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Access to Guest Speakers & Thought Leaders Is the Latest Workplace Benefit

Access to Guest Speakers & Thought Leaders Is the Latest Workplace Benefit

Whether supporting employee well-being, broadening horizons or challenging leaders to make meaningful change, guest speakers are becoming a popular employee benefit at companies with award-winning cultures.

In fact, as COVID-19 drove workplaces to replace in-person events with virtual ones, the number of companies we saw adding thought leader events to their list of employee benefits only went up.

It might sound like fluff on the surface, but this is a deliberate strategy. Inviting experts across different fields is an effective way to create awareness on causes that matter, signal company values and show that leaders support employees’ professional and personal growth.

Certified™ great workplaces are tapping all kinds of pioneers and pros for a host of reasons:

7 ways hiring a guest speaker can benefit your company culture

1. Reinforcing company views on social issues

Social activism in the workplace is becoming central to company culture as more employees believe their companies should be outspoken on social justice issues.

A survey by Gartner revealed how three-quarters of employees expect their employer to take a stance on current societal or cultural issues—even if those issues have nothing to do with their business.

Certified great place to work, American Express, shows employees they sincerely care about social change by inviting thinkers to employee-only events.

The company’s global speaking series, “Conversations about Race,” explores the history of race in America, including slavery, segregation and mitigating racism in the workplace. Featured speakers have included Kenny Leon, director of Netflix’s “American Son,” and Tara Jaye Frank, author, speaker and founder of More Than: A Movement.

Like American Express, guest speakers can be a  vehicle for reinforcing company values based on individual and personal experience.

2. Promoting benefits awareness and uptake

Employees may have a plethora of benefit options available, but lack a clear understanding of what those options are, leaving them less likely to use or value their benefits. According to a study by GRiD, over a third (35%) don’t believe their employer communicates benefits or can’t remember if it does so.

At NuStar Energy L.P., HR are strategic about benefits communication. NuStar look to guest speakers and experts to raise awareness and spark interest in company benefits. NuStar’s Benefits Department hosts “lunch-and-learns” and virtual meetings to explain the company’s benefits plan to all employees. Throughout the year they feature speakers on topics such as retirement planning, Social Security and Medicare. 

When it comes to communicating benefits, different methods will resonate more with some employees than others. Only some will diligently read their welcome pack or handbook. Inviting experts to further explain and explore benefits is a creative way to raise awareness about what you offer your employees.

3. Building belonging in ERGs

If you work at Insight Enterprises, you can join any of seven Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) with more than 1,000 total members. These ERGs promote an inclusive culture, provide personal and professional development, drive business innovation and make a positive impact in local communities.

Insight Enterprises’ ERGs look to external thought leaders to help move the needle on each of these goals. Each ERG hosts virtual events hosting guest speakers and leadership panel discussions.

Whether or not they participate in an ERG, employees can join a monthly TED Talk Tuesday event that chooses a talk to watch and discuss as a group. On average, 75 teammates from across North American join each month’s event.

4. Cultivate learning from diverse perspectives

Effective leaders aren’t afraid to admit that they don’t have all the answers. Instead, they look to outside experts to broaden their understanding and expand empathy for diverse groups.

This year, Certified workplace Chegg identified a need for two new ERGs, including one for employees who have invisible disabilities such as anxiety or OCD.

Chegg’s Invisible Disabilities ERG has given employees access to disability experts through speaker events and also created a channel for employees to share their concerns and suggest company-wide improvements.

By engaging thought leaders connected with minority groups, companies can help often overlooked employee groups feel valued and seen. Chegg’s guest speaker inclusion strategy is working. According to the company, many employees have reported feeling more open about their disability or identity in the workplace than before.

5. Social connection and mental relief from the pandemic

Thought leaders have also helped Chegg create opportunities for employees to connect while working remotely. The company’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) speaker program gives employees a little break in their workday and a chance to hear from different industry leaders about a variety of topics such as mental health, systemic racism and coping during the pandemic.

Speakers have included actors Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher; former tennis star and CEO, Maria Sharpova; and former Blockbuster CEO and one of Silicon Valley’s first Black CEOs, Shellye Archambeau. Employees also were treated to remote cooking demos from famed New York chefs.

Hosting thought leaders is another way to let employees know that they aren’t alone in their pandemic struggles and to share nuggets of knowledge and inspiration that they can apply to life outside of work.

6. Sorting COVID fact from fiction

Certified workplace T-Mobile’s “COVID Connect” education series helps employees navigate the complex and ever-changing topic of COVID-19 with fact-based information, rooted in science.

Through regular virtual conversations with Dr. Vin Gupta, a Critical Care Pulmonologist and Assistant Professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the University of Washington, employees got answers to their questions about COVID-19.

Topics included vaccine efficacy and eligibility, travel safety, herd immunity and CDC guidance updates, as well as the disproportionate impacts on people of color.

7. Lending creative support for local communities

By engaging locals and small businesses for speaking opportunities, employees feel the added benefit of giving back to the community.

Throughout the pandemic, Databricks has been tapping speakers, artists and teachers for team events at a time when business, for many, is being negatively affected. Whether through classes in floral arrangement and cocktail making or a virtual tour of a rescue farm, Databricks is creatively supporting employees and people in need.

Do your benefits go beyond the ordinary?

A thriving workplace hinges on having motivated and mentally resilient employees. Thought leaders and guest speakers can boost employee morale, build on your current benefit offering and support an inclusive workplace culture.

Meaningful and inclusive benefits are one of the key predictors of a great workplace. Validate your great employee experience with Great Place to Work-Certification™ today. 


Claire Hastwell