BOLD&BEYOND by Apryl is an event series created to share experiences from different HR leaders across Europe about current and future HR trends as well as challenges in the workplace. It serves as a platform to discuss bold and progressive topics that are inevitable for an inclusive work environment. Because we believe that understanding the sociodemographic trends and offering employees the support & benefits that actually matter will be the deciding factor for the workforce of tomorrow.
For our 5th Bold & Beyond event, we were finally able to bring together European HR leaders for an in-person networking event. The evening was not only about developing strategies to improve the workplace, but on-top taught us how to make the perfect pasta. While chopping hand-picked ingredients and enjoying a glass of wine, the invitees had enough time to exchange best practices in the world of benefits.
The Pasta Edition
The cooking class was held in the Enrica Rocca Cooking School – an authentic Italian-styled kitchen that made Notting Hill feel like the heart of Venice.
By the time all guests had an aperitivo from the family’s vineyard in their hand, the room had already filled up with conversations. The decision makers of companies such as Unilever, Anaplan or Sinch quickly got to know each other, and shared their stories and experiences with one another.
With these newly made connections, our two Italian chefs commenced the cooking class. The sister’s infectious enthusiasm motivated everyone to join in and the kitchen immediately buzzed with joy and the smell of fresh herbs and ingredients. Whisking batter, caramelising onions, and cutting up basil, created the perfect atmosphere for discussing the topics that we had all gathered for.
Evolution of Employee Benefits
One thing all participants agreed upon in unison was the pivoting of employee benefits in the last couple of years. Especially after the outbreak of Covid-19, one statistic says that 92% of employers now focus on mental health for their employee benefits (AON, 2021). While Tim Goodchild (Senior Global Benefits Manager) can proudly say that Anaplan “did not need a pandemic” to allow people to be themselves in the workplace -for example by offering a generous remote policy- the participants still came to a similar conclusion. While pension funds used to be the focus of employee benefits, companies nowadays increasingly emphasise mental health, financial well-being and fertility. Especially larger corporations, and those that operate and employ across borders will increasingly feel the change in their employees’ needs. Tim was furthermore heard saying that “it‘s my job to actually do something good for employees”.
– But: what is the best strategy for doing so? And how to make sure to actually target employees’ needs? Among other topics, these were questions we tried to tackle.
A Workplace in Transitions
As a fast growing company, Sangeeta Mistry mentioned how one of their biggest challenges at Sinch is actually the harmonisation of their benefit plans. “We knew, and even expected that, but having bought so many businesses in such little time, left us with a lack of consistency”. Designing a benefit plan across borders can be challenging indeed, as Jo Bartnicke (Global Employee Experience Director) points out. The goal therein is to have “accessible benefits to all our employees at Unilever, whether you work in a factory or an office, the UK or Poland”. To her, one way to do so is with a “good technology” that evades these superficialities. This also entails “knowing how you can support different family types not only throughout their careers, but also as they move throughout the world”.
Nonetheless, companies do not only have to ask themselves how to align their employees globally, but they also have to account for the next generation entering the workplace. Gen Z makes up an increasingly large proportion of employees and with that expectations evolve. While it used to be sufficient to offer a pension fund to your employees, younger generations demand more for their loyalty. “We are very much focusing on creating an environment that is inclusive for the expectations of our people”, Tim Goodchild states. For Anaplan, this means that you have to be on top of what Gen Z wants and make sure that “employees know their work is valued”. On the same note, Jo Bartnicke states how “at Unilever, we are super proud of our ability to evolve in order to suit what’s happening around us in the world ”. One thing we can take away from this with certainty: There is no one benefit plan that fits all. In order to succeed, you will have to listen to what your workforce needs on the one hand, and find a good partner who can provide you with the necessary tools along the way.
Moreover, one thing is certain: even if your workplace is in transition, make sure that everything you do is done in a friendly manner. This is also the motto by which Sinch’s employees work. Their HR M&A Lead, Sangeeta Mistry, states how she is most proud of her employer when she sees how welcoming their people are across different offices. “No matter where we are in the world, we always get along”, which is the secret to their culture’s success.
You should not be afraid of change, and simply trust the process. Unilever for example, as Jo Bartnicke stated, “used to have very traditional policies”, but are continuously “improving their frameworks to head toward where the world is going – the future”. The key is, she says, to “stay future fit with all our policies and benefits”. This doesn’t have to mean drastic overnight change and there is no one right way to get there. If you want to pursue your goal of inclusivity, and interact with your employees continuously, you will be able to find the right partner for your ambitions.
Looking Back on the Event
We are now proudly looking back on our first in-person BOLD&BEYOND session and could not be more grateful for having had such inspiring invitees. Unfortunately, it is still not the status quo to build an inclusive workforce. We are all the more impressed when talking to companies such as Soundcloud, whose Comp & Total Rewards Director Isha Smith rightfully took pride in the equality they have achieved. According to her, this really stems from the “frameworks and the benefits provided” at Soundcloud.
The participants went home with a lot of food for thought, which we hopefully passed on to you in this little summary.
On another note, we realised how much we had missed in-person events during Covid-19. A quote by Jo Bartnicke sums up the advantages of get-togethers such as this one very well: “The opportunity to connect with like-minded people from the same industry that really try to tackle the same challenges as I am currently trying to tackle in a nice & relaxing environment, has exceeded my expectations”. What we clearly take away from this, is that we are not going to wait too long before hosting another session such as this one. If you are interested in being among the selected participants for our next B&B event or want to share your own experiences with us, do not hesitate to reach out.
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