DE&I initiatives belong in the workers’ comp world

It is well established that diversity and inclusion considerations are important to the attraction and retention of employees today. But how do these initiatives impact worker wellbeing? (Prostock-studio/Adobe Stock)

For the second year in a row, the Workers’ Compensation Institute (WCI) educational conference (happening Aug. 21-24, 2022 at the Orlando World Center Marriott) will showcase programing focused on topics related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB).

Why? Because DEIB plays a significant role in the workers’ compensation industry.

WCI recognizes its role in educating the workers’ compensation industry. To that goal, the conference aims to elevate awareness and provide tools to various organizations to help improve their ability to attract and retain diverse talent. That’s why WCI has again dedicated two sessions of the WCI educational conference to panel discussions on different topics relating to DEIB.

Given the level of stress and uncertainty facing workers, it’s important for employers and others in the workers’ compensation industry to understand practical methods to positively impact worker well-being.

DEIB efforts are a clear mechanism to improve a workplace culture and support employees.

Employee trust is all about “BE-longing.”

A term that has recently been added to the DEIB conversation is belonging.

When employees feel that they belong in an organization, they believe they can reach their full potential with that employer. Organizations should facilitate a sense of belonging and build trust so that their employees believe their leadership supports them and wants to see them succeed.

Trust can also lead to psychological safety, an important component of a workplace in which employees feel safe raising concerns and ideas on all topics. It becomes more difficult to create a culture of trust if the environment is not diverse or inclusive. For example, if an employee is the only person of color in a work meeting where ideas are being shared, that employee may feel less comfortable presenting innovative solutions.

Employee trust can help reduce extended disability and litigation.

When employees believe that they belong, they feel connected to their employment. Therefore, if such an employee is injured on the job, they may be more likely to remain engaged and invested in their recovery and successful return to work.

Litigation also may be less likely because of the existing trust and honest communication that has been fostered throughout the employment relationship.

Three steps to create a culture of belonging

Step 1: Be intentional and purposeful about allyship.

An employer can be intentional and deliberate about actions that demonstrate they value and support employees of all backgrounds. In today’s unpredictable environment, employers can provide a caring community that helps employees deal with the upheaval in the news, social media, politics and more.

Step 2: Be creative and accepting of different ideas.

It is also helpful to be creative and pursue different ideas to boost social and emotional connection in the workplace. That connection is an important component of belonging and will ensure employees have a support network in place if an injury or other unexpected event occurs.

Step 3: Be proactive and consistent with communication.

Organizations should be proactive and not simply reactive to a particular incident. Employers need to recognize that building trust is an ongoing process. It is imperative to build employee trust through continued, regular supportive communication and initiatives.

These three steps can help an organization begin its journey to improve their employees’ sense of belonging. The benefits of investing in DEIB can include higher employee morale, better retention and connectedness, which in turn can help combat extended disability and litigation.

Julia Oltmanns is director of Workplace DEI Services at Zurich Resilience Solutions. Sabrina T. Mitchell is assistant vice president of Claims at  PMA Companies Melissa A. Volk is an attorney and partner at Mcconnaughhay, Coonrod, Pope, Weaver & Stern, P.A. And Elise White is a  Business Practices & Project consultant in the Claims Strategy & Innovation department of Zurich North America.

These opinions are the authors’ own.

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