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In the rapidly evolving business climate, diverse teams with a variety of skills and perspectives are crucial for success. As insurers focus on enhancing their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, they must consider all stages of an individual’s relationship with the organization, including the hiring and promotion process.

Executive Summary

Instead of focusing on required degrees and years of experience, carriers need to reframe their thinking about recruiting and promotion, writes The Jacobson Group Managing Director Brett Carter. He explains that rather than requiring 10 years of management experience, identifying what you’re expecting someone to have achieved in those 10 years is a more inclusive approach. Here, he offers additional tips for identifying skills that might show up along nontraditional career paths—necessary skills for building teams that can continually adapt to new challenges, flex as priorities change and accommodate future industry needs.

However, just as a diverse workforce won’t make an impact without a deep-rooted commitment to equity and inclusion, simply bringing in candidates from underrepresented groups won’t automatically lead to better hiring outcomes. Traditional hiring and promotion processes often emphasize past experiences and performance. There must be a fundamental shift within an organization’s recruiting and talent management functions to proactively seek a diverse slate of qualified candidates, recognizing that those qualifications and requirements themselves may need to be redefined.

Being more inclusive does not mean lowering your standards or striving to achieve a “quota.” It involves being more strategic and focused in identifying necessary skills and how they are manifested in nontraditional career paths and roles. The end result is a team that can continually adapt to face new challenges, flex as priorities change and accommodate the industry’s future needs.

  • Focus on skills over experience.

By uncovering an individual’s skills and potential, you can increase diversity within your team while benefiting from transferable attributes and characteristics. Communication, coaching, problem-solving, strategic vision, time management, growth mindset and emotional intelligence, among others, are skills that are more difficult to learn yet enable professionals to excel in countless positions.

Reframe your mindset to think outside of required degrees and years of experience within your recruitment and promotion processes. Instead, determine why you’ve sought specific qualifications in the past. For instance, rather than requiring 10 years of management experience, identify what you’re expecting someone to have achieved in those 10 years. Exceptional coaching skills and leadership abilities are not necessarily tied to a specific amount of time holding a role. On the other hand, someone with several years of experience hasn’t necessarily grown and advanced during that time frame. Focus on transferable skills that match the key needs of your current and future positions.

  • Expand your search.

A broader talent pool offers expansive skill sets, personalities and characteristics. Take a look at the methods and avenues in which your organization’s talent is commonly acquired. Career fairs, social media, traditional networking, industry competitors and professional organizations are all likely included in this list. However, if you’re recruiting from the same university programs and networking with the same individuals, you’re potentially limiting yourself to a small—and likely homogenous—pool of talent. Consider how you can expand your network while also partnering with professional associations and schools with broader demographics.

“If you’re recruiting from the same university programs and networking with the same individuals, you’re potentially limiting yourself to a small—and likely homogenous—pool of talent.”

At the same time, don’t be afraid to look for potential talent outside your comfort zone, whether it’s within different lines of insurance or other industries, such as finance, consulting or InsurTech. In my personal experience, I transitioned from claims positions to sales roles within the insurance industry, heavily leveraging the customer service skills I’d honed in those client-facing roles. Now, the foundational knowledge and insight gained at insurance carriers has continued to be an asset in my current role at an insurance talent firm. Outside perspective is valuable, and career paths don’t have to be linear to draw on relevant skills and experiences.

  • Ask the right questions during the interview process.

To effectively recruit for skills, leverage behavioral interview questions rather than focusing on an individual’s past roles. A candidate’s responses to these can provide insight into how they’ll tackle future challenges and their overall thought process. A few open-ended and forward-looking questions may include, “How do you demonstrate your willingness to grow yourself?” or “In what ways do you guide your team to advance the goals of the organization?” Responses to these and similar questions can help you understand how individuals operate on a deeper level and how their experiences can apply to future opportunities.

Innate curiosity and enthusiasm to learn are key characteristics for success, no matter the position. Ask how they see their current skills transferring to a new role or industry. How are they planning to continue developing themselves? This information can provide applicable insight that is often more telling than standard interview questions.

  • Mitigate unconscious bias.

As you move forward in the recruiting process, ensure you are actively aware of areas where bias may come into play. This starts with your job postings. Avoid gendered language and refrain from long lists of requirements. Determine the specific attributes necessary for someone to excel in the role and avoid requirements that may exclude individuals who would otherwise be an ideal hire.

While it’s unlikely bias can be completely removed, help all individuals involved in the hiring process understand when their own bias might be influencing their decisions and when to seek feedback and insight from others. Some organizations have also been using blind resume processes to avoid bias stemming from names, locations and alma maters. Including diverse individuals within the hiring process can also help provide more comprehensive and objective insights.

  • Uncover potential within your current team.

Often, the right talent for a role may already exist within your organization. Encourage candor from current team members about their long-term career aspirations and interests and revisit these conversations on a regular basis. Invite all individuals to participate, and avoid making assumptions based on age, background, past roles, family situations or other factors.

Work with employees to create career development plans that account for their long-term goals. Expose them to various areas of your business and the industry, letting them know their career path doesn’t have to be linear or traditional. Be creative in aligning their natural abilities with future roles and opportunities throughout your organization and help make connections and pathways to their contributions in other areas.

As you identify future leaders, look for natural leadership qualities, such as empathy, courage, a collaborative mindset and communication skills. Agility and the ability to innovate are becoming increasingly important as business priorities shift. Continue to grow these individuals by creating the space for them to advance toward their goals by participating in high-visibility projects, committees, or through mentorships and sponsorships. You may even consider rotational programs as part of your leadership development strategy to help high performers become familiar with other areas of the business.

In order to build a truly inclusive workforce, hiring managers and talent acquisition teams must become future-focused and aim to uncover an individual’s potential for success. Recognizing the necessary skills for a role and being able to recruit for those skills while also developing them within your current team will result in a workforce that’s agile, diverse and primed for future success.