Brokerage Ops the March 2013 issue

Diversify Your Thinking

Your clientele is more diverse than ever, yet your office looks like it did a generation ago.
By Ken Crerar

Case in point: If you walked into my son Bobby’s first grade class at Horace Mann Elementary School in Washington, you’d see 22 kids from different parts of the world. You’d be taken back by their names – Bogdan, Rudranshi, Zakaria and Katia – and the sound of the different languages they speak. You might even feel a little uncomfortable realizing that Bobby and his schoolmates personify just how small the world is becoming. His school is representative of the reality of the multi-cultural country we live in. So why isn’t our industry keeping pace?

Take a look around your office. What you see is likely very different from what Bobby’s teacher sees as she looks around her young classroom. Her world is analogous to a smorgasbord of new tastes and smells and visual delights from a wide variety of countries and cultures. Our world is more like a bowl of “pale and stale” macaroni and cheese. Unfortunately, we have grown comfortable with our diet, and as a result we are falling behind in these exciting times. Potentially offensive? Yes, but accurate.

…we have grown comfortable with our diet, and as a result we are falling behind in these exciting times. Potentially offensive? Yes, but accurate.

The message here is that our industry has to do a better job of creating workforce diversity and enriching our business IQ. We’ve all worked hard to build successful organizations with smart and talented people and we’ve reaped the benefits. But recruiting the next generation could be – and should be – a richer experience for all of us. Think about it – as our industry becomes more global, shouldn’t we build a community that broadens our reach and creates a talent mosaic to help better serve our clients; clients that more and more reflect the diversity of the world we live in?

Sure, your firm’s labor pool is based on who is available in your location. But maybe our processes are a little too comfortable. Maybe the way we recruit and where we recruit limits our reach. Maybe, in order to make a change in the right direction, we need to be less passive in our approach and instead be more actively thoughtful and focused on expanding the labor pool. Our challenge and our imperative is to be introspective. To acknowledge that we now live in a global economy and that our business decisions must reflect that. To acknowledge that “more of the same” might not be good enough anymore. Active, targeted recruitment is a business necessity – it’s no coincidence that the most diverse companies are often the most profitable.

This won’t be easy, but I submit that it’s simpler than you think. Think back to the first time you traveled outside the U.S. to a country where you didn’t know the language or the culture. I remember my first experience distinctly – it was hard to adjust and it was at times unnerving. But it opened my eyes to a whole new experience. Our industry needs to embrace that same experience by diving into the world’s extremely diverse talent pool and riding the waves.

We hear it all the time: the most prevalent and daunting challenge our industry faces is talent – recruiting, developing and retaining the next generation of leaders. Image problems aside, insurance and certainly brokerage are not on the top of any 20-something’s career list. But we’re working to change that. Organizations like the Foundation for Agency Management Excellence and Gamma Iota Sigma are making inroads, as are a small percentage of progressive brokerage firms. These and many other initiatives are as diverse as the college campuses they cater to and recruit from. We need to learn from them and capitalize on their success.

Bobby and his classmates represent the new cultural reality and our next generation of leaders. They hail from all corners of the world, and we are lucky that we can find them – if we just open our eyes and minds – right in our own backyards.

Ken Crerar President & CEO, The Council Read More

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