Loyalty and Productivity: Using Innovative Benefits to Build Employer Brands

employer brand

A great employer brand story is important for recruiting and retaining employees – but it’s important to show workers the love and not just talk about it. Benefits are one of the best ways to demonstrate that a company values its employees’ well-being and not just their work. With a rising tide of innovative benefits, from in vitro fertilization to college tuition support to telemedicine, there’s more opportunity than ever to build a strong employer brand. HR leaders who innovate can boost their competitiveness while taking better care of their people.

At Emotive Brand, we’re lucky to work with visionary employers that have embraced HR innovation, as well as with benefits companies that are disrupting their categories to offer re-invented benefits of far greater value.

Innovative Benefits Win

In a 2017 survey of 2,000 U.S. workers, Fractl found that 88% would consider taking a job with lower pay for better health, dental, and vision insurance. The same number would consider jumping ship for more flexible hours.

Other than health, flexible work hours and PTO were the most popular benefits with employees, according to Fractl’s survey, published in the Harvard Business Review.

At Emotive Brand, we see two major trends behind the rise in innovative benefits.

Control is Out, Flexibility is In

The first trend is the rethinking of an old assumption that employees need to be controlled, rather than trusted, to make decisions that are right for them and their job. Undoubtedly, this is tied to the rise of knowledge workers who demand new ways of working and have agency to jump employers at will.

Unlimited PTO was a shocking idea when Netflix adopted it years ago for a Silicon Valley-based knowledge worker staff. Despite a lot of hoopla at the time, only 1% to 2% of companies offer it today.

More would be smart to do so.

Fractl found that two-thirds of employees would consider taking a job with lower pay if offered unlimited time off. And eliminating vacation liability saves companies almost $2,000 per year per employee, says the article, citing Project: Time Off.

Emotive Brand has offered unlimited PTO since our founding in 2009. When Emotive Brand was developing its first HR polices almost 10 years ago, setting arbitrary limits on PTO “just seemed so stupid,” says CEO and co-founding partner Bella Banbury. “It’s really about treating people as adults.”

It’s also about quid pro quo in the changing world of work. “I can’t expect someone to be available at 7 or 8 at night and to check their email after hours and then not let them go to their kid’s school play,” Banbury says.

Unlimited PTO fosters mutual respect between a company and employees. Everyone wins.

Technology Drives Innovation for HR Leaders

Technology, not surprisingly, is the second trend behind the rise in innovative benefits.

While consumers have gotten used to instant gratification via tech-based services like on-demand TV, “benefits still feel a step behind,” says Sean McBride, partnerships director at Emotive Brand client Lyra Health. “HR leaders want benefits that are tech-enabled, personalized, and as accessible and available as everything else.”

Technology is driving much higher levels of access and personalization, says McBride. His company, Lyra Health, is taking the hassle out of behavioral health care by making it easy for people to connect with treatments and practitioners tailored to their specific needs.

Employers have embraced Lyra’s model, which marries technology and hands-on clinical service for more effective care.

While many companies have at least considered next-generation benefits, McBride estimates that only about 5% “have really looked at benefits holistically, from smoking cessation to personal finance to behavioral health, making sure they all have the same ease of access and personalization.”

Currently, tech companies are the most progressive, one-upping each other with benefits like egg freezing and in vitro fertilization. Because the competition for top employees is so fierce, employer brand-building is a priority.

McBride estimates it will be another five to 10 years before today’s innovative benefits will be mainstream in corporate America. For now, it’s a real source of competitive differentiation.

“We’re definitely in an early adopter phase,” he says. “It takes time for large companies to innovate and for smaller companies to blossom and replace legacy providers.”

Innovative benefits can have compelling value. In the case of comprehensive behavioral health care, studies show that total medical costs go down on average 10% over four years, while productivity can increase by as much as 23%, says McBride.

Not surprisingly, employers benefit when their employees thrive, and both the employer brand and the business come out the better for it.

See Change for HR Leaders

A third beneficiary are the HR leaders who are used to hearing more gripes than kudos.

“When you’re used to complaints and now people are stopping you in the hallway for a hug because it’s changed a family’s life – I hear stories like that,” says McBride. “The emotional connection is really enhanced when it feels like a company is investing in employees as much as the employees are investing in the company.”

Emotive Brand can help companies strengthen their workforce loyalty and productivity by ensuring HR leaders have the right insights to build more meaningful connections with employees.

Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design firm.

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