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Leadership in Benefits Series: Featuring Jen Brady and The University of Pennsylvania Health System

How Visionary Benefits Pro Jen Brady Charted The University of Pennsylvania Health Systems Course Through Treacherous Industry Tides

Well-being expert Jen Brady recounts falling unintentionally into benefits but discovering profound purpose as a guiding strategy for UPHS amidst turbulent industry shifts. Her pioneering 15-year journey illustrates how authentic benefits programs can steer large, complex organizations towards strategic talent goals when woven skillfully into the culture. Jen shares invaluable insights on leveraging benefits to elevate retention, recruitment, engagement, and productivity.

Wellness Pro Finds Her Calling After An Unplanned Benefits Detour

Jen Brady never envisioned a human resources career when she was studying exercise science and nutrition in college. Her initial passion was fitness and well-being, leading her to work in corporate wellness upon graduation and later consult with large employers like UPHS to help develop workplace wellness programs. During this consulting role, Jen was essentially acting as an external benefits resource for UPHS, advising on how to structure well-being programs. This experience exposed her to the world of benefits and planted seeds that would eventually lead Jen to not only build UPHS’s own internal wellness function herself but also unexpectedly take on an expansive benefits leadership position over time.

Reflecting on her own unintentional journey into the field of benefits administration, Jen stresses several key lessons she learned over the years. One is the importance of balancing employee needs and preferences with broader organizational business goals, using data and feedback to inform decisions. Assembling a collaborative and cross-trained team is also crucial for enabling exceptional responsiveness to shifting priorities and employee expectations, despite limited staff sizes. Jen says she relishes the constant learning and sense of purpose that benefits provide as she guides strategy at a complex organization like UPHS. While originally unintended, Jen has grown to love this rewarding voyage of discovery in the benefits field. She finds great fulfillment in playing a key role in elevating such a critical piece of the employee experience.

Assembling a Trusted Crew of Benefits Advocates to Withstand Industry Storms

For Jen Brady, the process of constructing a stellar benefits team starts with making substantial investments of time to actively develop and engage with staff. In her view, hands-on experience drives more meaningful learning for benefits professionals than formal education or credentials alone. She advocates strongly for empowering team members by providing the strategic context and reasoning behind decisions, not just pushing simplistic execution tasks down to them.

Over her tenure, Jen has nurtured a remarkably collaborative “family” dynamic among long-tenured team members at UPHS. There is a palpable sense of trust and interdependence. She has also prioritized cross-training and broadening the scope of work in wellbeing, work-life, and benefits to foster tremendous flexibility in meeting shifting demands, despite lean staff sizes. Jen finds this responsiveness and sense of advocacy pays huge dividends in the level of care her team can provide employees.

This capable crew with interwoven strengths has proven able to withstand dramatic industry storms, volatility, and surprises that disabled less cohesive benefits teams at other organizations when the chaos hit. Jen credits their enduring “one for all” mentality and unified mission of service. Her team tackled the pandemic's unprecedented disruptions in stride because of these carefully constructed cultural pillars.

For professionals aspiring to build high-functioning teams, Jen offers this guidance: invest early and often in developing talent. Anchor team identity in shared purpose, not just tasks, which helps maintain engagement. Cross-pollinate skills across specialties. With these principles, benefits teams gain resilience to navigate unpredictable waters ahead.

Anchoring in Employee Understanding to Steer Benefits Strategy

Previously, Jen points to the prestigious reputation and generous benefits at UPHS as the cornerstones driving consistent retention and recruitment success. But post-pandemic things like compensation and other organizational concerns emerged, likely from seismic market shifts as talent supply and demand dynamics changed almost overnight.

Still, Jen sees benefits playing an integral role in enhancing the overall employment experience. She tries to deeply understand evolving employee pain points, using feedback, surveys, and data to inform strategic offerings. Even small perks like phone discounts can generate outsized excitement benefiting recruitment and retention through grassroots buzz, Jen notes. Though not the sole lever anymore, benefits' role remains critical and threaded through a broader total rewards philosophy.

By staying anchored in rich employee insights, Jen can adaptively steer benefits strategy through tumultuous events like a global pandemic that fundamentally alter the employment landscape in sudden, unpredictable ways. This emphasis on understanding helps benefits programs remain responsive and relevant when other companies falter.

Agile Adjustments as Employee Needs and Expectations Evolve Dramatically

Like many healthcare employers, UPHS historically lacked voluntary benefits offerings. However, the pandemic abruptly created new priorities around mental health, caregiving, and financial stability as employees suffered immense strain.

After thoroughly researching alternative solutions, the Benefits team at UPHS selected industry leader Corestream to provide UPHS employees comprehensive voluntary benefits paired with top-tier decision support resources. This move aimed to fill urgent gaps as the workforce reeled from unforeseen hardships.

The instant popularity of options like pet insurance indicates the rise of increased isolation and bonds with pets during the pandemic's waves of disruption. Jen continually seeks to address new gaps by adding offerings like financial wellness or caregiving support as needs arise. Staying agile and responsive helps evolve benefits programs over time.

According to Jen, the organizations that will thrive long-term are those that can nimbly adjust course to meet new employee expectations shaped by global crises like the pandemic. Benefits programs must correspondingly stay nimble as well.

Harnessing Benefits to Quietly Influence Strategic Talent Outcomes

Though subtle, Jen sees even limited benefits offerings as shaping critical outcomes like retention and recruiting. Even small perks elicit grassroots employee excitement, powering positive word-of-mouth and goodwill that accumulates over time. While not singular drivers anymore, benefits meaningfully contribute to a positive working experience alongside other elements like engagement programs.

During hiring, Jen highlights the benefits at UPHS as key differentiators compared to other health systems competing for talent. With her deep understanding of what matters most to employees, Jen can focus communication on the options applicants will appreciate most when considering offers.

This strategic approach harnesses benefits to influence labor outcomes in understated but highly impactful ways - a key lever not fully utilized by competitors according to Jen.

Smooth Sailing: The Employee Experience with Corestream’s Streamlined Platform

Since launching new voluntary benefits through Corestream, Jen has received minimal issues from enrolling employees—a strong indicator of smooth operations and satisfied users. Offerings like pet insurance garner enthusiastic feedback based on Jen's informal conversations with employees.

The lack of escalations indicates employees easily manage benefits through Corestream's intuitive portal. Corestream’s straightforward platform provides the simplified experience critical to avoid benefits becoming an obstacle. For Jen, "no noise" means success when it comes to benefits administration.

Imparting Hard-Won Wisdom to the Next Generation of Benefits Leaders

For professionals just getting started in benefits administration, Jen suggests thoroughly learning the diverse landscape of voluntary and traditional benefits offerings available in the marketplace. This includes details on types of plans, vendors, and current trends.

But she notes that an even more important priority is to deeply understand your specific employee population first, long before constructing a benefits program. Robust listening strategies help here, including focus groups, surveys, interviews and analyzing HR data on demographics or chronic pain points.

With foundational insights on employee needs and preferences gathered, Jen then advocates tailoring benefits program design and messaging to align tightly with these insights and the organization's overarching business goals. This strategic approach ensures benefits offerings fill gaps that matter most to employees and move the needle on strategic talent outcomes the organization cares about.

In Jen's experience, when benefits offerings are grounded in rich authentic employee insights paired with business aims, programs gain maximum positive impact. Don't make assumptions about what employees want or need - listen first, then build programs through an agile, responsive design mindset. Meet them where they are.

For those who invest in truly understanding employees and align to strategic goals, Jen promises benefits administration offers a challenging but highly rewarding way to make a difference in people's lives while creating value.

The Bottom Line: Jen's Guidance for Navigating Forward Through Benefits Industry Turbulence

Over 15+ years navigating unpredictable industry tides, Jen Brady compiled invaluable wisdom on elevating benefits strategies. By leading with empathy, embracing agility, and anchoring programs in rich employee insights, she guides UPHS’s benefits ship forward through churning seas of disruption.

Jen’s pioneering voyage shows that when woven authentically into a broader culture, benefits can be leveraged to steer organizations toward more positive strategic outcomes related to attraction, retention, engagement and productivity. Her insights help benefits leaders chart fulfilling careers keeping employee needs forefront no matter which ways the winds blow next.

With authenticity, adaptiveness and employee advocacy at the helm, Jen provides a compass for smooth sailing ahead, even when benefits seas turn treacherous.

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