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At Launchways, Employees Bring Their Authentic Selves to Work

At Launchways, we know that what makes us different is what makes us strong and that our team members thrive when they can be and share their full, authentic selves at work. Supporting and encouraging each of our team members as whole people, not just as productive employees, is one of our top priorities and fundamental values. We think it’s not just the right thing to do, but also the best way of creating a positive work environment and a productive team.

So what does living this principle look like at Launchways, and what effects does it have on our work? Here are some of the key points I’ll explore:

  • The reasons behind our approach and how it fuels our creativity
  • Authentic communication between Launchways employees
  • Work styles as unique as our team members

Why We Value the Individual at Launchways

Many companies are talking about diversity and inclusion nowadays and language about inclusion is making its way into more business’ value statements and employee handbooks. But how many employers put these words into action and do everything they can to support each employee and what makes them unique?

At Launchways, we understand the struggles that companies face tackling D&I and building a thriving, productive team. We’ve seen first-hand what works and what doesn’t. We know that divisions and conformity are toxic to a company’s culture and that businesses do better when they make sure that every single employee feels comfortable to be themselves without fear of being judged or penalized. We know that helping your employees succeed is the best way to make your business succeed, and that means supporting their growth and fulfillment in all aspects of their lives and all facets of their individuality.

Now, we know that saying we want all of our employees to feel comfortable and encouraged to be their 100% authentic selves may sound cliché. But living this value every day and in every aspect of our business makes an enormous difference for our team members, our culture, our clients, and our bottom-line. Communication is clear, morale is high, and we all work together to build up ourselves, each other, and Launchways.

From an employer perspective, this approach makes good business sense. Having diverse voices at the table is a surefire way to develop more successful strategies and initiatives. Studies show that greater gender and racial diversity leads to increased profitability and value creation. But to see the business results of your gender, racial, sexual, and culturally diverse team, you have to create a safe space where every employee is free to be and express themselves. When people are comfortable being themselves, they bring their whole selves to work and share their unique perspectives that can result in innovative solutions.

And bringing your whole self to work doesn’t just increase your value as an employee: it also results in a positive workplace and culture that is as vibrant as its members. Who wants to work somewhere that you can’t be yourself? A culture of lived openness invites the human back into business. We can genuinely communicate and build richer, more valuable connections with each other and with our partners and clients. At Launchways, our dedication to openness and authenticity is what makes our jobs so meaningful and makes going into work every day worthwhile and enjoyable.

How Launchways Encourages Employees to Share Their Authentic Selves

Simply put: just saying that you value something won’t make it a reality at your business. That is why at Launchways, we have taken concrete steps to shape our practices and policies around the value of making our employees feel comfortable sharing their authentic selves.

Authentic Communication

Communication is the key to encouraging our team members to share their authentic selves at work. After all, communication is how we express ourselves and our perspectives and if an employer does not support open and individualized communication, they won’t be able to foster a truly inclusive workplace.

At Launchways, we go out of our way to acknowledge and encourage different communication styles. Our team members value intent rather than presentation, which prevents plenty of common office misunderstanding and interpersonal drama. If someone tells it like it is, we acknowledge and support that without taking it as a personal attack. And if someone has a hard time voicing their opinions, we recognize that as well and try to amplify their voice and pick up on the messages they are sending. Now, there are still standards regarding acceptable and unacceptable behavior, but we work hard to acknowledge a wide range of communication styles.

This philosophy goes hand-in-hand with another of our core values, being thoughtfully candid. We don’t just believe in personalized communication, we also support open and honest communication and feedback: being candid. But we also stand for keeping the humanity and feelings of our coworkers in mind, being thoughtfully honest rather than brutally honest and always speaking from a place of trust.

It’s just as important to us that our team members are comfortable sharing their needs and struggles. We want to know the difficulties that our employees are facing and make every reasonable accommodation possible. We understand that our team members will be more productive if they are comfortable speaking up when they need help personally or professionally. We don’t want people blustering and covering up the fact that they are having difficulty on a project: we want them to step up and get the resources they need to get the job done. So we always encourage our team members to be comfortable telling their managers when they are going through a tough time, having a family emergency, or need additional help/support in the office or outside of it.

Work Styles as Unique as Our Team Members

At Launchways, we have implemented two main principles regarding our work that help our team members thrive as their authentic selves.

The first is that we get to work how we feel most productive. We have an enormous amount of flexibility regarding when, where, and how we work. While it’s important to have face-to-face interactions and meetings, we have flexibility determining our daily work hours so long as we’re getting the job done. And we can work from home when necessary: whether it’s because our kids are sick or because we just need to take a break from the office chatter to be our most productive selves.

The second principle is that we get to work on what most interests us. Launchways provides our team members the opportunity to pursue interests and passions. That means that if any of us has an idea for a project or initiative that we care about and think will contribute to the Launchways mission, we get the space and resources we need to make it a reality. You’d be surprised how many game-changing strategies develop when all team members are free to exercise their creativity.

Key Takeaways

At Launchways, our workplace environment, culture, and communication styles are all designed to allow us to share 100% of our true, authentic selves. This freedom has an impactful ripple-effect throughout all aspects of life and work at Launchways and makes us a better, more successful company. As we’ve explored, for us, the dedication to supporting employees’ whole selves means:

  • Our team members can grow and succeed as individuals, which helps our team and company succeed in turn
  • Employees share their unique perspectives, generating diverse conversations and innovative solutions
  • Everyone can communicate in their own way without causing misunderstandings
  • We can be open about our challenges and get the support we need
  • We work how we want, on what we’re passionate about

We think that our way of doing things is pretty great. We go into work every day to collaborate with our friends and fellow humans, forging deeper connections and producing unique solutions that we get to own as ours.

If you’re interested in joining the Launchways team, view our current openings here.

Why We Insist on Being Thoughtfully Candid

At Launchways, we believe in doing something radical in the business world: telling the truth. We have seen clients succeed and fail based on their ability to foster a vibrant company culture and engage their people power. And we have found that honesty, transparency, and respect are the keys to positive business outcomes.

We have taken this experience and ingrained it into every part of our business. Our people-powered approach to HR and benefits requires deep honesty and respect between our team members, with our clients, and between our advisors and our clients’ employees.

So, one of our fundamental core values is being thoughtfully candid. We think we’ve hit upon something special with this value and the way we live it in our day-to-day work. Here’s what we have to say about being thoughtfully candid:

  • What it means to be thoughtfully candid
  • Why we value thoughtful candidness
  • How being thoughtfully candid helps us be better

What Does it Mean to Be Thoughtfully Candid?

What does it mean to be thoughtfully candid? Well, you can break it down into its two parts: candidness and thoughtfulness. Being candid boils down to honesty and transparency while being thoughtful encompasses empathy and respect. Let’s take a look at each part:

Being Candid:

The principle of candidness is simple enough: just be honest. But putting it into practice is a lot more complicated because it goes against what many of us may have been taught.

That’s because we tend to think that honesty is, in some way, bad. The truth hurts. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Ignorance is bliss.

But what we’re really saying is that we don’t trust the other person to handle our honest opinions. The misconception is that it’s better to pretend that we agree with them or that they are doing a better job than they really are just to spare their feelings or avoid conflict. But at the end of the day, this simply isn’t a good way of doing business.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should be outright rude or mean. And by being thoughtful, we can make sure that the truth doesn’t hurt. But, even without being thoughtful, being candid is still the best approach.

Take this example: imagine you get called into your manager’s office tomorrow. You walk in expecting praise for your work. After all, they told you how well you were doing when you asked them only last week. But instead, they tell you that you are being fired because of your poor performance. Were they doing you a favor by sparing your feelings until your performance became a serious issue? Or would it have been better for them to come to you as soon as there was an issue so that you could improve or address underlying issues?

What does candidness look like at work? The key to candidness is giving and receiving truly honest feedback and opinions without taking them personally or trying to spare (or hurt) coworkers’ feelings. It means giving your honest opinion in all cases, knowing that people will respect it as such and will respond with equal honesty.

With absolute candidness, there’s no room for passive-aggressive behavior, backstabbing, and office ‘drama’. In their place are open communication, mutual respect, and radical problem-solving. But candor is most effective when it is paired with an equal emphasis on thoughtfulness.

Thoughtfulness:

When you are being candid at work, it’s important to remember the humanity and intentions of the people you are working with. And to bring your humanity to bear when forming and sharing your opinions. For your candid input to be accepted and to foster a productive, energetic workplace, it has to come from a place of respect and empathy for your coworkers. If you want them to succeed and be happy, and they know that to be true, then they will welcome your honesty rather than seeing it as a threat.

So that’s the first aspect of thoughtfulness: empathy. Knowing where coworkers are coming from when they share their opinions and feedback, and thinking about their challenges and best interests when forming your own. Empathy is the basis of mutual respect, and it is also the key to developing strong, productive relationships with your coworkers.

But there’s more to being thoughtful than being empathetic. Thoughtfulness also requires that you act intentionally and with an open mind. We don’t just give our honest opinions: we give our considered opinions. We think before we speak and try to make sure that our positions are both correct and truly the honest reflection of what we believe in. This stops haste from causing miscommunications and gives us even greater trust in what our coworkers say to us.

We also try to keep as open a mind as possible. Because everyone is being honest and operating with good intentions, there’s room for real compromise, consensus, and understanding. There’s even room for people to change their minds!

Why We Value Thoughtful Candidness

At Launchways, we know that sustainable business success is built on the success of each employee. Helping our employees become the best, most productive versions of themselves is just good business.

In our experience, people want to be challenged. They want to grow and add to their value as an individual and as an employee. Which sometimes means pushing them to improve and equipping them with the skills and knowledge to become better employees.

When we come up with a business strategy or initiative, our first step is to identify the challenges and issues that we are trying to address. Without an honest evaluation of the status quo, we cannot develop an effective strategy. And without honest review of the initiative’s progress, success or failure are impossible to measure and progress is significantly stifled.

We believe that employee careers and personal growth should be approached in the same way. An honest appraisal is also necessary for our employees’ professional growth. It’s the only way that they can discover what they need to work on and get the advice they need to effectively address any issues or skill gaps.

Being candid allows our executives, managers, and team members to talk to each other honestly, enabling valuable feedback on all levels (we want our new hires to be just as candid with our CEO as our managers are with their team members) and empowering our employees to encourage each other to succeed. We believe that it is not just the morally correct way to conduct our business but that it is also one of the main factors behind our rapid success.

And we believe that thoughtfulness is just as important as candidness. Being thoughtful in our interactions fosters deeper connections between the people who make Launchways special. It allows us to trust that the candid feedback and opinions coming from our coworkers come from the best of intentions and are meant to help us grow as professionals and do our jobs as effectively as possible. Mutual respect isn’t just an ideal: it is a reality of life at Launchways.

How Being Thoughtfully Candid Helps Us Be Better

As one of our core values, thoughtful candidness shapes just about everything we do at Launchways. It makes us a stronger team and helps us develop innovative solutions for our clients.

Being thoughtfully candid begins with our weekly roundups every Monday morning. We start the meeting by giving genuine shout outs to coworkers we think did an exceptional job the previous week. We then go around and have each team member share their goals and projects for the week as well as their roadblocks that they need help on.

These meetings allow us to celebrate each other and share our projects and challenges. They set the tone of thoughtful candidness and set up spin-off conversations throughout the week in which we share ideas to help solve roadblocks and accomplish projects collaboratively.

Of course, being thoughtfully candid is also especially important to our review and feedback process. Our culture of openness and respectful honesty allows consistent feedback. That means that everyone knows where they stand, reducing stress, increasing engagement, and creating consistent opportunities for improvement.

There’s no simmering resentment or fear of secretly falling down on the job. If there’s an issue with our performance, we find out right away. But we’re just as quick to share strengths and successes, so we’ll also know if we’re doing a good job and feel genuinely appreciated for it. And being thoughtfully candid allows us to give more than qualitative feedback: it lets us genuinely help each other succeed rather than focus on raw performance. Honesty lets us get to the root causes of our challenges and successes.

Best of all, being thoughtfully candid lets us collaborate more meaningfully. We can work together to solve not only our own challenges, and those of our coworkers, but also develop better solutions for our clients. We make realistic plans, execute them more effectively, and track our progress to create the best possible outcomes. And our clients respect us for our honest approach and open communication with their internal teams. These collaborations make our work more meaningful and more successful.

Key Takeaways

Being thoughtfully candid is integral to how we do business at Launchways. It is one of our five core values that guide our decisions and culture. As we’ve laid out in this article, being thoughtfully candid means:

  • Being honest at all times, but also having respect for coworkers and coming from a place of empathy and considered positions
  • Open communications between coworkers, managers and team members, and leadership with employees
  • Consistent feedback, personal and professional growth, deeper relationships, and productive collaboration

We think that our way of doing things makes our work more enjoyable, meaningful, and productive. If joining a team based on thoughtfully candid communication sounds interesting, check out our career page for current openings!

The Real Value of Company Values

I’ve been building, managing, and supporting strong, functional teams for two decades, and while I get lots of great questions from emerging leaders and HR professionals every day, so many of their concerns boil down to two key questions:

  • How can I center my team to make sure they’re doing great work that’s consistently done our way, not just their way?
  • How can I show off what my great team’s all about in a way that builds enthusiasm in the public and aids in recruiting?

Believe it or not, those two questions are actually quite closely connected. Even though one is an internal/operational concern and the other is an external/marketing concern, they both have the same answer: an organization aligned behind clearly articulated organizational values.

Your company’s identity is incredibly powerful. It dictates the flow of talent, the volume of inbound business, and how your partners, competitors, and the general public engage with your brand.

In this post I’ll explore:

  • Why well-articulated values are so useful
  • How corporate values should be structured and focused
  • What a real-life example of strong guiding values looks like

The Value in Values

Remember when you were in school and that one teacher spent an entire week doing icebreakers and “getting to know you” games before they dove into lessons? It might have seemed silly or pointless at the time, but that educator was actually attempting to do something much bigger than communicate facts – they were trying to turn a room of individuals with varying degrees of comfort and familiarity with each other into a thriving, upbeat community.

That same teacher, even if they were fun and free-spirited, probably seemed to have a tremendous zest for going over classroom rules and procedures as well. You might’ve rolled your eyes at the time, but through an adult lens, what they were doing was very purposeful: they were establishing expectations and establishing the rigid, non-negotiable elements of the classroom culture.

So why all the education analogies? Well, frankly, teachers are some of the smartest problem-solvers in the world when it comes to generating buy-in and engagement, and that’s what your organization’s core values are all about.

An organization’s values give them two-way benefit just as those early-year classroom activities do. Both the teacher and the employer gain a level of clearly articulated authority and identity that set the tone for the work, while also humanizing the experience in a way that invites the employees, to get involved and get excited.

Values Set the Tone

Your corporate values set the tone both for how your brand interacts with the world around it and how individuals within the organization interact with each other and outsiders. Businesses that get that right set themselves up to build a great team and get a lot done. Businesses who lack articulation or don’t meaningfully honor their values can’t maximize their potential in the same way because they’re not establishing expectations fully or giving the individual members of the team something to believe in that’s bigger than themselves.

Great articulation means great engagement, and great engagement means great work.

Crafting Your Company Values

Every organization, large or small, should have an established set of values to guide the vision, dictate the tone of business, and aid in meaningful business- and community-based goal setting. Generating those values should be the collaborative responsibility of senior leadership. HR, marketing, and representatives from other key teams or departments should have a voice in the process, but the values must flow from and reflect leadership.

That doesn’t mean your values are all about “what the bosses care about,” though. Those brainstorming sessions must be guided by a clear understanding of how those values will connect to, motivate, and engage your current employees, leading talent in your industry, and the community and world at large.

Sticking to the Core

One of the most common mistakes organizations make when they set about the work of articulating values is, well, articulating too many values. A company’s values should represent the most relevant and overarching aspects of their approach to work and their place in the world, not every little thing they think is important.

When it comes to corporate values, three to five is the ideal number, as it ensures you’re building an identity that’s supported by multiple strong pillars that you can focus on and truly honor without so many values that the message becomes diluted.

Values are Real, Not Aspirational

The other big mistake organizations make when they create corporate values is that they try to give “the right answers” rather than actually focusing on the ideas that are closest to their work and most relevant to the uniqueness of their own workforce. That often leads to a lot of lofty goals and minimal follow-through.

To work as part of an employee culture, talent attraction, or marketing campaign and meaningfully support an organization, corporate values must be real, must be honored, and must be rooted in the daily challenges, triumphs, and guiding lights of what makes both day-to-day work and “the work” on the whole special at that business. A lack of follow-through will only undermine the potential gains of articulating values and working to establish a culture in the first place.

Launchways’ Core Values

Now that I’ve laid out all that theory on why core values are so important and what businesses need to do to get them right, let’s transition to looking at a real-world example.

At Launchways, we recently established a new set of company values to help flesh out our core identity and set the tone for our work moving forward. Each value was carefully discussed and debated by our leadership team, and the result was a powerful list that made the entire team feel great about our present and even more excited about our future.

Let’s explore Launchways’ five core values one at a time:

Resourceful

We are a resourceful organization. We take initiative, we own the challenges that are set before us, and we embrace the work of finding solutions, no matter what it takes.

Driven

We are a driven enterprise. We’re passionate about what we do, and we strive to always go above-and-beyond for our clients and for each other.

Change-Maker

We’re a disruptive business. We’re unafraid to do things different, especially when we think it can yield better results. We’re confident in our ability to improve the industry.

Thoughtfully Candid

We’re a reflective and honest brand. We value constructive conversation and believe that difference of opinion can make conversations and businesses stronger.

Community-Builder

We’re a community-minded team. We’re always looking for new ways to support members of our Launchways community while also engaging with the greater Chicago community.

Key Takeaways

Establishing core values is an extremely important process to get right. A few key takeaways I’ve learned in the process include:

  • Articulating and documenting your business’ values make it easier to establish a clear direction for your business
  • Values should both set the tone for and reflect your organization’s culture
  • Values need to be real, not aspirational; values that aren’t honored will undermine the process
  • Businesses should stick to five or fewer core values or principles to avoid diluting the message

Are You Overspending on Benefits Your Employees Don’t Need or Want?

As we approach 2020, businesses are more concerned than ever with being scaled and built for profitability. Teams are leaner than ever, superstar talent carry greater workloads, and businesses that aren’t built for sustained growth are disappearing fast.

In that quest to trim the fat, controlling employee benefit overspend should be a major goal for all growing businesses. Even with responsibly scaled salaries, employee benefit offerings that aren’t well-selected can cause an organization’s compensation costs to balloon, significantly eating into opportunities for profitability.

Moving forward, we’ll explore:

  • How benefit overspend can happen to any organization
  • Why monitoring benefit overspend is especially relevant for growing organizations
  • How to understand which benefits are actually beneficial
  • How to bring finance, HR, and senior leadership together to make benefits work for everyone

Why Benefit Overspend is Such a Common Problem

Employee compensation is one an organization’s strongest tools when it comes to talent acquisition and retention. That means that the quality and value of your benefits program is indeed crucial to building a great team that’s fit, happy, and productive.

Unfortunately, however, scaling and aligning those benefit offerings is a complex task. In fact, compensation plan design is probably one of the most difficult tasks HR has to manage. That intimidation factor, paired with the fact that human resources professionals don’t always have the background in finance they need to correlate the direct connection between employee benefits compensation and the bottom line, is why benefit overspend happens in so many organizations.

More is Better, Right?

The biggest mistake businesses (especially new businesses) make when they design a benefits plan is trying to include every form of inclusive coverage and access to any valuable program. In the increasingly competitive war for talent, that kind of an approach can be attractive at face value, but year-to-year, it can become a burdensome anchor on business profitability.

Both benefits professionals and individual consumers frequently make the mistake of assuming benefits are like a stockpile of food for emergencies: it’s maintained in case you need it and provides peace of mind, but it’s not a part of your daily, weekly, or monthly life. If that’s your paradigm, then of course you’re going to assume more is better.

Here’s the truth, though: Impactful benefits programs aren’t the emergency food in the basement; they’re the dry and canned food in the pantry – they’re there for use in a pinch day-to-day. True “benefits” are the offerings that provide value, security, and convenience to employees’ and their families’ everyday lives.

Once you understand that, it quickly becomes clear that bigger isn’t better; usefulness and accessibility improve benefits programs.

Over-Emphasis on Industry Competition

One of the most common ways new or growing businesses fall into benefit over-spend is over-reliance on industry benchmarks to help guide their benefit plan design. While benchmarking is a great tool to help you understand and plan relatively fixed expenses like base salary, benefits packages must be scaled to the individual business and workforce.

Without an incredibly deep and granular understanding of your competition or goal competition’s complete financial picture, you can’t reasonably predict that their employee benefit practices will translate to success in your organization.

Studying the competition’s benefit offerings certainly has value and can inform your planning, but if it’s the main guiding light for your benefits program, you’re making the classic mistake of focusing on the competition rather than yourself. Finance, HR, and overall leadership must work together to articulate a vision of the business, its blueprint for success, and how benefits can be scaled to make that happen.

Lack of Understanding Means Lack of Alignment

Another classic mistake businesses of every size and sector make is that they create their benefits plans for a hypothetical team of theoretical employees instead of letting the real needs of their actual employees shape the process. While that can be quite difficult at outset, after a year or two of benefit program usage, you should have enough data available to create a rich understanding of what people within your organization need to build that daily health and security we’ve discussed.

If you’re not working to optimize your offerings to what people actually use, you’re likely creating or fostering overspend. At the same time, however, your benefits program must also answer and scale to finance goals. In just a minute, we’ll explore how you can leverage HR and finance help create that alignment.

Why Benefit Overspend is a Potential Pitfall for Growing Businesses

Early-stage businesses are incredibly dynamic, but that also means there is the potential for vulnerability. A disappointing quarter or behind-schedule development project can quickly erode a business’ profitability, and without the secure cash holdings of an established company, bloated employee benefits spend can turn into a big red number for a given financial term.

In order for an organization to grow continuously, with an expanding staff and increasingly complex human capital structure, an employee benefits program must account for not just costs at the program’s launch but of the way those costs might balloon, expand, or creep as the company grows. That means benefits plans aren’t just about the design that will land talent right now, they must be plugged into and built with short- and long-term financial and organizational plans in mind.

When benefits are well-scaled and well-aligned, they support an organization’s internal team, maximizing their ability to do great work while also maximizing the organization’s chances for profit as well as their ability to make informed financial projections. Finance leaders, HR leaders, and CEOs must come together to create that robust, clear vision, or they’re not really thinking about or planning for growth.

Defining “Benefit” in a Way that Makes Sense for Everyone

Increasingly, employers and employees alike are aware of the fact that employee benefits are actually an opportunity to create mutual benefit. The old way of thinking was that businesses offered benefits to be competitive and benevolent. Now, however, the cards are on the table, and people understand that part of the benefits game is keeping employees present and productive.

That doesn’t mean the pendulum has swung back and benefit plan design can be all about making the books look good, however. Medical care, prescription drugs, and hospital visits are only increasing in cost, and more people than ever have complex, potentially expensive medical needs.

Creating an approach to benefits that works for everybody and supports growth truly requires finding a balance between the needs of the actual people within your organization and the financial needs of the organization as a business. You can’t serve either purpose exclusively and expect to solve the problem in a satisfying way; both sets of values must be accounted for.

Understanding What People Really Need

As we’ve said before, one of the best ways to understand your actual organizational healthcare/benefit needs is to understand your employees’ actual healthcare/benefit needs. There are two main ways to do this: by asking them using surveys or other tools or by reviewing your carrier’s usage reports. The best approach involves using and weighing both.

Too often, employers are scared to talk to their team members about benefits because they’re scared all they’ll hear is that the programs aren’t good enough. While there’s sure to be a certain degree of that feedback, the discussion can also provide the best-possible understanding of what people actually want, need, and value. If you can get the buy-in you need to build an authentic data set, a lot of your most important questions can be answered for you definitively.

Those usage reports from your carrier will fill in the quantitative data to help you understand which offerings are most accessible and well-used (which, remember, means “valuable”). You can also build a very strong understanding of where the dead weight in your benefits program might be.

Understanding What the Business Can Bear

Once you have a strong grasp on your human needs, the next step is to determine what kinds of plans and packages your organization can reasonably offer. Obviously, the goal is to create packages that deliver consistent, satisfying offerings while still leaving yourself the best chance to predict and achieve business growth.

If identifying and eliminating overspend is your primary goal, this is really the most important point in the process. HR needs a clear picture of the finance goals so that they can create plans accordingly. At the same time, finance requires HR’s understanding of day-to-day employee needs in order to do their work in an accurate manner. Bringing those two data sets and approaches together can seem incredibly challenging at first, but it’s actually your best chance to get benefits right in a way that works for everyone.

Embracing the Push-Pull

The intersection of HR and finance can be tricky to navigate because both sets of professionals come from very different backgrounds and come equipped with what some might say are competing sets of values. With that said, they share the most important common ground of all: they’re responsible for setting up operations for success.

Getting your employees the benefits they need while keeping the business lean and scaled for profit and growth is a tall task, and frankly, no one person can make it happen. It takes a major commitment from leadership and a willingness between finance and HR to work together, plan together, and commit to seeing things through each other’s lenses (at least some of the time).

When your organization can articulate an approach that makes HR, finance, and the executive suite or boardroom happy at the same, that’s how you know you’re onto something really great.

Key Takeaways

Employee benefit overspend is rampant across business, and part of the problem is that many organizations don’t understanding how or why their approach to benefits isn’t aligned with their employees’ needs or business goals. In order to create impactful benefits packages that delight your team and drive business, it’s important to remember:

  • More is not better when it comes to benefits because overspend can be devastating to potential profitability
  • In early-stage or growing businesses, benefit overspend can be especially damaging
  • Overspend usually happens because organizations either lack a strong understanding of employees’ actual needs or feel the need to offer exhaustive benefits in the name of competition
  • To truly be “beneficial,” offerings must be impactful and see actual use
  • When it comes to determining which benefits are actually essential, ground-level employees (and their usage data) are your best resource
  • Part of getting benefits right is learning to manage the dance between humanistic priorities and business priorities

How to Design Benefits for a Diverse Workforce

Addressing diversity and inclusion within your workplace is more than just giving trainings and seminars and sending informational emails. Only with true action will employees know that you’re addressing their concerns, and it can take time to show them just how committed your business is to diversity.

Updating your employee benefits package to ensure that your offerings are designed for the diverse workforce you’re looking to create and foster is a crucial step in your business’ diversity efforts.

Here’s what you need to know about the different ways your office can be inclusive, and how to design your benefits package for a truly diverse company.

Types of Workplace Diversity to Consider

The term “diversity” doesn’t just refer to one thing, and it takes many forms in the workplace and elsewhere. Types of workplace diversity to consider when taking a look at your company data and updating policies are:

  • Generational
  • Gender/gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Religious beliefs
  • Disability
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Lifestyle
  • Political views
  • And others

As you can see, diversity is more than ensuring half of your employees are women, or that people of color are represented, though those are of course important considerations. It’s also about avoiding any form of discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, or disability.

There are many factors to think about when creating your diversity plan and updating business elements like benefits packages and employee handbook policies.

What to Include in Your Workplace Policies

First of all, remember that some applicable workplace laws are made on a state-by-state basis, not on a federal level. Some attorneys recommend going with the most comprehensive protection plans out there, even if you’re not required to do so in your state. This means you should update your policies to be in compliance with these regulations.

One example is the protection of discrimination against sexual orientation, which is not one of the included categories of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, sex discrimination is protected under the act, and workers have been known to file lawsuits that argue their sexual orientation cases under these protections instead.

As such, it’s a good idea to include in your policies that discriminatory actions such as firing an employee because of his or her mannerisms, or not treating a female employee fairly because she isn’t “womanlike,” are prohibited, as they are forms of sex discrimination.

Other ways to update policies accordingly is to develop or include gender-transitioning resources for employees, or to include the most current, acceptable, and inclusive terminology in employee materials.

Designing Benefits For a Diverse Workforce

The most important aspect of updating your benefits package is making sure that the benefits offered are fair and equitable to all employees.

Let’s take a look at the ways in which you can revamp your benefits offerings, in addition to your company policies. Think through these areas to get started with building a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

Financial Benefits for Different Generations

Analyze the financial benefit offerings your company currently provides, such as retirement contributions, student loan debt assistance, and savings accounts. Are they more geared toward a younger audience, or an older audience?

For example, student loan debt is an affliction that impacts generations across the board, but research from Experian showed that Generation X, who are between 39 and 54, has the most student loan debt, with Baby Boomers in second (ages 55 to 73) and Millennials third (ages 23 to 38). Although it may seem like the younger generations would want benefits related to paying off their student loans, this is clearly an issue that all generation struggle with.

Another financial consideration here is retirement benefits. Baby Boomers are the closest to retiring, but research from the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) shows that 45% of people in this age group don’t have any retirement savings. As such, retirement savings assistance shouldn’t just be catered to the long-term. In addition, benefits like phased retirement plans and medical programs for retirees can help this generation better prepare for life after work.

Family Benefits

Another way to address diversity within benefits is what you offer for families. Important considerations in this category are:

  • Assistance with childcare
  • Parental leave
  • Adoption leave
  • Elder care services

Another benefit that can help support families through these matters is a dependent care flexible spending account, which helps employees pay for care services while they’re at work.

Benefits for Same-Sex Couples and Domestic Partners

Spousal healthcare coverage and other benefits have long been offered to heterosexual couples. It’s now important to offer these benefits for same-sex couples, in addition to couples who are in domestic partnerships. This also means that parental or family leave benefits should apply to these couples, even if they’re not legally married.

Flexibility Benefits

Because there are so many different perspectives, experiences, and abilities that exist within your workforce, a crucial benefit to provide is flexibility. Whether due to having children, a disability or illness, or caring for a sick family member, flexible work options allow employees to adapt their schedules and their location based on their personal needs. However, this means that the flexibility benefits must apply to all employees that require a different working arrangement, and cannot be implemented unfairly. Employees should feel comfortable and never feel guilty about using these benefits when they need them.

Holidays

A major part of your benefits package is time off for holidays. This has typically only included the major American holidays, both religious and political. However, think about the employees within your company that don’t celebrate the “mainstream” American holidays, who instead celebrate holidays from their own cultural background.

Implement benefits that allow employees to take off the holidays that are important to their culture or religion, and make it simple for them to request these days off. One effective way to implement these benefits is to offer “floating holidays” that employees can use however they wish.

Ask Your Employees

Even with the best intentions, you won’t completely satisfy your diverse workforce unless you allow them to speak up. An easy way for your company to gain invaluable information about what workers care about and what they want in their benefits packages is simply to ask them.

Send out surveys and ask for feedback. Ask them if they feel like their needs are being recognized and respected, whatever they may be. Companies often make a mistake when they assume that employees have certain wants, needs, and beliefs, so it’s important to avoid those dangerous assumptions when updating your benefits package. Instead, let employees tell you what’s most important to them.

Key Takeaways

As you’re strategizing to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, making tangible within your benefits package is one important way to keep your company on track. Remember:

  • There are many “types” of diversity within any workplace.
  • Create policies that offer the most protections possible against discrimination, regardless of whether your local laws require all of them.
  • Different generations have different financial priorities.
  • Offer family benefits like paid family leave and dependent care assistance.
  • Make sure health insurance and other applicable benefits are also offered for same-sex couples and domestic partners.
  • A range of flexibility options, like remote working or flexible schedules, can help employees with family, disability, or other concerns.
  • Not all employees celebrate the same holidays, religious or not. Floating holidays can ensure that they take time off when it’s applicable to their beliefs or culture.
  • Ask your employees directly what they want or what they feel they are missing from their current benefits package.

Remember that your employee benefits package will only be designed for a diverse workplace if the offerings are applicable to everyone on your team. Avoid making assumptions about what’s important to your employees, and you’ll quickly be on your way to an inclusive, satisfying benefits package.