Satisfying work is known to have a substantial impact on how well people do their jobs.
But those same satisfying jobs – the ones in which people are so personally invested they’re compelled to put in substantial discretionary effort – can have converse effects on the work/life equation.
It’s the conundrum of engagement, and it can be particularly true in medically related fields where people are immersed in what often amounts to life and death.
“Our employees are helping to discover and deliver life-changing therapies to patients,” says Biogen Associate Director of Benefits Susan McGowan.
“The engagement scores are incredibly high. But work life balance is something they talk about as being a huge challenge.”
A Benefits Strategy that Maintains Competitive Edge
It’s a fact of such businesses that innovation is a driving force. Yet with so many competing priorities, the ability to deliver relies not only on the desire to innovate, but a workplace that enables it. Keeping the competitive edge has led leadership at these companies to constantly evaluate what part they can play. At Biogen, that’s meant looking at the people they employ and thinking about the kinds of things that might be keeping them up at night. The result has been an evolution in benefits strategy that installs a program, recognizes where the holes are, and continues to add.
With back-up child care for example, “we realized we were meeting the needs of those who had younger children,” says Susan. But anyone with a high school senior knows applying to college is a whole new reason for sleepless nights. “There were significant segments of employees in other stages relative to their children whether they were thinking about middle school needs, whether they were thinking about special needs and elementary school,” Susan says noting Biogen’s addition of programs for those issues. Such evolution also means reevaluating existing platforms; in Biogen’s case, that led to additionally bolstering support for young children with the addition of a child care center. “Our programs adapted to the changing needs of employees,” she says.
Competing with Need-to-Win Benefits
Managing care for families is just part of the equation; careers matter, too. According to research, one of the hallmarks of a Dream Company, in fact, is that people can see longevity at their employer, and that requires growth. And Biogen’s recruitment philosophy on their home page — “We hire highly motivated people with the expectation that they will seek out growth opportunities”—is backed up with the tools to assist that growth, including tuition assistance and educational advising.
The benefits strategy is clearly paying off. Employers in biotech are uniquely reliant on a very specific pool of talent, and so are intensely – and constantly — competing for the top people. And that same Dream Company study showed that people were substantially less likely to leave companies that answered the trifecta of employees’ desires – support for work/life balance, well-being, and career growth. Biogen’s platform clearly addresses all three. And in fact job satisfaction – one of the elements employees in Dream Companies report high measures of – has grown along with the benefits platform. They’ve also seen gains in important goals such as productivity.
For Biogen, Susan calls the work/life programs critical embellishments to medical and 401k programs. Those are “need to play,” she says. Support for families and careers are “need to win.”
“They make us stand out,” she says, “they make us competitive.” And in the ultra-competitive world of bio-tech, “they make us be an employer of choice.”