Utilizing Benefits to Attract Diverse Talent: Building the Foundation Before They Arrive

BY Katie Chambers | November 30, 2023

When Matthew Legere and his family faced a devastating pregnancy loss, he submitted for bereavement leave at work. He was denied. “They said because the baby wasn’t actually born, I didn't qualify for bereavement leave,” Legere said. “Now, if you asked me at that moment if I felt valued as an employee, no. No, I did not.”

While this example is startling, it’s unfortunately not uncommon. Progressive employers need to account for all the nuances and complexities of an employee’s life when crafting a benefits package with care, dignity, and respect.

By looking at your benefits plan through a variety of lenses and thinking about your employees’ diverse needs, you can build a plan that allows individuals and their families to feel seen, heard, and valued through the benefits that you offer. “By addressing unmet needs, we believe you can truly drive engagement with your current employees. But it also casts a vision that’s attractive to a prospective employee, making it so that your story can truly become their story,” Legere said.

Legere, now SVP of Brown & Brown, the fifth largest benefits consultant in the country, shared his top tips during a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s November virtual conference.

Building out an employee benefits package that is comprehensive and sensitive to a variety of lifestyles and situations is integral to workforce acquisition and retention. Of course, employers cannot envision those needs in a bubble. There is a difference between a vision and a shared vision, Legere says. “If we have an opportunity to get feedback from the talent market, or even our current employees on how well we’re solving for a diverse employee benefit program, that is what’s going to be most effective,” Legere said. Shared visions attract more people, sustain higher levels of motivation, and withstand more challenges.

Surveying Employee Values

Legere cites a 2023 study from MetLife of the top desired employee benefits, which include, in order of importance, health, paid leave, 401(k), dental, vision, life insurance, and disability.

But importantly, Legere notes, these rankings changed from generation to generation. “You have to get a sense of who your current population is as well as who you’re trying to attract and what their needs are,” Legere said. “What they expect for benefits could vary significantly.”

It’s also important to pay attention to what trends change over time. For example, from 2020 to 2023, there was a 100% increase in employees surveyed who prioritized wellness benefits like gym memberships and employee assistance programs. Your employee benefits need to change along with the cultural climate in order to stay competitive. Legere also shared that employers tend to significantly overestimate their employees’ well-being and satisfaction, and encourages them to be proactive in crafting a package that reflects their actual current circumstances.

Moving from Buzzword to Action

Matthew Legere, senior vice president of Brown & Brown, led the thought leadership spotlight (company photo)

Talking with employers, Legere found that while many talked about diversity, equity, and inclusion, they weren’t really taking steps to move the needle.  “Craft strategies, policies, practices, and procedures, for everybody at every aspect to feel valued,” Legere said. That means taking into consideration all aspects of life wellness and creating policies that are effective for all generations in your workplace. It’s also crucial to recognize the different steps of an employee’s life journey both in and out of the office, and account for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

Using national statistics like Gallup polls or the U.S. census, employees can project an estimate of how their workplace population might be impacted by categories like LGBTQIA+, family planning, veteran status, working parents, and build out a benefits plan accordingly.

An effective plan should be valued by all employees, encompassing all of their intersectional identities. “You want to be relevant to your employees in those key areas and offer benefits specifically for them.”

Legere and his team at Brown & Brown offer assessments for organizations to see how their benefits packages address the needs of certain populations and find where there might be gaps. They can also show the cost/benefit analysis, in other words, how much an employer has to pay for a benefit vs. the positive economic impact it would potentially have on an employee.

Executing the Benefits Strategy and Looking Ahead

Alongside benefit strategy decisions, Legere says employers have several opportunities to embed relevant DEIB themes across their HR and benefits communication. Employees and their family members receive inclusive content, DEIB culture messages, and targeted materials. It’s important to use inclusive language in these communications. Legere shares an example of using the term “chosen family” alongside “nuclear family” when talking about holiday celebrations, which is potentially more welcoming to LGBTQIA+ employees. “Having intentional and inclusive language woven into communications can be significant,” he said.

Legere advises employers to identify their target employee audience, then take a look at their current benefits partners to make sure they are offering the depth, breadth, and cultural sensitivity that is best-suited to that community. If they are not, it’s time to make a change.

Ultimately, it comes down to what is best for the employee when they are at their time of greatest need and vulnerability. “If you can be relevant with what your employees or prospective employees are talking about at their kitchen table,” Legere said, “you're going to help them feel so seen.”

Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Brown & Brown, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. 

Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost, Honeysuckle Magazine, and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.


RELATED STORIES

Helping Employees Organize Their Lives Now for When They're Not Around Later

On the proverbial starting line of her new life, excitedly using wedding planning websites and apps, Abby Schneiderman started wondering about the finish line. Where were all the websites and apps and guides for end of life?That was the small beginning of what would eventually become Everplans, a platform that helps people get prepared for the unexpected. Schneiderman detailed the company’s story and pillars at From Day One’s conference in Atlanta. A tech entrepreneur, her curiosity wasn’t that out of the ordinary. She researched and found plenty of resources for having children, buying a home, financial planning, and retirement planning. But that’s where it ended. “There were no other life stages covered online,” she said. Schneiderman brought her findings to tech veteran Adam Seifer. “I said, who's helping people deal with death?” It’s interesting to note that not all big life stages happen for everyone. Not everyone gets married or has kids, but each person will face death.“Everybody has to deal with this one day,” she said, whether it’s for themselves or for their aging parents, but this is something we can’t avoid.”To fill the online gaps, Schneiderman and Seifer started writing content. Over 500 articles worth of content at first, which has grown into the thousands. It covers every conceivable end-of-life topic, such as how to write a will, what to wear to a funeral, and how to name a health care proxy. Everplans was born. They immediately saw the value of their work.“We started coming up very highly in Google searches for every article we were writing.”A New PerspectiveThen came hard, personal experience. Schneiderman’s 51-year-old brother was killed by a drunk driver. In an instant, everything changed for her and her family. Thankfully he had life insurance, but that was where the documents and pre-planning stopped. No will, no organization of his accounts, no funeral wishes. That’s when Everplans made a major pivot. Rather than only provide articles and resources, Schneiderman and Seifer wanted to do more. “We wanted to help people get a plan in place ahead of time, so that when the time does come or when an emergency strikes, families have access to what they need.”Today, Everplans is a technology platform that helps people to organize, store, share, and everything from wills to policies to health directives to online accounts up to date. To date, over 30 million have engaged their resources since we launched, and over 160,000 people have created “vaults” on the platform, with over 3 million pieces of information stored and shared.Abby Schneiderman, co-founder and co-CEO of Everplans, led the thought leadership spotlight in Atlanta (photo by Dustin Chambers for From Day One)The co-founders also wrote a book, In Case You Get Hit By a Bus: How to Organize Your Life Now for When You're Not Around Later, in the hopes of helping people be better prepared for what’s to come. That’s why Everplans has entered the benefits space—to help companies help employees get the peace of mind that comes with getting things in order. “There’s a major tie between personal productivity and workplace productivity,” Schneiderman said.  Speaking of full-time employees in the U.S., here are some statistics she reported: 65% feel anxious when critical information and documents are all over the place, 84% are less productive when they feel disorganized, and 86% are less stressed when they feel more organized. And Everplans aims to help remedy that. After creating an Everplans vault, you can upload documents and pertinent information, as well as designate “deputies” or loved ones who should have access to your vault now and after you die. Below are the four pillars Everplans recommends each person looks at when adding to their vaults. The platform also nudges you at regular intervals to make sure everything is up to date.Documents: Things like legal documents, wills, assets, power of attorney, advanced directives, and more. Since end-of-life documents like power of attorney can be hard for many people, Everplans give pointers on how to broach this topic with different people in your life. Insurance: Policies like life, health, auto, home, property, pet, disability, and more. Schneiderman explained that every year, billions of dollars go unclaimed because of policies family members don’t know about. Assets: This includes financial accounts and digital assets. Making sure that bank accounts, safe deposit box information, credit card accounts, 401k and other retirement accounts, and every other account are in the vault is vital for loved ones to be able to access them after you pass. At the very least, put in what the account is even if you don’t put usernames or passwords.  As far as digital assets go, did you know the average person has 240 passwords? Social media, cryptocurrency, cell phone, unlock computer code, email accounts, and just about everything else. Schneiderman said they did a study, and 65% of people keep track of passwords in their heads. She recommends using two password managers, one for work and one for personal. Leaving a Legacy: Think about the different types of things that matter to you that you want to pass down, Schneiderman said. Recipes, videos, photos, stories, and anything else you can think of that leave a legacy.  The great thing about putting your affairs in order is this: you can have peace of mind knowing that if anything does happen to you, your loved ones don’t have to scramble. They can access all of the needed information without searching for it or worrying they’ve missed something. That would make any employee sleep better at night.Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Everplans, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.

Carrie Snider | February 21, 2024

Embedding DEI in Grantmaking: From Vision to Action

Embracing our differences and lived experiences enhances innovation, creativity, decision-making, and better problem-solving. But it’s not always easy to turn aspirations into tangible actions. In a thought leadership spotlight session at From Day One’s Denver conference, Tanya Odom, director of equity and inclusion at the Walton Family Foundation, shared practical strategies and real-world examples of embedding DEI principles and practices into philanthropy, both internally and externally.Odom painted a vivid picture of the Walton Family Foundation’s legacy, tracing its roots to its founding by Sam Walton and Helen Walton in 1987. “We’ve been in the space of diversity, equity, and inclusion for over 25 years,” said Odom. In 2020, the foundation awarded $749.5 million in grants. “We actually fund in three very specific areas that are determined by the family, which are education, which has taken different pathways and ways of looking at it, but that’s been since the beginning. Another is the environment, more specifically oceans and sustainability. And the third is the home region, Bentonville, Arkansas, and Arkansas’ Mississippi Delta,” said Odom. “We infuse all of them with a sensibility about diversity, equity inclusion.” “Our framework centers around three key pillars: embed, align, and amplify,” said Odom. Through these pillars, the foundation aims not only to incorporate DEI principles into its own operations, but also to foster similar initiatives among its grantees and partners. This holistic approach reflects the foundation’s recognition of the interconnectedness of issues, and its commitment to driving systemic change. “It's not just about what we do internally,” she said. “It's about how we leverage our influence to effect change on a broader scale.”Navigating the Last Few YearsThe conversation turned towards the challenges faced during the pivotal summer of 2020, a period marked by widespread social unrest and calls for racial justice. Odom reflected on the intense global efforts during that time. “Many of us had never worked as hard as we did in the summer of 2020,” she said. “That summer and I would say the year after that. And I think there was a sense of people finally understanding what we did.”Tanya Odom of the Walton Family Foundation was interviewed by From Day One co-founder Steve Koepp during the thought leadership spotlightDespite the challenges, Odom recalled this period as a catalyst for change. “We’ve been saying this, this is not new. Odom mentions the curb-cut theory, an awareness that once you find a pathway to address some of these inequities, or structural issues, you usually find ways to address other issues. “So while the summer of 2020 was called a racial reckoning, in Europe, it was also often called a social reckoning. It just highlighted so many other things.”Leadership Buy-In and the Importance of CourageOdom underscored the importance of courage in leadership and the willingness to take bold action. This call for courageous leadership highlighted the need for organizations to confront difficult conversations and actively engage in the work of dismantling systemic barriers to equity.At the Foundation, Odom says, they held an interview with their board chair on the subject of diversity. “And that was very unusual. Our comms department actually got permission to have that go out onto social media. What was really important was that our board chair talked about how DEI connected to the thoughts and beliefs of Sam Walton. Sam Walton wasn't saying ‘diversity, equity and inclusion.’ But Sam Walton talked about access. So how do we connect it to the mission of the organization?”Philanthropy's Roadblocks and Future ChallengesDespite the foundation's commendable efforts, Odom acknowledged the roadblocks and challenges facing philanthropy in its quest for DEI integration. “Dr. King has a quote,” she said. “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances, economic injustice, which makes philanthropy necessary.”Odom remained optimistic about the future, emphasizing the importance of collective action and ongoing dialogue. “While the road ahead may be challenging,” she said, “I firmly believe that by working together, we can overcome these obstacles and create a more inclusive and equitable future for all.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, the Walton Family Foundation, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Cynthia Barnes has written about everything from art to zebras from more than 30 countries. She currently calls Denver home.

Cynthia Barnes | February 09, 2024

Getting Ahead of Attrition Through Career Equity and Recognition

In the age of hybrid work and digital transformation, companies face the challenge of meeting rising employee expectations despite strained profits. Aside from wages, how might companies ensure that their employees’ needs are being met?At From Day One’s recent Atlanta conference, Jeff Cates, CEO of Achievers and Kumari Williams, VP of belonging and diversity at Workday, discussed exactly this. According to research from Achievers, the number of people who are job searching in 2024 is going up by 10%. For most people, the number one consideration is wage, which makes sense given today’s cost of living and expenses.How do we solve the wage problem when most organizations are actually looking to reduce wage increases this year? Research shows that on average, in the U.S., employers are looking at wage increases of about 3.9% in 2024 compared to 4.4% last year.Emotional salary supports retention. Two-thirds of individuals reported that if they felt supported and connected at an organization, they would take that over a 30% increase in wage.This cultural environment fosters a strong sense of belonging, increasing the likelihood of individuals pursuing long-term careers within their organization. Belonging creates the difference between ‘I work at an organization’ versus ‘I’m connected; I have a career at this organization.’Creating a sense of belonging is ultimately what helps create the stickiness that can help offset the lure of wages. For Williams, belonging is an output of inclusivity—and building inclusive spaces and inclusive leaders are the cornerstone workplace belonging.“It’s even a KPI for our organization. And so at the highest level in the organization, we are focused on increasing belonging, not just maintaining it,” she said.Williams, left, and Cates, right, led a thought leadership spotlight titled “Getting Ahead of Attrition Through Career Equity and Recognition, Using HR Tech” (photo by Dustin Chambers for From Day One)So, how do you create an environment where people feel connected and fulfilled? At Achievers, equity and transparency are vital in creating employee-friendly talent practices. “Individuals that report a feeling of career equity are two times more likely to not job hunt,” Cates said.One key area where they dialed in on transparency was performance ratings, where workmates were free to share performance ratings as well as their ratings from a potential standpoint and how they could do better, he says.It’s time to shift the idea of recognition from a reward to a sustainable practice that nudges people forward. It’s not just about using money (but you can, in small doses), but about using recognition to drive behavior, Cates says. It’s also important to use data to draw relevant insights regarding employee performance and how recognition can further propel that.“It’s really when we think about recognition that’s not tied to the monetary that we can drive behavior—and if we are going to use monetary rewards, then it should be used in very small doses,” said Cates.When you think about all the things you can do that drive behavior, such as recognition, gamification, and things that create a sense of accomplishment, it’s important to note that even micro-nudging or micro-rewarding can add up to help build positive habits. By helping to create habits and drive behavior, you can really drive scalable impact on how people feel. By accomplishing smaller tasks and micro-rewarding, you help people achieve a sense of fulfillment and action.It also comes down to leadership accountability. “Oftentimes, we’re focused on the message at the top of our organizations and making sure that our executives are aware of what we're trying to drive,” said Williams, “and it just doesn't permeate the layers in the middle.”For Williams, being intentional about how you drive accountability among leaders in the middle of the organization is essential so that they can carry the work forward. Most of your employees’ experience is shaped by your middle managers, not the executives, she says.Staying competitive in the job market and reducing attrition is challenging, especially now that employees are increasingly focused on finding better wages. However, the one thing that employees do value more than higher wages is company culture, particularly a sense of belonging where they see a path forward career-wise, where they’re being recognized, and feel that they are seen and heard.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Achievers, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Keren's love for words saw her transition from a corporate employee into a freelance writer during the pandemic. When she is not at her desk whipping up compelling narratives and sipping on endless cups of coffee, you can find her curled up with a book, playing with her dog, or pottering about in the garden.

Keren Dinkin | February 08, 2024