Initiatives are great but unless the heart is walking in step with the hands, are we just checking a box? DEI headlines have risen to the top of our inboxes for three years running. The lack of true diversity, equity, and inclusion was an ongoing social problem long before the pandemic. But the events of the last three years have captured global attention and companies are finally listening.
The majority of our peers, colleagues, social, and family circles are focused on doing better, being better. But they, like the rest of us, don’t know what we don’t know. Until we’ve walked in someone else’s shoes, we don’t understand their realities. Until we’ve felt Discounted, Excluded, and Invisible, we’ve not experienced the overwhelming challenges of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Reams of data tell us embracing DEI is great for business success. Ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns, 70% more likely to capture a new market, 45% more likely to report increased market share year-over-year, have increased employee engagement, become an employer of choice, and their diverse teams make better decisions up to 87% of the time.
Teams are 158% more likely to understand target customers when they have at least one member who represents their target’s race, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, or culture. Companies with higher diversity in management earned, on average, 38% more revenue than companies with lower diversity.
The data is talking to us, if we’ll listen.
DEI strategy, education, and communication are everyone’s job from the C-suite cascading down. This isn’t “HR’s initiative”. But HR has a key opportunity to embrace and campaign for DEI through benefits. HR knows the workforce. They have the data. And if they are HR leaders, they’re invested in learning what it’s like to walk in their people’s shoes.
HR–are your benefits truly inclusive? Do they address family planning including adoption, surrogacy, fostering assistance and infertility coverage? Do they support the LGBTQ community, domestic partners, and your single employees? Do you recognize holidays outside of the traditional? Do your flexible work arrangements embrace the disabled, semi-retired, working parents? Do your education benefits bring equity to people of color, provide support to underserved communities? Do your medical and mental health benefits cover the needs of the transgendered population, people with obesity, the hearing and visually impaired? If you offer narrow networks, are the providers representative of a diverse population?
Because your workforce isn’t one-size-fits-all, your benefits shouldn’t be either.
Your organization is made up of people with varying abilities, challenges, and needs–which can’t all be addressed using a one size fits all approach to employer-sponsored benefit offerings.
Go back to your core values. If compassion and inclusion are in your core values, your benefits should reflect that. Be courageous and innovative enough to ask your people, “What inequities have you experienced in our benefits programs? What social determinants are impacting your ability to be your best self?”
Making benefits inclusive is incredibly important, especially now as people are struggling. Our “benefits intentions” need to go far beyond medical, dental, vision. Be intentional about communicating the benefits you offer, how your employees can access them, understand them, and ultimately use them. How you communicate your benefits sends a strong message about your DEI intent. Your words matter, even if not said with malicious intent. You can add fantastic benefits, but it’s your company culture that will tell if you truly support your workforce.
Diversity is a wonderful mix of ethnicities, orientations, identities, abilities, religions, ages, relationship statuses, socioeconomic statuses. Add in the richness of diverse experiences, educations, skill sets, beliefs, and personalities. Create a benefits ecosystem that provides everyone equal access to the same opportunities that resonate with their diverseness. Remove the barriers and level the playing field.
When everyone feels welcome to contribute, to participate, when they feel heard and respected, then we’re on our way to inclusion. Then we’ve moved far past checking a box, instead opened our culture to the world of belonging.
Looking for additional resources?
Learn more about aligning your benefits with your DEI strategy by downloading our latest white paper, “The new DEI playbook: Your guide to ensuring your benefits align with and amplify your DEI efforts.”