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Many of us have seen family and caregiver-support offerings change over the years as employee benefits packages have been enriched with new offerings to attract and keep top workers. That said, most of us still haven’t had access to such plans, nor fully understand what is actually available out there. We may have heard of fertility help and maternity support, but what about specific guidance for those of us with teenagers? Aging parents? All of the above?
I was fortunate enough to sit down with Yasi Baiani, SVP of Product Strategy and Innovation at Cleo, to dig deeper into just what employers are offering employees coming out of the pandemic, and the role employers will play in redefining how we think about supporting employee wellness in the years ahead.
Gary Drenik: Tell me about your background and what motivated you to start working in healthcare with Cleo.
Yasi Baiani: My career leading up to Cleo has been a combination of product management leadership, early-stage technology investing, and advising founders and CEOs on product strategy and development. This diverse background and exposure to the inner workings of companies brought me a rich understanding of the various factors at play within organizations. I observed that employers are often in search of solutions and benefits for their employees to improve engagement and retention, as well as support their DE&I efforts. I also witnessed the traditional healthcare models offered to employers were rife with gaps, leaving caregivers and parents behind. That’s why when I was presented with an opportunity to make a dent in this broken system with the Cleo team—and the employers who want to do something about it, it was too poignant of an opportunity to pass up.
In my role at Teladoc Health as Head of Product for Mental Health, I helped create and build the first integrated Teladoc-Livongo product, which coupled digital solutions with teletherapy services to deliver a full-stepped care model. Additionally, as the Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Raya Capital, I worked with early-stage companies, advising Founders & CEOs on product development and strategy, and invested in Virta Health, Lemonaid Health (acquired by 23andMe), and Fitbod, to name a few. Among all I do, supporting female founders, leaders, and executives has a special place in my heart. That’s why I’m grateful to serve as a global leadership advisor, offering guidance and support to the female change-makers of our time through a leadership fellowship offered by the How Women Lead organization.
Cleo’s mission to ensure every working family and caregiver doesn’t just survive but actually thrives is as personal as it could possibly be. As a member of the sandwich generation – a mom of two young kids and a caregiver for my aging parents – I’m fortunate to be a Cleo user myself. I deeply relate to our members’ problems and needs – not only through personal experience and lens but more importantly through rigorous and regular customer discovery and user research my team conducts. We are proud to have a customer-obsessed team. I truly believe in Cleo’s mission and wake up every day focused and determined to make it possible for every working parent and caregiver to thrive at work and at home. According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, only 33% of Adults, 18+ in the US are confident in the current economy. The needs are clearly there.
Prosper – Consumer Confidence January 2023Prosper Insights & Analytics
The reality of being a member of the sandwich generation, coupled with being an executive and people leader, has shown me nearly every broken part of our system, from our healthcare system to our childcare and caregiving system to our workforce norms. Data and evidence show us that all of these systems need work. If you’re a working parent or caregiver, the lack of support may push you to leave the workforce forever.
Drenik: What has your experience been like being a parent and caregiver while also a startup leader?
Baiani: It’s the biggest, most dynamic Rubik’s Cube I could imagine. I joined Cleo in 2021, a year into the pandemic, so parenting two young children and leading a distributed, multidisciplinary team remotely all at once became a riddle I had never imagined solving. The experience was a puzzle, but one that had urgency at every turn, which made it motivating and important. It reinforced that you are only as strong as your team – I’m grateful to work with and lead a team where no challenge is too big for them. I also experienced firsthand how to help caregivers thrive at work and home, systematic changes are required and employers and health plans need to be part of driving the changes – employees alone can’t take on managing it all by themselves.
We have customers in sixty countries and all across the U.S. We had to adapt to the changes the pandemic brought just like everyone else. Our own workforce was the true example of shifting to the needs of parents and caregivers at work—whether that be providing more flexible hours, additional leave policies, mental health support through our Guides, or help locating child care.
It’s a very tough environment right now. According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, Adults, 18+ in the U.S. are noticing increases in grocery, dining, utilities, internet service, and rent prices among other items month over month. Moreover, home and work lives are intertwined in a way they’ve never been previously. People need their leaders to provide a sense of safety and transparency.Prosper – Noticed Prices Increases in any of the FollowingProsper Insights & Analytics
As a people leader, with many of my team members being parents and caregivers themselves, one of my top priorities has been to walk the walk and be an empathetic and supportive leader for our team, so that they can thrive at work and home. I believe it’s critical for executives and leaders to live the mission of the company.
Drenik: There are a lot of startups popping up in the health and wellness space lately — what does Cleo do that’s different from the rest?
Baiani: First, the amount of innovation in healthcare and wellness is a sign of how broken our systems are—there is so much that needs to be fixed. Employers are keenly aware of this and ready to invest in meaningful change for their benefits programs. Cleo’s biggest differentiators are the completeness of our offering and our relationship-based service model.
A common jumping-off point in the benefits realm might be fertility support, but we go much further. We can help you start your family, yes, but we also support you all the way through having kids, teens, your own adulthood, and even caring for your aging loved ones. Cleo members are given access to a Cleo Guide, a 1:1 support expert, as well as our network of specialists whose support is often challenging to obtain through traditional channels. This is all in addition to personalized tools and resources available through Cleo’s mobile app, including webinars, curated content, and community support groups.
We also find it essential to ensure what we’re providing is making an impact. We offer our members solid data to measure the success of the benefits they are providing for their employees with Cleo. We call it our “Family Health IndexTM.” It measures seven dimensions of family health — confidence, caregiver burden, self-care, general health, mental health, connectedness, and family support. This helps us, along with employers, to be on alert for high levels of risk and track over time each of these dimensions and directly engage them before suffering the consequences of burnout, including occupational consequences such as absenteeism or disability leave.
Drenik: Can you dive a little deeper into the different offerings Cleo provides for families?
Baiani: Upon signing up with Cleo through their employer and downloading the app, each family is paired with a trained Cleo Guide. The Guide is a trained parenting and caregiving expert, there to answer any and all questions a member might have and focuses on building a valued, trusting relationship with proactive support. Members also have access to self-guided content, peer groups, and the broad network of Cleo Specialists, who provide specialized support for everything from mental wellness to child behavior to lactation to sleep and beyond — all at no cost to the member.
In 2022, Cleo added new solutions for those caring for an aging parent or an adult loved one through our acquisition of CareTribe, offering support surrounding issues such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, physical health and aging issues, home safety, guidance for legal planning, navigating insurance and benefits, and end of life care. Cleo also introduced Cleo Teens, which provides evidence-based solutions and support in response to gender identity exploration, eating disorders, mental health, social media, and technology use, college planning, substance abuse, and much more.
We’re very proud to share that Cleo is available to over 1 million employees worldwide and has expanded to support over 145 organizations across 60 countries and in 16 languages. Whether an employee is thinking of starting a family, actively parenting, or actively caring for a loved one, Cleo is there.
Drenik: Can you share any specific stories of companies Cleo has worked with and what the process looks like for them?
Baiani: This story illustrates how everyone, from the C Suite to the front line, can use family support: The head of global benefits for Salesforce, Abigail Hollingsworth, was worried about taking time off for maternity leave and how it would affect her chances of being promoted. She was worried she would be forgotten – you know, “out of sight, out of mind.” Three months into her leave, she was surprised to find out that she had been promoted. She was thrilled, and realized that she wasn’t making the trade-offs she originally thought, but instead was continuing to be valued for all of her professional accomplishments even while away.
Hollingsworth had the opportunity to leverage Cleo throughout her motherhood journey as a resource to answer the many questions she and her husband had. Cleo wasn’t initially offered by Salesforce, but after she realized how useful it was for her maternity leave, she asked her team to look into it. Today, Salesforce offers Cleo as a global benefit.
Drenik: Thanks, Yasi for your insights on where the caregiving and wellness space is headed. It’s clear Cleo is a leader in the industry. I look forward to watching how Cleo will continue to empower more employers to take better care of their workforce!