The world of work today is very different to even 10 years ago, and so too are employee expectations. Traditional work and home life divides have diminished as a generation grew up connected by and accustomed to sharing their lives on social media. Work and home-life separation has also come under pressure as working parents struggle to achieve work-life balance and instead seek a new ‘work-life blend’.
All this means that employers have had to get better at welcoming the personal side of employees’ lives into the workplace. Those that took up this challenge discovered a new route to improving employee engagement: inclusion.
When someone is able to be their authentic self at work by being open about their sexual orientation, gender identity or mental health, and feels valued and included for who they are, a resilient bond is formed between employee and employer.
Small steps can make a big difference in creating an inclusive workplace. This can be as simple as a leader making a positive statement about mental health in a team meeting. Providing employee benefits that recognise the diversity of employees’ lives is also a very powerful way to communicate an organisation’s stance on inclusion.
Employers, for example, which offer a back-up care service to help when childcare, eldercare or adult care needs break down make a clear statement that they respect and support an employee’s whole life situation. Employers that ensure their private medical scheme meets the needs of transgender employees not only reduce trans employees’ access to treatment by at least 18 months, but confirm their commitment to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion more broadly.
These benefits are used when employees have exhausted other options, meaning the expense for businesses is often not significant. The impact on employee engagement, however, can be material.
Benjamin Fletcher is diversity and inclusion manager at Dentsu Aegis Network