This is an interview with Best Buy’s Senior Vice President of HR Rewards, Charles Montreuil. Best Buy is a thought leader when it comes to supporting caregiving employees, and they were a finalist for the 2020 Caregiving Visionary Award for organizations/employers.
Tell us your family caregiver origin story. What sparked/prompted Best Buy's efforts to support family caregivers?
About three or four years ago, Best Buy decided to take a holistic look at our paid leave benefit. The goal was to understand the definition of a caregiver and how caregiving was impacting our employees as well as how we could support caregivers in every aspect of wellbeing: Physical, mental, financial, and work/life. We found many employees were caught between caring for kids and caring for aging parents. Employees were depleting their paid time off (PTO) to fulfill caregiving needs and, therefore, weren’t able to use their PTO to take a real break and refresh.
We realized we needed to bust through the distinction of families and paid leave definitions. We needed to be broader and more inclusive about defining caregiving and who a loved one is. The result was a simple benefit that stated: If someone you love needs care and you’re a full-time employee, you can take four weeks off annually paid at 100%. No questions asked.
This demonstrated trust in our employees and supported our guiding principles, one of which is, “Be Human.” It also supported our employee engagement goals. Employees can’t be present and help customers if they’re coming to work worried about a parent with a heart problem, an autistic child, or a loved one in need of constant care. 2020 was the third year we offered Caregiver Pay; over 400,000 hours of this benefit were used by 5,000 employees.
While this sounds simple, it also required a bit of a culture shift. Benefits are usually measured using the return on investment (ROI). So our leadership team needed to think differently about this benefit because the ROI showed up differently. Caregivers who receive support are extremely loyal and more engaged. Feeling that you are part of an organization that cares is powerful, and employees also share these stories with their friends and colleagues.
In addition to the new caregiving benefit, we created a caregiving guide that defined who caregiver is and connected employees to existing resources for support, including technology resources. Many of these resources are things we sell such as Alexa, electronic keys, and home monitoring systems. During this time, we also acquired two companies: Great Call and Critical Signal Technologies which, together, form Best Buy Health. These acquisitions created new value for employees and customers and created access to an experienced call center staff, remote patient monitoring services, and integrated caregiver/senior care services.
The stories employees have shared because of the Caregiver Pay benefit are compelling. One employee described how he had used all his sick leave for his own health. When his child was born with a heart defect, he was able to use Caregiver Pay to spend four weeks with his newborn baby. When employees have experiences like this, they want to help others. So we are creating an employee ambassador network with 1,500 ambassadors across all our store locations. These ambassadors will help their colleagues understand the caregiving benefits available to them and how to engage in them.
Most recently, we added Wellthy to our list of available benefits which provides personal support for the logistical and administrative tasks related to caregiving for your loved ones. Even when people have things like Caregiver Pay to support them, they’re often lost in our confusing system and need help navigating it. We tested Wellthy with various people in the company and quickly understood the value of helping employees in this situation so they are not overwhelmed. When we launched this benefit, we heard feedback from employees like, “This is truly next level when it comes to taking care of our employees and providing the resources that most people have no idea exist! Thank you Best Buy!”
Who is involved in supporting Best Buy's efforts around caregiving employees?
Although we have robust benefits offerings, we’ve put approximately ten new wellbeing programs in place in recent years. Even with good communication and change plans, it’s a lot for managers to remember. That’s why we recently introduced an 800 number, which is connected to our HR Support Center. Employees can call the 800 number with any benefits-related questions they have. This gives them the opportunity to connect with a real person who can listen to their story and connect them to the proper resources. This number is part of all our benefits-related communications.
Also, managers are empowered to advocate for their employees. As a result, managers have many powerful stories to tell. For example, one employee lost two, 20-year-old children to COVID. Because the manager asked, Best Buy was able to support the family by providing money for the funerals. As you can imagine, this was extremely meaningful to the employee, manager, and the whole Best Buy team.
During COVID, Best Buy also created a $10 million emergency fund for employees in partnership with Best Buy’s Founder, Dick Schultz. The need was so great, the funds were utilized in just one hour.
What would you tell other employers who are interested in providing more support for family caregivers?
Start by expanding the definition of leave. Is your current definition inclusive of the various needs and caregivers? Also, start small, but start somewhere. It’s important to help leaders understand caregiving is essential to becoming a great place to work.
Capture stories. Stories change minds. Ideally, find an executive or leader who has the courage to share their caregiving story. This opens the door for others to feel comfortable opening up about their experience. Best Buy captures these stories on video and shares them at town halls, fireside chats, and on our employee intranet.
Manager training is also essential. Managers need to know how to approach people and feel empowered to encourage people to use the various benefits available to them.
And finally, connect with other organizations to share best practices for caregiver benefits programs and learn from each other.
How are you measuring impact and success of caregiving and benefits programs at Best Buy?
One measure is use of the benefit (for example, 5,000 employees used 400,000 hours of Caregiver Pay in 2020), which demonstrates that there is a need and we are meeting it. We are also looking at the impact on employee retention, engagement, and customer service ratings.
Another measure that could show significant ROI over time is improvements in wellbeing. Are employees who have used the Caregiver Pay benefit more likely to remain healthier and have fewer healthcare needs of their own? This is essential as caregivers often can't make their own health a top priority which can lead to burnout, becoming injured, or experiencing their own new health issues.
How has Best Buy changed as a result of these changes? How are you continuing to create a culture of care?
More and more we want to provide benefits to support our employees in every aspect of their wellbeing. It’s important for us to send the message to our employees that we know their life is more than just work and we want to support their whole wellbeing and that of their loved ones. We will continue to do this in the benefits we provide as well as in the way we connect and communicate with employees about these benefits.
What else would you like to share at this time?
We are always striving to add to our benefits portfolio. To that end, we will continue to gather feedback from our employees and seek to find the next thing that will support them and their loved ones.
By Geri Lynn Baumblatt and Pete Wendel, Co-founders of the Difference Collaborative
Caregiving.com partnered with the Difference Collaborative to identify organizations that are proactively working to both support their own employees with family caregiving and to help organizations support their employees so they can care, work, and thrive. To learn more about family caregiving and employers, also check out these podcasts, articles, and webinars from the Difference Collaborative.
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