More employers have come to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives as a way to improve workplace culture and demonstrate they value their employees as people, not just workers. A 2021 Harvard Business Review report found that 65 percent of U.S. executives say DEI is a high strategic priority, and organizations report multiple organizational benefits related to their DEI work, including increased employee engagement, innovation and success in recruitment and retention of employees. Additional studies suggest that taking the right actions to improve DEI can also lead to better financial outcomes for the organization.
There are many opportunities for employers to make small adjustments with big impact, particularly in employee benefits, programs and policies, and these adjustments may be easier and less expensive than you’d think. These include:
- Pathways to parenthood: family-forming benefits. Many health plans cover some form of fertility treatment, but the scope of treatment options may inadvertently exclude certain plan members and family structures, such as transgender individuals, same-sex couples or single individuals, as well as members in need of donor tissue and/or looking to preserve fertility. Making changes to the types of treatment covered by the plan can greatly expand access to these services and demonstrate your commitment to DEI.
- Healthcare access. People from some racial and ethnic minority groups continue to face multiple barriers to accessing healthcare, such as inadequate insurance, proximity to care, access to childcare or the ability to take time off from work, according to the CDC. Social determinants of health — conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, play and worship that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes — have historically prevented certain groups from equal access to care. Taking steps to ensure employees have just and fair opportunities to be as healthy as possible may help reduce their financial burdens and help reduce overall health plan costs.
- Financial wellness. Benefits and programs to support the financial well-being of your employees signal that you value and support them and their needs. Helping employees address their financial concerns can also help increase engagement and reduce absenteeism and presenteeism.
- Retirement. A 2020 report from the Federal Reserve found that among middle-aged families (age 35 to 54), only 44 percent of Black families and 28 percent of Latinx families have at least one retirement account, compared to 65 percent of white families. Addressing the importance of retirement, presented in a meaningful way to employees, can help bolster retirement readiness. For example, use a custom-tailored approach to communicate financial wellness to different employee groups.
- Policies and communication. Expanding policy offerings and eligibility beyond what’s required by law is an easy and often low- or no-cost way to demonstrate your commitment to increasing DEI within your workplace. For example, adjust time-off policies to include a broader range of reasons so that more employees can better manage work/life responsibilities, and/or update existing employee handbooks, policies and communications with more gender-neutral language. Training your HR and benefits admin employees, as well as people managers, on how to address employee questions and concerns in an inclusive manner can also help foster more open communication and better understanding.
Work with your benefits providers and/or third-party administrator to determine what coverages, services and solutions may already be available to employees, or programs to enhance or expand. Employers may also choose to engage third-party solutions or service providers to address needs not currently being met.