Morgan Stanley strategies to revamp financial wellness benefits to be more LGBTQ inclusive | EBA
Inclusive benefits can be an effective tool in the fight for a fairer workplace, but employers can inadvertently discourage LGBTQ workers from participating in these programs due to the way the benefits are communicated.
Krystal Barker sees this all the time. As Head of Financial Wellness at Morgan Stanley, she recently helped an employer who wanted to offer financial wellness programs to their employees but were struggling to find a welfare company that didn’t alienate LGBTQ employees in its presentation.
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“You didn’t talk about higher planning costs for [LGBTQ] Families haven’t told them about the planning needs to be done whether you’re married or not, or whether the retired LGBTQ population has a safe place, ”says Barker. “All of these considerations were just ignored and the employees went back to their employer and said, ‘We felt like nobody was talking to us.'”
Rather than assuming that a benefit applies to all, it is important to look at the different segments of a company’s employees and ensure that a presentation of the benefits speaks for each community.
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“It’s so easy to become alienated,” said Jon Jensen, executive director of product management at Morgan Stanley and a member of the LGBTQ community. “Even if you don’t always say ‘you and your wife’, an LGBTQ employee can feel respected.”
Perhaps that is more important now than ever. Like many minority groups, the pandemic disproportionately affected LGBTQ employees, of whom, according to a survey by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in March 2020, their personal finances were “much worse” than in 2019. 53 percent of employers bid, according to the Society for Human Resource management has a financial wellness benefit, and the involvement of all employees in these benefits can not only improve well-being, mental health, and retirement planning, but also work toward shorter-term goals such as home buying and family planning.
“People don’t see how financial well-being overlaps so much with diversity, equity, and inclusion,” says Barker. “You want to bring in diverse talents, increase productivity and help create a more inclusive work environment. You can actually do this through a financial wellness program that has diversity, equity and inclusion. “
Making sure all employees feel seen and valued is a delicate balancing act that no employer can ever quite get right, says Barker. But every step forward is an important signal so that employees feel supported and can take advantage of the benefits offered.
“Employers need to be trained to respond to the needs of their employees,” she says. “Most companies have ERGs that employers can talk to and find out about their particular challenges. People are your greatest asset and it’s incredibly important to create an environment in which they can thrive.