Equitable Engagement

Addressing health and well-being benefits literacy, implementing tailored communication approaches and ensuring that employees feel seen and represented in their benefits promotes engagement and can have a significantly positive impact on inclusion.

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October 31, 2023

Employers play a major role in setting the stage for health equity around the world.

Addressing health and well-being benefits literacy, implementing tailored communication approaches and ensuring that employees feel seen and represented in their benefits promotes engagement and can have a significantly positive impact on inclusion.

KEY EMPLOYER STRATEGIES

  • 1 | Enable employees and their family members to find, understand and engage in benefits that support their health and well-being.
  • 2 | Use trusted communication sources and context appropriate for people experiencing inequities.
  • 3 | Partner with employee resource groups (ERGs) to improve benefits and engagement.

Below are ideas for action related to each key strategy. Implementing a holistic approach - and when possible, a global approach - will promote equity and consistency throughout the organization.


1 | Enable employees and their family members to find, understand and engage in benefits that support their health and well-being.

  • Health and benefits literacy: Foster health and benefits literacy at an organizational and individual level. To enable employees to make well-informed decisions, follow leading practices for health literacy, such as:
    • Using conversational, plain people-first language and an active voice;
    • Sharing the most important piece of information first;
    • Communicating actionable next steps; and
    • Ensuring that communication channels are selected based on the audience.

    Employers are also uniquely positioned to promote benefits literacy by providing educational resources and tools that explain benefits basics, such as the meaning of terms like deductibles and out-of-pocket maximum in the U.S. Globally, modifying communication to meet local terminology (e.g., health cover) and cultural norms is a critical component to effective efforts.

    To learn more about health literacy, visit HHS’ Health Literacy website and/or listen to Business Group on Health’s podcast episode: Why the Message and Messenger Matter.

  • Advocacy and care coordination: Partner with health advocacy programs or care coordinators available through vendors and health systems to help navigate marginalized employees to high-quality providers and care and explain diagnoses and research treatment options, as well as coordinate care teams and provide emotional support.
  • Navigation: Utilize health care navigators to help employees make informed decisions and understand how to maximize plan features and minimize costs. Sophisticated platforms use AI and technology to personalize the experience for individuals by connecting members to culturally responsive providers and inclusive care. Still, employers need to look out for inequitable access and outcomes resulting from bias in AI algorithms and work closely with partners to ensure they disclose the ways AI is being used and identify and rectify potential biases or missteps.34 Lastly, using employee data, navigation platforms can proactively reach out to employees with personalized messages that encourage engagement based on their unique health care needs.

Large Employers in the U.S. are Leading the Way in Engagement

82% use navigation services to lead employees to higher quality sites of care/providers

62% have high-touch health concierge services

39% have a dedicated care navigation solution for marginalized populations

34% have an engagement platform

For more large employer benchmarks, review the 2024 Large Employer Health Care Strategy Survey Report.


2 | Use trusted communication sources and context appropriate for people experiencing inequities.

  • Trusted messengers: Partner with internal and external leaders who are trusted sources for various employee populations to share important health and benefits information. Generally, individuals prefer hearing information from people who look like them, share their lived experiences and speak their language. This approach can be particularly effective for global organizations seeking to engage employees across multiple countries and cultures.
  • Testimonials: Integrate lived experiences into communications and events to amplify the voices of marginalized individuals and engage communities.
  • Culturally relevant communications: Tailor resources and outreach to specific populations to ensure that employees facing disparities receive the information they need in an inclusive manner. Consider using omnichannel communications (where different communications channels, such as email, chat, intranet pages and engagement platforms, integrate to provide a seamless employee experience) and evaluate which types of communication are preferred by different employee groups. Also, collect feedback on communication preferences using surveys and focus groups to demonstrate company commitment to engaging employees sincerely and authentically. Lastly, when health and wellbeing vendors/partners send employee communications, employers can request metrics on target audience engagement and outcomes achieved to evaluate effectiveness.
  • Well-being champions: Take steps to ensure well-being champions represent the diversity of their workforce, are trained in DEIB and promote health equity priorities.

3 | Partner with ERGs to improve benefits and engagement.

  • Employee feedback: Solicit feedback from ERGs through surveys, focus groups and/or regular meetings to better understand the needs and experiences of various employee populations. Employers may also consider utilizing ERGs as a means for pilot testing new health equity-focused interventions/ programs to obtain buy in and ensure the intended outcomes are met before rolling out across the organization.
  • Communications reviews: Invite ERG leaders to review resources, tools and messages before disseminating them to ensure that the language and communication channels used are accessible and meaningful to the intended audience. Establishing regular feedback loops to improve the language until it meets the DEIB standards can provide a reliable mechanism to promote inclusive communication.
  • Co-hosted events: Collaborate with ERGs to co-host events that elevate health topics and how they uniquely impact various populations. ERGs often represent specific cultural, ethnic, or identity-based communities within the organization, so employers can consider collaborating with ERGs to plan cultural celebration events, such as heritage months, festivals or awareness days, to showcase the richness of diverse backgrounds.

Employers in Action

United Airlines’ Collaboration with ERGs to Develop its Health Equity Strategy: ERGs have played an instrumental role in United Airlines’ health equity strategy. With the intel and guidance ERGs provided, the company expanded its efforts to address more barriers to care than originally intended. Partnering with ERGs has also been important to developing effective communication campaigns related to health equity topics.35

Kohl’s Partnerships with Business Resource Groups for Health and Well-being: Kohl’s takes a strategic approach to collaborating internally to drive health and well-being priorities. The Chief DEI Officer, DEI team and Benefits team meet quarterly to discuss priorities and opportunities for collaboration. Additionally, there are semi-annual meetings with chapter leaders of business resource groups (BRGs) and the Benefits team. This allows for a two-way dialogue: BRG leaders bring feedback on the employee experience, needs and priorities related to benefits, and the Benefits team shares accurate, tailored information about current and coming benefits. Together they celebrate and host meaningful moments throughout the year such as a stigma-free pledge campaign, National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Pride activities and more.

More Topics

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Enable employees and their family members to find, understand and engage in benefits that support their health and well-being
  2. Use trusted communication sources and context appropriate for people experiencing inequities
  3. Partner with ERGs to improve benefits and engagement