The virtual nature of the 2020 Dive In Festival celebrated the insurance industry’s capacity to embrace change. Now it is hoped that the sector will utilise that adaptability to embrace new diversity and inclusion (D&I) measures.
Among the variety of discussions taking place at the event, the webinar on ‘Lessons from a pandemic: then, now and the future of diversity and inclusion’ emphasised the need for insurance businesses to take what they have learnt from the crisis and apply it to their organisations. Dr Alan Watkins, CEO and co-founder of the coaching and development business, Complete, highlighted that the world is changing at a faster rate than has ever been seen.
“The next 20 to 30 years will decide the next thousand,” he said. “We’re at [an] inflection point and the acceleration that we’re seeing is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. So it puts a curveball in all organisations and their organisational life. Humanity is creating a number of problems for itself and this is the context in which your businesses have to operate.”
From climate change to political regression to immigration to food safety to poverty, there are so many issues that are working in the background of every economy and business, meaning that changes must be made at an individual level.
“We have to fundamentally change what we’re doing,” Watkins said. “And that has to happen in the next 18 years. [Recent research] has suggested that if we don’t make sufficient radical change in the next 18 years, then after that, it will not matter. So, the clock is ticking. And I honestly believe the only people who are in a position to make significant changes to avoid the extinction of humanity are big businesses.
“So, big businesses have to fundamentally look at what they’re doing. And some of these changes really require everybody to lean in… And the cleverest person in [any] organisation is everyone. And that’s why diversity matters. Because to solve these problems, we’re going to need the cleverness of everyone… Diversity is a way of unlocking the wisdom of the crowd.”
Victoria Carter, chairman of global capital solutions, international, at Guy Carpenter, highlighted that being diverse in the insurance industry is essentially a secret weapon which she has enjoyed for many years. She has long been a firm believer that D&I must be at the core of every business, she said, but now it is more critical than ever.
“Workplace equality is at the forefront of mind for businesses, for governments, for regulators, and society today,” she said. “So, companies that don’t focus on it will be truly disadvantaged. I think companies’ biggest challenge today is how do they grow their business and grow it successfully and that really means understanding the changing customer dynamic, and then having the right people in place to address those changes. And, as we’ve heard from Alan, the world is changing at such a rapid pace, technology is advancing so fast, there’s so much to be aware of.”
Interacting with diverse sets of individuals puts a business or an individual in a much better place to make decisions and to find different ways of operating, Carter said. When every individual is respected, and given an equal opportunity, the business will flourish. An engaged workforce is needed as this creates a culture, an energy and a real desire to succeed and it creates an overall confidence in the company. This confidence will always result in innovation, in creativity and in a variety of perspectives which, when you sit at a board level, is essential to allow an overview of the strategy of an organisation.
“I think it’s also important that employees feel that they can speak up, they can open up, they can talk, they won’t be afraid of being judged on what they say,” she said. “And listening is really important because it generates an environment where they will want to offer their best and that can only be important for the company’s success as well. Creating a culture of D&I will really allow you to attract the best talent, they will be attracted to a culture of true inclusion… We’ve really got to commit to this as an industry. And CEOs have to commit and reaffirm their commitment to a full D&I policy.”
Watkins also highlighted the need to modernise the thinking surrounding diversity. Diversity isn’t only about gender, he said, and it isn’t about quotas. Diversity drives wisdom and wisdom drives better answers not to only to all the commercial challenges of growth and profitability, but better answers to these societal issues that humanity has created for itself. Diversity is an absolute imperative and, when embraced on a broader scale, it is ultimately meant to deliver a much higher level of social justice in the world.