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.


The Best Managers Don’t Fix, They Coach: Actionable Strategies for Your Leadership Toolkit

Anita Hossain Choudhry, co-founder and CEO of The Grand, a group coaching platform, learned the importance of coaching when she was managing several people who had just graduated from college. “I reflected on my first job after college, and I had this manager who was so unclear,” said Choudhry during a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s May virtual conference. “She didn’t give me the right level of support to be successful. And I really vowed to do the opposite. I had this notion that I had to fix my direct reports’ problems.”One day, one of Choudhry’s direct reports came to her because she felt overwhelmed with everything on her plate and couldn’t figure out how to prioritize things. “I told her to take out a sheet of paper, draw a triangle on it, and break it up into thirds,” Choudhry said. “In the bottom section, I wrote down three to five things she had to complete for the week. In the middle section, I wrote down three things she had to complete in the next three days. And then at the top of the triangle, I wrote down one thing she needed to focus on before the end of the day.”Choudhry did this every day for several weeks with the employee, thinking she was solving the problem for her. However, over time “I really saw her creativity wane. She would spend long hours trying to do her best to get those critical tasks done,” she said. At around the same time, Choudhry took her first coaching course, “and I realized I wasn’t actually helping her fix her problem. I was actually hurting her because I didn’t empower her to trust herself.”Anita Hossain Choudhry, co-founder and CEO of The Grand, led the virtual thought leadership spotlightThat’s when Choudhry shifted her default approach from fixing to coaching. “Instead of being the hero that saves the day, I asked myself how I could enable my direct reports to do their best work and be their best selves,” she said.During her next one-on-one session, Choudhry asked the employee to take the lead in filling out the triangle. She also questioned her about the type of work that attracts her and where she saw opportunities for the firm to grow. “Over time, it helped her come up with some of the most creative ideas deployed at the firm,” Choudhry said. “She returned to that vibrant, innovative person that I hired in the first place.”When managers attempt to fix problems rather than coach an employee, they tend to do most of the talking, says Choudhry. “The conversation style is really directive and advice-oriented,” she said. On the other hand, coaching involves asking employees questions that get them talking so they can come up with a solution on their own.So how do you do it? You start by asking, “‘In this situation, what would you like?’ And then you repeat back what the other person said. And then you ask, ‘What will having that do for you?’ And then you repeat it, and ask, ‘What will having that do for you?’ And so you go through this process, over and over until you get the core of what someone wants.”The next step is exploration, which moves the employee from the problem that they’re spinning on and helps them brainstorm actions they could take to pursue what they want, says Choudhry. The manager does this through another simple set of questions, like ‘what options do you have to make progress toward that outcome?’These conversations can lead to some awkward pauses, but that’s expected because “this is a muscle to build,” Choudhry said. “When they’re staring blankly at you, it’s working because they’re thinking in a way that they haven’t in a long time.”Coaching is effective because “we help our direct reports by investing in their inner teacher,” she said. Rather than solving a one-time issue for them, coaching helps employees see patterns and behaviors so they can develop their own resources and best practices to navigate challenges, according to Choudhry.“We also empower them to trust themselves,” she said. “You’ll see your team members shift their ability to move more confidently and clearly in articulating next steps that they can take to really solve their problem and achieve their goal.”Choudhry says that fixing isn’t always the wrong approach, but it’s simply ineffective in certain situations. Coaching is better in many cases because “it leaves your teams feeling more empowered, understood, and valued.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, The Grand, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Mary Pieper is a freelance writer based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | June 21, 2024

The New Age of HR: Meeting Higher Corporate Performance Demands

While its applications are still being puzzled over, artificial intelligence is already gaining a foothold in human resources decision-making. Neil Taylor, vice president of product marketing for workforce planning software maker Visier, maintains that AI is in a position to be leveraged to improve the performance of company managers – and by extension, their employees.In a thought leadership spotlight titled “The New Age of HR: Meeting Higher Corporate Performance Demands,” at From Day One’s Minneapolis conference, Taylor points to generative AI, which can create new content and ideas, as a potential conduit to attracting and keeping the best talent.“I’m the first to admit that I think about Gen AI taking my job all the time,” said Taylor. “But I would just challenge everyone to think about how Gen AI can impact work for the better.”Taylor points to a generative AI assistant that can be trained to offer insights about personnel that might not be accessible by more conventional means.Neil Taylor, Vice President Product Marketing at Visier led the session titled, "The New Age of HR: Meeting Higher Corporate Performance Demands"“There are huge advancements in bringing in data – specifically, data about anyone in the organization,” says Taylor. “You can ask a natural language question and get a natural language response in seconds, and it's tailored to your organization's data. It really allows people who need to make decisions about people to get insights in a matter of seconds.”Taylor pointed to a Deloitte study saying that only about 3% of executives say they have sufficient information about their employees to make good HR decisions. That’s where AI technology has the potential to fill the gaps that can be left by intuition alone.“People managers are getting squeezed,” he said. “They’re under an immense amount of pressure to do more with less.”As a work in progress, generative AI is being employed mostly by early adopters at the moment. But Taylor encouraged managers to at least give it a test drive. Industry analyst Josh Bersin has stated that only a small percentage of HR teams even have a strategy around generative AI. That potential needs to be tapped soon, says Taylor.“AI is going to unlock this huge wave of productivity increase,” he said. “It has all this horsepower, but that horsepower is essentially sitting in the stable.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Visier, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Dan Heilman is a writer and editor based in St. Paul, Minn.

Dan Heilman | June 19, 2024

Embracing a New Paradigm of Women’s Leadership

In the landscape of leadership today, there are still far fewer women at the senior levels than men—and it's not necessarily getting better.At From Day One’s May virtual conference, LeeAnn Mallorie, founder and CEO of Guts and Grace Leadership, spoke about a new paradigm of women's leadership, coaching, and training. “Since the pandemic, things may have gotten worse in certain industries and certain organizations. We know that there’s a gap. Sometimes it’s called the leadership cliff, meaning when you get to a certain level, it starts to be harder to get promoted,” Mallorie said.The business world continues to rapidly change, many women left the workforce during the pandemic, and this disruptive period can put diverse leaders at risk. Fortunately, it is also an excellent time for opportunities and advancement for these leaders. If we think about the old paradigm of leadership, where things were only done a certain way, this current level of disruption can also open the door for a different type of thinking. Mallorie says that with a new paradigm, we can bring ourselves to lead in a more holistic and resilient way.Mallorie says that women in leadership roles have fueled transformation during a volatile time. Research has also shown that feminine leadership embodies qualities that have been incredibly useful in times of change. Emotional intelligence, active listening, collaboration, creativity, and imagination shine through when women are fully activated in leadership positions. So then the question becomes, what makes the difference?LeeAnn Mallorie led the thought leadership spotlightThere’s a new paradigm of success in which women can be fully activated in the workplace, according to Mallorie. Per her 20 years of experience, when people are fully activated, they're more centered. “They’re feeling cared for in their 30s. They're the ones driving the innovation. Perhaps they’re building culture and leading visionary teams.”Under pressure, we often find ourselves in a different mode. Mallorie calls this an “old paradigm success model” where the internal dialogue sounds like, ‘I have to perform, and when I get there, things will be a certain way.’ With this mindset, women begin to plateau amidst all the pressure. There can also be a lot of resentment or burnout. During times like these, it’s important to look deeper and process how one can find their way through this state, says Mallorie.Effective coaching and training should focus on various things in order for women to move from surviving to thriving. First is advancing technical skills, like learning how to negotiate or get better at a tactical part of one’s job. The second is remaining conscious of bias.Mallorie discusses a third ingredient to help change the game: leading with grace. “We refer to embodiment, focusing on the self, working toward wholeness, working at the identity level,” Mallorie said. It’s about understanding other people’s traumas and motivations as well.“During the early career survival strategies, what’s getting in the way might be the baggage [like internalized oppression] that one is carrying,” she said. “I will often talk about dismantling the patriarchy within. As women in leadership, there's often something we’re carrying or performing to, or that has just become part of our DNA and trying to get into these types of workplaces. And when that’s not addressed, we don’t fully solve the problem.”There are four domains that leaders can focus on when coaching others, says Mallorie. These include, embody, empower, activate, and inspire. As an embodied leader, you must use your body, energy, and time in ways that serve yourself and others well. An empowered leader has a positive mindset, and she navigates her emotions effectively under pressure. An activated leader acts with integrity and purpose and takes healthy risks to serve her organization. An inspired leader shares her vision and naturally inspires others to follow her lead.By embracing a new paradigm of leadership that harnesses feminine strength rather than going against it and suppressing natural qualities in favor of patriarchal standards, we may find a new brand of leadership and new ways of working that can bring more growth and success.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Guts and Grace Leadership, 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 | June 18, 2024