Highlight Great Benefits, Keep Great People

By: Christopher Findlay

June 27, 2022

When employees feel cared for by their employers, they’re more likely to stay. Sometimes the easiest way to get employees to remain on the job is nestled in the many benefits you’re already providing.

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Knowledge is a Key to Freedom

June 27, 2022

By: Christopher Findlay

Sheyla made excellent grades but felt cut off from the world during the COVID lockdown. She got a boost from the Upward Bound program run by our member Lutheran Social Services of Southern California. Now, Sheyla is off to Yale in the fall!

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Lutheran Services in America Meets with CMS Administrator, Continues Driving Home the Impact of the Direct Care Workforce Crisis

June 14, 2022

By: Sarah Dobson

We are continuing our work to raise awareness of the impact on access to care as a result of the ongoing workforce shortage crisis in direct care—and drive action in the Biden Administration that will help address the problem. Our recent meeting with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services illustrates our strength in numbers when we come together.

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Carroll Lutheran Village Restarts Ministry Program Offering Help, Hope and Healing

June 1, 2022

By: Christopher Findlay

Two years after the pandemic shut down our member Lutheran Social Ministry of Maryland’s Stephen Ministries program at Carroll Lutheran Village, their team returned to resume its work walking alongside residents through depression, loneliness, family loss and other challenging issues. Ministry leader Jay King feels lucky that Stephen Ministries allows him to do what he loves—empowering others.

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Empowering Older Americans to Age Their Way

May 2, 2022

By: Christopher Findlay

We are excited to celebrate Older Americans Month with our partners in the aging community.

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Highlight Great Benefits, Keep Great People

It seems every employer in the nation is up against the same challenge — employee retention. And the obstacles are mounting. Vaccine mandates, COVID-19 exposures, and quarantines continue to unravel an already stressed workplace. These once-new business challenges are no longer novel, and leaders are on the hunt for innovative ways to take care of their teams and drive tenure among their staff. One solution that many are turning to is marketing the culture, perks, and benefits of their own companies.

Studies show that when employees feel cared for by their employers, they’re more likely to stay. Among employees who felt their companies cared about them, 60% planned to stay three-plus years while 90% said they’d spread the word that their companies are great places to work.1 Consider this testimonial from a Portico health plan member: “Our new insurance through Portico is so robust… our social worker couldn’t believe all the help we got – me either!” This member went on to share how fortunate she feels about having comprehensive health benefits that will cover medically necessary home care needs for her husband after he’s discharged from the hospital (e.g., skilled nurse visits, home health aides).

Reasons Employees Leave

Before we take a deep dive into what today’s employees want most, we should understand why employees look to leave in the first place. The truth is, the reason people look to jump ship often varies. However, the pandemic has certainly caused more people to reevaluate what’s most important.

Benefits as a Retention Tool

It’s easy to get wrapped up in turnover reports and the often-high cost of training. Remember, sometimes the easiest way to get employees to remain on the job is right in front of you, nestled in the many benefits you’re already providing. Companies who can boast long employee tenures often use their benefits packages as a hook to keep staff engaged.

As a leader, you’ve likely worked hard to provide employees with a full suite of benefits that supports their personal needs and professional development. Don’t be quiet about it — now is the time to sing their praises!

What Today’s Employees Want

According to recent research by Robert Half, the fact of the matter is, two out of three workers are confident they can find another job easily. Among its survey findings, respondents confirmed that the most desired benefits for today’s employees include:

  • Health benefits
  • Paid time off
  • Retirement plans
  • Dental benefits
  • Life and AD&D insurance
  • Vision care services

In addition to having comprehensive employee benefits, today’s workforce has become accustomed to flexible work schedules. They don’t want to see perks like this go away.

Well-Being Benefits Are a Must

Also, among job seekers’ top priorities are what’s known as “well-being benefits,” a category of employee benefits that can include support for employees in the financial, mental health, social, physical, and career arenas.

Here at Portico, we want to help you touch on all of these important areas as you show you care for your employees. Our well-being programs include:

  • The Being academy is an educational platform covering topics like longevity, purpose, resiliency, and so much more.
  • Mental Health Programs: Learn to Live is an online mental health program to help with stress, anxiety, depression, and more, in addition to our Employee Assistance Program.
  • Online health and fitness classes from Burnalong.
  • Chronic condition prevention from Omada, a virtual program to help with weight loss and reducing risk for chronic disease.
  • Virtual therapy for joint pain from SWORD that provides help for relieving chronic back, joint, and muscle pain at home.

As you promote your well-being programs and benefits, don’t forget to take generational differences into consideration — not all age groups desire or need the same benefits.2

Figuring Out Next Steps

So what are employers to do? Get creative. Review benefit offerings and determine which ones will have the most impact on employee retention in your organization.

Some “out of the box” tactics for promoting key benefits may include:

  • Hosting monthly lunch and learn sessions or quarterly benefit fairs to shine the spotlight on specific programs and benefits.
  • Creating an employee ambassador program, where your best internal promoters may be the employees themselves.
  • Sharing personal stories in newsletters or blog articles about how benefits have impacted your employees.
  • Communicating about employee benefits via your intranet, employee newsletter, or town hall meetings.

If you’d like to learn more about how Portico’s benefit programs can help you attract and retain your employees, visit or contact Ross Eichelberger, VP of Business Development, at 612-752-4062 or

1Hamilton, Kelly M. M.S., Sandhu, Reetu, PhD. Hamill, Laura, PhD (2019). The Science of Care. Limeade. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from

2Meister, Jeanne (2021). The Future Of Work: Offering Employee Well-Being Benefits Can Stem The Great Resignation. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from

Portico assumes no responsibility for the content, claims, representations, or accuracy of the material contained in the web link sites. Portico does not endorse the content of the sites or the organizations sponsoring the website.

Portico Benefit Services maintains the ELCA Medical and Dental Benefits Plan (which includes the ELCA post-retirement medical benefits obligation), ELCA Retirement Plan, ELCA Retirement Savings Plan, ELCA Disability Benefits Plan, ELCA Survivor Benefits Plan, and ELCA Flexible Benefits Plan. Portico also maintains two group retirement plans for ELCA-affiliated social ministry organizations – the ELCA Master Institutional Retirement Plan and the ELCA 457(b) Deferred Compensation Plan. Plan member rights under the plans are governed by the plan documents, which are the full, legal descriptions of the plans. If any information herein is inconsistent with the corresponding plan document, the plan document is the controlling document.

This article was originally published by Portico Benefit Services.

Knowledge is a Key to Freedom

Sheyla Rodriguez will enter Yale University this fall. She has a bright future, but it took a long journey for her to arrive at this point.

She and her family left Cuba when she was eleven and within days stood at the border between Mexico and the United States. They left a repressive dictatorship to live in a nation where freedom and opportunity are available to all people. She is now a permanent U.S. resident and is graduating from Chula Vista High School in California with a 4.6 grade point average.

Always studious, Sheyla made excellent grades, but felt cut off from the world during the COVID lockdown. Despite living with loving and supportive parents, she could not spend time with classmates in person or have extended conversations with teachers. Gradually she slipped into depression, her classes felt like a burden, her self-image suffered and she lost her passion for the future.

Then she learned about Upward Bound. This program, offered through the U.S. Department of Education and administrated by Lutheran Social Services of Southern California, helps students develop the skills and motivation to complete high school and succeed in postsecondary studies. At least two-thirds of the participants are first generation college students from low-income families.

Sheyla said Upward Bound helped her in three ways:

  1. The instructors in the required college-level courses she took during summers inspired her with their passion for learning;
  2. Her new friends in the program felt like an extended family; and
  3. Upward Bound strengthened her with a hope for her future.

Her parents work in a local hotel, her dad as a house man and her mom as a housekeeper. They have loved and supported their daughter in every conceivable way. Her father’s mantra has always been, “Knowledge is a key to freedom.” Graduation day at Chula Vista High School will be a celebration for the entire Rodriguez family. Sheyla is the valedictorian of her class!

Lutheran Social Services of Southern California is a member of Lutheran Services in America, a national network of 300 Lutheran health and human services organizations that reaches one in 50 people in America each year.

Learn more about Lutheran Social Services of Southern California.

Lutheran Services in America Meets with CMS Administrator, Continues Driving Home the Impact of the Direct Care Workforce Crisis

We are continuing our work to raise awareness of the impact on access to care as a result of the ongoing workforce shortage crisis in direct care—and drive action in the Biden Administration that will help address the problem.

Making the Case for Change

In March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a sweeping Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) initiative that includes more than 20 proposed actions, including implementing a minimum staffing requirement, increasing frequency of compliance surveys and dramatically increasing penalties for deficiencies.  No funding is provided for additional staff required by nursing homes.

In response, Lutheran Services in America wrote a letter to CMS administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure outlining our concern about the lack of understanding of the workforce shortages facing skilled nursing providers and the result that older adults will not have access to the care they need. We also invited our members and their networks to participate in our advocacy campaign to Brooks-LaSure and members of Congress and conducted a survey of our SNF providers to collect hard data to strengthen our messages.

Strength in Numbers

Illustrating the strength in numbers when we come together as the voice of a $23 billion faith-based network, we secured a meeting with CMS Administrator Brooks-LaSure on May 26 with four of our member CEOs:

During this meeting, we shared that we’ve already reduced services for older adults because of workforce shortages—for example, 1 percent of the population of Lindsborg, Kansas, is waiting to be admitted to a skilled nursing facility and over 100 older adults in one Minneapolis hospital alone can’t be discharged because there are no skilled nursing beds available.

We highlighted the limited options for older adults who are frail and need higher level skilled care today because of workforce shortages—and that an unfunded mandate to expand staffing requirements would mean we would have to turn away more people.

We talked about the dedicated caregivers—the frontline heroes—and the extensive efforts our members make to recruit and retain staff in this competitive environment. But with Medicaid reimbursement rates that don’t fully meet the costs of care (e.g., losing $90/day on 70 percent of the population served), even the prison commissary in one rural community pays staff more than Medicaid provides.

We also shared the exorbitant fees paid to staffing agencies to secure additional workers to continue to empower older adults. For example, outside staffing agencies were 27 percent of the nursing budget for one member—where two years ago they were $0. Another cited paying staffing agencies $90/hour for a Certified Nursing Assistant, clearly not sustainable.

Next Steps

We recommended bringing our provider voice into CMS’s plans and that CMS should focus on helping expand the workforce through immigration and other levers to expand the pipeline and expand Medicaid reimbursement to cover the cost of care.

Now, CMS is also seeking public comments on the minimum staffing requirement, and we’ve shared our message with them there as well.

Our advocacy work isn’t over, and we still need your help and your voice to continue making progress, but we know our message is beginning to break through and for that, we thank you for your continued support.

Carroll Lutheran Village Restarts Ministry Program Offering Help, Hope and Healing

Two years ago, the pandemic put the Stephen Ministry program at the Lutheran Social Ministries of Maryland community Carroll Lutheran Village (CLV) in Westminster, Maryland, on hold for safety reasons. Now, a team of four residents and an associate chaplain has returned to manage the program and resume its work with CLV residents on depression, loneliness, family loss, loss of faith, health, end-of-life and other challenging issues and are grateful to be providing caregiving again.

Stephen Ministry trains lay people to provide one-to-one Christian care to those experiencing grief, illness, hospitalization, life transitions, or another life challenge. Bob Nicoll, the program’s class administrator, provides oversight with two other CLV Stephen leaders: Connie Kidder and Jay King. CLV’s associate chaplain Charles Marshall and Spiritual Life Committee chair James Boesler round out the leadership team. Each team member received 50 hours of specialized training to be a Stephen minister before working with residents.

While the reasons for volunteering vary for each, they all share an understanding of the program’s importance and necessity. Kidder became interested in caring ministries early in life. As a young adult, she received support from her church, family and others. Since then, she has had a passion for helping others.

King’s interest in assisting older adults came from his interactions with a pastor while in high school. He stated, “Now I am one,” yet he still enjoys befriending residents who are close in age. He saw an ad about Stephen Ministries at CLV and immediately applied. He feels lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. Stephen Ministries allows him to do what he loves—empowering others.

Boesler faced many challenges and at one time thought, “God can’t love me.” It took time, but he now believes, despite everything, God loves him. He wants others going through a difficult time to know God is with them all the time. This desire led Boesler to complete the Stephen Ministry training so he can support CLV residents.

After a long career in management where Nicoll spent most of his time with lots of people and organizations, he said, “I wanted to find something different—something to experience one-on-one relationships.” As a Stephen minister, he’s been able to experience those relationships.

Nicholl said, “We routinely remind our team that we are caregivers, not cure givers—the latter is in God’s hands.” CLV’s eight Stephen Ministers are careful to remember they are not therapists and avoid trying to fix care receivers’ problems. If care receivers need more support than a minister can offer, a referral is made to an outside professional or mental health specialist.

The leadership team plans to expand the program to include reaching those who may need support but do not require the full program. For example, some residents may benefit from simply having a conversation with a Minister rather than meeting for multiple sessions.

Considering the challenges many are facing since the pandemic started, CLV’s residents and team members are happy to have Stephen Ministers and Leaders in the community to provide caring support.

Lutheran Social Ministries of Maryland is a member of Lutheran Services in America, a national network of 300 Lutheran health and human services organizations that reaches one in 50 people in America each year. Carroll Lutheran Village, a community of Lutheran Social Ministries of Maryland, is an accredited, not-for-profit continuing care retirement community that supports nearly 700 residents in 397 homes and apartments, 50 assisted living suites and 103 skilled care beds.

Learn more about Lutheran Social Ministries of Maryland.

Empowering Older Americans to Age Their Way

Older adults play vital, positive roles in our communities—as family members, friends, mentors, volunteers, civic leaders, members of the workforce and more. Just as every person is unique, so too is how they age and how they choose to do it—and there is no “right” way. That’s why the theme for Older Americans Month 2022 is “Age My Way.”

Every May, the Administration for Community Living leads the celebration of Older Americans Month. This year’s theme focuses on how older adults can age in their communities, living independently for as long as possible and participating in ways they choose.

While “Age My Way” will look different for each person, here are common things everyone can consider:

  • Planning: Think about what you will need and want in the future, from home- and community-based services to community activities that interest you.
  • Engagement: Remain involved and contribute to your community through work, volunteer and/or civic participation opportunities.
  • Access: Make home improvements and modifications, use assistive technologies and customize supports to help you better age in place.
  • Connection: Maintain social activities and relationships to combat social isolation and stay connected to your community.

This year, we are excited to celebrate Older Americans Month with our partners in the aging community. Follow along throughout the month to find resources on aging in place, addressing gaps in care in rural America and connecting people to vital services.

First up is our Strength & Service Series webinar on May 5, where you can learn how to leverage technology based on innovative and timely research from our partner iN2L to improve the quality of life for older adults.

Diverse communities are strong communities. Ensuring that older adults remain involved and included in our communities for as long as possible benefits everyone.

To learn what we’re doing to empower older adults, review our Senior Services webpage. You can also check out the official Older Americans Month website and join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #OlderAmericansMonth and #LutheranServices.