Beth Barrett has been in the benefits space for over twenty years, watching HR go from a largely administrative department to a strategic partner that relies on analytics and automation to help drive some of the most important business decisions.
But throughout her journey, Barrett has noticed a few things that haven’t change—one being the need to have benefits that are responsive to employees.
“You have to listen to what people want,” says the senior manager of benefits at Teva Pharmaceuticals, which specializes in generic drugs, produces active pharmaceutical ingredients, and offers proprietary pharmaceuticals. “You can’t just research something, talk to people at other companies, or hear about some benefit that’s cool and get sign off from above. Sometimes no one enrolls in it, then, you’re spending all this money on something people don’t want. Do some employee surveys or listening sessions to see what people are feeling in order to flesh out what they’re looking for.”
Over the past five years at the company, that mindset has been at the heart of Barrett’s approach to shaping benefits strategy and offerings. It was particularly helpful when the company’s wellness program wasn’t gaining the kind of engagement and participation Teva originally hoped for in 2019 and 2020. After soliciting feedback from employees, Barrett and her colleagues decided to trade that program for a lifestyle spending account that begins in January 2024, which Barrett calls a “much more personalized approach to well-being.”
“We’re going to give employees money that they can spend on their well-being, on whatever is important to them from a pre-determined list,” Barrett explains. “For you, it might mean paying your gym membership. For me, it might mean getting a massage every month. From everything I’ve heard, I think everyone’s going to really like it.”
That’s not the only program that’s come as a result of the company’s compassion for its workforce. Many of Teva’s employees are caregivers for elderly parents or a spouse who’s ill, and the organization’s leaders have taken notice of the challenges workers face in balancing it. That’s why Teva has implemented a global Circles of Care program, a virtual support group that offers employees community, resources, and other forms of support.
Strength in Family
Beth Barrett has a particular passion for wellness and physical activity. “It started with my daughter,” she explains. “I was always a walker, but when my daughter was in high school, she got a part-time job at the gym and convinced me to join. After that, she convinced me to do more and got me involved with strength training and from there, nutrition. Ever since, it’s continued to grow and morph.”
In September 2023, the company also started offering caregivers extra PTO days, expanded the definition of care beyond immediate family, and more.
“We’ve made it a little more comprehensive to include adult children, grandparents, etc. If they need to take them to doctor’s appointments or to a treatment, they don’t have to use their regular PTO,” Barrett says. “They have these extra days they can use. We’re also looking at another partnership for a caregiving app that allows you to talk to case managers.”
Growing up, Barrett always wanted to be in business, realizing that math and science just weren’t for her. So, after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey, she pursued a career in HR, starting at Sequa Corporation. There, she spent her early days making sure payroll had the right deductions, handing out forms, sending claim forms for medical, and answering employee questions. She worked her way up to be a senior 401(k) administrator before going on to supervise the department and then to serve as a benefits manager.
Her twenty-two years at Sequa gave her a deep knowledge of domestic benefits plans, 401(k) plans and mergers, vendor conversions, wellness program incentive design, and more. She also learned about the importance of adjusting to change.
“You have to be able to pivot very quickly. You never know when something will happen to throw your plan off the rails, so you need a plan B on how to move forward when your plan can’t happen,” she says. “There’s always going to be an unexpected challenge specific to your company and where your sites are located.”
Barrett understands that it’s not easy to navigate that reality. But leaders should start by adjusting their mindset. “It’s helpful to think that nothing is ever set in stone. Everything will be fluid,” she says. “You also need to realize that you’re not alone. We’re all part of a team and just because it might’ve been your project or your plan, you have a team behind you that you can lean on. You never know who will have the best solution or who will say something that’ll spark an idea in you.”
Buck is a proud partner of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Teva’s talented people produce life-improving (and lifesaving) medicines to help patients live better days. Buck strives to do our part to support the total well-being of Teva employees and their families.