October 11, 2023
Published by Authority Magazine
Employee benefits and perks can help set your compensation package apart and make a real difference in the lives of your workers. In this series, we ask prominent HR and business leaders which benefits and perks have been most successful in their organizations. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Schacter.
Melissa Schachter joined BenefitMall in March 2022 as Vice President, People and Culture. She is responsible for BenefitMall’s culture and engagement, talent management, performance management, recruiting, employee communications, employee onboarding and training, compensation, benefits, and employee relations.
Schachter earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin. She holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SHPR) certification from the HR Certification Institute and is a Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). Schachter resides in Dallas with her husband and their two kids. Outside of work, she can be found reading, cheering on her kids’ softball and football teams, and volunteering in the community with her son through the Young Men’s Service League.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Before we drive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Coming out of college, I really didn’t have a clear direction in mind of what I wanted to do. My only real experience was as a bank teller. It was a job I really enjoyed because I love helping people. I had an opportunity to work as a recruiter at Olsten Staffing and it was a fantastic first step. It enabled me to forge connections between job seekers and prospective employers. That job led me to discover my passion for people strategy and organizational success.
Today, I am an Executive People Leader. Very simply, that means I align HR initiatives with business objectives and lead HR teams. I wouldn’t do anything else.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I love that question! We all make mistakes, and we will either learn from them or repeat them. Here’s a funny story. I had just started working for a new company as HR Manager. It was my first managerial position. This company had multiple locations and I was tasked to visit out of town locations. The employees there did not know me, nor I them. Now, my company shared a parking lot with another company in the same industry. I was young and a bit nervous. I walked in the door and introduced myself. Clearly, no one had any clue why I was there. When I asked for, Karen, I got that “who’s Karen” look.
I was in the wrong place. My company was next door. Oops!
The lesson I learned that day was to trust my abilities, and to always walk and talk with confidence. It’s okay to be nervous. That just means you care. But never let your nerves get in the way of your mission.
By the way, that was pre-Waze, pre-Google Maps. That’s why I went to the wrong place. And I’m sticking with that story!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
To be a successful HR Business Partner you need to understand the business. You should learn as much as humanly possible. What do they do? How do they do it? How do they make money? Who are their customers? What are their objectives? Knowledge is how you earn a seat at the table of any business discussion.
A pivotal moment for me came in a staff meeting when an executive leader asked for my opinion about rolling out a new product. It was important for many reasons. First, it pushed me out of my comfort zone and truly helped me grow and provide better support to her team. Second, it not only showed how much she respected me, but told everyone in the room that my voice mattered.
The lesson is, when you are called on, you should always be prepared with a viewpoint. That viewpoint will be respected if you demonstrate you understand the business.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” (Winston Churchill)
I love this quote because we are all going to succeed at some things, and we are going to fail at some things but as Churchill also points out, it is the courage to continue that counts.
Thinking back on your own career, what would you tell your younger self?
When one door closes another opens. There are going to be roadblocks along the way and things that happen at the time that either don’t make sense or don’t seem right, but trust that most things happen for a reason and will end up with a positive result.
Let’s now move to the central part of our interview. What are your five most successful employee benefits and perks?
- Medical — We encourage our teammates to lead full, healthy lives and offer medical benefits to support whatever choices they make for their care. Our teammates can choose a PPO, ACO, or an HDHP.
- Support for the Whole Person — We offer our teammates a variety of benefits related to Well-Being (rewarding efforts in developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle), Mental Well-Being, and Financial Well-Being, recognizing that there are many aspects to caring for themselves and their families.
- Retirement — We offer 401(k) with generous match, as well as a retirement program that provides a transition from active employment to retirement, including medical and life insurance benefits, as well as a custom retirement celebration sponsored by the company.
- Summer Flex Hours — During the summer, teammates have the flexibility to take a half-day off each pay period. This flex time can be used to extend a weekend or allow someone to participate in a family activity during the week.
- Education Assistance — Our teammate support includes tuition assistance, academic advising, online tutoring, a writing center, military veteran services, and ongoing professional development webinars.
How do you decide which benefits to offer as part of your compensation package?
At BenefitMall, we strive to support the whole person with a variety of options that employees can choose from to tailor their benefits to the needs of their personal situations, including self care, child care, and/or adult care. In different parts of our lives, we have different needs and concerns.
How do you ensure your team members understand the benefits available to them and utilize them?
Communication is key when it comes to both understanding and utilization of benefits. As new employees are onboarded, they are provided a Benefits Guide and a link to our benefits site which goes through all our benefits in detail. We also develop a thorough communication plan prior to open enrollment each year that includes webinars and Q&As. We want to make sure that employees have ample opportunities to ask questions about how their benefits work, enabling them to make educated choices.
It can be tempting to simply continue benefits selections from the previous year and move on, but open enrollment is a key moment for each employee to consider their current priorities and plans for their families in the coming year. Particularly for long-time employees, there may have been benefits that did not apply to them at the time they joined the company and which they have forgotten about, but that could benefit them now. It’s also important when explaining benefits options, to be thorough — someone may be hearing them for the very first time.
How do you determine if benefits are successful or not? Could you share a time when you realized that a particular benefit or perk was making a significant difference for your employees?
A successful benefits package assists an organization by attracting and retaining top talent. When you hear that the jump ball for someone choosing to work in your organization was the benefits package, you know you’ve hit the mark. It’s also reflected in reduced absenteeism and an increased, engaged, and present workforce who are able to access the care needed to remain physically and mentally healthy.
Additionally, you know benefits are successful through (carrier or vendor) reporting that shows data on how benefits are being utilized, trends, and expenses/costs, as well as from employee feedback. I have seen wellness programs significantly motivate employees to lead healthier lives, which also positively impacts the company’s medical plan. For example, a strong maternity leave program empowers working mothers, ensuring they have adequate time to bond with their newborns, promote their own physical and mental well-being, and ultimately contributes to a healthier and more productive workforce.
What are your top 3 tips for developing a successful benefits and perks program that keeps an org competitive and aids employee well-being and satisfaction?
To develop a successful benefits program and maintain competitiveness while ensuring employee well-being, it’s crucial to periodically review the demographic makeup of your workforce, conduct competitive analyses, and regularly solicit employee feedback through surveys. This allows you to tailor benefits effectively.
In your opinion, what are the most undervalued or overlooked benefits or perks that more companies should consider offering?
Pet Benefits and Mental Health benefits are two benefits that I think are still overlooked by some companies.
Have you ever had to remove or modify a benefit or perk? If so, could you tell us why and how you handled it?
Yes, I have had to modify a benefit. Any time you make a change, it requires careful planning, especially because this will impact someone personally.
Communication is the key to success. It starts with communicating to the top with leadership, then to managers, then to employees. It’s critical to make sure everyone understands what is changing, why, and what is not changing. Changes should be communicated through all avenues available within a company such as email, intranet, webinars, and dedicated Q&A open sessions for those who have specific questions relative to their individual situation/needs.
We are very blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this.
Oprah Winfrey. I think she has given back to many communities. I feel as if she wants to make things better, improve lives, and has the greater good in mind. I’d love to speak with her about why she does what she does.