Leadership

How to Create a Culture of Inclusion in the Workplace

You’re ready to revolutionize your business, but not sure where to begin? If published research and industry experience is any indication, the first place to direct your focus should be improving diversity in the workplace.

Research shows that companies who fully embrace workplace diversity reap the benefits of increased employee engagement, workplace satisfaction, innovative strategy and solution development, and improved financial performance. But in order to benefit from the diversity advantage, management must do more than simply talk about its importance. Here are 4 ways to implement diversity initiatives to transform employee workplace experience and improve your business as a whole:

  1. Inclusive Hiring
    In order to create an inclusive and diverse workplace, you have to hire candidates from various educational experiences, cultural backgrounds, gender identities, and underrepresented groups. Look for candidates in new places beyond the standard search platforms. During the interview process, questions should be designed to evaluate the candidate’s qualifications, skills and experience — not their personal characteristics. This will help reduce the chances of unconscious bias influencing your hiring decisions. As Dame Inga Beale, former CEO of Lloyd’s of London, explains, “We make hiring decisions and promotion decisions based on our own views and beliefs, and we’ve got to force ourselves to make decisions based on people’s potential — we have to be much broader in the way we look at people’s potential.”
     
  2. Unconscious Bias Training
    This inclusive approach doesn’t simply end after the new employee joins the team; their daily workplace experience must be similarly supportive, collaborative, and free from the burden of Unconscious Bias. Dr. Renee Navarro defines Unconscious Bias as, “Social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.” Although racial discrimination is the most common Unconscious Bias, prejudice based on gender, physical ability, religion, sexual orientation, age, weight, and more still exist within society. Our individual experiences and learned behaviors shape the Unconscious Bias lens through which we view the world, and these subconscious beliefs influence the way we approach our interactions with others — especially at work.

    Unconscious Bias Training is the best way to resolve issues of prejudice in the workplace and encourage a communal effort towards inclusivity. It starts with exposing and breaking down the ingrained biases that we all carry, and providing tools to recognize and eliminate this behavior in the moment. An effective Unconscious Bias training course will also address the microaggressions and hostility that might be preventing your employees from fully embracing diversity initiatives.
     
  3. Policies
    Training seminars are an excellent way to get people thinking about diversity, but in order to have enduring value and practical application, diversity and inclusion should be a cornerstone of your company’s policies. Employee “tool kits” and handbooks provide a reliable resource to reinforce company policies regarding best practices, correct language and tips for eliminating biases. Accommodating policies, like family leave and telecommuting opportunities for working mothers and caregivers, have also been shown to improve employee satisfaction and productivity. In fact, a recent LinkedIn study found that businesses who support the needs of all employee demographic groups equally enjoy both higher employee engagement and long-term retention.
     
  4. Lead by Example
    In order to influence change on an institutional level, senior leaders across the insurance industry must get on board with diversity initiatives. When senior leadership declares that accountability around diverse hiring and inclusive workplaces is a top personal priority, the trickle-down effect is felt throughout the organization. This is particularly true for middle management, which has historically been a roadblock for the advancement of underrepresented groups.

It’s time to change the public perception that the insurance industry is averse to change. As Dame Beale said, “The insurance sector often gets criticized for not being innovative enough and progressive enough. I strongly believe if we get this right, and we get these diverse teams working for us, we can make sure that we are being innovative and we have a strong, strong future for insurance.” As diversity and inclusion initiatives are embraced by insurance professionals around the world, workplaces will become a more enjoyable, productive, and collaborative experience — for all of us.