Diversity masterclass: the 3 lessons you can’t miss

In our increasingly globalized job market, companies from around the world compete to attract and retain top talent, but like the international population, they are a part of, these employees don’t fit one single description. The best candidate for your company could be male or female, single or a parent, heterosexual or part of the LGBT community…

So how can companies create Benefits and Rewards Services that effectively attract this talent pool and reward, recognize and inspire diversity among all employees? We scoured the marketplace and found trailblazing companies that are leading the way.

Here’s what we learned:

Lesson #1: Providing the same benefits across the employees is simply the right thing to do.

While same-sex couples have been winning hard-fought equality battles around the world -- notably the landmark ruling in the US legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015, or most recently Australia doing the same this past year -- many in the LGBT community still await this win. But that hasn’t stopped Barclays in Hong Kong from broadening the scope of its benefits package to meet the needs of all its employees. Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Hong Kong, so the British multinational bank decided to extend its wide range of employee benefits-- including medical and dental coverage, paternity and maternity leave and bereavement leave -- to the same-sex domestic partners of its employees.

Likewise, Google, a trailblazer in its own right, also took a stand for its LGBT employees -- far before the US Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Prior to the ruling, domestic partners benefitting from their partners’ healthcare coverage were subject to an extra tax that was not levied against heterosexual coupled. While the company couldn’t change the law, they went around it, and paid the tax for its employees. According to Google’s VP of People Operations Laszlo Block, the initiative did cost some extra money, but in the end “it was more about doing the right thing,” he told the New York Times.

Lesson #2: Remember that your employees are a crucial part of someone's family

In the hustle and bustle of the business world, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that your employees have needs outside the workplace. They may live with a disability, they could be caregivers to their aging parents, they may be raising a family on their own or they may be a part of the growing Sandwich Generation. According to researchers, roughly 25% or millennials are Sandwichers -- or the group of individuals who simultaneously take care of their parents as well as young children. And given that 84% of new mothers are millennials, this trend will only escalate in the years to come.

Don’t overlook this crucial point! Instead, forward-thinking companies have an important role to play here by offering employee assistance programs, flexible schedules and concierge services can help them to manage their daily lives and even keep them more focused and engaged when they are at work.

Schwab offers employees up to $5,000 a year for child care expenses and schooling. Likewise, with the goal of easing the burden for caretakers, Deloitte, a global professional services firm, updated its benefits policy last fall, providing all employees with up to 16 weeks of paid time off to care for either children or other ailing family members.

And Google, once again stepped up and offered employees a generous parental leave plan, helped pay for adoption fees and even provided a stipend for take-out and delivery food during the first few challenging months of parenthood. The company notably provided all these benefits to parents regardless of gender or marital status.

Lesson #3: Balance the scales, reap the benefits

Gender is perhaps one of the biggest buzzwords in the diversity and inclusion discussion. And for good reason! Gender diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to outperform other companies; gender-balanced teams outperform other teams by 80 percent; and companies with more women on the board outperform others over a long period of time. While these types of statistics have become widely acknowledged, many industries still remain heavily male-dominated --, especially at the top. For example, in the UK financial industry, women make up roughly 23 percent of board members, yet they only account for 14 percent of the executive committee. In an effort to tip the gender scales, the UK government launched a charter challenging companies to tie their executives’ salaries to gender balance targets. Since its launch in 2016, several major players including Virgin Money, Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays, HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland have since signed on.

Similarly, Sodexo promotes gender balance within the company as a continuation of its long term commitment to diversity, inclusion and mixity. The Group calculated the 2017 bonuses of its executives based on the gender diversity of their teams. The goal is to increase the representation of women from 33% today to 35% by 2020 to reach 40% by 2025.

In the near future, experts and diversity advocates expect that these types of initiatives will catch on and have a ripple effect throughout the international business community. So, to all the high-profile companies and market leaders, the question is quite simple: are you an industry leader or a follower?