I often talk about the importance of building equity, but equity is not just about salary or promotional cycles. Equity must be built not only in the foundations of your business, but in your vendors and processes. Too often equality focuses on how we hire, but not on how our employees exist, thrive and live outside our office walls.
Equity must exist in every corner of your organization. Capital is not divided like a pie; there is room for all of us. Capital demand is not at the expense of others.
Equity is more than pay – our survival depends on it.
Your diversity, equality and inclusion journey doesn’t stop with the ability to hire and retain people. Your efforts and strategy should go beyond your ability to recruit; it should live within every fiber of your organization—including your benefits. Too often we advertise our benefits in our job descriptions, our offer letters and our careers pages, but do we ever explain what those benefits mean? Do we explain why our benefits are benefits, or are we focused on the perception we give others of having our benefits?
Diversity, equality and inclusion work needs to be intentional and we need to be intentional about our processes, policies and benefits. It’s not just about getting diverse people to the table, but 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 about how confident people felt navigating health insurance and 56 percent of people felt “completely lost.” Another 61 percent of people incorrectly defined what the health insurance premium was. We have not properly educated people about health insurance and the landscape is far from equal.
You may be asking yourself, “Why does this matter?” This matters because to achieve equity, we must scale back and examine how all of our systems affect our people. Historically and currently, marginalized communities are the ones most affected by gaps in health care and insurance. A McKinsey report found that black, Hispanic and Latino, Asian, and LGBTQ+ workers — even those with high salaries — are less likely to get the care they need. He also said that historically ignored employees will be more likely to switch employers for better benefits options.
Is it really a health benefit if your population avoids its use? Is it really a benefit if it causes more stress than health?
These misunderstandings and errors in health insurance education are costly. They not only cost our people and our organizations money, but they also cost people their health. According to a whitepaper study by Healthee, 73 percent of employees do not fully understand how to navigate their health benefits. People also reported putting off filling needed prescriptions for fear of financial burden and consequences.
If we want to protect equality and inclusion within our organizations, we must be willing to take a more holistic approach. We can’t just focus on how we hire and promote. We must have a special interest in the health of our employees.
According to the CDC, “health equity is achieved when everyone has an opportunity to ‘reach his or her full health potential’ and no one is ‘disadvantaged from reaching that potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.’ “.
We are not there yet.
Access to health care is a basic right, but so is understanding the system. Too often we give people summaries of benefits and read them as if they all understand what we’re saying. How often do we think about 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 second-guessing my coverage and doctor appointments. Even experts sometimes don’t feel like experts.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, employers paid an average price 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 recruiters’ pockets ours. If we are paying so much for these benefits, shouldn’t we understand the exact offers we are promising our candidates?
Being nice to people is not only the right thing to do, but also for business.
In a world where the candidate experience is vital and the Great Resignation is happening all around us, we have no room for error in our package offers. Our ability to deliver equitable, transparent and human 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 theirs.
As a leader of people, I know how the phrase “enrollment in benefits” can make us want to run for the hills, but it’s an essential part of equality. Having health care does not necessarily mean having access to health care, and this drives inequitable health outcomes.
Equity should look like 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 this?
• Invest in tools and resources to educate and empower your people to make the best decisions for themselves.
• Create benefits programs that include everyone, not just dominant identities.
• Be intentional with your benefits and know that doing the right thing will often cost more money.
• Identify the missteps and damage that has been done by your current benefits offerings and acknowledge them out loud.
• Know that benefits are only a benefit if people can use them.
Harness the power of health equity and set your team up for success when it comes to benefits.