The Great Resignation has spurred a lot of talk about unconventional benefits, and how companies can use one or two of them to attract and retain talent. But HR Morning recently encountered a company that’s basing most of its benefits around the unconventional and leading the way for others.
We were, too.
So, we sat down with Affirm’s Director of Global Benefits Mike Roeding to find out how this buy now, pay later company has a 92% approval rate when it comes to meeting the benefit needs of their employees and their families.
Not surprisingly, it starts with putting their employees’ needs first.
“As a business, we want to deliver honest financial products to improve people’s lives, and within that mission we have a value that we call ‘people come first’. That value is so relevant to benefits, so we use it as the anchor to our benefits philosophy,” said Roeding. “And that means recognizing that people are in all different stages of life, they’ve got different wants and needs, and they have different styles of how they like to receive information. We encourage that diversity of thought and attempt to deliver programs that are meaningful for everyone.”
HR and Benefits pros know what a huge task fitting all of that in a benefits package is. But it wasn’t something that was created overnight – although the pandemic did help speed up the development a lot.
Taking care of employees’ health
Meeting employees’ needs first and foremost means making sure their core healthcare needs are covered. To do that, low- to no-deductible plans are offered, and the company pays the full cost of medical coverage for all its employees and their dependents.
Yes, you read that right. And if you’re thinking that’s a huge financial undertaking for any company, you’re right. But here’s why the company does it.
“We know benefits are a huge talent attraction and retention tool, particularly in this current labor market. So we must be able to differentiate our employee value proposition from competing organizations. Outside of delivering on our DEI objectives in terms of benefits design, and providing a consumer-grade employee experience, another way to do that is our financial commitment. We are of the mindset that the cost associated with a full subsidy of our medical, dental, and vision programs pays for itself by being able to employ the right talent that can deliver the best business outcomes. And removing barriers to care, whether its access or financial, is a key part of our benefits philosophy.”
Differentiator #1: The wallet program
People want flexibility. So, to meet everyone’s needs at the company and give them the flexibility they want with their benefits, a wallet program was created. Every month the company puts money into three different wallets for each employee. The following is available to U.S. employees, but similar programs are in place globally as well:
- Food wallet ($220/month) – This wallet can be used for meal delivery kits, dine-in, takeout, groceries, etc. So, if you want to go out for a nice meal, or pay for groceries for your family, the food wallet will take care of it.
- Tech wallet ($200/month) – The monthly stipend from the tech wallet can be used for setting up an employee’s home office. They can purchase a mouse, keyboards, desks, chairs, etc., or they can pay their internet or phone bill. Anything they need to work from home.
- Lifestyle wallet ($250/month) – Employees can use this wallet for essentially anything around health, well-being and convenience-related expenses, like gym memberships, fitness equipment subscriptions, Apple watches, education classes and the list goes on.
In addition, to support DEI objectives, employees are eligible for a wallet that has a lifetime allowance to cover many family-forming needs:
S.A.F.E journey (family planning) wallet ($20,000 total) – This wallet is a lifetime allowance for surrogacy, adoption and fertility-related expenses, available to U.S employees. So, people who have different family-forming needs can tap into this wallet.
“The wallets are a way to offer 100 different benefits in one because of the depth of the eligible expense list,” said Roeding. “Employees can use it on almost anything related to their health, wellbeing and lifestyle, and can customize the program to their own needs.”
Differentiator #2: 25 away days
After the pandemic hit and everyone was sent home to work, the company realized that it wasn’t losing anything as far as productivity went. People were doing their jobs and doing them well. So, they made the decision to go remote first. While the company still has five offices in the U.S. that employees can work at, if an employee’s role does not require them to be in an Affirm office, they can choose to work fully remotely.
But they also realized that employees sometimes had difficulty disconnecting from work now that for many it was in the same place they lived. To combat that, Affirm implemented an Away Day program that for the U.S., includes 25 Away Days each year inclusive of typical holidays observed by U.S. employers. Similar programs also exist globally. At least once a month, the entire company shuts down for a long weekend.
“What we found was that even if we encouraged people to take time off, it was hard for them to disconnect from work since they were still getting messages and emails from coworkers. So, we decided to implement a company closure so employees don’t feel the pressure of having to sign on because their co-workers are still working,” said Roeding. “I think it’s a huge benefit that has helped boost morale and mental well-being. And what we’ve found is that people use these days for a variety of reasons, including truly taking the time off, or having some uninterrupted time to catch up on emails or work on a project. The beauty is that we are giving space to people to use the time as they need to.”
One thing to mention is that the Away Day program is separate from the company’s paid, flexible time off program for U.S. exempt employees and health leaves.
Differentiator #3: Life happens leave
Oftentimes life can throw you a curveball, and you need time away from work to deal with a myriad of short-term issues. In recognition of this, Affirm has a Life Happens Leave program that provides 15 days of paid leave for employees to take off just because “life happens.”
Whether it’s time off to recover from COVID-19, or dealing with an unexpected need to provide caregiving, employees can use this time at their discretion. And most recently, Affirm amended this policy to apply to time needed to travel out of state to get a medical procedure not available or accessible in an employee’s home state.
“We provide this specific time off program so employees can have the space to deal with life issues as they come up, and knowing they are entitled to a certain amount of days seems to help them,” explained Roeding. “It’s a dedicated bank for that specific reason, and we expect people to use it.”
On a side note, the company is also implementing a travel benefit through one of its medical plans of $5,000 to reimburse covered employees who need to travel for a medical procedure or service that isn’t available in their home state.
92% approval rating
It’s not hard to see why the company has such a high approval rating for their benefits program, which employees are specifically asked about each year in the company-wide engagement survey.
“We ask one very specific question about benefits in our engagement survey, ‘Do the benefits programs at Affirm meet the needs of you and your family?’” said Roeding. “This was a global survey from late last year and 92% of employees answered that question in the affirmative. That says to me that whatever we are doing resonates with our people, and we need to continue to push the envelope to aim for similar outcomes in the future.”