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Diversity programs not only can help brokers and insurers attract talented employees who seek a more inclusive workplace, they also can enhance organizations' ability to meet client needs, thereby improving both organizations' bottom lines, diversity experts say.
Today, the buyer side of the insurance business is more diverse than the seller side, diversity experts point out.
“We need more diverse talent to reflect our client population and to be more successful as an organization,” said Celia Brown, New York-based group human resources director for Willis Group Holdings P.L.C. “How can we make a more diverse workforce and senior leadership pipeline be part of our business strategy?”
“Whether it's the buyers of insurance, the treasurers or people on the employee benefits acquisition side is definitely more diverse than the insurance brokerage and carrier side of the business. If you don't reflect all of your clients' views and perspectives and approaches to things, you're going to have a very narrow outcome,” Ms. Brown said.
“The HR role is probably one of the most diverse C-suite roles on the buyer side. More of those people are women, people of color. They're going to have a point of view they want to be reflected on the other side. How do we achieve representation in the workforce reflective of the clients we serve? That's really where a lot of diversity discussions are focused right now,” said Orlando Ashford, managing partner at Mercer L.L.C. in New York.
Mercer, the human resource consulting unit of New York-based insurance broker Marsh Inc., recently was recognized with an Award of Excellence in Profiles in Diversity Journal's annual International Innovations in Diversity Awards. The award, which appears in the publication's July/August 2012 issue, honors organizations that have demonstrated unique, out-of-the-box thinking and have produced exciting initiatives that enhance workforce diversity and inclusion.
While the acknowledgment “shows that we've done a decent job promoting diversity at Mercer, the ultimate award is when we can correlate those activities with performance,” Mr. Ashford said. “If you create an environment that allows people to show up as their true selves, they will be more creative and perform better,” he said. “Diversity programs help organizations focus more on outcomes…whether you have the skills and capabilities and can deliver the output.”
“It certainly is something that can add to the bottom line,” said Trevor Gandy, chief diversity officer at Chubb Corp. in Warren, N.J., which has had diversity programming in place for nearly 30 years focusing on women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees. “When our trading partners and customers get a sense of our focus on diversity, and they are values that they share, it's very additive. It can deepen the connection point and the value proposition,” he said.
Since it began embracing diversity within its workforce, Chubb's financial performance has improved greatly, according to a statement by President, Chairman and CEO John D. Finnegan on the insurer's website.
“A company…whose people share the same background, culture and ways of looking at the world is likely to stagnate,” Mr. Finnegan states. “On the other hand, a company whose employees bring different perspectives to their jobs is one that will always find more efficient ways to operate and new ways to grow. My vision is for Chubb to become a workplace where every employee can feel that Chubb is the place they can make their careers, a place where talent and hard work are the only tickets to success.”
Besides focusing on diversity internally, Aon P.L.C. has been helping its clients identify and contract with diverse suppliers and vendors through its Aon Cornerstone business unit, according to Lashana Jackson, Chicago-based senior human resources director-global diversity and inclusion.
“Aon prides itself on being thought leaders and innovative. We need global, diverse perspectives,” she said. “It's more complex than just having another African-American woman sitting across the table. They're looking for you to share their values. It's diversity in client-facing, high-impact roles.”
“We know customers today expect a more differentiated customer experience. Our ability to understand those diverse expectations and then develop solutions for them is very dependent on our ability to develop a workforce that reflects our member community,” said Ray Carson, executive vp and chief human resources officer at Highmark Inc. a health insurer based in Pittsburgh.
“We expect diversity and inclusion to help us address diverse health care needs, to support the development and marketing of new products, to brand Highmark as an employer of choice and the leading health and wellness company in the communities we serve, to make us more resilient and creative in an increasingly challenging industry and market, and to help guide performance in strong alignment with business objectives,” he said.