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Building a sense of belonging
Leading the way in diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is an indicator of a forward-thinking company.
Marguerite Murer Tortorello, CEO of the Insurance Careers Movement, says, “Many insurers are addressing diversity, equity and inclusion as an ongoing business imperative with integrated DEI strategies across the company.”
Rhonda Moret, founder of Elevated Diversity, which supports organizations in implementing DE&I, adds: “In the insurance industry, diversity and equity inclusion is something that organizations are realizing is here to stay. ”.
“Implementing a DE&I program today is important because diversity in people’s backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, and thoughts drives innovation and transforms organizations”
Amy Bayer, Duck Creek Technologies
Some companies are trapped in a rut of merely “performative” actions, but on the 17th DIFFERENT 5-Star DE&I winners have made impressive strides in not only enacting successful programs but also making employees feel like they truly belong.
Winners reflect on survey results
During a 15-week survey, DIFFERENTThe research team conducted one-on-one interviews with DE&I professionals and then reached out to their employees to gauge the effectiveness of their programs.
Employees ranked the following statements in order of importance, from most to least important.
Amy Bayer, Global Head of DE&I, Engagement and Culture at Duck Creek Technologies, a 5-star winner, agrees with the rankings, saying that belonging helps people be authentic at work, which, in turn, Create a thriving business culture. “These rankings reflect how we live our core values and cultural code—we prioritize respect, we care, we listen, we lead, and we add value—and that DE&I is at the core of who we are,” she says. “We embody a culture where inclusion and belonging are reflexes, not initiatives.”
Aaisha Hamid, executive vice president and DE&I manager at award-winning Alliant Insurance Services, is also encouraged by the survey results. “I think it’s comforting to know that we’re headed in the right direction. I think the areas that the survey measured are obviously basic needs, and that we need to make sure that all businesses meet them.”
Alliant’s executive vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer, Lilian Vanvieldt-Gray, says she’s not surprised that “belonging” is at the top. “It really is a time where employees want to be in a safe space and they want to have an organization that understands, where they feel like they can be heard and where they have an opportunity to advance.”
Another winner is Tangram Insurance Services, based just outside of San Francisco. The company echoes its peers in seeing a direct link between DIFFERENTsurvey results from and your own DE&I initiatives.
“It makes a lot of sense to me that belonging and respect for the person is up there in one and two. I think we’ve been through a lot as a world, obviously, in the last few years,” says CEO Rekha Skantharaja. “And if you have a sense of belonging and you have respect, obviously that helps you get through those inevitable ups and downs as a company and as a human being.”
“A lot of DE&I has to do with change management. And it’s also about more than just the people-centric part; there are many numbers involved”
Aaisha Hamid, Alliant Insurance Services
Diversity drives innovation
“Implementing a DE&I program today is important because people’s diversity of backgrounds, experiences, perspectives and thoughts drive innovation and transform organizations,” says Duck Creek’s Bayer. “It is also just as important to be intentional and thoughtful about building a culture where these differences are valued, through respect, empowerment and praise, and employees feel a true sense of belonging.”
Bayer got its start in the human resources industry more than 18 years ago, working for a federal contractor and having to submit annual affirmative action plans, but the actions felt like performance and failed. Now, she’s excited to make real improvements for employees, focusing on maintaining a grassroots movement that focuses on all elements of diversity and aims to foster ownership.
Duck Creek’s recent accomplishments include holding in-person diversity summits in Boston and Mumbai, holding courageous virtual conversations, and launching an “employee voice” initiative.
The company also attends four conferences that focus on the diversity it’s looking for: the Girls Who Code Career Fair; the Black is Tech Conference; the Grace Hopper Celebration, connecting non-binary women and technologists globally; and Latinas in technology.
Duck Creek employees participated in DIFFERENTand offered their thoughts on why DE&I programs are important.
“For this company to be successful, it has to represent the customers it serves and the world we live in,” says Jerome Curtis. Meanwhile, Jonathan Ehrmantraut says the programs are important “because when we all feel valued and included, we open up to share more ideas and improve ourselves individually and as an organization.”
“I think the argument has been made that diverse teams are more creative, more interesting, more innovative, more balanced, have more interesting perspectives, and you learn more, and if you’re not learning, then your business isn’t progressing. ”
Rekha Skantharaja, Tangram Insurance Services
Two examples of constancy
“A lot of DE&I is about change management,” says Alliant’s Hamid, “and it’s also about more than just the people-centric part; there are many numbers involved. So unless you’re on top of everything and have a plan and strategy in place, you won’t be able to get from point A to point Z.”
Vanvieldt-Gray adds that implementing a DE&I program “is the morally right thing to do. But I also think in terms of ESG: environmental, social and governance. It’s something you need to do as an organization to attract and retain talent in your workforce.”
Alliant is expanding its employee resource groups, which include Asian American and Pacific Islander, LGBTQ+, Latino, Black, women and veteran communities. It also has groups for employees living with or caring for family members with cancer.
In addition, the company has partnerships with identity-specific insurance and leadership development organizations such as Women in Insurance, the National African American Insurance Association, the Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies, and the Magnolia Leadership Program for black professional women, which it allows them to equitably allocate development opportunities to underrepresented professionals.
More recently, the company has also developed its Alliant Fellows and Alliant Scholars programs to further support and strengthen the portfolio of underrepresented students in the insurance industry.
So what do Alliant employees think is important about DE&I programs?
“Company culture is more important now than ever,” says Lisa Butler-Del Rio. “People want to feel like someone like them is in a position of power and authority. That someone like them is available to guide and encourage them”.
Meanwhile, Diane Fulgar says the DE&I program “enhances our company culture, attracts a broader talent pool, and enables better business performance across the board.”
And Linda Mattes says, “respect, kindness and consideration start at the top.”
“It really is a time where employees want to be in a safe space and they want to have an organization that understands, where they feel like they can be heard, and where they have the opportunity to advance.”
Lilian Vanvieldt-Gray, Alliant Insurance Services
Drive change from the C-suite
Skantharaja agrees with Bayer, Hamid, and Vanvieldt-Gray that establishing a DE&I program is the right thing to do.
“I think the argument has been made that diverse teams are more creative, more interesting, more innovative, more balanced, have more interesting perspectives, and you learn more, and if you’re not learning, then your business isn’t progressing. .”
And he adds: “But you also have to do this to create companies that are healthy and that are progressing. People will want to stay with companies that are healthy, progressive, and vibrant; otherwise, you will find yourself in the cold.”
Skantharaja spent much of her twenties climbing the corporate ladder, finally reaching the CEO role in 2013. She says diversity energizes her. In the last five years, Tangram has come a long way. “We are very much like what I hope the future of our industry will be, which is a diverse organization with a majority of women in the executive and leadership ranks,” she says.
Tangram provides employees with training on the difference between diversity, equality and inclusion, as well as additional training on unconscious bias, including the interview process and recognizing candidate questions that carry inherent bias.
Tangram workers also have clear views on why DE&I programs are important to them.
“This fosters a culture of inclusion and also allows a wide range of voices and opinions to be heard when it comes to exchanging ideas and solving problems,” says Shelby Kurtzer.
And JoAnn Garcia says that having a DE&I program exists “as a reminder that all people have inherent dignity as individuals and as members of their communities, and should be respected for who they are and for their unique qualities.”
Persistent Challenges for DE&I
DE&I is frequently discussed, with some detractors attaching lazy stereotypes to it. This problem is being effectively counteracted, according to the DIFFERENTthe winners.
“I think the more we talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, the more important it becomes in the organization and the more leadership is invested in supporting it,” says Hamid.
Meanwhile, Skantharaja recently had an experience that encapsulated some of the resentment felt by historically overrepresented people when asked by a successful white businessman about the importance of hiring women and minorities.
She says: “I don’t think it’s about feeling left out; it’s just about making more room at the table.”
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To determine the insurance companies with the most effective DE&I programs, the Insurance business America The research team first invited companies to share the DE&I initiatives they had focused on over the past 12 months. During a 15-week process, the team conducted one-on-one interviews with DE&I professionals to gain an in-depth understanding of industry standards for DE&I and to find out which companies have met or exceeded those expectations. After receiving nominations for the DE&I initiatives, the team reached out to company employees to measure the effectiveness of these programs. Companies that scored 4.0 or higher on a scale of 1 to 5 were recognized as having 5-star DE&I programs.
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