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5 things your company can do right now to foster diversity and inclusion

In itself, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace is a worthy cause to create a more humane working environment. But if that weren’t enough, especially for a cost-conscious employer, it can also improve performance and innovation. According to a recent study, the most diverse companies are more likely to outperform their competitors financially. Businesses with diverse employees innovate at a faster rate. This is because diversity of thought frequently fuels new product development and opens everyone’s thinking to new pathways. So we’ve put together 5 things that your business can do right now to foster DEI and bolster your business’s performance.

1. Invite your employees to share their pronouns.

There are a few ways to go about this. Since most people have never been asked about their pronouns, many who may not use a traditional pronoun may not feel comfortable correcting their teammates. A simple way for your employees to get started is to include pronouns in an email signature. As emails travel through teams and organizations, employees are given a way to take note of and assimilate the use of their coworkers preferred pronouns.

You can also encourage employees to share their pronouns in other obvious places like their LinkedIn, Slack, and Zoom profiles. These initiatives can be a great first step to at building inclusivity and transparency in the workplace. They can also be a springboard for discussions on gender pronouns and why pronouns can be an important part of someone’s identity that should be respected.

It’s common to provide harassment and discrimination trainings, and some states even require companies to train their employees in these areas. But we also consider DEI training to be a necessity. Offering robust DEI training helps every employee to show up each day without fear of being their true selves. This results in higher degrees of engagement and performance. And when employees can come to work and feel empowered to be themselves, this can have an impact on revenue.

Your DEI training should raise awareness of concepts related to diversity and inclusion, for example explaining the differences between biological sex and gender identity. The training should also make space for diverse perspectives, driving collaboration and innovation in the workplace.

3. Ensure your health benefits cover domestic partners.

Most health insurance companies will cover a domestic partnership under certain conditions. You can empower your employees with education on the insurance and legal definitions of domestic partnerships. You can also help your employees take advantage of dependent coverage for domestic partners by offering to cover some portion of the premiums for your employees. Make sure to check with an accountant or HR professional for more information on this.

A domestic partnership is where you and your significant other are in a romantic relationship in which you live committed to one another. You must live together in a permanent residence and share basic financial responsibilities like those for food and shelter. This refers to different-sex and same-sex relationships equally.

Some states, such as Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, and Iowa, will see benefits provided to domestic partners as taxable to the employee. You can overcome this by providing proof on the most recent tax return of dependent status of a partner, and/or providing proof of shared financial responsibilities like receipts or notarized documents. In these cases, they generally won’t tax benefits. But be sure to research your state’s requirements and communicate these to your employees.

4. Offer parental leave to birthing and non-birthing parents.

In the U.S. there is no legislation requiring paid parental leave of any kind. Luckily, some states have begun mandating a certain period of coverage. And many successful businesses have implemented their own versions of parental leave. Netflix, for example, allows unlimited paid parental leave in the year following the birth or adoption of a child. Microsoft offers 12 weeks of full pay for both parents. Yet company leave policies can vary greatly.

Some businesses offer weeks to months of parental leave that covers the employee’s regular salary. Others offer parental leave at reduced pay, for example two-thirds. Some have no program for new parents, but birth mothers can use short-term disability benefits to take paid time off. We think you should extend your leave policy to include both parents, regardless of whether you offer 6 weeks, 3 months, or use disability benefits. Here are some of our ideas about coordinating these benefits.

5. If you’re in an office location, offer a gender-neutral restroom to allow for diversity.

Self-realization is a basic human need. By offering only gendered bathrooms, you could be forcing people into a decision that doesn’t align with their gender identity just because they need to use the bathroom. A gender-neutral restroom demonstrates to the team of employees that a company affirms the diversity of gender identities. Having only gender-specific bathrooms reveals to your employees that your organization doesn’t want to discuss diversity and inclusion. It creates, often unintentionally, an aggressive environment for non-traditional gender identities.

These five initiatives can be undertaken with relative ease. They take some planning, but we’ve found that they create a healthier environment for engagement and innovation. The benefits also far outweigh the effort of making change. At Suitless, we draw from the experience of many businesses across diverse industries. Reach out to us to learn how to make these things a reality, from adopting new policies in your employee handbook, to imparting DEI training, to creating a more inclusive and aware team.

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