Attracting diversity into a diverse industry

The benefits of diversity in the workplace have long been recognised. It widens the talent pool, improves employee engagement, enhances performance and enables an organisation to better represent its diverse customer base. That can only be good for business, right?

I am sure that many within the industry did not consciously set out to build a career in insurance. However, once here, most of us realise what an exciting and challenging place it is to work. There is an abundance of opportunity to develop and utilise wide ranging and varied skills and expertise, across a host of different fields. As well as insurance professionals working in traditional areas such as underwriting and claims, our industry requires lawyers, accountants, surveyors and engineers, sales and marketing professionals, IT experts etc., etc.

So how can the insurance industry, often characterised as dominated by white men of a certain age, broaden its reach to attract a broader range of talent?

As a starting point, we need to increase our engagement with schools and universities to make sure that prospective employees have a good understanding of the range of rewarding careers available to them.

This does not need to take the form of a costly national programme but does require engagement at a local level. I would suggest that all of us who are enjoying successful careers in Insurance could invest a little time to promote insurance to a younger and more diverse audience.

For example Davies has invested in attracting talent via a partnership with Staffordshire University. This has enabled us to speak to over 400 students in the last 2 years and we now have 7 of their graduates on our Graduate Programme. We have also provided 10 paid internships which have been very successful. The majority of the students we have engaged with reported that they had never considered a career in the insurance industry. Our graduate intake includes both sexes and a range of ethnicity, a reflection of the customer base the industry serves rather than a conscious effort to tick a diversity box.

If engagement in such a structured way is too difficult for some there are also national programmes that it is possible to support in a big or small way. Davies currently works with the CII Discover Risk programme to promote the industry and is part of the Insurance Trailblazer group steering the future of insurance apprenticeships.

Once we have attracted a diverse workforce, how do we develop and retain them? It seems very obvious that providing equal career development opportunities and a clear pathway to career progression is key. But how do we achieve that?

Barriers to success are complex. Individual views and company cultures can foster bias and stereotyping. The onus is on all of us to take positive action to shift perceptions and drive change within our own organisations. Many companies in the industry are taking such action with clear diversity policies and steering groups, but in too many areas little headway has been made in practice.

There is no simple answer, no universal solution. Instead, the route to greater diversity lies in a range of measures, from each of us adopting an open and positive mindset, challenging the status quo at grass roots level to promote equality and diversity, through to actively joining together to support industry and nationwide initiatives that drive change.

To quote Charles Darwin: “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself”.

We live in fast changing times and if our industry is to remain at the forefront we must take positive steps to attract and retain the widest possible pool of talent.

Lesley Johnson
Managing Director, Davies Casualty