Give Employees Want They Want, Not Just What They Need

Matthew Owenby, Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Aflac

Matthew Owenby, Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Aflac

Engaged employees are happy employees. It’s a cliché for a reason: engaged employees have fewer safety incidents and are healthier, more innovative and overall perform better than non-engaged employees. The most recent Gallup poll reports that only 34 percent of employees across the U.S. are “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” While this ties the highest level since Gallup began reporting on employee engagement, it leaves a lot of room for improvement.

And with unemployment at a record low, the competition for top employees is continuing to heat up. So, how can you keep quality employees from leaving? The 2018 Aflac WorkForces Report revealed that health care benefits are a key differentiator when new employees decide whether to join a company – and when existing ones decide whether to leave. Nearly 70 percent of employees said their benefits packages are extremely or very important to their well-being, financial health, and job satisfaction. And 34 percent say improving their benefits packages would help keep them in their jobs, second only to increase their salaries.

Along with the typical health, vision and dental benefits, HSAs, on-site fitness centers or offering fitness reimbursement, assistance with retirement planning, working remotely and tuition reimbursement are all popular add-ons to benefit programs. But is it enough?

Aflac isn’t a company that pays lip service to employee satisfaction. We’ve implemented two employee programs that help ensure our workers of today are also our workers of tomorrow.

As employees grow with companies, their talents should grow, as well. Five years ago, we implemented the Career Success Center, designed to allow employees to sit down with company executives and other experts to discuss the next step in their career. These candid conversations help reveal why the employee might not have been chosen for previous promotion opportunities, as well as determine what the ideal next step would be in their career to ensure they get put on the proper track and into the position for which they are best suited. While some companies might be nervous that these conversations could lead employees away from the company, Aflac feels that providing them options to move to a department that is a better fit will ultimately lead to longer employment and happier engagement with the company. So far, it is paying off. To date, 2,000+ Aflac employees have participated, with 1,300 obtaining promotions or changing their career direction to something more suited to their talents.

Another way Aflac is tackling employee engagement is through reverse mentoring. While the IT department can often find itself stuck in the ways of the past, Aflac is fighting this by pairing veteran IT staff with millennial or Gen Z apprentices. Through the program, apprentices work with members of the IT team in two-year rotations, moving between teams every few months to get a feel for the nuances of Aflac’s IT roles, operations, and culture. At the same time, the younger generation is teaching the veteran staff about the latest cloud, mobile, social and analytics tools. Both groups learn valuable information crucial to ensuring quality employee development.

While most think of dental, vision and health when it comes to benefits, the reality is that if those are the only benefits you’re offering employees, you’re likely lagging and missing the opportunity to engage your workforce actively. It’s time to step out of the old benefits box and start offering employees what they want, not just what they need.

Weekly Brief

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