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The Intentional Approach

Bringing true diversity, equity, and inclusion to claims

July 05, 2021 Photo

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are words that have become increasingly prevalent within the insurance community. Yet, to make a meaningful impact, organizations must be intentional in how they approach DEI and prioritize inclusion and equity at all levels.

While most insurers recognize the importance of DEI, many are unsure of where to start on the journey toward lasting change. Here are a few actionable ideas and techniques for cultivating diversity and inclusion within your claims department and larger organization, from both the recruiting and talent development standpoints. 

Effectively Approaching DEI

Creating an equitable and inclusive workplace should be approached with the same vigor as any other high-priority business issue. Often, organizations are well-intentioned in their DEI efforts, but their tactics are performative in nature. Making strides in DEI is not measured by recruiting individuals from underrepresented groups or reaching a “quota,” and its business benefits are not achieved by simply appointing a chief diversity officer or forming a council. To make meaningful progress, there must be a commitment and dedication from the collective organization, rooted at the organization’s core and propelled by leadership.

Consider your organization’s unique needs. All organizations and their cultures are unique, and, consequently, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to DEI. A strategy that works for one insurer may not be what is most effective at another company. Assess your organization’s unique goals, determine where you currently are on your DEI journey, and establish where you want to be. What are you doing well? Where is there room for improvement? How can you make the most immediate impact while planning for long-term needs? By understanding your organization’s aspirations and desired business outcomes, you can build a focused strategy with clear and measurable objectives. 

Start with leadership. To effectively move toward a more inclusive and equitable culture, executive management must lead the charge, serving as advocates and working closely with chief diversity officers, DEI committees, and employee resource groups. If your leadership team is fairly homogenous, consider how diverse perspectives and insight can be brought in, and how other voices can be represented. As you develop internal succession plans and recruit externally for open positions moving forward, expand your search to ensure you have a diverse slate of highly qualified candidates that accurately represents your workforce and client base.

Taking a Fresh Approach to Recruiting

While DEI should be a focus at all stages of employment, the recruiting process provides an ideal opportunity to bring in a wealth of skills and talents. Being diverse and inclusive in your recruiting efforts does not mean lowering your standards. Instead, be more creative in how you approach talent acquisition and redefine the skills necessary for someone to excel within a role. Consider all components of your recruiting, interviewing, and hiring strategy to ensure you’re not unintentionally hindering qualified candidates.

Expand your search. Examine where you typically find claims talent. Are you recruiting from a variety of schools and programs? Are you continuing to expand your networks? Claims roles require a variety of skill sets, and, often, human skills are what set the most effective individuals apart. Rather than requiring a certain number of years working in claims, consider which skills can be taught on the job and which are required for success on day one. Be creative and strategic; an individual who has been successful in customer service positions and demonstrated continued growth may be a better hire than someone who has worked in claims for five years but lacks necessary people skills. Negotiation, empathy, problem-solving, and communication are skills that define expert claims professionals and are often difficult to teach.

Appeal to a broad audience. Consider how you are positioning open claims roles. Do they appeal to diverse audiences and compel them to consider your organization? Identify current employees who can serve as advocates for both the claims industry and your company, and encourage them to share their stories and experiences with their peer groups and larger networks. At the same time, ensure your recruiting team is actively seeking out and engaging with a variety of organizations and associations, such as the National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA) and the Association of Professional Insurance Women (APIW), to reach a more diverse base of talent.

Bring in young talent. The median age of individuals working in claims has risen by more than two years, to 44.5, since 2015. Think through how your recruiters and hiring managers are discussing open positions and careers within claims in their conversations with young professionals and new graduates. Claims departments have evolved during the past several years and provide opportunities that are in line with what younger generations commonly desire in a role. Additionally, most young professionals are driven by a desire to make a difference and add value in their roles. Few other careers provide the opportunity to connect with customers almost immediately after disasters and provide logistical assistance and guidance during their times of need.

Mitigate unconscious bias. While completely removing unconscious bias may not be possible, help your recruiters and hiring managers identify situations when their own bias may be coming into play. By recognizing when bias might be affecting decisions and opinions, individuals can better mitigate its effects. Consider formal unconscious bias training and encourage individuals to reach out to others for insight and advice, enabling them to consider a variety of viewpoints when approaching problem        s and making decisions.

Talent Development

While recruiting diverse individuals is a key focus for an inclusive talent strategy, it is just as important to develop your current team members and provide equitable opportunities for advancement. Within claims, 60% of claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators are women; and 28% are racial minorities, according to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Relative to the greater insurance industry, claims departments are adept at employing diverse individuals. Claims leaders are in a prime position to grow these individuals and prepare them for insurance leadership roles both inside and outside of claims.

Create a plan. Focus on keeping diverse individuals within your organization; don’t risk losing high performers because they feel stagnant. Have candid conversations with employees about their aspirations to keep a pulse on their career interests and better retain them. While some individuals will go on to more senior-level claims roles, others may get their start in claims and then move on to different areas within your organization. Invite all employees to actively participate in their own career development and expose them to various areas of claims and the larger organization. Recognize unique skills and talents early on, then work with individuals to create longer-term career plans.

Provide support. In many organizations, there is diversity within individual contributor-level roles, yet mid- and senior-level roles become increasingly homogeneous. As you identify high performers within your claims department, consider how you can continue to provide them with visibility and opportunities. This may mean nominating individuals for committees or special projects. Mentorships and sponsorships are also valuable for connecting talent with leaders they may not otherwise interact with; and providing advocates and new opportunities ultimately expands diversity within the leadership ranks. 

Listen. Seek input from employees on your progress and programs. If something doesn’t work on the first try, explore why and adjust your tactics accordingly. Create a forum for addressing any concerns and actively identify and remove potential barriers. Encourage candor and embrace conflicting viewpoints with respect and validation. By proactively inviting feedback from those who may be less inclined to speak up on their own, you can help ensure all voices are heard and considered.

Creating a more diverse workforce should be a business priority for all insurers. Aim to think strategically and disrupt outdated recruiting practices. Expanding your claims talent pool, focusing on future skills, and developing an equitable leadership funnel will have long-term business benefits.

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About The Authors
Multiple Contributors
David E. Coons

David E. Coons is senior vice president at The Jacobson Group. dcoons@jacobsononline.com

Brett Carter

Brett Carter is managing director at The Jacobson Group.  bcarter@jacobsononline.com

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