Key to H&R Block’s Great Resignation and COVID strategies? Better benefits

When Lindsey Lanzisero joined H&R Block in May 2020 as the firm’s vice president of total rewards, the tax preparation company’s benefits were fairly standard: medical, dental, life insurance, disability, a 401(k).

That’s what she set out to change.

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“We wanted to make the package more special. When I came in, I looked at, how can we make it so people are like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s really cool that H&R Block offers X, Y, or Z,’ ” she says. “Plus, we wanted people to feel like we really cared about them as a whole person, that they could bring their whole self to work, and the benefits also supported their full self.”

Amid the ongoing pandemic and the Great Resignation—in which scores of employees are leaving their jobs—the firm has undergone a benefits transformation and just recently rolled out even more offerings in the new year, including paid leave for all types of parenting and caregiving, enhanced mental health support, and infertility, surrogacy and adoption support.

Related: Find out how innovative employers, including KPMG and Mailchimp, are reimagining their benefits at HRE’s upcoming Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. Register here.

The strategy follows a common one coming from organizations as more employers beef up offerings and aim to improve company culture, employee engagement and more in hopes of keeping and wooing workers.

Related: What’s keeping HR up at night? The Great Resignation and much more

“The benefits we’re adding are really an important part of our culture,” Lanzisero says. “It sends the message that we care.”

HRE spoke to Lanzisero about H&R Block’s benefits strategies—as well as the challenges the organization has faced during COVID-19.

HRE: You’ve made a lot of moves lately on the firm’s benefits package. What’s driving that strategy?

Lindsey Lanzisero H&R Block
Lindsey Lanzisero, H&R Block

Lanzisero: The No. 1 enabler on our strategy for how we are going to grow our company is talent. We’re really focused on how we get the best talent in the door, how we keep, retain and engage that talent in the right ways. Obviously, there’s the compensation piece, but benefits are a way to really wrap your arms around people and give them the support that they need. Not just from their medical plans, but to give them benefits that are going to help them make their life easier and make their family’s life easier. We also wanted to ensure that our benefits were something that was accessible to everyone, regardless of diversity, family journey, life stage, etc. So that’s really the lens that we took as we started down this journey.

HRE: Tell me a little bit about some of those specific things that you decided to take out and make them more particular and special.

Lanzisero: We looked at our leave program; we did not formally offer parental leave. And that to me was a big gap that I wanted to solve for. So starting Jan. 1, we added eight weeks of parental leave for either gender, either parent, and that will be on top of the short-term disability for the birth parent. That hit the part of our population that is younger, growing a family, but we also tend to see a little bit older as an overall population. And so you think about everything you read about the sandwich generation and caring for parents and family members, we felt like to really make sure that we’re hitting everybody, we added four weeks of paid caretaker leave. Effective Jan. 1, people can take up to four weeks of paid leave to care for adult family member.

We also added a $30,000 benefit for eligible associates that can be used for fertility treatments, adoption or surrogacy support for any associate and family situation.

HRE: You began your role at an interesting time, in the thick of the pandemic, which of course is still ongoing. How have employees reacted to what’s been going on, and how have you changed the way you look at helping employees and benefits because of the pandemic?

Lanzisero: One of the first things we did was we expanded our [employee assistance program] to offer it to our seasonal associates. With the majority of our population seasonal, it’s kind of difficult to figure out benefits that you can offer them that work with that seasonal nature of the workforce. So to me, that was very important to make sure that they were getting any mental health or critical incident support that they needed.

And then as part of our refreshed benefits for [2022], we’ve enhanced our mental health support for our regular associates and moved to [mental health provider] Lyra Health that provides more holistic mental health help—they have digital care, texting, coaching, as well as access to therapists and psychiatrists. Regular associates now have up to 16 visits a year through Lyra from their fully integrated health plan.

HRE: The mental health piece is so important right now, as there are many issues that are plaguing employees. Can you tell me about what you’ve been witnessing among your employees as far as their state of mind, and how you’re helping with that?

Lanzisero: The work-life integration that we’ve had to experience over the last two years has kind of taken us out of work-life balance. When your home is your workplace, I think a lot of people—especially at the beginning—had a really hard time shutting off and deciding when work became home and when home became work. So that’s something that we’ve really focused on.

It came out in our engagement survey that people started to feel the balance is off and work-life balance wasn’t quite what it needs to be. We started to make sure that we were being very clear with people that, ‘We expect you to disconnect, we expect you to take your vacation time, put your computer in a different room and shut it so you’re not tempted by the bells and whistles.’ We did a lot of communication over the last year and are trying to get our leaders to lead by example, as well.

HRE: Is that communication piece key for this—embracing a cultural shift in talking about challenges and things like mental health?

Lanzisero: Yes, culture is obviously one of the big things that we’re trying to change. Personally as a leader, I’ve tried to model it for my team, saying things like, ‘I’m just not feeling great today. I’m having a bad day. And that’s OK.’

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HRE: Do you think there’s more awareness of issues like this and there’s more openness and empathy because of what so many of us have gone through over the last few years?

Lanzisero: That’s one of the benefits of bringing your work colleagues into your home. You see the kids pop in, you hear the dog barking, and it makes people feel a little bit more comfortable with being more open about, ‘This is my life. And I want to share this with the people I work with, as well as my family.’

HRE: As the pandemic continues and things constantly change surrounding it, is there anything you are making sure you’re doing?

Lanzisero: Our focus throughout the pandemic is being very open, honest, and to constantly communicate with employees. People have been very, very appreciative of us being transparent and not trying to have all the answers because we don’t.

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.