3 ways companies can optimize their spending on benefits to support diversity

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This article was contributed by Jason Fan, CEO and co-founder of Forma.

Over the past two years, how and where people work has fundamentally changed. With growing technology connectivity, companies have expanded their reach globally and reaped the benefits. More employees have flexibility in where they work, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools like Zoom and Google allow employees to communicate effectively no matter where they are. The rise of the remote and hybrid workforce has opened the door for companies to recruit a broader and more diverse talent pool. As such, efforts to increase diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace have become more important than ever. Companies recognize how a diverse set of skills and perspectives can improve problem solving, increase innovation and create a more inclusive workplace.

However, despite companies rethinking their hiring practices to advance DEI efforts, many companies still have the same outdated approach to employee benefits, a core element of talent acquisition and employee retention. Employee benefits that provide employees with greater choice and flexibility play a vital role in improving workforce diversity. It’s time for companies to optimize their benefit spending to better address diversity and inclusion needs.

Here are three ways employers can reinvent benefits to promote and enhance workforce diversity and inclusion and attract and retain diverse talent.

1. Offer flexible benefits

To build a diverse workforce, companies can no longer operate with a top-down approach to employee benefits. Each individual has specific capabilities and needs that must be met with a more flexible approach. Companies must recognize the inequalities and biases that some individuals experience and provide a holistic approach to ensure benefits align with their commitment to DEI.

Employee benefit options, such as flexible spending accounts, provide employees with a way to customize how they spend the funding provided by their employer. It puts more power in the hands of employees. Instead of offering employees the same benefits as cookie-making, companies can offer options that suit each individual. For example, some employees may have a greater need for more family-oriented benefits, such as fertility and childcare support, while others may appreciate financial benefits that offer budget counseling or tuition or student loan repayment programs.

Employers who include a degree of flexibility in their benefits offering will discover a wider range of diverse applicants for their hiring positions and retain employees more successfully. A Glassdoor workplace diversity and inclusion survey found that more than three in four employees say a diverse workforce is an important factor in evaluating companies and job openings. Flexible benefits play a key role in supporting DEI efforts that match what job seekers are looking for today.

2. Be open to global culture-specific benefits

With employees spread across the globe, companies must prioritize culture-specific employee benefits when developing offerings for individuals of different customs and cultures. For example, someone based in Singapore may have different needs for a benefit program than someone based in Italy.

Vacations are a good starting point to address cultural diversity and benefits, such as flexible paid time off for international workers. Companies can offer floating vacations as part of, or in addition to, flexible leisure time to support people of different cultural and religious backgrounds.

However, prioritizing DEI in flexible benefits is much more than a difference in observed or celebrated holidays. Employers should offer additional options, such as flexible spending accounts, to fill the gaps that traditional benefit programs leave out, such as adjustments to the cost of living. This ensures that employees receive a relative cost of living whether they live domestically or abroad.

3. Ensure Equal Opportunity for the Same Employee Benefits

In addition to providing flexibility for every employee, inclusive benefits should provide universal access to the same general employee benefits regardless of the employee’s condition or status. Companies can optimize their benefits programs to ensure equal access for everyone, which will help create a more inclusive workplace.

This could include, for example, gender-neutral parental leave that provides equal access to this benefit regardless of the individual’s gender identity. Companies that prioritize DEI in their parental leave offerings can attract and retain more employees. This ensures that new parents can share responsibilities and focus on the new addition to their lives. In addition, creating fair and equal learning and professional development opportunities is another example. Companies can offer programs that help employees gain the necessary skills. This allows workers hired for specialized skills to diversify their skills.

Ultimately, when a company emphasizes equality of employee benefits, the organization also wins by weaving diversity and inclusion into the structure of the organization.

Redesign your employee benefits program to meet the needs of your diverse workforce

Workforce diversity is essential to the company. By redesigning employee benefits to be more flexible and inclusive, companies can better leverage today’s modern, global workforce and improve employee retention. Improvements don’t happen overnight, of course. But with these three strategies, companies can be well on their way to making smarter, more holistic benefits decisions with DEI in mind.

Jason Fan is the CEO and co-founder of Forma

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This post 3 ways companies can optimize their spending on benefits to support diversity

was original published at “https://venturebeat.com/2022/03/16/3-ways-businesses-can-optimize-their-benefits-spending-to-support-diversity/”