Office worker cutout By 2021, thevast majority of the more than 500 employers surveyed will haveassessed how well their diversity and inclusion objectives havebeen incorporated within their workplace. (Photo:Shutterstock)

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Diversity and inclusion have become increasingly importantacross a wide range of initiatives for more and more employers,according to Willis Towers Watson's 2019 Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey.

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By 2021, the vast majority of the more than 500 employerssurveyed will have assessed how well their diversity and inclusion objectives have beenincorporated within their workplace culture and policies (85percent of respondents are planning to have done that by 2021);benefit programs (81 percent); employee pay (78 percent); andwell-being programs (77 percent).

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Top inclusion and diversity priorities over the next three yearsinclude incorporating those objectives into financial planninginitiatives around enhancing health, emergency savings and retirement (37 percent);core medical and/or pharmacy benefits (30 percent); maternity andfamily planning/infertility benefits (27 percent); and mentalhealth and substance abuse treatment (27 percent).

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Related: Employers failing to take action on employees'mental health

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“Employers today understand the importance of inclusion anddiversity for their talent and business performance more than anyprevious point in history,” says Rachael McCann, Willis TowersWatson's senior director of health and benefits, Willis TowersWatson.

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“They also recognize that inclusion and diversity cannot existin a vacuum,” McCann says. “It needs to be built for eachorganization's unique and diverse workforce and woven into thefabric of their culture, benefits, pay and workplace policies.”

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The most important factor behind the increased focus onpromoting diversity and inclusion is to attract and retain talent,cited by 82 percent of respondents, followed by to drive employeeengagement (62 percent); address goals of senior leadership (34percent); support brand and talent value proposition (31 percent);modernize workforce, pay and benefits (27 percent); enable talentexpansion (20 percent); improve environmental, social andgovernance metrics (8 percent); address goals of the company'sboard of (6 percent); and manage/reduce litigation risks (6percent).

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“The need to recruit, retain and engage diverse talent in ahighly competitive labor market will only accelerate activity overthe coming years,” McCann says. “Yet, it isn't the only reason. Wealso expect other advantages, such as broader perspectives, betterenvironmental, social and governance metrics, stronger brandrecognition and improved corporate sustainability to deepenorganizations' commitment to inclusion and diversity.”

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.