3 Takeaways from EMERGE Workplace

The pandemic has made it clear that workplace benefits are evolving. As Harvard Business Review recently reported, the vast majority of leaders are planning to expand benefits as a result of the COVID-19. What should your organization be considering? We designed our inaugural EMERGE…

Thursday, April 22, 2021
 3 Takeaways from EMERGE Workplace

The pandemic has made it clear that workplace benefits are evolving. As Harvard Business Review recently reported, the vast majority of leaders are planning to expand benefits as a result of the COVID-19. What should your organization be considering?

We designed our inaugural EMERGE Workplace event, which took place earlier this spring to bring a diverse set of voices and expertise to the fore to help HR and business leaders understand the wide range of issues companies are facing in 2021 — from pay equity to worker benefits to fostering a culture of innovation. Below, we’ve highlighted a few of the standout themes from the two-day event. 

1. What Gets Measured Gets Managed 

Panels with leaders from Chobani and Humana focused on real-life examples — both qualitative and quantitative — that show how understanding challenges is essential to improving financial health for all. 

Chobani Chief People and Culture Officer Grace Zuncic pointed to her leadership’s investment in worker well-being in early days of the company, including its pioneering parental leave benefit, as helping to build a foundation of employee wellness. During the pandemic, the company made employee total well-being its priority, with a special focus on paid sick leave and subsidized child care. Zuncic said child care will continue to be a major strategic pillar for the company. “What we’ve found is that by taking care of people, we would look at the turnover numbers and see single-digit turnover in the plant in upstate New York,” Zuncic said.

Watch the full interview.

Healthcare company Humana’s Ryan Igleheart, associate well-being manager, discussed the 150+ metrics involved in the organization’s Well-Being Snapshot tool. The tool provides a picture of employee health based on four dimensions: purpose, health, security, and belonging. As part of its strategy, Humana shares data around company functions and gives leaders a snapshot of their teams’ aggregated findings, empowering each leader to take ownership of findings. “That started the snowball of culture shifting,” Igleheart said. Leaders were able to foster solutions by participating in open dialogue about what was working for their teams and identifying specific gaps for the organization as a whole. One result? In 2020, Humana implemented earned wage access, which has helped many of the company’s employees manage their financial lives more easily.

Watch the full interview.

2. From Pay Equity to Emergency Savings

Employee pay and financial security are key topics for 2021, and the landscape of “what works” to improve financial health is quickly evolving. Leaders and experts from Even, Mastercard, and nonprofit Commonwealth shared insights on the latest developments.

Financial Health Network Chief People Officer Turiya Gray and Michael Lennartz, senior vice president of Total Rewards at Mastercard, discussed the definition of equity and what works. Lennartz said pay is a primary driver of financial health in Mastercard’s view, calling it both a “moral” and “strategic imperative” for the company. (Learn more in Mastercard’s 2019 Corporate Sustainability report here.) However, Lennartz cautioned that pay equity — defined as equal pay for equal work — was not enough. “The pay equity standard is a pretty low bar,” Lennartz said. “We needed a new metric, which is the Global Median Pay Gap.” The company issued its first findings in March 2020, showing that women earned 92.2% of what male counterparts earned. Those insights have led to the development of new policies (e.g., parental leave) that are part of the Total Rewards design.

Watch the full interview here.

Emergency savings benefits have been one of the most touted employer benefits to come out of the pandemic, with companies like UPS pioneering emergency savings efforts as part of BlackRock’s Emergency Savings Initiative. Savings expert Brian Gilmore, a senior director at Commonwealth, explained some of the tactical approaches employers can take, including working with recordkeepers. Naim Kabir, software engineer and applied scientist at Even, provided insight on active choice messaging for savings in the app onboarding experience from the company’s pioneering research with the Financial Health Network.

Watch the full session here.

3. Integrating Innovation

As more solutions develop for the workplace, it will become increasingly important for employers to better understand how innovative solutions play a role in their workplace finhealth strategies. We heard from leaders in small business, startups, and large corporations like Comcast about their innovation strategies.

After Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal in 2011, the new $30 billion company directed resources toward  the needs of its diverse workforce. The result? A new internal innovation hub. Comcast leaders Jill Personett,  and Stephen Hoelper spoke with the Financial Health Network’s Hannah Calhoon, vice president  of innovation, about the Comcast innovation team’s tactics for helping business leaders make effective decisions through agile development, small-market testing, focus groups, testimonials, and data-driven personas. “We look to pilot in smaller markets to gain feedback and ask questions,” Personett said. Keeping the focus on data is key to success, she added, such as showing the metrics, key learnings, and testimonials to the business leaders.

Watch the full session.

Smaller companies — including the fintechs Brightside, HoneyBee, MedPut, Manifest, and Onward Financial — have also doubled down on integrating innovation into developing products. We have written about some of their findings in this report.

Watch the full session.

And perhaps the sweetest “innovations” come from Main Street. Small business owners need a combination of empathy plus smart monthly budgeting to determine employee offerings. Lila Owens, founder of Cupcakin’ Bake Shop in Berkeley, California, shared her experience with Bulbul Gupta, president and CEO of Pacific Community Ventures. “It’s about the little things,” Owens said. She mentioned some perks like weekly lunch, T-shirts, breakroom snacks, or – perhaps most valuable in the busy Bay Area – free parking.

Watch the full session.

The full recording from April’s 2021 EMERGE Workplace sessions is available here.

Want to get your company involved? Our Employer FinHealth Forum is aimed at companies who want to partner closely with innovators around financial health. To learn more about upcoming events and participating in the Forum, contact Workplace Lead Matt Bahl, Financial Health Network at

Written by

  • Matt Bahl
    Vice President, Workplace Market Lead
    Financial Health Network