Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have become more than just buzzwords—they are integral to fostering a thriving and innovative workforce. As an employer, you have the power to make a significant impact by ensuring your group benefits plan reflects and supports the needs of your diverse employees.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore how you can leverage your group benefits program to promote DEI within your organization. Let’s embark on a journey to create a workplace where every employee feels valued, supported, and empowered.
Table of Contents
- What is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?
- The DEI Imperative: Why Employers Should Make DEI a Priority
- Customizing Group Benefits for DEI
- DEI Audits
- Inclusive Health Coverage
- Enhanced EAPs for Mental Health and Well-being
- Accessible Communication
- Self-Identification Options
- Benefits Education and Empowerment
- Beyond Group Benefits: Other Pro-DEI Workplace Initiatives
- Measuring DEI Success
- Let’s Transform Your Benefits Program
What is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)?
According to McKinsey & Company, diversity, equity, and inclusion are closely linked values that support different groups of people, including people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations.
In many workplaces, the primary groups that benefit from DEI initiatives are women, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), and LGBTQ+ people. Ultimately, though, everyone benefits when their environment is DEI-optimized.
The DEI Imperative: Why Employers Should Make DEI a Priority
Before we dive into strategies, let’s establish why DEI is vital. A diverse workforce brings a range of perspectives, experiences, and talents, fueling creativity and innovation. By embracing DEI in the workplace, you not only enhance your organization’s reputation but also drive business success through improved problem-solving and adaptability. By not addressing the needs of a diverse talent pool, you are ignoring more than half of your potential recruits, and run the risk of higher turnover rates.
Employers that actively support diversity ultimately make more money. Research shows that inclusive teams tend to make better business decisions, while teams with less diversity are more likely to make poor choices. Organizations with greater diversity among their executive teams tend to have higher profits (by about 20%!) and longer-term value as well.
Diversity can also be interpreted as a characteristic of a well-run company. Research on market valuation suggests that investors value when firms use diversity best practices. Companies may even experience a jump in stock prices after winning an award for diversity initiatives.
Companies that show a commitment to diversity tend to attract and retain better talent. Numerous studies have shown that employees in pro-diversity regions like Canada prefer diverse work environments. More than 75% of job seekers look at workforce diversity when evaluating an offer.
Customizing Group Benefits for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
If you’re reading this article, you were likely already aware of the value of creating a DEI-supportive workplace. Now, let’s turn attention to how to design group benefits for diversity, equity and inclusion.
Traditional benefits plans tend to leave marginalized groups behind. Engaging a benefits expert to conduct a DEI audit can help you identify unknown gaps in your group benefits plan. This is one of many times in group benefits where an expert is truly needed; there are many nuances of plan design and carrier agreements, and you need an expert to look closely at the contractual wording (usually about 150-pages worth). You can then work to close those gaps to align with your organization’s benefits philosophy.
Inclusive Health Coverage
Ensure that your benefits plan offers comprehensive coverage for all aspects of health, including mental health, reproductive health, and gender-affirming care. Tailor your plan to accommodate the unique healthcare needs of your employees.
LGBTQ+: Offer benefits that support LGBTQ+ employees, such as transgender healthcare, enhanced counseling services (see below), and support for same-sex partners and families, such as adoption support and fertility treatments. Ensure these benefits are inclusive and supportive of diverse family structures.
Women: Examine your drug plan to ensure coverage for fertility treatments and drugs, as well as hormone therapies for menopause. And be sure to offer support for working mothers, such as parental leave top-ups and flexibility in scheduling. Interestingly, the gender wage gap is almost non-existent until women have their first child; essentially, having children amounts to a ‘motherhood penalty’ for many women at organizations without thoughtful DEI-informed programs.
BIPOC: Traditional benefits plans have coverage gaps for non-traditional medicine, such as Chinese, Indigenous, and Ayurvedic practices, which reflects a bias toward Western medicine. Health Spending Accounts (HSAs) and Wellness Spending Accounts (WSAs) can be useful for providing coverage for non-traditional medicine.
Enhanced EAPs for Mental Health and Well-being
Better mental health coverage benefits all employees, as well as the employer (read more in our article Helping Employees Navigate the Mental Health Landscape). However, certain groups, such as LGBTQ+ people, need more, and more unique, mental health supports. On-demand services like enhanced Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) with more of a mental health focus are far better than standard EAPs with a short-term counseling model. Some even allow employees to choose from counselors with similar lived experience (useful for BIPOC employees as well).
Make benefits plan information easily accessible and understandable for all employees. Use plain language and offer materials in multiple languages to reach a diverse audience.
Offer employees the option to self-identify within diverse categories (race, gender, etc.) to better tailor benefits and support.
Benefits Education and Empowerment
Conduct regular benefits education sessions that are culturally sensitive and inclusive. Ensure employees understand the full scope of their benefits and how to utilize them effectively.
Beyond Group Benefits: Other Pro-DEI Workplace Initiatives
Cultural Competency Training
Provide training to your HR and benefits team and people leaders to foster cultural competence. This ensures that all employees, regardless of their background, receive respectful and sensitive care.
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
Establish and support ERGs that focus on DEI, such as women’s groups, LGBTQ+ networks, and multicultural associations. These groups provide a platform for employees to connect, share experiences, and drive positive change within the organization.
Measuring DEI Success
Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your DEI-focused benefits initiatives through surveys, feedback mechanisms, and utilization reports. Use this data to refine your approach and better serve your diverse workforce.
Supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion through your group benefits program isn’t just a moral obligation; it’s a strategic investment in your organization’s success. By implementing these proactive strategies and continually prioritizing DEI, you’ll create a workplace where every employee feels valued and empowered to bring their authentic selves to work.