Season 2, Episode 3

Inflation and supporting employee wellbeing

September 7, 2022

Episode details

The swift rise in inflation and worries about a potential recession have taken a financial and emotional toll on employees. In this episode, financial and wellbeing experts — Martha Leiper, Carl Gagnon and Laurie Mitchell — share their insights about what’s driving inflation and the practical steps organizations can take to support the people that power their business.

  • Several factors are increasing the inflation pressure on the economy. Many businesses are grappling with rising supply costs and shortages, as well as a tight labor market and wage inflation. And businesses are having to pass those costs to their customers. [7:12]

  • Workers are often not aware of their employer’s resources. Most employers offer some resources for emotional and mental health wellbeing and it’s important to build awareness around them before workers get to a place of severe stress. [12:48]

  • Know your risk tolerance. Take control of what you can. A time of turmoil is not a time to panic and sell your investments, because you will be selling at low valuation. "If you’re close to retirement, you should be out of the more volatile securities,” said Martha Leiper. “But if you’re young in your career, don’t panic, these types of times tend to create good buying opportunities, and the markets will correct, and your savings will grow over time.” [13:59]

  • Diversify savings to ride economic cycles. Offer employees more saving options to respond to different needs, such as building an emergency savings fund and asset diversification for their retirement plans. [17:13]

  • Engage employees in different ways. Find a balance in addressing the benefit needs of a diverse workforce. And offer workers easy options to engage, including in-person, phone and virtual. [22:09]

  • Design programs across the spectrum of total rewards. Employees want to engage, but they’re also concerned about their personal privacy. “Whether you’re dealing with financial or mental health — it’s about engaging the employees to use the tools that are there and being pleasantly surprised at what those tools can offer an employee,” said Carl Gagnon. [24:36]

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Martha Leiper

Executive Vice President and Chief Investment Officer, Unum

Martha Leiper is responsible for the investment and asset management strategies of Unum’s portfolio. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Chattanooga Food Bank and River City Company, and on the Investment Committee with the Chattanooga Community Foundation. She earned an MBA and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Finance from the University of Tennessee. She’s a chartered financial analyst and certified public accountant.

Carl Gagnon

Assistant Vice President, Financial Wellbeing & Retirement Programs, Unum

Carl Gagnon is responsible for the day-to-day operations, regulatory oversight and compliance of the Unum global financial wellbeing and retirement programs, including the Defined Benefit, Defined Contribution and Non-Qualified retirement plans and various flex benefit programs offered within its international operations. Carl is also involved with developing, implementing and aligning the company’s global retirement program designs with Unum’s overall business objectives and serves as a key partner in implementing their strategy, design and investment structure. Carl has 25 years’ experience in various HR and Benefit positions, including developing benefit strategy, managing corporate benefit programs and implementing administrative systems to manage these plans. He holds a CEBS certification, is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Administrators and is a member of the Society for Human Resources Management and the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

Laurie Mitchell

Assistant Vice President, Global Wellbeing & Health Management, Unum

Laurie Mitchell took a slightly nontraditional career path for a registered dietitian nutritionist and has been leading comprehensive employer-sponsored population health and wellbeing strategy for more than 22 years. Her work focuses on actively engaging employees in their wellbeing through a mix of innovative programs, benefits, policies and health-forward environmental approaches. Before joining Unum, she held similar positions at MaineHealth, an integrated health care delivery system in Maine; Public Service Enterprise Group, an energy company in New Jersey; and Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. She also had a private nutrition practice in NYC.

About the host

Clare Morin headshot

Clare Morin

Content Marketing Manager, Unum

Clare Morin is the Content Marketing Manager at Unum and a journalist who's spent the last 20 years interviewing hundreds of thought leaders on topics ranging from wellness to culture, finance, human resources and technology. Born in the UK, raised in Hong Kong and based in the U.S. since 2009, she brings a global outlook to the HR Trends studio.

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