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How to bring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) to Group Benefits – and Why Employers Should 

By: Benefits by Design | Tuesday July 25, 2023

Updated : Monday March 4, 2024

Embracing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as a business brings significant benefits to your employees and your business. Enjoy happier and more engaged employees, better processes and practices, and a higher understanding of risks and goals with DEI factored into your workplace.   

DEI is a Growing Trend Across All Industries 

DEI is a growing consideration for businesses regardless of industry. The number of Human Resources (HR) leaders identifying DEI efforts as a top priority was 1.8 times higher in 2020 than in 2019. There was close to an 800% increase in job postings dedicated to diversity recruiters.  

It’s not just HR that sees DEI as a growing consideration in workplaces. More than 1,600 CEOs have signed onto the CEO Action for Diversity Inclusion Pledge. And 40% of companies discussed diversity and inclusion in their Q2 2020 earnings calls, versus 4% in the same quarter the year before. 

In a new SunLife and Ipsos survey, it was recently discovered that 64% of employees “would be okay with my benefits plan costing a bit more if it ensured that it offered coverage that was equitable and inclusive, even if that included services that may not apply to me.” 

How DEI Impacts a Business 

DEI can offer significant benefits to a business that affect everything from profit and sales to employee engagement and satisfaction. 

Incorporating DEI into your business doesn’t just boost employee engagement and satisfaction — it can also be very profitable for your business. 

6 Ways to Embrace DEI with Group Benefits 

Businesses who effectively incorporate DEI into their employee benefits strategy see significant benefits, but how best to do it?  

1. Start with Recruitment 

Weaving DEI principles into your recruitment strategies is a must if you want to continue building a diverse workforce and attracting the right people. For example, having a diverse interview panel for prospective employees or avoiding recruitment bias. 

DEI has become an important factor for employees as the stigma decreases. Consider highlighting diversity and promoting your inclusive benefits in your job advertisements. It will send the right message and attract the kinds of employees who will only strengthen your diversity efforts.  

2. Employee Onboarding and Continuing Education 

When onboarding employees, part of the process should be going over what is included in the employee benefits plan. Not only can it encourage discussions, but sharing the inclusivity of the benefits plan during onboarding can also show new employees that your company is invested in DEI. For example, if you have Gender Affirmation coverage, explaining how that works may lead to deeper discussions. 

6 Steps to Employee Onboarding for Your Benefits Plan

Ongoing diversity training is crucial for employees to be aware of and recognize bias. It can reduce stigma, reinforce positive traits, and begin to build the foundation of an inclusive workforce. Managers and leaders should also be educated on what’s available in case their employees have questions.   

3. Use Inclusive Language 

Using inclusive language creates a safe space for all employees and is an excellent way to showcase your diversity every day. Consider encouraging employees to add their preferred pronouns to their email signatures as one highly visible way to keep DEI at the forefront of people’s minds.  

Most insurers have adapted their benefits forms to include an “undisclosed” option for their gender selection. This ensures that all employees are able to indicate their gender more accurately. 

4. Educate Yourself on What’s Available 

There is a variety of different options when it comes to inclusive employee benefits. So if you’re looking to help employees and strengthen your DEI initiative, this is a great way to do so. Firstly, there is no specific template or mold to follow – having a diverse workforce means your benefits need to be tailored to them. 

A great place to start is by doing a benefits plan audit to determine what’s being used and what isn’t. In years where renewals include savings, add a new benefit. Or increase a benefit that’s being used frequently or is consistently maxed out.  

Employee Benefits to Build an Inclusive Workplace

5. Provide Inclusive Benefits 

Providing benefits that take care of all of the different employees’ needs is challenging. Inclusive benefits could mean providing coverage for greater mental health support and coverage, family building benefits, or telemedicine which gives access to employees in remote communities. There is no one size fits all, so implementing a Health Care Spending Account could also be a great way to diversify your benefits. 

Everything You Need to Know About Health Care Spending Accounts (HCSA)s

A lot of plans will have optional coverage that can be extended to family members. Aside from extended health and dental, which is usually already set up for family coverage, there are many other optional benefits that can be added should employees choose. For example, optional Life Insurance, optional Accidental Death & Dismemberment Insurance, or optional Critical Illness Insurance can all be extended to a spouse and/or dependent child. A common-law spouse is eligible for optional benefits. 

6. Employee feedback on current benefit plan  

“Communication about benefits coverage can spark conversations around DEI topics — such as gender identity, diverse ways families are formed, etc. — that can provide greater insight into what your team finds valuable. You can then use this insight to determine what modifications you can make to your plan to meet this need.” — Gallagher: Connecting the Dots Between DEI and Employee Benefits Plans 

Incorporating Employee Feedback in Your Benefits Plan

Asking employees for feedback is key to an inclusive benefits plan. However, not all employees are comfortable providing feedback in a group setting. Try sending out anonymous surveys or use 1:1 sessions to ask for ideas for minor changes that would benefit employees. 

Remember, employees are vetting companies based on their culture and benefits plan, which is greatly influenced by DEI. The way we look at work and careers has shifted dramatically since the pandemic, as evidenced by the Great Resignation, flexible and remote working opportunities, social responsibility, and of course, DEI initiatives. Work-life balance and feeling proud of who you work for are more important than ever before. 

Communicating your inclusive employee benefits is one of the most effective ways to increase utilization and therefore inclusivity.

Employee Benefits Communication Tactics for Different Generations and Diverse Workforces