Admittedly, I am one of “those” HR professionals that geek out on benefits.  My dream is for a benefit plan design Jeopardy category… “What is safe harbor?”…. “What is a formulary?”…. I would sweep the category for sure.

The reason for my passion is not merely about being an expert on plan design, budget management, or compliance auditing. My passion is from experiencing how benefit plans can bring culture to life. When done right, benefit plans allow companies to connect with employees in very personalized and unique ways.

At Kendra Scott we live by three pillars: Family, Fashion, and Philanthropy. When I started in 2015 I walked into a complete white space. The company had just rolled out of a PEO and was developing its own benefits identity for the first time. What an incredibly fun seven years it has been! I have been able to use the lens of Family, Fashion, and Philanthropy to build a robust and unique package design that has both a high real and perceived value by our employees. We are sure to utilize our pillars in all benefits marketing material so employees can easily connect the dots of the “why” behind each decision that is made.

In my opinion, great benefit plans are agile and nimble in order to respond quickly to current company initiatives or external environment stressors. They are standard enough to be compliant and inclusive but leave enough grey so that the company can meet each employee where they are in any situation and determine how to best support.

"In my opinion, great benefit plans are agile and nimble in order to respond quickly to current company initiatives or external environment stressors"

I would love to share just a few examples from earlier this year. I remember the morning in May when I awoke to multiple news articles on my phone alerting of a national baby formula shortage. As a mother of two young girls, my heart ached for parents that were affected by this incredibly stressful and panic inducing circumstance. Immediately, I set to work to see how our company benefit plan could help. Within a few hours, we had stood up a new benefit giving parents up to 8 hours of paid time off outside of our standard PTO policy if they needed time to search for formula. We also added a shipping subsidization benefit for parents that were facing much inflated shipping cost. The outpouring of appreciative emails after the benefit was announced that afternoon were heartwarming. This was us living our Family pillar by clearly standing with our parents during this difficult time.

We also made another bold statement in May by making Mother’s Day a Corporate Holiday. This is a huge day for our brand and our customer, one of the busiest times of the year outside of holiday. We thought, what better way to align the passion with our employees by giving them a day off to honor themselves or the mother figure in their lives? Our employees loved this new benefit and we saw a lot of organic employer branding through employee-made social media post and photos on how they were spending their special day.

My call to action for all HR professionals is this: Take a close look at your benefit offerings and ask yourself “Do these align with our company mission and vision?” “Do we market them in a way that employees understand the alignment?” And lastly, “Are we over-policied or over-processed in a way that keeps us from quickly leaning into employees in their unique circumstance when it comes to a benefit need?”

The ultimate feeling of satisfaction in our field is when you know you made a difference for an employee and for the company. A well designed and communicated benefits plan is a major enabler and culture builder.