The conversations around recruitment in the context of diversity and inclusion are broader than they have ever been. The gig economy, work preferences of millennials and Gen Zers and demographic changes are requiring unconventional workforce development strategies and something the insurance industry has not necessarily been known for over the years—a flexible mindset.
Those population projections confirm that racial minorities will be the main demographic engine of the country’s future growth, the Brookings Institution reports. These more diverse and younger workers are seeking out companies where they feel they can develop agile career paths, where they can use their technology skills and where their careers can have social impact.
As we build our workforces of the future, recruiters in insurance and other industries have to have a keen eye on diversity and inclusion. It is widely established that it makes good business sense and aligns with our client base—we should have people in our companies who reflect the makeup of the customers we serve. And bringing in a wider array of voices allows us to present different perspectives to our clients to drive more innovation and better ideas.
So how do we actually make progress on a concept as broad as building a diverse workforce? Fostering relationships, opening doors and allowing the sharing of different perspectives are really what will move the needle on diversity and inclusion. Valuable industry resources like the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s Women in Insurance Global Conference, for example, allow participants to hear about efforts in diversity and inclusion that are gaining traction across the industry and provide actionable solutions, whether that is a guide for setting up employee resource groups or ways to reach out to underserved communities in the recruitment process.
It is also a good idea to consider what we can achieve when we collaborate with others in our industry to promote the insurance industry to top young talent. Working in insurance historically has not been considered as appealing as working in, say, software, venture capital or advanced manufacturing. Teaming up as an industry to promote the cool aspects of insurance—advanced analytics, smart cars, analyzing consumer consumption patterns—can go a long way toward improving the stuffy image insurance still seems to conjure up for too many.
For the insurance industry, another way to move the diversity and inclusion needle is to use our own expertise in data collection and analysis to gather as much information as we can about our internal demographics and corporate culture. This data can be mixed with employee surveys to find areas that need improvement. Once a clear picture comes into view, things like employee referral programs and community outreach can help anchor a diversity and inclusion action plan.
The C-Suite Dilemma
Moving forward in terms of diversity and inclusion is not just about employees a company is trying to recruit. Furthering the careers of ethnic minorities, women and members of the LGBTQ community within your workforce should also be a part of any action plan.
While the insurance industry and many others have seen diversity gains at the C-suite level, the number of minority CEOs remains small and women, especially, have been under-represented on corporate boards. Unconscious bias, a lack of work-life balance and fear of risk-taking can all negatively impact a woman’s ability to climb the ladder, a recent report by McKinsey & Co. found.
This is something the insurance industry and others must continue to grapple with if they want to stay relevant to top talent in the future. An insurer will have to demonstrate that women and minority employees have a tangible path upward. Building a pipeline of minority candidates has to be intentional and grounded in actual strategies and policies. At Aon, for example, we have a strict process to make sure that when we have an open job, it is not filled unless a diverse slate of candidates has been considered.
Another initiative Aon has launched is the Apprentice Program where we hire candidates with diverse backgrounds and help them continue their education. It shows that we feel strongly enough to make an investment in them and helps them build the knowledge and tools they will need to rise through the ranks in the company. We are also using our data and analytics to assist with hiring, taking into account role level and making sure there is no bias in evaluation strategies, and we have introduced a fair pay calculator tool from our talent practice to ensure pay equity.
In the insurance industry, we provide employment practices liability insurance to assist employer policyholders in cases made by employees related to pay equity, discrimination or other wrong-doing. In addition, we are now trying to spend more time on the consulting side with our clients so they can not only understand their risk exposures, but have tools in place to help prevent these incidents from happening in the first place.
When I talk with other executives in the industry, there are a number of issues they find challenging these days, whether that is the regulatory environment or our political climate. Right up there with those complex issues is the challenge of designing a plan to recruit diverse talent and retain them by helping them reach their full potential.
As corporate recruiters look to the future, they will need to keep tabs on workforce trends like the gig economy of freelancers, independent contractors and temporary workers. Nasdaq reports that the gig economy is predicted to be 43% of the total workforce by 2020. With multi-decade careers at a single company becoming a thing of the past, employers in the insurance space and beyond will have no choice but to embrace these new work norms.
For the workforce that is actually on the balance sheet in the coming years, flexibility will be key to retention efforts. And it is not just about hours scheduled and work-life balance. Younger workers will want a more customizable way to buy benefits, wil prioritize company culture and social mission over compensation, and will reject a one-size-fits-all career path.
Finally, to win the top talent, insurers will need to think beyond conventional structures they have embraced for decades. Mentoring, for example, has proven successful for many, but progressive employers will need to take the extra step and develop networks of sponsors who can take the support structure a company offers to another level.
A Personal Perspective
Years ago, I was asked to move my family to Chicago to run Aon’s health and benefits division. After we moved, we experienced a fire and our house burned down. In the wake of the fire, my husband and I had to take our two young girls, who did not want to move in the first place, and our two large dogs to a small apartment.
It took us eight months to rebuild our lives and this period stretched me in my career and in my personal life. Because I had a strong network of sponsors around me, I was not afraid to keep moving forward. They encouraged me, advised me and more often, were there to listen and provide guidance whether it was the work before me, or the struggle to balance extraordinary personal circumstance while maintaining a healthy perspective on the business I was leading.
A sponsor pulls you up and backs you when you are not in the room. Because I had developed confidence from that support system, what could have been one of the darker periods of my life turned out to be one of the most engaging and successful chapters in my career.
Looking ahead, no matter your industry, securing top talent who not only knows your business, but can relate to your customers, will be key. As risk professionals, we all understand the risks of inaction. The face of risk is changing. The faces of our workforce need to change in tandem. Let’s take the steps now to build and maintain the workforce that will continue to propel our companies forward for years to come.