Leadership Love Benefits ROI. Here's the One Way to Get It

benefits roi

A few years ago, Bright Horizons wanted to learn why more employees weren't contributing to 401ks. A survey asked and found it was because people were having too much trouble budgeting today's expenses to set aside money for retirement.

In a similar vein, employers often ask why employees don't maximize vacation. Parents often say they use up too many days just staying home when a child is sick.

In the first instance, Bright Horizons was able to substantially move the dial on 401k usage by offering benefits to help budgeting. In the second, we've seen back-up care give people back days they can use to get away. As one employee put it: "It saved me vacation days."

Two problems solved; two benefits used. And in both cases, the key element was a single word..."ask."

Ernst & Young - An Exceptional Case Study of Responsive HR

Such questions form the basis of responsive organizations. And they're standard practice at Ernst & Young, where being responsive has ensured the company's EY Assist benefits program has real value.

"EY uses what we call a global people survey," EY Assist Supervising Associate Christine Young told a Bright Horizons webinar recently. "And that gets a pulse on our people's needs." An example is EY's continually evolving special-needs services. A pilot study sometime back revealed that, in addition to supports, what people really needed were other parents to talk to. "EY took to heart what we learned," Christine said, "and established the first of three of our support networks focused on our people with exceptional caregiving issues."

The practice of being responsive has informed the company's EY Assist benefits program in other important ways:

Language

Traditional HR language - even seemingly wide-reaching terms like "family" -- can be unintentionally exclusive, missing people who don't fit the designated mold. Diversity and inclusion groups prompted EY to shift to the broader term, loved one.

Programs

Early on, back-up care was considered synonymous with child care and only offered during EY's busy tax season. But that missed single people or those whose loved one wasn't a child but a spouse, a partner, a grandparent, or even a neighbor. Back-up dependent care, now offered year round, today refers to child, adult, or even self.

Reach

Leave and flexible schedules are often framed with women in mind. But that can unintentionally leave men out. "Some of them feel that they cannot take the full leave that we offer after a child is born or adopted into the family. They're afraid people are going to question their need to do so," said Christine, echoing results of our own Modern Family Index. Today, EY actively promotes fathers as caregivers and offers forums for men to share how they use time off for care. One partner has even taken to loudly announcing family obligations - "I am going to my son's baseball game; I'm going to my daughter's soccer game" - in hopes of encouraging others to do the same. "It's really setting an example and being transparent in hopes that that helps other men at the firm...and women at the firm - speak up."

The Art of Benefits ROI

Beyond asking, the art of being responsive requires actively and continually evaluating existing benefits to make sure they continue to meet employees' needs.

"In our consulting work, we've found it's typical for employers to continue to try to add benefits without focus on what offering is working, and whether they should be tweaked," said Jennifer Vena, vice president of Horizons Workforce Consulting. Regularly assessing benefits - at least once a year - allows them to shift with your people.

"EY Assist," Jennifer says, "is a great example of a workplace investment designed to be both responsive and agile." 

Watch Now! Webinar on-demand: EY's Employee Wellness - Benefits that Matter

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Written by: Ellen Oliver

About the Author

Ellen Oliver at Bright Horizons

As Director of B2B Marketing Programs, Ellen writes about talent management, employee engagement, and work/life balance trends. Ellen brings a wide perspective of human resource topics gained through working with industries from large engineering and construction firms, to government and academic organizations and nonprofits.