Over time, more and more companies are realizing that a highly diverse workforce can lead to numerous benefits, ranging from increased creativity and innovation to higher earnings and returns on equity.
As companies catch on to these benefits to their business, they’re starting to take important steps to foster diversity in the workplace. That said, there’s still a lot of work to be done — culture of diversity requires ongoing, proactive efforts by business leaders.
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One way you can approach this effort is by offering perks and benefits that help attract and retain individuals of different demographic backgrounds. Here, we’ve outlined seven examples of perks or benefits you can provide to help your company build and maintain cultural diversity in the workplace.
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Flexible Work Options
With the onset of COVID-19, flexible work options have become part of the new normal. While it’s hard to assume the workforce at large is used to working remotely at this point, it’s safe to say we’re no strangers to the approach. What was once a desirable perk has become a necessity amid the pandemic, so it’s important to keep that in mind.
It’s now even more crucial to maintain flexibility for your employees while the pandemic persists. They may be dealing with challenges at home that haven’t been made easier by the pandemic, like caring for children or elderly parents. It can be difficult to know and accommodate everyone’s individual challenges, so offering flexible work policies that apply to all employees is your best bet. Take it one step further by communicating with your team about their options, making sure they both understand the policies and feel comfortable enough to utilize them.
Health Insurance and Leave Policies
Health insurance is already a fairly common benefit that many employers offer. But it’s worth reconsidering how your company’s offering can be even more inclusive for current and future employees. For example, do your current health insurance plans include coverage for breast-reduction surgery? Gender-reassignment services? While it’s not required to elect your company’s health insurance offering based on coverage of specific procedures, it’s critical to think about how your health insurance plans account for and are inclusive of all employees.
The same goes for leave policies. An inclusive leave policy, for example, might take into account parental leave for adoptive parents as well as biological parents. When developing leave policies for your company, it’s important to include a diverse set of stakeholders in the decision-making process. Without being purposeful in representing all types of employees, it can be difficult to account for the groups of people that often lack a voice at the table. By factoring in the totality of your diverse workforce, you’ll create a more inclusive workplace for employees now and in the future.
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Mental Health Resources
The stigma around mental illness is being challenged now more than ever, but it’s still difficult for people to talk about their struggles or seek help, especially in the workplace. And while many of your employees might benefit from mental health care, it’s the employees who are part of marginalized groups that may benefit the most. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), facing racial discrimination can significantly worsen symptoms of mental illness. And even further, NAMI said that “background and identity can make access to mental health treatment much more difficult.”
Offering mental health resources like teletherapy or an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help your employees access the care they need. That said, it’s important for employers to make sure the resources they’re providing to employees are prepared to offer the care employees need. When considering EAP services, for example, the professionals they recommend should be experienced in dealing with diverse patients and well versed in treating a wide array of issues.
By offering an EAP or teletherapy, you’ll help provide a much-needed service to your employees when they might have otherwise struggled alone. For those that aren’t able to access such care on their own, employer-provided mental health resources can make a huge impact on an employee’s ability to manage the challenges they’re facing. And when your employees are taking care of their mental health, they’ll be better able to focus on their workload and performance.
Mentorship and Sponsorship Programs
When it comes to creating a culture of diversity, it’s not just about recruiting people of different backgrounds — it’s also about setting them up for success in their roles and careers. One way you can do this is to create a mentorship program to connect employees of underrepresented groups with each other.
If you want to take it a step further, try offering a formal sponsorship program, which is similar to a mentorship program but with more accountability involved. These relationships can help minority employees feel comfortable in the workplace, navigate unique challenges, and get in front of opportunities that advance their careers. Companies such as Intel and American Express provide great examples of successful formal sponsorship programs.
Both mentorships and sponsorships have the potential to develop stronger, more well-rounded employees that have higher chances of success in their careers. And when employees from underrepresented groups succeed, that can inspire others from those groups to join, further diversifying the ranks.
External Network Partnerships
While mentorship and sponsorship programs are great ways to leverage your existing company network, you can take it even further than that. One way you can do this is by partnering with external organizations that connect employees of underrepresented populations with resources, education, and support. Much like mentorships and sponsorships, these networks can ultimately help increase representation and opportunity for marginalized groups.
These organizations serve a range of groups, but all focus on uplifting and providing more opportunities for the groups they serve. For example, Justworks' MWBE Directory aims to help increase the reach and visibility of minority and womxn-owned businesses. The Ellevate Network is another example — they help advance women in business. StartOut focuses on increasing opportunities for entrepreneurs in the LGBTQ+ community. Black & Brown Founders is yet another organization, and they provide a number of resources to Black and Latinx entrepreneurs, including more access, education, and community.
Tuition Reimbursement Programs
There’s a good reason why student loan debt is an almost-universal inside joke for college grads across the United States: as of the 2018-19 school year, the overall average annual tuition costs for private institutions and public schools hit a 2,089% increase since the 1969-70 academic year.
These numbers make it pretty clear that the cost of tuition is a serious deterrent for those who wish to attend college but don’t have the funds. And given that a college degree is a requirement for many job roles, it’s not surprising that those who don’t attend college are more likely to experience difficulties in securing competitive roles and opportunities.
Benefits like tuition reimbursement can not only draw more diverse candidates to your company, they can also help retain employees down the line. By offering tuition reimbursement at your company, you may be opening the doors to new ideas, fresh perspectives, and stronger skill sets that you, your employees, and your business can all benefit from.
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Given how strongly diversity and inclusion efforts have come into focus this year, providing your employees with access to diversity training seems like an obvious step to take. And despite the fact that this training might not be mandatory for your company, it’s crucial that your employees participate. Now more than ever, employers should be prepared and committed to creating a safe and inclusive workplace for their employees. This starts with supporting employees in educating themselves using the resources made available to them.
Diversity training can be administered in various ways, but many companies offer online courses that make it easier for employees to participate. Justworks, for example, teamed up with EVERFI to provide all of our customers and their employees with a suite of online courses designed to help promote a socially responsible and compliant workplace. In addition to courses that focus on the basics that all employees should know, consider selecting specific topics for managers. By preparing people managers appropriately, their teams may have more success in applying their learnings in the workplace.
When it comes down to it, fostering workplace diversity requires much more than providing a few extra benefits or perks. However, by putting more thought and intention behind the benefits and programs you do offer, you can show employees that your company is prioritizing the topic and proactively working to move the needle forward.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.