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Industry Roundtable: The Real Opportunity for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Ariana Alisjahbana

Did you miss our live webinar? Watch the recording now. 

The events of 2020 urged many companies to renew their commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) efforts. How are HR leaders addressing this in their strategy to ensure the holistic well-being of all employees? How do you ensure the effectiveness of your DE&I efforts? How do you incorporate DE&I into your benefits offering? BrightPlan hosted an industry discussion on January 27th to answer these questions and more. The roundtable, The Real Opportunity for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, featured HR leaders and experts from Freshworks, Moral Courage College and Plancorp, and was moderated by the associate editor for HR news at SHRM. Here are some key takeaways from the session: 

1. DE&I continues to be top of mind for employers

DE&I has moved up the priority list for employers nationwide. Kathy Gurchiek, Associate Editor for HR News at SHRM, shared her organization’s recent survey on workplace equity. They found that 30% of organizations have modified, expanded, or plan to modify existing policies and systems to reduce systemic and structural bias against underrepresented employees. The same survey found that one-quarter of organizations are putting new procedures and systems in place to address this issue. DE&I also includes gender equity. A Mercer study found that 56% of employers are conducting gender-based pay equity analysis―up from 35% in 2016.

One of the main reasons for this shift is employee demand. More than 76% of employees and job seekers surveyed by Glassdoor report a diverse workplace is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. Employers such as Estee Lauder, for example, have expanded their commitments to DE&I as a direct result of employee pressure. For others, the push has come from industry leaders or customers. DE&I is now top of mind for employers nationwide.

2. For DE&I to work, start with inclusion

Irshad Manji, founder of Moral Courage College an organization that teaches business leaders how to communicate difficult issues without shaming others shared, “D for diversity is the first letter in DE&I, but for it to truly work, you have to start with inclusion. It’s the foundation for diversity to thrive in.” 

Most employers have historically shied away from talking about diversity but the events of 2020 have demanded this change. Not surprisingly, many DE&I efforts have backfired because there wasn’t an inclusive culture in the first place. Manji shares that to make DE&I work, workplaces need to build a strong culture of inclusiveness and learn how to communicate disagreements without shaming others.  The goal should be to create a culture where every individual is welcome.

Suman Gopalan, Chief HR Officer at SaaS company Freshworks, shares, “Your company will only make true progress when you really believe in it.” Rather than responding to external pressure, real change happens when it’s part of your company’s DNA and how you operate as an organization. Gopalan shares the example of hiring passionate people who might not have had much training or even college degrees. They train them to be developers, and a few years later, they become some of the best performers in the company. For Freshworks, DE&I means giving passionate people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds a chance to flourish.

3. The role of financial wellness in DE&I

Employers with DE&I strong in their DNA should have it reflected in the way the company operates, including in the benefits they offer for their employees’ well-being. These benefits support the physical, mental, and financial health of employees and should be an important component of an HR team’s DE&I toolbox. 

 Most recently, HR leaders have had to adapt benefit offerings to meet employees’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Gopalan shares that at Freshworks, their benefits have shifted from material things like great office spaces to employee well-being and happiness. Many employers are in the same boat. Why not incorporate DE&I values and goals into your new benefits offering? Offering financial wellness benefits, for example, helps your DE&I initiatives by supporting employees from underrepresented backgrounds to achieve their financial goals. Employers may also see higher productivity and engagement from financially well employees. 

Amy Jones, Chief Talent Officer at Plancorp shares, “Many benefits today are delivered through technology, which levels the playing field. If there’s financial education delivered online, you don’t need to feel embarrassed when you don’t know what a term means and you can learn at your own pace. This makes online benefits more accessible than ever before.” 

As HR leaders double down on their company’s DE&I efforts, keeping a keen eye on the latest best practices and peer sharing can be valuable. Fostering an inclusive workplace, learning how to communicate difficult issues effectively, and focusing on the physical, mental, and financial well-being of all your employees can serve your company and your employees well in this new year. 

Watch the on-demand webinar recording now.

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