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Things Change: Design a Benefits Program That Can Respond

Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan on August 29, 2017 10:30 AM

Change is inevitable.  This is especially true when it comes to designing a benefits program that meets the evolving needs of both your employees and your organization.   Just when it appears that all the pieces have come together and the puzzle is solved, it’s time to re-evaluate and begin again...

Enter the benefits lifecycle:  the series of steps (and yes, changes) your program continually goes through to best serve your workforce.  But this lifecycle doesn’t stand alone.  It’s interconnected and dependent on the changes occurring in several other key lifecycles at your company: organizational, life and employee. 

Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be.  Here’s a simple overview of how each lifecycle functions, why it matters to your benefits, and key insights to keep in mind as you design an effective program.

  1. Organizational lifecycle: 
    An organizational lifecycle is the continual process through which an organization is evolving.  It typically includes an initial phase of hypergrowth, followed by periods of stability, disruption, realignment and further growth.  Much like the benefits lifecycle, it is a continuum, constantly repeating.

    What to keep in mind as you design your benefits:
    Weigh cost and competition against your goals.  In an ideal world, all organizations would be able to identify diverse needs and offer a comprehensive benefits package that equally supports all employees. But, from an organizational standpoint, cost is a huge factor in determining – and often prohibiting – such an inclusive offering.  Take the list of priorities you have from your employees, identify what you can do within the current budgetary parameters of your organization - and where it is in its lifecycle - and clearly set expectations.  While it’s important to be aware of how your benefits stack up against the competition, prioritize benefits that fit your organization’s culture and budget first.

    And be sure to adhere to your core HR goals throughout the process.   Are you currently focused on utilizing benefits as part of a larger plan to hire, retain, motivate - or all three? Your goals – and benefits strategy - will vary depending on where your company is in the organizational lifecycle.

  2. Life lifecycle: 
    The life lifecycle is reflective of where an individual is in their life while at work.  They come in as a new employee, operate much as a “party of one,” evolve into managing planned responsibilities (like a marriage or a decision to have children), encounter some unplanned responsibilities (be it health-related or other unforeseen challenge) and enter periods of further growth.

    What to keep in mind as you design your benefits:
    Know both the present and future realities of your employees’ lives.  Understanding which generation employees belong to, what life events they’ve experienced, as well as those you anticipate they will experience during their tenure at your organization is key. The anticipation of events plays a major role in retention down the line.  

  3. Employee Lifecycle:
    The employee lifecycle is defined by the intersection of organizational needs and where an employee is in their career - in relation to your organization.  It includes periods of onboarding, learning, performing, developing and moving – either up or moving on to another employer.

    What to keep in mind as you design your benefits: 
    Support work-life integration to ensure individual success.  Recognize that in today’s workplace, Life Lifecycle and Employee Lifecycle often overlap.  Work and life identities have merged and for many, who you are is synonymous with what you do.

    When something happens in life, it impacts work, and vice versa. The reality today is that when we’re at work, we’re often dealing with things happening at home, and when we’re home, we’re often managing work.  This overlap, or what is now termed work-life integration, makes it a lot more complicated for individuals, HR professionals and organizations to manage.  When benefits support the reality of work-life integration (outside of the classic health insurance benefits), be it in child care or senior care programs, household or concierge services, or wellness and wellbeing initiatives, they help enable the optimal success of employees within the employee lifecycle.  

Understanding each of these key lifecycles might seem like managing a lot of moving parts.  But the reality is that our workforce today is more complicated - and moving faster - than ever before.  Keeping an ongoing awareness of how each of the lifecycles connect, and how they impact your benefits makes the difference between a strategy that changes with your evolving organization and employees, versus a strategy that always needs to be changed. 

This post is the second in a five-part series based on the Care@Work Webinar:  Always the Right Fit – Benefits Through the Employee Experience, exploring how to attract, retain and engage your multi-generational employees. 

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Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan

As Director, Sales and Marketing at, Heidi is responsible for developing innovative, results-driven programs for Care@Work – a consumer-centered portfolio of family care for employers and their diverse workforce. Passionate about helping HR professionals improve the lives of their employees, Heidi follows and writes about the top trends and research impacting both employees and employers in the workplace, including the future of work, consumerism and HR, building employer brands, pay equity and paid leave policy, and company culture. Prior to joining, Heidi led marketing teams at a variety of technology companies including Constant Contact. She lives north of Boston with her husband Brian and their “daughter” Lexi – a 10 lb. Shih-Tzu therapy dog.