We know that diversity brings both tangible benefits to the business, and also provides a positive impact for individuals, families, and the community. Among the ways that organizations typically pursue D&I is through the recruiting process, as well as in culture initiatives. Benefits are a key element of both of those processes and can have an impact on how the brand is perceived in the marketplace, as well as how employees relate to the organization.
Diversity initiatives were often originally framed as quotas. A selected demographic would be targeted, typically based on race or gender, and a goal would be developed to increase the percentage of that demographic in the workforce.
These practices were not effective, primarily because they focused on isolating people by their differences rather than creating an environment where each person is valued for their unique capabilities, and where every individual feels safe and supported to bring their whole selves to work. That is inclusion—rather than dividing people by what makes them different, the goal is to create a shared ecosystem of common goals and mutual respect.
As companies have taken a more nuanced, inclusive approach to supporting their diverse workforce, it has become clear that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Organizations have implemented numerous creative ideas and practices to develop a benefit strategy that supports the diverse needs and concerns of every employee at their company. For example, as organizations look to become more inclusive for people of all cultures, specific policies and benefits may be needed.
Day of Personal Significance
One of the most visible benefits to consider is the list of paid company holidays. Traditionally, this list includes a variety of days of religious or cultural significance, including Christmas, Thanksgiving, Good Friday, and others. As organizations have grown more culturally diverse, many have expanded these holidays.
Tanenbaum, a nonprofit that works with corporations and other organizations to reduce religious intolerance, observed that their own holiday policy included days of religious significance which applied to only a percentage of their workforce. They initially adopted a policy where an employee could choose to swap the company holiday for a day of their choosing which had religious significance. They were then approached by an employee who was religiously unaffiliated. She asked to swap the company holiday for the anniversary of her mother’s death, a day that had great meaning for her personally. Tanenbaum saw the opportunity to create more inclusive language, and shifted their policy to reflect the ability to swap for a day of personal significance rather than religious significance.
Delta airlines leverages an affinity group model which allows employees with shared interests and backgrounds to come together and collaborate on solutions for business challenges. By engaging their Asia-Pacific BRG, they were able to review and evaluate meal service and food choices leveraging their employee’s cultural expertise.
In almost every culture, food has a significant role in bringing people together. Many organizations offer food to their employees, whether it’s simply free coffee, or full meals. When job descriptions tout free lunches, its important to make sure that the process behind the policy supports inclusion for vegetarians and vegans, as well as individuals with food allergy issues.
The open office trend has spread to many organizations, breaking down the walls that were (in theory) preventing workers from collaborating and communicating effectively. Even before the move to open offices, many organizations leveraged cubicles or other semi-private spaces as a primary work environment. As religious affiliation in the United States has grown more diverse, so have the needs of employees as they seek private places to conduct religious observances. One way to accommodate this need is to create dedicated quiet spaces—small private rooms to allow individuals to meditate, pray, or conduct other practices aligned with their cultural needs.