Barbie makers give employee wellness a makeover

Mattel wants to provide effective benefits to people at all stages of life

Barbie makers give employee wellness a makeover

Mattel's vice president of health and well-being, Keith Saucier, has spearheaded a new approach to employee wellness.

As the maker of the iconic Barbie doll, Mattel operates in a creative industry where employee well-being directly impacts innovation. Saucier believes that creativity can only flourish when employees feel supported.

"Creativity is Mattel's superpower, so we rely on people bringing their best, creative selves to work," Saucier said, as quoted by Employee Benefit News. "But we recognize that life gets in the way. We have challenges from time to time that really stop us from being our best selves. I want to at least give employees the tools to help them through the challenges so that they are freed up to really do their best work."

Acknowledging the challenges faced by workers in recent years, including the pandemic, inflation, and political upheaval, Saucier stresses the need for comprehensive wellness strategies.

To address employee wellness, Mattel focuses on five core pillars: emotional, physical, financial, social, and career development. Mental health receives special attention, with benefits such as an employee assistance program offering five free counseling sessions, a Headspace subscription, and medical plans covering access to behavioral health providers.

Mattel goes beyond traditional offerings by providing on-site fitness centers and benefits like fertility assistance and paid parental leave. Recently, the company has introduced free one-on-one and group coaching sessions, enabling employees to receive guidance and support through major life events, not just their careers.

Saucier emphasizes the importance of providing benefits that cater to employees at all stages of life.

"You can't tell a person to cut all their personal stuff out for the eight hours they're at work," Saucier said. "We have programs that really target people who are focused on building a family, but that's for a specific person at a specific time. Maybe someone is also going through a divorce or about to retire."

Group coaching sessions foster social connections among employees, allowing them to share goals and struggles, which is particularly valuable in a remote work era.

"People are starving for social connection after being isolated for a long period of time," Saucier said. "We believe the best ideas are cultivated by a collaborative culture, so we want to help build that."

While acknowledging the significance of these benefits, Saucier emphasizes the crucial role of leadership. Without a commitment from managers and executives, the full potential of wellness programs may not be realized. Saucier advises other benefit leaders to prioritize transforming company culture through benefits, rather than merely checking items off a list.

"Wellness initiatives shouldn't sound like just some HR-driven initiative in any way, shape or form," Saucier said. "Leaders should own the fact that well-being is important."

Despite the challenges faced by benefit leaders in recent years, Saucier remains optimistic.

"We use our global pulse survey every six months to measure how employees are feeling about the workplace, and through very challenging times we saw our scores rise," Saucier said. "We are doing something right."