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Inclusive, trusting workplace culture helps organizations succeed: Panel

Diverse workforce

ORLANDO, Fla. — Inclusion is key to building an engaging workplace culture, and organizations that do that are more innovative and successful, a panel of experts said.

By recognizing differences and creating a safe and trusting environment, organizations can build an engaging workforce, they said Friday during a panel discussion at the Claims and Litigation Management annual conference in Orlando, Florida.

“I like to think of diversity as an old-fashioned abacus. It’s an organization that’s counting how many types of people do we have and what level of the organization are they at. That’s really the role of human resources,” said Corbette Doyle, senior lecturer at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

“But inclusion is like a high-performance sports team. You figure out what everyone on the team does well and you bring them together in a way that 2 plus 2 equals 5 or more. That’s inclusion, and that’s the supervisor’s role, the team leader’s role, the executive’s role,” Ms. Doyle said.

Organizations are now “dying” at an age younger than their average employee, which creates a strategic imperative for them to either innovate or disappear, Ms. Doyle said. “Organizations need to continually renew themselves, recreate themselves,” she added.

Diversity and inclusion is imperative as a leader, said Preston McGowan, chief transformation officer with Buffalo, New York-based Goldberg Segalla LLP.

“Diversity and inclusion improve organizations financially. If a company makes a decision not to embrace it, they are making a strategic decision,” Mr. McGowan said.

While significant progress has been made in diversity and inclusion, “we still have a long way to go,” said Jane Tutoki, a director on the board of Memphis, Tennessee-based Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc.

As a former CEO of a small services company and now a member of Sedgwick’s board, being called a “pioneer” and a “trailblazer” made her wonder why, Ms. Tutoki said.

“It’s 2019, and I represent more than half the population,” she said. “Why … am I a trailblazer and pioneer in the insurance services industry?”

While there is a lot of education around diversity and inclusion, without targets and strong support, “it doesn’t move down the path, it just wears you out,” Ms. Tutoki said.

Many big law firms now apply the 30% rule where if they have a position of leadership coming up, “they are committed and sign on to make sure they will consider diverse people for those roles,” said Brian Boardingham, associate general counsel with Axa XL, a unit of Axa SA.

“Diversity is being asked to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance,” said Mitchell Dane-Henry, claims manager with Oak Brook, Illinois-based Retail Properties of America Inc.

“We have our check boxes of do all these people fit, but it’s about making sure they’re celebrating those differences and encouraging them to grow and experience the organization as others,” Mr. Dane-Henry said.

Transparency and accountability and linking diversity and inclusion actions to financial compensation can be a powerful way to drive changes in workplace culture, the experts said.

“When it comes to D&I, especially at the top leadership levels, there’s no clear line of sight between certain actions and outcomes and your money. When you target your money to these things, people change, or they will opt out and decide it’s not the culture they want to be in. That’s OK,” said Mr. McGowan.

“The more organizations focus on tying measurement and compensation together we will start to see a different outcome,” he said.

The “secret sauce” is seeing people for who they are, Mr. McGowan said. “I see color, I see race, I see gender, I see sexual orientation. All of these things are gifts. As a leader, it’s important for me to figure out how to work all of these gifts together to maximize the outcome of the strategy.”

“If I close my eyes and don’t see those things, there’s no way I’m going to get an optimal outcome and I’ll cause a lack of engagement,” he said.



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