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24 Mar 2022
by Debi O'Donovan

REBA Inside Track: To achieve diversity, work needs to change supported by reward and benefits

There are many reasons for a lack of diversity at leadership level. In my view, it is organisations which are thinking differently about the whole picture of work where we are going to see the most positive changes towards greater diversity.

There has been considerable action to close pay gaps and introduce employee benefits that are more diverse and inclusive. I applaud these, but more is needed because, on their own, they are not always going to be enough to keep all talented people headed for leadership roles in the workplace long enough for them to achieve their potential.

REBA Inside Track: To achieve diversity, work needs to change supported by reward and benefits

I believe that the current industrial era mindset of work is holding us back. For many roles being restricted to a nine-to-five work pattern five days a week is the not the most sensible way to keep your best talent, nor get the most out of them.

I’ve said it before, and will keep saying it: focussing on outcomes and what contributions people can bring to an organisation is so much more vital than whether they work in a set location or for the same set hours across the organisation.

I work with an amazing team largely dominated by mothers. We think nothing of avoiding scheduling meetings when it is school run time, or people arranging their days to fit around caring responsibilities (the dads on our team appreciate it too, by the way, we simply have fewer dads).

It’s not that hard to break away from old conventions if you trust people to deliver what you pay them to deliver. And let us not be soft about this – if people do not deliver the outcomes you need, then they need to exit the business. There is no hiding behind a show of working long hours, and talking without both actions and results.

If we rethink work so it is not skewed towards a pattern that suits the stereotypical single breadwinner employee with someone at home ready to run the household, then suddenly more people from a huge variety of backgrounds, situations and life experiences can give so much more.

If this were to happen (as it does in so many nimble, dynamic and creative organisations) then reward structures and the type of benefits on offer will evolve and adapt to support these new ways of working.

Currently, as the newly published REBA DEI Benefits Research 2022 found, the most effective benefits for enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are:

  • paid parental/carers leave – 100% of employers which offer it say it is effective
  • menopause support – 95% of employers which offer it say it is effective
  • enhanced parental leave – 95% employers which offer it say it is effective
  • baby loss support – 92% employers which offer it say it is effective
  • inclusive financial education – 92% employers which offer it say it is effective.

These new types of benefits are there to support all employees. They catch people within a particular life stage or life experience that will pass, and support them through it. Without this support, an employee could land up leaving their employer, and if they leave they are not going to be moving up the organisation if they have the potential to be leaders.

At REBA we’re increasingly seeing reward and benefits professionals reach out to their internal diversity networks to get them to feed in what benefits would be most helpful, and which benefits are being exclusive – even if unintentionally.

So, I think we may see more benefits and reward strategies emerge or evolve to become more inclusive of all, and support everyone through their careers – and to the top, if that is where they are headed.

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