Some benefits like retirement and health care are consistently ranked as important among all groups of employees, regardless of age, gender or other divisions. But niche benefits offerings, which only apply to a small portion of a company’s workforce, can add great value to a small number of employees at no great cost to the employer. They can be a cost-effective win-win that makes employees feel valued and lets employers provide that feeling of good will.
The other day I spoke with Milt Ezzard, senior director of global benefits at Santa Monica, California-based video game production company Activision Blizzard. The tech company has a mostly male workforce and wanted to make sure its female employees felt valued as well.
One of their key principals from the benefits perspective is being able to offer up resources to their employees that appeal to them and doing that in a targeted manner, said Ezzard. “We have a lot of niche products that might not appeal to a broad set of employees but are highly valued.”
Partnering with MilkStork is one example of this. The service allows employees to have access to free breast milk delivery and provides refrigerated, overnight shipping of breast milk to mothers on business trips. This only applies a very specific subset of the company’s 9,000-plus employees. It won’t appeal to men, and it won’t even appeal to all women, only those who have just had a baby.
“The chance of having a woman who is in the stage of life where she’s breast-feeding and having to travel for business, you would think is rather few and far between,” said Ezzard. “And it is.”
Three women have used the service since it launched in January, he added, and that doesn’t make it any less valuable. “We want to be the place where women want to stay,” he said.
The woman goes online and fills in where she’ll be, how long she’ll be there and where she wants her milk sent. MilkStork express ships a package to that hotel waiting for the mom when she arrives. The mom pumps and packages her milk in the refrigerated, temperature controlled container and gives it back to the front desk who gives it to express shipping company to send back home.
For Activision Blizzard, the company itself is billed for the service. It comes out to about $140 a day, which is not significant considering the kind of goodwill it brings to the traveling employee and the small number of people who can actually use it, said Ezzard.
He gave other examples of niche, family-friendly benefits. The Rethink program is a resource for parents of children with developmental disabilities, particularly autism, and includes capabilities like the ability to consult with behavior developmental experts over video. Prodigy is a fertility support program that helps couples through procedures like freezing eggs and in vitro fertilization. The compassion leave perk allows employees eight weeks of paid leave to spend time with an immediate family member during the last year of their life expectancy, in the case of a terminal illness diagnosis.
Many of Activision Blizzard’s perks are family friendly, said Ezzard, although he noted that it’s important to keep equity in mind in the company’s benefits approach. That is, employees come in all shapes and sizes and life stages, and not all of them will be attracted to baby/family oriented benefits.
Currently, the company has about 20 niche offerings. Ezzard said he’s looking toward a growing segment of the workforce that doesn’t get a lot of attention: employees with a critically ill family member, like a parent, that they’re responsible for taking care of. This will be the next venture of niche offerings for Activision Blizzard, he said.
I’m guessing that not all benefits that are more “niche” than universal are family related. For the HR people reading this, I’d love to get some feedback: What are some niche benefits that your company offers that provides a great value to a small segment of workers? Which segment of employees do they benefit?
Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editor. Comment below or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.