1 July 2024 Features Insurance

Thinking outside the box—attracting a more diverse talent pool

Be brave and creative when seeking new talent, says Sue Davies, chief human resources officer of Markel.

Our focus on talent this month turns to diversity and inclusion with this third report taken from a virtual panel discussion about talent sponsored by Markel and led by Intelligent Insurer.

Louisa Blain, partner, head of insurance for Human Capital at Aon; Natacha Craven, chief people and communications officer at Miller Insurance; Kevin Hopton, head of UK talent management and performance at Sedgwick; and Jane Warren, UK branch manager and executive sponsor for diversity, equality and inclusion at Liberty, joined Davies to debate progress in the re/insurance sector.

The insurance industry, historically seen as a staid and homogeneous field, is making significant strides towards diversifying its talent pool, Craven pointed out. “The sector has moved progressively forward. We are talking about topics we didn’t discuss at all 10 to 20 years ago,” she said.

Despite this progress, Craven acknowledged, much remained to be done.

She observed that while there has been an increase in employees from under-represented backgrounds, they often occupy lower-level roles or positions in management services functions.

Highlighting Miller’s initiatives to address this imbalance, including development programmes designed to help such individuals advance their careers, Craven continued: “We have programmes to attract those types of individuals; 43 percent of our existing employees have attended an advanced development programme.

“These programmes focus on core skills and career progression, helping employees level up in the organisation,” she said.

Shift the narrative

Blain pointed to a broader shift in the industry’s narrative, from diversity to inclusivity and belonging. “We’re hearing a lot more about inclusivity and belonging now,” she noted, emphasising the importance of nurturing talent and ensuring employees felt welcome and valued.

“Leaders and managers need to be very mindful of the crucial role they play in nurturing the culture,” she asserted.

Davies concurred, saying: “We encourage our managers to be brave: sometimes it’s the easy option to do what you’ve always done, or to fish in pools you’ve always fished in, but you need to be innovative, be creative.”

Davies highlighted the success of Markel’s staff initiatives and inclusion networks in engaging with potential talent.

“Through our inclusion network, we reach out to different colleges and universities,” Davies said.

“Role modelling, sponsoring, and mentoring are all essential so that people can see a meaningful career ahead of them,” she added.

“Role modelling, sponsoring, and mentoring are all essential.” Sue Davies, Markel

 Change how people view insurance

Hopton brought up the need to rethink how the industry defines and seeks talent.

“If we look at skill alone, we’re already limiting the pool,” he stated, advocating a focus on attributes and aptitudes.

Hopton believes the industry should be “brave enough” to base recruitment on these qualities and then develop the necessary skills internally.

“We have a practitioner-led process that develops employees from entry all the way through to complex roles,” he explained.

Warren supported this approach, noting the industry’s historical struggle to attract talent. “We haven’t been good at selling our industry,” she admitted.

Warren sees initiatives such as the London Market Group’s outreach programmes as vital for changing perceptions.

“Young people engaging with fine art, space or shipping insurance spurs their imagination,” she told the other panellists.

Warren stressed the importance of innovative recruitment strategies, such as targeting army veterans who can bring unique problem-solving skills to the industry.

“We need to look at traits other than just pure skills,” she said.

“Young people engaging with fine art, space or shipping insurance spurs their imagination.” Jane Warren, Liberty

The Dive In Festival, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, was mentioned. Davies noted: “We’ve been a global partner of the festival for a long time and it’s great in terms of getting people to open their eyes, so we try to leverage that across our employee base for education opportunities.” 

Be innovative with your talent pool

Warren and Craven both highlighted the importance of continuous training and supportive policies.

“These programmes focus on core skills and career progression, helping employees level up in the organisation.” Natacha Craven, Miller Insurance

Craven shared success stories from Miller’s menopause support policy.

“We’ve managed to attract women returning to work after empty-nesting. They’re making a very positive impact,” she stated.

“We’re quite forward-thinking in looking to re-engage women,” Warren said, adding that such progressive policies were valuable tools that needed to be better marketed.

Hopton, meanwhile, discussed Sedgwick’s approach to learning and development.

“We’ve moved away from traditional training models,” he explained.

Sedgwick’s new methods include short podcasts and “pearls of wisdom” sessions, providing bite-sized knowledge that employees can easily access.

“We’re using our imagination and thinking differently about reaching everyone,” Hopton said.

All panellists agreed on the importance of development programmes and a shift towards inclusivity and belonging, the role of employee networks in broadening the talent pool, and a need for innovative recruitment and training strategies.

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