My first day at Guild started out wildly different than I planned. There was no HR orientation or welcome lunch — just a nervously typed email that I had been drafting in my head since 6 a.m.

“I’m writing with an unexpected update — I was just admitted to the hospital and am expected to give birth today.”

This wasn’t a complete surprise. 

When I began interviewing at seven months pregnant, I knew the timing could get tricky between starting my new role and welcoming the newest member of my family. Still, my baby was arriving two weeks early, and I thought I’d have more time to get my feet underneath me at my job before taking parental leave.

Amidst this first-day-of-work anxiety and the prospect of, well, giving birth, Guild did have a policy in place that gave me some peace of mind: fully paid parental leave, available to all employees from day one on the job. 

This policy — rare for parental leave benefits outside of big tech companies and a few other innovators — spoke volumes to me about my new company’s culture and values. It gave me the confidence to continue in the interview process and served as reassurance when I ultimately accepted the offer. 

When expanded to other types of benefits, Day One eligibility can be a huge boon to individuals and can help companies maximize their war for talent strategy when it comes to attracting and retaining workers. 

Tenure Benefits Eligibility, a Gating Mechanism

Benefit eligibility based on tenure may seem like a minor consideration when compared to  administrative policies as a whole. After all, the first crucial step is providing benefits. Determining when a benefit is available to employees, however, also matters a great deal and can have significant impacts on individual employees. When designed strategically, it’s a powerful lever that employers can pull for attracting and retaining talent, with high returns on investment.

Except for regulated benefits, such as healthcare, tenure eligibility for most benefits is at the employer’s discretion. In an effort to control costs and limit the risks of providing a benefit for an employee who immediately leaves the company, it’s tempting for companies to view benefits as almost a kind of privilege that comes with tenure. 

Using tenure as a gating mechanism for benefits is needlessly restrictive, though. By moving beyond that consideration, employers have the opportunity to make purposeful design decisions that optimize benefit programs to their full potential. 

Companies must ask themselves, what talent objectives (attraction, retention, diversity, engagement, etc.) are we targeting? Is there a particular employee population to target? Determining what the benefits investment aims to achieve will help to intentionally design its eligibility, which in some instances renders tenure requirements irrelevant. 

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The Difference a Few Months Can Make

We closely track how Day One policies play out in the education benefit space at Guild. For legacy programs, we see an average tenure requirement of at least six months. Unfortunately, this prevents employers from realizing one of the most powerful return-on-investment levers that a strategically designed education program offers: significantly increased retention for both program participants and employees who express interest in the program, otherwise known as “engagers.” 

For a company that sees serious retention challenges toward the beginning of its employees’ tenures, offering an education program with Day One eligibility ensures it will reap the maximum impact on retention.

We often see examples of this with our employer partners. One partner, a large national retailer, experienced first-hand the benefits of switching to a Day One policy. The company’s education program originally had a 90-day tenure eligibility requirement. 

As more time passed and outcomes data became available, we saw that employees who enrolled in the program at the six-month tenure mark were about 75% more likely to retain than employees who hadn’t engaged with the benefit. 

Based on this significant increase in retention, the employer decided to shift to Day One eligibility. It began seeing retention increases earlier, which helped tackle the high turnover that occurred in its employees’ first 90 days of employment. Outcomes like these have led most Guild partners to design their education programs with Day One policies, allowing them to pull their ROI forward and deploy their investment most effectively.

Simple, Flexible, Supportive: What Employees Are Looking For Now

Employers know that most new hires will not begin using many benefits or enroll in education programs on Day One. But given the one-in-a-million chance that it does happen (like going into labor on your first day of work!), companies know it will help that individual employee tremendously.

In today’s fiercely competitive talent landscape, employees are looking to bring their full selves to work, at a company that cares about them. Day One benefit eligibility sends a strong signal of consideration from a company – even if it is a symbolic gesture. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, workers also demand increased flexibility and fewer restrictions. That includes flexibility in work location, hours and more. Removing a tenure requirement is one less restriction to implement, and employees can have easier access to the benefits their employers have chosen to offer their workforce.

In the broader sense, Day One eligibility for education programs and other benefits provides employees a foundational sense of well-being and psychological safety. In turn, companies gain more stability, engagement and dedication with their workforce. Similar to how employers offer healthcare on day one because the body is historically seen as the primary method of productivity, offering education initiatives nurtures the worker’s mind and helps employees show up ready to contribute. 

With no signs of the war for talent slowing down, forward-thinking companies that bake Day One eligibility into their benefits and education programs have a powerful tool to edge out competitors. And as I get ready to celebrate my baby’s first birthday, the impact of Day One policies couldn’t be clearer. Rather than me having to delay professional moves by a year or more to grow my family, Guild leveraged that tool and provided me the opportunity to continue building and progressing my career.