Invested at Work December 2023 Episode Transcript
Rodney: We’ve had the honor of learning so much during our first year of the Invested at Work Podcast. Our amazing guests have shared their insights to help you better manage employee compensation, open enrollment, DEI, and everything in between.
I’m Rodney Bolden, head of Industry Engagement and Learning at Morgan Stanley at Work. On this episode, we’re doing things a little differently, and taking a look back at the most important themes of the year, and how they can help position you and your employees for a better 2024.
Across our conversations, it’s been clear that when it comes to workplace financial benefits, employees want to be treated as individuals, which is why one-size-fits-all approaches to benefits may not be the best choice for you and your organization.
As employers and HR professionals, it’s important to understand how you can ensure that you’re managing the needs of employees across affinity groups and identities, so that everyone feels included.
This is where intersectionality can come into play. On our episode about the need for meaningful DEI, Morgan Stanley Executive Director and Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Christyl Lucille Murphy, helped us understand intersectionality, and its role in workplace benefits.
Christyl: Intersectionality is the acknowledgement and recognition that each individual comes with a variety of different ways in which they're showing I always use myself as an example. I'm a woman, I am black. And so you don't want to necessarily be categorized in one or the other because there are different places where we, intersect. And so it's important for us not to generalize, and it's important to allow people to have that safety to show up as their real selves and not being pigeonholed into one particular bucket or not.
Rodney:I wanna roll intersectionality into this discussion about, workplace financial benefits because, groups and workforce segments are not monoliths. You talked about your different identities; I recognize my different identities. So how can employers start to think about, a more, intersectional offering, making sure that they're addressing the whole employee?
Christyl: That's an important question, Rodney, because when an organization is designing its financial employee benefits program, it doesn't necessarily have to be siloed.
So leveraging the fact that we have affinity or business resource groups within organizations that come together, they bring like-minded individuals together, gives you, I think a segue for communication, and creating awareness around what is in fact available. I think that's really powerful because I'm a woman, and so I'm involved in a variety of different groups. I'm involved in our women's resource group, parents resource group, African American resource groups. So you look at these different, affinity groups—I think that is taking advantage of the fact that I say I'm showing up in a lot of different ways, and here are areas and individuals who have similar likes and needs. Why wouldn't an organization's say, “wow, there's already a connection here. Let's maybe go to this group with the variety of different benefits that we are offering?”
Rodney: When employees feel seen and their workplace benefits reflect their needs, they’re more likely to feel valued. However, from the employer perspective, each benefit has a cost, and budgetary restrictions may limit what employers can offer.
This is where the cost and value of benefits can come into play. Employers want to spend money on benefits if they are valuable to employees, and employees want to feel they’re receiving valuable benefits for their life. Here, it’s important that employers work together with their employees to understand which benefits are viewed as valuable, and which can be eliminated or pared back.
On our very first episode of Invested at Work, I spoke with Morgan Stanley Senior Advisor Jeff Brodsky who expanded on the disconnects in the workplace around financial benefits and their perceived value.
One of the things employers have been thinking about is how do you support your employees, especially with their workplace financial benefits, like retirement and financial wellness in general, and even equity compensation.
Jeff: Any benefit an employer can provide to an employee that's gonna help them long term is fantastic for the individual. What you really have to measure is: is the employee appreciating it? Are they perceiving that as part of their overall compensation? If you're spending money on things that they don't value that they'd rather see in their salary, they'd rather see in some above base compensation, or they'd rather see in equity, then it's not a valuable benefit.
So it's not only about what the benefit is, right? We all wanna do what's great for society and provide as much as we can for our employees. But the real question is do they value it? Do they appreciate it? And will it ultimately benefit them?”
Making sure to meet employees’ needs can be especially challenging in the wake of a merger or acquisition. During an acquisition, employees may find it difficult to feel in control of their future, and might be uncertain about how changes to their employer could affect benefits packages.
Kate Winget, Morgan Stanley at Work Chief Revenue Officer, has had countless experiences helping HR departments navigate the acquisition process. Kate’s experiences have shown her how HR leaders can help make their employees feel more comfortable throughout the acquisition process.
On episode 7 of Invested at Work, I spoke with Kate about helping employees navigate the M&A process, and we discussed the specifics of what companies and employees should be thinking about as they manage a major transition.
If I'm an employee and I'm going through a merger acquisition or a spinoff, I'm thinking, okay, how are my workplace financial benefits going to change? What should companies be thinking about when it comes to their employees and helping them understand the value of this new entity.
The company and the employers and, the HR business leaders, the stock plan administrators, whomever it is, they have to take a step back and realize: are we meeting the expectations of now our new combined organization and the employees that are there? Hitting upon, the considerations around are they global and do they have cultural impacts or implications to their benefits? Are there expectations in other countries or in other pockets of their organization that, maybe it's all with good intent, but if you eliminate a benefit or if you say, you know, this benefit we’ll reconsider, which I've also seen that, it sends a signal to those employees, like, “is this gonna be the right place for me for the future?”
And I think that's a reason too why HR leaders are looking at not, single-threaded benefit solutions or financial benefit solutions. They're really looking at how do I address all of my employees, have multiple solutions for them, those from earlier in their career all the way up to retirement. Like, am I addressing every segment of my population and is this going to be something that grows with them throughout their career? And so it's also a good opportunity as these companies are growing and evolving to introduce new benefits and take advantage of that moment in time to say, “oh, well, you know, we're, we're eliminating one benefit because it just doesn't fit within, our strategy, but we're adding something new that you or more employees can take advantage of.”
Whether it's navigating a global crisis, merger, or anything in between, a change in benefits can be tough for employees to understand. And if they don’t receive the right education on a new workplace benefit, they’re less likely to understand its value. But before educating the broader employee population, it can be helpful to first educate the managers who will be in charge of sharing this information.
Dee Crosby, Executive Director, Learning & Development at Morgan Stanley at Work, has worked to help many companies educate their employees on financial benefits. But, as she has learned, even with the best intentions, things don’t always go as planned. On our episode discussing how to create an employee ownership culture, Dee recalled a situation where a well-designed equity compensation program fell flat due to poor employer education.
A company implemented a great program, which was to give every person an annual grant. So it was a great way of retaining employees, right? You know that if you stick around another year, you're gonna get X number of shares and it was a great deal.
So they were happy about that and they thought that the best way to do this was to have the managers actually give the awards out to their employees. Right? No problem, and that's all they did. So the day that they were supposed to hand out the awards, there were a lot of managers who waited until five o'clock until every single person had left and they walked around and put it on everybody’s desk.
So imagine you come into work on Monday morning and there's a letter on your desk saying you got this thing and nobody there to explain it to you.
Are you going to appreciate that? Are you going to understand it? No. And I think that's a huge thing. So the communication plan was poor, but so was the education. This company didn't bother to educate the managers who in turn then couldn't educate the employees about the value of this award.
This example shows us how a company failed to educate their employees on a potentially exciting new benefit. As we heard, proper education also depends on the way it's communicated. If employees can’t easily access information, they won’t have a chance to understand it.
So then, what does a successful communication and education plan look like? This is exactly what Cheryl Palmerini, Chief Administrative Officer for Global Human Resources for Morgan Stanley at Work, spends her time thinking about. On Invested at Work episode 4, I asked Cheryl to elaborate on Morgan Stanley’s My Experience tool, which was created to provide employees with easier access to benefits information.
You referred to the My Experience Program. Tell me a little bit more about that and how that helps employees with their mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing, and financial wellbeing.
We created a program called My Experience. What my experience does is it looks around the entire firm at all of the benefits and support we provide employees regardless of what department it sits in—HR, corporate services, technology, financial wellbeing, across the gamut. And what we're looking to do is, number one, first and foremost, organize all the information in a way that resonates with employees. So, for example, you don't have to know to go to this department to get this information.
Employees don't care what department is creating it. They just want the information. So number one, we organized all of those benefits in four pillars that resonate with employees: my career, my workplace, my wellbeing, and my culture.
And so this is a way to say, to show employees we do think of them, “we do care about what their experience is. We are listening.” At the end of the day, we are listening, and everybody listening to this knows this, we don't work on these benefits for fun. We want people to use them.
Keep in mind that when it comes to communication, the workforce looks much different today than it did just a decade ago. In fact, there are now five generations of employees currently in the workforce, each with its own needs and communication styles.
As Tom Conlon, Executive Director for Morgan Stanley at Work, pointed out on episode 5, understanding each generation’s preference in communication can help generate more impactful interactions, and lead to better employee education.
If you think about it, we are spanning decades of folks that are in the workforce. Each come with their own particular sets of needs and circumstances, and employers are quite frankly, trying to figure this out.
What are some of those needs? Generation by generation. Let's start with silent generation.
Absolutely. Silent generation, as the name implies is usually not the first to give you feedback. So if you were an HR professional and some of your younger workers may proactively offer you feedback, this is not the generation that's gonna do that. They really value face-to-face interactions. When they make decisions, they tend to be very analytical, very thoughtful. Contrast that with some of the new generations, especially generation Z in the workforce.
They'll be very proactive in telling you what their opinions are, what their ideas are, and they feel very open to sharing that feedback with human resources professionals, with their managers. They also don't need a lot of face-to-face interaction, although in some surveys it's interesting, they do find that valuable. But in general, they're expecting digital communications. They're expecting digital on demand tools.
The baby boomer generation has, needs unlike any other generation, because this is in large part, the first generation that is exiting the workforce that probably is not covered by a defined benefit pension plan. Combine that with elder care needs. They might have their parents still with them—they need to plan for that. They need to plan for their own healthcare, pre- and post-retirement. And of course, generating income. From their 401k plan or, other pools of assets that they have. So, having a financial professional or having some sort of counseling for this generation is enormously important and enormously valuable.
We find that tends to keep these employees engaged in their later years if you're able to help provide guided experiences with these benefits. This generation has complex needs and the value of guidance and education and sometimes advice, is really, truly valued.
Effective communication doesn’t just depend on employee demographics, sometimes it comes down to a matter of personal preference. While one employee may prefer an email to update them on a workplace benefit, another might want a physical paper handout.
Communicating so that employees feel empowered to make better decisions is something that Stephanie Glashow, Chief Marketing Officer of Morgan Stanley at Work, views as essential for HR departments. When I sat down with Stephanie for episode 8 of Invested at Work, she outlined how to use multiple communication channels and touchpoints to improve communication across the workplace.
You work with companies of all sizes, all industries, all demographics within those workforces. How do you determine the best mode of communication and is it different for different demographics within the organization?
I'm a believer in multi-touch, multi-channel communication. Taking advantage of every channel that's available to you. So that could be everything from a leaflet that you're leaving on someone's desk, could be digital signage or physical signage, and then of course all of the electronic channels like email, messaging on the intranet. But don't forget about the human channels. Asking your managers to communicate if they have a weekly team meeting or in one-on-one communications. Human communication is always the most effective communication channel.
I also mentioned multi-touch. So different people will receive information and process it in different ways. I think that's well-established science at this point. It might be demographically driven, but it might just be an individual thing. So you and I may share many preferences, Rodney, but you may be the guy who wants a text and I may be the person who wants a phone call. And you would be hard pressed to know that about one of us or predict that about one of us if you didn't ask directly.
So using multiple channels of communication and repeating consistent messages through those channels will increase your odds of getting a message to someone in a way that works for them.
As 2023 comes to a close, we want to thank our amazing Invested at Work guests who shared their knowledge, insights, and personal stories with us. Their work is pushing the industry forward to help companies support their employees, and help them feel valued, empowered, and that their needs are being met. We can’t wait to explore more challenges and opportunities in the year to come. Have a wonderful new year, and look out for more episodes of Invested at Work in 2024.
Invested at Work is brought to you by Morgan Stanley at Work, produced by StudioPod Media. Our executive producers are Fiona Kelsey, Lisa Boyce, and TJ Bonaventura. Our producer is Clarissa Marks. Our engineer is Alejandro Ramirez. And our writer is Dan Pelberg.
Be sure to visit us at MorganStanley.com/atwork for more insights on workplace financial benefits, and I'll see you next time on Invested at Work.
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