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Want to keep employees in the fold? Double-down on DE&I

Employers trying to boost their retention efforts amid today’s record turnover may want to pay more attention to their diversity, equity and inclusion strategy—particularly when it comes to benefits—according to a recent survey of both employers and employees.

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Buck’s 2022 Wellbeing and Voluntary Benefits Survey found that almost a third of employees think their employer lacks a sufficient commitment to DE&I, and there is a direct connection between those concerns and their willingness to leave.

“The survey revealed a strong correlation between an organization’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and an employee’s intent to quit,” says Tom Kelly, report co-author and principal in the Health practice at Buck, a consulting, tech and administration services firm focused on HR, pension and benefits.

In particular, interest in employers providing a strong commitment to DE&I was highest among younger workers: Among millennials, 60% expect an employer to demonstrate commitment to DE&I, significantly higher than among older employees. But, many employers aren’t making the cut, according to the report: For instance, 32% of respondents said their employer lacked benefits tailored to diverse populations; this was higher for Black employees (35%) and female employees (35%).

The lack of relevant benefits programs to meet the needs of diverse employees is driving workers to the door, especially younger generations: Fifty-five percent of millennials surveyed would change jobs for better benefits and wish they had a better understanding of their benefits, compared to only 15% of Baby Boomers.

So, what kind of personalized benefits are workers looking for? With 54% of employees living paycheck to paycheck, financial wellbeing was a top priority for employees, according to the survey, particularly among Black (66%), Native American/other (60%) and Hispanic or Latino (56%) workers. Employees are also craving support for better work/life balance (72%), a rate that is higher among Black (76%), Asian (78%) and Hispanic or Latino (78%) employees.

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To meet these needs and make transformative changes within a company’s culture, Buck explains, leadership needs to set the expectation that DE&I is critical for organizational success and hold their teams accountable by measuring progress and results.

“Many organizations have initiated DE&I programs and created a mission statement and vision, but this is just a starting point on the journey,” he says.

Ruth Hunt, a principal in Buck’s Engagement practice and co-author of the report, says the challenge for employers is to really understand the needs of the workforce, and then to develop a benefit package that includes appropriate voluntary options that meaningfully address their physical, emotional, social and financial needs.

Such tangible, measurable actions can help employers ultimately ingrain DE&I into the DNA of an organization, which employees—especially younger ones—are hoping to see.

“The survey findings show that recruiting and retaining talent will be significantly more challenging if employers don’t continue to take meaningful steps to offer benefits that support the diverse needs of a diverse workforce,” she says. “Getting this right is important not only for employee retention but for attracting new talent.”

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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at [email protected].