Lifestyle benefits coming to the forefront

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LAS VEGAS — Benefits that address lifestyle offerings — such as parental leave and time off — are among the top benefit plans that employers need to offer to attract and retain the best talent.

That was one takeaway of an employer-themed panel at the 2019 HLTH Conference — one of the largest healthcare conferences in the U.S. With five generations in the workforce at once, it’s imperative employers create benefit packages that have something for everyone, the panelists said.

“The talent we need, artists and designers, is very rare,” said Milt Ezzard, vice president of global benefits at Activision Blizzard, a video game company. “That fact alone means we need to get creative with our benefits so they don’t go somewhere else; add that to the talent shortage all employers are experiencing.”

Ezzard said Activision Blizzard’s workforce isn’t the most diverse — the majority of employees are young males, something he says the company is “trying to fix.” But despite the lack of diversity, he said there was a point when the company’s benefits didn’t appeal to everyone in this demographic.

“We were trying all different kinds of parental leave policies, since that’s a very in-demand benefit, but we realized not everyone is, or will become, a parent,” Ezzard said. “So, we talked about providing other forms of leave, like providing a couple of weeks so someone can hang out with their mom during the last year of her life.”

Michelle Bruno, senior director of global benefits for FIS, an information technology services company, said pleasing employees can be a challenge, even if your company offers some of the most innovative benefits. When FIS started covering gender reassignment surgery for its transgender employees, Bruno said the majority of the workforce voiced support for the offering, but the niche benefit left some employees wondering if the company was planning to offer programs specific to their own unique situations.

“We received emails saying, ‘I’m glad you’re allowing people to pursue their dreams, but what can you do for me?’” Bruno said during the panel. “We knew we needed to expand our offerings to include more employees.”

FIS responded by creating benefits specifically for grandparents. The company created a leave program for grandparents, so they can take time off to bond with and help take care of a new grandchild. FIS also expanded its scholarship programs to include employee grandchildren, in addition to children.

Healthcare may be a standard benefit, but the most competitive packages help employees cope with chronic conditions, said Stacey Magness, director of global benefits for Ellucian, a software company serving higher education. Ellucian added programs for diabetes and musculoskeletal pain to their health offerings after discovering those were common ailments in their workforce. Magness recommends conducting internal, but anonymous, healthcare surveys before deciding which chronic care programs to offer.

“Competitive employers are no longer offering just the core packages,” Magness said. “Using data, we have the ability to personalize the benefits experience to create the most meaningful impact on our workers.”

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