The racial reckoning of recent months has raised the bar for
business leaders. It is no longer enough for them to simply understand that a
diverse group of employees, managers, executives and board members creates
better results. They need to have the commitment and motivation to act as well
as the fortitude and patience to improve the work environments they oversee. Whether
it is diversity in age, ethnicity, religion, identity or gender, companies that
support a diverse and inclusive culture will find greater success than those
that do not.
And the data proves it. Articles from McKinsey
Consulting Group (BCG) highlight how revenue, profit and performance are
impacted by diversity and inclusion (D&I), and these numbers are
According to BCG, companies with diverse management teams
experienced a 19% increase in revenue, compared to others with less diversity. McKinsey
also reports racially and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to
When D&I intersect with one another, good things happen.
So, across the insurance industry, how are its leaders responding to the events
of recent months and ensuring their employees are engaged in creating a more
diverse culture that fosters inclusion and innovation?
Where We Stand
While there is still plenty of work to do, George Floyd’s
death and the protests that ensued elevated the critical conversations taking
place in the insurance industry around D&I and added a sense of urgency. We
have also realized we have much to unlearn and relearn about leadership,
understanding people across a spectrum of differences, and thinking about bias
and equity in different ways.
Recent events have exponentially ratcheted up efforts by the
insurance industry to build its talent agenda and understanding of cultural
issues. The industry has continued to make changes and adopt technology and
strategies that create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Management is
also tying these initiatives directly to company strategies and missions.
Smart leaders are thoroughly examining their talent
practices and the experiences of their employees. They are analyzing their
workforce to assess where their talent comes from, how people move through the
organization, what levers work best to retain people, and what employees experience
while at the organization.
Many in the industry have also been working collaboratively
to foster diversity by forming partnerships
with groups like Gamma lota Sigma, a business fraternity tailored to students
interested in pursuing careers in insurance, risk management and actuarial
science, and the National African American Insurance Association. Additionally,
networking organizations and events such as those sponsored by the Insurance
Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) bring together a community of people and
organizations focused on targeted initiatives that provide business and
networking opportunities and advance D&I, which result in real business
Insurance industry consortiums allow for businesses and
associations to share best practices, discuss challenges and problem solve
together. By working with associations advancing the cause of D&I,
insurance companies are working to become more socially responsible. And social
responsibility is a key factor in attracting talent just entering the workforce
or who are early in their careers.
Tapping Talent for the Future
For the insurance industry, branding has been an issue that
has led to a talent gap in the space. As today’s insurance professionals
retire, it is imperative that the industry attract additional talent with
different skills, backgrounds and ideas.
People in the millennial and Gen Z generational cohorts are attracted
to jobs that give them a purpose. They are also drawn to companies that live up
to their social responsibility to create a better world. With both generations
being more ethnically diverse than the ones before them, these new members of
the workforce are looking for jobs where D&I is a priority. Insurance
organizations that want to be seen as employers of choice must act in kind.
Leaders must realize that creating a diverse, innovative and inclusive
environment for employees is crucial to attracting new talent.
In turn, these new entrants bring with them innovative ideas,
unique backgrounds and individual beliefs. Combined, these attributes only
further the company’s efforts to establish a workplace that draws in the
skilled employees it is looking for, while continuing to champion the goals of
D&I. A broad slate of candidates being recruited to an insurance company
means. It makes a difference in the workplace. A diverse team also benefits the
business by bringing a broad range of skills and abilities that allow them to resolve
issues much more creatively.
Leading by Example
None of this is possible without adoption at every level of
the corporate ladder. From C-suite executives through interns fresh out of
school, if a company wants a more diverse and inclusive workplace, everyone
must play a role.
More and more C-suite executives in the insurance industry
are prioritizing D&I initiatives and holding their organizations
accountable for creating inclusive workspaces. It is important not only for
these leaders to make (and keep) commitments and pledges that are aspirational,
but also to encourage complex conversations surrounding diversity and
innovation within the industry.
Before engaging in the conversation, CEOs and other C-suite
executives looking to do more to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce may
want to first consider thinking about their own personal diversity story.
They may ask questions like “Why is diversity and inclusion
important to me? To my team? To my business?” and “How does innovation affect
the way our company grows?” After reflecting on their personal experiences, doing
their own research and formulating their thoughts, these leaders can then have
honest conversation with their teams of employees.
It is vital that these leaders be open and authentic during
these conversations. Being humble and vulnerable during these discussions makes
it real to employees and will encourage them to engage in the discussion.
Active listening has to be a priority across the board. Enabling an environment
that promotes candor and transparency will build better bridges among the team
that lead to the most impactful changes throughout the organization.
Starting these conversations without providing context will
be a fruitless endeavor, however. Employees must know why they are doing what
they are doing. They must understand why these conversations around D&I are
being had and how they tie into the business’s goals and success. It requires two-way
listening, interaction and give and take on all sides. The conversation may be
challenging, but it will be more effective with these components.
The insurance industry, at its core, is about helping people
in their time of need as well as showing compassion, understanding and having a
purpose. This big picture perspective is not far off from what is at the core
of D&I. It is about a personal connection to unite across differences. And
it is why the D&I perspective is so closely related to what insurance
professionals care about.