Insurance needs fresh talent, new skills and strong innovation capabilities to deal with what’s coming. The challenge is not just to be able to leverage new technologies; to thrive, insurers need to be able to think differently, consistently. Accenture’s research shows that two factors—diversity and a culture of equality—are vital to establish an innovation mindset, giving them a better chance of survival.

What does the future hold for insurance? It’s exciting.

Analytics, blockchain, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), drones and automation are just some of the new technologies that are enabling insurers to improve risk modelling, offer on-demand, pay-as-you-go and personalised insurance, and launch new business models. But success in this fast changing and highly competitive environment also demands new thinking—new threats which will have global impact (such as climate change and cyberthreats,) are increasing complexity and compelling insurers to rethink their positioning.

How can the insurance industry remake itself, building a diverse, ‘equal’ and innovative workforce?

Here’s what Accenture’s 2019 Getting to Equal research uncovered:

  • An innovation mindset is six times higher in the most equal cultures.
  • In the most equal and diverse cultures, an innovation mindset is 11 times greater.
  • Employees in the most equal cultures see fewer barriers to innovating and are less afraid to fail.
  • An empowering environment is the key culture-of-equality component.
Source: Accenture’s 2019 Getting to Equal research

Diversity remains critical to an insurer’s ability to innovate. However, a culture of equality and inclusiveness is an essential multiplier to help maximise innovation. While companies might be hitting their “numbers” in terms of diversity, they might not be building a true culture of equality.

A culture of equality is inclusive—it offers an empowering environment, bold leadership and comprehensive action, enabling people from all backgrounds to succeed. That’s because in a culture of equality, people are truly valued for their differences and free to be who they are. They’re not just there to check a box—they’re empowered to contribute.

Ready to build a culture of equality?

An inclusion and diversity (I&D) strategy that is synchronised with the overall business strategy will form a critical foundation on which leaders can take action and drive progress.

The following three broad recommendations encompass complementary drivers of a culture of equality and of an innovation mindset that reinforce each other in a virtuous circle.

Empowering Environment + Purpose + Autonomy

Training, greater flexibility and commitment to work-life balance are the most powerful drivers of an innovation mindset. This area is where there is the greatest opportunity for impact, as it accounts for 70 percent of innovation mindset gains. Employees are empowered by a shared sense of purpose paired with autonomy, which helps them reach their individual potential.

  • Fiercely promote flexible working: Have the leadership team set a positive example around work-life balance. Use technology to enable people to have more say over where, when and how they work.
  • Train effectively: Offer employees engaging, ongoing and flexible training programmes so they can acquire skills for the future.
  • Let people be themselves: Don’t ask employees to conform when it comes to appearance; encourage inclusion in every way.

Bold Leadership + Experimentation + Resources

Culture starts at the top. Setting and publishing diversity targets, holding the leadership team accountable and measuring progress are critical steps. Leaders must give employees the resources they need to innovate and the freedom to fail.

  • Prioritise diversity and equality: Establish diversity, equal pay and advancement goals.
  • Make leaders accountable: Track progress and make leaders accountable.
  • Set up to innovate: Design-in the necessary time, space, resources and technologies needed to innovate. Continually encourage and reward innovation.
  • Encourage risk-taking: Ensure that employees know they have the freedom to experiment, and help them learn from their failures.

Comprehensive Action + Inspiration + Collaboration

Forward-looking policies and practices are important, but they must also be evenly accessible to ensure that individuals or groups don’t feel singled out or held back. When employees are inspired by those inside and outside the organisation, their commitment to living the company’s core values, and to collaborating with one another, grows.

  • Send a loud and broad signal: For example, encourage all new parents, not just birth mothers, to take leave.
  • Cross-train and rearrange teams: Use work rotations, temporary assignments or horizontal career moves to give people opportunities to grow skills and to share.
  • Use networks: Encourage collaboration and support, through networks for your employees.
  • Look outward: Bring the outside in. Encourage people to develop external networks and partnerships and to attend events where they meet others and hear new ideas.

I hope you have found this blog series useful. I believe that championing an ‘equal’ mindset is not just an ethical imperative, it’s one we have to pursue as members of an increasingly diverse and complex global society. We have the opportunity now to create solutions that can exponentially improve lives and lifestyles—if we are able to harness the potential of everyone to innovate.

Do you believe your organisation could be doing more to get to equal? What single action could it take right now to help establish a culture of equality and innovation?

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