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“Employee benefits are at the core of socially responsible business practices,” says Sarah Green-Vieux, chief impact officer at Kindred, a membership organization for senior executives which provides members with a community of peers and the opportunity to troubleshoot with experts on a wide range of leadership and social impact issues.
“I believe that without happy and healthy employees, a company can’t thrive,” Green-Vieux continues. “The business case is clear.”
Studies overwhelmingly find that happier and healthier employees means higher productivity and greater retention rates. And in the absence of government-mandated and subsidized benefits, Green-Vieux believes, organizations have a duty to their team to support them as they navigate life.
Employee benefits are essentially the recognition of an employee’s humanity. “Employees get sick, or need to attend to their sick families,” she explains. “They need time off to tend to their mental and emotional well-being. They have children, and they need to have the time and energy to be good parents and raise good people.”
But, as Green-Vieux notes, from paid parental leave, to paid sick leave, to paid family leave, the U.S. is far behind every other developed nation, and that gap is more visible than ever.
Pressure is growing on organizations to follow a stakeholder model, as opposed to the shareholders-first model, and address these issues — especially in wake of the pandemic. And sustainability that encapsulates DE&I, environmental issues, and these urgent concerns, is here to stay.
“Benefits are always going to be part of the conversation,” says Green-Vieux. “We haven’t yet seen the impact of the pandemic on the systems that previously existed, and the questions are going to change with time.”
For instance, mental health is increasingly becoming part of the conversation. Companies are beginning to recognize the need to support employees, as well as help them connect and create safe spaces for one another.
“Leaders are acknowledging trauma, especially the trauma that women, BIPOC, non-binary folks, religious minorities, and others carry,” says Green-Vieux. “Trauma colors a person’s perspective, as well as how they perceive actions and events; recognizing that is key to successfully managing and working with others.”
She goes on to explain that Kindred, which was founded just before the pandemic, embodies these values. “The founders are fundamentally committed to employee well-being,” she says.
Their approach to benefits includes things such as unlimited time off; competitive pay; indefinite remote working opportunities; an understanding that folks work at different paces and schedules, so sitting nine-to-five at a desk isn’t sustainable; and more. And that’s what the benefits of the future look like.
Organizations are recognizing that there’s a new normal, and the conversation around benefits is starting to change. Green-Vieux notes that Kindred members are asking how to support their employees’ mental health and mitigate their anxiety as we emerge from the pandemic, and how to create generous family leave policies.
“Execs are probing how to help those employees who are tired and disengaged,” she explains. “They want to create a strong remote culture, where folks belong despite being geographically apart. They’re surfacing questions about gender in the workplace. And they want to address the anxiety of employees who are struggling with the increase in hate crimes and police brutality. That’s something, for me, that I had never heard folks vocalize at work before. There’s a sense of empowerment.”
But business leaders can’t make assumptions about what their employees want or need — asking and listening to employees, hearing what they have to say about their needs, is the first step. And then leaders have to respect those answers and implement that feedback. That’s why it’s important to allocate meaningful budget that actually allows you to have real impact.
“Providing employees with the right type of benefits costs money, and studies show the return is there,” she says. “But the investment comes first. Prioritize your employees and you’ll see that they will be more loyal. They’ll work better and more creatively for you and will value and respect you as an individual and as a leader.”
And it’s vital to remember that employees are human. When her one-year-old daughter became ill for the first time, Green-Vieux’s boss saw her as a mom whose priority needed to be caring for her sick child rather than work, and there was no resentment or any expectations around her time away.
“That’s at the core of what diversity, equity, and inclusion is,” she says. Celebrating people for who they are, meeting them where they are, and helping them become the best version of themselves.”
To learn more about how post-pandemic corporate benefits are evolving, how employee expectations are changing, and how successful organizations are meeting their needs, don’t miss this VB Live event.
Registration is free here.
- What employees are looking for in the post-COVID era
- The surprising new changes a redistributed workforce ushers in
- Looking ahead as offices reopen for business
- How to review your current benefit schemes in light of future needs
- Sarah Green-Vieux, Chief Impact Officer, Kindred
- Kelly Pacatte, Senior Consultant of HR & Compliance, TriNet
- Christy Yaccarino, Executive Director, Benefit Strategy and Wellness, TriNet
- Stewart Rogers, Moderator, VentureBeat
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