While the financial services industry is viewed as lacking significant diversity, many studies have shown a strong business case for promoting diversity and inclusion. A recent study, The Journey of African American Insurance Professionals, offers some practical suggestions for recruiting and retaining African Americans, a group that is underrepresented in the industry.
The study, conducted in collaboration by the National African American Insurance Association and Marsh, resulted in the following recommendations:
Establish relationships: Beyond conventional recruiting on college campuses, employers should establish ongoing relationships with key faculty members, business and community leaders, and other influential persons who can increase awareness of insurance industry career prospects.
Tap into talent pools: Employers should tap into the talent pools in African American professional groups, for example, the National African American Insurance Association, Executive Leadership Council, National Black MBA Association, and National Association of Black Accountants, to broaden their recruitment efforts. Smaller businesses should tap into African American talent pools to enhance their competitiveness and improve their growth potential.
Leadership commitment essential: Senior leadership commitment and engagement are essential to the substance, vitality, and sustainability of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, the report said. Recognition of, and respect for, different perspectives must be signaled from the top of an organization and be a strategic priority. Senior management engagement is a crucial element of success, including in such areas as sponsoring and mentoring; rectifying inequities in compensation and promotion; holding others accountable for diversity goals; promoting lines of communication that expose a diversity of ideas, experiences, and personalities; encouraging employees to own their careers; and opening doors for individuals to contribute.
ERGs: Develop and Sponsor Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). ERGs should have a positive impact, but must be proactive entities that bring employees together to address real concerns. ERGs should be safe places where overlapping objectives can be met, such as creating positive social environments where individuals can express themselves, and providing training on hard/technical skills (such as certifications and knowledge transfer) and soft/interpersonal skills (such as leadership, presentations, and mobilizing others). Industry organizations that encourage this type of “risk taking” will benefit from heightened employee morale and productivity.
*Build informational pipelines that inform prospective hires of the significant opportunities within the industry. There are obvious gaps in knowledge and awareness about the industry itself and where it is headed in relation to the application of data, analytics, and new technologies, which may constrain insurance from being a top choice.
Mentor, Coach, and Sponsor. Formal coaching and mentorship programs and informal mentoring relationships should be explored to determine what fits best in a company’s organizational structure. Companies in the insurance industry should foster dynamic mentoring and coaching cultures and engage external experts, when necessary, to train mentors on the most effective coaching techniques and to enhance the quality of the relationships, the report said.
Serving diverse communities has been and will continue to be a great source of sales growth for insurance carriers, said Ali Agha, senior development manager with New York Life Insurance Company’s Brooklyn General Office. Generally speaking, he added, members of these communities typically don’t have adequate access to financial advice, and are, on average, more likely to be under-insured or uninsured.
The following are some of the steps that an organization can take to increase its exposure to diverse communities, according to Agha:
If there are agents currently in your organization that are members of diverse communities you wish to target, develop them to be ambassadors of your organization to the communities they serve and create more “word of mouth.”
Invest in in-language training, and culturally relevant tools and marketing material. “Often in our industry,” Agha said, “what’s available in English far outpaces what’s available in other languages. People from diverse communities need to feel a sense of belonging and relatability with the organization they work with.”
Make sure your organization’s website and other electronic communications channels have culturally relevant content, including in-language content where possible.
Support sponsored content and ads on popular local papers, podcasts, and TV shows, as well as conduct educational seminars in local communities. This content should be centered on the importance of considering insurance as part of preparing for one’s financial future, as well as on how people can pursue careers in our industry.
Ayo Mseka has more than 30 years of experience reporting on the financial services industry. She formerly served as editor-in-chief of NAIFA’s Advisor Today magazine. Contact her at [email protected].