Human Resource Executive - September 2 2016_j2 (2)
S E P T E M B E R 2 , 2 0 1 6 • $ 8 . 9 5
Puzzle A lot is at stake for HR
on Nov. 8—but many of the
pieces are missing in this
year’s unusual race for the
White House. Here’s what
we know. Page 10
14 Human Resource Executive®
BY MARK McGRAW
Nvidia Corp. has introduced a host of new
offerings designed to help its people save
time, money and stress spent on worries
away from work and on the job.
eau Davidson remembers
what it’s like to be a freshly
minted college graduate
leaving campus with high
hopes—and heavy debt.
“I worked for PepsiCo
right out of school,” says
Davidson, who graduated
from Cornell University with
a master’s degree in industrial
and labor relations in 1998. As an entry-
level employee—living on an entry-level
salary—“it was shocking to me when my
college loan came due, along with my car
payment and so on. It was tough.”
Today, Davidson is the vice president
of HR at Nvidia Corp. As he looks around
the technology company’s headquarters
in Santa Clara, Calif., he sees many young
co-workers in the same economic straits
he found himself in nearly 20 years ago.
“Student-loan debt can be staggering
for those just starting out,” he says.
“Starting your life off after college isn’t
easy, especially here in the Bay Area,
where the cost of living is high.”
Data from the Plan Sponsor Council
of America suggests that new grads
are feeling the financial pinch in that
region and well beyond. A recent study
from the group found 69 percent of
students graduating college in 2011 and
2012 borrowed money to finance their
educations, compared to 49 percent of
1992 and 1993 college graduates.
Davidson, adding that applicants have
frequently inquired about the benefit in
job interviews since the program was
rolled out in 2015.
“We’re recruiting the best and
brightest engineers. These students have
a lot of opportunities in front of them,
and we see this as a way to differentiate
The loan is one of several offerings
the company introduced during the
November 2015 open enrollment period.
As the Nvidia benefits team considered
potential new benefits in the months
leading up to last November, “our first
thought was that we wanted to make
it easier for our employees to live their
best life,” says Andrea Trudelle, global
“First, we considered our
demographics,” says Trudelle, noting
that the organization’s workforce
is comprised of roughly 20 percent
millennial-age employees, 63 percent
Generation Xers and 17 percent baby
“When we talked to millennials, for
example, we learned what they were
struggling with, including the price
of their student-loan debt. We wanted
to help them solve that problem”
by implementing the student-loan
Meanwhile, many Gen X workers—
many of whom are approaching middle
age and caring for both young children
and aging parents—may be stressed
by maintaining this juggling act. In
response, Nvidia rolled out a program,
in conjunction with care.com, designed
to aid workers in finding babysitters and
Although many Gen X-age employees
have taken advantage of this offering,
Trudelle points out that Nvidia does
not track the utilization of its benefit
programs by age group. And, while
benefits such as the aforementioned
student-loan debt repayment program
may be geared toward young, not-far-
removed from college-age employees,
the rationale behind the host of benefits
the company recently introduced were
developed as part of an overall benefits
approach that Trudelle is hopeful offers
something for everyone at Nvidia.
“We want to take a [benefits]
approach,” she says, “that allows us to
serve all of our [9,200] employees.”
Cutting Commuting Costs
Nvidia employees are spread across
more than 40 locations, in cities such
as Austin, Texas and Seattle, where
many have “long commute times,
upwards of one hour each way in some
cases,” says Davidson.
Traveling that sort of distance several
times a week adds up, taking a toll on
employees’ wallets and overall well-
being. To help ease the burden, some
companies such as Nvidia have begun to
offer commuter benefits to workers.
While commuter benefits are
certainly not new, “the definition
of commuter benefits seems to be
UpBenefits In introducing its Student Loan
Repayment program in 2015, Nvidia
wanted to help its youngest workers
settle these debts, and start off their
careers on the right financial foot.
Designed to help employees repay
student loans up to $30,000, the
program is open to all full- or part-time
employees who have graduated within
the past three years and are working 20
or more hours per week and provides
monthly reimbursement up to $500 or
the worker’s monthly payment amount,
whichever is less.
Applicable to various types of
loans—Federal Perkins loans, private
student loans and subsidized Stafford
loans, for instance—the repayment
program also helps employees who go
back to school for an advanced degree.
Davidson describes the effort as a
“bridge program” geared toward helping
recent grads transition to work.
“This kind of assistance might help
them get started in an apartment,
put a down payment on a car, and
get themselves situated and ready to
work,” he says. “It’s one less stressor
to worry about.”
So far, close to 100 employees—
about 85 percent of those eligible—have
taken advantage of this benefit. The
program also offers workers up to
$5,250 each year for qualified job-
related education expenses, including
tuition and books, when they earn a
grade of “B” or higher in their courses.
Nvidia also pays for eligible employees
to complete an engineering master’s
degree through the Stanford Center for
Nvidia has also found the program
to be an effective recruiting tool when
trying to attract young candidates, says
Focus Health and Benefits
September 2, 2016 17
FYIGlobal Benefits Governance
new report from Aon Hewitt and the American Benefits Institute finds
multinational companies moving toward centralized global-benefits
In a survey of more than 200 multinational corporations from around the
world, 70 percent of respondents indicated having some form of corporate guidelines
and controls in place for managing employer-sponsored benefits programs. Those
organizations, however, also said they struggle to “effectively manage their global
benefits centrally,” according to an Aon Hewitt statement.
The same poll found 20 percent of firms are leading the way as “best practice”
organizations, differentiating themselves by—among other things—establishing
global centers of expertise to manage benefits programs and conducting formal
audits to ensure local benefits are aligned with global policies.
FMLA and Employer Liability
he 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that a defective rights
and responsibilities notice might have interfered with a worker’s exercise
of his Family and Medical Leave Act rights.
In Vannoy v. The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, the bank granted
one month of FMLA leave to John Vannoy, a facilities manager who was battling
both depression and alcoholism, and struggled with inconsistent attendance at work.
Soon after coming back from leave, Vannoy was sent on a three-day assignment in
Baltimore, according to court records. He failed to report and was ultimately fired
approximately five weeks after his initial return to work.
Vannoy sued, claiming that the bank’s FMLA notice didn’t inform him of his job-
restoration rights. Had the notice done so, Vannoy contends, he might have taken the
entirety of the allotted month to address his personal issues. A district court awarded
the bank summary judgment on all claims. The 4th Circuit ruling reversed that decision
based on Vannoy’s FMLA-interference claim. It found questions as to whether the
bank did, indeed, interfere by providing Vannoy defective notice that failed to mention
his right to reinstatement at the conclusion of the medical leave.
Health Costs Rising
mployers expect total healthcare costs to increase by roughly 5 percent
in 2016 and 2017, according to Willis Towers Watson’s 21st annual Best
Practices in Health Care Employer Survey.
The poll of 600 U.S. organizations found that employers expect
employee costs to rise to $12,338 on average in 2016 and nearly $13,000 in 2017.
Despite these cost pressures, 81 percent of employers indicated they will make
“relatively modest” changes to employee-premium contributions and other cost-
sharing provisions such as deductibles and out-of-pocket limits for 2017.
“With employee affordability concerns paramount, in 2017, employers will
focus primarily on changing coverage provisions for costly services to manage
cost,” says Julie Stone, a national healthcare-practice leader at Willis Towers
Watson. “These include more restrictive pharmacy benefits, the continuing
addition of surcharges for working-spouse and dependent coverage, and offering
incentives to encourage employees to use centers of excellence for specialty
Holding Steady on Health Coverage
ew research from the Washington-based Employee Benefit Research
Institute finds large employers are staying the course in terms of offering
employee benefits since the Affordable Care Act’s enactment in 2010.
EBRI examined the percentage of employers offering health insurance
from 2008 to 2015, and found that 99 percent of organizations with 1,000 or more
employees offered health coverage in 2004 and 2005, and more than 99 percent
provided health insurance in each year from 2009 through 2015.
While health-plan sponsorship hasn’t declined among larger companies,
“there’s no doubt that many larger employers have already made significant
changes in the nature of their sponsorship,” says study author Paul Fronstin,
director of EBRI’s health research and education program.
These changes, he says, include moving from defined-benefit to defined-
contribution approaches “that include more individual cost-sharing (both through
employee premiums or contributions and employee out-of-pocket expenses) and
decision-making responsibilities, shifting to private health-insurance exchanges,
adopting wellness programs and more generally supporting greater health
“For a victim of identity theft, it
takes considerable time and money
to clean it up,” says Davidson. “We
take measures to protect customers’
data, so this seems like a natural
progression of that.”
Davidson, who worked closely
with Nvidia’s legal and security
teams to select a vendor, continues to
partner with IdentityForce to address
employee questions about services,
costs and so on.
From an employer perspective,
“it’s comforting to know that [all of
our employees are] covered with
this service,” he says. “Dealing with
something like identity theft takes time
away from employees—time away from
family and time away from work.”
In the 10 months since Nvidia rolled
out the ID theft protection service to
all employees, 10 percent of employees
have opted to enroll additional family
members, and 25 percent have enrolled
in free credit monitoring.
While such numbers portend
success for the new program, Davidson
and his colleagues in HR still keep
close tabs on what benefits are working
and which ones aren’t.
Take, for example, the
aforementioned initiative that assists
workers in finding babysitters and
caregivers at home.
During a benefits team meeting,
however, “we noticed that enrollment in
that program was relatively low,” says
Davidson. “We realized that this program
wasn’t where we need it to be.”
HR quickly arranged to bring care.
com representatives on campus the
following month to share details of
the program with Nvidia workers.
HR also worked with the corporate
communications team to promote the
program via email and on the home
page of the Nvidia benefits site, as part
of a larger redesign that also made the
site accessible to employees’ family
Davidson and the benefits team
also re-evaluated how they promote
benefits offerings to workers beyond the
“We focus on different programs
throughout the year,” says Davidson,
“looking at statistics and usage,
and, subsequently, developing
communication campaigns highlighting
a different program each month.”
Nvidia also replaced its annual
benefits fair—“where 40 or 50 vendors
would come on campus and give away
stress balls,” says Davidson—with
monthly events comprised of several
vendors that the company is considering
to provide new or expanded benefits.
For example, the company is
currently focused on broadening its
Stanford Health Navigator Services
program, which affords employees
around-the-clock access to Stanford
University health staff for help with
scheduling medical appointments,
coordinating specialist visits and
connecting with healthcare institutions
around the world for consultation.
In addition, “we’re looking to extend
the program to provide experts in a
variety of fields to NVIDIA retirees,”
to offer assistance with life, health and
retirement savings, says Davidson.
Ultimately, he says, delivering such
guidance to employees, past and present,
“is key to our benefits strategy, which is
to look at and implement programs that
make life easier for our people.”
Send questions or comments about this
story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ennifer Benz, CEO and founder of San Francisco-based employee-benefits
communication consultancy Benz Communications, considers one of her
firm’s primary functions to be helping clients “simplify the messaging”
behind their benefits programs.
“The goal,” says Benz, “is to remove the HR-speak, jargon and legalese” in
promoting benefits programs to employees.
In working with Nvidia Corp. to roll out several new benefits to the Santa
Clara, Calif.-based technology company’s workforce in November 2015, Benz
brainstormed with the Nvidia benefits team to develop a communications campaign
that “could not have been more simple and bold, and easy,” she says.
To promote Nvidia’s new benefits offerings, for instance, posters were created
and hung in employee cafeterias—asking employees if they’re “Hungry for Great
Benefits?” If so, the flyer added, “You’ve Come to the Right Place,” followed by the
web address for the company’s new, updated benefits website.
Another poster touting Nvidia’s new student-loan reimbursement program asked
another question: “$30,000 to Pay Your Student Loans?” The poster also provided a
response: “Hell yeah.”
“It was irreverent and bold,” says Benz. “And in three seconds, you could really
understand what that benefit was.”
High-tech companies such as Nvidia “are filled with really smart people, but
they’re just as confused about benefits as everyone else,” says Benz. “Making it
simple for them isn’t ‘dumbing it down’ or being condescending. It’s just being
genuine, and it’s very helpful.”
Keeping Communication Simple