Counter the Great Resignation with Inclusive Benefit Plans

27th June 2022

How you can retain and recruit employees by making benefits a key part of your diversity, equity and inclusion strategy

HR leaders are under pressure to create diverse, equitable and inclusive (DE&I) work environments while ensuring everyone feels valued and supported. DE&I is a differentiator for attracting and retaining talent, so savvy employers are looking for ways to integrate DE&I into core business operations, including benefits and open enrollment. Your benefits plan is a critical component of an organizational DE&I strategy.

Increased levels of diversity drive individual and organizational performance. However, more significant drivers are recent societal events that have heightened employee expectations around DE&I. In WTW's 2021 Reimagining Work and Rewards Survey, 84% of organizations cited a greater emphasis on DE&I as a top priority when making work and job design changes. In Gallagher's 2021 Workforce Trends Pulse Survey, 47% of employers named DE&I their top organizational or HR priority, and 42% said it was an emerging priority. However, only 24% of organizations link their Total Rewards Strategy to their DE&I commitments, according to the WTW survey.

Benefits are a key consideration in deciding to leave an organization

In new research from benefits service provider Nayya, 90% of employees say benefits matter when considering whether to stay in a job. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported similar numbers (92%) in its 2018 report, stressing the relationship between benefits and retention, with 29% of employees citing dissatisfaction with their overall benefits package as a top reason to look for a position outside of their organization.

But many HR leaders underestimate the need for a strategic approach. Companies take actions they believe will improve workplace DE&I but are often blind to existing biases and fail to make meaningful progress. In the Gallagher survey, just half of the respondents believe their organization's current benefits strategy adequately addresses equity and inclusion for all employees, and only 7% said C-suite leaders are held accountable for DE&I objectives.

Benefit strategies that support DE&I objectives

Examining the benefits you already offer is the first step to aligning your benefits strategy with your DE&I objectives. Learn what portion of your employees use specific benefits and identify obvious gaps. For example, are lower-income employees using the tuition assistance benefit? Go beyond your own assessment (remember those blind spots) and ask for feedback from a diverse group of employees, ensuring you include any under-represented demographic in your employee population. Get to know your employees and their needs.

With a strong understanding of your employee population, take a fresh look at your benefits package and whether it will appeal to (and attract and retain) a diverse workforce. Understanding that every organization's needs and financial situation is unique, consider these benefits and their relationship to a diverse population:

  • Medical benefits. Do they cover inclusive needs such as HIV treatment, hearing devices and gender affirmation treatment? While not all insurance plans cover such treatments, researching and advocating for cost-affordable options demonstrates awareness and commitment to DE&I. A robust mental health benefit is an essential plan component.
  • Domestic partner benefits. Health insurance is typically the most in-demand domestic partner benefit. Employer hesitation due to cost is often unfounded.
  • Voluntary benefits. Available options are extensive and growing. Popular examples include flexible spending accounts, commuter benefits (parking/transit) and COBRA.
  • Holidays/time-off policies. Allow employees to take time off when it's most meaningful to them, accommodating different cultural and religious holidays.
  • "Family" benefits. Employers increasingly recognize the need to support workers through the emotional and financial challenges of family planning and caregiving. Inclusive family benefits include paid parental leave, fertility treatments, childcare and adoption services.
  • Professional development. The lack of diversity in senior management calls for more than hiring greater numbers of underrepresented groups and assuming they will rise over time. A lack of targeted professional development and advancement opportunities will drive many to leave the organization.

Benefits education is a must-have for a successful strategy

Benefit plans designed to appeal to a diverse employee population offer little value if your employees don't know or understand what is available or how to choose right-fit benefits. The majority of employees do not understand their benefits. The Nayya survey found that 63% of workers are not confident in selecting their benefits. This percentage is higher among Gen Z and millennials, who represent a large and growing percentage of the workforce. Now consider that 82% of HR teams are "moderately confident" or "confident" that their employees understand their benefits decisions. Remedy this perception-reality gap with a strong benefits communication and education initiative. Consider these actions:

  • Offer benefits education in multiple formats—live meetings, video, fact sheets and one-on-one sessions (live or virtual). A robust online enrollment platform that makes enrollment easy is a must. A call center is essential, especially during open enrollment. Consider diverse employee needs, e.g., bilingual counselors.

  • Make benefit resources accessible to accommodate different schedules and reach employees where they are, e.g., via a mobile app. Vary meeting times and locations, including virtual offerings, and record sessions for 24/7 access. Reduce technology hurdles with single-sign-on technology.

  • Provide decision support tools to help employees make best-fit choices and encourage the use of benefits throughout the year. Workterra recently partnered with Nayya to deliver an enhanced employee enrollment experience using data science and AI technology.

  • Review benefits and enrollment communications, including language and images. Can your employees "see" themselves in your messages? Recruit a diverse group of employees to provide feedback.

Integrating DE&I into your core business processes calls for a well-designed strategy. A diverse and inclusive benefits plan, coupled with mindful education and messaging for open enrollment that targets all employees, is an excellent place to begin. It can be the differentiator to separate your organization from your competitors and attract and retain a diverse population of employees.

Looking for a benefits administration solution to bring all your employee benefits offerings together? Workterra BenAdmin is built to handle the complexity of today’s employee benefits plans for midsized and large businesses. Connect with us today to meet our industry-leading combination of technology and hands-on customer service, as well as a full suite of administrative services that get HR teams back to focusing on what really matters – your people.

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