Allbirds uses benefits spending accounts to help the company weather challenging times
Allbirds is a global retail company specializing in sustainable footwear and apparel built on the value of using business as a force for good. Headquartered in San Francisco, the company has corporate and retail locations worldwide with a presence in Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Vietnam, and the UAE. Over 800 people work at Allbirds globally, 650 of which are in the US.
We sat down with Alex Park, Total Rewards Analyst at Allbirds, to hear about Allbird’s employee benefits program and how offering flexible options has helped the company stay competitive while supporting its employees globally.
To start, provide an overview of Allbirds, the workforce, and the current operating model.
Alex: We have people working remote, hybrid, and onsite. Retail employees are in-person in the store. We have retail and corporate employees in the US and globally. Since we have a hybrid of employees working on-site and remotely, we value Forma because it allows us to offer generous benefits that can reach our employees across the globe.
Right now, our focus is on getting everyone back into the office safely and promoting the collaborative work style we had before Covid. We don’t want to rush people back and want to do what we can as a team and a company to support people so that everyone feels comfortable, safe, and happy to return to the office. To make the transition smooth, we want to offer support programs so that everyone feels at ease with the transition.
How would you describe Allbirds’ employee benefits program and the vision behind it?
Alex: Allbirds has competitive compensation, a generous paid time off program, and 100 percent company-paid medical, dental, vision, and life insurance benefits. So, we have a very robust and generous set of core benefits. We wanted to add flexible employee benefits that go one step further to be even more competitive and make sure employees all have what they need to succeed at Allbirds.
Within the HR benefits landscape, the main vision for all companies, including us, is looking at the best employer-sponsored benefits package we can offer our employees. We’re in a very tough and competitive field being in the Bay Area, especially with those in tech that tend to have very strong and very competitive packages.
Even though we aren’t a tech company, we want to do our best to match those that are, so we can be competitive in terms of retention and attracting the best talent. We want to make sure that we're competitive in terms of benchmarking and offering anything that the employee needs. We always want to make sure we are staying within the modern trends. So, we are always sending out surveys to make sure we are identifying what people want and doing our best to provide what everyone needs.
Given today’s labor market is highly competitive and in flux, how are these pressures impacting the Allbirds HR team?
Alex: A lot of it comes down to the processes we have. As a team, it’s very complex when looking at what our next steps should be. In terms of our office culture and employees, we were looking at the challenge of finding new and better ways of attracting people to apply and join our team or return back to the office. With so much uncertainty, we're just trying to stay with the trends, informed about what's going on, and what other companies are doing to see what we can do, and do it better.
What led you to consider a flexible employee benefits program and ultimately select Forma?
Alex: Initially, we wanted a one-stop-shop to host benefit spending account wallets. We also wanted an easy way for employees to submit claims and get reimbursed for covered work-related or wellness and healthcare expenses like a gym membership or to pay for phone and wifi charges. Forma checked both boxes there. Plus, Forma's card and the store make it super easy and seamless to buy things. We were definitely looking to have a strong team behind us that will help with any of our wallets and questions.
I think that's definitely what led us to start with and continue to work with Forma. But what we realized is that Forma is a lot more than that.
Forma’s UI/UX is great. The platform is very easy to use and navigate. It's very interactive. The team is always coming out with new and innovative ways to make it better. We’re super excited about direct deposit. As an employee who uses Forma and on the admin side, seeing the resources that Forma can offer and we can share that with our employees has been great.
What were the goals for Forma and the benefits spending account program?
Alex: Overall, we want to find the best ways to offer assistance and support to our employees to make sure that they are reimbursed for anything that they need for work and that can help with their wellness and their lives.
We have three main wallets with Forma:
- HealthyBird: A wellness account that enables employees to choose from a wide range of services, activities, and merchandise to support them in their wellness goals. Employees get $50/month USD or the local country equivalent. The amount can roll over up to a maximum balance of $200 USD or the local country equivalent. In terms of currency, we update international amounts twice a year to be sure we are staying current with exchange rates.
- Talking Bird: An account for our customer experience and corporate teams that provides communications services, such as phone, WiFi, etc. Employees receive $50/month USD or the local country equivalent. The amount can roll over up to a maximum balance of $200 USD or the local country equivalent.
- Giving Bird: A donations and charitable giving account that allows employees to direct funds toward any nonprofit of their choosing. Full-time employees are reimbursed up to $500 USD and part-time employees are reimbursed up to $250 in USD or local country equivalent.
There are some ancillary accounts for specific employee groups to meet any unique needs of those populations.
How was the implementation and rollout of the program?
Alex: The level of customization with Forma was a huge benefit in the design phase of the program. I would confidently say since I've been here, we've had no issues with Forma. The team did a really great job at making the transition for me when I first joined Allbirds. The support team has always been there. They are always quick to reply in terms of communication – that's probably the strongest strong suit of Forma and what I love about working with Forma.
What did you do to roll out the program and ensure it launched successfully?
Alex: We hosted webinars, sent flyers, and had a presentation, making sure that the Forma name is out there to our employees, that they can use, and spend their funds.
I think it's great. From both the employee side and the admin side, program design and engagement is good. The platform is very simple and clean. I've personally had no issues and I know where to go to find things because it's very clear on the website where things are. From the UI/UX perspective, It's probably the easiest platform I've used out of all the vendors. And, I know that if I have any questions then the Forma team will be there to answer.
How is Forma performing and how is the overall engagement?
Alex: We don’t spend time struggling. Forma is very seamless and easy to use. There’s no stress. The engagement’s great. I think that the platform itself from the employee side to the admin side is just very clean. It's very simple to use, and we definitely have a great support team. There’s no extra time needed for us to solve issues or anything like that.
We're very happy with it. The resources that Forma offers are a big plus. Engagement and utilization are the other really strong points. I would say Forma is one of the top-performing and utilized vendors we offer to our employees.
Every year we send out a survey to our employees to get feedback on all our vendors. Based on the results, what employees say they value the most, I would say it’s Forma.
We're committed to creating better things in a better way for the Allbirds flock. A great deal of thought goes into every offering we provide, including the way we name our benefits. It is important for us to create a global process that is inclusive and simple so that all eligible employees can best take advantage of these great benefits. As such, we worked with Forma to create wellness, caregiving, connectivity, and work-from-home programs meaningful for Allbirds. We are proud to customize this program to fit our modern retail workforce. Not only did we see more than 72% engagement with 97% CSAT rating in 2021, but we also saved our ops team significant time in the admin process and associated employee inquiries.
- Kim Lee, Manager, Total Rewards at Allbirds