I often speak about the importance of building for equity, but equity isn’t just about payouts or promotion cycles. Equity must be built not only into the foundation of your business, but also into your suppliers and processes. Too often, fairness focuses on how we hire, but not how our employees exist, how they thrive, and how they live outside our office walls.
Equity must exist in every corner of your organization. Equity is not divided like a pie; there is room for all of us. The demand for fairness is not at the expense of others.
Fairness is more than pay: our survival depends on it.
Your diversity, equity, and inclusion journey doesn’t stop with the ability to hire and retain people. Your efforts and strategy must extend beyond your ability to recruit; it should live within every thread of your organization, including its benefits. Too often, we promote our benefits in our job descriptions, our offer letters, and on our job sites, but do we ever explain what those benefits mean? Do we explain why our benefits are benefits, or do we focus on the perception we give to others by having our benefits?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion work must be intentional, and we must be intentional about our processes, policies, and benefits. It’s not just about getting diverse people to the table, it’s about giving them the tools they need to survive, the tools they need to understand our policies, processes, and benefits.
In 2021, Forbes conducted a study on how confident people felt navigating health insurance, and 56 percent of people felt “completely lost.” Another 61 percent of people incorrectly defined what a health insurance premium was. We haven’t adequately educated people on the ins and outs of health insurance, and the picture is far from equal.
You may be asking yourself, “Why does this matter?” This is important because to achieve fairness, we need to step back and examine how all of our systems impact our people. Historically and today, underserved communities are the ones most affected by gaps in health care and insurance. A McKinsey report found that Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian and LGBTQ+ employees, even those with high salaries, are less likely to receive the care they need. She also said historically overlooked employees will be more likely to change employers for better benefits options.
Is health care really a benefit if its population avoids using it? Is it really a benefit if it causes more stress than health?
These misunderstandings and failures in health insurance education are costly. Not only do they cost our people and our organizations money, but they also cost people their health. According to a study by Healthee, 73 percent of employees don’t fully understand how to navigate their health benefits. People also reported putting off filling necessary prescriptions for fear of financial burden and consequences.
If we want to champion equity and inclusion within our organizations, we must be willing to take a more holistic approach. We can’t just focus on the ways we hire and promote. We must have a personal interest in the health of our employees.
According to the CDC, “Health equity is achieved when everyone has the opportunity to ‘achieve their full health potential’ and no one is ‘disadvantaged in achieving this potential because of status or other socially determined circumstances.'”
We are not there yet.
Access to health is a fundamental right, but so is understanding the system. Too often we give people an overview of benefits and read them as if everyone understands what we’re saying. How often do we consider whether we are answering the questions that matter?
As leaders of people, it is our responsibility to not only make healthcare accessible but also easy to navigate. As an executive, I often find myself questioning my own coverage and doctor’s appointments. Even experts sometimes don’t feel like experts.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, employers paid an average premium of $7,188 for individual coverage and $20,576 for family coverage in 2019. Benefits are expensive, a valuable part of the packages we offer new candidates, and invaluable tools in the pockets of our recruiters. . If we are paying so much for these benefits, shouldn’t we understand the exact offers we promise our candidates?
Being nice to people isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s good for business.
In a world where the candidate experience is vital and the Great Renunciation happens all around us, we have no room for mistakes in our package offerings. Our ability to deliver equitable, transparent and humane experiences that keep people healthy is the only thing that will set us apart. At the end of the day, people don’t care about our happy hours, endless hummus, or office perks; they care about how we empower them to live better, how we empower them to take control of their health and their future.
As people leaders, I know how the phrase “benefit enrollment” can make us want to run for the hills, but it’s a crucial piece of fairness. Having health care does not necessarily mean having access to health care, and this leads to uneven health outcomes.
Equity should resemble access.
We need to empower our people to take full advantage of their health benefits and take control of their health. So how can we do that?
• Invest in tools and resources to educate and empower your people to make the best decisions for themselves.
• Create benefit programs that encompass everyone, not just dominant identities.
• Be intentional about your benefits and know that doing the right thing will often cost more money.
• Identify the missteps and damage your current benefit offer has caused and acknowledge them out loud.
• Know that benefits are only a benefit if people can actually use them.
Harness the power of health equity and set your team up for benefits success.