When Centro rolled out coaching in an effort to support working parents, they learned two major keys to ensuring benefit utilization and success. Employee benefits aren't all created equal. Some are ongoing services that get activated for everyone pretty much automatically when they're hired or soon after (e.g. insurance). Others are more situational, finding their stride when employees are doing well (a sabbatical) or struggling (employee assistance programs).
Situational and ongoing benefits can’t be launched the same way.
Ongoing benefits are tapped early in the employment cycle when employees are most aware of the company’s offerings and likely have the most time to set them up. Since the employee is still fresh to the company, they often still have a direct relationship with HR to help them through the process.
On the other hand, situational benefits, like working parent and leadership coaching, depend on employees to recognize the value of the benefit long after their first day on the job, remember or learn that the benefit is available, and actively access it. Even if HR is available to help, few employees just check in with HR on a regular basis to stay abreast of all their options.
For benefits that improve an employee’s performance on or off the job, additional obstacles can stand in the way of much-needed help:
- Admitting they need some help can be hard, especially for high-potential leaders who've always been the go-to person for others.
- Worry over what managers or peers will think of their request for coaching -- will they be seen as proactive go-getters looking for every advantage. or frazzled slackers who can’t get it together on their own.
- Confidentiality concerns -- if employees aren't certain their sessions are truly private, they might worry that any information shared could get back to their manager or other leadership.
These are issues that our clients face from the moment they start their coaching program till it gets firmly established as a key pathway to personal and professional success. There’s no one right way to approach these concerns but there is much companies can learn from each other’s experiences. Take Centro< for example.
Centro helps working parents make things work at work and at home.
Centro is a mid-sized digital advertising company (700 employees). The workforce is relatively young (average age of 32), a small portion of whom have children. Lacking a critical mass of working parents, they found it difficult to provide sufficient in-house supports like working-parent resource groups.In search of a way to provide employees with real support along the transition to parenthood, programs that would benefit both the employee and the company, Centro found Life Meets Work.
Centro contracted with Life Meets Work in 2013 to provide coaching for all working parents in their organization. To date, 40 employees have gone through the program. And it continues to go strong. HR has positioned the program to employees as an opportunity to have a private sounding board to help them be successful, keep in balance, and make things work for their careers and their families.
Positive word of mouth helps support for working parents take hold.
Beyond the positive results working parents achieved, the program really started taking root once the first participants could tell others about their experience and how it benefited them. For example, one participant noted that she “appreciate[s] the structure that the coaching gives to my decision making.”
This word of mouth was especially powerful once managers had gone through the program and could share with others just how it benefits employees and management. Multiple Centro managers who are alums of our New Parent Career Coaching program have referred other employees to the program. Per Jan Fulcher, a Life Meets Work coach working with Centro’s employees “The endorsements of managers with firsthand experience of the program have enhanced the level of engagement and success.”
The program has been well received by company executives who believe it shows their concern and support for employee engagement. As Victoria Grant, Total Rewards Analyst, told us, “Employees really know that a company cares about them when it is willing to put the resources and time into a program that directly influences their lives both outside and inside the company.”
Centro’s tips for rolling out your coaching program:
So far, the HR leaders at Centro have uncovered two keys to rolling out a situational benefit like coaching for working parents.
1) Train your managers on the program’s benefits and processes before rolling it out to the staff.
Employees will more easily believe that the company really wants them to use a benefit to help them succeed when managers are the ambassadors for the program.
2) Expect some concerns about privacy at first.
Even though employee comments in a coaching session are private and never shared with the company, employees may be wary of an honest exploration of their career and personal goals as part of a company program. Encouraging early adopters to share their stories with other employees can illustrate that their conversations really are private and the program can help them better manage life and work.