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27 Feb 2023

6 ways to ensure benefits match the needs of a diverse workforce

As workforce demographics become increasingly diverse, how can employers ensure that everyone gets what they want and need?

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The business benefits that a more diverse workforce brings are recognised by companies today. A wider talent pool means differing perspectives. Consequently, there is a more varied set of employee needs, which means benefits should be viewed through a diversity and inclusion lens.

Forward thinking companies are focusing on how to ensure provision caters for their unique employee population.

Here are some ways to achieve this.

1. Listen to your workforce

When designing benefit strategies for a demographically diverse workforce, employee feedback is key.

Obtaining feedback means disparities in need and preference can be identified. This proactive approach enables companies to ensure that resources are redirected to benefits that are truly valuable to employees, rather than ones that are irrelevant, inappropriate or redundant.

The importance of listening to employees was underlined in WTW's 2022 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey (GBAS). The study found that, where benefits met their needs, 79% of respondents said they intended to remain with their employer, and 56% said they were highly engaged.

Of those that claimed their benefits package did not meet their needs, lack of choice, lack of need and lack of personal importance were the top three reasons cited.

2. Interrogate and communicate

Analysing employee health and benefit use data can provide valuable insight and help ensure a benefits strategy that is responsive to the needs of a workforce.

Interrogating the data could indicate which benefits work best, as well as helping to identify trends. Data driven decisions for new benefits can then be made with confidence.

It is important that the promotion of available benefits is as inclusive as the benefits themselves, as this will encourage uptake. Effective benefit communications – through a variety of media – that are tailored to resonate based on individual life circumstances, means no workforce demographic will be neglected.

3. Reduce rigidity

The GBAS also found that flexible working was one of the top two areas employees wanted companies to focus on. Significantly, this was the view across all age groups, genders and ethnicities.

Child – or grandchild – care issues, medical matters, time commitments to elderly relatives and the green gains of working from home have become increasingly important to employees.

Flexible working arrangements – along with webinars, video conferencing and job-sharing – allow them to fulfil these obligations without putting extra strain on working commitments.

4. Screen selectively

Some illnesses and conditions have a preponderance in specific genders, age groups and ethnicities.

There is a higher prevalence of Type 2 diabetes among those of South Asian heritage, for instance, and cancer becomes more common with age.

When formulating health benefits for a workforce that has wide-ranging age, gender and ethnicity, it is therefore sensible to include tests or screenings for illnesses that are more likely to affect a key demographic and to ensure the relevance of these benefits is highlighted.

5. Age awareness

Most recent Office for National Statistics figures revealed that, between 2009 and 2019, the number of people aged 70 and over still in work grew by 135%.

The skills and experience of this older workforce will undoubtedly benefit businesses. However, the wellbeing requirements of older employees differ from those of younger colleagues.

Health issues become more prevalent with age and, with the current NHS crisis, private medical insurance is a benefit with strong appeal, especially among older employees.

For the ‘sandwich generation’, the most useful benefits tend to be those that help alleviate such demands as caring for elderly relatives and supporting grown-up children.

Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can contribute to a support structure for staff. They provide access to experienced counsellors and a 24/7 telephone helpline.

6. Understand Generation Z and millennials

Like older employees, millennials (born between 1980 and 1995) thrive in particular work environments and work cultures. And, as with older employees, EAPs can be used to target their specific needs.

Studies have shown this demographic are more prone to depression and anxiety, so ensure that access to counselling support is clear.

Compared with previous generations, millennials tend take a broader view of their health and think more deeply about daily decisions concerning factors such as diet or exercise.

Again, targeted communication and engagement strategies are key in helping to ensure millennial employees know what services are available.

Millennials also view themselves as more informed than previous generations, which means they are less willing to be led on employee benefits, so it might be more appropriate to provide younger employees with flexibility to enable them to personalise their package.

Generation Z (those born between the late 1990s and the early 2000s) will be the largest employee demographic by 2025, and so organisations need to ensure benefits that cater for their needs are factored in.

Studies show this group generally prioritise work/life balance over traditional employee benefits. They are particularly attracted to companies who offer paid time off, financial wellness programmes and mental health days as part of their benefits schemes.

Corporate social responsibility and diversity and inclusion are also important areas for Generation Z, and benefits that reflect these are likely to aid recruitment and retention.

Responding brings results

Today’s workforce embraces a spectrum of employees. And employers need to be cognizant of their needs – from multigenerational teams to neurodivergent employees, and those living with a disability – and shape benefit programmes accordingly.

Research by WTW showed that almost one-fifth of employees said diversity and inclusion benefits should be a priority.

The importance of listening to staff cannot be overestimated. Failure to respond could mean being left trailing in the wake of more progressive organisations.

In partnership with WTW

WTW is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company.

Contact us today