Ally Financial is redefining its benefits program to meet the needs of the modern family.
By Kathie Patterson
An organization’s culture and purpose are key driving factors in attracting and retaining talent, and this is particularly the case with top millennial and Generation Z workers. While all employees may want the same things regardless of age, younger generations are more vocal about what they need from their employers and have called on companies to be more thoughtful and willing to evolve with today’s changing society.
Ally Financial strives to be open with its employees, listening to feedback in order to be better and do better for its workforce. This requires being more closely connected with talent on a professional and personal level to better understand how to meet their needs. Companies need to recognize that employees’ personal and professional lives are not separate, they are combined—and if they want to find and keep top talent, it’s necessary to help employees succeed both at work and at home.
This approach is becoming an expectation among younger workers. According to the Global Generations 3.0 study from EY, employer trust is a significant factor in how Gen Z employees are approaching their careers. In other words, the youngest members of the workforce want a commitment from their employer that they will be taken care of.
Half of Gen Z workers say finding an employer that supports work-life balance by offering flexibility around when and where they work is a top consideration when selecting an employer. The study also found that 64 percent say fair compensation and benefit packages drive their trust in an organization’s support of its employees.
This indicates that people today want to work for companies that have a strong purpose and values system—ones that listen to the social discourse and ensure that the desires and values of their employees are heard. People strive to be part of organizations that stand for something and are deeply engaged with their employees.
A highly engaged workforce can mean the difference between a company just getting by or serving as an industry leader, and this starts with the experience employees have at work. Culture must be integrated into the entire fabric of the organization to drive the highest levels of engagement. In an organization with a connected culture, employees work together to support a shared mission, creating a sense of purpose and increasing engagement.
Supporting Working Parents
Often, efforts to build these connected experiences focus on younger generations. However, it is crucial for companies to recognize the “growing up” of their workforce as well and meet the needs of the evolving family structure. How employers choose to support the new generation of parents is being watched closely and is a top concern of working mothers and fathers across the board.
Only about one-third (32 percent) of full-time workers have a “great deal of trust” that taking time off for child or eldercare would not negatively affect their career, according to the EY study. Meanwhile, less than two out of five say the same about taking parental leave.
At Ally, creating a purpose-driven organization with a focus on meeting the needs of employees who have or are working to start families, regardless of whether they are single or partnered, a same sex couple, or have a medical infertility diagnosis, has been a top priority. The company recognizes the need to understand and adapt to the evolving family structure and is providing opportunities for working mothers and fathers, current or prospective, to be supported by the organization in their personal lives.
For example, starting in 2019, Ally shifted from offering an infertility benefit to a fertility benefit to more fully support employees looking to build a family. This marked a transition to a policy that is more inclusive of all employees—not only those with medical diagnoses. The fertility benefit includes providing all employees with adoption benefits of $35,000 per child (limit of two children); surrogacy benefits that allow for reimbursement of up to $35,000 per occurrence (limit of two occurrences); and 12 weeks of full-salaried parental leave for both mothers and fathers, as well as two weeks of full-pay caregiver leave.
Ally also recognizes the importance of supporting its working mothers and fathers following their return to the workplace. As a result, the company pays for nursing mothers to ship breast milk home when traveling on business. The goal of these initiatives is to ensure that employees do not feel like they have to make a choice between their families and their careers.
Supporting Educational Pursuits and Offsetting Student Debt
As the high cost of an education looms over workers, it’s important for companies to help offset one of life’s largest and most valuable expenses. With student loan debt in the U.S. surpassing $1.5 billion in 2019, it became clear to Ally’s leadership team that helping employees further their educational goals—or those of their loved ones—was another way to be a relentless ally for their financial wellbeing.
The organization did this by introducing three offerings aimed at saving up, paying down, and paying forward.
- Ally contributes $100 per month to U.S. employees’ eligible 529 savings plans to help with financial preparation for future educational pursuits, up to a $10,000 lifetime limit.
- The company rolled out assistance to ease student loan debt, offering $100 per month to U.S. employees with student loans that are in good standing, up to $10,000. This includes loans taken out by Ally employees to assist the students in their lives. Whether for parents, grandparents, or guardians, the goal was to help ease the financial burden of continued education.
- Ally also increased its tuition reimbursement match to $10,000 a year with no lifetime limit to advance its employees’ careers and promote a culture committed to learning.
These benefits offerings reflect the reality that educational benefits are becoming more vital than ever to support employees’ and their families’ financial well-being. People want to work for a company that encourages them to be better and understands the importance of education, curiosity, and learning.
The Road Forward
A solid benefits program that attracts and retains top talent all boils down to the “care factor.” How can a company demonstrate its commitment to employees through actions that do just that—care? Organizations striving to adapt with the evolving workforce and ensure they appropriately meet the needs of employees across all generations should consider three strategies.
- Focus on culture. Celebrate differences among employees and make sure that diversity is not measured as the latest initiative, but is truly integrated into the culture of the organization. Offer a work environment where all backgrounds, experiences, interests, and skills are respected, appreciated, and encouraged by leadership across all levels of the organization.
One way Ally does is through its employee resource groups (ERGs). The company offers eight ERGs that are open to everyone—allies as well as those who identify—including an ERG that aims to create understanding across generations.
- Consider employee needs. Listen to the unique perspectives of employees and recognize the value in diversification of thought. It is essential for long-term growth and success to leverage the ideas of the workforce to find better ways to approach challenges, discover opportunities, and drive innovation.
- Support employee lives in and out of the workplace. Understand how closely intertwined employees’ professional and personal lives are and help them navigate with support. Implement opportunities for employees to engage with and trust the company outside of their day-to-day role through unique benefits offerings, ERGs, opportunities to give back, and a true commitment to diversity and inclusion. Look for ways to address things like education expenses that can have a huge impact on employees’ financial well-being.
Listening—not just hearing—the needs and interests of employees and integrating those values into the whole company, from career development to educational benefits to well-being and benefits offerings, will drive long-term engagement and success across the entire workforce.
Kathie Patterson is the CHRO of Ally Financial.