One-size-fits-all Wellness Programs Don’t Work

Diversity and inclusion should seep into your benefits and wellness programs.
By: | April 6, 2018 • 3 min read
Agreeing on diversity and inclusion benefits with a handshake

Diversity and inclusion must extend beyond talent acquisition and into company benefits, said Donna Sirak, senior diversity and inclusion planning analyst at Erie Insurance, and Erin Siegrist, director of the company’s Workforce of the Future program at the 2018 Health Benefits and Leadership Conference. In their joint session, “Diversity and Inclusion: A Friend With Benefits,” they discussed Erie’s diversity and inclusion journey, which included the development of benefits designed to reflect Erie’s company culture.

In 2010, the company organized four business-resource groups focused on business issues impacting customers. In 2011, D&I training was provided to everyone within Erie Insurance, and a D&I council was formed. The following year, Erie joined the Dignity and Respect campaign, a federal initiative to promote inclusion in the workplace. In 2013, the company added a D&I focus to all of its orientation training. In 2016, Erie created employee-affinity networks, including women’s, African-American and multi-generational groups.

Siegrist said Erie also “got to know itself,” as benefits professionals worked closely with the HR-analytics group to learn about Erie employees, crucial for delivering the right benefits, she said.

Data showed that 98 percent of Erie’s workforce were white-collar, full-time workers. One-fifth was millennials, the average age of employees was 46, one-third of the workforce worked remotely and turnover hovered around 5 percent.

Erie consistently reviews these data to stay on top of the workforce trends to ensure the best benefits are available for “who we’re becoming and not who we’ve been,” Siegrist said.

Since 2012, Erie has added to or modified its benefits package several times. In 2013, it began offering two floating holidays for employees to use when they saw fit instead of selecting blanket holidays for the company. The next year, Erie began offering coverage for hearing aids; that benefit has been surprisingly popular among employees and has remained a part of the package since its inception, the speakers said. More recent offerings include fertility-treatment coverage, new-parent leave policies and expanded jury duty and vacation days for part-time employees.

So, did all these benefits make a difference to employees—did they care? According to Sirak and Siegrist, the answer is “yes.”

Since 2012, Erie has participated in the Great Place to Work survey—which is taken by more than 10-million employees worldwide annually—and, year after year, employee benefits are ranked just below company culture as to what makes Erie a great employer.

In 2012, 68 percent of employees surveyed said Erie provided special and unique benefits, a number that jumped to 86 percent by 2017. Siegrist was particularly thrilled with that figure, as it was above the Great Place to Work Institute’s high-performer benchmark.

Sirak and Siegrist closed their presentation with a checklist of items HR leaders can follow when implementing or modifying benefits. The list includes:

• Evaluate your current benefits (collect data, examine why some benefits have been “sunsetted,” determine what needs to go and what can replace it).

• Solicit employee needs and preferences.

• Conduct a business case to propose new benefits.

• Implement and promote new benefits (if rates increase, ensure employees understand that the hike in price isn’t because of the new benefits—the company isn’t raising the rates of many to cover the few).

• Monitor for employee satisfaction.

In order for companies to be truly innovative, they added, acknowledge if a plan doesn’t work and use data and metrics to move on to the next idea.

Danielle Westermann King, staff writer for HRE, received her bachelor’s degree in English from Temple University. She has written and edited articles for various print and online healthcare publications and is now setting her sights on human resources. She can be reached at [email protected]

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