The status quo is never good enough for Jeff King.
It’s a belief that prompted him to be an early adopter of high-deductible health plans and to help implement inclusive infertility treatments and gender-affirming care at previous companies—efforts that worked to keep up with the pace of employees’ needs.
“Most employers will have your typical package—medical, dental, vision, life, disability, 401(k)—which is great,” he says. “I’ve always been a strong believer of ‘what more can we do,’ whether it was taking existing programs to a higher level or adding newer and emerging things. I’m not afraid to suggest emerging solutions and take things in a different direction.”
In 2019, he brought that mentality to F5 Inc., where he currently serves as director of benefits and leads the global benefits team in over forty countries. He started his role just as the COVID-19 pandemic, a reckoning for the benefits space, began to take shape and force leaders to take inventory of what mattered to themselves and their employees.
Starting in his role at that time was not only a challenge for King, but also an opportunity to help solve the company’s problems in innovative ways. As employees struggled with burnout and mental health challenges resulting from the pandemic, he worked to give them relief through a new and innovative program called “wellness weekends,” providing all global employees a consecutive Friday and Monday off on a quarterly basis to prioritize their mental health. The program has been highly successful, and employees love it—and it has been extended for a third year.
He also advocated for programs that steered employees toward the help they needed, which resulted in a partnership with Modern Health to bring virtual coaching, therapy, and an employee assistance programs to the company.
King says that solution, which expanded access for employees globally and in the US, was a great way to get them to “dip their toes into therapy.”
“There are a lot of stigmas around therapy, even today,” he explains. “But given that this is online and confidential, I think a lot of people were open to it, and I’ve been quite pleased with the engagement results. Even today, mental health is my number one focus, and I think it’s important to weave it in as frequently as possible. I want it to be a topic that’s normalized.”
When he isn’t focused on well-being initiatives, he has his sights set on disruptive ideas that could transform his field and his company. Currently, he’s interested in virtual benefits counselor tools that guide employees through selection processes, give insights into conditions, and chart a path for treating these conditions. While the tools aren’t new, he sees the benefits space shifting toward more bundled services.
“Right now, I have what I call solution fatigue,” King says. “Having to manage dozens of vendors gets quite complex. I see the space consolidating where there will be best-in-class solutions that aggregate some of the solutions so you can turn them on and off as needed versus having to go out and contract with every single one. I’m cautiously excited that we’ll get those larger players who consolidate some of these things under larger umbrellas.”
Jeff King on Keeping Ahead of the Curve
“I’m a member of Society for Human Resources Management and the Counsel of Employee Benefits, a collection of large employers who meet on a quarterly basis to talk about the vendors folks are using and the new solutions and programs they’ve implemented. I also receive several sales emails each day. You just have to keep an open mind about what could come next in the space.”
He’s also seeing transformation on the horizon for family planning benefits.
“I foresee things such as surrogacy, egg freezing, and options for same-sex and single folks to be a bigger thing,” he predicts. “Also, I see caregiving benefits becoming more prominent, which includes anything from young children to eldercare. COVID has really highlighted the sandwich generation and the complexities of raising small children while also caring for aging parents.”
King adds that we’re in a state of a “COVID hangover” where the impacts of the pandemic are still lingering and where some uncertainty still exists.
Before F5, he held managerial positions at Slalom, Dendreon, Motricity, Getty Images, and Comsys—all experiences that influenced his people-centered approach to shaping benefits packages. For King, it always starts with “meeting people where they’re at.” He credits his success to a “human-first” leadership team and manager, as well as his global benefits team for taking exceptional care of F5 employees.
“I view things in life stages, from early career, mid-career, etc., and using that lens with a diversity and inclusion lens on top of that,” he says, “Luckily, I’ve worked for larger companies that are self-insured, which gave us the power to work with insurance companies to add upgrades. I’ve been a huge champion of pulling those levers to make sure we’re not just providing the basic, rigid plan, but one that meets employees where they’re at today, whether they’re in the beginning of their career or near the end.”