There’s no one right way to build a family. For the augmented reality company, supporting all employees on their unique parenting journeys is essential to their inclusive benefits strategy.
Niantic is the world’s leading augmented reality company with an initial focus on augmented reality games. They see a future where their technology paves the way for new entertainment experiences, advanced robotics, and scaled adaptive computing — and online games are where they incubate some of their most audacious thinking.
Community engagement and encouraging users and players to exercise and explore their world together is at the core of Niantic’s product philosophy, so the rewards and broader People team work to ensure employee benefits align with this mission and the company’s values. The team has accordingly prioritized family support, mental health, and emotional well-being, and helping their colleagues get healthy and be more active.
With a global team of over 650 employees across three continents, balancing the diverse needs of a highly-engaged and sophisticated workforce can be challenging – and not all benefits can or should address every segment of the organization. “Supporting families and parents are a key part of our value proposition,” said David Wohlreich, Director, Total Rewards & HR Operations. While core benefits offerings address many of the foundational needs, there are unique opportunities for specific needs that traditional “core” offerings leave out. “We have a pretty young workforce, so we have a lot of folks who are having kids for the first or second time.
“We want to be an organization where people can have families. We don’t want to end up with only men, only young people, and only single people – not only will our business results suffer, but no one I know wants to work at a company like that.” This led many of Niantic’s parents to come together to form a parents’ Employee Resource Group (ERG) in 2020, with Niantic’s Chief People Officer Maria Weaver serving as its founding executive sponsor.
We want to be an organization where people can have families. We don’t want to end up with only men, only young people, and only single people—not only will our business results suffer, but no one I know wants to work at a company like that.David Wohlreich, Director, Total Rewards & HR Operations at Niantic
The time when new parents are expecting or have a new child at home is often their most significant, most complex interaction with the healthcare system and comes at a time when they have the least capacity for navigating complexity. To support their working parents, the Niantic team wanted to identify how they could make this time period more manageable for parents. The challenge with traditional health benefits is that they are often simultaneously overwhelming while also being incomplete.
“There is so much cool stuff in the benefits space. You can light up your benefits like a Christmas tree but end up with an incredibly expensive, totally discordant, nonsensical mess.”
It was important to David and his team that they find experts who would be able to address the variety of needs of working parents looking to support their families without assuming the benefits team knew exactly what everyone needed.
“Every child and every family looks different. Being able to not only provide medical insurance, but actual solutions where parents can get the help with the specific things that they need makes an impact. This is what’s incredibly attractive about Cleo’s offering.”
Niantic brought in Cleo to support parents and families, particularly in the early stages when there is so much uncertainty and anxiety. Cleo Guides are a built-in support network for working families are Cleo employees with expertise and certifications in health, wellness, parenting, and career coaching, just to name a few, who build long-term trusting relationships with Cleo members and their partners to help them navigate every aspect of their family building or parenting journey. Guides help Niantic employees and their partners have more confidence as parents and help ensure a successful and less painful transition back to work after parental leave.
“Every child and every family looks different. Being able to not only provide medical insurance, but actual solutions where parents can get the help with the specific things that they need makes an impact. This is what’s incredibly attractive about Cleo’s offering.”David Wohlreich, Director, Total Rewards & HR Operations at Niantic
Your advice has been absolutely essential to us and has made everything more manageable.Anonymous Niantic employee
David’s team is often called on to fix issues or address emergent needs with their employee benefits. Partnering with Cleo, Niantic can support all of its families’ diverse needs and feel confident that its solution is adaptable as new needs arise.
“As the first Total Rewards hire at Niantic, a lot of my work has been about helping to define our North Star. And supporting families is a great part of our benefits strategy,” said David. “Cleo provides something that I can deliver to working parents who need help—things that neither I nor our company can provide.”
Cleo’s focus on supporting families, particularly with young children, has been incredibly valuable to Niantic’s People team.
“As people are expecting, we not only have a solution that communicates Niantic cares about you, invests in you, and we are sharing in this joyful event with you and your family, but also provides additional external support, freeing up our internal teams,” says David.
From an employee value perspective, Cleo helps David and his team identify and communicate their values in a tangible way. A company can say they support parents, but having programs and benefits available to their employees is much more powerful and a direct demonstration of that support.
As people are expecting, we not only have a solution that communicates Niantic cares about you, invests in you, and we are sharing in this joyful event with you and your family, but also provides additional external support, freeing up our internal teams.David Wohlreich, Director, Total Rewards & HR Operations at Niantic
Niantic is intently focused on ensuring a diverse and inclusive workforce. David values that Cleo is a thought leader in ensuring diversity and inclusion for members and families and that providing Cleo also helps communicate those values to the Niantic team. “When we point to Cleo, we are showing that we mean what we say. I am responsible for the value proposition and Cleo helps me tell that story,” David said. “Cleo has positioned itself as a very inclusive provider. It doesn’t dictate what families are or should look like. From inclusive language to the specialized webinars and content Cleo offers publicly, Cleo is an inclusive-by-design company and this aligns with Niantic’s essential commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity.
Thank you so much for all your support! We’re better parents for having had your help along the way.Anonymous Niantic employee
With Cleo, Niantic has not only built a working environment where return-to-work rates and employee retention is high, but they also see their employees getting excited to share Cleo with their colleagues.
“What has been most rewarding is that we’ve seen spontaneous and joyous recommendations from employees using Cleo to other employees. Something coming from me or HR is one thing, but having one engineer say to another, ‘Cleo has been a godsend,’ that is incredibly gratifying.”
To David, this was the strongest signal to not only renew Cleo but expand their partnership. As the pandemic made life infinitely more difficult and complex for parents and expecting parents, Niantic further expanded its partnership with Cleo to offer Cleo Kids, providing support to employees with children from ages one to twelve. “Niantics were requesting a specific benefits product, which doesn’t happen often.”
Niantics were requesting a specific benefits product, which doesn’t happen often.David Wohlreich, Director, Total Rewards & HR Operations at Niantic
Employees ask for a lot of things but saying ‘we’ve had such an amazing experience with Cleo Baby we want to continue with Cleo Kids,’ was powerful,” David said. “It’s saying we’re not only meeting a need, but we’re doing it so successfully that employees spontaneously recommend it to each other.”
At a Cleo overview webinar at the Cleo Kids expansion launch, one of Niantic’s recruiting leaders who had just come back from parental leave spoke about her experience with Cleo, encouraging others to get connected with one of our Guides.
“We can’t get better than that,” said David. “When employees organically help each other find those resources, that is the best world we could design.”
Thank you for the session this morning. I never talk about that topic with anyone, not even with my close friends nor my parents. I always keep everything to myself. One thing that always holds back my urge to share my feelings is the fact that I see every other mother face the same challenges, yet I see them overcome it. I always think the root cause of my struggles is that I am not trying hard enough. Our call helped me feel better.Anonymous Niantic employee