Meet the Speaker

Natalie Johnson

Co-founder & Managing Director, Paradigm

DEI has been at the forefront of recent conversations for a variety of reasons. The pandemic forced employees to slow down and reflect on what they really want from their jobs. A rise in anti-Black and anti-Asian sentiment put a spotlight on the deeply-rooted racism of our systems, institutions, and policies.

The outcome of these events is that more workers are turning to their companies to take action. In fact, 72% of employees want their employer to invest in creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace. 

While many organizations are rising to the challenge, they still have questions. A big one for HR folks is: how do I make my benefits as diverse, equitable, and inclusive as possible?
That’s one of the questions we tackled during Engage. Natalie Johnson, co-founder and Managing Director of Paradigm, led a conversation about how to help your clients put a DEI lens on their benefits programs.

Putting a DEI lens on the most common employee benefits

In today’s world of work, DEI is a must-have for most organizations. “Just as much as employees expect their employers to offer healthcare and PTO, they expect them to invest in DEI,” said Johnson. 

But your benefits offerings and your clients’ DEI initiatives don’t have to be separate entities—they can amplify each other. This is exactly what Natalie and her team at Paradigm help their clients do. Using their DEI strategy platform, Blueprint, they conduct organizational audits to understand their clients’ benefits offerings, including how they’re deployed and utilized.

Understanding what benefits are available helps Natalie and her team identify potential gaps and areas of opportunity where employers can improve their offerings to appeal to a more diverse workforce.  

Healthcare and mental health

Most organizations offer access to health plans, and many more are starting to provide mental health benefits. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean these offerings are inclusive. If your insurance plan doesn’t cover LGBTQIA+ friendly providers, for instance, then you may be limiting options for many employees. Here are some questions Natalie recommends asking yourself when assessing your healthcare offerings: 

  • Are your benefits inclusive of non-binary and/or trans employees (e.g. gender transition)? 
  • Do you remind employees about benefits and flexibility policies at a regular cadence to encourage use? 
  • Do you provide timely reminders to employees about benefits and policies available during critical times (e.g. reminding employees about mental health benefits during a crisis)?

Parental leave and caretaking

Being inclusive with parental leave and caretaking policies starts with language. Instead of using terms like “maternity leave” and “paternity leave,” turn to more gender-neutral, non-cis conforming language like “primary caregiver” and “secondary caregiver.” Ask yourself these questions as well:   

  • Are your benefits offerings inclusive of same-sex and non-biological parents (e.g. adoption benefits)? 
  • Do you offer benefits that support current and future caregivers beyond what is legally required (e.g. childcare or childcare subsidies, expanded parental leave, eldercare leave, fertility support)? 
  • Do you provide your clients with guidelines on how to offer flexible work arrangements for all employees who need them? 

Check out the full session recap to learn how to implement your DEI-focused benefits strategy.

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Working norms and physical spaces

Go beyond the “standard” benefits and help your clients think about other aspects of the employee experience, like office design and work policies. Even a few thoughtful touches can make a huge difference to underrepresented employees. Natalie shared questions to help your clients assess working norms and physical spaces: 

  • Do your clients document working norms (e.g. hours, response times, availability expectations, communications)? 
  • Do your clients invest in tools to support remote inclusion and productivity (e.g. training, online collaboration tools)? 
  • Do your clients provide official guidance and/or policies on remote work? 
  • Do your clients provide gender-neutral/affirming restrooms?
  • Do your clients accommodate lactating employees with either facilities or flexibility?

Watch the full session.


Driving Employee Benefits Engagement in 2022

If your current communication and engagement strategies aren’t boosting benefits engagement, something needs to change in 2022. To hear more expert strategies from our panelists for how you can drive more employees to understand and use your benefits programs, check out the full session replays. 

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