Accelerating Innovation Through Diversity & Inclusion

By Jennifer Livingstone | June 3, 2019

Progress requires change, though it is not always easy. The insurance industry, notoriously known to be slow to adopt change, is in the midst of a significant transformation. Some may even call it a rebranding. Insurers and brokers alike are partnering — and making strides — in helping to meet the ever-evolving needs of customers and manage advancements in our society.

What is different today is the customers are demanding all companies, in all industries, meet them where they are in life and in the buying journey. The customer is more in control and driving change more than ever before.

As we use technology to speed up the transfer of information, accelerating the migration of data to the cloud and crafting new digital systems, significant opportunities have been created for businesses and their customers. New ways of working and living, such as the on-demand economy, are transforming industries. We now find ourselves in a 24-hour news cycle with social media and online reporting documenting the moves of every company and every leader. With these evolving realities, come new risk. The industry has been responding.

Diversity and inclusion have become one powerhouse behind the drive to change. It’s clear that diversity drives innovation. A classic Forbes study found workforce diversity and inclusion to be a key driver of internal innovation, as alternative perspectives challenge assumptions and lead to new approaches.

Again, the insurance industry responded. In 2016, carriers, brokers and others in the insurance industry came together to sign the Business Insurance Diversity + Inclusion Institute commitment statement — one that embraces diversity and inclusion in the commercial sector. When diversity and inclusion efforts are aligned across the entire organization, companies witness enhanced performance, greater employee retention and a stronger bottom line. Robust, proactive diversity and inclusion programs pave the way for a culture of innovation and opportunity for all.

While we’ve made great strides, there are several areas the insurance industry should focus on to elevate diversity and inclusion efforts, working toward the innovation that is needed in today’s changing environment.

Diverse Talent

Recruiting a more diverse workforce does not in itself shift workplace culture. Work processes must be modified to ensure inclusive practices. Leaders and employees need to understand and demonstrate inclusive behaviors. In order to retain diverse talent, organizations need to build and foster inclusive cultures. For some organizations, such as CNA, this has meant taking proactive and positive action to address culture and people. A systematic, multi-dimensional approach to D&I education, at events such as IICF’s Women in Insurance Global Conference, starting with the most senior level executives, is important. Additionally, employee training and targeted inclusive leadership education are incredibly important to attract and retain a diverse workforce.

Mentorship

This is a critical component to the overall success of a diverse workforce. A recent study, Insurance in Black and White, found that 73 percent of survey respondents said sponsorship or mentoring was the most important way for African Americans to propel their careers. Access and exposure are critical components to the success of talent. However, diverse talent is often at a disadvantage as their networks are not as broad. This is where effective networking and mentorship can assist diverse talent in appropriately connecting and developing business relationships that can help propel their careers and the innovations of their businesses.

New Skillsets and Education

This will allow the insurance industry to thrive in this new era. Skills focused on data and AI, which were not needed before, are table stakes today. Organizations need to think about how they create and design jobs, organize talent and promote them to bring in new hires. At the same time, we must also balance the need to maintain business as usual. In tech, for example, we need the new talent to help us go digital but also help maintain legacy systems.

When we achieve a more diverse workforce, we obtain greater access to fresh thinking and new perspectives. More inclusive cultures will stimulate innovation, enhance organizational reputation and employer brands as well as drive higher levels of engagement among employees. The insurance industry is making great strides in meeting customers’ changing needs. It is our joint efforts through technology innovation and employee innovation that are helping our industry — and in turn, our customers — to excel in a changing society.

About Jennifer Livingstone

Livingstone is the chief marketing officer for CNA.

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Insurance Journal West June 3, 2019
June 3, 2019
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