There has never been a better time for the insurance profession to begin deepening the conversation around diversity and inclusion (D&I).
In fact, there has never been a better time to capitalize on the fact that the industry has started to focus on the critical importance of inclusion as a driver of business success. Inclusion means providing an environment where everyone can thrive and excel. A diverse workforce helps bring the innovation and expertise needed to achieve business goals while keeping you ahead of the competition.
Some of the revolutionary initiatives we’ve seen adopted globally—such as HeForShe, Insuring Women’s Future, Inclusion@Lloyd’s and the global Dive In festivals—are driving unprecedented levels of D&I awareness.
While we have to celebrate how far we have come in the global insurance profession, gender pay reporting this year in the U.K. demonstrated that bias still exists against women in our organizations. The pay gap in finance and insurance is 22 percent, which is second only to the construction sector at 25 percent.
U.K. companies, charities and public sector bodies with more than 250 employees were required to submit their gender pay figures in April. Whatever your views on the way the gender pay gap was calculated, we can’t escape the scientific fact that the reporting flagged glaring and latent inclusion issues in companies across the profession—issues that are mirrored across the industry globally.
Measuring standard diversity outputs, or focusing on specific populations, is critical but no longer enough. In order to drive inclusive cultures that change the face of insurance globally, we must get our arms around the whole organization. That means appealing to and embracing those populations that we risk alienating by our approach to diversity: the middle-aged white population of both men and women, or typical leaders and managers.
Recent research by EY revealed that a high proportion of men feel they will be overlooked for their next promotion in favor of a “diverse” candidate. The feelings of fear this belief causes are not spoken out loud. The impact is far more likely to be toxic—and hidden. This makes dealing with it difficult and could slow our progress toward an inclusive workplace.
In my experience as a culture change specialist, we have to take one of two options: We either continue as we are, or we look to add more dimensions to the conversations. Conversations need to drive understanding, offer facts, and demonstrate just how inclusion and diverse workplaces are nothing to fear but rather offer security, improved decision-making, smooth digitalization and more innovative solutions.
Taking Steps to D&I
First, we need to identify how we define D&I. I have seen many definitions that can only be described as “woolly.” We must be clear about the difference between each and how one begets the other. We must understand why we should be creating inclusive workplaces where all capable comers can play a role.
These include neurodiverse talent (people with different behavioral styles and working preferences) and millennial digital disrupters (who may not want to work in a traditional office, dress as you do or work the way that you do).
If this was simple, we’d all be doing it.
One recent example of the complexity of creating these changes is an initial engagement with one of our now longstanding insurance clients—a carrier seeking to drive digital disruption in the sector. The carrier was excited about having acquired a fintech company to support its ambition. However, the company was far from providing an environment where difference was embraced.
I was bemused to see the disrupters were stuck in a glass hub, given comfy cushions, brightly colored chairs and even a few hammocks. They were separated from the curious and often wary advances of the rest of the company.
When quizzing the CEO on his approach, his answer was that he was “protecting them from our own organization.” In effect, he was ringfencing and excluding the very difference the disrupters were brought in to facilitate.
He was trying to create innovation labs but failed to realize this innovation is needed inside the business. We need to create environments where those types of employees can come in, work and thrive.
And that brings me back to where we started—we have to get real about the gender pay gap within insurance. With all of the brilliant initiatives around us, we are still far from creating environments where women not only can work and thrive, but where gender parity also is not an issue.
So then, what makes us think that we are ready to bring in neurodiverse talent and digital disrupters – those we hope will make a difference across our businesses?
Practical, Achievable Measurement
While we are driving culture change, we have to support the process with metrics. That’s where customized inclusion inputs come into play, which directly influence the diversity outputs being measured.
It’s important to start by assessing the inclusion indicators in employee engagement survey results and then identifying four or five metrics that show a move toward inclusion in your teams.
Depending how detailed the survey results are, you may be able to deliver a deep, critical analysis with action-driven outputs. Even if your results aren’t that sophisticated, it’s a great way to benchmark and position change with ballpark statistics.
Begin with those people who are positioned to adapt and drive change across the business—your people managers. Train them to talk to their direct reports and to be very clear on the definition of inclusion as it relates to their role in achieving your business results.
What’s more, make these “continuous conversations” part of the performance approach for all managers by considering these questions: What have you done this month to drive inclusion? What has your team done to drive inclusion throughout your meetings over the last quarter?
Measurable, Sustainable Change
Embed these questions across all manager levels as part of the regular performance process. Whether evaluations are done monthly, quarterly or annually, make them part of your business-as-usual measurement. It should be a clear and consistent approach to measuring real inclusion inputs and feeding your D&I planning.
One approach is to provide a structured program with guidance for a 12-to-18-month period. It would include simple, achievable steps, starting with a series of continuous conversations and supported by guides, toolkits, videos and aids to excite and invigorate the discussion.
Encourage your managers to go even deeper by introducing a series of tailored activities in your learning management systems or intranet, and then start to measure. Bring your inclusion reporting to a level that demonstrates a broad view. What elements of inclusion information are they downloading? How are they interfacing with their team to measure what inclusion tactics they are employing?
For example, what narrative are the managers using to discuss inclusion? What videos have they watched of leaders demonstrating inclusion? While it sounds time-consuming, this can amount to a commitment of two hours over an entire year. If this agenda is not seen as business critical enough to spend that time, then we are getting the messaging very wrong.
Have you ever been asked to demonstrate the return on investment of your diversity and inclusion efforts and been at a loss about where to start? One important first step is to measure the inclusion inputs of your managers as part of their regular performance cycle.
Based on our longstanding relationships across the global insurance sector, and our wider client base in technology, professional services and manufacturing, among others, we have learned that to effect sustainable change, we have to create a general interest in the topic. Setting specific inclusion metrics for your managers will allow you to see trends and themes. You’ll also build a pool of interest and role models across the organization. Once you see that inclusion is a driver of business results, you’ll want to support those managers who are going beyond paying lip service and displaying a genuine interest in the topic.
We often find that managers leave our training sessions fired up, either by the specifics of the agenda or by how their unconscious brains may be at work to exclude others. We must quickly build on this. Encourage learning outside of your organization and look for role models in those who have done such training.
Perhaps you’ll discover a manager who is trying to address a particular issue in a specific geography. One of our global insurer clients approached us to consult on a pool of work that was being moved to India. The manager had a genuine interest in understanding the region in terms of bias, caste, gender and faith. She provided a great internal resource. After a short interview, we had a 20-minute podcast ready to be disseminated across the company’s business.
When you begin to see these conversations being driven by your managers, then you’re starting to identify the managers who are totally engaged and want to drive an inclusive environment where everyone with the capability has the opportunity to speak out and be heard. Hold on to them, as these are the people that will lead the future change.
Creating that golden thread of committed and sustained activity across your manager and leader population will drive a cultural change to attract, support and retain the difference that we all know we will need to survive in the insurance industry of today—before we even begin to think about the profession of the future.
Adopting structured and practical approaches aligned to your “business as usual” activity is a fresh and transparent way to start discussing and sustaining your diversity and inclusion efforts.
We’re ready to add to the conversation—are you?
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