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The Top 5 Challenges of Open Enrollment (And How HR Departments Can Manage Them Successfully)

The open enrollment period between November 1 and December 15 can be one of the most challenging times of year for HR professionals. Getting enrollment right in a timely manner is crucial to supporting your workforce and maximizing the two-way value of employee benefits.

With that said, open enrollment is tricky because it is such a complex challenge. There’s no one thing an HR leader or department can do to make the enrollment season go smoothly – it requires proactive planning and strategizing for a variety of factors and concerns.

Moving forward, we’ll explore:

  • Introduce five of the biggest challenges, concerns, and areas of opportunity for HR professionals before and during open enrollment
  • Provide actually strategies HR leaders can use to navigate or plan for these challenges

Open Enrollment Challenge #1: Logistics

Part of having a successful open enrollment period is having a very clear vision ahead of time for what that enrollment is going to look like and how you will ensure success. Without a logistical vision for how you’re going to pull off enrollment, you’re leaving your ability to have a successful open enrollment up to chance.

As a department, your first concern is understanding whether you’ll be leading an active or a passive enrollment. If you’ve recently rehauled your benefit offerings or you have internal data suggesting that many employees are on suboptimal plans, then an active enrollment can make a big difference for your benefits program On the other hand, passive enrollments work best in organizations with many long-term employees who are generally happy with their coverage.

If you’re going to leverage technology to streamline your enrollment procedure (and in 2019, you definitely should) that means your logistical planning needs to involve your IT team, as they’ll be the people determining the actual look and feel of the system that your employees will use to enroll in their benefits. HR and IT must work together to ensure the user experience is easy, clear, stress-free, and built right into the systems that employees use for their day-to-day work to maximize accessibility and invite engagement.

Open Enrollment Challenge #2: Communication

Communication is the probably the single biggest key to a great open enrollment season, but it may also be the single biggest challenge.

As an HR professional, it’s your responsibility to ensure that nobody can forget about open enrollment season. At the same time, however, benefit election time is also when HR departments can actually harm buy-in and hurt long-term employee engagement by providing the wrong kind of communication or using the wrong tone with employees.

For example, weekly email reminders to make benefit elections are useful for employees who have not completed the process, but they can seem annoying or impersonal to professionals who were sure to make their elections early in the cycle. Creating a communication strategy that maximizes that valuable communication while eliminating repetitive or unnecessary messaging is key to short-term success during enrollment and long-term success maintaining a great relationship with your talent.

One of the best ways to be successful is by spreading your message across multiple platforms. If your organization uses an ERP that all employees work through, partner with IT to get reminders in highly visible spaces that your team members can’t help but see. If your company has a preferred messaging system or bespoke communication app, you can use those channels to send enrollment reminders as well.

Open Enrollment Challenge #3: Education

Education is your greatest weapon to ensure employees choose their ideal benefits package, maximizing two-way value for talent and the organization alike. With that said, out of all these challenges, education can be the toughest one to truly embrace and hold yourself accountable to because it takes a lot of work.

In order to provide employees with the information they need to select the plans that are best for their families, you need to think like a teacher, providing multiple access points to the information and presenting things in a variety of ways to make sure that everybody understands the material, regardless of their personal learning style. That means just passing along the literature from your provider isn’t nearly enough.

Employees require a blend of independent learning opportunities (like brochures and manuals), large group learning opportunities (like formal training sessions), and small group (or even one-on-one) support from benefits-savvy HR team members to maximize their educational level and resultant engagement potential. Making time for those initiatives requires buy-in from senior leadership, but education is truly the difference between setting up your team for enrollment success and leaving them dangling in the wind.

Open Enrollment Challenge #4: Engagement

Engagement is the special sauce that makes every single aspect of operations at your organization run smoothly. When it comes to open enrollment, engagement means a workforce that cares about maximizing the value of their benefits and getting those elections made in a timely manner.

Health and wellness are crucial points of employee engagement for any business, but when they are active pillars of the employee culture, it significantly streamlines the yearly dance of open enrollment. When talent is engaged in terms of health and wellness, they work toward building their own understanding of how they’re using their benefits, what they need, and how they could be making smarter selections. That translates directly into making the right choices in November.

If that culture doesn’t already exist in your organization, the lead-up to enrollment season is a great time to brainstorm some incentives that invite engagement and build a positive, empowered attitude toward enrollment throughout the organization. The more you can create a positive buzz for health and wellness, the more active a role your employees will take in enrollment.

Open Enrollment Challenge #5: Picking the Right Benefits Partner

Of course, the over-arching challenge that hangs above the other four is the challenge of offering your employees the very best, most valuable benefits you possibly can.

Many employee benefits providers try to build a standardized definition of a “great benefits package,” but for your open enrollment to be successful in the long term for your department, your organization, and your talent, you should never settle for a one-size-fits-all approach. If you’re a small or medium-sized business, this can require working with a white glove service to help you connect with exactly the coverage you need to support your team.

Partnering with the wrong benefits broker can and will cost the organization in the long-term, whether it’s over-spend on unused benefits or employee dissatisfaction with limited offerings. Finding a benefits partner who understands your organization, your team, and your goals is crucial to maximizing employee experience and business value through enrollment.

Key Takeaways

Open enrollment is a complex challenge, but when you understand each individual aspect of the challenge and can formulate a proactive strategy that addresses each concern, you maximize your chances to deliver wins for your employees and organization as a whole. Remember…

  • You must plan ahead in the lead up to open enrollment and create a roadmap for success
  • You must communicate positively with your team in a way that guarantees awareness and provides them with the information they need to enroll
  • You must educate your team in a way that ensures they are able to make the best benefit enrollment selections for their families
  • You must engage your team in a positive manner that builds their enthusiasm for wellness in general
  • You must find the best possible benefits partner for your size and goals

How to Learn More

If you’re an HR professional hoping to lead or support a successful open enrollment this winter, you can get your enrollment knowledge up to date with the latest trends, connect with actionable success strategies, and get coaching from two of Chicago’s top HR and employee benefits professionals by attending the upcoming webinar “How to Have a Successful Open Enrollment.”

The free one-hour learning session will take place at 11AM CST on Tuesday, October 29, but even if that time doesn’t work for your schedule, you can register for the event to receive a link to a full recording of the webinar as soon as it concludes.

The webinar will feature insights from Alex Koglin and Christine Lewis of Launchways, as they apply their respective backgrounds in employee benefits and HR thought leadership to walk the audience through seven actionable steps businesses can take today to improve their enrollment process. Specific discussion topics will include…

  • How to create a data-driven approach to enrollment
  • How to set and track reasonable enrollment goals
  • How to design a successful enrollment communication strategy
  • How to leverage technology to streamline the enrollment process
  • How to provide education that will lead your employees toward the right plan
  • How to identify the right benefits provider

This learning opportunity will be packed with actionable takeaways for HR professionals looking to improve their organization’s approach to open enrollment and stay up-to-date on emerging best practices. If you’re an HR leader recognizing the challenges of enrollment, register for “How to Have a Successful Open Enrollment” today!

The Real Cost of Getting Workplace Diversity & Inclusion Wrong

When businesses truly embrace diversity and inclusion, they create a powerful, complementary team that’s unbeatable together . Unfortunately, though, there’s no magic wand you can wave to get there.

To leverage the incredible team-building and innovative potential of diversity and inclusion, businesses need to articulate strong values, make them a real part of daily work culture, and create policies and procedures that hold themselves and their employees accountable. It takes honest commitment, thoughtful planning, strong follow-through, and built-in checks and balances along the way.

With that said, no business should be dissuaded from working towards building diverse and inclusive HR policies just because the work is complex. In fact, organizations who don’t tackle the challenge and opportunity of diversity head-on only set themselves up to stagnate.

In this post we’ll explore:

  • What strong workplace diversity and inclusion “look like” as we near 2020
  • How truly valuing diversity and inclusion builds success for businesses
  • The many costs associated with undervaluing and not practicing workplace diversity and inclusion
  • How HR professionals trying to increase their knowledge of current best practices for diversity and inclusion can connect with the best resources

The State of Workplace Diversity & Inclusion

The world of workplace diversity has transformed immensely over the past decade. A diverse, progressive, and inclusive workplace culture can no longer be treated like an optional, industry-specific perk. Instead, a commitment to diversity and inclusion has become a necessity for businesses at any size. In fact, diversity and inclusion policies are increasingly requirements when it comes to disclosures for business partnerships, grant applications, and proposals.

In today’s modern work climate, organizations that don’t understand and leverage the value of workplace diversity will fail to outperform their competitors.

Let’s take a minute to break down both the words “diversity” and “inclusion” and think about what they really mean in today’s marketplace.

Workplace diversity means hiring, promoting, and valuing professionals from a variety of different backgrounds, experiences, and approaches. It means employing people who think differently, look differently, and experience the world differently from each other. It means thinking beyond age, race, religion, disability, or sexual identity. It means trying to build a team that is truly complementary and reflects the world and marketplace as a whole.

Diversity, however, is nothing without inclusion. In fact, it is inclusion that has become the hot-button issue and the trendier topic over the last two years. Inclusion is the company’s devotion to and strategies for ensuring their diverse workforce functions as a true team, and all people’s skills, values, and perspectives are valued in a fair way.

As we approach 2020, diversity is firmly cemented as one of the most important values for all corporations and businesses, while inclusion is continuing to emerge and take its rightful place as a key focus of HR. Let’s take a minute to think about what benefits forward-thinking HR departments can create for their organizations when they get both diversity and inclusion right.

How Diversity & Inclusion Help Businesses Win

As an HR professional, it’s your job to build a team that sets your business up for success. From that perspective, diversity and inclusion aren’t even really values or ideals anymore – they’re simply matters of best practice.

When your organization embraces a variety of professionals, perspectives, and people, you create a team that can accomplish more than any homogeneous group. With that said, maximizing their impact means pairing that diversity with inclusion – that is to say, diverse staffing practices must be supported by policies, leadership, and day-to-day workflows that keep everybody feeling empowered and engaged.

Businesses that call pull those two components off can reap significant business results that less diverse or inclusive workplaces simply can’t access.

Talent Attraction and Retention

One of the most seismic shifts of the twenty-first century has been the deemphasis on base salary, especially in the face of a thriving workplace culture. Simply put, great talent wants to work in a great environment – one that feels warm but professional, welcoming and collegial.

People also want to work in a place where their perspective is appreciated and valued. That’s where the organization that values diversity can connect with outstanding talent. If you can establish an identity and a reputation as a business that truly creates opportunity for people based on the strengths of their talents and thinks beyond twentieth-century concepts of what corporate leadership and a productive office look like, you’ll be operating a workplace where the very best talent of every background will want to work.

Increased Authentic Engagement

When your boss is the person who signs your check, you’ll work to meet their expectations. When your boss is a person who shares your values, applies fairness in every possible situation, and builds a team of diverse voices that makes you (and everybody) feel heard, you’ll work to exceed everybody’s expectations.

By fostering a diverse team, promoting diverse leadership, and creating a workplace where everybody has the level of comfort, support, and safety they need to get their work done, you can build something truly special: an environment without glass ceilings or toxic secret inner circles. You will have a workplace where all employees feel like they’re working positively toward shared goals. This sets talent up to be their best selves and function as a whole that’s much greater and more powerful than the sum of its parts.

Building a Variety of Perspectives

Too often, organizations lock themselves into a vision, a culture, and a way of thinking early on in their lifecycle and craft hiring and promotion programs in a way that reinforces that orthodoxy. This can be a recipe for business stagnation.

Forward-thinking businesses aren’t afraid of a diversity of perspectives or approaches destabilizing what they’ve previously built. On the contrary, these businesses realize that a team with a wide variety of backgrounds creates a much greater pool of ideas for innovation, problem-solving, messaging, and more.

When each department, committee, and project team is diverse and everybody knows their perspective and work is valued, businesses create the strongest possible framework for innovative thinking, innovative work, and innovative approaches to quality assurance.

Fostering a Reputation as a True Modern Business

If you can establish a great, diverse, inclusive workplace culture where everybody feels supported and bought-in, you can turn your organization into a destination landing spot for great talent and great buzz alike. Your HR and marketing departments can leverage your thriving, positive culture as an anchor point for campaigns that help your business grow and spread the word about the great work you’re doing.

How Businesses Lose When They Don’t Prioritize Diversity & Inclusion

Organizations that lack a strong commitment to diversity don’t just miss out on all the benefits discussed previously, they also create several very real and very dangerous business problems for themselves. Whether it’s through explicit exclusion or simply a lack of care at the leadership and HR levels, businesses that disregard building a thoughtful approach to diversity put themselves in a tenuous business and legal position.

Businesses that preach diversity on paper but do little to make inclusion a daily workplace value at every level leave themselves vulnerable to many of the same problems. In fact, in some ways, a half-hearted approach to diversity and inclusion can set you up to lose bigger, as the organization comes away looking either disconnected from its values or like a fraud.

Increased Turnover

When employees don’t feel fully safe, valued, appreciated, plugged-in, or supported, they head for the door. Of all the changes to the workplace over the last twenty years, this is the one that’s caught senior leaders and HR professionals off-guard the most.

Turnover due to gaps in diversity and inclusion isn’t just the result of stereotypical harassment or bullying, though. Today’s top talent is sensitive to their environment and can generally gauge whether or not they are a fit for a job and its culture within six months. If talent feels there is a glass ceiling or lack of potential for success and personal happiness due to your organization’s lack of devotion to diversity and inclusion, they’ll just hand in their notice and move on.

No HR professional needs to be told how damaging the spend associated with turnover is. Gaps in productivity, hiring expenses, and training time all hurt the bottom line and significantly impact the team’s ability to fire on all cylinders. Even if you’re great at identifying and hiring diverse talent, you’re just setting your organization up for a brain drain if there isn’t a framework in place to ensure those professionals are valued and supported.

Lower Employee Morale & Reduced Engagement

Discrimination and exclusion are ugly things, and when people see them in the workplace – even devoted professionals – they simply can’t work like their best selves. To put it simply, toxic cultures bum people out, and nobody is motivated to do their best work when their workplace feels toxic.

With that said, the way gaps in inclusion affect morale can be subtler but no less devastating. When employees are physically present but feel like they aren’t valued, heard, and included in the same ways as their peers, their engagement level, buy-in, and quality of work begin to drop at a steady pace.

One of the biggest mistakes HR leaders make is underestimating how many people are sensitive to issues of diversity and inclusion. When discrimination occurs or inclusion is clearly not a priority, the blow to morale and buy-in extends far beyond the direct victim of the situation. That means that organizations that do wrong by their minority or LGBTQ+ employees are actually damaging the productivity, motivation, and engagement of a much higher percentage of the workforce, who stand as allies to those groups.


Diversity is a synonym of “variety,” and the less diversity an organization has, the less variety there will be in terms of innovative thinking and profit-driving work. If you get a room full of 10 people from similar backgrounds and ask them to solve a problem, they’ll probably come up with one or two well-defined ideas. In a room of 10 people from diverse backgrounds, however, you can have a much richer discussion about possible solutions because there are more ways of looking at the problem and a wider range of past experiences and familiar approaches available.

Organizations that don’t prioritize diversity and inclusion at every level within the organization set up themselves up to fall victim to groupthink. This can be especially limiting at the executive or leadership level, where a true team of complementary minds is necessary to steer the work.

Reputation & Perception as an Innovator

In this day and age, reputation is everything, for individuals and businesses alike. Tone-deaf marketing campaigns sink brands overnight, and reports of regressive, toxic, or non-inclusive culture on sites like Glassdoor can quickly limit an organization’s potential to land great talent.

When people encounter a discriminatory or non-inclusive environment in today’s culture, they’re not going to suffer in silence or keep it to themselves. They will use the tools available to make sure that the world knows exactly what gaps exist in their current or former employee’s commitment to inclusion.

Legal Issues

Of course, litigation is always the elephant in the room, especially when HR issues are concerned. When it comes to inclusion and diversity, a lack of HR commitment can quickly spiral into a costly legal situation.

On one hand, all organizations in the U.S. with at least 15 employees are beholden to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). EEOC investigations and adjudications can last for months, or even years, creating a long, damaging process that can devastate an organization’s ability to turn a profit in both the short- and long-term. Depending on the state in which your business is located, there may be additional anti-discrimination and inclusion laws you need to consider.

On the other, there’s the specter of civil litigation. Civil cases can be resolved much more quickly than EEOC investigations, but they can be just as damaging in terms of finance, reputation, and ongoing employee morale. No matter where your organization is located, there are several attorneys in your area who make their bread and butter on discrimination claims, and they know how to use your own policies (or lack thereof) against you to win the biggest possible award for their clients.

Key Takeaways

As an HR professional, it’s your job to build the best possible team and create an environment in which that team can thrive and succeed. Part of building that great team is truly understanding the importance of diversity to high-quality work; another part is commitment to supporting the team you’ve built with policies, procedures, and structure that help them feel plugged-in and valued.

Some key takeaways from this post include:

  • Diversity and inclusion are no longer optional workplace values
  • Businesses that create a welcoming, diverse, inclusive environment provide themselves with the best opportunities for innovation and the widest array of skills and perspectives
  • Organizations that don’t embrace diversity and inclusion stand to lose the war for talent and set themselves up for legal and financial trouble

How to Learn More

Whether you’re an emerging HR leader trying to build a better understanding of diversity and inclusion or an experienced veteran looking to bring yourself up to speed on how D&I best practices are evolving, be sure to reserve a seat at Launchways’ upcoming Diversity & Inclusion Summit for HR and Finance Leaders.

The free education session will take place after hours on Wednesday, October 16th at TechNexus in Chicago and will feature an expert panel with the Midwest’s leading HR professionals and diversity and inclusion experts, including…

·      Rebekah Wolford of Paylocity, a culture- and success-oriented HR leader with experience leading data-driven D&I initiatives

·      Alex Koglin of Launchways, a leading Chicago-area employee benefits consultant with a passion for LGBTQ+ rights

·      Chanté Thurmond of The Darkest Horse, an executive talent consultant who specializes in radical inclusion and expert team building

·      Manny Flores of SomerCor, a small business lender with a track record of empowering diverse entrepreneurs

Panel discussions will be packed with takeaways related to diversity and inclusion, including…

·      How to foster a diverse and inclusive company culture

·      How to build diverse and inclusive HR policies and practices

·      How to ensure compliance with federal and state diversity and inclusion regulations

·      How to create diverse and inclusive benefits packages.

In addition to these key insights, open Q&A and networking time will allow attendees to guide and personalize the summit experience to maximize their takeaways. If you’re a finance or HR leader in the Chicago area, be sure to save your seat at the Diversity & Inclusion Summit for HR and Finance Leaders!

This post is brought to you by our valued partner Paylocity.

Launchways Announces Strategic Partnership with HR Technology Company Rippling

CHICAGO, Oct. 1, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Launchways, a leading provider of human resources, employee benefits, and business insurance solutions, today announced that it is partnering with Rippling to provide its clients with an integrated HR, payroll, and benefits platform.

Founded by Zenefits veteran Parker Conrad, Rippling offers a better alternative for growing businesses as one of the first all-in-one, modernized system for handling the entire employee experience from hiring to offboarding. Rippling’s competitive edge lies in a modern and streamlined interface, its relative affordability, and its scalability. The platform is as easy to use as it is comprehensive and serves a business of ten people just as well as after they grow into a team of a thousand. This unique approach has helped Rippling secure $60M in funding and resulted in widespread acclaim from experts and customers alike, including ranking first among Payroll Software and HR Software on Capterra.

Launchways believes that people fuel business success and help entrepreneurs achieve sustainable growth by empowering their people through intentional benefits and HR strategy. After implementing Rippling for a client, Launchways was impressed both by the support from the Rippling team and the business results for the client. Moving forward, Launchways has decided to create a formal partnership with Rippling to bring Rippling’s technology as a strategic solution to future clients.

The partnership will give Launchways’ clients significant discounts on the software as well as a dedicated service and support team. As James Taylor, Launchways CEO, says: “Rippling is doing something unique in the software industry. We look forward to implementing their solution to streamline our clients’ HR, benefits, and payroll operations. Having a scalable solution helps our clients take a more intentional approach to their benefits and HR.”

About Launchways

Launchways provides business leaders with the resources and guidance they need to build scalable people processes to support long-term growth. Founded in 2009, Launchways has helped thousands of businesses better approach the people side of their business through strategic solutions for human resources, employee benefits, and business insurance. For more information, please visit www.launchways.com.

About Rippling

Rippling is the first way for businesses to manage their HR & IT — from payroll and benefits, to employee computers and apps — all in one, modern system. It’s the only platform that truly unifies every employee system, and automates all of the administrative work. For more information, please visit https://www.rippling.com.

How We Do Things Differently at Launchways: Always Doing What’s Best for the Client

At Launchways we take a drastically different approach to benefits and human resources. We believe that we do best for ourselves by doing best for our clients and that our clients thrive when they do right by their employees. We know that benefits and effective HR are some of the best tools that growing businesses can use to attract, engage, and retain the talent they need to not only survive but thrive and grow.

By taking a personalized approach, we can find unique solutions that reduce costs while actually improving the value that our clients provide for their employees. Our team is deeply involved in our clients’ business and that’s why we act as partners and problem solvers instead of salespeople. Which has not only helped us rapidly grow our business but also makes it genuinely rewarding to come into work each day.

Here’s how we do things differently at Launchways to ensure we’re always doing what’s best for our clients:

  • A consultative sales process means we find the solutions that work best for our clients
  • We help people first to empower business results
  • Our team becomes an extension of our clients’ teams so we act as experts not only in benefits and HR but also in our clients’ industries
  • Constant innovation helps Launchways and its clients thrive
  • Scalable solutions mean that we build long-term client relationships

Consultative Sales: Finding the Solutions that Work for Clients

One of the best things about what we do at Launchways is that we get to be problem solvers instead of salesmen. Our business thrives by always providing our clients with the solutions that best meet their specific needs and budgets. That means that we take a consultative sales approach with our clients.

What does a consultative sales process entail? Essentially, it means that we are selling solutions instead of products. Our sales team members serve as consultants for our clients, guiding them towards the insurance plans, benefits, and technology partners that will work the best for them and their businesses.

We use our industry experience to advise our clients about which options we think are right for them and build connections with premier vendors to provide our clients with the best possible options. This unique approach means that we don’t bring our clients “out-of-the-box” packages and ask them to pick one. Instead, we craft custom, strategic solutions that are tailored to each client’s unique needs. While we have formed numerous strategic partnerships with insurers, benefits providers, and technology companies, we don’t pitch our clients on their solutions. Instead, we leverage our partnerships to deliver unique savings, greater support, and customized solutions to fuel our clients’ businesses.

Helping People First to Deliver Business Results

Our business model is based on the essential truth that a company is only as strong as its people and that businesses perform best when they do best by their employees. Growing businesses might come to Launchways to control costs, increase employee productivity and retention, and achieve other business results, but our solutions are ultimately grounded in helping our clients build and maintain a team that fuels business success.

What does that mean for Launchways? For one thing, it means we are extremely strategic in the way we help our clients control costs at their businesses. Reducing costs is important for most of our clients. But we understand how to balance cost cutting with maintaining employee happiness and building an attractive employer brand.

Growing businesses can often achieve the cost-savings they need by reducing bureaucracy, rather than reducing the quality of employee healthcare. We streamline processes, generate savings through strategic plan design, and identify real employee healthcare needs to increase the benefits that matter most to employees while eliminating waste.

A Business of Partnership: Consultants and Advisors not Brokers

Launchways is a growing business that understands the pain points that our fellow scaling businesses face. We understand that benefits and HR are very personal topics and should be addressed with personalized solutions. Launchways takes a uniquely boutique approach to benefits and human resources. Our team serves an extension of our clients’ human resources and leadership teams, helping steer their companies towards sustainable growth and scalable solutions.

Under this approach, our advisors serve as partners and problem solvers. Our team embeds itself in our clients’ businesses to create custom solutions for unique challenges. We get the opportunity to work not just for Launchways but for each of Launchways’ clients.

Constant Innovation

Because of our dedication to doing everything possible to help our clients and their employees succeed, Launchways is always searching for new ways to empower our clients’ benefits and human resources. Whether it’s a new benefits management software platform, unique wellness benefit, telehealth program or innovative approach to prescription savings, our job is to find out what the cutting-edge solutions are and determine how we can leverage them to help our clients.

At Launchways, we always have our eyes on the horizon so we never get stuck in a rut. We are constantly pushing forward, never content to rest still and implement the same solutions over and over again until they become outdated.

The focus on innovation to fuel client results fundamentally changes the nature of our organization and how we operate. From our trendy office space at the heart of Chicago’s startup district, our work-life balance, and even the way we handle our internal communications, Launchways lives-and-breathes like a tech startup rather than a traditional benefits broker.

Human resources and benefits should be exciting and rewarding. The Launchways approach cuts through the usual bureaucracy to bring the focus back on people and innovative problem-solving.

Scalable Solutions Mean Long Term Relationships

Businesses’ needs change as they grow, their employee demographics and priorities change, and the market shifts. And the solutions available to address business challenges are changing just as quickly.

So while Launchways is dedicated to implementing solutions and strategies that can scale with our clients’ growth, we know that truly scalable solutions require continuous feedback and revision. We know that we won’t do right by our clients if we just sell them a new benefits package and then move onto the next account. Instead, we forge long term relationships in which we make our expertise, resources, and strategic partners available to meet any issues that our clients might face. Ongoing service and consultation are an integral part of our business at its core.

Key Takeaways

Launchways was founded to provide a better model to tackle the benefits and human resources challenges that growing businesses face. Our mission has led us to take an unconventional stance for a successful benefits broker: we always do what’s best for our clients and their employees. This has a ripple effect that changes just about everything about how we do business, including:

  • Our sales team takes a fully consultative sales approach that focuses on building solutions, not selling products
  • We get to help people because we know that businesses succeed when they help their employees succeed
  • Launchways’ benefits advisors become an extension of our clients’ teams, getting to know their businesses and working for them as much as for Launchways
  • Technological advancements and changes in the healthcare market mean that Launchways is constantly innovating to deliver the best results possible
  • There is no one-off solution for benefits and human resources challenges, so we take a long-term approach to our client relationships that makes our work more productive and rewarding

Do you like the sound of doing what’s best for your clients, forming deeper relationships with clients’ teams, and developing solutions that help people? The Launchways model has proved successful and we are expanding our team to meet the growing demand for our business model. Check out the open positions on our careers page.

Launchways Client Tandem Fosters Diversity and Inclusion to Spur Innovation

Growing companies are increasingly turning to diversity and inclusion, or D&I, initiatives to fuel their success. People are the ultimate drivers of business success and having the widest range of perspectives available to tackle business challenges is an invaluable asset to companies of all sizes. But small-to-mid-sized businesses are particularly strongly defined by the makeup of their employees.

Many businesses have D&I policies and procedures as a matter of course and treat it as a compliance issue or silo it in HR. But others are starting to put the principles of diversity and inclusion at the heart of everything that they do. And they’re seeing real results. Recent studies show that greater gender and racial diversity each are directly correlated with increased profitability and value creation. And companies with the most women and minorities in leadership positions are between 20-30% more likely to achieve above-average financial performance.

One of the companies that have gone above and beyond in their D&I efforts is Launchways client Tandem, a consultancy that focuses on developing custom software solutions for growing businesses. We spoke to Tandem CEO, JC Grubbs, about how and why he has tried to foster diversity at his startup and how these efforts have contributed to his business’s phenomenal success. As it turns out, businesses looking for ways to stand out from competitors and fuel innovation within their organization have a lot to gain from the lessons that Tandem has learned.

Why D&I Is A Top Priority for Tandem

Before delving into the business advantages of having a more diverse and inclusive team, it’s worth spending some time to consider the moral forces that influence businesses like Tandem to focus so much effort into D&I. Generally speaking, many employers feel a moral responsibility to take care of the employees who dedicate so much of their time and energy to growing their company, and that includes making sure that all employees feel welcome and receive fair treatment regardless of their backgrounds or demographics. Diversity and genuine inclusion are important elements of the positive company culture that so many business leaders want to maintain.

For JC, though, his moral obligation to promote a diverse and inclusive workplace at Tandem goes beyond these general principles. As a member of the LGBTQ community who has experienced first-hand both inclusive and non-inclusive environments work environments, he sees it as his duty to make sure that everyone feels welcome and included at Tandem.

Beyond moral considerations, D&I is just good business for companies like Tandem. The studies showing how diversity contributes to profitability and value creation are grounded in business realities that JC has seen at his company. Since starting the company in 2011, he has seen how Tandem’s products and the ways that the company executes its work dramatically improve as the team becomes more diverse. As JC says, “It has happened over time but as I look at the way that we’ve run engagements with clients, I see a continual improvement in that. Part of that comes from learning and process improvement but I attribute a significant portion of that to our efforts in bringing more diverse voices to the table in how we deliver work to our clients.”

So how has JC built such a diverse and productive team? A lot of it has to do with the way that Tandem brands itself and crafts its company culture.

Importance of Employer Branding

Authentic branding should represent who you want to be as a company not just how you want to be seen. With that principle in mind, Tandem recently underwent a significant branding effort, including adopting the name Tandem in place of DevMynd, to put the principles of diversity, inclusion, and human connection at the very core of the brand. This new brand emphasizes the company’s focus on the human side of software development: getting as many diverse voices and perspectives involved as possible to create unique solutions that fuel innovation.

A significant part of the D&I branding effort has focused on how Tandem features their employees on their website. The “Team” page plays a much stronger role in the site than for most companies, and Tandem has done several things differently to foster a sense of diversity and inclusion. The first thing that visitors will probably notice is that the page isn’t organized with the C-Suite at the top and lower-ranked team members as you scroll down. Instead, everyone is mixed together with the CEO and COO right in the middle so that leadership at the center, rather than the top, of the company. And each employee profile features an in-depth bio that helps potential clients and employees get to know the team, plus three photos including one featuring the employee’s favorite hobby to further humanize the team members.

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of employer branding and featuring employees so heavily on the website. In fact, according to JC, branding and highlighting his team members has been the number one contributor to the increase in diversity at Tandem. One of the first things that people from underrepresented communities look at when they’re considering a potential employer is what the team looks like. As JC puts it, “When they go to your site and see people who look like them and when they read their bios, they read things that feel like them, it immediately puts them in a different frame of mind in terms of how they view you as an employer.”

The benefits don’t stop at attracting diverse and talented employees, either. Another driver for Tandem’s focus on their Team page and D&I branding is to celebrate their success in that area and the success of their team. Small-to-mid-sized businesses are ultimately just a conglomeration of their employees and it’s important that both potential employees and clients see the people they’re going to be working with and get a sense of what voices are going to be in the room. This can not only lead to productive partnerships but also prevent damaging missteps as it can drive away employees or clients who aren’t a good fit. As far as Tandem is concerned, they don’t want to work with employees or clients who do not want to work with a team like theirs, so the more public they make their diversity the better.

Tailoring the Employee Benefits Package for D&I

But branding can only go so far; the real measure of a business’s diversity and inclusion is how they treat their employees. For growing businesses, especially in the tech field, who lack the resources to compete with major companies in terms of salaries and bonuses, this means tailoring their benefits packages to attract talent and build a diverse and inclusive team.

At Tandem, this started with a comprehensive and fully employer-paid insurance package that provides 100% coverage for employees and their families on all major health aspects: medical, dental, vision, and more. Just last year, they added a telehealth program so that employees can get access to medical advice more quickly and easily; a benefit that especially appeals to employees with children.

Tandem tailored its other benefits to accommodate people who have responsibilities that aren’t tied to work, such as being the caretaker for aging parents or being parents themselves. They implemented a flexible time policy that lets employees set their own schedule as long as they are in the office for core work hours from 10:00am-4:00, give employees the option of working remotely one day a week, and allow employees to work from home on other days whenever the need arises. Despite being too small to be required to offer maternity leave under FMLA, Tandem also offers 8 weeks of new-parent leave for natural births and adoptions, on top of standard PTO. Having that flexibility and making sure that the flexibility is integrated into company policies and processes is an important step to support a diverse set of outside of work needs; another key element of D&I.

Tandem isn’t ready to stop there, either. They are already exploring two new potential benefits to better foster diversity and inclusion: fertility and gender transition support benefits. While they are still looking into costs and proper structures and have not pulled the trigger yet, they believe that it is important to think ahead and look beyond traditional benefits to see what you can and should do to support a more diverse set of employee needs.

Ongoing D&I Efforts and Accountability

The final lesson that growing businesses can take away from Tandem’s D&I success is that diversity and inclusion is a constantly evolving process and that it is important to reevaluate current practices to see if you’re doing the right things and if are there new areas that you should explore. In fact, Tandem’s CEO went so far as to say, “If I had any advice for other growing businesses it would be that D&I is not a one-and-done, ‘check all the boxes’ and then move on type of issue: you need to reexamine it on a continuing basis.”

So what should growing businesses who are dedicated to promoting D&I do to monitor and reexamine their efforts? Tandem conducts bi-annual employee satisfaction surveys and the CEO has a one-on-one with every employee at least annually so that Tandem can be sure that it is maintaining its culture, that its employees feel engaged and included, and that any issues can be identified and corrected. JC also decided to create a Culture and Inclusion committee made up of a wide range of employees that meets every quarter to review current practices, discuss possible initiatives, and generally steer the direction of the company’s D&I efforts.

This committee has been central to the successful integration of D&I into Tandem’s brand and operations. It was responsible for raising the possibility of providing fertility and gender transition support benefits after it worked with Launchways to determine what the current insurance covered and what opportunities for improvement were left on the table. It also looks at the public face of the company to see if it is sending the types of signals to job candidates, such as reviewing job descriptions to see if they appropriately emphasize inclusion or use language that can be interpreted as exclusionary.

Tandem also recently completed an ADA study of their physical office space to get a sense of what they need to do to support people who need access to the building in different ways. And Tandem is planning on publicly releasing career paths, complete with requirements to move up to each position and salary ranges for every position, to encourage transparency and fairness both internally and for potential employees. This is significant, because transparency is absolutely vital to fostering true diversity and inclusion.

Key Takeaways

Every company is unique, and its approach diversity and inclusion should be as well. But Tandem provides a compelling model of how companies can put the principles of D&I at the heart of their employer brand, benefits strategy, and processes to build a diverse and innovative team. Hopefully, you can apply some of the lessons that Tandem has learned to fuel your business’s growth. Just remember that:
• In addition to being morally right, diversity and inclusion is just good business and results in increased profits and business results
• Your employer brand defines how potential employees and clients see you, so making sure that it aligns with and celebrates diversity and inclusion can help you build an innovative workforce and productive partnerships
• Benefits are often the most concrete tool that employers have to foster D&I by accommodating a wide range of employee needs
• D&I is an ongoing process that requires constant reevaluation, accountability, and transparency

If you are interested in hearing more stories about diversity and inclusion like Tandem’s and want to learn about D&I best practices, register for our D&I webinar coming up this October.