Welcome back to the RecruitingDaily podcast! Today, we have Liz Crilley, Chief Commercial Officer & Head of Business Development of Apiary Life, on to discuss divorce, empathy and being a great employer.
Liz is responsible for leading sales, marketing and strategic partnerships, as well as supporting the overall company strategy at Apiary. Before Apiary Life, she was at Thomsons Online Benefits, where she held various roles. Liz also spent several years leading business development and marketing for a brokerage firm in Chicago.
Apiary Life is a comprehensive care and advocacy platform for employees navigating critical life events. As William refers to it, “empathy as a service.”
This can range from terminal or serious illness to bereavement. The loss of a spouse or family member, divorce or a relationship breakdown, all significantly impact a team member and their family’s overall health. So, Apiary Life’s goal is to support the mental, emotional, physical, financial and social wellbeing of employees, as well as their engagement, productivity and ability to make sound decisions at work.
The big questions we answer today: How do we compassionately step in to help a co-worker or employee experiencing loss? Why is it important to support your employee’s entire ecosystem in times of crisis? How does an employer know they’re “doing it right”?
Of course, there’s more! But you have to tune in to find out. Make sure to drop your thoughts in the comments.
Listening Time: 28 minutes
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Experienced business leader currently responsible for commercial strategy for Apiary Life including sales, marketing, channel partnerships and operations. Experience in Employee Benefits, Human Capital Management, HR Consulting, Marketing Strategy, Social Selling, Strategic Partnerships, P&L, Strategic Selling, Sales Leadership, Pipeline Management, Challenger Sale, Sales Methodology, Training and Development, SaaS, HRIS, Employee Engagement, Workforce Strategy, Global Employee Benefits, Payroll, Integrations, Enterprise Sales and Relationship Management.Follow Follow
This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your 3-year-old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today, we have Liz on from Apiary Life and we’re going to be talking about divorce, empathy and being a great employer. So we’re going to unpack a bunch of things here and I can’t wait to talk to Liz about it. So Liz, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and Apiary Life?
Absolutely. Thank you William, for having me today. My name is Liz Crilley. I am the Chief Commercial Officer and Head of Business Development for Apiary Life. And Apiary Life is an innovative program who, we have a comprehensive care and advocacy platform for employees navigating critical life events. And that can really be anything from a terminal or serious illness to a bereavement. So loss of a spouse or family member to a divorce or a relationship breakdown, all of which significantly impact the employees and their family’s overall wellbeing. And that can be the mental, emotional, physical, financial, social aspects, as well as their engagement, productivity and ability to make sound decisions at work.
You know, it’s funny, I posted on Instagram and I think it hit Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever. And I got hit, I think it was about two weeks ago, I got hit with three of my colleagues, friends of mine, professional colleagues that are all women, just so happened to be and they all were going through divorces. I had no, of course, I would have no reason to have a clue but I had no idea. And I felt myself stunned on one level. What can I, how can I be supportive? And at the same time, just trying to be a good listener and just being there for them.
So it hit me and so I posted about it and a lot of people commented because evidently, it’s happening. Divorces do happen, obviously. So that’s not new or news, but I didn’t know that the pandemic had hit people as hard as it had. And as a, from a company perspective, I’ve had employees that have lost their spouse, they’ve lost their kids to suicide. And I’ve found myself at those stages wondering what’s the right thing to do. What do I, what should I do? And I mean, being paralyzed in some ways, so I can see the real need for someone to then be there and go, okay, we do this all the time, let’s coach you through, here’s how to respond.
Yeah, absolutely. And to your point on the post that you made, which definitely caught my attention, there were dozens of comments and hundreds of interactions with that post. The thing is, almost half of marriages end up in a divorce, right.
So this, as you say, this is not news and this is not new. This, we know that this happens to people.
The thing is that it’s still taboo.
Nobody wants to talk about it. Nobody wants to say the word ‘divorce’.
Because there’s this stigma attached to it. And it’s, now, and this is a result of the pandemic, right, that employers especially are now, they recognize that they have more of a responsibility to support people across the entire work and life spectrum. Right, so they’ve put in place more robust types of programs and more robust types of support to really help people. The caregiving crisis and point solutions to support that, mental health, et cetera, et cetera.
But still, on the mass scale, divorce is something that’s eurgh, we don’t really want to talk about it. We don’t really want to acknowledge it, but there is quite a lot more research that is coming out. So a statistic came out in 2020, at the very beginning of the pandemic. And from April through June, so remember, March 6th, effectively, everything started to shut down in the U.S. So from April till June, divorce rates across the U.S. were up 34% already.
Oh, my God.
And that is, well, the entire world is locked down and courthouse, you can’t go into a courthouse and you can’t…
You can’t even go through that process. So we definitely are seeing upticks in relationship breakdowns and divorces. And unfortunately we don’t really see that ending anytime soon.
No, it’s interesting. Someone in the comments said this. It’s, “Taking the stigma away from divorce equals failure.” And I thought that that was a really good way of thinking about this, is that there is a stigma and a stereotype to divorce. And that it’s rooted in some, somehow that there’s a personal failure and it’s not. And divorce is work. We’re talking about divorce, but there’re steps that lead to that, like separation. Trial separation, separation, things like that. And again, people don’t even have to be married. You can just, you can be in a common law arrangement or you can just be serious boyfriend and girlfriend for a long time and that breaks apart. And the thing I find fascinating is there’s been this push to bring the whole you to work. And it’s been going on for a couple years. We want the whole you, bring the whole you to work. And I’m like, “You don’t want the whole…”
“Are you sure about that?”
Yeah. You might want to check some of that, maybe. Maybe 90% of the whole me. But seriously, there’s been this push of bringing the whole you to work, but then if that’s true, then we’ve got to care for the whole you. You know what I mean?
That’s [inaudible 00:07:17]
Not just your performance at work, which is great, but, on your on-time delivery of projects and things like that, but then we’ve got to care about all the other facets that make you, you.
That’s exactly right. And I think that there has been a really big shift, especially from leadership from the C-suite on down, in recognizing that they have to be an empathetic employer.
Mm-hmm affirmative .
And you talk about deadlines and outcomes of making sure that projects are on time, et cetera, et cetera. Okay, well, if that person, if maybe a project manager or someone isn’t delivering, it’s no longer a “I’m going to put you on a performance improvement plan or you’re not going to get the promotion.” It’s more of a conversation of, “Is there something going on in your life, in your home? What’s distracting you? How can I help you? Do you need more time? Do you need more flexibility? Do you need some actual, do you need a person to be able to help you with what we do?”, right. And it’s really about finding out what’s happening and what is the cause of your poor performance or your, taking more time off, et cetera, et cetera and how can we better support you?
Yeah. It’s that life event. Something, there’s a life event that happens. We either know about it or we don’t. We then triage the life event and understanding that everyone goes through things differently. So my father passed in April and I came to, with all grief, I came to realize, and I realize this before this, but it was up close and personal for me that everyone grieves differently. Some people, they want to get back to work next Monday. And some people, they need to take off some time and they need to get their mind right. They need to do a bunch of administrative stuff and it’s okay. It’s totally okay. I mean, I remember my wife getting wrapped around the axle because somebody didn’t show up to the funeral and I’m like, “Yeah, I don’t care.”
And it wasn’t being disrespectful. Everyone grieves differently. If they couldn’t show up, that’s okay. There’s no, there shouldn’t be a fallout because they couldn’t show up. So I think that there’s not just the dripping of empathy that needs employers, that need to wrap around their employees, but also the personalization to the situation. I love the way you framed it up, it’s like, what do you need? What do you need, right, and you know what, that can change day by day. Totally get it. So let’s just try to go as slow as we can. What do you need and how can we help you?
Absolutely. And it’s really that personalization piece because every situation is different. So we talk a lot about, and even when we’re hiring people, it’s, well, what does the day to day look like? And I always smile and say, “Well, there’s not really a great way to answer that because every situation is so different.”
And every person is grieving in a very different way and they might need different things…
… At different times. So you have to be that flexible, that can do, “How can we help you? What else can we do for you?”
Right. Well, there’s a tactical element that’s, again, so someone passes away, let’s just say. A divorce, a great example, okay, divorce happens. There’s tactical things that you can checklist off and go, okay, have you hired an attorney? Are you talking to a therapist? You can walk them through tactical stuff and just make sure of where they’re at and what their journey is. And then there’s the other part that’s not tactical. That’s into the realm of really highly personalized, okay, what do you need so that you can make it through the day, through the next day, to the next day, to the next day? And you mentioned at the very beginning, critical life events. Obviously we talked about divorce, death. Do y’all either now or do you see in the future that you also deal with the positive life events? A baby being born, a wedding, all the other side of it? Do you see the company also helping there?
It’s a great question and it’s one that we get often. I think the big thing that we have realized, so this business was actually born out of our founder and CEO, Katie Lynch, was a family attorney and she realized that there was a significant gap in the way that she could service her clients who were going through a divorce and a relationship breakdown, and eventually decided to start supporting individuals, typically executives. And then that evolved into some executive saying, we really want to offer this to our people. So the business itself was born out of the divorce and relationship breakdown piece. Once we started partnering with employers, they started coming to us and saying, actually, we have an employee who has just received a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Can you help him and his spouse navigate these challenging times? We have a [crosstalk 00:12:58].
It’s interesting that you said it, Liz. Apologies for interrupting, but you just, by mentioning the spouse, you just got me to think about, it’s not just the employee, it’s their ecosystem, right?
Their families too, yeah. So absolutely, it’s that whole network. And in any of these life situations, when one, when something happens, the scales are tipped. They’re no longer able to focus on their work, on their own wellbeing because everything has just been blown up on a personal level. So to answer your question around some of these more positive life events, we are certainly not opposed to helping and in some of our employer contracts, we actually do more of, a more holistic concierge type support program and when and where we have more of the positive life events happening and a person needs assistance, we’re certainly there to assist.
But we don’t tend to find, like when someone has a baby, I, myself, I have two children so I’ve been through this a couple of times. [inaudible 00:14:10] And when you do go through those major life events, there tends to already be the right support.
There’s a good bereavement leave policy. There may be even a doula or a post birth doula or support person who can come into your home afterwards, who’s covered by your insurance policy.
Mm-hmm affirmative .
So other than maybe a couple of logistical things that may happen where I’m trying to add my new baby to my medical plan or something along those lines…
… There’s not really a ton of admin that might go into those things.
But when it’s on the other side and something catastrophic happens…
… You’re stopped in your tracks.
Oh, yeah. Well, you’re paralyzed. I’m talking to somebody in a couple weeks from now about a policy around miscarriages…
… And fertility and things going wrong with childbirth and what to do for both men and women that go through that, right. So what does that look like? And building policy around that, which is fascinating because it’s, again, less taboo. Someone has a miscarriage, you might or might not know about it.
And they might not say anything again. So dealing with folks, when you first brought us into Apiary, wanted to one to ask you, A, where did the name come from?
Sure. Yeah. That’s a great question. So a lot of people don’t actually know what an apiary is. I, quite frankly, did not before I came on board. So an apiary is, it’s essentially a collection of beehives, so it’s where beekeepers keep beehives. And the mentality or the parallel to what we do is that no one gets through anything alone. So we essentially have a whole hive or a network of worker bees, and that can be our care advocates and our experts that work alongside of our employees that we help, that can be secondary support, administrative support. And then we also have a network of professionals that we can bring in on an as needed basis to really supplement and help employees, again, navigate these life situations.
Just a sidebar, you had mentioned earlier that the tactical aspects of divorce and finding an attorney or finding that right support. A lot of times, if we’re brought in early enough, we have many people who are former attorneys, family law or trust and estates. And there are a lot of options that people don’t know about.
Mediation, collaborative law. Navigating a divorce in a much different way than going the litigation route with the bulldog lawyer and the fighting and the letters and all of that. There are different options, even from the beginning that we can help educate people on and again, carry them through and help them navigate that event.
What’s interesting is, again, I love that that there’s an array and you can help them then sort through the array, but there’s still, I want to say trauma, and that’s probably not the right word, but there’s still impact in their life. So even if it’s totally both parties, amicable, everything, no worries, both everyone goes on with their life, gets remarried, whatever, there’s still grief.
And it’s still got to be dealt with one way or another, and it’s still going to be represented. It’s still going to come out at work in some form or fashion. So even in the best case scenarios, there’s still going to be something that needs to be treated. So it’s, again, I like the fact that it’s not as taboo as it once was, mental health in general, but also some of these topics. And I love that companies like yours are then stepping in and help. A few things real quick, one is on the advocacy side, because you said care and advocacy. On the advocacy side, are you helping them advocate both internally with their employer and navigating that part or is it advocacy in terms of more of an external, helping them advocate for themselves?
Yeah, it’s a great question. And I guess it’s both in a way. So typically what will happen is we will be called either by HR, we have some technology that allows employees to get in touch with us confidentially and directly. And when that happens, we like to understand what is the situation that the employee is going through, where are they located because we actually do this on a global scale and what is it that they’re looking for, so any other general details. And once we understand a little bit more about them, we’re going to pair them with an expert who really understands that situation. And typically that person is going to have that legal background. From there, it is really this expert that can help them with anything logistical.
So externally, right, so let’s say it’s a terminal illness case and they maybe want to seek out a second or third opinion. So just helping them to navigate the medical piece and understanding where they might be able to get those second opinions. Are there other programs that that employer offers already that we can lean on and utilize to help facilitate some of that? Because in actuality, so my background is in employee benefits and it’s amazing how many amazing programs [crosstalk 00:20:35].
Oh, yeah. Don’t get used.
… That they don’t get used.
Nobody knows about them, especially in the U.S. The healthcare ecosystem is incredibly complex and…
It’s not just the employee, it’s the employee partner or spouse.
So their ecosystem doesn’t, what do you mean, we have Vision Insurance?
Right, right. Half the time they don’t even know. So it really is both and we try to be the yes people and the people who are going to say, even if we don’t necessarily know the answer right out of the gate…
… We’re going to find out for you, we’re going to do the research and we’re going to help you in any way that we can.
So historically, HR has delivered this or seen this as an EAP model, but I see y’all more as a empathy as a service, as a more of a software subscription type model. So is that, are y’all a little bit of both or how do you deliver?
Well, first of all, I love the ’empathy as a service’ phrase.
I just trademarked it by the way.
Is that a problem? I just bought the web-…
No, that’s great. That’s great.
I just bought the URL and trademarked it.
We’ll talk after this.
Just kidding, I didn’t.
It’s a tough one because EAPs have been around for a really long time. And I think when they first started, they really did serve a purpose in giving employees…
… A single place to go, right. Yep. Over time, they have been, of course bought out by the big providers, the medical providers and just been meant to do too many things and so they don’t do anything really well anymore. You’ll know, utilization for those and anywhere from a couple percent across the board. There’s also now an entire massive market of point mental health solutions.
So when an employee is having a mental health issue, which is typically what the EAP used to serve, they’re going to the app and going through an assessment and getting paired with somebody in a matter of minutes. Why would I call an 800 number…
… And be given a list of 10 people who may or may not be accepting appointments. I still do think there’s a time and a place for an EAP. And in actuality, in cases where employers offer the EAP and it’s robust, we will actually refer employees to that program when appropriate, right.
But we’re so much more than that. And we’re not trying to be the app for that.
Every situation, as I said, is so different…
It’s all bespoke.
Yeah, it is.
Every single one of them. And you know what, the thing is there’s privacy that’s involved here. Because, again, an employee is going to then disclose and tell you about these life events. Their husband’s father passed away, et cetera. It’s going to impact their life, their work and then they’ve got to figure out how to navigate. So there’s all kinds of vulnerability and communication and privacy. There’s all kinds of stuff there and that are at least historically been, not easy to navigate. Last question before we roll out Liz. How does an employer know that they’re doing it right?
Oh, that’s such a good question. So I think there’s a couple of things. Number one, when you have that empathy and compassion and understanding from the top and that is spread down through the different layers of the organization and employees across the board feel that their employer cares about them, both at work and at home and cares about their families, I think that’s a pretty good indicator.
When you’re thinking, I hate to use the outside of the box, but when you’re thinking creatively about the solutions and the programs that you offer to your people, how you communicate them and how you make sure that they know what’s available to them, I think that is definitely a good indicator.
And when those employees are feeding back, either through, I don’t know, you can do surveys, you can have one-to-ones, et cetera. When people are coming back and saying, “I know that you care about me, this program or this service that you offered to me really helped me at X, Y, Z.”, it doesn’t have to be a critical life event, right, it could be anything.
But when it’s coming down from the top and it’s heartfelt and when a company, and when employees are coming back to their managers and up to senior leadership and saying, “I know that you care”, I think, I mean, those people are going to stay much longer, they’re going to bring other people along with them. They’re going to be more productive at work. You’re going to have better outcomes and ultimately, their wellbeing and their happiness is going to be there and taken care of. And I think that those are pretty good indicators of [crosstalk 00:26:11].
I think for me, you hit on all the things that, empathy is a value, it’s top down. It’s also littered all the way through the organization. It’s an action. You can’t just say that you’re an empathetic leader and then not back it up. So there’s an action layer there that you actually have to do things that show people that you are empathetic. And then I like how, that you touched on retention of talent, because again, people that have this and they know that its value, know that it’s actually something that that the company believes in, does, backs up with actions, et cetera, why would they imagine going somewhere else?
So it’s, they found home. They found a place where they can be themselves and they can go through life events and they know that they’re going to be supported through those events. So, again, why leave? Why go somewhere else? And also if done well, and over the course of time, it becomes an attraction. It becomes a way for you to recruit people and say this is who we are. You want to talk to any of our employees that have been through these things, go ahead.
Knock yourself out. So it could, down the road, if you’ve done it really well, it could actually help you in recruiting.
Liz, thank you so much for your time. I so much appreciate both the conversation, but also appreciate you coming on the podcast.
Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.