How to Create a World-Class Employee Experience with Great Benefits Communication and a Data-Driven Plan Design: A Jellyvision Q&A with Michelle Pisani

Mark Rader Benefits Communication, Industry Insights

We recently sat down (virtually, that is) with Michelle Pisani, Director of Benefits & Recognition at Blue Shield of California*, to chat about the role of data analysis and great benefits communication in attracting top talent in an uber-competitive market and creating a better benefits employee experience. Here are some of the highlights of our conversation:

Jellyvision:

Hi Michelle! So we’ve been hearing a lot about how, with unemployment being low and job candidates in a position to be choosier, HR teams are rethinking their benefits offerings and communication strategies to attract the best talent. Does that ring true for Blue Shield, and, if so, what have you done to keep up?

Michelle:

It does. Being in the Bay Area, there’s a competitive aspect to recruiting top talent and ensuring they stay engaged. Our job is to make sure the programs we offer are inclusive of all current and prospective employees’ lifecycles, because we want top talent to enjoy working at Blue Shield of California. Since our workforce is headquartered in the Bay Area, we benchmark our total rewards program against other Bay Area and California employers so we can ensure we’re offering competitive total rewards to make Blue Shield a great place to work.

Being a not-for-profit, we have to be smart about the money we invest in our programs. Our company mission is to deliver high-quality health care that is worthy of our family and friends and sustainably affordable. In order to fulfill our mission, we all have to do our part to keep administrative costs low so our members continue to have access to affordable and quality coverage.

We’ve made significant investments to modernize our total rewards programs so employees can live their best lives in and outside of the office. As part of those efforts, we’ve implemented a sabbatical program, increased our paid parental leave offering, decreased employee medical contributions, piloted health and well-being programs, and started a fitness reimbursement program.

In addition to enhancing our programs, we need to make sure employees know about—and appreciate—those offerings! ALEX is a big help on the “showing value” front, of course, both during open enrollment and when we’re onboarding new hires. And in order to help our employees know where to go when they need information or access to our new programs, we’ve also crafted a communication campaign that focuses on a different aspect of wellbeing each quarter. Our first quarter we highlighted financial wellbeing. We hosted 6 different onsite and webinar events that helped employees strengthen their financial wellbeing through resources already offered in our programs. More to come, but our first quarter was extremely successful!

“Being in the Bay Area, there’s a competitive aspect to recruiting top talent and ensuring they stay engaged.”

Jellyvision:

What you’ve described sounds like a really rich and thoughtful benefits program! Are there other things that you might add to the mix in the next couple of years?

Michelle:

We’re continuing to modernize our overall program so we can support employees throughout all stages of life and be a great place to work. We have some ideas in mind, but to help us get employee feedback we’re doing a conjoint analysis survey this year.

This type of practice will give employees the opportunity to compare current programs against alternative programs (both as a takeaway or enhancement), so we can get an idea of where we should focus our investments to increase the perceived value of our programs in the most efficient way.

Jellyvision:

That’s a great idea—a lot of HR teams would find value in that. What’s the way that your team will actually conduct that survey? Do you outsource this or do it yourselves?

Michelle:

There are a few vendors out there that can conduct the analysis, and we’re evaluating those options now.

Jellyvision:

So obviously there’s an analytics component that goes along with the warmer, fuzzier goal of keeping your workforce happy. What is the value of ALEX, as you see it, in this larger context of what you’re trying to do with the employee experience in general?

Michelle:

ALEX is helpful in a lot of ways! As a new hire there is so much material to go through during onboarding and it can be boring at times. ALEX is a fun and smart way to pick out your benefits. By offering ALEX, we don’t have to hire 100+ benefits professionals to have personalized conversations with employees, which is usually necessary for employees to make the right decisions.

The ALEX Leave of Absence tool has also been very successful. Leave of absence practices and policies can really make or break the employee experience. We believe the more we can educate employees and ensure they have correct information, the better they feel about taking time away from work and the more they feel supported when they return. The ALEX tool once again takes a really complicated subject, breaks it down in a digestible way, and then directs them to the correct people and resources. ALEX even makes the process fun!

Jellyvision:

That’s so great to hear. You mentioned that, being a not-for-profit, you try to be very tactical about what benefits you’re offering to attract talent. I’m guessing the company culture that you guys have built also serves as a magnet too, right? Like-minded people, a sense of purpose. Can you talk about how that culture fits into the “employee experience” as well?

“By offering ALEX, we don’t have to hire 100+ benefits professionals to have personalized conversations with employees.”

Michelle:

Sure. We’re spread throughout California with a diverse population in a variety of job types, so it can be hard to nail down one “right answer” in terms of cultivating a positive employee experience. One thing that does hold us together is that our employees are extremely connected to our mission, which is a main focus in the work we do everyday. As for culture specifically, we recognize the diversity throughout Blue Shield and strive to make this company an inclusive environment by communicating and celebrating our differences. This is done through embracing our employee resource groups, designing products which transform health care, developing a comprehensive total rewards programs, and so much more.

Jellyvision:

So, a personalized tool like ALEX helps out in that respect, I’d imagine. You have this diverse population, but you can still give them that one-on-one kind of support, which aligns to your company mission of helpfulness, right?

Michelle:

Yes, ALEX does the heavy lifting for us and ensures our employees are getting the best experience, whether they are just starting their career at Blue Shield, going through a life changing event, or just trying to get through open enrollment. We couldn’t be more grateful for having ALEX as an extension of our team.

Jellyvision:

Well, Michelle, thanks so much for talking with us today! Now excuse us while we go conduct a conjoint analysis to decide where to go for lunch.

Michelle:

Haha. No problem….and good luck with that!

 

*Not to be confused with Blue Cross Blue Shield, Blue Shield of California is a not-for-profit health care provider based in the Bay Area.