With nearly half of Generation Z coming from racial and ethnic minorities, the workforce of America is entering a new era. If diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) haven't been a priority at your agency, it's time to start thinking about it.
Once a year, as an employee, you may receive an email asking you to attend a meeting with a guest speaker or a training video about DE&I in insurance. Once these activities are over, your day carries on, and the topic may not be mentioned again for another year. If this is you, then DE&I is a moment for your company, not a movement, and it's going to be slow to change.
With a study of North America, Latin America and Pacific Asia showing that 51% of companies have not set diversity and hiring goals, it's clear that many global employers don't believe that it affects their business. Nonetheless, DE&I significantly affects the insurance industry, affecting employees, customers and profits.
Let's look at how you can start making a difference and address DE&I within your insurance agency.
Why You Should Care
As insurance agents, your main job is to represent your client, advise them on the coverage they need and help them find the best policies from the right carriers, and who wants to work with an agent who doesn't understand the client's diverse employee and client base? This isn't just about ignoring HR hiring objectives; this is about limiting your business opportunities if you fundamentally ignore DE&I.
If you want a happy, productive and stable workforce, then DE&I needs to be on your radar: A survey by CNBC showed that nearly 80% of employees wanted to work for a company that values DE&I.
Diverse and inclusive workplaces are not only beneficial for HR departments by reducing the risk of unconscious bias but have also proved to boost worker productivity. Data has shown that, compared with individual decision makers, diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time. Due to the blend of background, culture and experience, truly balanced and diverse teams can be the competitive advantage your company needs.
You can't get your ducks in a row without knowing what you're working with. So, the first thing to do when looking at DE&I within your own company is to measure. Businesses need to analyze their representation statistics to discover areas in need of improvement. Start with asking questions like: What employee segments do we want to define (age, race, gender, ethnicity)? How do we want to measure those segments (by department, level or location)? Then you can answer the question--are we a diverse workplace? Once you've got the answers, you can start analyzing why and start driving change.
Underrepresentation often comes down to unconscious bias in the hiring process, which affects every industry--and insurance is no different.
The only way to address our biases toward characteristics is by recognizing them, which is particularly important for company leaders and those involved in recruitment. One way to discover your bias is by taking the Implicit Association Test. This measures your automatic preferences by measuring the time taken to classify concepts into two separate categories. For example, the test would measure the time taken for an individual to classify gay people with ideas like good and bad.
Businesses can also provide training and workshops for all team members on a company-wide scale. It's important that teams share their bias with others in a safe space so everyone can learn from other people's views and opinions.
See also: Underwriting Small Business Post-COVID
Employee Resource Groups
Another opportunity to encourage DE&I is engaging with employee resource groups (ERG). By encouraging employees who are passionate about a common characteristic they share, whether it be race, ethnicity, gender, religion or lifestyle, you are fostering a supportive and inclusive environment.
Providing groups with executive sponsorship allows them to elevate the conversation around the needs and interests of that group and provides them with essential funding. Companies can take inspiration from others, like Liberty Mutual Group, which sponsors seven different ERGs within their business.
ERGs are essential for insurance businesses, as they can be a safe space for new employees to meet like-minded people and work as a form of casual mentoring and professional development. The resource groups can also be a space to collect feedback about specific issues, which can be presented to upper management.
For those within the insurance industry looking for ideas and advice--such as establishing ERGs--The Enlightened Agent podcast is an interesting and educating listen. In each episode of the DE&I Series, different professionals discuss how to improve and enhance the insurance industry, DE&I and businesses that shape the world. By listening to business leaders' stories and guidance, you can implement the best DE&I practices in your company.
More recently, companies have become increasingly aware of an untapped talent pool--the neurodivergent job seekers. Neurodiversity refers to people with different neurological functions, meaning they process and learn in an atypical way. Many other conditions could fall under this category, including autism, ADHD and dyslexia.
People with these conditions are massively underrepresented within the job market, and unemployment for neurodivergent adults can be as high as 40%. Unfortunately, employers have long held the view that people with these conditions are not conducive to the workplace.
Brains that work differently actually give companies a competitive advantage. Neurodivergent candidates can be highly efficient at recognizing patterns, mathematics and memory tasks. By recognizing and celebrating those who fall under this category, you can start demystifying the stigma associated with those behaviors.
One way to begin widening your talent pool to include neurodivergent candidates is through partnerships. For example, Marsh McLennan, an insurance broking and risk management giant, partnered with the national non-profit, Ambitious About Autism. Through this three-year agreement, they aim to make more employers autism-confident and provide hands-on insurance internships to young autistic job-seekers.
Being interested and caring about DE&I within your company is not only an excellent ethical decision but also good for business. By 2044, more than half the U.S. population is projected to belong to a minority group, so by embracing and celebrating diversity within your company you are future-proofing it, too.
Einstein stated that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So, how can we revolutionize the insurance industry if DE&I is still ignored and companies keep hiring carbon copies?
It's time for change.