tend to be some­thing em­ploy­ees re­spond to.”

Bene ts aren’t make or break when it comes to hir­ing, but they are a key ne­go­ti­at­ing point, says Sharon None­man, di­rec­tor of global bene ts and well­ness for Rackspace, a cloud ser­vices tech­nol­ogy com­pany in Wind­crest, Texas. “ ey are the an­cil­lary things that push them over the edge: mas­sage on site, free on­site gym, paid fam­ily leave,” she ex­plains.

e key is get­ting the o er­ings right. In­creas­ingly, that means ex­cep­tion­ally strong fam­ily-ori­ented bene ts. While baby boomers fo­cused on good tra­di­tional bene ts, mil­len­ni­als are more in­ter­ested in qual­ity of life.

“I do think we see more of a de­sire for ex­i­bil­ity,” We­ber says.

Amer­i­can Ex­press re­cently ex­panded its parental leave pol­icy and now o ers its U.S.-based full-time and part-time em­ploy­ees 20 weeks of paid time o . And it o ers the same bene t to both men and women.

“We be­lieve longer parental leave has a far-reach­ing pos­i­tive im­pact on the men­tal and phys­i­cal health of our em­ploy­ees and their fam­i­lies,” says David Kasiarz, se­nior vice pres­i­dent, global re­wards and learn­ing.

e chem­i­cal com­pany BASF, based in Florham Park, N.J., has fol­lowed suit and grown its parental leave pro­gram to 16 weeks — and added ve more days of med­i­cal leave. “We give peo­ple time to un­plug and re­ally be there with their fam­i­lies,” says Mol­lie O’Brien, the com­pany’s di­rec­tor of to­tal re­wards.

e home tech­nol­ogy com­pany Vivint, based in Provo, Utah, sup­plies 12 weeks of paid ma­ter­nity time and six weeks of paid time o for adop­tions. “It gives peo­ple an op­por­tu­nity to bond with their child and re­cover from hav­ing a baby or go­ing through the hoops of adop­tion,” says Starr Fowler, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of HR. “ ey can come back and they don’t need to worry — we’re tak­ing care of them.”

Aka­mai o ers birth moth­ers paid leave for up to 18 weeks — eight weeks through the com­pany’s short­term disability in­sur­ance and 10 weeks of paid fam­ily leave pro­vided by Aka­mai. New fa­thers and adop­tive and/or non-de­liv­ery par­ents re­ceive 10 weeks of paid leave. e com­pany also goes a step fur­ther and pro­vides up to $5,000 to help with adop­tion ex­penses.

Fer­til­ity cov­er­age is be­com­ing more com­mon as well. BASF o ers up to $10,000 to cover IVF treat­ments. Aka­mai also pro­vides in­fer- tility cov­er­age in its health plans, as does Amer­i­can Ex­press.

Des­ti­na­tion em­ploy­ers also have be­gun to rec­og­nize the im­por­tance of sup­ply­ing sup­port for day­care and el­der­care. Many em­ploy­ees live in the sand­wich gen­er­a­tion and are in need of both. Amer­i­can Ex­press o ers en­hanced el­der­care sup­port that helps em­ploy­ees nd the right sit­u­a­tion for their loved ones.

“ e pro­gram pro­vides 24/7 ac­cess to con den­tial help, in­clud­ing as­sis­tance in nd­ing long-term care so­lu­tions such as as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties and nurs­ing homes,” Kasiarz says. e com­pany has a deal with the provider Bright Hori­zons and gives its U.S. em­ploy­ees up to 20 days of sub­si­dized care per year.

Rackspace and Aka­mai also of­fer sup­ple­men­tal el­der­care as well as child day­care. e bene ts are de­signed as a stop-gap when babysit­ting sit­u­a­tions fall through. Aka­mai

“Some em­ploy­ees think un­lim­ited va­ca­tion is great, and oth­ers think it’s a ploy to not let them take as much time away from work.”

em­ploy­ees can get the help for just $6 an hour. BASF o ers 80 hours a year of backup child­care and also pro­vides nurs­ing rooms on site.

Work/life bal­ance

e pam­pered mil­len­nial is a cliché, but as al­ways there’s some truth to the gen­er­al­iza­tion. One is­sue smart com­pa­nies are pay­ing close at­ten­tion to is work/life bal­ance. Boomers were trained to show up, toil at their desk and stay, if re­quired, un­til the job was done. Mil­len­ni­als see work as more uid and not speci cally tied to the work­place.

“Mil­len­ni­als say, ‘What’s the big deal? I have email on my phone,’” states Sardella, who was work­ing at home and tak­ing care of her child when in­ter­viewed by EBN. “We’re out of the re­ces­sion and it’s start­ing to get harder to nd good tal­ent again. What do you want that work ex­pe­ri­ence to look like?” Sardella says Aka­mai strives to o er bene ts that com­ple­ment work and fam­ily life so

em­ploy­ees can “man­age that blur be­tween be­ing at work and be­ing at home.”

The com­pany of­fers a lib­eral tele­work pro­gram called Aka­mai Any­where that al­lows work­ers to ap­ply to do their jobs en­tirely off-site. Sardella re­cently had a val­ued em­ployee in tears in her of­fice be­cause of a pend­ing move to up­state New York. The worker thought re­sign­ing her po­si­tion was in­evitable un­til Sardella solved the prob­lem.

“She’s now work­ing at her house in Syra­cuse,” Sardella ex­plains. “It works fine, and she loves it. It’s part of who we are.”

Amer­i­can Ex­press of­fers a Work Life Pro­gram to help em­ploy­ees man­age the balancing act. “We not only want to help our em­ploy­ees and their fam­i­lies make their ful­fill­ing ex­pe­ri­ences hap­pen, but we want to give them back some time in their day,” Kasiarz says. That in­cludes the im­proved parental leave pol­icy, but also a new per­sonal as­sis­tant ser­vice to help em­ploy­ees with a range of to-dos, like find­ing af­ford­able pet or child­care, sourc­ing home re­pairs, plan­ning a move and even party plan­ning.

HR ex­perts agree that mil­len­ni­als also want flex­i­bil­ity when it comes to time off. More or­ga­ni­za­tions are mov­ing way from the “Sir, may I” tra­di­tion of tightly con­trolled va­ca­tions and the as­so­ci­ated stress and anx­i­ety. Tech com­pa­nies have clearly led the pack, but the trend to­ward open va­ca­tion poli­cies is slowly gain­ing ground.

Vivint has done it for some time. “We’ve done away with track­ing va­ca­tion and time off,” Fowler says. “We rec­og­nize not ev­ery­one man­ages to an an­nual cal­en­dar. We trust they’ll get the job done.” That leaves it up to work­ers and man­agers to ne­go­ti­ate the right bal­ance.

Aka­mai hasn’t re­quired a for­mal cap on va­ca­tion for a decade. While the pol­icy sounds great on pa­per, Sardella con­cedes man­ag­ing it is “re­ally tricky in a lot of real, tac­ti­cal ways.”

It re­quires man­agers to set mea­sur­able goals and ob­jec­tives and stay on top of them, she says. “We ended up launch­ing a train­ing pro­gram where part of it dealt with how to use dis­cre­tion, be con­sis­tent and be fair.”

The other chal­lenge would seem less ap­par­ent: With­out a tra­di­tional va­ca­tion pol­icy with use-it-or-lose-it rules, some em­ploy­ees take less time off and are at risk for burnout.

“Some em­ploy­ees think it’s great, and oth­ers think it’s a ploy to not let them take as much time away from work,” Sardella says.

The pol­icy clearly isn’t for ev­ery in­dus­try. BASF hews to tra­di­tional va­ca­tions, given the na­ture of its busi­ness, O’Brien says. “Half our pop­u­la­tion at BASF is in chem­i­cal plants. They are pro­duc­tion work­ers that have very tech­ni­cal roles.” If John doesn’t show up for work, some­body on his team has to cover his shift.


As in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums con­tinue to rise, des­ti­na­tion com­pa­nies are push­ing well­ness as a key ben­e­fit to en­cour­age em­ploy­ees to lead health­ier life­styles. South­west of­fers its own in­ter­nal re­wards pro­gram that sup­plies up to $500 in cash for get­ting enough sleep and ex­er­cise. The com­pany also pro­vides bio­met­ric screen­ings (blood­work, etc.) and even brings mam­mog­ra­phy trucks to the work­place.

Amer­i­can Ex­press has gone wide and deep on well­ness. “Our goal is to build a cul­ture of health through our lead­er­ship, poli­cies and work en­vi­ron­ment,” Kasiarz says. “Bet­ter health for our em­ploy­ees and their fam­i­lies is good for them and it’s good for us.” The com­pany op­er­ates 22 Healthy Liv­ing Well­ness Cen­ters in its work­sites across the world.

In 2013, Amer­i­can Ex­press be­gan tar­get­ing men­tal health. “We know that one in four peo­ple around the world will be af­fected by men­tal or neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­ders at some point in their lives,” Kasiarz says. “We also know that the tra­jec­tory of men­tal ill­ness is far bet­ter when ad­dressed early on.” The com­pany pro­vides coun­sel­ing 24/7 via tele­phone, and em­ploy­ees can also work with a men­tal health pro­fes­sional on site or near work. The ser­vice is free and con­fi­den­tial.

Vivint has an on­site health clinic that is also avail­able to fam­ily mem­bers. It costs just $30 a visit.

The con­cept of well­ness is now be­ing ap­plied to the fi­nan­cial health of em­ploy­ees. Amer­i­can Ex­press of­fers an ex­ten­sive pack­age of ser­vices called Smart Sav­ings that in­cludes a per­sonal fi­nance coach. “We also of­fer var­i­ous dis­counted in­sur­ance op­tions so em­ploy­ees can pro­tect what mat­ters to them at a lower cost, and [it’s] has­sle-free through au­to­matic pay­roll de­duc­tions,” Kasiarz says.

South­west also of­fers one-on-one fi­nan­cial coun­sel­ing, as does Aka­mai.

Mil­len­ni­als like to have op­tions, which is lead­ing des­ti­na­tion em­ploy­ers to of­fer more cus­tomiza­tion and per­son­al­iza­tion, says Bill Ziebell, CEO of Gal­lagher Ben­e­fit Ser­vices. Vol­un­tary ben­e­fits are gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity by giv­ing em­ploy­ees ac­cess to dis­counted ser­vices from le­gal as­sis­tance to auto and home in­sur­ance, and from pet in­sur­ance to iden­tity-theft pro­tec­tion. Many com­pa­nies are also mak­ing avail­able crit­i­cal-in­jury in­sur­ance for younger em­ploy­ees con­fi­dent in their phys­i­cal in­vin­ci­bil­ity.

“Mil­len­ni­als know they need in­sur­ance, but don’t want the ex­pen­sive plan,” Ziebell says. “They would rather have more days off.”

BASF of­fers a full com­ple­ment of vol­un­tary ben­e­fits, as does Aka­mai, but Sardella warns that man­ag­ing them isn’t as sim­ple as just sign­ing a deal with a third-party ven­dor. “You re­ally have to hone the ben­e­fit if you’re go­ing to get se­ri­ous in­ter­est — it’s ac­tu­ally more com­pli­cated than it should be,” she says.

The av­er­age stu­dent debt in Amer­ica cur­rently stands at $30,100 per col­lege grad­u­ate, ac­cord­ing to the In­sti­tute for Col­lege Ac­cess and Suc­cess. More com­pa­nies rec­og­nize the crush­ing bur­den and are of­fer­ing tu­ition re­im­burse­ment to lure

the best prospects. Last year, South­west be­gan pro­vid­ing $2,500 to un­der­grads and $5,000 for grad­u­ate and pro­fes­sional cer­ti­fi­ca­tion train­ing. Aka­mai of­fers $7,500 per year, as does Amer­i­can Ex­press.

Mil­len­ni­als don’t like feel­ing they’re just punch­ing a time card at Acme Day Job. They want to work for com­pa­nies that have a heart. “They seem to be more ide­al­is­tic and so­cially con­scious and more group ori­ented,” says Tre­vis Par­son, chief ac­tu­ary for health and ben­e­fits for Willis Tow­ers Wat­son.

A cul­ture of cor­po­rate vol­un­teerism is cen­tral to des­ti­na­tion em­ploy­ers. For ev­ery 40 hours of vol­un­teer time put in by an em­ployee, South­west pro­vides a round-trip ticket to the non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion be­ing helped. Through its Vivint Gives Back pro­gram, the com­pany en­cour­ages work­ers to help build sen­sory rooms for autis­tic kids and schools in Peru and Mex­ico, among other projects. More than half of Vivint’s em­ploy­ees par­tic­i­pate.

Rackspace of­fers each em­ployee 24 hours of time off per year for vol­un­teer work.

Blab about it

The best ben­e­fit plan in the world doesn’t mean much if work­ers are in the dark.

“In many com­pa­nies, em­ploy­ees don’t know all the ben­e­fits they have,” says BASF’s O’Brien. “I don’t think peo­ple spend a lot of time think­ing about it.” So her shop has built a brand around com­mu­ni­cat­ing its of­fer­ings called You At BASF.

None­man at Rackspace is keenly aware that mil­len­ni­als are dig­i­tal be­ings. She hired a com­pany called Jel­lyvi­sion to cre­ate in­ter­ac­tive soft­ware to make on­board­ing eas­ier. “We need to re­ally lever­age tech and think about how we’re com­mu­ni­cat­ing a va­ri­ety of com­pli­cated ben­e­fit is­sues,” she says.

If in doubt about what worker perks might be best, ask the peo­ple who know: em­ploy­ees. Amer­i­can Ex­press holds ben­e­fit fo­cus groups and taps em­ployee net­works. As Kasiarz points out: “It’s be­cause our em­ploy­ees are help­ing us to shape our ben­e­fits, and we’re con­tin­u­ally in­volv­ing them, that we don’t run into ini­tia­tives fall­ing flat.”

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