The trickle-down effect of big perks

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The Netflix and Microsoft announcements about new paternity leave policies have stirred up a lot of opinions. Tie that with Netflix’s unlimited vacation policy and we’ve practically got a revolt on our HR hands. There are cries of both support and outrage. We have naysayers believing it’s putting our country on the path to destruction and supporters who believe it’s about time and should be a model for all — but one mandated by the government.

However, our focus on each item that comes along in the employee-employer relationship blinds us to the bigger picture issues. It’s becoming increasingly apparent (e.g., PwC study: “The Female Millennial; Quantum Workplace study: Workplace Wellbeing”) that employees are looking for more from their employers than simply a paycheck. And regardless of the paternity leave discussion, the overall benefit discussion is heating up and becoming increasingly important to top performers.

Policies like this, which are big, grandiose and glamorous receive a lot of attention. But let’s step back and put some perspective on it.

Also see: "Step up your expectations and stop settling."

High fashion runway shows are filled with over-the-top designs, leaving many scratching their heads and reflecting on the absurdity of it all. But for the mainstream retail fashion houses, they are watching intently to see the trends and how they can interpret the over-the-top ideas into everyday fashion. And then these retail designers make millions off the ideas in watered-down versions that the public can relate to and get excited about.

Netflix’s new announcement is akin to those high fashion designs. It’s big and grandiose and has created a lot of head scratching. These announcements get people talking and draw a level of importance to the subject. Most companies cannot, or will not, offer such generous policies. However, now the ideas have been planted. Expectations start to rise. Employees begin looking more closely at their benefits and are deciding that health care isn’t enough.

The fork in the cultural alignment road

Employers have to make a choice and are going to go in one of two directions:

1) Be employee-centric and offer lifestyle work environments to attract and train the best.

2) Remain steadfastly committed to treating employees like commodities who should be thankful to have a job.

And each group will have staff and turnover reflective of their chosen environment.

Is the Netflix plan perfect? No. Is it for everyone? No. But they are clear on the type of culture they want and make efforts to align the benefits they offer.

Regardless of where this goes with any government-issued regulations, employers need to make lifestyle benefits a serious consideration for attracting an increasingly picky workforce looking for a more people-centric environment. Expectations are higher, and those with the assertive attitudes that we need filling the insurance industry today are looking for more.

Also see: "How role stagnation stifles agency growth."

Employees working in bad cultures are less tolerant. With employees no longer held hostage to current employers, the pre-recession predictions of employee free agency are now taking hold and employees are voting with their loyalty. Campaign for your culture by developing an environment where your staff wants to be part of a winning and feared team.

Keneipp is a partner and coach at Q4intelligence, driving agency transformation. Learn more at Reach her at, on LinkedIn, or Twitter @WendyKeneipp.

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Benefit plan design