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Insurance Business UK’s 5-Star Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 2023 awards celebrate forward-thinking companies that support, respect and champion their employees.
Nishma Gosrani, OBE, a London-based partner with Bain & Company’s Financial Service, lists some of the key factors that make a DE&I program operate successfully:
make sure to implement policies correctly to maximise returns
invest leadership time and commitment, which is vital
use the company’s energy and resources to commit to delivery and results
stick with it for the long term as a continuous process, not a moment in time
Gosrani highlights how the firms that stand out, such as IBUK’s 5-Star winners, are obvious due to widespread public scrutiny. “The penny has dropped for a lot of businesses that DE&I is a reality they must address and deliver on,” she says.
IBUK surveyed employees at the nominated companies about the effectiveness of their DE&I program, with the results displayed below:
The real deal
While some companies are all in on DE&I, some firms are labelled as putting up a façade. However, leading authentically from the front is 5-Star winner Arch Insurance International.
“We are fully focused on DE&I targets and these are embedded in our strategy,” says Marcella McLean, chief human resources officer. “When I first joined, [CEO] Hugh Sturgess and I both agreed we were against tokenism. We have found that by being meritocratic, objective and open in our hiring processes, we’ve achieved many of our diversity targets in advance of our target dates.”
McLean lists the following as key fundamentals of Arch’s DE&I strategy:
Liisa Antola, DE&I policy adviser with the Association of British Insurers, explains that regulators take an active interest in DE&I, asking firms to report certain metrics, such as the composition of their boards.
“This limits the risk of being criticised for ‘social washing’ – presenting inauthentic social responsibility initiatives – as firms are demonstrating their progress and being held accountable.”
Jenny Cooper, the director of HR at 5-Star award winner Flood Re, also notes the problems with companies implementing programs at a less than ideal pace.
“Particularly post-COVID, employees want something different – that employee experience and the importance employees place on being in alignment with an organisation’s values and purpose and working somewhere that’s really meaningful for them,” says Cooper. “This has really grown above and beyond pay being a primary factor.”
Cooper highlights the features of Flood Re’s approach:
“There’s a mixture of organisations – and definitely those organisations that don’t take it seriously and just pay lip service will end up with a retention and attraction problem further down the line, in my opinion,” she says. “Employees generally are looking for more from their employer than just a job. They want to work somewhere that’s meaningful.”
“Employees generally are looking for more from their employer than just a job. They want to work somewhere that’s meaningful”
Jenny CooperFlood Re
Finding a fully inclusive policy
Cooper expands on how Flood Re has implemented a respected DE&I scheme even though its employees have differing opinions and views.
“You might be introducing something that is the right thing to do as the organisation,” she explains. “Then you’ve got one group or one individual that absolutely thinks that’s great and you've got another that just can’t see that at all, and it’s at odds with a different belief or value that they hold. “
The underlying point is to instil respect across the group.
“You can raise awareness, share information without imposing views in a way where people can be respected if they agree that they don’t agree,” adds Cooper. “At the end of the day, we are here for a purpose – to deliver a reinsurance scheme. We’re not here to lobby and change things that might be out of our control.”
Antola echoes this and states the following factors as key considerations in successfully implementing a DE&I policy:
- making sure people aren’t offended, especially those from two or more protected groups
- listening to employees’ lived experiences and using them to inform policies
- looking at DE&I holistically and implementing it through one strategy
- using evidence – from feedback from staff, working groups, and networks and all levels of seniority – to identify and target barriers to implementation
- regularly reviewing and updating policies and procedures to tackle new challenges
Maintaining a mindset that will create progressive outcomes is also important for Arch’s McLean.
“The industry is looking at how to have quantitative, measurable initiatives in place to actually move the dial and develop it from just being a conversation to being something practical that can lead to meaningful changes.”
Survey participants’ insights into DE&I in the workplace
IBUK asked hundreds of employees:
Is there anything you believe your company could do better to foster DE&I internally?
Some of the feedback included comments such as:
- “All good as far as I can see, but I am a white middle-aged straight man.”
- “It would be great to see more senior leaders from more diverse backgrounds.”
- “Mark other religions’ celebrations in the same way that they do Christian celebrations.”
- “Enforce more policies on hiring from underrepresented groups.”
- “Run courses for all on unconscious bias.”
“We have found that by being meritocratic, objective and open in our hiring processes, we’ve achieved many of our diversity targets in advance of our target dates”
Marcella McLeanArch Insurance International
Have you taken a DE&I issue with your company? If so, has it been taken care of properly?
Some of the feedback included comments such as:
- “Gender-inclusive language changes, accommodations for disability, wider recruitment processes.”
- “I overheard a rash comment from a colleague, which I challenged, and he actively apologised and decisively changed. It was careless and unconscious, but [had] a good positive response.”
- “I took the issue up on someone’s behalf and yes, it was appropriately managed.”
Antola adds that top-performing DE&I programs, like those run by IBUK’s 5-Star winners, can drive meaningful change.
She points to a scarcity of employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, especially at senior levels, which she thinks can be addressed through more apprenticeships and programs for “school leavers.” Also, she says, there’s an increasing awareness of neurodiversity and menopause, issues which are often overlooked.
“We hope to help the insurance industry reach its ambition of being the most diverse, equitable and inclusive sector of the UK economy,” says Antola. “Not only does this mean we’ll better reflect the communities we serve, we’ll also be more effective as a result.”
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