OneAmerica® is more than just the name of a company — it represents unity and the commitment the company has to building and strengthening its relationships.
The approach that OneAmerica takes with diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is rooted in principles of valuing differences, designed to create broad awareness of perspectives and built to create interest in financial services careers, products and new markets.
OneAmerica makes every effort to help associates feel safe, remove barriers and engage in open dialogue. Its approach — rooted in principles of inclusion — is scalable and sharable and creates new opportunities that extend to customers, distribution partners and community partners.
By making meaningful progress on DE&I, OneAmerica is attracting, retaining and developing the best talent. In turn, diverse and inclusive teams have proven to effectively connect with and serve underrepresented communities and to cultivate new market opportunities. This translates to better economic and social outcomes for everyone. In addition, the drive for DE&I is creating innovative solutions within the organization’s operations.
A Model Of Intentionality And Listening
OneAmerica has been focusing on DE&I for years, not as a stand-alone initiative or program, but by taking intentional, pragmatic actions that deeply ingrain it into every aspect of the company’s culture. In leading by example, OneAmerica can be a model that agents and brokers can emulate. This culture of inclusivity can help them form new relationships and partnerships.
“We want people to be their authentic selves and to be able to contribute and reach their full potential,” says Kim Thomas, vice president, diversity, equity and inclusion. “We are very focused on relationships. This extends to every person we contact, from customers to community to distribution partners.”
It all starts with listening — an important and often overlooked step in the process of creating a truly inclusive environment that is based on mutual trust. In 2020, OneAmerica leaders held a series of listening sessions to hear perspectives on racial injustice, to bring the outside impact of the organization in and to encourage candid conversations. Almost 2,300 associates participated.
“When we finished with our listening sessions for associates and leaders, we repeated the process with many of our distribution partners,” says Jen Pittman, vice president, communications and community affairs. “The whole experience gave us a very full view of different perspectives, and we built action plans based on what we heard.”
Each OneAmerica listening session began with a set of operating principles, including “listen for understanding” and “focus on your intention, not on using the perfect words to express yourself.”
“We wanted to understand perspectives from the field — their own perspectives as well as what they’re hearing from distribution partners and customers,” says Thomas. “What do we need to know? What do they want to know? The feedback from these sessions better equips us to share our DE&I strategy and approach in a way that enables OneAmerica and our partners to reach underrepresented communities and markets we may not have approached in the past for a number of reasons.”
Diverse Perspectives And Input Broaden Sales Opportunities And Markets
The distribution partners and policyholders of OneAmerica benefit from the home office having an open DE&I dialogue.
“You can look at it as added market share,” says Kristin Blakeslee, national director of recruiting & agent development. “Dialogue leads to insights. Insights create opportunities to reach markets that perhaps they wouldn’t have otherwise connected to. This is because they’ve got more information, maybe more comfort going into some markets that perhaps they weren’t knowledgeable about before.”
Having the field educated about diversity, such as the different ways people define family and their unique values, cultures and beliefs, empowers them to have a better understanding of and sensitivity to people’s needs. This understanding can help customers and clients get the exact products they need.
“Our internal DE&I efforts will allow us to bring fresh and new ideas to our distribution partners because we’ve got diversity of thought,” says Blakeslee. “With that focus on diversity and inclusion, we are bringing different people to the table to solve problems and to create new ideas.
“Our internal DE&I efforts will allow us to bring fresh and new ideas to our distribution partners because we’ve got diversity of thought.” — Kristin Blakeslee
“For example, the American College has been a great partner when it comes to diversity,” adds Blakeslee. “Typically, its African American Financial Services Conference is attended by African American agents. We took the approach this past year to expand and promote our invites to everyone so they have the opportunity to learn. The diversity of response and attendance we saw really showed care, concern, support and interest in the African American community.”
DE&I Community Efforts Drive Career Interest In Financial Services
The drive of OneAmerica to create even more inclusivity also involves an innovative community workforce program. It has doubled its investments in innovative, community-based programs that address the root causes of inequality by focusing on economic empowerment, access to education, building social capital and creating career opportunities. The OneAmerica Pathways program, developed in 2018, creates career awareness, builds stronger career opportunities and develops new talent from underrepresented communities.
The Pathway tiers implemented to date include Pathways to Sustainable Income for OneAmerica associates, which puts all employees on track to achieve a sustainable income, and the Pathways Junior Fellows program, a full-time, paid summer employment opportunity for high school students. The third tier, the Pathways Career Track program, is launching this year and includes co-op opportunities for college students as well as a part-time apprenticeship program for students starting in their junior year of high school.
“The Pathways program connects new talent with career opportunities and mentors in our industry,” says Pittman. “We see impact from this work, and we know we’ll be able to scale up faster by sharing this program in an open-source format. Other businesses may be interested in using all or part of this approach, and we’re excited to share our work product.”
OneAmerica has already begun sharing its Pathways playbook and curriculum resources with other companies. The challenges of COVID-19 even led to the development of virtual curriculum modules, adding to the program’s versatility.
“We understand every company and situation is unique, so we encourage businesses to use program pieces that work for them,” adds Pittman. “There may be components or lessons we have learned along the way that are applicable to other companies. We make our playbook available because we are committed to achieving greater DE&I outcomes across the industry and in the communities that we serve — not just within our company.
“The Pathways solution is scalable, so any size of organization can use our playbook,” says Pittman. “Agents with smaller offices can find value too because it’s built on the foundation that every single interaction is meaningful. If a small office is looking for a way to connect with the community, it could be a very meaningful community investment for even one or two participants.”
To learn more about the Pathways playbook, which shares scalable best practices on DE&I that will work for your business, contact Kristin Blakeslee at [email protected].