DE&I focus: The role of rewards in workplace diversity and inclusion

Last month, we looked at the role of employee wellbeing strategies in driving DE&I. This month, we shift the focus onto how your rewards strategy can do the same.

If you’re an HR or reward manager, aligning the benefits you offer to your diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) strategy is probably high on your agenda. But what does a truly inclusive rewards strategy look like?

There’s no definitive answer to this question. Every organisation, and its workforce, is unique. The road to true inclusivity lies in meeting the diverse range of needs within each one. But there are some general pointers that we can all consider, as we collectively make the move toward championing DE&I in everything we do.

One size doesn’t fit all

Workforces are becoming increasingly diverse, which means there’s no ‘one-size fits all’ approach when it comes to delivering rewards and benefits – whether financial or more geared toward offering health support. People have differing needs at different stages of their lives: think of someone living in a house share, versus someone juggling work and family life, or even someone thinking towards their own retirement.

These are all generalisations, but they highlight just how different we all are, and how different our financial and healthcare needs might be at any given time in our lives.

To attract and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce, reward programmes need to take into account the needs of individuals rather than just employees as a collective. They should be flexible and adaptive enough to cater for a wide range of needs and circumstances.

Ask people what they want to see more of

The best way to build rewards and benefits that hit the right mark is to involve the people they’re aimed at. Listening forums and informal drop-ins are a great way to engage employees in conversation and find out what they want – or don’t want – from their benefits package. By including employees in the conversations that help shape the future of what’s on offer, you also help to create a workplace where employees feel valued and listened to.

The pandemic has changed the nature of the rewards landscape – gone are the days when financial incentives automatically led the way. Over the past two years, there’s been a positive shift toward delivering more “people centric” rewards that seek to improve quality of life – not just bank balances. By talking to your employees, you’ll find out what their priorities are, and whether they would be connected to rewards around (for example) family and childcare, mentorship or equal opportunities.

Helping people understand what’s on offer

One challenge a lot of our clients come to us with is around reward and benefit engagement levels. They’ve carried out feedback sessions, they’ve asked colleagues what great support looks like to them. And it turns out, a lot of it is already in place – they just aren’t aware of where to find it!

Say, for example, your colleagues express an interest in resources to help them better manage their finances. You already have these wrapped up in your Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). But there’s a disconnect – your colleagues know your EAP is there to support their mental health, but have no idea about the financial wellbeing assistance also on offer.

This is where your communications strategy comes into play. You could have the most amazing range of benefits in place, designed to support a wide range of needs – but if your people don’t know where to find them, then it’s a wasted effort.

Embrace difficult conversations

Talking about DE&I and employee rewards can naturally bring some difficult subjects to the surface. Conversations around gender, sexuality, race, disability or inequality can feel difficult to tackle, but tackling them is ultimately the only way to progress.

For example, if analysis of your data shows there is a marked gender or ethnic pay gap within your organisation, own it and have those all-important (if uncomfortable) conversations about how you’ll address it. The Government is still deciding whether companies must legally report ethnicity pay gaps in the same way they do gender ones, but socially responsible companies are ahead of the curve and already doing so.

There’s something incredibly authentic about sharing your commitment to being a more diverse and progressive organisation, that rewards everyone fairly. And while it might not feel like the most positive message to relay to your own employees, if you’re making a public declaration to do better, and it’s tied to an internal commitment to be more diverse and inclusive, then it ultimately shows them you’re committed to taking DE&I seriously, rather than just talking the talk.

Finally, remember that DE&I conversations are ongoing within every organisation, and that means looking at the role your benefits and rewards have to play will be ongoing, too. As long as you keep listening to your colleagues about what’s important to them, and keeping lines of communication open around what’s on offer, you’re on the right track.


Want to find out how you can link your rewards and DEI strategies with effective communication? Then communicate with us! And be sure to tune in next month for our DEI focus on workplace culture.

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