The insurance industry is one of many sectors seeing workplace diversity not progressing fast enough. The percentage of non-white employees in the insurance workforce, for example, stood at 21.4 percent in 2019 compared with 15.3 percent in 2010, according to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence using figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
One of the key contributing factors to such modest growth is the confusion surrounding the terms diversity and inclusion. The terms often get mixed together, with many people thinking they are the same thing. But without a culture of inclusion in the workplace, diversity is doomed to fail.
Creating an inclusive environment—where everyone with the capability to excel can do so—is crucial, but it requires commitment, and changing processes, and enabling people to do things differently. Measuring progress is an essential, and often overlooked, key to making a difference.
Diversity on its own, with no inclusion, will cost you a lot of money and get you involved in a lot of initiatives—and is unlikely to work. You will spend a fortune on recruitment, for example. But if you don’t create an inclusive environment, much of it will be an expensive waste of time. Retention just won’t happen, and you will be back to square one.
As an example of what not to do, our firm is aware of a global broker that spent more than $500,000 on recruitment drives for diverse candidates. They went to underrepresented communities and also commissioned specialist recruiters. The result? Some good diverse hiring statistics in the first 12 months. The next year showed a 50 percent loss of the recent hires. And the following year a further 25 percent loss.
Although we are programmed at one level to seek human connection, we are more deeply programmed to work at building and maintaining connections with humans who are part of our tribe.
Our tribe could be based on a range of factors such as gender, education or socio-economic status. And, if you are not part of my tribe, then I am going to either remove privilege from you or give privilege to people who are. Self-awareness is the key to this, but exploring it can engender fears.
Fear is the main reason industries such as insurance are not moving the dial. We don’t often have open, courageous conversations that unravel our historical thinking. And, when we do, we rarely embed any changes it provokes and certainly do not measure the changes.
To create an inclusive environment, we need to measure the leaders in an organization to identify who are the ones driving forward inclusion and who is holding it back. Often, keeping some kind of measure on who is driving activity and action around this space is all it takes. It stands to reason that leaders who are attending employee resource group (ERG) meetings, challenging recruiters for diverse slates and being allies are far more likely to have an environment that recognizes diverse talent. If you can make this part of your performance management policies, so much the better.
Ensure every single manager, every team leader, can make a clear, granular business case for creating an inclusive environment. Encourage ERGs and network groups to be clear on how their events are driving inclusion and therefore the business imperative. At an event with a leading keynote speaker, for example, have everyone bring someone from the “privileged group” within the organization to help spread the word.
Companies that have been successful in making their workplaces inclusive are the ones that have embraced it wholeheartedly—reaching everyone in their organizations with their training, changing policies and procedures, and incorporating nudge technology into as many processes as possible. And the really successful ones do it quickly, and they see their diversity and retention numbers go up.
Organizations that get it wrong, on the other hand, basically end up with a big bill and diversity fatigue. Nobody will say they’re not supporting diversity and they think it’s a waste of time. But they will say the right things, and the toxicity will go under the table. They will judge people who are “different” in a harsher way and still privilege the people who make them feel comfortable.
Such companies will spend a lot of money on events, announcements and communications—and then, at the end of two years, realize they got it wrong. That’s why it’s important to have a mechanism for checking progress within an organization. Measure it and jump on it if it’s not happening. It’s all about accountability.