Navigating life's stages: Lumen's comprehensive approach to employee support

Grandfather caring for his grandson

Lumen Technologies embraces many forward-thinking mantras: “Growth starts here,” “Experience what’s next,” and “Unleash your potential.” However, for the global telecommunications company, these credos extend well beyond the solutions and technologies it offers.  

For Lumen’s 22,000 US employees, this translates to a robust benefits strategy carefully crafted to support all life stages and career advancement. Charles Ho, the Lead Benefits Analyst at Lumen, explains why and how Lumen enhanced its family care and educational offerings to drive better outcomes for its employees and business alike.  

An active approach to family care 

Like many companies during the pandemic, Lumen understood its employees needed urgent family care solutions. In response, the organization introduced back-up care to support employees facing family care gaps. With that change in place, Lumen then began exploring other solutions to better support its staff. “We started having honest and transparent conversations about what people need in terms of caregiving support,” shares Ho. “This is the kind of cultural shift that is and will distinguish Lumen from the rest of the field.” 

Through this process, Lumen made numerous discoveries about the link between family care and workforce sustainability. One such realization is that caregiving responsibilities are the second leading cause of retirement. This reality, coupled with the knowledge that caregiving challenges extend well beyond the youngest children and disproportionally affect women, helped Lumen recognize that it needed a vendor partner that could actively help find care for its employees.  

“We have a very diverse and dispersed population geographically and we really needed a national network that provided that type of 360-degree coverage from coast to coast,” says Ho. 

A new partner in care 

After three years with its original vendor, Lumen turned to Bright Horizons for an elevated back-up care program, transforming the offering from primarily reimbursed self-sourced care through an online portal to the Bright Horizons program that includes in-center care, in-home care, access to summer camps, and tutoring. With Lumen’s new offering, 90% of employees have access to vetted, indemnified, qualified caregivers within a 35-mile radius of its office. According to Ho, “These back-up care options give our employees greater flexibility, increased peace of mind, and drive greater engagement at work. Now, our program is really helping caregivers solve their challenges.” 

Since launching its program with Bright Horizons, Lumen has learned even more about the needs of its working caregivers. More than half of the program usage is by employees with school-age children, which reinforces the need to support the "hidden middle” — the demographic of caregivers often lost between those who require full-time early child care and those needing elder care. Also, most Lumen employees with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are choosing center care, a more cost-efficient model for the company and its employees. "Our employees have made it clear that paying for care is just one piece of the puzzle. They also need help finding care they can trust. Our program with Bright Horizons enables us to connect our families to high-quality, reliable care that we subsidize so it's more affordable.” In fact, 100% of Lumen employees who responded to a post-care survey say they would have missed work without the back-up care program. Furthermore, 83% of those surveyed say the program makes them more committed to Lumen. 

To further enhance its benefit of 10 days of back-up care per year and to ensure employees have help at the point of need, Lumen has introduced Family Concierge. This service provides employees with one-to-one guidance to develop a family care plan to meet their unique needs. Lumen also offers college advising to employees with older children.  

On the breadth of family care services Lumen now offers, Ho notes, “There's value in that these benefits cover so many different life stages for our employees. We want to meet them where they are. When our employees have a need, we want them to think, 'I bet my Lumen benefits have something that can help me.'” 

Helping advance careers 

Beyond family care benefits, Lumen also aims to elevate its employees through comprehensive career development and educational assistance programs. Since 2015, Lumen has used EdAssist by Bright Horizons to facilitate tuition reimbursement and direct billing for targeted schools. A recently introduced non-degree program allows employees to obtain valuable professional certifications as part of the organization’s broader initiative to attract, retain, and upskill employees. On the impact of the educational programs, Ho notes, “They’re absolutely critical. We want to showcase our skills and our dedication to always improving, honing, and sharpening our skills. And nothing shows that more than offering a robust education assistance program.” 

To help employees envision a future with Lumen, the organization now offers eight curated career pathways, which define the competencies needed to advance into their next roles. These pathways promote upskilling and reskilling in business-critical areas such as data and business analytics, software engineering, and project management and scrum master. By linking their pathways to the right education partner, Lumen is building a talent pipeline to address their in-demand jobs today and in the future. The organization also hosts customized webinars to keep employees informed of the services they offer. One such service is 1:1 career coaching, which allows Lumen employees to plan and work towards career goals. The program has been extremely well-received with a 63% increase in utilization in 2023 and an impressive 89% retention rate for employees in the program.  

With a wide variety of benefits to address needs at all life stages, Lumen has made it possible for its entire workforce to build their careers and families simultaneously. Being able to offer both family care and educational assistance programs through one vendor has been a gamechanger for Lumen. Ho comments, “We found tremendous value in having programs all under the same umbrella. The goal is for our employees to look at our offerings and say, ‘There’s something here for me.’ We feel confident that we’ve achieved that goal.” 

Grandfather caring for his grandson