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While gender, ethnicity and LGBTQ+ are typically seen as the headline areas for D&I programmes, it’s vital insurance businesses delve deeper into the diversity of ideas underlying these realities

by Shiva Prashar, Recruitment Manager and Diversity and Inclusion lead at Charles Taylor, for Insurance Day, first published on 22 March 2021: Viewpoint: Diversity of thought is critical to the success of D&I

Like every firm within our industry, we realise diversity and inclusion (D&I) is an important, evolving topic, influenced not only by internal strategic changes within the organisation such as leadership support, but also external socio-economic factors, for instance the Black Lives Matter movement and Covid-19.

When I joined Charles Taylor in 2016, it was a firm of around 1,200 employees and the culture was friendly but also fragmented across different areas of our global business. 

In the past five years we have been building a group-wide D&I strategy and learning valuable lessons in the process as the company has grown into a much larger organisation of more than 3,000 employees in 120 locations.

While it is commonly termed D&I, inclusion needs to come first. At an internal event where Trevor Phillips OBE was the guest speaker, he used a brilliant ana­logy about how you can host a party with a hugely diverse set of guests, but if the playlist at the event is not inclusive, very few will join you on the dancefloor.

This speaks to the need to ensure all employees understand their company takes their belonging and inclusion in the organisation seriously.

Companies need to work hard to ensure all employees are part of their D&I journey, are aware of what the company is seeking to achieve and the behaviours that are expected. 

It requires clear and visible buy-in from senior leadership to ensure D&I becomes part of the company’s DNA. 

At Charles Taylor, our D&I executive sponsors include Damian Ely, chief executive, adjusting, and Arjun Ramdas, chief executive, InsureTech, both of whom represent the largest areas of our business. They actively participate in our D&I forum and set an example for the type of culture we strive to foster and maintain to drive accountability.

While protected characteristics such as gender, ethnicity and LGBTQ+ are typically seen as the headline areas for D&I, it is vital businesses understand they must delve deeper and explore topics such as diversity of thought, social and experiential diversity. 

Differences result in an abundance of innovation through those who have experienced life from another perspective and can bring new ideas. This may mean you need to give a voice to those who do not have direct access to senior decision-makers within the organisation. 

One way we have done this at Charles Taylor is by launching an initiative called Brainwave, where any employee within the business can submit an idea to improve an inefficient process or make a suggestion to help save money. Ideas are submitted and reviewed on a quarterly basis.

Another area where we have made an effort to foster a culture of inclusion is giving our people access to top senior leadership. Our group chief executive, Rob Brown, and chairman, Edward Creasy, hold bi-weekly calls where all employees can join to hear an update about the business and ask questions directly.

It has been great to see the active engagement and questions. It must be said the Covid-19 lockdown has certainly made us all feel a little closer together in terms of everyone watching these meetings through the same format: their screens.

Recruitment

Another aspect related to diversity of thought, focused on the recruitment process, is the importance of identifying roles within the organisation where insurance knowledge is not essential. 

This allows us to attract people from different backgrounds where they can learn about insurance along the way and help others to see things through a different lens. 

An example of this would be within our adjusting business, where we often now look to hire technical experts such as accountants or lawyers and train them in how to be a loss adjuster.

As previously mentioned, external issues can have a profound effect on a company’s D&I strategy. The Black Lives Matter movement has seen leaders question what their firms can do to show support for the movement and its aims. It is likely in the future there will be similar socio-economic events that require a response. 

As such, any D&I strategy has to be flexible to enable new issues can be tackled quickly and effectively. Companies also need to be confident that if an individual employee raises an issue, they have the capability to ensure it is dealt with in the right way.

The Covid-19 crisis created a need for staff to work remotely and with it a challenge to deliver health and wellbeing support despite the inability to be physically in the office.

With the London market’s plans for process transformation, it is now likely that the need to be physically present to carry out roles will diminish and as such companies will need to adapt their approach to ensure D&I and wellbeing strategies are applicable to any new normal.

Ensuring groups of employees do not feel excluded by the new strategies is just as important as the aims of the strategy itself, which includes the majority groups too. Communication remains vital at every step of the process not only to inform employees but also to enable them to participate in that process and have a voice to share their comments and questions.

We are proud of the progress we have have made so far in making Charles Taylor a diverse, inclusive and attractive place to work.

Like many companies we realise D&I is a journey and progress can often feel slower than we would like, but our commitment to this key part of our business strategy remains strong.

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