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
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
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
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
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.
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
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,
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.
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.
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
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:
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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.
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
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.
We’re a reflective and honest brand. We value constructive
conversation and believe that difference of opinion can make conversations and
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.
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
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
Why monitoring benefit overspend is especially
relevant for growing organizations
How to understand which benefits are actually
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Types of Workplace Diversity
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:
Race and ethnicity
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
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.
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.
Another way to address diversity within benefits is what you
offer for families. Important considerations in this category are:
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.