Ally Financial is redefining its benefits program to meet the needs ofÂ the modern family.
By Kathie Patterson
An organizationâs culture and purpose are key drivingÂ factors in attracting and retaining talent, and this isÂ particularly the case with top millennial and Generation ZÂ workers. While all employees may want the same thingsÂ regardless of age, younger generations are more vocalÂ about what they need from their employers and haveÂ called on companies to be more thoughtful and willing toÂ evolve with todayâs changing society.
Ally Financial strives to be open with its employees,Â listening to feedback in order to be better and doÂ better for its workforce. This requires being more closelyÂ connected with talent on a professional and personal levelÂ to better understand how to meet their needs. CompaniesÂ need to recognize that employeesâ personal andÂ professional lives are not separate, they are combinedâand if they want to find and keep top talent, itâs necessaryÂ to help employees succeed both at work and at home.
This approach is becoming an expectation among youngerÂ workers. According to the Global Generations 3.0 studyÂ from EY, employer trust is a significant factor in howÂ Gen Z employees are approaching their careers. In otherÂ words, the youngest members of the workforce want aÂ commitment from their employer that they will be takenÂ care of.
Half of Gen Z workers say finding an employer thatÂ supports work-life balance by offering flexibility aroundÂ when and where they work is a top consideration whenÂ selecting an employer. The study also found that 64Â percent say fair compensation and benefit packages driveÂ their trust in an organizationâs support of its employees.
This indicates that people today want to work forÂ companies that have a strong purpose and valuesÂ systemâones that listen to the social discourse and ensureÂ that the desires and values of their employees are heard.Â People strive to be part of organizations that stand forÂ something and are deeply engaged with their employees.
A highly engaged workforce can mean the differenceÂ between a company just getting by or serving as anÂ industry leader, and this starts with the experienceÂ employees have at work. Culture must be integratedÂ into the entire fabric of the organization to drive theÂ highest levels of engagement. In an organization with aÂ connected culture, employees work together to support aÂ shared mission, creating a sense of purpose and increasingÂ engagement.
Supporting Working Parents
Often, efforts to build these connected experiencesÂ focus on younger generations. However, it is crucialÂ for companies to recognize the âgrowing upâ of theirÂ workforce as well and meet the needs of the evolvingÂ family structure. How employers choose to support theÂ new generation of parents is being watched closely and isÂ a top concern of working mothers and fathers across theÂ board.
Only about one-third (32 percent) of full-time workersÂ have a âgreat deal of trustâ that taking time off for childÂ or eldercare would not negatively affect their career,Â according to the EY study. Meanwhile, less than two out ofÂ five say the same about taking parental leave.
At Ally, creating a purpose-driven organization with aÂ focus on meeting the needs of employees who have or areÂ working to start families, regardless of whether they areÂ single or partnered, a same sex couple, or have a medicalÂ infertility diagnosis, has been a top priority. The companyÂ recognizes the need to understand and adapt to theÂ evolving family structure and is providing opportunitiesÂ for working mothers and fathers, current or prospective,Â to be supported by the organization in their personal lives.
For example, starting in 2019, Ally shifted from offeringÂ an infertility benefit to a fertility benefit to moreÂ fully support employees looking to build a family. ThisÂ marked a transition to a policy that is more inclusive ofÂ all employeesânot only those with medical diagnoses.Â The fertility benefit includes providing all employeesÂ with adoption benefits of $35,000 per child (limit of twoÂ children); surrogacy benefits that allow for reimbursementÂ of up to $35,000 per occurrence (limit of two occurrences);Â and 12 weeks of full-salaried parental leave for bothÂ mothers and fathers, as well as two weeks of full-payÂ caregiver leave.
Ally also recognizes the importance of supporting itsÂ working mothers and fathers following their return toÂ the workplace. As a result, the company pays for nursingÂ mothers to ship breast milk home when traveling onÂ business. The goal of these initiatives is to ensure thatÂ employees do not feel like they have to make a choiceÂ between their families and their careers.
Supporting Educational Pursuits and Offsetting Student Debt
As the high cost of an education looms over workers, itâsÂ important for companies to help offset one of lifeâs largestÂ and most valuable expenses. With student loan debt inÂ the U.S. surpassing $1.5 billion in 2019, it became clearÂ to Allyâs leadership team that helping employees furtherÂ their educational goalsâor those of their loved onesâwasÂ another way to be a relentless ally for their financial wellbeing.
The organization did this by introducing three offeringsÂ aimed at saving up, paying down, and paying forward.
- Ally contributes $100 per month to U.S. employeesâÂ eligible 529 savings plans to help with financialÂ preparation for future educational pursuits, up to aÂ $10,000 lifetime limit.
- The company rolled out assistance to ease studentÂ loan debt, offering $100 per month to U.S. employeesÂ with student loans that are in good standing, up toÂ $10,000. This includes loans taken out by Ally employeesÂ to assist the students in their lives. Whether for parents,Â grandparents, or guardians, the goal was to help ease theÂ financial burden of continued education.
- Ally also increased its tuition reimbursement matchÂ to $10,000 a year with no lifetime limit to advance itsÂ employeesâ careers and promote a culture committed toÂ learning.
These benefits offerings reflect the reality thatÂ educational benefits are becoming more vital thanÂ ever to support employeesâ and their familiesâ financialÂ well-being. People want to work for a company thatÂ encourages them to be better and understands theÂ importance of education, curiosity, and learning.
The Road Forward
A solid benefits program that attracts and retains topÂ talent all boils down to the âcare factor.â How can aÂ company demonstrate its commitment to employeesÂ through actions that do just thatâcare? OrganizationsÂ striving to adapt with the evolving workforce and ensureÂ they appropriately meet the needs of employees across allÂ generations should consider three strategies.
- Focus on culture. Celebrate differences among employeesÂ and make sure that diversity is not measured as theÂ latest initiative, but is truly integrated into the cultureÂ of the organization. Offer a work environment whereÂ all backgrounds, experiences, interests, and skills areÂ respected, appreciated, and encouraged by leadershipÂ across all levels of the organization.
One way Ally does is through its employee resourceÂ groups (ERGs). The company offers eight ERGs that areÂ open to everyoneâallies as well as those who identifyâincluding an ERG that aims to create understanding acrossÂ generations.
- Consider employee needs. Listen to the uniqueÂ perspectives of employees and recognize the value inÂ diversification of thought. It is essential for long-termÂ growth and success to leverage the ideas of the workforceÂ to find better ways to approach challenges, discoverÂ opportunities, and drive innovation.
- Support employee lives in and out of the workplace.Â Understand how closely intertwined employeesâÂ professional and personal lives are and help them navigateÂ with support. Implement opportunities for employeesÂ to engage with and trust the company outside of theirÂ day-to-day role through unique benefits offerings, ERGs,Â opportunities to give back, and a true commitment toÂ diversity and inclusion. Look for ways to address thingsÂ like education expenses that can have a huge impact onÂ employeesâ financial well-being.
Listeningânot just hearingâthe needs and interests ofÂ employees and integrating those values into the wholeÂ company, from career development to educationalÂ benefits to well-being and benefits offerings, will driveÂ long-term engagement and success across the entireÂ workforce.
Kathie Patterson is the CHRO of Ally Financial.