Originally published on  February 12, 2019.

Key takeaways

  • Innovation lies at the heart of what New York Life stands for. An atmosphere of trust and inclusion allows employees to express ideas that benefit the entire organization.
  • Financial assistance programs exist alongside employee development initiatives, both developed with staff well-being and personal progression in mind.
  • An inclusive work environment enables employees to share diverse perspectives, all which helps inspire further innovative ideas.

The culture of innovation at New York Life is driven by its workforce. The variety of employee programs on offer prove that innovation at New York Life is more than just a buzzword - it’s an essential part of the business fabric that keeps employees engaged and empowered.

From programs which support employees financially, to those that offer opportunities for post-college learning, innovation at New York Life is driven by a fully-activated workforce.

"At its root, innovation starts with a thought or idea that an individual shares with others and it grows from there," says Katherine O’Brien, Chief Human Resources Officer at New York Life. "Creating the trust, confidence, and comfort necessary for employees to express and explore their ideas is one of the core objectives of New York Life’s HR team."

"At its root, innovation starts with a thought or idea that an individual shares with others and it grows from there"

—Katherine O’Brien Chief Human Resources Officer at New York Life

Powerful employee solutions

Inspiring innovation at New York Life

An example of this is New York Life’s Student Loan Repayment program (SLRP), an initiative inspired by the worries that people have around their finances. According to a Workplace Options survey, more than a third of working Americans have said that money worries impacted their ability to do their jobs. This includes graduates who leave college with high levels of debt. We recognize the impact that financial stress has on our employees and, in 2017, to help lift this burden we launched the SLRP, run jointly with Vault.co.

The program provides eligible employees with up to $10,200 to repay their student loans, spread over five years. Offering this type of financial assistance puts New York Life in the top four percent of American employers. As well as direct financial assistance, the program has assisted a further 2,500 employees with loan advice and counseling on their student debts.

Another worry for people today is finding the time and money to carry on their education after they’ve left college. To help employees realize these learning goals, New York Life offers a tuition reimbursement program which subsidizes a wide range of courses and degrees at 220 accredited schools.

New York Life understands the importance of continued learning and our Learning Exchange (LEx) program gives employees the chance to access career-enhancing courses. Developed with partner Degreed.com in 2016, LEx offers learning pathways in over 200 subjects with more than 6,800 active New York Life employee users.1

Employee-focused innovation

Another New York Life innovation is Partnering for Success, a simplified performance management model. Instead of the traditional focus on goal-setting, mid-year discussions, and year-end reviews, Partnering for Success favors three check-in conversations between employees and their managers each year. Two of these check-ins focus on real-time feedback on recent work and booked a mid-year discussion which concentrates on employees’ career plans while offering personalized manager coaching.

To further inspire a committed workforce, our Internal Mobility Program supplies expert counseling and development workshops on topics such as career planning, resume writing, and effective interviewing. The response to the program, which launched in the fall of 2017, has been fantastic. To date, 38 development workshops have been delivered to approximately 230 employees, close to 500 one-on-one coaching sessions have been held, and 55 participants have been hired into new internal roles. 

These development programs, conceived and deployed by New York Life’s HR team, have received an enthusiastic response from across the business. “We believe the resulting gains in employee insights, understanding, and engagement from these initiatives, will drive innovation and creativity at New York Life for years to come,” says O’Brien.

"We believe the resulting gains in employee insights, understanding, and engagement from these initiatives, will drive innovation and creativity at New York Life for years to come"

— Katherine O’Brien, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

A good idea can come from anywhere

These HR programs empower employees to see innovation as more than an intangible business initiative. And better still, they were all developed by listening to employees and engaging with them through surveys and focus groups. The programs embody the idea that the richest source of innovation for a company is its workforce. “Change often comes from the collective insights we gain from employee feedback,” explains O’Brien.

Building employee trust is key. As is understanding the importance of diverse points of view. HR’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion (ODI) has been a catalyst in promoting New York Life’s inclusive and innovative culture – not just as a commitment but as a responsibility.

Through programs such as the Coming Together Conversation Series, the #Inclusionmatters awareness program, a vibrant Employee Resource Group culture, and much more, HR and ODI maintain a workforce and company culture in which all feel welcome, valued, encouraged to share their thoughts, and free to innovate.

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Media contact
Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-6955

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1Degreed Analytics software