Addressing diversity and inclusion within your workplace is more than just giving trainings and seminars and sending informational emails. Only with true action will employees know that you’re addressing their concerns, and it can take time to show them just how committed your business is to diversity.
Updating your employee benefits package to ensure that your offerings are designed for the diverse workforce you’re looking to create and foster is a crucial step in your business’ diversity efforts.
Here’s what you need to know about the different ways your office can be inclusive, and how to design your benefits package for a truly diverse company.
Types of Workplace Diversity to Consider
The term “diversity” doesn’t just refer to one thing, and it takes many forms in the workplace and elsewhere. Types of workplace diversity to consider when taking a look at your company data and updating policies are:
- Gender/gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- Race and ethnicity
- Religious beliefs
- Socioeconomic status
- Political views
- And others
As you can see, diversity is more than ensuring half of your employees are women, or that people of color are represented, though those are of course important considerations. It’s also about avoiding any form of discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, or disability.
There are many factors to think about when creating your diversity plan and updating business elements like benefits packages and employee handbook policies.
What to Include in Your Workplace Policies
First of all, remember that some applicable workplace laws are made on a state-by-state basis, not on a federal level. Some attorneys recommend going with the most comprehensive protection plans out there, even if you’re not required to do so in your state. This means you should update your policies to be in compliance with these regulations.
One example is the protection of discrimination against sexual orientation, which is not one of the included categories of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, sex discrimination is protected under the act, and workers have been known to file lawsuits that argue their sexual orientation cases under these protections instead.
As such, it’s a good idea to include in your policies that discriminatory actions such as firing an employee because of his or her mannerisms, or not treating a female employee fairly because she isn’t “womanlike,” are prohibited, as they are forms of sex discrimination.
Other ways to update policies accordingly is to develop or include gender-transitioning resources for employees, or to include the most current, acceptable, and inclusive terminology in employee materials.
Designing Benefits For a Diverse Workforce
The most important aspect of updating your benefits package is making sure that the benefits offered are fair and equitable to all employees.
Let’s take a look at the ways in which you can revamp your benefits offerings, in addition to your company policies. Think through these areas to get started with building a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
Financial Benefits for Different Generations
Analyze the financial benefit offerings your company currently provides, such as retirement contributions, student loan debt assistance, and savings accounts. Are they more geared toward a younger audience, or an older audience?
For example, student loan debt is an affliction that impacts generations across the board, but research from Experian showed that Generation X, who are between 39 and 54, has the most student loan debt, with Baby Boomers in second (ages 55 to 73) and Millennials third (ages 23 to 38). Although it may seem like the younger generations would want benefits related to paying off their student loans, this is clearly an issue that all generation struggle with.
Another financial consideration here is retirement benefits. Baby Boomers are the closest to retiring, but research from the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) shows that 45% of people in this age group don’t have any retirement savings. As such, retirement savings assistance shouldn’t just be catered to the long-term. In addition, benefits like phased retirement plans and medical programs for retirees can help this generation better prepare for life after work.
Another way to address diversity within benefits is what you offer for families. Important considerations in this category are:
- Assistance with childcare
- Parental leave
- Adoption leave
- Elder care services
Another benefit that can help support families through these matters is a dependent care flexible spending account, which helps employees pay for care services while they’re at work.
Benefits for Same-Sex Couples and Domestic Partners
Spousal healthcare coverage and other benefits have long been offered to heterosexual couples. It’s now important to offer these benefits for same-sex couples, in addition to couples who are in domestic partnerships. This also means that parental or family leave benefits should apply to these couples, even if they’re not legally married.
Because there are so many different perspectives, experiences, and abilities that exist within your workforce, a crucial benefit to provide is flexibility. Whether due to having children, a disability or illness, or caring for a sick family member, flexible work options allow employees to adapt their schedules and their location based on their personal needs. However, this means that the flexibility benefits must apply to all employees that require a different working arrangement, and cannot be implemented unfairly. Employees should feel comfortable and never feel guilty about using these benefits when they need them.
A major part of your benefits package is time off for holidays. This has typically only included the major American holidays, both religious and political. However, think about the employees within your company that don’t celebrate the “mainstream” American holidays, who instead celebrate holidays from their own cultural background.
Implement benefits that allow employees to take off the holidays that are important to their culture or religion, and make it simple for them to request these days off. One effective way to implement these benefits is to offer “floating holidays” that employees can use however they wish.
Ask Your Employees
Even with the best intentions, you won’t completely satisfy your diverse workforce unless you allow them to speak up. An easy way for your company to gain invaluable information about what workers care about and what they want in their benefits packages is simply to ask them.
Send out surveys and ask for feedback. Ask them if they feel like their needs are being recognized and respected, whatever they may be. Companies often make a mistake when they assume that employees have certain wants, needs, and beliefs, so it’s important to avoid those dangerous assumptions when updating your benefits package. Instead, let employees tell you what’s most important to them.
As you’re strategizing to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, making tangible within your benefits package is one important way to keep your company on track. Remember:
- There are many “types” of diversity within any workplace.
- Create policies that offer the most protections possible against discrimination, regardless of whether your local laws require all of them.
- Different generations have different financial priorities.
- Offer family benefits like paid family leave and dependent care assistance.
- Make sure health insurance and other applicable benefits are also offered for same-sex couples and domestic partners.
- A range of flexibility options, like remote working or flexible schedules, can help employees with family, disability, or other concerns.
- Not all employees celebrate the same holidays, religious or not. Floating holidays can ensure that they take time off when it’s applicable to their beliefs or culture.
- Ask your employees directly what they want or what they feel they are missing from their current benefits package.
Remember that your employee benefits package will only be designed for a diverse workplace if the offerings are applicable to everyone on your team. Avoid making assumptions about what’s important to your employees, and you’ll quickly be on your way to an inclusive, satisfying benefits package.