Close Close

Life Health > Health Insurance

Planning Is the Key: Equitable's Stephanie Shields

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

Stephanie Shields is the head of employee benefits at Equitable.

She’s in charge of an effort to help Equitable protect more workers against disaster and buffer the insurer against the effects of low interest rates and market volatility on annuities by expanding sales of nonmedical health products such as dental, vision and accident insurance, along with life insurance, critical illness insurance and short-term disability insurance.

The Penn State alum started out as a marketing consultant at Willis Towers Watson. She then spent 11 years working in product development at Cigna and six years in product innovation and marketing at Aflac.

Equitable put Shields in her current position in May.

Via email, we asked Shields a set of questions that touch both on her professional knowledge and on what she does off the clock.

1. What trends in the employee benefits space are you watching most closely right now and why?

First, employee benefits as a talent retention tool. Given the competitiveness of the job market now and employee expectations, companies, especially small businesses, are focused on providing new and nontraditional benefits that bring value to employees’ lives and meet the needs of today’s diverse, multigenerational workforce.

Second, technology adoption. Employers are seeking to connect remote or hybrid workforces in meaningful and engaging ways. To better serve their employees, employers are increasingly embracing collaborative tools and leveraging benefits administration platforms.

2. How has the employee benefits space been changing recently in 2021, and how do you expect it to change in 2022?

More than ever, there is a heightened focus on mental health and financial wellness. I expect that in 2022, many employers will be hyper-focused on the employee experience, to ensure that their employees feel connected, included, and taken care of.

Also, it’s been well documented that individuals are accessing these types of programs virtually in an accelerated fashion through programs like telehealth services for counseling.

3. What would you suggest employers do now or consider doing in the future to plan for these changes?

As we close out 2021, I think employers have an opportunity to look back and conduct a year-in-review assessment. It’s important to identify what aspects of their benefit programs worked well and if there are areas that could be changed as a result of employee feedback or competitor trends.

We’ve seen employers change compensation practices and benefit offerings to attract talent in a tight job market. I believe that employers who are focused on flexibility, care, and mental health will have a leg up on the competition in 2022.

4. Who or what critical source of information do you track, or follow online, to keep up with industry trends?

I’ve been impressed with the thought leadership that some of the industry technology providers are producing. There have been several new white papers and webinars that push the market to think about what the future of insurance holds. In addition, I also typically read reports or articles from LIMRA, Eastbridge, EY, Deloitte, Accenture, Majesco, Employee Benefit News, ThinkAdvisor and other HR publications.

I also love a good audiobook or podcast, so I also seek out and listen to information on topics that affect my organization but might not be tied to the insurance industry directly. If you haven’t checked it out yet, Simon Sinek has a great podcast called a Bit of Optimism that I would highly recommend.

5. Are you changing any of your work habits at this stage of the pandemic? Why/why not?

I believe we have all transitioned well to a virtual environment, and there are so many silver linings to this new way of working. However, we can all get a bit of video fatigue when you are locked down in front of your computer for long periods within the day.

One work habit I have changed is with my one-on-one meetings with my direct reports. I have shifted these from video to a phone call so that we can take a break from our work area and go for a walk or just step away from our computers. I find that walking during these meetings helps me get a little more focused because I have no technology distractions and also helps me think more creatively. And we all get some extra steps in!

6. What’s your biggest hobby, and what was the last event/activity you did related to it?

Well, I ran a half-marathon last weekend, so this question is timely. I would not consider myself a “serious” runner, but I exercise often and with a lot of variety. I run, cycle, box, do yoga and lots of walking. For me, it’s just about being healthy and having fun.

7. How about your latest community/charitable activity/event/cause?

It’s the holiday season, so it’s a great time of year for engaging the whole family in the spirit of giving. Several families in our community come together to partner with a local home for veterans, and we help them celebrate the holidays. We all participate in planning a large Christmas Eve dinner, each making a different part of the meal, and we have personalized gifts for everyone there. It’s a great way to give back to so many that dedicated their lives for our country. It’s what the holidays are all about.

8. What book are you reading now, and why?

I am reading The Infinite Game, by Simon Sinek. I am a strong believer in the power of mindset. This book compares the differences between a finite mindset and one that is infinite. The power of thinking big and without constraints leads to stronger, more innovative and resilient organizations. It’s about looking to the future because the goal is long-term sustainability, and more effort is placed on exploring what’s possible.

9. Any special holiday plan, activity or focus you’d like to share as we near year-end? Or a New Year’s resolution that you’ve decided on?

For me, the holiday season is all about family. It’s a time when everyone is home together, and we can step away from the daily routines of work, school, sports, and other commitments. I have three children between the ages of 9 and 14, and this is a wonderful season of life. For me, old-fashioned fun during this time of year is the best. Movies, board games and lots of laughter is how I plan to spend this time.

On a personal note, it’s also a time of year to regroup, take inventory of what your priorities are and recharge. I love to hit the ground running in January with a clear picture of where I need to go.

10. Any other update/fact about you or piece of advice/wisdom you’d like to share with our employers and talent management audience?

Don’t underestimate the power of planning. And by that, I really mean approaching life intentionally — on the offense, not the defense. Planning helps you think more clearly about what’s important, where you are going and how you spend your time. This applies to your personal life, your professional teams and business objectives. Without a plan, you will lack focus and so the daily whirlwind will consume you.

Planning is the key to success. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, so spend the time to set your goals, develop your road map, write it down and get ready to execute!


Stephanie Shields (Photo: Equitable)


© 2023 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.