Employees will seek benefits that support the “whole person” and their families. To counteract the Great Resignation and high turnover rates, HR leaders must focus on areas that impact the “whole person”, and offer holistic benefits that support employees’ and their families’ needs. Family-focused benefits can come in a variety of forms, including backup child care, fertility benefits, adoption assistance, family financial wellness support, eldercare, pet insurance, and extended parental leave. Extending financial wellness benefits to the whole family, for instance, can help the next generation develop positive financial habits and build a strong foundation for financial literacy.
When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.
As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Neha Mirchandani.
Neha is the Chief Marketing Officer & Head of People at BrightPlan, a leader in Total Financial Wellness that is democratizing access to financial wellness for everyone. She has extensive experience in B2B and SaaS marketing and HR, and her career spans global enterprise technology companies as well as innovative startups. Over her career she has held senior roles at companies such as Cisco, Adobe and RingCentral.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.
I grew up in an Asian-Indian family with two working parents. My mom has been a huge role model in my life as someone who is self-made and put herself through medical school to become a doctor against all odds. She always told me that you can be whatever you want and to not settle. She taught me that all it takes is hard work and determination to get where you want to be. This has had a big influence on who I am today and how I live and work. I have high expectations of myself, my team and my family as I believe it pushes us to do our best work and drives innovative thinking.
Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?
The future of work is now. Today and into the foreseeable future, flexible, remote and hybrid work environments are the reality — and there is no going back to the way things were. This new workplace demands a supportive company culture that prioritizes empathy and compassion — a culture of care — where there is an increased focus on employee well-being and engagement. With this in mind, employers have the opportunity to double down and take a closer look at how they are empowering their people through their various programs and total rewards offerings to better align with employee priorities and support the holistic well-being of all employees. Holistic well-being is about meeting the needs of the “whole person” — including their physical, mental, financial and social well-being.
If we do this right, it can also help advance a company’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which is and will continue to be an area of focus for businesses in the foreseeable future. By addressing all aspects of well-being for each employee population, employers can work to level the playing field and fix systemic bias. Equality for underrepresented groups has been talked about for many years now and though we’ve made encouraging progress, there’s a long road ahead. A few stats for you… Women still earn about 20% less than men on average and hold fewer leadership roles. Black women earn only 63%, and Hispanic women only 55%, of what white men earn.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
After nearly two years of living amidst the pandemic, companies have had to reinvent their culture and work environment to keep employees happy, productive and engaged during this market transition. The success of companies will be defined by how well they do this. At the same time, employees are rethinking the work they do with a greater emphasis on meaning and purpose. All of this has ushered in a new era of flexibility in when, where and how we work. Employers’ ongoing challenge will be to keep a constant pulse on what matters most to their workforce.
One way forward-thinking employers are embracing the future of work is by putting a greater emphasis on supporting the holistic well-being of their people through comprehensive and flexible benefits. Understanding that each employee has a unique background and experience, employers will need to provide employees with more options to choose the benefits that are most relevant to them. We also expect a bigger focus on supporting the entire family unit, and across diverse family structures, to take greater hold, such as backup childcare, fertility benefits, adoption assistance, eldercare and extended parental leave.
As we move deeper into 2022, companies must continue to prioritize the employee experience which is tightly connected with employee well-being.
What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?
The biggest gap starts with understanding what employees want. Without truly understanding what current and prospective talent are looking for, employers unknowingly increase the divide and impact their chances of attracting, retaining and engaging talent.
Interestingly, according to the 2021 BrightPlan Wellness Barometer Survey 93% of employees say access to enhanced employer-provided benefits would motivate them to be more productive and engaged. Employees are overwhelmingly looking to their employers to support their overall well-being, and traditional healthcare benefits and 401(k) retirement plans are no longer enough. The Great Resignation has taught us that employers must enhance the employee experience and well-being otherwise they will be on the losing end of the war for talent.
A key strategy is to offer holistic Total Rewards, which are increasingly important as employers look to create a positive employee experience and attract and retain talent in a tight labor market. Total Rewards are a combination of monetary and non-monetary benefits used to attract, retain and engage talent, and distinguish a company as an “employer of choice.” A holistic Total Rewards program includes traditional benefits, such as health insurance, a retirement program and paid time off as well as comprehensive well-being benefits, such as flexible work practices, mental health resources, financial wellness solutions and expanded caregiver support.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
As I mentioned earlier, flexibility is here to stay. As the pandemic thrust knowledgeable workers into a remote-first environment, it became undoubtedly clear that it’s possible to perform productive work from anywhere. Despite the stress brought on by the pandemic, more than half of the employees we recently surveyed reported their work-life balance improved during the pandemic.
Employees who have the flexibility to work remotely, or to work around the constraints of their personal lives, tend to be more satisfied and productive. For these reasons, many employers have committed to fully remote and/or hybrid work options and to providing increased flexibility to help employees with childcare and other commitments.
Hybrid work has also led to the increasing importance of mission, purpose and culture within organizations. While employees are not in a typical office setting anymore, HR teams have had to put special emphasis on the culture to ensure it translates to a dispersed workforce. Now that hybrid work is a permanent benefit for many companies, continuing to preserve the mission, purpose and culture will become even more crucial. These aspects will further tie into the future of work as younger generations who are now entering the job market want to work for a company that aligns with their purpose and values.
We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?
Society has come a long way in establishing equal rights and addressing DE&I issues, but systemic bias and the wage gap still hinder the advancement of women and people of color in the workforce. In fact, only 9% of women and 6% of people of color believe their company handled DE&I issues well during the pandemic. Coupled with financial inequities — such as how 58% of Black and Latino households don’t have enough savings to cover three months of expenses at the federal poverty rate and women are 10% less likely than men to invest for their goals — it’s clear major societal and corporate changes still need to happen.
Employers can play a crucial role in advancing societal shifts by supporting the financial well-being of underrepresented employees and creating a future of work that works for everyone. Most of an employee’s financial life is tied closely to their employer as the primary source of income and benefits, so ensuring equal access to these resources can help level the playing field for women and people of color.
This act of reshaping the future workforce is essential to addressing systemic bias and ensuring employees of all backgrounds are given the support and empowerment they need to achieve financial security. By providing an inclusive culture and the right financial wellness tools and resources, employers can help women and people of color tap their true financial potential and contribute to the economic health of our communities and our country.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
The future of work is about keeping people front and center. Previously, people-related issues were viewed primarily as an HR focus, but now it’s on every Board and C-Suite agenda as a priority. HR has a seat at the table to really drive a lot of the business agendas and advocate for employee needs, and they’re now doing so with the support of employers and business leaders along the way. I’m optimistic that despite all the challenges we’ve faced with the pandemic, it has put a spotlight on what matters most: our people.
Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employees’ mental health and wellbeing?
There is no denying that burnout is at an all time high. We’re now seeing more employers implement policies promoting mental health, such as stress management and resiliency training, flex hours and access to mental health apps. Leaders and executives are also focusing on making emotional connections with their employees to better understand their needs and what’s top of mind. In 1:1 conversations with their direct reports, managers may hear about certain personal struggles and can recommend company benefits that may help support the employee. This really shows the organization cares for them as a person.
Another emerging trend that addresses the holistic well-being of employees is to allow employees the flexibility to tailor some wellness benefits to their specific physical, financial and mental health needs. In these cases, employers may provide employees with core benefits plus an additional menu of benefits that employees can select from based on their needs. Also, extending employee benefits to address the needs of an employee’s family unit is another strategy HR leaders should consider in 2022 and beyond. Extending financial wellness benefits to the whole family, for instance, can help the next generation develop positive financial habits and build a strong foundation for financial literacy.
It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?
Employee expectations in 2021 set high standards for 2022 with every new name for “The Great Resignation.” These higher standards have surfaced four key challenges business and HR leaders need to solve for in 2022: attracting and retaining talent in a hyper competitive labor market, keeping employees engaged in the new world of work, enabling the holistic well-being of employees and promoting a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). To address these challenges, employers must reprioritize company-wide initiatives and make permanent and significant changes to their culture and Total Rewards strategies and redefine the employee experience.
In our new work reality, the definition of employee wellness has also permanently changed and a focus on mental health, financial and social well-being, in addition to physical health is crucial. Companies and business leaders can leverage a variety of strategies to enable the holistic well-being of their employees. Employers for example may decide to offer a wellness day off each month, provide easier access to telehealth counseling and mental health apps, and promote financial wellness with access to financial tools, counseling and resources. Essentially, company cultures need to evolve to be more supportive of every aspect that impacts the employee experience.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- Employees are now in the driver’s seat and will need to create a reputation for stellar culture and a great place to work to win the war on talent. While morale sunk to a new low and employee burnout hit an all-time high, it was the mental and financial stressors of the pandemic — Zoom fatigue, economic hardships and blurred lines between work and life — that brought the importance of holistic employee wellness to the forefront. A survey by Ginger revealed that 69% of workers believe the pandemic is the most stressful point in their professional careers, with 52% of employees feeling burned out. As the workplace reality continued to evolve, with it came new revelations surrounding employee needs. Stress and instability prompted employees to reflect on their priorities; many employees left for new roles or companies better aligned with their values and beliefs, some searched for greener pastures with higher pay and better benefits, and others took a break to focus on different life priorities. This has led to the rise of the empowered employee and the phenomenon known as the “Great Resignation”.
- Employees will seek benefits that support the “whole person” and their families. To counteract the Great Resignation and high turnover rates, HR leaders must focus on areas that impact the “whole person”, and offer holistic benefits that support employees’ and their families’ needs. Family-focused benefits can come in a variety of forms, including backup child care, fertility benefits, adoption assistance, family financial wellness support, eldercare, pet insurance, and extended parental leave. Extending financial wellness benefits to the whole family, for instance, can help the next generation develop positive financial habits and build a strong foundation for financial literacy.
- Employees will actively demand financial wellness solutions from their employers. The disproportionate impact financial wellness has on mental, physical and overall health became highly visible during the pandemic. Financial stress skyrocketed; 65% of employees reported being more stressed about their finances in 2021, leading to a decline in employee engagement and productivity that cost U.S. businesses 4.7 billion dollars per week*. Employees want financial support. Over 80% of employees want guidance from their employers on personal finances beyond retirement, including support for financial planning, investing and money management. Offering financial tools and resources will give companies a competitive advantage.
- Employees will expect increasingly customized support and flexible benefits that fit their individual needs. Every employee is unique, and your benefits program should reflect that. Customization and personalization will be paramount in meeting the diverse needs of the workforce in 2022 and beyond. A single, child-less employee, for example, may choose to prioritize mental health resources and internal career mobility programs over gym memberships and parental leave benefits, while another employee might rely on caregiver support and mentoring resources to do their best and reach their personal and professional goals.
- Employees will pursue companies that promote inclusivity, belonging and a “culture of care”. How employees feel about their workplace speaks volumes about their well-being. Fostering a “culture of care” can create optimal conditions for inclusivity and belonging to flourish. HR leaders undoubtedly agree, ranking diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) as their second-highest priority in the Future Workplace 2021 HR Sentiment Survey. The office will continue to look more diverse too. Supporting the well-being of all populations, including parents, single-income families, LGBTQ+ and other groups is no longer a nice-to-have initiative, but an innate part of building a healthy and thriving workplace culture. Organizations that significantly advance their DE&I agendas by offering high-value benefits and support structures, such as Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), can better address the needs of all their employees.
*Assumes there are 94,257,000 knowledge workers in the U.S. with an hourly wage of 35.53 dollars. Source: Federal Reserve Economic Dataset. For more information, see the BrightPlan 2021 Wellness Barometer report.
I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?
It’s a quote from Richard Branson, “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity but you’re not sure you can do it. Say yes first, then learn how to do it later.”
I live by this today but want to share some important caveats. Early in your career it’s important to find a nurturing and mentoring environment where you can learn and grow. But later in your career, it is important to stretch yourself and be comfortable stepping into big shoes and growing into the role.
Let me share a personal story to bring this to life. Early in my career, I signed up for a role that was too big for my boots- I didn’t have enough experience to succeed. It was my second job out of college and it was about running marketing for the US for a well-established gaming company. I don’t know what I was thinking even applying for a role in an industry I knew nothing about and didn’t have a passion for. I think I got hired since I spoke French (they’re a French company) but it was a mismatch all around.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.
I’ve had the pleasure to meet with Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, and I’d love to be able to continue the conversation. Her thinking and book around teaching girls bravery and to embrace imperfection is inspiring and spot on for addressing some of the systemic societal notions towards girls and women. Not to mention she has created an amazing movement to empower girls in STEM. There’s just so much I admire about her.
I’d also offer up Sal Khan, the creator of Khan Academy. Providing access to free education for kids has been a game changer. I’ve actually had the privilege of meeting him in person and his unassuming demeanor and humility is inspiring considering the impact he has had on education.
Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.