We know that diverse teams are more innovative, more likely to reflect a company’s client base, and more likely to foster an inclusive work environment.[1] On top of that—an especially important point in today’s labour market—younger workers prioritize diversity like no generation before.[2]

As it turns out though, hiring a diverse workforce is only the first step. To truly tap into the strength of diversity, organizations need to make sure all their employees feel included. And that means that everyone has to be able to bring their authentic selves to work.

For members of the LGBTQ+ community, that can be hard. For transgender employees in particular, it can be even harder.[3] Group advisors and plan sponsors were quick to figure this out, and it’s one of the reasons why we’ve gotten so many requests for more inclusive benefits. According to a November 2021 survey[4] of Desjardins Insurance’s business development teams, 60% of our salespeople have gotten multiple asks for gender affirmation coverage!

And so we added it to our plans. It was clear from the outset, however, that that was only half the battle. We identified a gap between the coverage offered to employees and the lack of resources available to employers, so we developed a toolkit to provide plan sponsors with the tools they need to support employees on a gender affirmation journey.

That’s an example of making group benefits more inclusive. And it’s one of the recommendations made by the Conference Board of Canada as part of a recent study funded by Desjardins Insurance called Future-Proofing Investments in Workplace Mental Health[5]. It found that to build inclusion and equity in the workplace, it’s important to engage equity-deserving groups and to consider adapting your benefits plans if you discover that what you’re currently offering doesn’t actually meet their needs.

This presents a truly a golden opportunity for forward-thinking companies. According to that same study, a whopping 85.1% of organizations do not offer customizable options to meet the needs of equity-deserving employees. And a mere 31% ask their employees what they would like included in their mental health and wellness initiatives. This suggests that many employers have a limited understanding of how to best support their employees.

So what can you do to make a change within your own organization? You can ask, and you can listen. Doing so can give you the tools you need to make changes to support the diversity within your organization.

A diverse, equitable and inclusive (DEI) work environment isn’t just a nice-to-have anymore. It’s now a business imperative, with companies everywhere increasingly seeing the value that a diversity of voices can offer.

Let’s make sure those voices are being heard.

[1] Forbes, 8 Reasons Why Diversity and Inclusion are Essential to Business Success, September 2020.
[2] Benefits Canada, Diversity, inclusion at work a priority for younger employees: survey, November 2020.
[3] McKinsey, Being transgender at work, November 2021.
[4] Desjardins Insurance, Business Development internal survey, November 2021
[5] Conference Board of Canada, Future-Proofing Investments in Workplace Mental Health, November 2022.

Desjardins Insurance refers to Desjardins Financial Security Life Assurance Company