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VOLUME 21 | ISSUE 5
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INDUSTRY & MARKETS
Fostering Diversity and Inclusion Within the Broker Channel
Featuring
Crystal Underhill
New Business Development Broker/Advisor,
Reith & Associates
Kevin Bradley
Diversity, Inclusion & Community Leader,
HUB International
Melissa Forward
Personal Lines Service Advisor,
BrokerLink
Diversity, equity and inclusion within the workplace isn’t just important, it’s imperative to a company’s growth and success, and to the economy as a whole. We spoke with three brokers about what DEI means to them and what it means within their brokerage.
WHAT DOES SUPPORTING AND ADVANCING DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION LOOK LIKE WITHIN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY?
KB: Diversity is a state of being and shouldn’t be an end state. It doesn’t help anyone to have diverse recruitment activities if you’re bringing employees into an environment where they don’t feel they belong and they can’t be their authentic selves. It should be defined broadly, well beyond race and gender. If we want to attract the best talent, we should be looking at all aspects of diversity, and that leads to inclusion, which requires action. Inclusion means you’re striving to be a place where all associates, customers, suppliers and contractors feel seen, heard, valued and respected. You’ve created a place where people feel they belong. Equity is another action in the journey to be inclusive. People are given equal opportunity to grow and be successful at your company.
MF: Supporting and advancing diversity, equity and inclusion within the insurance industry must begin with transparency and communication. This involves addressing areas of opportunity for development and highlighting gaps to create a plan on mitigating any risks of non-compliance.
CU: As an industry, we need to represent the diverse population we serve. It’s really about education and making uncomfortable conversations okay. The more we learn about each other, the better we’re able to understand and respect the diverse backgrounds of our colleagues and clients.
DEI must be sustainable and woven into our business practices, our talent and people practices, and our connection to the local communities we serve.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE WITHIN YOUR BROKERAGE?
CU: Respect and inclusion are key priorities. Not everyone has the same backgrounds or beliefs. It’s important to understand others and create an inclusive learning environment where our team members are comfortable to share and celebrate their uniqueness and who they truly are.
KB: We’re committed to fostering and cultivating DEI at every level of our organization, starting with our CEO and Executive Management Team and including our over 14,000 employees. One of our guiding principles is Focusing On Our People, and a key part of this pillar is fostering an environment that embraces the diverse backgrounds of our employees. DEI must be sustainable and woven into our business practices, our talent and people practices, and our connection to the local communities we serve. At the local level, regional leadership teams, and for some regions, Diversity and Inclusion Councils, work in concert with our overall vision and strategy.
MF: DEI within our organization is embedded in our core values—Integrity, Respect, Customer Driven, Excellence and Generosity. It’s imperative to understand our workforce and be able to provide opportunities for everyone to feel valued and included. As a team, we’re creating educational material for our quarterly newsletters, banners, calendar, Count Me In campaign, international disability day and week. Our other two task forces include Gender and Sexual Diversity, and Race and Cultural Diversity. Both these initiatives are actively creating material for our D&I Newsletter.
WHAT WOULD BEST ADVANCE YOUR DEI GOALS—A FOCUS ON CULTURE, SYSTEMS, OR BOTH?
KB: It really is an ecosystem that feeds off itself. To advance our goals we need to cast wider nets and attract a more diverse workforce, including diversity of thought. To retain that workforce and keep people engaged and motivated we must have a workplace culture that’s welcoming. We also need to ensure we’re good corporate citizens so when diverse, and really all candidates, are thinking of a good place to work, they’re thinking about us. It’s all connected.
CU: Education is so important. The number of people I’ve spoken to that had no idea residential schools existed is astonishing and a sad reality. We have so much information available to us, we need to do a better job as a society to understand others—the very base of this is to educate ourselves. We must have an open mind and learn from each other.
MF: Continuing as a co-lead on my brokerage’s D&I initiatives and being a member of IBAO’s DEI Committee has and will continue to best advance my personal DEI goals. We’re fostering a culture and value system that advocates for human rights, and implements best practices, policies and procedures that ensure an inclusive, diverse environment.
HOW CAN IBAO DRIVE THE DEI CONVERSATION WITHIN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY?
CU: We need to keep talking about it. There’s no quick fix and as an industry, we need to work together to ensure all members feel welcome and included. IBAO has done a great job educating our members on many topics and DEI is an area they can lead the charge and provide resources to their members.
KB: Any individual, group or association that’s looked up to as a leader within an industry has an obligation to lead by example. An association can’t say, “DEI is what we all should be doing” but then consciously or unconsciously exclude groups from leadership roles and opportunities. Associations can lead initiatives to help their membership become more aware and be the face of an industry in diverse communities. As an example, The Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance does this by hosting workshops for young people in minority communities and leveraging panelists who have been successful in the food and/or hospitality industry to show that there are viable careers there.
MF: Being part of IBAO’s DEI Committee, our initiative is working together to establish and implement a morally and ethically sound culture with an inclusive value system that advocates for all human rights. It’s critical that part of RIBO’s required training is curriculum related to DEI—this will contribute to our efforts to drive important conversations within the insurance industry.
ARE THERE ANY COMPANIES OR INDUSTRIES YOU’VE SEEN HANDLE THIS TOPIC WELL YOU’D LIKE TO EMULATE?
KB: This is one area where companies and industries should continue to come together and learn from each other. Doing so isn’t giving away trade secrets or secret sauce, it’s all of us banding together to make our communities and companies better. Rather than looking at benchmarking and emulating in the aggregate, I like to pick initiatives that would work well within the culture of the company. There are some strategic approaches that are common no matter the company, but how things are executed can be very particular to individual companies based on their culture.
CU: Any company having these conversations is on the right track. The more we allow others to speak and allow ourselves to be open learners, the easier the conversations will become.
MF: A great resource is 2021 Canada’s Best Diversity Employers. It’s difficult to choose just one to emulate. Many of the employers have implemented amazing Diversity and Inclusion initiatives like mental health benefits, extended maternity leave, retirement savings plans, defined benefit pension plans, working from home flexibility, hybrid work arrangements, personal savings accounts, paid vacations, tuition subsidies, charitable donations and financial support for families affected by the pandemic. These types of initiatives are all great and I’m happy to see organizations take the lead to implement them. For myself, what really resonates is employers who work to physically remove barriers for individuals, as this truly vibrates an inclusive, diverse workplace.
VOLUME 21 | ISSUE 5
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