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D&I: Simply good business

Lisa Paschal, Senior VP and Chief Human Resources Officer for Ryan Specialty Group, explains why recruiting diverse talent is only half the answer.

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Diversity of thought leads to better outcomes and better decision making – it’s simply good business. The tangible benefits are a broader range of skills and experiences as well as increased language and cultural awareness, which improves performance and drives innovation.

However, recruiting diverse talent into our industry is only half the answer. Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.

Diversity is a fact; inclusion is an act. At Ryan Specialty Group, inclusion is one of our corporate values and part of our value proposition.

Without inclusion, diversity doesn’t matter. In order to retain diverse talent, companies must foster an inclusive environment, which begins with treating everyone with respect, being conscious of our own biases, avoiding stereotypes and respecting individual differences.

We each must be vigilant and alert to inappropriate behaviour. As leaders, we must practice good meeting management by drawing people out in meetings when they’re not confident to speak and asking them specifically for their thoughts and perspectives.

The benefits this approach provides include diversity of thought and more thorough analysis, resulting in a better solution.

We are in a relationship business, and many positions are filled through “manager network”; correspondingly, our business networks are not as diverse as we might like.

The key is expanding the talent pipeline, making that pool larger and attracting people of diverse backgrounds into our industry.

This expansion can begin with college recruiting efforts, where we must cast the net broad enough to include students who may not have a risk management degree or have planned a career in insurance and then pique their interest about the opportunities and career paths available within our great industry.

Partnering with multicultural and affinity associations and student groups can help increase the flow of diverse candidates into the talent pipeline.

At Ryan Specialty Group, we have established internships and relationships with schools to build interest and skills within targeted groups and communities.

We work with a local preparatory school that prepares youths from underserved and low-income families for post-secondary educational opportunities.

Through internships with businesses, students subsidise their education through work study programs, which provide students with real-world work experience and exposure to a variety of different fields.

These interns become part of the talent pipeline and often re-join the companies they interned with once they have completed their college education.

In order for diversity and inclusion efforts to be effective in an organisation, it can’t be considered an HR initiative; it must be led from the top by example with executive buy-in.

For smaller companies which don’t have a dedicated D&I function, it must be woven into the fabric of the organisation. I would describe RSG’s approach as “grass roots.”

Our chairman, Pat Ryan, includes discussion of our company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion every time he speaks to employees. Why? Because he believes in the value of different points of view.

When people from various backgrounds work together to solve a problem or to brainstorm a new idea, the conversation is more complete.

A deeper and wider discussion ensues. And, frankly, it is more interesting to work with people who have a variety of experiences and upbringings. We can learn so much from each other.

The industry has made more progress with women, and RSG’s chairman is fond of saying that Ryan Specialty Group is a matriarchy, as we have women in many key executive leadership positions both in functional (CFO, CHRO, CMO, CIO) and business unit (President, CEO) roles.

That being said, there’s still work to be done. We, and the industry, have made some progress in terms of women in leadership and denting the glass ceiling, but now we must focus on improving diversity and inclusion overall.

While we work together to move this effort forward, each of us can make a difference, one hire, one mentorship and one promotion at a time. As leaders and hiring managers, our personal commitment to building diverse and inclusive teams will collectively move the needle in our industry.

Lisa Paschal is Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for Ryan Specialty Group.

This piece originally appeared in Reactions.

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