The latest Bupa Global Executive Wellbeing Index reveals that one in four UK executives believes clear strategies around diversity and inclusion are crucial for employee wellbeing.1 We know varied teams that reflect the broad demographic of an organisation’s customers make better decisions, and new research focused on the venture capital industry shows they also make better investments.2
The Bupa Global Wellbeing Index also found that diversity improves financial performance, with 28% of senior executives believing greater diversity and inclusion help businesses thrive.3 But how can companies ensure they have the resources and systems in place to deliver real equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI)? And will EDI bring any benefits in terms of employee health and wellbeing?
Equality and equity: what’s the difference?
Equality is treating everyone the same, giving them the same stool to stand on regardless of their height. Equity is providing solutions that create the same experience, giving stools of different heights, so everyone gets the support they need for their height. And inclusion is taking down the fence blocking the view.
Catherine Goddard, founder of Compelling Culture, a consultancy which helps organisations develop sustainable change, is convinced there are benefits across the board. She explains, “When people feel involved, valued and heard, they are happier, healthier human beings. Teams are more creative, more innovative, and better at problem solving, which is obviously better for the business, the staff, and customers.”
Effective EDI strategies also ensure managers are equipped to support colleagues who may be struggling with major life events such as fertility treatment, menopause, domestic abuse, PTSD, or gender dysphoria that are impacting their mental health.
Five steps for employers to get it right
Catherine says a common pitfall is to focus on diversity, and in doing so, understate the importance of inclusion. She suggests five steps to ensure work practices are truly fit for purpose:
- Make sure there is a mix whenever you are putting a group of people together
- Once you have that mix, make sure everyone feels safe and is invited to join the conversation
- Go beyond your usual go-to people and deliberately seek out multiple perspectives
- Ask, ‘what would make people feel included?’ You can do this through engagement surveys or one-to-one conversations, after a meeting for instance you might say to someone, ‘I know you have some great ideas and didn’t get a chance to speak. Is there anything I can do differently in our meetings?
- Get to know people who are not like you, as it’s likely that you’ll find you have more in common with them than your differences
In the context of health and wellness, there are also issues around individuals with specific needs such as fertility treatment, menopause and mental health support. Some groups are also at higher risk of specific conditions. For instance, people from Black African, African Caribbean and South Asian backgrounds are more likely to develop type-2 diabetes at a younger age,4 and studies show LGBT people are at increased risk of mental health problems.5
Dr Naveen Puri, the Associate Clinical Director of Bupa Health Clinics says, “Age- and organ-specific cancer screening is an important employee benefit, but for people who are transgender, or have gender dysphoria, this relates to the very organs at the heart of their dysphoria.”
“Some people will have concerns about outing themselves as transgender, or the reaction of clinicians, or be unclear about what screening they need. In the UK an individual’s legal sex is that which was recorded at birth, and not all transgender individuals will seek to change this on official documentation.”
Dr Puri says, “employers can encourage all eligible individuals to take up health assessments, with the knowledge that in doing so each employee will be offered age- and organ- specific screening, regardless of their legal sex, and regardless of which health assessment they book into – a doctor will provide all the necessary screening that is available to each employee as an individual.
“For instance, doctors will know that all trans women and biological men with a prostate should be offered age-appropriate prostate screening as the prostate is not removed in gender reassignment surgery. Similarly, trans men who have not had the cervix removed, should be offered a cervical smear test.”
Apart from providing this sort of positive support, many employers see healthy, happy and engaged staff as a high priority simply because it’s the right thing to do. Employers also have a responsibility under Management of Health and Safety at Work regulations to protect their teams. As Alistair Dornan, Director of Organisational Wellbeing at the risk management firm, Gallagher, points out, “Businesses cannot afford to overlook the mental wellbeing, or the health and safety more generally of their employees.
“Not only does it make good business sense to take action to protect employees’ health and mental wellbeing, employers may also find themselves liable and at risk of a claim being brought against them, if it can be proved they’ve been negligent.”6
And while it spans complex issues, Catherine believes effective EDI is actually quite simple. “It’s about putting humans at the heart of everything you do, and everything you do being grounded in respect and fairness. “The most significant question any line manager can ask is, ‘What is it you need? How can I help you?’. Quite often the individual knows what they need, but there may be something internally that they don’t know how to access.”
This might be something as simple as highlighting access to Bupa Health Assessments and Be. Well. We also provide benefits and support for gender dysphoria. As Catherine says, the most important step is to start a conversation – whether it’s with your managers, teams, or Bupa.