Non-health benefits like tutoring are gaining traction as high-value engagement tools for pandemic-weary employees.
by Rick Bell
February 26, 2021
As many organizations found themselves on a steep learning curve to make adjustments and engage their workforce throughout the pandemic, it became clear that employees were placing a heightened premium on their employer-sponsored benefits.
Recent research from Prudential backed it up. The insurance giant found that employees reported a significant increase in the value they place on benefits offered by their employers during the pandemic, including a double-digit increase in how likely they are to remain at a job based on non-health benefits.
Three-quarters of employees reported in the survey that the pandemic makes them feel benefits through an employer are now “more important than ever before.”
One benefit that working parents have found to be of particular value is tutoring for their children. While not as obvious as health or retirement benefits, with more families participating in remote and virtual learning, companies are turning to tutoring as an important benefit they can offer their employees.
As the start of the new school year approached last fall, Alteon Health executives were keenly aware of the challenges many of its employees were facing to balance work, family life and education for their children during the COVID-19 pandemic. They began evaluating online tutoring as a new employee benefit. An internal survey indicated 87 percent of respondents would be interested in utilizing such a service either for them or a family member, crystallizing the need for Alteon to add it as a new benefit.
“We first identified a potential need for virtual tutoring services in mid-August when many schools began announcing plans for remote learning,” says Jim Tait, chief human resources officer for Germantown, Maryland-based Alteon Health. “We surveyed our workforce to gauge interest and upon receiving a positive response we took immediate action to begin implementation.”
As a result, Alteon’s employees and their families were able to access their new benefit in early September as the school year kicked off.
As a physician-led organization, Alteon’s executives are aware of the value lifelong learning can provide. Alteon, which has more than 125 practice locations nationwide and employs about 2,000 clinical professionals and 300 administrative associates, provides in-house continuing medical education to clinicians as well as a Future Medical Director Leadership Academy to augment training for new health care industry leaders.
This philosophy extends to all members of their organization and their families at home. Executives selected TutorMe, an on-demand, online tutoring service, as a benefit to provide educational support for employees.
“Every Alteon family receives access to two hours of virtual tutoring through TutorMe each week,” Tait says. “This benefit is available to both full- and part-time employees at absolutely no cost to them.”
Alteon employees and their families have access to learning in more than 300 subjects and the ability to find tutors to ensure their children are succeeding in distance- or hybrid-learning environments, he continues.
“Our clinicians are on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. In addition to managing the stress of caring for patients, many Alteon employees have faced the unexpected challenge of taking on additional responsibility for their children’s education and child care,” Tait says. “Access to these expert tutors frees up both time and energy for our employees at home and removes the need to be constantly looking over their child’s shoulder. We see virtual tutoring as a long-term benefit that goes beyond the pandemic.”
Alteon also has spent a great deal of energy to take care of its employees, many of whom are front-line clinicians who faced grueling days, emotional and physical stress, and, for some, isolation from their family for an extended period of time.
“Our employee assistance program has helped team members cope with heightened pressure and anxiety by providing access to phone support, telehealth counseling and peer coaching by phone or video, and COVID-19-specific coping tools,” Tait says.
Communication also has been critical. Employees rely on their employers for direction, support and information during these uncertain times.
Tait says that Alteon CEO Dr. Steve Holtzclaw distributes a weekly practice update with key information about the state of the organization, the health and safety of team members, volume trends, organizational resources and more. Holtzclaw also uses his updates to recognize the efforts of clinical and administrative associates, spotlighting two employees who exhibit Alteon’s core values of collaboration, compassion, excellence, integrity, loyalty and innovation.
“With our administrative team working almost exclusively from home, we saw the need to deploy policies to combat Zoom fatigue,” Tait says. “We do not require our employees to turn their cameras on during calls and we expect the occasional interruption from kids, pets and spouses. We also provide opportunities for connection with online town hall meetings, social media competitions, employee care packages, and opportunities to give back and get outside with events like our recent virtual 5K to benefit charitable organizations.”
Throughout the pandemic, Alteon expanded or added several benefits with the aim of improving employees’ work-life balance and to boost incentives for part-time employees. Along with TutorMe services, Tait says they now offer free legal services, pet insurance, credit union offerings and access to the Alteon Health Discount Marketplace.
Asking your workforce what they need and acting with intention will add value to the organization as employees struggle through the pandemic, Tait explains.
“By providing our employees the ability to give input and feedback, we empower them to build the workplace they need to succeed. A recent survey found our employees feel comfort in knowing TutorMe is there to offer support whenever their students may need it. This tells us we made the right decision and we are adding more value to our employees’ lives.”