“Why A Culture Expert Joined Forces with a Benefits Broker: My Story”
By: Jennifer Bouyoukos, VP of HR Consulting at PDF
October 29, 2018
A lot of people ask me how I, a culture expert, came to be involved in a benefits firm. After all, I have spent a lot of my career tackling broad HR issues and benefits seem so niche. Well, I decided to answer that question in the form of my story in hopes that it gives insight into why benefits are so significant and how my culture growth experience drives me when I work with employee benefits.
So here’s the story about a culture expert, a benefits broker, and a few cups of coffee (ok, way more than a few..)
It all started the day I was born… just kidding.
I spent 20 years of my life in the corporate world working in HR leadership positions for different Canadian companies (Janna Software, Workbrain, SAP, Manulife, Kobo, RBC and ARGUS software, etc.) I left the corporate world in 2016. No, not because I hate corporate culture, and not because I wanted to dress in my jammies all day.
I have always been passionate about helping companies reform, restructure, facilitate, and strengthen their human resources department. After 20 years, I felt like the time was right for me to spread my wings and start to consult with companies all over Canada; not just the one I worked for at the time. I wanted to work with companies at every critical stage of their journey, and I wanted to work with companies of every size — kernel, small, medium, large.
So, I founded an HR Consulting firm, which I still passionately run today. That whole setup is a story for another time, but it’s important to note that it was vital for me to go out on my own and tackle companies’ HR programs in a way that produces value and improves employee experience.
I have helped countless companies drive their vision and overhaul their HR approach as a consultant and people strategist. Whether it’s employee wellness, HR tech rollout, policies, comp, retention, diversity, or any other critical issue facing companies, as it pertains to human resources, I’ve done it. I’m an extremely motivated person, so I tend to go at 100% nonstop, which has made working with partners difficult for me at times — until I started to work with Peter Demangos.
Peter Demangos is a benefits guru. He’s continuously featured on HR.com and HRPA, so I knew that he was well versed in benefits.
Benefits are a pivotal point to employees. It’s one of the first things that gets asked in interviews for a reason — it’s a critical element of a company’s structure. But it’s deeper than that.
I’ll bullet point the importance of benefits on company culture so that it’s easier to digest.
- It’s an element that connects a company to an employee and their family. It is something that reflects company values like health, community, and empowerment. At the same time, it’s something that leaders in the company can commit to along with their employees — something that minimizes the barriers between low-level and high-level employees.
- Benefits have a natural way of layering themselves in a way that makes employee onboarding easier and gives employees morale without lengthy training. Essential elements of employee benefits are introduced immediately, while complexities within are explained in time through the use of various company platforms (email, classes, meetings, and seminars).
- Benefits give you the ability to immediately convey company support and positive values to employees. Some culture strategies take a while to pay off; benefits aren’t one of those strategies.
- More directly, employee benefits also have a massive amount of research backing their importance as a driver of employee engagement.
Benefits are your company’s day-one value expression. They let employees immediately know whether or not you value them, which is enormous for retention, work ethic, and employee happiness.
Since Peter is a verified expert in the field of benefits, he and I had some talks that delved deep into the core of what company culture is, how we defined it, and what role benefits play.
Talking to someone like Peter was eye-opening. As an HR thought leader, I have worked extensively with benefits, but it can feel like you’re working in front of the curtains when it comes to benefits. You don’t ever really get to see the behind-the-scenes processes that drive benefits.
That’s why it’s crucial that you work with someone you trust — someone that can uncomplicate the benefits process in a way that connects-the-dots without frying your brain with legalese and statistics. You also want to work with someone who can help you target unnecessary spend and redirect it towards areas that would further benefit your employees- like a parenting concierge!
There was a sort of an HR magic that happened when Peter and I would talk about benefits. I had such a focus on HR and the results of benefits on company culture, while Peter had an incredibly deep understanding of benefit complexities. We talked extensively about creating a partnership that did just that: eliminated the complexity, focused on spending goals, and tailored the benefits experience to your overall company HR and culture goals.
Over many coffees, we talked about HR benefits for what seemed like forever. That’s not a joke either. We would literally talk shop for hours and hours.
The End/The New Beginning
At some point, we both realized that combining our skillsets would drive us to provide more thorough HR services to customers. We share a vision; a commitment — a promise to provide companies with services that were in line with their HR vision and culture.
We both wanted to provide a behind-the-curtains benefits experience that helps empower them to empower their employees. By combining Peter’s knowledge of benefits and benefit structures and my drive directed towards company culture, we could make some serious progress.
So, after enough coffee to give an elephant a heart attack, some deep conversations, and some shop talk, Peter convinced me to join PDF Financial — a benefits brokerage that combines expert visions and progressive trends in order to provide comprehensive benefits that are in-line with company culture — as a consultant.
Peter will focus on the ever-evolving benefits programs and layer them in a way that is sensible and unique to companies’ needs, and I will focus on employee experience, change management, and company culture.
This is the end of the story. I’m not going to go on-and-on about how benefits drive company culture or how Peter and I work diligently to find a way to reduce friction in the brokerage space (you’re all lucky I’m out of coffee). I’ll leave that for some other blogs.
Thanks for taking the time to read this!
If any of you have some thoughts on any companies or HR thought leaders that doing something great with benefits, let me know. It would help me stay current, and I always love talking shop with my readers!
About the Author
Jennifer is the VP of HR Consulting at PDF. She is a savvy HR professional with over 20 years in the leadership seat at Canadian companies including Workbrain, SAP, Manulife, Kobo, and RBC. In these roles she worked with teams in Toronto and around the globe to deliver modern and impactful people strategies.
In 2016 Jennifer began her consulting practice as an outside expert, working with HR and leaders as they grow and transform their business. Consulting with a broad range of teams and industries, she acts as an extended member of the HR team, leveraging her rich experience and network.
Featured in Forbes, HR Reporter, HRD, The Globe and Mail, HR Gazette, and a founding member of Women Get On Board and the LinkedIn Executive Advisory Group, she is a sought after expert on HR, change management, and employee experience.
Today, Jennifer divides her time contributing on and off client sites, delivering workshops and speaking engagements, volunteering on NFP boards, and mentoring young HR leaders and entrepreneurs.