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24 Feb 2021
by Kerry Drury

Why diversity, equity and inclusion is critical to a successful reward and benefits strategy

Companies are more aware than ever of the benefits of building an inclusive workplace culture, but how do diversity and inclusion translate to a reward and benefits strategy? The key is to focus on everyday employee experiences.


Consistency, accessibility and fairness

Building a truly inclusive culture means going beyond just improving diversity numbers in recruiting or ensuring equal pay. It’s about building inclusion into the everyday employee experience and benefits strategy. Companies should seek to ensure employee benefits are accessible for all, whether this is via a flexible benefits scheme that enables the individual to tailor their package to suit their individual needs, or via a set of universal benefits; consistency, accessibility and fairness is key.

There are several existing models for addressing diversity, inclusion and equality, but most of them miss a few important elements. Some models take a top-down view showcasing strategies or initiatives the organisation can implement to increase D&I in the workplace. They focus on compliance and social responsibility, or on efforts that touch employees at key milestones in the employee lifecycle, such as improving diversity in hiring and practicing inclusion in promotions and performance reviews. However, these models may lack senior-leader endorsement, meaningful prioritisation and funding. Additionally, they often overlook the small – and nearly infinite – everyday employee experiences.

The little things matter

Last year, O.C. Tanner’s Global Culture Report demonstrated how the employee experience is comprised of frequent, common micro-experiences like the conversations people have with their teams, the environments in which they work, the messages they get from their company and the feedback they receive from their leaders.

It’s these little experiences that cumulatively determine how employees perceive their organisation. And to address them, it helps to get curious. How can we make the employee experience itself more inclusive, not just when an employee gets hired and promoted, but when they go to lunch or meet with their leader? How often are they invited to work on special projects? How do they feel about the tools and resources they have? Do they receive appropriate recognition for their work?

Because these micro-experiences are often where discrimination and microaggressions occur, they clearly belong within the scope of D&I. Employees need to feel seen and valued, that their work and contribution matters. Rewarding, appreciating and recognising employees for their unique role in an organisation reinforces the message of belonging. Companies that include more formal employee recognition programmes into their suite of benefits see a significant increase in inclusivity, and also have the added advantage of being able to use recognition data to point out inequalities and inform D&I efforts.

Creating cultures that embrace individuality

Looking at recognition data can provide powerful insights. Knowing who is being recognised, who is giving recognition, and what is being recognised can be integrated with other demographic and performance data to help make the employee experience more inclusive. Today, 52% of organisations are using advanced technology to support diversity and inclusion efforts, and 45% are considering it to support recognition initiatives and better their company cultures.

When talking about inclusion efforts in the workplace, leadership needs to change the conversation. It’s no longer about how to mould a diverse set of employees into an existing culture; it’s about how to create a culture that embraces who every individual is. Inclusion celebrates the intersectionality of different backgrounds, genders, races, abilities, sexual orientations and other attributes. It allows organisations to discover new possibilities that only emerge when the perspectives, skills and talents of many unique people are represented, respected and integrated. And, of course, it’s ultimately as good for business as it is for employees.

If we evolve how we think of inclusion and ensure employees feel it in both peak and micro-experiences, the elusive dream of an inclusive organisation becomes achievable.

The author is Kerry Drury, culture and engagement strategist, O.C. Tanner Europe.

This article is provided by O.C. Tanner Europe.

In partnership with O. C. Tanner

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