As the Senior Vice President of Global HR at software company, Elastic, Sutton was well-versed in both the art and science of catering to a global workforce. Sutton was sure that adding a solid array of fertility and family-forming benefits would help attract and retain top talent — but she needed to convince Elastic’s leadership team of her vision. We spoke with her about how she persuaded the company’s leadership team to give fertility benefits a chance and how their global workforce reacted.

Making the case: Why Elastic launched a global fertility benefit 

It wasn’t that Leah Sutton was unhappy with her company’s benefit offerings. On the contrary, she and her team took intense pride in knowing Elastic, a global software company specializing in search-powered tools, was a leader in employee benefits. From fully-paid health coverage to flexible work locations and schedules, Elastic outpaced the competition, and those robust offerings served as exceptional recruitment and retention tools. But as the SVP of Global HR, Sutton noticed something was missing — fertility health support.

While Elastic already offered a minimum parental leave of 16 weeks, Sutton and the HR team knew there was more they could do to embrace familial support. As they mulled over the possibilities, the team realized they had overlooked comprehensive fertility benefits.

“Finding a benefits provider that could support our people where they were at — regardless of what that fertility journey looked like — was really important,” Sutton said. “Many people don’t know where to begin; we needed to give our employees a starting point so they could take full control of their fertility journeys.”

The most important factor to Sutton and her team when introducing their potential fertility benefit option was finding a global, all-inclusive solution. With employees spread across 42 countries and growing, the challenge was finding a benefits company that could fill the needs of their expansive workforce and offer full support and guidance for options like pregnancy, adoption, in vitro fertilization (IVF), menopause, and more.  

Finding a complete solution 

With Elastic employees working in locations around the globe, the HR team was already comprised of experts at understanding how varying laws, regulations, languages, and compliance policies could impact access to fertility care in locations outside the U.S.

“We had to think about the basic buckets of fertility care and how they may manifest differently in different countries,” Sutton said.

Along with adding a global benefit, Elastic’s team wanted a solution that helped every employee find the right fertility health option for them, including support for those in the beginning stages of family forming, like access to fertility preservation, testing, and ovulation tracking. The next step in narrowing down the right solution for Elastic was finding a comprehensive package to cover such a vast array of needs and situations.

In her research, Sutton was surprised to learn that preventive options like testing and preservation weren’t just personal perks for employees but could also serve as cost-saving strategies for the company. By offering employees less invasive, more affordable care, Elastic could prevent the need for costly procedures like IVF, which isn't always the most appropriate option for everyone. While Sutton initially focused exclusively on the human aspect of fertility benefits, she quickly learned how these offerings could also have a financial impact and how important that factor would be in the decision-making process for other players on her team. She realized she needed to find an option that wasn’t just inclusive but cost-effective, which would help her make the case when it was time.

“Finding a benefits provider that could support our people where they were at — regardless of what that fertility journey looked like — was really important.”

Why Carrot: Global, inclusive, and cost-effective 

Sutton’s research indicated that Carrot offered everything Elastic was looking for.

“The most salient point in our search was how global the offering is,” Sutton said. “You'll often see a great solution, but they may be only in the U.S., Canada, or the UK. Carrot is the whole package.”

Carrot's offerings exceeded Elastic's expectations with support in 130+ countries and a network of thousands of well-vetted clinics, agencies, and attorneys that provide localized expertise. Sutton felt confident Carrot could support the company’s employees regardless of where they were. 

Another appealing aspect of Carrot’s offering was the diverse array of resources for employees. Sutton appreciated the inclusive and comprehensive services Carrot could offer, from pathfinding and adoption to options beyond the scope of family forming, like support for menopause and low testosterone (low T). Because Carrot covers a diverse range of fertility healthcare and family-forming journeys, Sutton and her team felt certain this was the solution to meet the needs of Elastic’s employees. 

The pitch: An emotional, practical, and financial appeal

Once Sutton and her team determined Carrot was the optimal solution for Elastic’s workforce, they focused on gaining the leadership team’s approval. Rather than thinking strictly in financial terms, Sutton considered how crucial this benefit would be for employee well-being and success. 

“I framed the addition of fertility benefits as the right thing to do — this is the benefit that's critically important to our people,” Sutton said. From there, she broke down how, from a retention and recruitment perspective, fertility support would be a return on their investment.

“Fertility health is a very stressful part of a person’s life,” she said. “If we can help employees, it only builds loyalty and reinforces their strong relationship with our team because of the support we provide.” 

Sutton also talked to the leadership team about how the company could capitalize on adding fertility offerings. “We carry the full cost of benefits for employees and their families,” she said. “Then you start adding things like Carrot, and it all becomes a compelling story.”

While enhancing employee wellness was a big selling point, finances also played a role. Leadership was just as surprised as Sutton to learn that Carrot’s less invasive care options and medical policies could help reduce healthcare costs. “There’s this [line of] thinking that things like IVF cost thousands of dollars, so we had to do an analysis to understand potential costs,” she said.

The Elastic team also learned how Carrot’s IVF policies could save money. Single embryo transfer (SET) is the most predictive indicator of a singleton IVF pregnancy and subsequent successful singleton live birth. Multiples can lead to extended hospital stays for those who give birth and longer NICU stays for babies. Therefore, singleton births can promote healthier pregnancies and births while reducing healthcare costs for employers. Carrot’s industry-leading SET rate of 93% is 27% higher than the national average and contributes to cost savings for customers — and Milliman independently validated the methodology. 

The human impact and affordability made Carrot an easy sell to Elastic’s leadership team. The next step was sharing the new benefit with their workforce.

Results: Engaged employees 

Since introducing the benefit, results have shown that Sutton was right about how valuable the offering would be to employees and how it could fit into the company’s budget. 

“We’ve been pleased from a cost and usage perspective,” she said. “The utilization is something we feel really good about.” Sutton thinks their communication plan can explain much of their high usage. “We wanted to ensure everyone knew about the benefit,” she added. “We went country by country and let people know about it through Slack and emails.” 

According to Elastic’s internal research, here are some of the ways Carrot’s fertility benefits have already made an impact on the company’s workforce:

  • So far, almost 10% of employees have registered for the benefit, and nearly 4% have created Carrot Plans to take the next step in their fertility health journey.
  • About 40% of registered members are female, 35% are male, and the rest chose not to identify.
  • The U.S., the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, and India have the most registered members. Elastic employees across North America, Europe, and Asia have signed up for Carrot.
  • IVF is the most common journey, followed by intrauterine insemination (IUI). Preservation and adoption tied for third, with about 13% of all member journeys. Multiple members have also used pathfinding and gestational surrogacy as well.

Human Impact: An appreciated benefit

From costs to global support, Carrot checked all the boxes for Elastic’s comprehensive fertility benefit. Employees have been just as appreciative of the program. Sutton shared feedback from a member who went through the adoption process that she found particularly moving:

“I write this email with tears in my eyes because a considerable amount of money was just deposited in my checking account through Carrot. My wife and I have tried to have a child for four years and decided adoption was the best way to expand our family. It's a lengthy process that feels like the most complicated, bureaucratic job interview and an audit of your life. It was also expensive. So, for Elastic to offer a reimbursement of up to $10,000 for adoption is not only massively generous, it's life-changing. And now I'm full-on crying because I feel so much gratitude that I'm overwhelmed by it. And I just need to say thank you.”

Besides making her tear up, Sutton said messages like this help her remember fertility benefits' real impact on employees. Members of the HR team agree that from a financial and employee well-being standpoint, introducing fertility benefits was a great decision.

“You think about it from a financial perspective and the utilization,” Sutton said. “Then you get a note like that and understand the human impact of offering a benefit like this.”

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