EXCLUSIVE: Vertex: Work with D&I teams to build inclusive approach to benefits

Employee Benefits Live 2021: Working in partnership with diversity teams can help rewards professionals create benefits that are truly inclusive, advised Natalia Doxopoulos, associate director for total rewards at pharmaceutical company Vertex.

Addressing delegates at the second day of Employee Benefits Live 2021 at London’s ExCel, she discussed the need for a holistic package of benefits covering a global workforce of more than 33,000 people in over 20 countries.

“We embrace a culture that invites all employees to share their perspectives, discuss their visions and feel they have the space to speak up,” she said. “Equity and fairness is one of Vertex’ guiding principles and our total reward philosophy reflects this.”

Doxopoulos said employees’ expectations around reward had changed over the course of the pandemic, with more emphasis now on how their employer can “take care” of them and their families, now that the lines between home and work had been blurred.

As a global company, one of the challenges it faces is to streamline benefits but also ensure that they are aligned on a country-by-country basis. She cautioned that companies must also be mindful that simply lifting benefits and transposing them to every country might not always be the best option.

Listening to employees has helped Vertex to create a more individualised rewards approach, she added.

“Employee resource networks have been vital as we can ask them what they think is needed, where they think the gaps are. At the same time, they can let their members know what is available,” she said. “Transparency is so important when you’re talking about benefits.”

The support of the company’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity team has been valuable in terms of embedding inclusion into its reward strategy. The team advised on how Vertex’ reward brochure could be more representative of lesbian and transgender employees, for example.

“Inclusion has to be embedded into how we design our products as it has become part of everyday life. It’s not just the responsibility of HR, it’s the responsibility of the whole organisation,” she added.

Targeted communications has also helped improve engagement with the company’s total reward package. During Pride Month and Black History Month, for example, Doxopoulos and her team worked with employee resource networks to flag up mental health resources on offer, such as the Headspace mindfulness app.

A total reward statement page helps employees see what they are making use of and data analysis means the team can target staff with benefits they might like but don’t currently use.

“Trying different channels works too,” added Doxopoulos. “We sent postcards at the start of this year to remind people about the Headspace app with a download code and we often send brochures home so the whole family can see what is on offer.”

Challenging reward providers on how inclusive their benefits are could also be mutually beneficial, she advised. “We have educated our partners and helped their communications become more inclusive – this is a good opportunity for them to learn more,” she said.