It’s become something of a tradition to begin the new year with an acquisition or two in the HR vendor space. This year, we weren’t disappointed. On Jan. 15, New York-based benefits consultancy The Segal Group announced it had acquired Benz Communications, a San Francisco-based HR and employee-benefits-communication consulting firm.
Benz Communications, a five-time honoree of the Inc. 5000 (a list of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S.), significantly expands Segal’s communication practice, essentially doubling the number of employees in that group to 60. Benz Communications Founder Jennifer Benz will lead the practice, which will be called Segal Benz, as senior vice president.
“Our new colleagues from Benz Communications are known as strategic and creative thought leaders,” says David Blumenstein, president and CEO of The Segal Group. “Their services focus on creating modern, fresh and engaging communications that will help our clients stay ahead of industry trends.”
Regarding the acquisition, Benz says: “There has never been a more important time to get people engaged in their health, finances and jobs overall. Joining The Segal Group will give our current clients access to expanded consulting expertise while we continue to deliver cutting-edge communications strategies.”
In addition to her day job, Benz serves as a program advisor for HRE’s Health & Benefits Leadership Conference, which is now in its sixth year.
Following the announcement, I asked Benz to share her thoughts on prominent trends she sees emerging in the employee-benefits space over the next year. Two, in particular, stood out for her:
Family benefits. “Life doesn’t work on a predictable five-day-a-week schedule. Taking care of your own health and your family can often mean missing work time, time spent navigating doctor’s offices, etc. Savvy employers are putting in programs that support family life. But benefits are not enough. Employees also need flexibility and predictability in schedules, appropriate time off and supportive managers and cultures.”
This is the topic of a panel Benz will be moderating at the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference in April. She’ll be joined by the benefits leader of one of her longtime clients, Intuit, as well as HR leaders from SurveyMonkey and Patagonia.
Holistic wellbeing. “Holistic wellbeing is certainly connected to family benefits as well. Over the last several years, wellbeing programs have evolved from a focus primarily on physical health to one that includes emotional and financial wellbeing. That definition of wellbeing continues to grow, and we see organizations rallying around an even broader definition–one that includes career growth, purpose and fulfillment, recognition and celebration. This is a smart change because, whether you acknowledge it or not, everything in the workplace either adds to or detracts from employee wellbeing.”
Benz says she sees a lot of evidence that most workplaces detract from wellbeing. In fact, she explains, there’s a strong argument that many of America’s health issues come from high levels of stress, primarily from financial pressure and toxic workplaces. “When we do focus groups with employees,” she says, “they are quick to point out the hypocrisy between a corporate-wellness message and the unrealistic demands of their immediate manager.
“I think we’re going to see a lot of organizations get wellbeing out of the benefits department and [make it] a C-suite priority,” she adds. “This is going to be a great opportunity for benefits leaders who know how to change behaviors and drive engagement in programs that produce outcomes.”