Benefits Professional of the Year
“I was able to be at Anthony’s side throughout the treatment and recovery period, both in Southern California and at home,” Albert says. “The fact that I knew I could be by his side and that we were able to face this diagnosis together made me relieved and grateful.”
2018 hasn’t been a great year for Facebook. The social media giant has spent much of the last 12 months warding off criticism from politicians and the media for a lack of transparency surrounding algorithmic news rankings, and earlier this month, Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were grilled by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee over the way foreign adversaries may have used social media to influence the 2016 presidential election.
But despite the controversy, loyalty among Facebook employees still runs deep. The company’s annual employee benefits survey, which measures satisfaction and engagement with the benefits programs it offers, found that more than 90% of employees say that Facebook cares about them. What’s more, Facebook was named the Best Place to Work in the U.S. in 2018 by both Glassdoor and Indeed.
“I definitely think we’re a trusted brand,” Albert says. “It’s important [employees] really trust us and they’re getting the right stuff for the right issues. The benefits play into our attraction, retention and overall engagement. Employee reactions have just been phenomenal. I’ve never been somewhere where we’ve gotten so many thank yous [for] making a difference in people’s lives.”
Among those grateful employees is Victoria Ross, health benefits operations manager, who last year took 14 paid weeks off to care for her husband, then grieve his death.
“I am so grateful to work somewhere that allowed me to do this; that recognizes that time off to care for your family without worrying about your job or your paycheck is essential to having a productive workforce. I needed every one of those weeks,” Ross says. “I will work my ass off for Facebook every day because I actually feel like my employer cares about me, and that makes me want to be here more than ever.”
“When I met Renee and started looking at the programs they had, and the rationale and the why behind these programs — we had never seen this caliber of empathy and thought put into these moments for caregivers like Facebook has put into their programs.”
A sense of connection
Facebook is unique, Albert contends, because employees are so tied into company benefits. When Albert and her team design a program, they sit down with employees and conduct focus groups.
Talking to employees is exactly how Facebook perfected its benefits in the first place. It may be hard to imagine, but the social media giant now synonymous with swanky Silicon Valley perks — its Menlo Park, California headquarters, for instance, boasts on-site laundry services, an arcade and a fitness center — didn’t always have the best offerings. When Albert got to Facebook in October 2013, it was behind on a number of marks: It didn’t have a 401(k) match; it had few life insurance options; its medical plans were “mediocre.”
“Our benefits were pretty lean when I first got here. We were leading-edge with some cash benefits, like we give employees $4,000 when a baby is born. But we didn’t have some of the traditional stuff other employers had at the time,” says Albert, who spent 15 years as senior benefits director at Symantec Corporation prior to Facebook and also worked in human resources at Hertz, Ultratech and McKesson.
“Early on we did surveys every year, and they were more about ‘tell us what you want.’ It made a lot of sense at the time, because we didn’t really have a lot. The very first survey we did, people told us they really wanted a 401(k) match and better life insurance. So I came in got those up and running.”
In the years that followed, Facebook’s benefits grew to an enviable list that ranges from traditional and table stakes to family friendly and innovative. A few examples: Employees don’t have a monthly contribution toward their medical plans (either an Aetna PPO or EPO or Kaiser HMO), unless they add dependents. Mental health is also a priority, Albert says: Employees and their dependents are allowed up to 25 free therapy sessions through provider Lyra.
Facebook’s sabbatical program, dubbed Recharge, allows employees to take 30 days of paid time off every five years. Albert is currently using hers, spending time with her husband in Italy, the Cayman Islands and Cuba. “I have to lead by example,” she says.
Facebook’s internal communication tool, Workplace, often shares benefits updates — and workers are quick to respond. “I just posted a change of leave of absence vendor, and 97 people responded within the hour, saying it was great news,” she notes. “But if I post something and they don’t think it quite met the mark, they will come back and let me know that, too.
“Facebook is really, really open because we are a mission-driven company,” Albert continues. “And that’s how we are with benefits. Through that culture of hard conversations and constructive feedback, that allows us the room and the innovation to do things that really are meeting people’s needs.”
Among those innovations are workplace support groups where struggling employees can find a community willing to help.
“We can take particular life stages — caring for aging parents, having yourself or a family member diagnosed with cancer, maybe struggling with infertility or grief — and our employees at a grassroots level will create workplace communities where they find each other and they have conversations,” Albert explains.
For instance, Facebook employees have created murals in its offices around mental health struggles as a way to curb stigma. And Albert, along with the engineer whose plight jumpstarted Facebook’s caregiving policy, started an internal workplace group called “Cancer @FB” that employees can join if they are diagnosed with cancer or if they are a caregiver to someone they love.
“Some of the most inspiring moments for me are when someone comes in and says, ‘My husband just got diagnosed with cancer; I don’t even know where to start,’” Albert says.
“We, from a benefits perspective, can give them all the benefits data, like how does your insurance work and how does the paid time program work, but another employee who has that experience will step up and say, ‘Here are the things you should know about, and here’s how to navigate through the care. And by the way, I’m on the same campus as you, do you want to meet up and get lunch or have coffee?’
“It’s this reassurance that I’m not alone, and it creates such an amazing, unique culture.”
Still, Albert says, Facebook isn’t done with its benefit offerings — and she hopes other employers aren’t, either. It’s a fluid process — one that needs to evolve as employees’ needs, and challenges, do.
“Saying we’re 1% done is a phrase we use at Facebook a lot, because we feel like there’s so much more we can do,” she says. “And I really translate that to benefits. There are so many hard problems — especially when it comes to healthcare, retirement or student loans — that we have left to solve. I want us to be cutting-edge and help influence the industry on these problems. I want us to mentor and pass on the experience, not only to benefit professionals in our organization, but externally.” EBN