Call it the Millennial workplace makeover.
The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. on Wednesday unveiled a significant broadening of its family-related benefits program. The policies, which are effective beginning May 1, include an increase of paid paternal leave to 20 weeks for all parents regardless of gender, including those who are adopting or fostering a child, with the addition of six weeks of back-to-work-flexibility to allow parents to bond with new children and transition back to work. This is an addition to the Short Term Disability benefits typically available to mothers for six to eight weeks following childbirth. Lauder is also implementing a new adoption assistance program that will provide up to $10,000 for eligible expenses related to legal adoptions of children under 18 — or older if it is a special needs adoption — as well as an expansion of back-up-care benefits to include in-home care for children or adults and elders.
“Family is core to the values of the Estée Lauder Companies, and we believe our benefits should reflect these values,” said Michael O’Hare, executive vice president of global human resources, in a statement.
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The policies offer a sharp increase in flexibility and time off compared to what Lauder had previously offered in terms of parental leave benefits. Until now, company maternity leave policy covered up to 12 weeks of paid leave for birth mothers only. Primary caregivers were given six weeks of paid leave regardless of gender, and secondary caregivers received two weeks.
Lauder’s new benefits are reflective of the larger shift that corporate beauty companies are beginning to make in regards to their human resources policies. In the age of WeWork, WFH — that’s Internet shorthand for “Work From Home” — and unlimited vacation policies, a highly competitive job market is forcing large organizations to provide more flexibility and freedom in order to attract and maintain a Millennial workforce.
“Across the board we’re seeing companies we work with working to become a more attractive destination for candidates,” said Lisa Marie Ringus, executive vice president of global sales and business development at 24 Seven. “It’s not a question of, ‘Should we make that shift?’ Companies have to make that shift. It’s the workforce of the future.”
It is especially important for big companies to reevaluate h.r. policies, said Ringus, as they are at risk of losing talent to agile start-ups that don’t prescribe to traditional workplace notions such as nine-to-five office hours.
“From a hiring perspective, we’re seeing a lot of these bigger companies are losing people faster than they can keep up with hiring talent,” said Ringus. “Candidates have more choices than ever, and they are evaluating decisions of where to move in a more holistic way than ever before. They’re always going to be looking for more money, but [companies] have to add these fringe benefits and culture shifts to make their consideration of employment more attractive.”
Today’s candidates are ultimately looking for more work-life flexibility from employers, said Ringus.
“A big desire from today’s workforce is working for a [company] that takes a proactive approach to not only support career development, but wellness, happiness, and ultimately overall productivity,” said Ringus.
For Lauder, the expansion of the company’s parental leave benefits is just the latest announcement in a series of initiatives it has rolled out over the last few years.
“This is a strategic effort to be more appealing for our current [and future] employees,” said Latricia Parker, executive director of corporate benefits at the Estée Lauder Cos., who noted the company has added wellness programs, staggered hours and options to work remotely from home or different Lauder-owned offices other than the uber-corporate GM Building.
Millennials are driving the demand for change, said Parker, and they’re influencing what Boomers and Gen Xers are looking for in a workplace environment as well.
“It’s been an evolution. First it was casual Fridays, then jeans at work — now we realize employees are more productive when they’re working in an environment they’re comfortable with,” said Parker. “Millennials are shifting how we think about work, how we work, where we work and when we work. They just grew up in a different time and it’s less traditional — I can tell you employees from other generations are benefiting. They’ve always wanted this but always thought it was inappropriate to ask. We have to, as employers, shift if we want to attract top talent.”
Beauty industry veteran and Bona Fide Beauty Lab cofounder Pamela Baxter knows this sentiment intimately. She oversees a team of 14 Millennial employees — seven of whom she works with daily out of a Manhattan WeWork office.
Millennials are misunderstood, said Baxter. While they might be stereotyped as lazy and entitled, her team of youngsters “work really hard, are passionate about their jobs and in it to win it.”
To keep those Millennial employees happy, she said, means going beyond benefits and aligning with their core beliefs and values. “They’re idealistic and they care about certain things — they’re not into animal cruelty and they’re into the environment. They care about whether a company is socially responsible,” said Baxter. “They’re looking for companies that uphold the same values.”
Big companies will ultimately have to shift, said Ringus — especially beauty companies who are seeking talent in the highly competitive areas of digital, social and e-commerce. It’s not a question of if, but when.
“The candidates right now are in control. We’re negotiating offers on a daily basis with candidates making some pretty hefty demands [around] the whole package,” said Ringus. “If the employment opportunity doesn’t meet their needs, they’ll go elsewhere.”