Ethnically diverse and gender diverse companies are, respectively, 35 percent and 15 percent more likely to outperform their peers, according to a 2015 study by McKinsey and Company. For these companies, there is a tangible bottom-line benefit to creating and supporting a culture of diversity and inclusion (D&I), which is fueled by leveraging each employee’s unique perspective and experience to spark a new level of innovative thinking.
Among the businesses for which D&I is a strategic imperative is Liberty Mutual Insurance. The large, diversified global property and casualty insurer’s D&I efforts are led by Dawn Frazier-Bohnert, Liberty Mutual’s Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer.
“Changing demographics affect all workplaces, including those of our commercial insurance customers,” says Frazier-Bohnert. “To provide valued services to businesses, we want our workforce to reflect the global marketplace.”
Getting the Conversation Started
Since joining Liberty in 2013, Frazier-Bohnert and her team have developed a holistic and multi-tiered awareness program to ensure that employees understood the goals of the company’s D&I business strategy. She utilized her past experiences in D&I and reached out to internal stakeholders and other organizations to talk about their perspectives and best practices in creating effective D&I programs. One of her biggest takeaways from these discussions was that for programs to be successful, they need to be enterprise-wide and include everyone.
Clearly communicating the definition of diversity and its role and sharing that “Diversity is about all of us and inclusion requires all of us” have been paramount. At Liberty Mutual, diversity goes beyond the traditional dimensions of difference such as race or gender and includes all the differences and similarities between people and groups. Liberty also recognizes that people are multidimensional and it is the intersection of these various dimensions that make us who we are. Looking at diversity in its broadest sense makes D&I work more complex and rich. While recruitment is an important focus for D&I efforts, there are other areas of equal importance: D&I skill development, an inclusive workplace environment, community support, customer experience, and communications.
Hitting the Road and Tackling Bias
To underline the strategic business significance of diversity and inclusion, Liberty launched an awareness tour to multiple offices. The 1.5 year-long initiative laid the foundation and explained D&I’s mission, vision, and upcoming programs to employees throughout the company. “The tour emphasized how everyone is personally accountable for building a more inclusive work environment. We all have the opportunity to strengthen our effectiveness in working across the business internally and externally with people who are different than ourselves,” explains Frazier-Bohnert.
One D&I program addresses unconscious bias. The program’s goal is to raise awareness that we all have unconscious, unrecognized biases based on social stereotypes we have been exposed to throughout our lives. “If you are human, you have bias. The first step is recognizing it,” notes Frazier-Bohnert. These hidden prejudices can adversely affect employee relationships and collaborative efforts and the program gives employees a uniform language to talk about the impact of bias and helps them recognize and manage their reactions.
Promoting Diversity through Inclusion
To further facilitate inclusion and promote constructive communication, Liberty created six employee resource groups (ERGs) which are open to all employees:
- Amigos@Liberty (Hispanic/Latino Community & Allies ERG)
- LEAAP@Liberty (Leading and Empowering Asian American Professionals & Allies ERG)
- LEADA@Liberty (Liberty Employees of African Decent & Allies ERG)
- Pride@Liberty (LGBT & Allies ERG)
- Valor@Liberty (Military, Veterans & Allies ERG)
- WE@Liberty (Women & Allies ERG)
ERGs are visible and growing more active within the company. Currently there are regularly-scheduled events for members and interested parties, news and article sharing on discussion boards via a dedicated intranet site, and the opportunity for all employees to participate in company-wide D&I programming via live stream.
A critical component of the company’s ERGs is the inclusion of allies, those employees who reach out and support people beyond their own backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. This includes men—long the largest demographic in the insurance industry. The company’s “Men as Allies” initiative invites men to participate in D&I work by offering learning resources to foster engagement and help increase their D&I skills.
Paul Condrin, president of the company’s commercial insurance business unit, helped launch the program and sees diversity and inclusion as an essential part of his organization’s business strategy. “New risks emerge every day and we need to be ready to help our customers manage them. By encouraging a broad array of ideas, attracting people of all backgrounds, and fully engaging all employees, we gain critical perspective that enables us to better understand and protect our customers and provide the products and services they need to be successful.”
Liberty Mutual’s emphasis on D&I is already showing results: attracting talented people, influencing HR policies and benefits, and helping to create a more collaborative workplace. Remarked Frazier-Bohnert, “We’ve made great strides and have a strong foundation to build on.” Going forward, the company’s D&I programs will continue to promote awareness, but will also focus on taking action through skill-building. “We are committed to creating an inclusive environment where innovation thrives, employees are comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work, and as a result we achieve strong business outcomes.”