Insurance has "burning need" to embrace D&I

Insurance has "burning need" to embrace D&I | Insurance Business

Insurance has "burning need" to embrace D&I

“An inclusive work environment isn’t built through awareness alone. It’s something that needs continuous nurturing and support.” Those are the words of Liberty Mutual Insurance’s senior vice president and global diversity and inclusion (D&I) officer, Dawn Frazier-Bohnert, who recently championed the development of Liberty Mutual’s Inclusion in Action eLearning Video Series.

The video series is based on nine skills for employee communication and collaboration. It features interactive and relatable workplace scenarios to teach employees inclusive communication skills that can cultivate better work relationships and produce positive outcomes between employees and with customers. It was first rolled out internally at Liberty Mutual, but, after soaring success, the D&I video series has been made available for external businesses and organizations.  

“I’ve been with Liberty Mutual for over six years, developing the D&I strategy and programs to help us move forward as an organization,” said Frazier-Bohnert. “For the first several years, our focus was really on building awareness, defining D&I at Liberty Mutual, and helping people understand how they can build D&I skills. Awareness is where you begin, but the next stage is to turn that awareness into action. That was really the impetus for us creating this video series.”

The videos, developed in partnership with Sunshower Learning and VISIONS Inc., provide practical advice and touch on a range of skills from being trustworthy, to taking a step back, to “trying on” a different person’s perspective. In the “trying on” episode, employees from different backgrounds are asked to work through a knotty business challenge and take a moment to think about how and why a colleague might be approaching that challenge differently. In an insurance context, that might mean a young tech-savvy underwriter swapping perspectives about a complex risk with a seasoned, risk-adverse actuary.

“We’re all busy people and we’re all moving very fast. It’s easy to get stuck in our own ways,” Frazier-Bohnert commented. “Regardless of experience, it’s important to slow down sometimes, look at the bigger picture, and maybe come up with a better solution.”

While D&I has grown into a topic of prime importance in the insurance industry worldwide, lots of organizations still want to understand the impact of D&I investment on their bottom lines.   

“There are many studies that have demonstrated that when you have a diverse workforce and an inclusive organization, the benefits are clear. At some level, that’s table stakes,” Frazier-Bohnert told Insurance Business. “We believe that if people come into an organization where they’re valued, they’re seen, and their voices are heard, then they feel a greater sense of engagement and belonging, and they give more commitment to the organization. That, in turn, impacts productivity.

“We talk to our leaders throughout Liberty Mutual to help them understand why this is important, why we believe D&I will continue to make our company strong, and why we think it will put in a better position with our customers as well. We definitely see D&I as a strategic imperative. Insurance is a very competitive industry. If we don’t incorporate D&I into our organization, we won’t be able to attract the talent that we need in order to continue being competitive in this space.”

As an industry, there’s still “a lot more work to be done” around D&I, according to Frazier-Bohnert. There’s no finish line or end-goal for insurers to strive towards, but rather an ongoing horizon of better business initiatives. Insurance has entered the D&I playing field slightly later than other industries, but Frazier-Bohnert argued there’s a lot of forward momentum.

“Having talked to many other D&I leaders in the industry, we agree that insurance is one of the industries that is coming later to this work, but there’s a real desire to catch up quickly,” she said. “I think that’s because of our need for talent. Not enough people wake up every morning thinking: ‘I want to be an insurance professional.’ There are a lot of demographic changes and a lot of retirements in our industry, and we have to ensure we have the talent in order to meet the needs of the future.

“There’s a burning need to push this forward. Different insurance companies are looking around to see what others are doing because, not only are we all competing for the same talent, but we’re all poised for greater industry movement than we’ve seen in the past. I’m pleased that Liberty Mutual recognized that well before now so that we can be leaders in this space and support others, not only in the industry but also our customers. As they say: a rising tide lifts all boats.”