Alexandra Evreinoff: A truly inclusive benefits strategy can be an effective support mechanism

Employers already know that offering a competitive compensation package is one of the most effective ways to attract and retain talent. What’s often overlooked, however, is the opportunity to better support their workforce by ensuring their employee benefits strategy is truly inclusive.

While compiling a new strategy, employers should keep relevance and accessibility at the forefront of their minds. They should never be afraid to ask their employees how they can better understand individual needs and priorities. Smaller organisations may prefer private one-to-one conversations, and larger ones can facilitate open, honest discussions within employee resource groups.

A great example of inclusive benefits includes thinking beyond maternity/paternity and even parental leave: gender-neutral, paid, longer caregiver leave. There will be a growing demand of caring for elderly parents; and positioning it this way is also inclusive of single-parent families and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender plus (LGBT+) parents.

Most employee benefits strategies have been designed for traditional cisgender heterosexual individuals and families. Aim to represent the full spectrum of employees within the organisation and embrace the chance to provide a platform for lesser heard voices. Consulting with employee business networks is a great way for corporations to make sure they are being fully inclusive in their employee benefits strategy.

Employees must be regularly reminded of the perks available to them, as well as how to tailor these rewards to their own unique needs. During the pandemic, for example, many organisations have increased awareness of their employee assistance phonelines, virtual mental health services and access to remote medical care.

Where appropriate, perhaps in a newsletter or on social media, share some of the ways in which employees have made the most of opportunities open to them. This might be pro bono work, wellbeing initiatives, fundraising or involvement in social impact projects.

Employers must recognise and address any variances and inequities in what’s been offered to different employees. Some businesses may choose to vary the benefits available, depending on the role, seniority and experience of the employee. For example, over time, an employee may ‘earn’ additional benefits such as an increased holiday allowance or ability to work flexibly.

There can be vastly different demographics at different levels of the business, as well as between full-time and part-time staff; employers should be mindful of actually creating further disparities between them. Employers may choose to offer the same benefits package to their entire workforce, but what’s absolutely crucial is showing commitment to adapting it equitably for each and every employee.

Alexandra Evreinoff is director of advisory and inclusion at INvolve