Maximizing the impact of care-first cultures: Good for businesses and their people

Brendan J. Lynch, Chief Employee Experience and Care Officer, MetLife

Among employees’ many expectations of their employers, feeling ‘cared for’ may be among the most important. Last year, MetLife conducted research that found profound ripple effects when employees feel cared for, or their employer displays a genuine interest in their well-being. From improvements in holistic health to higher levels of job satisfaction and professional development, cultures that put care first have yielded more positive results for employees and, in turn, drive better outcomes for employers.

As the contemporary workforce faces mounting pressures — from macroeconomic uncertainty to societal discord and geopolitical conflicts — care has arguably become an even more critical component of the employee-employer relationship. According to MetLife’s 22nd Annual Employee Benefit Trends Study, employees have come to expect that their employers demonstrate care for them both at work (92%) and at home (79%). Despite high expectations, 41% of employees feel their organization does not have policies and programs to make them feel cared for.

Ineffective plans and efforts to deploy care in the workplace can leave employees feeling unsupported and underwhelmed or presume their experience wasn’t created or delivered with their current needs in mind. To avoid these outcomes, organizations should focus on cultivating a care-first culture that permeates the many dimensions of the employee experience.

Embedding care within the employee experience is crucial

MetLife’s research finds that the most successful care strategies embed care across the many facets of the employee experience, from stepping into a manager role to becoming a first-time parent. While many employers have made positive strides on this front — with the percentage of employees feeling cared for up 2% since last year — only 60% of employees currently report feeling cared for.

This means employers can humbly evaluate their care strategies to ensure they are deploying meaningful support in moments across the work experience that matter most to employees, such as by first examining how they’re currently showing up for their employees and when that occurs. When employers do this effectively, the business impact is clear. Employees who feel cared for are 60% more likely to intend to be at their organization in 12 months than those who don’t feel cared for — which is essential, as employers continue struggling with talent retention (57%) and attraction (56%).

Promoting a care-first culture begins with identifying how employers show up

To promote a culture of care and achieve positive outcomes, employers must first identify when, where and how to best show up for their employees. 

MetLife’s data found that employees frequently need support during challenging, and often less visible, moments in their lives — and, when employers demonstrate care in these moments, this can positively impact talent-related measures, including employee satisfaction, loyalty, happiness and a sense of belonging. Whether these are personal situations, such as becoming the primary income earner at home, or work-related events, like feeling burned out or overworked, the research confirms that it can make a difference when employees feel cared for during moments of great importance. 

In scenarios where employees aren’t inclined to disclose their experiences, employers can ensure they are demonstrating care by providing access to appropriate benefits. For example, employees who feel cared for when experiencing burnout are more likely to use childcare benefits.

An always-on approach reinforces continuous support for employees

To embed the most effective care strategies, employers should consider an ‘always-on’ approach that gives employees access to continuous support. By implementing this strategy through benefits and offerings that address employee needs, employers can help employees feel ‘ready for anything.’ To do so, employers first need to understand where they’re effectively supporting employees and where there are opportunities to deliver better care against employee expectations. 

During meaningful life and work moments, such as significant milestones like growing a family or routine interactions such as taking a sick day, providing resources and communicating about the availability of these benefits beyond open enrollment season can help foster positive and optimal employee experiences. Employees also recognize the power of benefit offerings and awareness; for example, 38% of employees who didn’t feel cared for when growing a family said they could have been made aware of helpful benefits.

Why prioritizing employee benefits is essential to business success

Employee benefits play a vital role in providing employees access to meaningful support in critical moments — so much so that when employers prioritize benefits, it can have an outsized impact on care. In fact, among employees who said they felt cared for during important work and life moments, more than two-thirds said their benefits played a role. This is especially pertinent when employees understand what benefits their employers offer and how to maximize the value of those offerings throughout the year. 

For example, employees who have used at least one of their employee benefits are 25% more likely to be loyal and 23% more likely to be happy at work than those who have not. 

Against the backdrop of a challenging macro-environment, it’s easy to understand why employees are looking to their employer for consistent, enduring and holistic care. For employers, knowing that people are accelerators of top performance, curating a culture of care is imperative to achieving mutually beneficial outcomes.

All data in this article is from MetLife’s 22nd Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study.

Sponsored by MetLife