Gone are the days of uniformity and one-size-fits-all solutions; businesses today need to champion the wellbeing of each and every individual, and seek and embrace diversity in their people like never before. 

Businesses across all sectors are recognising the value of catering to the diverse needs of employees, and implementing strategies to foster an inclusive culture where people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and backgrounds thrive.

From targeted recruitment efforts and diversity training programs, to accessible apprenticeships that appeal to those already in work, businesses are actively seeking to diversify their workforce.

WTW, a global organisation that helps businesses solve their people, risk and capital challenges, believes early career entrants are the succession pipeline for the future, and is changing its approach to recruitment to attract more diverse applicants to its growing apprenticeship scheme. Its aim is to make the route into financial services more accessible to create a more inclusive and diverse future for the sector.

Apprenticeships offer a rewarding pathway; attracting those who want an alternative to university, or to upskill or switch careers. At WTW, there are apprentices within a range of fields.

Rebecca, one of the apprentices at WTW.

The company recognises that the application process can be quite rigorous which is why they’ve made changes to allow more people through the door.

Meet the apprentices

Rebecca and Madalena both had jobs when they decided they wanted to work in HR and so they embarked on an apprenticeship through WTW. Gaining experience while learning and earning money at the same time was, for them, the perfect combination.

“I like the fact there’s a more personal aspect [to an apprenticeship],” says Rebecca, in our 2024 programme, Apprenticeships: Pathway to Success. “I have direct contact with my line manager; so, there’s someone who’s helping my progress and personally invested in my progress.”

WTW’s film is produced by the ITN Business commercial team and is not created by ITN news staff journalists.

Madalena agrees the level of support has been a huge positive. “There were clear instructions; the apprentice team were in touch regularly so we always knew the next steps of the process. We could ask questions, and they gave us tips when they could.”

“Because so much of it was online, I could do it in my lunchtime, too,” adds Rebecca. “The multiple steps were made much more accessible by not having to take time off work.”

Their UK Apprenticeship Lead Lesley Bamber says accessibility in recruitment is important, and that WTW is trying to attract applicants from more diverse backgrounds — which has its challenges, with a lack of representation in the financial services sector.

“The application has been simplified in recent years to make it as attractive and straightforward as possible,” she says, “but also making sure the calibre of the entrant is there.”

“The drive is to change the population within WTW and the financial services sector so it’s about bringing that difference of thought. So, people are brought in, developed, and they learn within their roles.”

After the insight sessions as WTW,  Abdul felt it was the best place for him, as opposed to university. He’s now on a level four insurance professional apprenticeship programme.

Left: Insurance apprentice Abdul; right: Lesley Bamber, the UK Apprenticeship Lead at WTW.

“It’s the responsibility you get from day one because you’re servicing clients from that very first day while still getting the support if you need it.”

Abdul says different networks have helped him meet new people. 

“The workplace culture is very inclusive. We have a lot of groups such as a young professional group, the I&D networks such as the LGBTQ+ community. So, there’s a lot more to get involved with, as well as the day to day work.

“Apprentices are moving into management and leadership positions,” Lesley explains. “We have apprentices that currently manage new apprentices and it’s to make sure they are the leaders of the future, to bring that different perspective to WTW.”

Wellbeing needs in the workplace

Businesses are proactively responding to the wellbeing needs of their employees, more than ever before. From mental health initiatives to flexible work arrangements, companies are implementing policies and programs designed to support the holistic wellbeing of their workforce. Research shows this not only enhances productivity but also fosters loyalty and retention. But do companies fully understand the needs of their employees?

According to a new report by HCML, a corporate health and wellbeing and specialist rehabilitation provider, there’s a distinct lack of understanding of different gender needs which is adding to workplace absence.

Over half of those surveyed said they needed more support from their employer to improve their health and wellbeing. 29% of women cited a desire for specific menopause support from their employers, while 51% of females want help and support with weight issues (versus just 25.9% of men). While 80% of men said they wanted help improving their productivity at work.

EXPLORE MORE: How to create a menopause friendly workplace

Sickness absences at highest level in a decade

Workplace absence is on the rise, post pandemic, with 7.8 days taken off in 2023 per employee, up from 5.8 in 2019 — an increase with significant financial consequences for businesses.

The report by HCML, which looked at how gender contributes to differing health and wellbeing needs in the workplace — and how employers should cater for these differences — revealed that those that did, would likely see staff staying in their roles for longer. 

“43.91% of women say they are more likely to stay in a job that offers health and wellbeing benefits such as nutrition and managing the menopause,” says Pamela Gellatly, the Strategic Development Director at HCML. “This signals that many women are thinking ahead when it comes to their health and wellbeing, and that employers who offer this type of support may see better retention with female employees.”

The report found that over half of employees currently look after their own health and wellbeing to boost mood and mental health, but this is more of a focus for women (56%) than men (49%).

“While workplace support has generally improved for female focused health concerns such as the menopause, there’s little support for the health conditions that men face with ageing,” says Pamela. “For example, falling testosterone levels as men age can lead to low mood, poor concentration and short-term memory amongst other symptoms, which can impact on absence and presenteeism. These symptoms can be alleviated through nutrition support and strength and conditioning, enabling men to take control of improving their health.”

The report revealed inconsistencies between what employers think to be the best solutions to safeguard employee health and wellbeing, and what employees actually feel would help support them.

Less than a third of employers offer some form of nutritional support for their employers, despite nearly half of employees saying this is an important factor for them to look after their health and wellbeing.

In conclusion, employers need to understand that a one-size-fits-all approach to corporate healthcare is by no means sufficient to safeguard a workforce.

To be a fully inclusive workplace, businesses need to recognise gender differences do exist in wellbeing needs; flexibility is key; and accessibility around solutions, and career progression opportunities, must be embraced, to create an environment where every employee feels valued and supported.

EXPLORE OUR UPCOMING PROGRAMME: The Future of Work: People, Culture & Tech

Having a perspective on how workforces and workplaces can prepare for changes that are inevitable will enable HR leaders and their teams to cultivate success. ITN Business will showcase how HR professionals can stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the latest developments across the employment field, in ‘The Future of Work: People, Culture and Tech’.

There are commercial opportunities for leading organisations to be featured in the programme and spearhead their own news item. If your organisation wants to share what you stand for and be part of this important conversation, please contact ITN Business’ Programming Directors Charlotte Lenman and James Salver.