Creating an inclusive culture is essential for the future of independent agencies, but diversity, equity and inclusion efforts will look different for every agency.
Building and maintaining healthy and inclusive workplace cultures takes time, intentionality and follow-through. It requires buy-in from leaders and employees. Agencies should seek to constantly improve their cultures and make their agencies more welcoming, positive places for every employee and customer.
Here are some ideas for how agencies can create more inclusive agency cultures:
Assess current structures, policies and practices
The impacts of COVID-19 caused sweeping changes in how we all work and do business. Moving forward, leaders have an opportunity to embrace change, adopt new ways of doing business and leave behind practices that no longer serve their organization or employees.
- Examine your policies and practices for hiring and promotions. Consider ways to advertise job openings more widely and diversify your pipeline of candidates.
- Get more transparent about compensation structures. Research has shown disparities in pay between genders and races, and since men are more likely to negotiate their salaries, the gap often widens the longer an employee is with a company. Conduct a pay audit to ensure equal pay for equal work.
- Identify your agency’s core values. Involve key employees in developing or updating these, and review them with your whole team. Do your policies and practices align with those values? If not, you may need to rethink the values or the practices.
- Allow for more flexibility in when and where employees work. Flexibility can help level the playing field for employees who have different needs at different times. For example, parents who may need flexibility to pick up children from school during standard work hours. Offering flexibility can also help your agency attract more diverse candidates by hiring outside of your area.
What does the future look like? It looks diverse!
If we in the IA channel are not targeting diverse markets, we’re missing out on a big piece of the pie. And we can only reach those markets if we reflect diversity within our agencies, as well.
Get everyone involved
As mentioned earlier in this report, agency leaders and frontline staff don’t always have the same experience of company culture. By definition, inclusive workplace cultures are those where everyone has a voice and feels their contributions are valued.
Frontline staff may have a clearer picture of where the agency can adopt practices for a more inclusive company culture. However, they may not always know how or where to share those ideas. It’s important to create both formal and informal ways for employees to bring up issues and offer their ideas.
- Put together a diversity and inclusion committee with team members from all areas and levels of the agency to brainstorm ideas and implement best practices.
- Encourage employees to join professional groups where they can network with others in the industry who have similar experiences. These groups shouldn’t replace wider DEI efforts and conversations within the agency, but they can help build structures for support, mentorship and intentional allyship. Encourage the employees to share what they learn in these groups and use those learnings to inform and refine your own agency’s culture and DEI practices.
- Include content about workplace culture and values in onboarding and ongoing training, and talk about company values in staff meetings.
- Depending on the size and structure of your agency, consider implementing a round robin technique for meetings to give everyone a chance to share their ideas.
- Offer opportunities for special training in DEI practices, such as workshops on unconscious bias, inclusive communication or leading with empathy.
- Engage staff and leaders in conversations about guidelines for inclusion and how to practice inclusivity. Choose one of the guidelines for inclusion to discuss each week at a staff meeting, while reviewing them as you go.
- Solicit honest feedback through anonymous surveys asking staff about their experiences with workplace culture and their ideas for improving it.
If you care about the future of your business, continuing to grow your DEI initiatives is essential.
DEI has become a bigger focus in the business world, and agencies that invest in DEI initiatives will be better positioned for the future.
Beyond that, DEI is an important part of attracting the next generation of insurance agents. To Gen Z, the social goodness and deeper purpose of a company is equally important as how much the company pays.
Set goals and measure progress
There are many different paths to creating an agency culture where every employee feels they belong as their full self. The important thing is for agencies to take intentional steps toward improving the employee and client experience. It’s not enough for agencies to simply talk about their commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging – they must take action.
As agencies figure out how to incorporate DEI in the agency, leaders must set some goals and assess them regularly. These could be goals for staff satisfaction levels, professional development or representation of women and people of color in the agency and in leadership positions. It could even be a goal to partner or volunteer with a nonprofit that addresses DEI and that can help staff more fully understand the challenges facing people in the community. Once the goal is set, leaders can measure progress.
The world is changing. The U.S. population and workforce are becoming more diverse, and modern employees want to work for companies with inclusive cultures. Companies that adapt now will be better positioned to succeed in the future, while those that don’t embrace DEI will eventually get left behind.
The insurance business is ultimately a people business. Implementing diversity and inclusion practices is an essential part of creating human-centered businesses where employees feel cared for and are better able to build relationships with clients.
The insurance industry has often been slow to change, but independent insurance agents have an opportunity to embrace change and build the future of the industry. At Agent for the Future, we’ve seen how independent insurance agents are leading the way as the industry evolves, and we believe the future of the channel is bright. We also believe the future is diverse.