Employers look to their employee benefits plans as a means to many ends—to attract and retain quality people, ensure that their valued employees and their families are looked after in case of a catastrophic medical event, and as an integral piece of their overall compensation strategy. However, the structure and content of a benefits plan can also be designed to reflect an organization’s corporate culture.

Corporate culture can be defined as the personality of an organization or the shared beliefs that drive behaviour. The culture of an organization influences how employees think and feel about the company, how the company relates to its community and how the company’s employees interact with each other and with their customers or clients.

A company’s culture is reflected through a variety of both formal and informal means. These can include a company’s mission and vision, core beliefs and values, written or unwritten rules of behaviour, dress code and the physical work environment. Organizational behaviour experts agree that, though it’s intangible, an organization’s culture plays a key role in employee engagement and loyalty, effective organizational performance, goal attainment and profitability.

Most organizations already link performance management and compensation recognition programs to their core values and business objectives. However, extending that linkage to include their benefits strategy and design can further embed an organization’s core values and objectives into its culture.

Employers wishing to create or reinforce a culture of entrepreneurship or where employees are empowered to make decisions may choose to implement a flexible benefits plan, health spending account or flexible spending account, where the employee can exercise choice in how they spend the company’s contribution toward their benefits.

If one of a company’s key values is environmental sustainability—and this attribute is also reflected in its culture and work environment—it would want to ensure that its insurer partner has a strong sustainability statement, supports paperless benefits administration, communication and education, and claims submission. It might also wish to include “green” benefits such as a public transit incentive program.

An employer could reflect a culture of wellness by including benefits that specifically speak to proactive health management. Nutritional counselling or healthy weight coaching, stress management tools and smoking cessation can be highlighted alongside any wellness education or programming offered. It should also consider an audit of its plan design to ensure there are no obstacles to treatment compliance. Employee recognition programs could also include a reward option that links to health and wellness, such as additional flexible spending account credits or exercise equipment, for example.

A family-friendly culture could translate into a parental leave top-up, adoption assistance benefit, personal days for family medical appointments or emergency daycare relief. Company contributions toward the cost of benefits in a family-oriented environment would take into consideration the additional cost of family coverage instead of providing the same contribution per employee regardless of single/family status, and would include coverage for an employee as well as their dependents, rather than for the employee only.

Culture also impacts the way an organization communicates with its employees. This should also be extended to the way in which benefits are communicated. Messaging around the benefits offering, changes to benefits or actions required by employees regarding their benefits should be consistent with the organization’s other messaging, and incorporate the company’s language style, branding and the media it uses to effectively communicate with its employees.

By including demonstrable benefits that relate to specific aspects of the organization’s culture and core values, employers further integrate that positive culture into the daily lives of their employees. And a positive corporate culture leads to greater employee satisfaction and engagement and, ultimately, increased productivity and profitability.

Kim Siddall is a vice-president and local practice leader at Aon. She has more than 20 years of experience in the health and benefits industry. These are the views of the author and not necessarily those of Benefits Canada.
Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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