Bias and Insurance: What We Can Do to Promote Diversity in the Industry
I firmly believe that most of us in the insurance industry have the best of intentions when it comes to our hiring practices. However, what we meant to happen and what does happen can often be two very different things.
It is true that even the word “diversity” can elicit anxiety or fear of trying to find ways to address a lack of it and achieving no meaningful results. So, if it gives us such pause, is diversity worth the trouble? The short answer is definitively yes.
Now, it’s obvious in any instance that diversity of knowledge, experience and proven expertise will benefit any process, project or pursuit. Having experts from an array of fields leaves you generally prepared for an equally vast array of obstacles. It just makes sense to have those tools at your disposal.
Social diversity is a bit more complex than diversity of expertise. This type of diversity can cause friction or discomfort, reduce a team’s level of communication, compromise trust and create an environment of greater perceived interpersonal conflict. The fact is, we are often more comfortable and settle more easily into groups that come from similar backgrounds to us. A homogeneous environment requires less consideration to effectively navigate, but does it make the work better? No.
Innovation is the key to any company, business or industry growing in a positive way. In order to create those insurance industry teams capable of coming up with creative solutions, make better decisions and employ novel problem solving, one needs a diversity of opinions and perspectives to properly consider every angle.
We are each a unique combination of upbringing, present experience, training and education, among a host of other variables including gender and race. A result of increasing diversity within an organization is that, as differences increase, so also does the effort needed to navigate those differences and to find social common ground. Effectively incorporating diversity into your team is just like any other skill—it will take time and it will take determined practice to gain the full positive effects.
When members of any social unit realize they are different from one another, they begin to anticipate corresponding differences in opinion and world view. They realize that coming to some form of consensus will be more difficult than if everyone came from similar social backgrounds and had similar social expectations. They will need to work harder to form bonds and truly understand their teammates’ reasoning and, ultimately, we all know, the harder you work, the greater likelihood of a positive outcome.
Social diversity will allow this industry to overcome the biases everyone has inadvertent or not. It will allow us to make decisions not only on the basis of good data but on a worldview informed by many different voices, ultimately building a professional platform from which we can effectively find our place in a time where new and challenging obstacles seem to be appearing more frequently.
The James Allen Company, we are committed to helping your business achieve your diversity goals and to building socially and intellectually diverse insurance communities.