Today’s workplace is more diverse than ever. There are five generations in the workforce, each with its own unique needs and challenges. And with the rise of remote and hybrid work, some employees are local, while others are widespread, including in other countries.
Creating an inclusive workplace can be a challenge for many organizations. As you continue to hire employees from diverse backgrounds, you must ensure that your HR team is up to the challenge of ensuring everyone feels safe and included.
One way to promote inclusivity in the workplace is to offer personalized employee benefits that give your employees more control over how they use their benefits.
This article will explain how your employee benefits package can foster inclusivity, why inclusive workplaces are essential, and which benefits are best for a diverse workforce.
What does inclusivity in the workplace mean?
Inclusion isn’t synonymous with diversity or equality. While diversity and inclusion go together, there’s a significant difference between diversity and inclusion.
Diversity is about the physical makeup of your organization, while inclusion initiatives help foster an environment where diversity thrives. Inclusion is about your employees’ individual experiences and empowering them to succeed. Workplace inclusion allows employees to contribute to many aspects of their organization.
An inclusive work environment makes every employee feel welcome, valued, and involved while allowing them to express their differences without fear of discrimination or unequal opportunity.
Inclusivity also involves ensuring all your employees can participate in your benefits package, events, initiatives, and other activities or opportunities.
You can have a diverse workforce without being inclusive. For example, if 50% of your employees are women, and 20% of those employees are people of color, you might consider that a diverse workforce. However, if 0% of those employees are in management positions and don’t feel included in activities, you don’t have an inclusive workforce.
Likewise, you can have an inclusive workforce where every employee is valued and involved yet has no diversity.
The key is to create an inclusive and diverse work environment.
Why is diversity and inclusion important?
While diversity and inclusion are important for your employees, why does it matter for your organization? From a business perspective, diversity and inclusion can result in higher revenue growth thanks to increasing productivity and teamwork and reduced employee turnover.
According to an analysis by Great Place to Work1, the 100 companies with the most significant gaps in experiences between white employees and people of color saw an average revenue growth of only 8.6%. In comparison, the 100 companies with the smallest gaps saw 11.1% growth.
Diverse teams with inclusive cultures are also more likely to be innovative in their field and be able to recruit from a more diverse talent pool.
Great Place to Work also found in their company culture report that when employees trust and see that their coworkers are treated fairly and are included, they’re 9.8 times as likely to enjoy going to work.
How you can create an inclusive environment
There are many aspects of your organization that influence inclusion. From providing access to resources, taking meaningful action to improve team experiences, and seeking employee feedback, here are a few ideas for improving inclusivity at your organization.
Some of the best ways to create an inclusive environment are:
- Conduct unconscious bias training and diversity training
- Provide equal access to opportunities for all employees
- Form a diversity & inclusion council
- Lead diversity, inclusion, and belonging activities to promote employee engagement
- Have an open communication channel with employees
- Revise company policies to support inclusion
- Conduct employee surveys
- Provide inclusive employee benefits
How employee benefits can support a diverse and inclusive workplace
One way organizations can support a diverse and inclusive workplace is through employee benefits.
Your employees are unique. Each employee has a different background, whether that’s their race or ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, their socioeconomic background, where they grew up, or their education. As a result, each of your employees has distinctive needs and wants.
Traditional employee benefits such as group health insurance, on-site gyms, and free snacks are excellent perks, but they aren’t entirely inclusive of your employees' individual needs. These one-size-fits-all benefits may work for some or most of your employees, but not everyone.
For example, your group health insurance plan may not cover some of the specific needs of your employees. Maybe the in-network physicians are located too far from where an employee lives or certain services aren’t covered.
Likewise, an on-site gym is convenient for your in-office employees who want a quick workout before or after work. But, if you have any remote employees, they won’t be able to take advantage of this benefit. Employees who can’t use the equipment you provide also won’t see any benefits to the perk.
Instead of offering these benefits that cater to only a particular audience, your organization needs a comprehensive, personalized benefits package that allows all of your employees to participate while also acknowledging and catering to their individual needs.
Personalized benefits empower your employees to use their benefits the way they want to. This is often accomplished by either providing employees with benefit expense cards such as lifestyle savings accounts (LSAs) or by reimbursing employees for their eligible expenses.
These individualized benefits not only support your inclusion efforts by addressing your employees' wants and needs, but they help you attract and retain top talent.
Top employee perks to offer to foster inclusivity at work
There are many inclusive, personalized benefits you can offer your employees. We’ve compiled a list of a few of the top employee perks you should offer to foster inclusivity.
The top perks to offer to promote inclusion at work are:
- Personalized health benefits
- Holistic wellness programs
- Remote work
- Flexible schedules
- Education assistance programs
We’ll explore each of these perks in more detail below.
1. Personalized health benefits
Health benefits are one of the most popular employee perks, and for a good reason. Supporting your employees’ health helps them be more productive at work while also reducing how often they are out sick.
Personalized health benefits allow employees to use their benefits on the medical expenses that matter most to them. This allows them to address their individual needs, which can differ based on gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, location, and age.
One of the best ways to provide a personalized health benefit is with a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA). An HRA allows you to reimburse your employees for their qualifying medical expenses such as insurance premiums and out-of-pocket healthcare costs.
Three of the most popular types of HRAs are:
- Qualified small employer HRA (QSEHRA): An excellent option for small businesses with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) who want to offer their first health benefit
- Individual coverage HRA (ICHRA): Great for organizations of all sizes who want to offer their HRA to specific employee classes or offer a greater annual allowance than a QSEHRA’s cap. Employees participating in an ICHRA must have individual health insurance coverage that meets minimum essential coverage (MEC) guidelines
- Group coverage HRA (GCHRA), also known as an integrated HRA: A way to supplement your existing group health insurance coverage
Because HRAs are tax-free, they come with regulations that limit which expenses are eligible for reimbursement. This may not work for every employee’s needs. An alternative to an HRA is a taxable health stipend.
Health employee stipends work similar to HRAs but have fewer restrictions on which medical expenses are eligible for reimbursement. This makes them an excellent option for organizations with 1099 contractors, international employees, and workers who receive advance premium tax credits (APTC).
2. Holistic wellness programs
While health and wellness benefits go hand-in-hand, they aren’t the same thing. Health benefits generally support your physical health through medical coverage, while wellness programs help to support healthy living, physical activity, and mindfulness.
As part of a holistic wellness program, a wellness stipend allows you to reimburse employees for the wellness expenses that work best for their needs. This enables you to create a unique employee experience that traditional wellness programs can’t achieve.
With a wellness stipend, your employees can get reimbursed for their personal gym memberships, fitness and exercise class fees, fitness wearables and devices, home exercise equipment, wellness mobile apps, and other expenses up to their set monthly allowance.
This allows your employees to choose which activities are best for them while saving you the time and stress of managing each of these benefits individually.
3. Remote work
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has become a desirable perk for employees. As Forbes reports, 97% of employees who work remotely don’t want to return to the office full-time.
Allowing employees to work remotely is a great way to promote inclusivity and diversity. Remote work makes it easier for employees with families to balance their work and family lives, such as taking kids to school. It also benefits employees with disabilities and those who commute long distances to work. This gives your employees an equal chance to work at your organization with their unique circumstances.
If you have remote employees, don’t forget to offer a remote work stipend. This helps employees afford a quality internet connection and the tools necessary to do their jobs while working from home. With a remote work stipend, you can reimburse your employees for their internet access, cell phone bills, and/or home office setup costs.
4. Flexible schedules
Just as remote work promotes inclusion by allowing your employees to work for your organization despite their unique challenges and lives, flexible work schedules can be an excellent asset to your organization.
This allows your employees with children to take a few minutes every day to drop off/pick up their kids from school, for all of your employees to go to their dentist or doctor's appointments, and get other tasks done while still putting in their full required hours every week.
5. Education assistance programs
Finally, an education assistance program is a great way to promote inclusion at your organization. There are many ways to create an education assistance program, including tuition reimbursement, student loan repayment, or continuing education resources.
This is an excellent way to support your employees’ interests and provide professional development opportunities, which can support your organization’s overall skillset. If you have employees who lack certain skills required for them to advance in the company, this is a great chance for them to learn new skills and seek other opportunities within your organization.
While your employee benefits package may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about creating an inclusive work culture, it’s one of the best ways to support all of your individual employee needs. This, in turn, will help boost productivity, reduce absenteeism, and improve your company culture.
If you’re interested in offering inclusive, personalized benefits, PeopleKeep can help! Our personalized benefits administration software allows organizations of all sizes to easily offer HRAs and employee stipends.
Chase Charaba is the content marketing manager at PeopleKeep. He started with the company as a content marketing specialist in early 2022. Chase has written more than 350 blog posts for various companies and personal projects throughout his career. He’s worked for digital marketing agencies, in-house marketing teams, and as the editor for national award-winning high school and college newspapers. He’s also a YouTuber, landscape photographer, and small business owner.