Early in her career, Kimberly Young was charged with reenvisioning the benefits package for a company that had declared bankruptcy. “I really learned the importance of negotiation, change management, and how at the end of the day, it’s about balancing the needs of the business and the people that make up that business,” Young says. “It was a pivotal point in my career.”
Fortunately, she hasn’t had that particular experience in her current role as vice president of global benefits at defense and government services contractor Pacific Architects & Engineers (PAE)—but the skills that came from it have still proved valuable in her four years with the company.
Upon being hired, Young got to work on creating an integrated benefits platform for PAE that would be competitive, affordable, and valuable to the company’s employees. “It really required a multiyear strategy approach that involved changing vendors, adding new clinical management services, outsourcing our pharmacy needs, and just doing a comprehensive inventory of where we were and where we were trying to go,” Young explains. “We wanted to be more competitive in the market and offer best-in-class benefits. And here we are today.”
“Here” includes earning recognition from Cigna for the PAE benefits program design and another award from Gallagher for PAE’s investment in its employee service and benefits. It’s the result of a comprehensive review and redesign that includes major additions to the company’s benefits package.
“Kim developed an award-winning benefit program to retain and attract the very best talent for PAE”, says Karen Franklin, Cigna’s National Account’s vice president. “We are honored to partner with Kim on this exciting healthcare journey.”
“We’ve implemented parental leave, which is new for us,” Young explains. “We’ve also added really significant clinical management programs to focus on chronic conditions in order to yield better outcomes. We’ve added a lot of voluntary benefits that give employees some choice as it relates to work/life balance.”
Additionally, PAE has made significant investments in a new employee assistance program provider that offers wellness tips and tools, student loan consolidation services, and the Virgin Pulse wellness platform to help employees become engaged in their own wellness journeys. Along the way, employees will have access to preventative screenings and other related services that drive engagement while also helping ensure better outcomes from a claims and wellness perspective.
Building a cutting-edge employee benefits package is difficult enough to start with, but over the last three years, PAE has also grown significantly through multiple acquisitions.
“That has definitely provided an additional challenge as we work to balance the needs of the acquired employees and understand that they’re going through a time of change,” Young explains. “At the same time, we’re working to consolidate those existing benefits into the PAE structure, so there were a lot of challenges in times of working through the manual processes of the acquired assets, understanding their benefit structures, engaging with the different consultants who were on board, and going through all the different points of contact for the required compliance reporting.”
Young explains that the experience for an acquired company can be a difficult one: premium price tags are often lower and a different menu of benefits is on the table. The true test is creating a benefits package that borrows from the best of those options at a much larger scale for PAE’s more than twenty-thousand employees.
The due diligence Young and her team had to conduct for compliance reporting would come in handy for one of the biggest moments in PAE’s history: it went public in February 2020, after sixty years as a private company.
“From our side, we had to make sure that all of our information was in order and that we fully understood our benefit costs. You obviously always want to know these details, but before an IPO, there’s just a whole new level of focus on the details,” Young says.
The successful IPO would be followed by the COVID lockdown just a month later, but Young says PAE was in a unique position to hit the ground running with employees being sent home.
“We were already working on an initiative called Project Productivity to reduce our footprint and offer a lot of our workforce the opportunity to work completely remotely,” Young explains. “So our infrastructure for that environment was almost entirely set up. There are obviously a number of challenges that come from working from home that all companies have felt, but we’ve found it to be incredibly successful both from a productivity and employee satisfaction standpoint.”
In fact, Young says something strange has come from being physically separated from her team. “I can honestly say that I think we’re probably closer than we were,” she says. “We’re always available on instant message and we’re doing Zoom calls regularly where we’re on camera with each other. I think those of us that like working from home will be able to continue in this new environment we find ourselves in.”
Young’s four years at PAE so far have come with a series of challenges, but she and her team have worked nonstop to make a growing organization successful and competitive in the market, as well as more alluring to future recruits.
Buck is an integrated HR, pensions, and employee benefits consulting, technology, and administration services firm. Founded more than 100 years ago, we serve HR departments across the health, wealth, and career spectrum. Our areas of focus range from health and wellbeing to retirement and investment to pension and benefits administration.