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Diversity in hiring can encourage diverse ideas in workplace

Diversity in hiring can encourage diverse ideas in workplace

NEW YORK — A sound business case can be made for inclusion and diversity within business organizations, and several insurance industry leaders offered suggestions on how to implement and leverage workplace diversity.

The speakers made their comments during a panel discussion at the Business Insurance 2014 Women to Watch Leadership Conference and Awards in New York.

“There is impressive research supporting the idea that when you have cognitive diversity, people who think differently, you get greater innovation,” said Corbette Doyle, lecturer on organizational leadership in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee.

“When you have complex issues, you need people who have different ways of thinking through the problem,” Ms. Doyle said. “When you get demographic diversity, you tend to get cognitive diversity.”

“Here's my business case: We have 72% females in our organization,” said David North, president and CEO of Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc., Memphis, Tennessee, adding that 50% of the buyers of Sedgwick's services are female.

With workforce diversity, however, may come the need to make other changes within an organization.

“Diversity is a management question,” said Brian Duperreault, CEO of Hamilton Insurance Group Ltd., Hamilton, Bermuda. “There is a management requirement to train people how to manage a diverse group,” he said.

Diversity is a laudable goal that inclusion can help accomplish, Mr. North said. “Inclusion is a behavior that helps with the push and pull,” of solving issues within an organization, he said.

Bias and stereotyping can be present along the path to diversity.

“It's really important to be aware of how people might be perceiving you,” said Ms. Doyle.

When one is different, sometimes “you have to take that step forward to make people a little more at ease,” said Brian Little, head of human resources with Zurich North America. “Make sure they're clear that you're approachable,” added Mr. Little, who is African-American.

Part of achieving diversity is learning new ways to frame and view issues. “We have to challenge our perceptions,” said Mr. North.

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