When we think of fostering diversity in the industry, we tend to think of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background and religion. What isn’t so commonly discussed is mental health.
Insurance – which most will admit is suffering from a talent shortage – might be missing out on some of the best candidates because it is overlooking those with mental health issues.
This is according to Alastair Campbell, the communications guru best known as Prime Minister Tony Blair’s former spokesman.
Speaking at a Dive-In event, for which Insurance Business
is an official media partner, at Marsh
’s London offices yesterday, Campbell spoke frankly about his own battles with mental health, and the resilience his experiences have given him.
While the insurance industry talks about how it can attract talent from diverse backgrounds, Campbell said that the same principle needs to be applied to drawing in candidates with mental health issues.
“The thing I want [employers] to do is reverse the telescope,” he said, stressing that candidates who might have overcome mental health issues – whether it be depression, anxiety or something else – show a strength and resilience that employers should value.
“[They] may have more to offer, because if they’ve come through that, they’ve got something,” he said, adding, “resilience isn’t just about being tough, resilience is about how you take setbacks and how you take difficulties and how you turn them into something positive.”
As well as accepting the idea of mental health issues in potential employees, firms need to act to support their existing employees who may be suffering under the radar.
“It’s incredibly important that people get a sense of wellbeing from work, because if they do, that is not just good for them, but it’s good for the place where they work,” Campbell said.
Particularly in the city, often filled with high-achievers under high-pressure, the risk of burnout affects employers as well as their staff – particularly when the cost of employee turnover is high.
“I think it’s about the culture,” he said. “You have to somehow create a culture where people don’t feel that they have to bottle everything up and that they have to hide things.”
Employees need to feel supported to be able to speak up – “because that’s the worry that people have, that it will held against them.”
So what can companies do to foster this kind of environment?
Some firms have ambassadorial systems, Campbell said, so that staff have a designated person that they can talk to about any issues they might be facing.
Having people ‘out there’ within the company, he said, talking about their own experiences with mental health, can encourage others to come forward – “I think it’s all about openness.”
Firms need to see their people’s wellbeing as a fundamental part of the contribution that they make to the company, he said, and in cases where this isn’t happening, “everybody loses”.
Ultimately, according to Campbell, the leaders of the organisation need to say, “we’re going to do this differently. We’re going to go out of our way to make sure that you as employees understand, that we value your wellbeing as much as you do.”
Inga Beale: diversity needed to future proof the industry
Insurer sets targets for gender balance in the industry