7 ways TIAA expanded benefits to meet the COVID challenge

While organizations have long recognized the value of employee benefits in attracting and retaining top talent, their reliance on this vital tool to enhance the employee experience became even more solidified during the last year. The COVID-19 pandemic shone a light on the role that benefits can play in supporting employees in need–from childcare options to testing assistance. Both were on the table–along with a number of other benefits expansions–at financial services firm TIAA.

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Sean Woodroffe, senior executive vice president and CHRO of TIAA, will share lessons learned from the organization’s COVID benefits strategy and discuss wider industry trends during his May 13 keynote address at Human Resource Executive‘s Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. The free, virtual event runs May 11-13; click HERE to register.

Before HBLC, Woodroffe shared with HRE how the company formulated its benefits response to the pandemic and what we can expect in the world of benefits once the pandemic is over.

Sean Woodroffe

HRE: How has the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the value employers put on their benefits programs, specifically as they relate to recruiting and retention?

Woodroffe: The pandemic certainly raised the profile of employee benefits as a key driver of retention, recruiting and the employee experience. Our response was multi-faceted and exemplifies “caring at our core,” a key pillar of our associate experience. TIAA:

  • offered paid leave for associates who contracted COVID-19;
  • increased child/elder care benefits (coverage and reimbursement);
  • provided associate-wide reimbursement for home office equipment;
  • provided access to free at-home or on-site COVID-19 testing;
  • offered new behavioral health visits via our telemedicine offering;
  • hosted webinars and information sessions with physicians, social workers and other experts to address disease and wellness questions; and
  • provided associates with a wellness kit that included masks, sanitizer and no-touch door openers.
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In addition to our robust benefits programs, we focused on re-recruiting our associates by establishing a dedicated team of internal recruiters who proactively identified prospective internal talent for open roles, accelerated the internal hiring process and helped to ensure a positive experience for both hiring managers and internal candidates. Furthermore, we implemented an internal mobility campaign that included: training webinars on the internal hiring process; promotional emails to key groups–including Business Resource Group and Volunteer Council members and Top Talent Program participants–highlighting job openings; and an ask that associates update their internal Career Profiles, which are used by internal recruiters to support sourcing efforts.

See also: How purpose and value are driving employers’ vaccine strategies

HRE: Of all the new and enhanced benefits programs TIAA pursued over the last year, what do you think will have the longest-lasting impact on the employee-employer relationship at the company?

Woodroffe: With the pandemic, our team took a step back to evaluate how we can be more supportive of our associates who are working from home full-time. We took a fresh approach to work/life flexibility and new ways of working by introducing our “Work for My Day” initiative. “Work for My Day” is designed to implement a hybrid office and remote environment across the enterprise and will change the way our associates interact with one another. We believe this hybrid approach will enhance our associates’ work/life balance, as it will provide our associates with a flexible schedule and address any health or safety concerns as our offices reopen.

HRE: Once the immediate crisis of the pandemic subsides, where should benefits leaders be focusing their attention?

Woodroffe: The pandemic has highlighted the need to broaden the scope of employee benefits to help address social and societal challenges (that) associates and their families face and promote ways to help meet those challenges, as they directly affect overall wellness and productivity.

Benefits leaders need to focus on providing a comprehensive benefits program that meets the needs of a diverse workforce, provides access to quality health, wellness and protection at an affordable cost for associates and for the firm; promotes long-term savings to prepare associates for retirement readiness; and engages and educates associates to be informed consumers of the benefits available to them through their employer.

HRE: What is one lesson–either relating to a program or initiative’s success or failure–that TIAA will take away from this last year as you look to build your future benefits strategy?

Woodroffe: The rise in telehealth has proven that the service has a prominent role to play in population health management, as it can be an accessible and cost-effective way to manage health outcomes. We listened to the needs of our associates and recognized that enhanced emotional and behavioral health benefits are an extremely important component of a holistic health and wellness program. Overall, TIAA’s increased commitment to total wellness–physical, emotional, social and financial–will have a lasting impact for our organization.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].