Overcome Stubborns

Workers Want Weight-Loss Drugs, But How Can Employers Pay the Bills?

When consumers see splashy TV commercials for weight-loss drugs, they often find the the pitch irresistible. But for HR and benefits executives, they may trigger an uneasy feeling. That's because the revolutionary weight-loss drugs like Wegovy bring with them both magic and mystery–the magic is how well they can work; the mystery is how to pay for them.GLP-1, or glucagon-like peptide-1, drugs have historically been used to treat diabetes. But the development of stronger drugs like Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic in recent years, and now the approval of Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s Zepbound specifically for weight management, has led to a sharp increase in demand. That’s particularly true as more research emerges showing the drugs may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and potentially bring other long-term health benefits. Yet the medications can cost as much as $1,000 to $1,500 per month–a price that few Americans can afford unless they have generous health-insurance coverage.And unlike expensive drugs for rare conditions, the potential number of patients for GLP-1s is vast. More than 40% of Americans have obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that is expected to reach 50% by 2030.Many doctors are thrilled about the potential for GLP-1s to change how obesity is treated, but that puts employers–where nearly half of Americans get their health insurance–in a tricky position. Here’s what employers need to know as they consider coverage for these drugs in the quickly changing landscape:High Costs, Low CoverageWhile employer health plans widely cover GLP-1s for the purpose of treating diabetes, coverage for weight-loss purposes is much more spotty right now. A survey last fall by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that 27% of 205 employers covered GLP-1s for weight loss and another 13% did not yet cover them but were considering adding coverage. Meanwhile, Willis Towers Watson (WTW), a global insurance benefits-consulting company that serves many large employers, found about 38% of employers it surveyed cover the weight-loss drugs. Those that do cover them are seeing significant cost increases. The retail price for Wegovy comes out to $15,000 to $16,000 per year, and after rebates and discounts from manufacturers, health plans still pay about $9,000 per year, says Cody Midlam, a director at WTW’s pharmacy practice. The cost per member per month for GLP-1s has doubled each of the last three years, according to WTW’s analysis, amounting to an extra $11 per member per month last year, or about 9% of all pharmacy costs.Companies are aware of the research showing the drugs’ effectiveness at tackling obesity. Yet while doctors say that helping people lose weight could lead to less cardiovascular disease, fewer mental health issues, and savings from avoiding knee replacements or other surgeries related to obesity, long-term data on clinical outcomes remains limited. With high employee turnover in many industries, it’s tough for these employers to factor in potential future savings in healthcare costs over the life of the employee.“Those outcomes take a very long time to manifest,” says Midlam. “It’s not something that’s easily measurable on a short timescale when plan decisions are being made.” Andrew Witty, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, the largest U.S. insurer, said his corporate clients see the benefits, but first have to deal with the short-term costs. “We’re very positive about the potential for another tool in the toolbox to help folks manage their weight. We recognize that has potential benefits,” Witty said in the third-quarter earnings call last year. “But we’re struggling.”Employers Meet the DemandDespite the high costs and headlines about some insurance plans scrapping GLP-1 coverage, plenty of employers see the upside to covering the new obesity medications. Ninety-nine percent of companies already covering GLP-1s said they planned to continue doing so next year, according to a fall survey from Accolade, a healthcare navigation and advocacy company. Employers reported that after they added GLP-1 coverage, they saw higher employee satisfaction, increased engagement in other well-being programs, and improvements in other or comorbid health conditions. Midlam of WTW says his firm’s corporate clients want to “avoid member disruption” wherever possible.Doctors agree that should be a priority. Dan Azagury, M.D., medical director for the Stanford Lifestyle and Weight Management Center, says GLP-1s have been a “game changer” for many of his patients. “If you stop it overnight, whether it’s insurance, or financial, or shortages, the rebound is ferocious,” he said. “So it’s really very frustrating that they encounter that situation.” Some companies have expressed concerns about the idea of paying for a drug that employees essentially have to take forever to maintain its benefits. But while side effects, including vomiting and gastrointestinal issues, can be unpleasant for some people, doctors like Azagury say they know how to help patients manage them, and that they are seeing more patients have a positive response to GLP-1s than to previous generations of weight loss medications. Holistic Care, Not Just PrescriptionsEven when employers decide they want to help their employees lose weight, there are still lots of details to consider. As companies approach designing their insurance plans for 2025 and beyond, they are trying to figure out how many employees are likely to use GLP-1 drugs if coverage is offered, whether there should be limits on who can get the drugs, and what kind of requirements they should use to prove the drugs are medically necessary. Most companies that cover GLP-1s use some cost-control strategies, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans survey. Many use prior authorization, step therapy during which patients must try lower-cost drugs first, or specific eligibility requirements.Typically, eligibility requirements have been tied to the standards on the FDA labels for these medications. But some employers are considering restrictions such as only covering the drugs for people with obesity but not those who are overweight, says Tracy Spencer, a pharmacy practice leader for benefits consultant Aon. If they add those limits, she warns that employers should be aware that could change or jeopardize the rebates they get from the drug manufacturers, so they need to predict whether the savings they get from limiting the drugs’ use will offset the loss of the rebates.Benefits consultants like Aon and WTW are also seeing employers shift the way they look at GLP-1 drugs to view them as one piece in a broader strategy to address cardio-metabolic issues.That might mean employers choose to cover the drugs for targeted indications, such as covering Wegovy not for weight loss on its own, but for people with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, which Medicare recently announced it would do. It can also mean pairing GLP-1 coverage with required lifestyle modifications or participation in a virtual weight-loss or coaching program. Employers often have access to virtual health programs through their pharmacy benefit managers, and many have tried these to target diabetes in recent years. The biopharmaceutical company Moderna, which offers coverage of GLP-1s for diabetes and weight management, is one company that has tried this strategy. “In 2023 we saw a spike related to weight-loss management: We looked at claims data, and after mental health, obesity and weight management were the second drivers,” Jeffrey Stohlberg, Moderna’s director of corporate benefits, said at a From Day One conference earlier this year. So the company started using the virtual weight-loss management program Wondr Health, where an employee can work with a physician specializing in weight loss. “It’s not a path to GLP-1s, but [the physicians] can provide medication for that person,” Stohlberg said. Labcorp also announced in February that it would provide U.S. employees on GLP-1s with virtual care and medication management through WeightWatchers for Business. Other companies such as Omada Health and telehealth providers like Teladoc and Ro have launched similar offerings over the last year. Medical providers agree that a holistic approach is needed, but Angela Fitch, M.D., president of the Obesity Medicine Association and co-founder and chief medical officer of the obesity-focused primary care startup knownwell, worries that requiring a standard weight-management program for every person is another barrier and potentially a waste of money if the program doesn’t have solid evidence behind it.“You can offer lifestyle [strategies] in addition to medication,” she said, “but it should be driven by that shared decision making discussion with the clinician.” If insurers want to make sure patients are getting holistic care, she would rather have them require patients to get their prescriptions from a qualified physician who does a true evaluation so that solutions can be personalized. In her role with the Obesity Medicine Association, Fitch often advises employers on their health plan designs, so she understands that costs are a major concern for companies. But in her primary-care practice and others like it, she says her staff are “burning out” as they spend hours each day trying to navigate all the new and often strict and confusing insurance requirements for these medications. “We have got to deal with costs,” Fitch said. “But it should be transparent and flexible.” She worries that overly rigid restrictions are “adding to the bias and stigma of obesity” by signaling to patients that their weight is their responsibility to treat on their own. Her major advice is to view obesity with the nuance that people view other chronic conditions. “You do not need a GLP-1 management solution. You need a comprehensive obesity-care solution.”Abigail Abrams is a health writer and editor. Currently she is the senior manager of content operations for Atria. Previously, she was a staff writer on health and politics for TIME magazine. Her freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Guardian, and other publications.

BY Abigail Abrams | April 15, 2024
Overcome Stubborns
By Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | April 15, 2024

Bridging the Human Connection Gap: How Technology Can Bring Workers Together

The sense of disconnection that Dave Wilkin felt while growing up was painful, but it became a powerful motivator that would change his life. “I learned the hard way that if you don’t have mentors, if you don’t have networks, and if you don’t have relationships–you just don’t get access to the same career or learning opportunities,” Wilkin told From Day One. “I was a gay kid in a really small town, and that’s a really tough place to be. How could I find people who were like me that I could aspire to be like?”Ten Thousand Coffees–or 10KC for short–a networking tech company that Wilkin co-founded and now leads as CEO, is how he hopes to rectify the connection deficit. It’s one that millions of workers experience, especially in the era of remote and hybrid work. Wilkin remembers how it felt to be isolated, imagining a career but with no way to get there. “It’s like sitting on an island all by yourself,” he said.Networks of close relationships grow careers, engage employees, boost morale, and keep workforces intact. According to a 2023 survey by Gallup, employees who have a mentor are 58% more likely to feel that their employer offers equal opportunities for advancement. Forty-eight percent of those who have sponsors feel the same way.Yet for Wilkin, it’s not good enough to leave such relationships up to chance, so he’s giving it a shot with a fast-rising technology: machine learning. His solution is 10KC, which adapts the tech that powers online dating matches to identify meaningful workplace connections, combined with a learning platform to make the most of those connections. The mixture produces connectivity at scale. The platform connects workers based on 50 factors, including skills, career path, location, time zone, interest areas, and affinity networks, then brings them together for productive conversation.The results are impressive. “We’ve decreased employee churn by 25% to 35% among our platform users, and we’re looking at tens of thousands of data points,” he said. Plus, 10KC has been able to increase participation in employee resource groups (ERGs) by two to three times. “A lot of HR and talent leaders think about mentoring and networking in its traditional formats–one-directional relationships where a mentor guides a mentee–but the new world of artificial intelligence and machine learning allows HR leaders to think about mentoring and networking in much more dynamic, personalized ways.”Dave Wilkin, co-founder and CEO of Ten Thousand Coffees (Photo courtesy of 10KC)Ultimately, Wilkin’s ticket out of his hometown of Lively, Ontario, was a full ride to the University of Waterloo. That marked a change in his life, not only because it was an exceptional education, but because it came with mentors and role models. “Those were the most game-changing people in my life because they helped me figure out what skills I needed to learn, what kind of programs I should study to get involved, and how to job-search.”No single relationship gave Wilkin his footing, but it was the sum of his mentors that made the difference. “There’s no such thing as a single mentor,” Wilkins said. “It’s much more dynamic than that.” It takes mentors, sponsors, peer-to-peer relationships, and reverse mentors, where a more junior employee supports one of their seniors, to create a network that propels a career.Preventing Those Missed ConnectionsThough Wilkin had to wait around for serendipity to bring in mentors, he saw a better way: Don’t leave it up to chance. Expecting workers to network on their own creates too many missed connections. With planning, companies can create proximity in distributed workforces.This can be especially important following a merger or acquisition in which two discrete organizations must come together to form something greater than the sum of its parts. And for leaders who travel, a smart network match can help them make the most of site visits. “The next time you travel, schedule a time to get to know your teams and have career conversations, rather than hoping that you bump into your colleagues in the elevator,” Wilkin said. “Find reverse mentoring opportunities so you can pick up new skills while on the road. Promote your practice area or simply learn who’s sitting in your company.”The Network Opportunity GapThere’s a distinct difference between the well-connected employee, who knows a lot of people by name (and maybe some office gossip), and the engaged employee, asserted Emily Dickens, head of government affairs for the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) in a 2022 interview with Gallup. “She’s happy, and she knows who to talk to in order to get things done,” Dickens said. “To really thrive and have a life well-lived, you have to have a work experience that is personal. You need to create relationships that outlast your time with the company. Unfortunately, this can be difficult for many professionals.”Traditional networking programs fail too many people. There’s a gender gap when it comes to mentorship and sponsorship. McKinsey and LeanIn.org’s 2023 Women in the Workplace report found that women are less likely than men to be “in the know,” and be able to access both mentorship and sponsorship opportunities at their company. Women are less likely than men to feel included in important company networks, according to SHRM’s Dickens.Another opportunity gap is based on seniority. Though internal mobility rates are up since 2021, according to LinkedIn, advancement opportunities are not evenly distributed. Workers at the manager and director levels are more than twice as likely as individual contributors to make a move within the company. Consider also that workers at the highest echelons are less likely to be female, less likely to be people of color, and less likely to be disabled.Taking the initiative in networking isn’t well-received in every workplace, said Wilkin. Skipping a level can get you in trouble, or at least earn you some suspicious looks. Asking around about other people’s jobs while seeking out sponsorship and mentorship can look like you’re trying to circumvent authority, leave your team, or conduct some (light) espionage. “If you’re a sales manager and you go above your boss to talk to somebody inside the company, you might get your wrist slapped,” he said. “There’s a lot of bias and barriers to networking inside of a company.”Yet companies that are too hung up on the norms of the hierarchy may be passing up major engagement and retention opportunities. Employees who have access to mentors and sponsors are twice as likely to be engaged than those who don’t, per a 2023 survey by Gallup. And according to LinkedIn, employees who make an internal move are 64% more likely than their non-moving peers to stay with their employer for at least three years. Beyond Mere Connection: Learning Skills and CollaboratingLately, Wilkin has been particularly interested in turning networking into learning communities. What if you could form a network of people learning skills independently, then bring them together for application and collaboration?“To reinforce a learning program, you might just think of pairing an intern to a senior leader to close that loop, but a more strategic talent and HR leader is looking at how they drive transformation through networking experiences,” he said. When a company can create a web of new managers or a web of workers adopting new AI applications, that new knowledge can be reinforced in a dozen new ways. “A network of relationships is where the majority of learning, talent, retention, career growth, inclusion all happen, but that has to be deliberate,” Wilkin said. “Using networks to help organizations become more innovative, retain their best colleagues, and be more efficient–it’s the next frontier of learning and development.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Ten Thousand Coffees, for sponsoring this story.Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the Economist, the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.(Featured photo by PeopleImages/iStock by Getty Images)    

Overcome Stubborns
By Angelica Frey | April 09, 2024

Improving Employee Mental Health and Wellness Benefits

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to improving mental health. At From Day One’s Boston benefits conference, a panel of industry leaders shared how they promote mental well-being in their own lives.Jodi LaMae, benefits principal, global total rewards at biotech company Boston Scientific, enjoys hot yoga and walking her dogs. Navin Vettamvelil, senior director of total rewards at software company SoftServe, tries to swim four times a week, which he considers underwater meditation. Other responses included boxing, daily meditation, Muay Thai, and cooking.Mental health benefits are no longer a nice-to-have. Recent research shows that 77% of workers are very (36%) or somewhat (41%) satisfied with the support for mental health and well-being they receive from their employers. In a 2024 survey of 50 benefits leaders across the U.S., 94% of respondents say offering mental health benefits is “very important” to prospective employees—nearly triple the rate of benefits leaders who said this a year earlier.“It’s imperative that we let employees know that mental health is just as important as physical health. A lot of preventive medicine is covered, but many charge for therapists,” said Shawna Oliver, the AVP and head of global benefits and wellness at Manulife. “It’s important to signal to your employees ‘we want you to do this.’ The minute everyone starts talking about it, that’s when barriers start coming down.”Despite the strides made in the workplace, misconceptions and stigmas remain. “As a vendor who works for hundreds of employers, I found that there’s a recognition that mental health and substance abuse are highly stigmatized,” said Yusuf Sherwani, CEO and co-founder of substance abuse management clinic Pelago. “These are not things that people choose. Specialized solutions can be very effective. The final piece is about promoting utilization—by [letting people know] it’s safe, and it’s confidential,” he said.The panel of speakers from left to right included moderator Katie Johnston, reporter at the Boston Globe, Jodi LaMae of Boston Scientific, Robin Berzin of Parsley Health, Yusuf Sherwani of Pelago, Navin Vettamvelil of SoftServe, and Shawna Oliver of ManulifeAnother strategy to support employee well-being is focusing on preventative care. “When it comes to life therapy sessions with a counselor, we put limits” offering three sessions a month or ten a quarter, says Vettamvelil. “Our real focus is about the prevention rather than the cure. If you can nip it in the bud, you can control things down the line.”Robin Berzin, MD, founder and CEO of holistic health company Parsley Health, agrees. A lot of people aren’t getting the right care, she says. “When I was in training, we created a revolving door between primary and specialized care,” she said. “When 60% of adults have a chronic condition, that does not work. At Parsley, we treat the root cause to see if we can slow down the revolving door.”She reports that 25% of their users have two or more conditions. “When we look at the mental health component, I want to ask why everyone is so anxious. It’s not all in our heads. We sit 11 hours a day. A sedentary lifestyle will cause anxiety, insomnia. We’re not a set of organs in jars.” Investing in mental health benefits has a significant impact on ROI.“A lot of times when we say we cover mental health care people look at me like it’s a money pit,” said Oliver. The reality is that it’s less than 1% of the budget, and on top of utilization going up, she reports that short-term disability dropped. “Benefits are not a silo. It’s our job as leaders to say it’s the entire package.”The panelists agreed that communicating benefits is equally important to the offerings themselves. “We have a team that ensures there’s info on mental health benefits in the rec room,” said LaMae. Manulife is now actively planning out mental health month initiatives, offering activities nearly daily, says Oliver. It’s also important to raise these discussions and prioritize well-being as leaders. “We have to talk about it, and say ‘Hey, I’m going for a walk to clear my head,’” said Oliver. “If it doesn’t start with you, it’s never gonna happen.”Holistic care should also be family-inclusive. Sherwani urges people to see mental health and substance abuse not just as an employee challenge, but as a family challenge. “18 months ago we expanded to adolescence, previously an underserved demographic,” he said. “In terms of promoting these programs, people can just put up their hands and know when to reach out.”Not all cultures have the same openness toward mental health as America. Americans abroad might need services that are not as widely offered in their current countries, like telehealth, says LaMae. “Promoting wellbeing is important: make sure employees know about their benefits and they know how and where to get care,” said LaMae. “Work with ERGs,” she advises, “sometimes people aren’t comfortable going to HR, but having employees that double as well-being champions [really helps].”Angelica Frey is a writer and a translator based in Boston and Milan.

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The From Day One Newsletter is a monthly roundup of articles, features, and editorials on innovative ways for companies to forge stronger relationships with their employees, customers, and communities.

Overcome Stubborns
By Wanly Chen | April 17, 2024

Revolutionizing Mental Health in the Workplace: The Power of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies

With heightened isolation during the pandemic, mental health conditions like anxiety and depression saw an increase, leading to a surge in mental health care spending and usage. Today, ninety percent of the public state they believe there is a mental health crisis in the U.S., showing the continual relevance and demand for mental health care.Talk therapy or medications like antidepressants are commonly used in treating mental health conditions but studies have shown these treatments may not work for everybody. For example, in one study, researchers found antidepressants only worked for 15% of the participants.Sherry Rais, CEO and co-founder of Enthea is working to change the healthcare industry and revolutionize effective treatment. Enthea is currently the sole healthcare partner offering psychedelic healthcare as a workplace benefit and recently won the 2023 Global Recognition Award for being a transformative pioneer in the medical field.For Rais, Enthea is only the beginning of a well-needed change to the mental health care space. In a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s April virtual conference, Rais spoke about the promising results Enthea has seen and how psychedelic healthcare can be a win for both employers and employees.Gaps in Traditional Mental Health Care TreatmentsIneffective treatments, dangerous withdrawal symptoms, and relapses are all reasons for the need for change in traditional mental health care treatments, Rais says.“20-60% of people with a significant mental health condition are actually treatment resistant, so anything that we have to offer them from traditional methods, to talk therapy and antidepressants, won’t work on them,” Rais said.The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates untreated mental illness can cost up to $300 billion annually, an expensive cost for employers, and can result in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnovers.Sherry Rais of Enthea led the virtual thought leadership spotlight“Employers have improved their mental health offerings in the U.S., yet employees still say that they’re not getting the mental health care they need. There is this disconnect,” Rais said. “It’s like a broken system, we’re spending more but people are not getting better. This is where ketamine and psychedelic therapy can play a huge role for these treatment-resistant populations as they work differently.”Psychedelic therapy has been shown to bring promising results. A single dose of a psychedelic drug can have a long-lasting impact on mental health disorders like depression and PTSD. Additionally, people who undergo psychedelic therapy can see results in as little as one session.“We have a lot of people in the construction industry who deal with high rates of suicide, and a psychedelic drug like ketamine is one of the only substances that reduces suicidal ideation quickly,” Rais said. “A drug like ketamine is magical because it starts working in as little as six hours.”The Challenges to Destigmatize Psychedelic TherapyMaking psychedelic therapy more accessible requires a change in its reputation.Since the 1960s, ketamine has been a drug in clinical practices, proving valuable in the anesthesiology and critical care medicine fields. However, with the increase in recreational use in the 1980s, ketamine quickly became known as a party drug, dubbed “Vitamin K” or “Special K.”But it’s not just ketamine with the bad reputation: MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, and psilocybin, commonly known as magic mushrooms, are both drugs used recreationally and have been outspokenly used by celebrities.These recreational uses are far different than psychedelic therapy, Rais says.“When we are talking about psychedelic-assisted therapy, it is the use of a high dose psychedelic in a clinically supervised setting with a trained therapist who administers the psychedelic and then does therapy with you while you are in this altered state where your brain has an increased neuroplasticity,” Rais said.To shift people’s views on psychedelic healthcare, Rais advises focusing on the benefits of these drugs. “Focus on patient outcomes and data because when administered in a clinical setting, we’re seeing results like people no longer needing to be on antidepressants after just a few sessions and that goes beyond any kind of recreational intent.”With key approvals from the FDA, psychedelic therapy is well on its way to becoming a changing force in the mental health care field, Rais says.“In the future, I hope that the stigma that’s still associated with psychedelics is removed, and people can talk freely and openly about psychedelic-assisted therapy,” Rais said. “I hope that it will be a basic mental health treatment that we will all have access to.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Enthea, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Wanly Chen is a writer and poet based in New York City.

Overcome Stubborns
By Keren Dinkin | April 16, 2024

Does Your Company Genuinely Care About Well-Being? How to Show It Through Your Culture

When Betsy Kippenhan, VP of global talent acquisition at Comcast, moved from Denver to Seattle in July 2018, the first thing she did before checking into her temporary home was join a gym in the neighborhood. It was crucial that her relocation be as much a personal transition as it was a career transition.“Things have been going pretty well in my career. But my husband and I had two children, and I think that the part of me that was let go was my own well-being,” Kippenhan said. “So it was really about creating new routines. And I’m proud to say for the past five years, I’ve continued to add to those routines, whether it’s listening to a new audiobook or juicing every Sunday. I’ve found that far more important than my career.”Kippenhan spoke alongside three other senior leaders at From Day One’s conference in Seattle in a panel titled “Does Your Company Genuinely Care About Well-Being? How to Show it Through Your Culture.” The panelists, in conversation moderated by Diana Opong, a reporter with KUOW Public Radio, discussed how organizations can avoid the “well-being washing” trap and translate their promises into meaningful action. But change, as they often say, begins at home. Each panelist began by outlining measures they take to ensure their own personal well-being.For Muhammad Umar, Divisional VP, talent diversity and change management at REI, well-being comes in the form of regular walks. Melinda Mansfield, head of business development at SecureSave, says for her, it comes from being able to prioritize important tasks rather than getting caught up in everything coming at you at once.But how does this translate into their roles as leaders? Should leaders be mandated to incorporate a culture of well-being from the top down? Umar believes the keyword here shouldn’t be “mandated” but “modeled.”“A leader’s role is to guide their teams both personally and professionally. But how do we start to talk about well-being on a regular basis so that it’s something that a leader models? A leader that I know puts everything that she does to focus on well-being onto her calendar publicly. This includes, ‘I’m gonna walk my dog for five minutes.’ She does that to make sure that she sets the tone of her team.” Mansfield agrees, outlining how crucial it is that managers show their commitment to well-being so employees are encouraged to value it themselves. Managers who send out emails on the weekends or late at night display a lack of work-life balance, even if they don’t necessarily expect employees to respond at those times.“I think putting things on the calendar so that everyone can see where you’re prioritizing yourself gives them permission to do it as well,” she said.The panelists discussed the topic "Does Your Company Genuinely Care About Well-Being? How to Show It Through Your Culture" at From Day One's Seattle conference Andy France, corporate wellness consultant & head of enterprise accounts at Burnalong, says that leaders should simultaneously be encouraged to share authentic stories, not just of their successes but their struggles. “Because when people hear that, they resonate and feel comfortable speaking up,” he said. However, as we often see, there is a significant disconnect between the top management and employees. Middle management is thus expected to play a significant role in bridging that gap, or as Opong puts it, “to help employees balance hustle culture and their own well-being.”Kippenhan says this will only be possible when managers are equipped with the right training and tools. The expectation of a leader five years ago is vastly different from what it is today, the VP says. “We have frontline leaders who have been working with some of the same people for 30 years. And now, all of a sudden, they’re having conversations that they’ve never been asked to have before. We can’t just ask them to do something without giving them the tools and the how.”Umar adds that employee expectations have similarly evolved. More individuals than ever before are entering the workforce, expecting their leaders to have conversations about mindfulness and wellness.Meanwhile, France points out that the ever-compounding role of middle management professionals has led many to suffer from burnout. They, too, he believes, can benefit from resources dedicated to well-being and from somebody to talk to.Mansfield says that one of the key benefits of this top-down managerial approach is that it encourages workers to be more vulnerable and normalizes talking about mental health. “The stigma is less than where it was 10-20 years ago,” she says. “But it’s still something that employees might not tell the people closest to them, much less go to their manager and let them know they’re struggling.”A solution Kippenhan outlines to keep the conversation going is the concept of a check-in question. “In every staff meeting, we give people a chance to breathe and maybe share some things. Sometimes, they can be fun. Other times, they can be a little bit more serious. And obviously, people have the choice to share what they want and how much they want.”It’s equally crucial to keep track of how these questions have changed over time, says Umar. “I remember when I first used to ask those questions, people would have a very canned response. Now, I feel they’d be more honest.”He says this is a sign of the changing conversation around mental health and traction that organizations can’t afford to lose.Kippenhan further emphasizes a proactive approach to mental health. This involves getting every employee engaged at an early stage and preventing challenges from reaching a crisis point. Companies should take steps to ensure that their mental health benefits are available 24/7.Recent research finds that just one in three women in the workforce feels their employer is actually upholding its commitment to well-being. Similarly, people with disabilities may find their experience to be different from their able coworkers. So the question remains: While there are many common stressors, how can employers take an inclusive approach to ensure employees from across backgrounds are heard? For Umar, it starts by identifying the common stressors and building programs to address the many things that could occur. “We have a program at REI, which is pretty handy. It allows you to navigate the experience you’re going through and find a solution based on that. So you actually meet a person and talk about some of the stuff you’re going through.”It’s also crucial to have employee resource groups to avoid taking a one-size-fits-all approach to well-being, says Mansfield. “If you’re having an issue that is inclusive to a demographic that you’re in or a certain situation, you’ve got groups and mentors and peers that you can go to, as well as the benefits your employer is giving you.”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.

Overcome Stubborns
By Katie Chambers | April 10, 2024

Sharing Their Truths: Working Parents Reveal the Benefits That Matter Most

Each year, HR leaders ask themselves: What benefits do my employees want? And what will provide me the most ROI? But many are left without answers.In a recent survey of 2,000 working parents conducted by Ovia Health, 62% said that their employers are not family friendly enough.The need for family friendly benefits is clear. Additionally, 94% said family benefits are a top priority and 73% said they would consider making a lateral move to another organization that offered better benefits and a family-friendly culture.In a From Day One webinar, Corrinne Hobbs, general manager and vice president, employer market organization at Ovia Health, discussed the results of the survey. Hobbs offered insight on current benefits offerings, where more support is needed, and what matters most to employees. Family Benefits That Match Today’s Culture“Women’s health benefits are one of the fastest growing segments within healthcare,” Hobbs said.  This is due to changing circumstances during and post-pandemic as more and more workers experienced shifting work-life balance due to hybrid schedules. It’s also due to the increasing range of types of families that need to be accounted for as lifestyles become more diverse. In this current marketplace, “employees have more control and more power than they have had in the past,” said moderator Siobhan O’Connor, chief content officer at Atria Institute. Therefore, it’s even more critical that employers make sure these specific needs are being served.While most companies do offer some family benefits, Hobbs says, there is often a disconnect between perceived needs and actual needs of employees. “There’s a strong push for employees to have better fertility benefits in their workplace. And 38% of respondents said that they’re looking for their employer to provide alternate family planning support,” Hobbs said. This is especially true with more and more single by choice or LGBTQIA+ parents in the workforce, and an overall trend of people waiting until later in life to have children. Unfortunately, many workplaces do not offer benefits to cover the costs of these services, which can be exorbitant.Siobhan O'Connor of Atria Institute interviewed Corrinne Hobbs of Ovia Health during the webinar on family-friendly benefits (photo by From Day One)Incorporating these benefits helps build an overall inclusive corporate culture and can be a way to help retain senior level female employees. Additionally, 83% of respondents said that perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms affect their ability to work, but only 1% receive benefits to help with those symptoms, says Hobbs. In order to “make sure that whatever you’re providing is equitable and inclusive all around,” a diverse range of age and gender must also be factors incorporated into a comprehensive benefits plan.Providing Better Family BenefitsWith family benefits top of mind for employees, Hobbs says there is a clear way forward for organizations looking to provide better care. The most important, according to respondents, is family leave. Hobbs advises: “Make sure that it’s paid, that it’s for at least four months, that it’s inclusive to both parents and that you don’t have to dip into your sick leave or your PTO before taking leave. That is a stress factor for many.” And employers must account for alternate pathways to parenthood, such as adoption, which might entail different costs or timeframes, she says.Hobbs says employers should not only plan for parental leave, but also for parental return. One way to do this is by setting up a return-to-work program to make it easier for parents to re-enter the workforce, noting that it’s a smarter investment than having to endure the cost of hiring someone new. Gradual part-time schedules can ease the burden on stressed parents, as can accommodating PTO policies, flex time, and hybrid or work from home options.Additionally, managers need to be prepped on how to work with returning parents. “A manager training program to ensure a family friendly workplace and ensure that people are able to bring their full selves to work without fear of repercussions is critical,” Hobbs said. ERG support groups can also provide a sense of community support within the workplace.Incorporating Digital Healthcare and AdvocacyOvia Health uses predictive analytics to power millions of members’ care and engagement with their health. Such apps can help provide crucial education about health symptoms, Hobbs says. For example, 85% of respondents said they don’t know much about menopause and how it may affect their performance. Ovia can help fill that gap through online resources, and also provide peer support groups. “We have a community wall where people with uteruses can talk about symptoms together and really feel a sense of community and commonality with others who are going through some of the [same] things,” Hobbs said. Finally, Ovia can also match employees with proper treatment.Using health assessments and surveys, Ovia gets to know its users and can provide highly personalized information to current, expecting, or potential parents. Health alerts will pop up based on users’ reported symptoms, and the app even provides proactive healthcare outreach to guide users through any bumps on their fertility journey.“Digital solutions offer round the clock access, education, and opportunities to really delve deeper into topics,” Hobbs said. “And they also come with advocacy, helping you navigate and understand these complex situations.” The app accounts for a wide variety of families and lifestyles, helping employers provide better care to a diverse workforce. “We have 50+ personalized clinical pathways and programs to support women and families, and then we personalize the experience for each member based on the dynamic health assessments and digital symptom report,” Hobbs said, describing the data-driven service as “person-centered care.”Hobbs says that while women have increasingly reached the upper echelons of the corporate world in recent years, women’s participation in the labor market is currently at a 33-year low. Having a family-friendly workplace can help ensure talented women stay on. “It costs upwards of $75,000 to replace an employee,” Hobbs said. By offering a diverse suite of benefits companies can retain top talent, encourage a more diverse workforce, and save money in the process.Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Ovia Health, for sponsoring this webinar. 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 and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.

Overcome Stubborns
By Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | April 10, 2024

Which Benefits Provide the Best Worker Outcomes–and Return on Investment?

There’s no end to the list of benefits employers can offer now, from pet bereavement leave to baby bonuses and ketamine therapy. But the books have to be balanced at the end of the year, and company leadership isn't inclined to cut a check for anything that doesn’t demonstrate a return on investment. Caught between job seekers who expect competitive packages and the budget-conscious C-suite, benefits professionals have to make tough choices.During From Day One’s April virtual conference on finding benefits that support individual needs without busting the budget, five benefits leaders with decades of experience gathered to discuss which benefits provide the best worker outcomes–and return on investment.Vetting New Benefits OfferingsKimberly Young is the VP of global benefits at HR tech at Amentum, a government contractor for defense, security, intelligence, energy, and environment projects. The first question she asks to vet a new benefits platform is how it will integrate into the company’s existing tech stack; otherwise, the lift to simply implement it may be too great.“The biggest challenge is how to onboard new technology and integrate it with those existing portals related to payroll, your HR data system, and other feeds,” said Young. “Additionally, we look for ease of administration and implementation. The time and resources it takes to invest and implement new technology is high on the list.”Employers have to know that adding a new benefit or platform will be worth the time, says Devin Miller, co-founder and CEO of emergency savings platform SecureSave. The communications component alone can require a lot of time and resources, so “it has to resonate, it has to be easy to administer, and employees have to like it,” he said. “It has to be cost-effective, and then it has to be provable so that you can stand up in front of a management and say ‘this is the impact we’re having.’”Communicating With a Multigenerational Workforce“As benefits professionals, [communication] is an age-old struggle,” said Elizabeth Chappelear, North American head of strategic benefits at life sciences and biotech firm MilliporeSigma. “Employees don’t care about their benefits until they need them, so we have to make sure that when they do need it, they can find it.”Panelists agreed that the familiar challenge of communicating benefits isn’t made easier by the current makeup of the labor force. “This is the first time we’ve had five generations in our workforce, and that means different preferences,” Chappelear commented. Her team is creating home mailers at the same time they’re posting QR codes in the breakroom, hosting webinars and virtual benefit fairs, and building microsites. “We’re constantly challenging ourselves to evolve that communication to meet our employees where they are.”When Carrie Theisen revamped Fannie Mae’s benefits for the first time in more than a decade, communication was one of the first things she tackled. “I start with communication, because it’s just so critical,” said Theisen, who is the lending company’s SVP of total rewards.Theisen began by surveying all employees. She learned that more than three-quarters of employees were happy with the benefits package, but they also found that workers were requesting benefits that Fannie Mae already offered. “That told me that we had a good, solid package, but we just weren’t communicating it well.”Given the size of benefits packages now, total rewards leaders have to be marketers as well. Theisen’s strategy was to create a value proposition and a brand for their benefits, centered around a five-pillar graphic. “Then we looked to add a lot of low-cost benefits that we could implement quickly, then packaged those two things together. The new branding with the new benefits helped build excitement with employees, and it’s become a key differentiator for us.” In fact, their benefits satisfaction score went from 79% to 91% in a single year.Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza moderated the conversation among benefits experts from SecureSave, MilliporeSigma, Spring Health, Fannie Mae, and Amentum (photo by From Day One)For those who need to increase uptake, an immediately applicable benefit can be an easy avenue into broader benefits engagement, said Miller. That starts to tip the scales of the equitable exchange of the benefits–you just got to get them engaged in the process, and finding a broadly based appealing program is an important first step.”Expanding Benefits to Reach an Entire WorkforceBenefits that would have been rare differentiators a decade ago–like mental healthcare access and fertility treatments–are now common features of benefits packages. What’s the next evolution?The next wave is specialized programs for high-touch conditions, says Casey Smolka, head of actuarial analytics at mental health benefits platform Spring Health. By expanding healthcare into specialized programs, employers are able to support workers with often overlooked needs. And it can still be a cost-effective addition, he said. “Everybody has a really solid therapy program, but what are you doing for substance use disorder? It’s a really costly condition, and you may have only a couple of people who need the support, but if you don’t give them the support they need, the cost to your company and to the employee is astronomical.”Some benefits are retention-boosters. Smolka looked at Spring Health’s own workforce and found that those who engage with the company’s mental health benefits have a 22% higher stay rate than those who don’t.SecureSave’s Miller noted that access to benefits isn’t always equally distributed, with white collar workers often “soaking up” the bulk of the benefits budget. Perks aimed at hourly and low-wage workers–emergency savings programs, for example–can be a way to support workers at all levels, from the office to the shop floor.Some panelists acknowledged how challenging it can be to find the right constellation of benefits for some demographics–Young, for instance, is still looking for the right partner to serve Amentum’s LGBTQ+ community. Others talked about having to forgo some popular benefits–like student loan repayment and lifestyle spending accounts–because they’re just too costly.Yet all agreed that the most impactful provisions don’t necessarily have to be budgeted for. Fannie Mae doubled its parental leave from six to 12 weeks, added caregiver leave, catastrophe leave, bereavement leave, grandparent leave, plus added more vacation time and extended flexible schedules.“People want to make more money, they want time off, they want retirement, they want good health care. Those are the table-stakes components,” said Miller. “You want to strengthen those programs, and make sure that people use them and value them, but you really need something that is going to be impactful for your organization.”Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is an independent journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the BBC, the Economist, the Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.

Overcome Stubborns
By Keren Dinkin | April 09, 2024

How to Measure Employee Engagement and Spot Disengagement

When we think about engagement, we think about all of the different ways that we track engagement consciously and subconsciously. In some ways, we track engagement by just realizing things, like who’s on camera during meetings online, who has a green dot next to their name, and who has a yellow dot next to their name. These are all of the different ways to subconsciously track engagement, but there are biases in each observation because context is key. Just because a person is off camera doesn’t mean they’re less engaged. They might be in a crowded spot or have a background that’s distracting, so they’ve elected to be off-camera. Or maybe their WiFi just isn’t as strong as it needs to be on that particular day.Regardless of the industry or nature of business, maintaining a high level of team productivity is crucial, and disengagement can be a significant obstacle. Learning to recognize the signs of employee disengagement early is key to preventing its negative impact. In a recent From Day One webinar led by ActivTrak colleagues, Gabriella Mauch, VP of Productivity Lab, and Javier Aldrete, SVP of product, the speakers discussed how boosting self-awareness and manager coaching can help address disengagement before employees check out.Gabriela Mauch, pictured, led the webinar alongside colleague Javier Aldrete (company photo)We’re making all these subconscious assumptions about engagement because we know that engagement leads to great results, says Mauch. But disengagement, on the flip side, leads to harmful attrition. As such, it’s important that we find better ways to track engagement so that we can drive to a healthy work environment. Mauch shares that only 23% of employees are fully engaged in their work, leaving over 75% of employees at risk of disengagement. This can cost organizations a significant amount of money, both from an attrition standpoint, a knowledge management standpoint, and the productivity they’re not necessarily getting out of their business. The benefit of addressing employee disengagement is the ability to get a better return on workforce investments. Organizations can see up to 40% improvement in employee churn and burnout rates, plus an opportunity to gain 15% to 25% in productivity when disengagement is addressed effectively, says Mauch. “So often, disengagement and quiet quitting is a function of that individual not being properly aligned to their work, not being properly coached by their manager, or not being properly guided by their leadership team,” said Mauch. It’s  important to learn how to use insights to better inform leaders, managers, and individuals to be more thoughtful about productivity and more engaged in the work being done. As such, it’s important to have measurable indicators into our work environment. This means understanding when we have individuals performing with low focus, low working hours, and perhaps very passive participation. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual doesn't want to be working. Instead, there’s an opportunity to coach and guide the employee to work the right way, on the right things, at the right time. Mauch encourages employers to be thoughtful about employee behavior as a helpful indicator of engagement. This means observing things like people coming into the office, badging in, and leaving two hours later merely to show their faces. This could be because while they are expected to be in office, they might actually be more productive at home. The final thing to note is whether or not employees are making the impact you expect them to be making. Here are some questions to ask: Are they putting in the productivity that you would expect? Are you getting the output that you expect to earn, and are you ultimately getting the revenue that you would expect? By collecting insights on an ongoing basis, you can gain a level of understanding of engagement on an ongoing basis. Additionally, leaders need to identify the factors that are contributing to employee disengagement and quiet quitting in their particular context, as well as invest in measures to improve them.Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, ActivTrak, for sponsoring this webinar. 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.

Overcome Stubborns
By Jacqueline Mumford | April 08, 2024

How to Make Reskilling Part of a Corporate Culture of Learning

“You will never hire your way out of your skills deficit,” said Marcus Cazier, head of learning and development for the Americas at bioMérieux.In the next two years, researchers posit that half of your skills will be irrelevant – a pattern that’s expected to continue. So how can employers get ahead of this skilling cycle? Offering insight and advice for other people leaders, Cazier spoke in a panel discussion titled, “How to Make Reskilling Part of a Corporate Culture of Learning” panel at From Day One’s conference in Salt Lake City.The other panelists agreed with Cazier: some sort of training will always be required. “If you hire for specific [technical] skills, you ignore the connection points existing employees inside your organization have. Those skills you can’t hire for, they’ll have to be developed,” said panelist Trent Savage, chief human resources officer at Mountain America Credit Union. “The question is: which type of skill do you want to spend time developing?”Additionally, establishing that your company values challenges and growth will make your best team members want to stick around, boosting your bottom line in the long run.“Promoting a culture that looks internally to find people that want different opportunities, that will help with retention,” said Donald Erb, HR channel czar at CollegeNET.How Do I Start Developing a Culture of Learning?Once you’re firm on the 'why' of reskilling, the real work begins.“At Campfire, the culture of learning really starts with our leaders,” said Steve Arntz, CEO of Campfire. But instead of letting inspiration spikes die off with executives, Arntz says they train down: each leader trains another, going into perpetuity.“This starts with getting my leaders to instill their teams with the idea that we need to learn, develop, and grow together. We need to find solutions together. And guess what? As a leader, I'm here to connect you to the resources that you need.”Leaning on those employees that are already seeking out those challenges is the first step, Erb says.“You’ll draw more people in because [your] reputation is investing in growth,” he said. “People get frustrated when they’re not even asked if they’re interested in learning new skills – I think it diminishes motivation.”Ciara Hulet, Morning Edition Host, KUER News, NPR Utah moderated the panel on the topic of skill-building Career ladders should look more like climbing walls, Cazier says.“The agility and the willingness to be flexible to do what the business asks you to do, that goes a long way,” he said. “Going up might not always be the right move, you may need to go sideways first.”What if My Employees Don’t Want to?If you’re in the process of establishing a culture of learning, you may receive some pushback.Nate Miller, VP of learning and organizational development at Vivint, had first-hand experience when, as part of Vivint’s acquisition, installation and service technicians were asked to begin participating in revenue generation.“There was reluctance to add this selling skillset,” he said. “It drove attrition. These folks chose their paths because they didn’t want to sell.”Miller followed Erb’s earlier advice and found leaders who are naturally high learners and helped them frame experiences as growth opportunities rather than job requirements. Then, those who took the growth opportunities were rewarded.“We integrated selling and technical skills into our scheduling software, so when we assign jobs, the most lucrative installation opportunities align with the most skilled revenue generators,” Miller said.Vivint also cut out their performance improvement plans. “They were working from a place of fear,” he said. “We had to shift it from a place of fear to a place of opportunity and growth by reducing the amount of threat in the environment.”What Skills Do We Need?It’s simple: ask your people.“You’ve got a traditionally top-down focus when it comes to budgets and implementation,” Arntz said. “But the frontline workers and managers, they know which skills they’ll need to adapt. [It may be beneficial] to allow people to choose their opportunities, which [are then pushed through] programs and initiatives at the higher levels.”“Years ago, to develop someone meant to send them to a training,” Savage said. “Now it needs to be on-the-job and it needs to be connected to the needs of the business.”CollegeNET uses “Focus Ring,” a peer-assessment tool that asks employees to respond to prompts and then evaluate their peer’s responses. “These are folks playing the same role as you in the organization, and you see how they address particular product knowledge questions,” Erb said. “That’s learning an immediate skill.”Focus Ring goes further by grouping answers by how highly they were rated. “If we have groups that have eights and nines, they’re good candidates to become mentors,” he said. “They’ve demonstrated they have that particular skill.”The Future of Skill DevelopmentIf you’re interested in technology development, Savage says HR needs your help.“We’re close, but we’re not there yet,” he said. “Skills-based platforms don’t necessarily connect to development or to performance, so you must use multiple mediums [to tie your data] together. My hope is one day we get a more holistic look, because today we’re using Frankenstein technology.”In the meantime, Arntz predicts AI will be pivotal.“Engineers are using Copilot to write better and faster code,” he said. “Someone will build a Copilot for conversations, an AI assistant next to them during performance, expectations, and hiring. [When this is developed] it will enable our leaders to be more effective than they’ve ever been.”Jacqueline is a writer and Master of Accounting graduate from the University of Utah. When she’s not in Excel or writing an article, she loves to run, play Candy Crush, and read novels.

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