Authors: Farzeen Mawji Sandra Ventin
While every organization's approach to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) looks different, one thing remains constant: the positive outcomes. To help fortify inclusion and diversity within your organization, it's vital to ensure your benefits plan adequately addresses DEI for all employees. Just as with DEI strategies, benefits plans should shift away from a one-size fits all philosophy to help ensure greater wellbeing across an organization.
DEI is the right thing to do
Putting aside the positive returns in engagement, attraction, retention and overall business performance, embedding DEI across all aspects of an organization is simply the right thing to do. It's increasingly becoming a fundamental expectation for employees, clients, vendors and our communities in deciding whether they want to engage with your business. While there's work to be done across policies, procedures and best practices, a simple place to start is a benefits plan review to look for opportunities to be more inclusive.
Focus on what's already working
In terms of DEI and benefits strategy, we're beginning to see many good conversations and momentum both globally and within Canada. In addition, some key wins, such as same-sex partner enrollment, has been standard for years.
More recently, we're seeing momentum across enhancements to benefits plan design and an expansion of parental leave coverage. Adding to this conversation are topics such as gender diversity beyond the male/female binary that's beginning to be slowly integrated in some organizations as well.
The DEI conversation starter
Communicating what benefits are available for employees is critically important. When employers regularly communicate and educate their staff on what benefits are available to them, it can help increase engagement and retention.
Furthermore, increased communication about benefits coverage can spark conversations around DEI topics — such as gender identity, diverse ways families are formed, etc. — that can provide greater insight into what your team finds valuable. You can then use this insight to determine what modifications you can make to your plan to meet this need.
Reinforce organizational commitments to DEI
Both current employees and candidates are looking for inclusion and diversity across the organization, including in their employee benefit experience. Even if an employee isn't currently requiring specific DEI supports for themselves, it can be important to their personal values to see that the organization is modern and inclusive and has the health and wellbeing of all employees top of mind. If an organization states they're dedicated to DEI, but doesn't demonstrate this philosophy in a tangible way, there may be a values gap in attracting and retaining talent.
Measurable and positive ROI
Benefits such as gender affirmation procedures and drug coverage, mental health supports, leave support and increased coverage for infertility are a minor investment with a large employee engagement return. In most cases, costs for standard benefits offerings such as massage therapy or dental cleanings continue to outpace DEI investments, so the monetary commitment may be minimal. By enhancing coverage with a view to DEI priorities, you can make an immense impact on the wellbeing of your people and their family members.
A strong DEI philosophy focuses at the core with making mental health supports available and accessible. One way that can be achieved is by expanding the practitioner designation that your plan covers.
In addition, you should assess the level of psychological safety at your organization. Do employees feel that there's diversity of thought and freedom to share contrary opinions and bring their own authentic selves to work? If not, the changes to your benefits strategy won't be as effective.
Lastly, for Human Resources leadership teams, we recommend your HR policies be up to date with inclusive language to reflect the diversity of your employee base.
These three suggestions are just some of the considerations for a holistic approach to DEI.
As organizations ultimately strive to be an employer of choice, DEI is a natural step in that journey. There are many ways to address and improve DEI, and even small changes are progress. Reviewing your benefits plan with DEI in mind is a great way to improve the engagement and wellbeing of your current employees and attract top talent in the future.