There are many reasons why diversity in the workplace is something we actively seek to build. By definition, a diverse workforce encompasses the individuals protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act. In force since 1977, the act ensures equal opportunity to workers in Canada regardless of race, sex, gender identity, marital status, religious belief, disability and age. Beyond legislative requirements, representing our varied communities is best practice for many reasons including fostering creativity, retaining employees and accurately reflecting the marketplace.
There are challenges in leading a diverse organization. As an example, an employee base that is made up of many generations stimulates our thinking about what each generation sees as leadership and teamwork. It could even extend to a difference in societal attitudes and a disparity in skills and knowledge around using technology. Employers are therefore required to have a broader understanding of the needs of their team members so as to manage conflict and achieve productivity.
Five Generations: Our Workplace in the Present
We are evolving into a period where five generations are active in the workforce at the same time. With the increased number of people working beyond the legal retirement age due to expanded physical ability, need for financial wellbeing, or a desire to continue to contribute to society, this has seen us cast a wider net for citizens to join the workforce.
With that in mind, in addition to requirements for training (both employees and leaders), our recruitment and employee retention practices will require acknowledgement of the unique qualities of each generation. Hand in hand with that means building compensation as well as reward and recognition programs that appeal to each of those demographic profiles.
Designing the rewards and recognition programs to support both our potential as well as existing employees provides opportunities to differentiate our organizations and cultures, providing us with a competitive advantage through being more reflective of the shifting needs of our employee base.
In order to meet the expectations of a wider range of individuals who make up our employee populations, a need arises for increased innovations around how we allocate our resource budgets so as to be as beneficial to all parties as we can.
Benefit options are an example of how we can more closely align with the needs (and wants) of our employees.
3 Benefit Options that Support Diverse Employees
1. Implementing Health Care Spending Accounts
Does dental care or prescription coverage mean the same thing to the single employee at the start of their career; to the single parent who has school-age children; or the empty nester?
Employee motivation and satisfaction are derived from a range of diverse needs and can be best supported by bundles of different reward components.
Health Care Spending Accounts can be added to a traditional benefits plan or used as stand-alone benefits to allow for flexibility to use the funds for what is needed most. Wellness spending account can also allow employees to spend on wellness-related activities and products based on their preferences. This encourages greater employee engagement, allowing for a diverse range of employee needs to be addressed.
2. Leave Policies, Paid Time Off & Floating Holidays
Do our leave policies reflect the desired employees and their families have to take focused time for lifelong learning and education (however that is delivered) or travel or spending time with a growing family? What about the sandwich generation - those that have both children and ageing parents - and the ways we can assist in favourably impacting that stress?
Maternity and parental leave top-up payments may help attract and retain parents who are anticipating starting a family, along with daycare assistance that would be appreciated by working parents.
Floating holidays offer employees of varying cultural and religious backgrounds to take paid time off for cultural practices that don’t match the standard schedule. Where an employee might have to use vacation days to celebrate holidays that are important to them, floating holidays respect the needs of diverse employees and create inclusivity. Paid time off can be offered alongside floating holidays to attract employees with diverse religious backgrounds but will also be appreciated by working parents who prioritize a work-life balance and spending time with their children.
3. Flexible Schedules & Remote Work
Ditching the traditional work day in favour of flexible schedules can also help you retain working parents, older workers, and some disabled professionals.
Flexible schedules and remote work is an especially useful option for underrepresented groups such as disabled and retired professionals. Working from home allows for more accessibility and can eliminate challenges that come with commuting. As energy levels and sleep schedules vary with age, older employees may require different hours than their younger counterparts. Working parents would also benefit, as the time they save travelling to and from the office could be spent with their children instead.
Maintaining an engaged and productive workforce requires understanding, resilience and empathy. There are so many benefits in creating an environment that reflects and supports the communities we serve.
We need to uncover and explore as many ways as possible to contribute to the vibrancy of all our communities. Recognizing we are all, on many levels, the same but yet with an equal understanding that we have varying and differing needs is a good place to start.