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 put a DEI lens on your benefits program.

Putting a DEI lens on your 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 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 of your employees. Here are some questions Natalie recommends asking yourself when assessing your healthcare benefits: 

  • Does your organization have benefits that are inclusive of non-binary and/or trans employees (e.g. gender transition)? 
  • Does your organization remind employees about benefits and flexibility policies at a regular cadence to encourage use? 
  • Does your organization 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:   

  • Does your organization have benefits that are inclusive of same-sex and non-biological parents (e.g. adoption benefits)? 
  • Does your organization have 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)? 
  • Does your organization provide managers with guidelines on how to provide access to 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 think about other aspects of the employee experience, such as the design of your office and your work policies. Even a few thoughtful touches can make a huge difference to your underrepresented employees. Natalie shared questions to help you assess your working norms and physical spaces: 

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

Watch the full session.

CONCLUSION

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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