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Inclusive benefits: fueling the competitive edge and DEI in hiring

“How can we create more inclusive benefits packages?”

It’s a common question, especially now as competition to attract, engage, and retain talent has become near frenzy in many industries and disciplines.

Organizations are looking for every opportunity to increase their competitive edge as they scramble to attract and hire talent. For some, it’s ‘too good to pass up’ salaries, for others it’s the prestige of the brand or the impeccable reputation for employee experience. But for many, those are not an option. They can’t compete with the soaring salaries, and they don’t have a household brand to lean on. And even if they have an excellent employee experience, it’s not widely enough known to be a draw.

This is where benefits come in.

Not only do benefits amplify compensation packages to sweeten the offer, they are also a way to show inclusion, equity, and belonging.

We touched on inclusive benefits a few times before.

When outlining actions to help fill positions in a highly competitive candidate landscape we listed benefits such as remote and flexible hours, and offering unique and fun perks. In our LBGT+ Inclusion – going beyond pride month, we listed several ways to expand benefits to be more inclusive including more general family leave policies, expanded medical coverage, and a greater focus on mental health coverage. And in ‘Tis the season – gifts, appreciation, and inclusion, we covered the importance of avoiding stereotypes and shortcuts when picking gifts and tokens of appreciation.

Want another one?

It’s all in the network

A common trait of medical, dental, and vision benefits is the network of providers. All those doctors, dentists, hospitals, care centers, etc. that accept the health benefits. However, not all networks are created equal. Even more, not all networks are created equal for all people. What is perfect coverage for one person can be a complete miss for another.

If your health benefits network doesn’t include local or accessible doctors for everyone or if it has limited or no options to meet specific needs, it has little value to some employees. And unfortunately, inequitable networks are common.

So, how do you know if your health benefits are equitable?

Traits of an equitable network of benefit providers:

A strong, equitable network of health providers must be:

  • Accessible: Are providers in close proximity to where all your employees live? Are the local providers easy to access (i.e. not in hard to get to locations or buried beyond walls of painful traffic)? Are they within walking distance to public transportation?

  • Relevant: Does the network Include specialists and specific care to meet the needs of all employees and their family. For example, does it include enough care for children, elderly and women’s health? Does it include medical and therapeutic health for a variety of disabilities, specialists for specific needs, conditions and medical situations? Does it have high quality emergency care for all employees? etc.

  • Demographically diverse: Does the network include a demographic diversity of providers that fits the comfort and needs of all employees? For comfort, effectiveness, shared understandings and experiences, and a variety of other reasons, many individuals have gender, religious, race/ethnicity and/or other demographic preferences. For example, women who prefer female gynecologists or people of color who seek mental health providers of the same race/ethnicity.

  • Affordable: Is the price of the care equitable for all employees? In other words, ensure that employees are not forced to pay a premium for the same care due to location or demographic needs. Even within a network, there are often a variety of price ranges based on vendor status within the network, percentage of offerings covered, or other scaling systems.

But, even the best, most inclusive health coverage is not a talent engagement tool unless you use it as one.

Don’t keep your excellence a secret

To turn great benefits into a great tool to attract, engage, and acquire talent, advertise it.

Educate your candidates (and employees) about the breadth and depth of your network of health providers. And arm them with the right questions and awareness so that if they’re comparing you to another offer, they can go beyond the basic claims to see the true value of the health benefits.

To do this, create an easy-to-follow overview of the benefits designed to show off everything you have to offer.

Note: it’s important to create self-service documentation rather than just relying on verbally conveying it in an interview or allowing candidates to ask questions. Candidates may not want to ask important questions because they are uncomfortable or unwilling to disclose information (such as special medical needs for them or their dependents, pregnancy, mental health requirements, just to name a few.)

Here are a few techniques that can help:

  • Use clear headlines for easy navigation. For example: “For our children”, “For our elderly dependents”, “For our mental health”, etc.

  • Summarize each benefit using common, straightforward language (avoiding any business, medical, or industry jargon). Use tables to compare choices or show how the benefit compares to competition.

  • Provide an easy way for candidates (and employees) to see if specific providers are included and/or to get a list of providers based on needs and location.

  • Use a variety of examples on how benefits cater to a variety of individuals to help future (and current) employees visualize how the benefits impact them. For example, “Meet newly-wed Jasmine. When she got married, her wife was automatically eligible for…”, “Meet David, an adventurous 10-year-old with Autism. When he needed…”, “Meet Sara, a recent breast cancer survivor. When she was diagnosed with…”.

  • Have a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section with a collection of common questions and answers. Link the answers to more information about the specific benefit(s).

  • Include an easy way for candidates (and employees) to ask questions in a way that is private and confidential (such as with a benefits manager that is not associated with the hiring selection).

Networks beyond the health benefits

Great networks go beyond health benefits. Bring inclusion in your benefits to the next level by ensuring equity in what’s ‘in network’ across your benefits.

For example:

  • Mental health: Mental health is critical for the wellbeing of your employees and their families. While this is universal, there are groups that are at higher risk such as LBGTQ and combat Veterans. If your health coverage does not already include mental health, highly consider it. And, just like other areas of health, make sure the mental health network is accessible, relevant, demographically diverse, and affordable.

  • Preventive health and wellness: Health and wellness goes beyond medical/dental/vision. Benefits from gym memberships to nutrition to alternative healing and therapies are all valuable tools for keeping your team healthy and productive. If you offer these great preventative health and wellness options, make sure those options are equally accessible, relevant, demographically diverse, and affordable.

  • Education: Supporting employees’ educational needs is a great way to add a huge value. Perks like helping with school depth and covering cost of continued education are fantastic investments in your employees as long-term assets and shows them that you truly value them and all their potential. Ensure these offerings are equitable in access and coverage.

  • Child and dependent care: Child and dependent care is a great benefit for employees. Not only is it a high value for those who have dependents that need care, but it also takes the burden of worry off your employees so they can be more present and productive. Ensure those care benefits are equally accessible, relevant, demographically diverse, and affordable.

Bringing it all together – inclusive benefits

Inclusive benefits are a great way to add value to an offer and demonstrate that you ‘walk the walk’ when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. To ensure your benefits are truly inclusive, ensure that your network of providers are accessible, relevant, demographically diverse, and affordable. Then, take credit for your fantastic benefits by communicating the breadth and depth to your candidates (and employees) in an approachable, safe way.

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