Holistic benefits are the new norm: Gone are the days when organizations strictly offered medical and dental plans. Companies increasingly recognize that workplace wellness needs to go beyond physical and mental health and in turn, will start to focus on offering holistic health options that address the various aspects of wellness such from social to emotional, physical and beyond.

The pandemic pause brought us to a moment of collective reckoning about what it means to live well and to work well. As a result, employees are sending employers an urgent signal that they are no longer willing to choose one — life or work — at the cost of the other. Working from home brought life literally into our work. And as the world now goes hybrid, employees are drawing firmer boundaries about how much of their work comes into their life. Where does this leave employers? And which perspectives and programs contribute most to progress? In our newest interview series, Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness, we are talking to successful executives, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and thought leaders across all industries to share ideas about how to shift company cultures in light of this new expectation. We’re discovering strategies and steps employers and employees can take together to live well and to work well.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick McLaughlin.

Patrick McLaughlin is senior vice president of human resources and chief human resources officer for PepsiCo Foods North America, leading the field and headquarters structure with a focus on building organizational health and capability, developing talent and strengthening employee relations. Patrick assumed this role in February 2012, after serving as vice president of human resources sales and supply chain, which included the human resources support for Frito-Lay North America plants, sales regions, sales operations organizations and the headquarters organizations since May 2010. Before this appointment, he served as a regional human resources director, manager of labor relations, and head of the human resources function for the Pepsi-Cola North America franchise organization at Pepsi Beverages Company/Pepsi Beverages Americas, where he helped lead the integration of bottler acquisition. Prior to PepsiCo, Patrick worked for Exxon in organizational development, labor and HR generalist roles. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Purdue University and is originally from Northwest Indiana.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and to assess their employees’ mental, physical and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?

At Frito-Lay we firmly believe in investing in our people. We define wellness as improving the physical, financial, and emotional health of our employees and their families.

People need our support now more than ever. We believe encouraging healthy practices and providing employees with the support they need will create added benefits for their loved ones and beyond.

Our program to support employee wellness is based on three pillars of well-being, offering employees a variety of programs:

  • Be Well: Programs to get healthy, get moving, and be safe.
  • Find Balance: Programs to manage stress, build resilience, and improve their financial well-being and work/life quality.
  • Get Involved: Programs to foster community involvement and family and social connections, a critical component to well-being.

One way we measure wellness is by tracking the usage of our digital well-being platform. In 2021, 52% of PepsiCo’s global population engaged with our digital well-being platform — more than 81,000 U.S. employees and more than 10,000 employees outside the U.S.

Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?

Promoting the well-being of our employees helps them to lead even healthier and more balanced lives and provides support for them to be successful in their personal and professional lives. We’re already seeing a difference. When employees feel supported by their employer as it relates to physical and mental wellness, we can attract and retain our top talent which drives productivity and success. To help us better understand this correlation, we look at how the frequency of the utilization of our well-being programs as well as how those outcomes impact absenteeism. It’s important employees get the care and support they need.

Even though most leaders have good intentions when it comes to employee wellness, programs that require funding are beholden to business cases like any other initiative. The World Health Organization estimates for every $1 invested into treatment for common mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. That sounds like a great ROI. And, yet many employers struggle to fund wellness programs that seem to come “at the cost of the business.” What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?

At Frito-Lay people are our most valued asset. The fabric of who we are comes from our people, and we are committed to fostering a culture where each of us feels seen, heard, respected, and secure, inspiring one another on and off the clock.

For more than 85 years, Frito-Lay has provided well-paying jobs and benefits to thousands of Americans — we employ over 66,000 associates nationwide- over 56,000 of them being frontline employees.

The frontline is the face of our company, making, moving and selling our products every day.

When people feel a sense of belonging and pride in what they do, community and trust follows.

For us, wellness is integral to our offering. We review our offerings to make sure that our programs continue to provide value to our employees. This is accomplished through our annual review process whether with new or reinvestment of funds. Investing in your employees is investing in your business and in your growth. Investing in your associate’s health is investing in the local communities where you are present. Even if your organization needs to start small, a well-executed wellness program can reduce health care costs, increase productivity, and increase employee retention.

Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank well-being as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?

With a heightened focus on employee well-being and as these trends continue to accelerate, organizations that lack these offerings will be left behind. It’s critical that organizations continue to adapt and offer unique benefits to engage and retain talent.

At Frito-Lay, we provide comprehensive information about our wellness programs to the Talent Acquisition team across the nation. With low attrition rates for the industry, Frito-Lay’s focus on work-life balance for truckers tops the list of robust offerings, including competitive starting salaries of $94K, signing bonuses, and generous benefits and insurance packages that start on day one, like: medical, dental, vision, reimbursement accounts, life insurance, disability, legal and retirement including both a 401k with company match to our frontline population as well as a pension benefit.

We believe career development and higher education are key for our associates and we make sure to share this with our associates before day one. Education remains at the forefront and, as a company, we offer new opportunities for scholarships, education assistance for employees, vocation and certificate programs, as well college coaches for parents of college-bound children, tutoring and teen-driver education. An example of how we’re committed to helping our employees grow by advancing frontline education and upskilling over the next 10 years is our new PepsiCo myeducation program. The program offers debt-free opportunities to pursue undergraduate degrees, 100% of tuition costs covered, flexible learning opportunities, partnerships with highly reputable schools, universities and more. When employees have a chance to grow and be fulfilled in their careers, they can have a positive impact at work, at home, and in their local communities. We’re including this program, as well as the others we offer, into our hiring and retention strategies nationwide.

We’ve all heard of the four-day work week, unlimited PTO, mental health days, and on demand mental health services. What innovative new programs and pilots are you launching to address employee wellness? And, what are you discovering? We would benefit from an example in each of these areas.

  • Mental and Emotional Wellness: If we’ve learned anything through this period, it is that everyone needs mental health support and that they need it in a way that works for them and how they engage with programs. We have a variety of mental health programs that allow employees to address their needs. Through meQ, we offer digital support and activities that help employees build resilience through tools and exercises they experience based on their interest and at their convenience. Through Spring Health, we offer personalized mental health support for our associates, their spouse/partner and dependents (age 6 and older). Through Castlight, associates take steps to improve physical, emotional and financial health with support from Healthy Living. Employees set goals and find programs to help reach them while they earn points and get rewards. We also recognize mental health is critical to holistic health and well-being, not separate, so we try to be thoughtful about all the areas in which mental health support should be offered to provide holistic care.
  • Physical and Social Wellness: Fitness and nutrition programs are among our most popular offerings. For example, though not very widespread, a number of locations with a large employee base provide on-site fitness centers and locations promote physical fitness through discounted fitness memberships, vouchers and/or incentives for employees who join a gym. In addition, we hold annual events to help employees increase their physical activity, including company soccer and softball tournaments and ping pong competitions. An example is the “Move for Good” challenge, a global step competition that allows employees to log a day of work and allows them to convert associated steps to food donations to help families in distress in partnership with The PepsiCo Foundation.
  • Financial Wellness: We offer a number of robust financial wellness programs at Frito-Lay for all associates and make this program available to dependents at no cost. Our “Healthy Money” program is built around education and guidance, including the opportunity for our associates to connect with qualified financial counsellors at PwC where they can work to get support for a variety of different situations, issues and questions pertaining to their finances. In 2021, some 1,800 connects with Healthy Money counsellors were made by Frito-Lay associates. Our Total Rewards team maintains a dedicated Healthy Money website for employees to leverage online tools, tip sheets and other resources. Each month webinars are hosted with topical content, for example in March we hosted webinars focused on tax-filing prep and the resources available to Frito-Lay associates to support them with this process. Other webinars recently hosted have included a focus on investing 401(k), student debt re-financing and retirement planning as examples. We also recognized that attending webinars is not for everyone, or that the timing might not always suit some of our frontline associates considering shift schedules and so hosting on-site Healthy Money workshops are also available in our program. Our ability to be on-site and host workshops that focus on building basic financial literacy or enhancing awareness and engagement around Frito-Lay’s great benefit offerings prove popular amongst our frontline associates. YTD, we have hosted some 40 workshops across our U.S locations and many more planned for the balance of 2022.

Can you please tell us more about a couple of specific ways workplaces would benefit from investing in your ideas above to improve employee wellness?

As employers, it’s our responsibility to look after our employees and ensure they have the resources they need to be successful in both their personal and professional lives. Workplaces can benefit from offering a robust program of wellness options as it leads to increased employee productivity, decreases burnout and allows for a happier work culture. It also helps improve retention rates.

A great way to help employees stay on track and ensure they’re aware of all offerings is through a digital well-being platform. Through our platform, participants may earn points by engaging in the various wellness programs, such as onsite wellness screenings, onsite flu shots. Most frontline employees are eligible for points — worth up to $300 a year plus $300 for a covered spouse/partner. They can redeem points for rewards such as gift cards, Health Savings Account contributions, and sweepstakes entries. These programs are available to all benefits-eligible employees, as well as spouses and partners who are already covered under our medical plan.

How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?

At Frito-Lay, our people are the heart of our business. The workforce is evolving, and so are we. Therefore, we offer our leaders constant trainings and tools to reskill them as leaders who will know how to respect and promote a “work well” culture.

We recognize that skilled roles like machine operators and maintenance mechanics are in high demand, especially with increased automation. The premium for these roles will definitely go higher, which is why we’ve made significant investments over last three years on automation in manufacturing, creating more value-added work for current employees and increasing opportunities for upskilling. Many of our leaders have come from routes and off the factory floor into bigger positions.

Another example is based on how the past two years brought many learnings and we’ve understood that offering flexibility is key to the “work well” culture. This is why PepsiCo created the new “Work that works” program for corporate associates around the world. As associates return to offices, Work that Works redefines what the workplace looks like and how it can be used. There is no default day-to-day workplace for employees in headquarter locations — associates along with their managers choose what work can be done remotely and what needs to be done in their PepsiCo office. Decisions about the best ways of working are based on roles, daily activities and team dynamics.

Ideas take time to implement. What is one small step every individual, team or organization can take to get started on these ideas — to get well?

A small but crucial step to promote wellness throughout an organization is encouraging colleagues to use the resources available to them. To truly create a culture of wellness within our organizations, everyone must make a concerted effort to lead more mindful and balanced lives. Walking the talk is key to success and to create a “work well” culture that everyone lives, respects, promotes and adopts.

What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”

  • Holistic benefits are the new norm: Gone are the days when organizations strictly offered medical and dental plans. Companies increasingly recognize that workplace wellness needs to go beyond physical and mental health and in turn, will start to focus on offering holistic health options that address the various aspects of wellness such from social to emotional, physical and beyond.
  • Wellness is not a one-size-fits-all approach: Organizations are becoming rapidly aware that not every employee benefits from wellness offerings in the same way. Because of this, we will see organizations start to offer their employees a wider variety of wellness programs, where they can choose the offerings that best suit their needs as an individual.
  • Financial literacy will play an increasingly important role: Financial wellness is typically a less talked about aspect of overall well-being, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Increasingly, employees are looking for resources to assist them and educate them and because of this, we expect to see an increased focus on providing financial literacy resources such as counseling, webinars, online resources and more.
  • Stress management is more important now than ever before: Over the last two years, employees’ anxiety and stress levels have skyrocketed, making it more important than ever for organizations to incorporate stress management programs as part of the corporate wellness program.
  • Shifting from reactionary to preventive and proactive: Rather than offering employees a range of wellness benefits in response to circumstances, such as too much stress, companies may prioritize prevention. This could come in the form of creating a work environment where employees have less exposure to stress or are provided with more coping tools. In addition to prevention, companies are shifting their attention to proactivity. In order to attract and retain talent organizations must also incorporate wellness programs into their talent recruitment and hiring processes.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?

I am optimistic that in the future, workplace wellness will be embedded throughout every organization across industries. It will no longer be a unique offering, but rather an expectation for employers to contribute to improving the physical, financial, and emotional health of their employees and their families.

I also trust that what we’re investing in our associates’ well-being at Frito-Lay will benefit not only our business but ultimately the communities where we are present.

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.