A seminar on diverse working life was held on 26 October 2021 as part of The Persuasive Work 2030-project. Insurance company If’s Diversity, Inclusion and Leadership Manager, Ran Lavie, was the keynote speaker.
Lavie is outspoken about companies in all sectors needing to do better in terms of diversity, and he talks about setting the bar as high as possible when it comes to sourcing more diverse teams into the insurance sector.
In Finland, diversity is often mistakenly understood as only meaning gender equality. But in reality, diversity refers to all the differences and the manifestation of different identities and differences within organisations. Equity, on the other hand, means identifying and dismantling unequal structures and providing equal, fair and equitable opportunities for all, Lavie explains.
By inclusion, Lavie refers to an active process of inclusion. At work, this means employees feeling a sense of belonging, and companies making an effort to create a psychologically safe atmosphere, where employees have the ability to take interpersonal risks without fear of risking their own reputation, career and opportunities, for example.
Studies show that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is associated with, among other things, better business and customer service, lower risk, and increased creativity and the ability to innovate.
– Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is not charity. It's about delivering profitability, he says, and goes on to explain that when employees feel included and as part of a team, it reduces the amount of sick days taken, and improves employees’ contributions to innovation.
– Companies need to understand that the more perspectives you have, the better, he says.
– At If, we have come a long way in terms of gender equality, but we need to broaden our understanding of diversity – for example, to include sexual orientation, age, disability, social class, religion, ethnic background and national identity - and how these affect each other and our behavior, perceptions and to our possible misconceptions.
So how can this be achieved?
Lavie says a company needs a CEO who is very committed to implementing DEI.
– Companies need to wake up. Having a diverse team and a diverse way of understanding situations and issues can save a company a lot of time and money – and potential lawsuits.
Lavie also points out that implementing DEI needs to be a full-time job, and the person doing the job has to be someone belonging to a minority group themselves.
– It should not need to be said, but unfortunately it does, he says.
In addition, companies need to establish a governance model, work closely with unions, legal teams and employees, and establish Diversity and Inclusion groups. They should look at the bigger picture, and assess things like who is being promoted to new positions within the organisation, and how upward mobility works in the organisation.
–If everyone has a similar background within the organisation, there is an issue somewhere, Lavie says.
However, Lavie reminds companies that too much change too quickly can often be met with resistance.
– There is only so much an organisation can absorb at once. We need to plant seeds, and take things one step at a time.
He suggests putting in place clear policies on behaviour that need to be implemented. The law only protects people from racism and discrimination in the most overt cases. Often, discrimination happens through the more hidden types of discriminatory behaviours, such as microaggressions, covert racism and implicit bias.
At Lavie’s lead, Insurance company If is taking an active stand when it comes to making some tangible changes. They are a part of Data Alliance Team, a forum of companies working together to address the limitations and possibilities of measuring minority groups in organisations in Scandinavia.
– We are really pushing the bar higher at If. We are measuring psycho-social notions within the organisation to get more information on employees’ wellbeing, and comparing how different groups are doing, he says.
Lavie says that, regardless of their diversity traits, everyone has experienced what it feels like to be excluded. Not getting invited to something, not feeling like a part of something, being silenced, or pushed away.
Empowering employees is the key to success. Lavie believes this can be achieved by having a work culture where employees feel safe to say what they think, and where they feel their thoughts are listened to
Studies have shown that diversity among staff members also attracts diverse clientele. “Customers want to be seen and understood, so if diversity in a workplace is very limited, there is a big chance the clientele will reflect this too.” According to Lavie, the finance and insurance sectors are no different. He believes there is an increasing need for people with fresh takes and different approaches and an understanding of current trends, he says.
Instead of seeing differences as something that hinders the business, it should be understood that diversity only benefits a company. According to Lavie, if an organisation really wants to stand out, it's not enough to be pro-diversity and pro-inclusion. The next step would be to be anti-racist.
– Diversity really is the bare minimum. But being anti-racist is on a whole other level, he adds.
Lavie says that organisations mirror society at large, and it would be naive to think what is happening on the outside is not happening within a company, too.
– Diversity is not an entity that exists on its own. It’s a mindset, and it is reflected in everything.
–To fulfill our role in society, we need to recognise that all of our customers are different. If we forget who our customers are, we will not be able to communicate in their language and we will not understand their needs. We need to take society as a whole into account. Insurance is for everyone, and we have the opportunity to be at the forefront of change, Lavie concludes.
The aim of the Insurance Work 2030-project is to engage in dialogue on the future of work in the insurance sector, and to promote good practice in the sector. The implementation of the project is a collaboration between Trade Union Pro and Service Sector Employers’ Association Palta. The project is done in cooperation with Finance Finland.