Insights

Inclusivity at Brit: Head to head – part three

Inclusivity at Brit: Head to head – part three 1920 1280 Equity

CIN Manager Aaron Gavin sat down with Dauda Jammeh, Brit’s Group Finance Operations Manager, and Wayne Page, the Lloyd’s insurer’s Head of Inclusion & Diversity, to learn about their lived experiences of I&D at Brit Insurance during the pandemic.

Aaron: We’ve learned a lot about inclusion at Brit in your individual blogs. Now that we’ve got you together, I’d like to hear about some of your experiences of inclusion at Brit, and how lockdown impacted the effort.

Wayne: Something that struck me is a side-effect of the forced move of our I&D meetings and events to Teams during lockdown. Turnouts have been much higher than expected. Our U.S. and international colleagues have been able to join, for example. We’re used to working as a global business, but we’ve been able to interact, engage, and connect much more easily online than we ever did through townhalls in Leadenhall Street. It’s made our inclusivity events more inclusive.

Dauda: The move to online has even led to family engagement. People have invited their partners and children to listen in, which couldn’t happen in the office. It allows broader engagement, and has prompted us to extend our I&D engagement with resources that specifically target employees’ families, like books for children. The Brit People Forum regularly has kids participating now!

Wayne: The pandemic forced us online, but I am pretty sure it’s how we will continue to operate. Feedback from around the company tells us that online events have been received in a very positive way.

Aaron: What makes them so popular?

Wayne: They’re really good! Most of them happened before I started here, so I can’t take any credit, but the team did a great job of organising speakers with broad appeal.

Aaron: Like who?

Dauda: Well, for Black History month we had two great speakers. One was the well-known British rapper and activist Akala. He’s considered one of the 100 most influential black British people in 2021, and is sought-after as a speaker on racial equality. He educated us on the contributions of black scientists from ancient times through to the modern era. It was extremely enlightening!

Next was Avril Nanton, a tour operator who specialises in black history. She took us on a virtual walking tour of London’s statues of black people, told us the backstories of the individuals, and explained their contributions. It was also really well received.

Then for Celebrate Difference Week we had a load of guest speakers on different topics. A highlight for me was Tony Adams, the Arsenal footballer and England captain. He spoke about mental health, and focussed on his own tumultuous times playing, drinking, recovering, and playing again in a cycle, at the height of his career. Everyone saw his talent, but he was struggling. He talked about how he overcame the challenges. Another notable speaker was Monica Lewinski, who everyone of a certain age will remember from her ordeal with Bill Clinton, the president. She talked honestly about how it impacted her, how she navigated her way through, and how she put her life back together.

Aaron: So lockdown has had an impact on your event turnout. Has it have other effects on your diversity efforts at Brit?

Wayne: Even working from home, microaggressions still happen. They’re just done remotely. Maybe you don’t give someone room to speak, or constantly get names wrong. But it’s harder to call things out in a Zoom meeting… raising a virtual hand just doesn’t have the same impact. Things can go under the radar more easily than when you are sitting in a room together.

Dauda: I agree with that, Wayne, but overwhelmingly I think the side effects of lockdown have been positive. One really personal example: last year I was fasting during Ramadan, and working from home. I mentioned this very casually to a colleague, and later received a call from one of Brit’s wellbeing champions in HR. They had called to check that the company was doing all it could to support me. I certainly hadn’t expected that. It’s a great level of care.

Another example is the way Brit treats bank holidays. England has eight public holidays based on local traditional or religious festivals, but at Brit you can take them on other days that are more meaningful to you, say for Gay Pride or Passover. That approach is incredibly inclusive to me as a Muslim. I can celebrate Eid with my family without using vacation days, and come in instead on the Easter bank holiday.

Aaron: What’s on Brit’s post-Covid inclusion agenda?

Wayne: When I arrived here, I was incredibly impressed by the huge amount of effort and focus on I&D at Brit. People are passionate about it, spending day and night making I&D part of our DNA. That makes everyone realise we can always do more. The effort so far has created an appetite that will let us find creative ways to improve standards and practices. Each success amplifies our efforts, and helps to make the insurance market a better place to work, and to make people want to work here. Post Covid, we take all that to the next level!

As Brit’s new Head of I&D, it’s my job to create and implement a collective, strategised approach that will ensure Brit neither misses an opportunity nor falls short in its responsibilities around inclusion. Brit’s senior leaders have decided to make inclusivity a business imperative; it’s my job to act on that directive. I am accountable.

In the previous blog in this series, my colleague Dauda Jammeh revealed how I&D is everyone’s responsibility. He’s absolutely correct. My job isn’t to ‘get inclusivity done’, since no single individual can change an organisation’s culture. It’s down to everyone. Instead it falls to me to facilitate by creating the avenues and acquiring the tools for all to use.

Sometimes I do that by helping Brit follow best practices. I think of that as the ‘I&D compliance officer’ part of my role. For example, Brit had signed Business in the Community’s (BITC) Race at Work Charter when I took up my post (then, Zurich was the only signatory from the insurance sector). But signing is more than just a PR exercise. It creates tangible commitments which require ongoing actions (five of them). It’s my job to ensure we continue to meet those responsibilities (and I am pleased that since we have signed, several other London market companies have done so too. It makes all of us accountable.)

Another important part of my job is to ensure everyone at Brit has an accessible, suitable platform to discuss I&D. That involves very much more than providing a way to raise an issue in confidence (although that’s important, too). For example, we formed the Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) which Dauda explained in Part 1 of this series. They create safe spaces for anyone to share their experiences, aspirations, frustrations, and negotiations, and provide a direct channel to senior management.

The ERGs are just one of many new I&D communication routes at Brit. We introduced a Microsoft Teams submission page which anyone can use to offer observations and ideas to Brit’s high-level I&D Committee. Recently we polled all employees about their I&D attitudes and experiences through the firm’s annual Employee Engagement survey for the first time. Sometimes we ask I&D-related questions internally in the weekly Pulse survey Brit uses to check on employee wellbeing. All that serves to ensure everyone has a channel to be part of the journey.

Allyship is another step on the route to inclusion. Brit works regularly with external partners to help us stay engaged and move forward. Our sponsorship of the ACIN is just one example. Organisations of its type are only as powerful as their members, and we are pleased to lend our support. We get plenty back, from recruitment support through ACIN Recruit to the Six Steps to Racial Inclusivity, which makes ACIN a great navigational aid.

I am helped enormously in my work by the passion of our Chief Executive to do the right thing for all the right reasons. Every one of us at Brit who has embraced the cause of I&D shares our eagerness to do more. Our ambition is to be the best. We have accomplished a great deal so far, but there’s a lot left to be done. As the person responsible for I&D at Brit, that mountain will be much easier to climb, because in Brit’s culture, everyone is responsible. A head of I&D can march alone, but the impact is very much greater when everyone is travelling along the road to inclusion.

By Wayne Page, Head of Inclusion & Diversity, Brit Insurance

Inclusivity at Brit: The long road to inclusion – part two

Inclusivity at Brit: The long road to inclusion – part two 1920 1280 Equity

Brit’s decision to hire a Head of Inclusion & Diversity is a powerful illustration of the organisation’s commitment to create a truly inclusive workplace. It announces Brit’s intention and readiness to begin the next leg of the positive journey every London market business is making – or should be.

As Brit’s new Head of I&D, it’s my job to create and implement a collective, strategised approach that will ensure Brit neither misses an opportunity nor falls short in its responsibilities around inclusion. Brit’s senior leaders have decided to make inclusivity a business imperative; it’s my job to act on that directive. I am accountable.

In the previous blog in this series, my colleague Dauda Jammeh revealed how I&D is everyone’s responsibility. He’s absolutely correct. My job isn’t to ‘get inclusivity done’, since no single individual can change an organisation’s culture. It’s down to everyone. Instead it falls to me to facilitate by creating the avenues and acquiring the tools for all to use.

Sometimes I do that by helping Brit follow best practices. I think of that as the ‘I&D compliance officer’ part of my role. For example, Brit had signed Business in the Community’s (BITC) Race at Work Charter when I took up my post (then, Zurich was the only signatory from the insurance sector). But signing is more than just a PR exercise. It creates tangible commitments which require ongoing actions (five of them). It’s my job to ensure we continue to meet those responsibilities (and I am pleased that since we have signed, several other London market companies have done so too. It makes all of us accountable.)

Another important part of my job is to ensure everyone at Brit has an accessible, suitable platform to discuss I&D. That involves very much more than providing a way to raise an issue in confidence (although that’s important, too). For example, we formed the Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) which Dauda explained in Part 1 of this series. They create safe spaces for anyone to share their experiences, aspirations, frustrations, and negotiations, and provide a direct channel to senior management.

The ERGs are just one of many new I&D communication routes at Brit. We introduced a Microsoft Teams submission page which anyone can use to offer observations and ideas to Brit’s high-level I&D Committee. Recently we polled all employees about their I&D attitudes and experiences through the firm’s annual Employee Engagement survey for the first time. Sometimes we ask I&D-related questions internally in the weekly Pulse survey Brit uses to check on employee wellbeing. All that serves to ensure everyone has a channel to be part of the journey.

Allyship is another step on the route to inclusion. Brit works regularly with external partners to help us stay engaged and move forward. Our sponsorship of the ACIN is just one example. Organisations of its type are only as powerful as their members, and we are pleased to lend our support. We get plenty back, from recruitment support through ACIN Recruit to the Six Steps to Racial Inclusivity, which makes ACIN a great navigational aid.

I am helped enormously in my work by the passion of our Chief Executive to do the right thing for all the right reasons. Every one of us at Brit who has embraced the cause of I&D shares our eagerness to do more. Our ambition is to be the best. We have accomplished a great deal so far, but there’s a lot left to be done. As the person responsible for I&D at Brit, that mountain will be much easier to climb, because in Brit’s culture, everyone is responsible. A head of I&D can march alone, but the impact is very much greater when everyone is travelling along the road to inclusion.

By Wayne Page, Head of Inclusion & Diversity, Brit Insurance

Inclusivity at Brit: Making D&I part of our DNA – part one

Inclusivity at Brit: Making D&I part of our DNA – part one 1920 1280 Equity

Occasionally an act of racial violence is turned on its head to become the catalyst of positive change. The cruel murder of George Floyd one year ago inspired ripples of progress towards tolerance and inclusivity which extended around the world. Here in London’s insurance market, 4,000 miles away, companies which had not yet addressed the challenges of inclusion were spurred into action. Others that had taken initial steps, like my firm Brit, were prompted by the incident to redouble their efforts.

Most important, though, is that individuals like me were driven to act. I was silent about such matters before the George Floyd incident. Now, following the reckoning we all experienced (intensified as it was because we were stuck at home for lockdown), I find myself much more active. I regularly talk about inclusion matters that don’t relate to my role in finance. I no longer expect the appearance of a diversity saviour. My epiphany is that anyone can influence and impact their organisation from anywhere within it, and that we all share the responsibility to influence and impact daily. It is now a habit for me.

In parallel, we have had some genuine successes at Brit which are intended to help everyone exercise their influence and impact. We have a longstanding policy of zero tolerance of discriminatory behaviours, which is a positive step. On its own, however, the policy does not prevent offensive acts, comments, and microaggressions, which must be the ultimate goal. Achieving that is much more difficult. It requires a cultural change that demands everyone’s involvement, which we now foster at Brit in several ways.

The Brit People Forum, a safe space for discussion and interaction, is one step in this direction. The Forum’s structured events provide a window into the way Brit thinks and acts, to reveal pictures that drive action. Each three-stage Forum event begins with a fireside chat with an external guest speaker. We hear first-hand about their lived experience before the meeting opens to become a safe and inclusive platform for discussion. In stage two, guest presentations are mirrored by open discussions which focus inwards, fuelled by participants’ revelations of their own experiences at Brit. This teases out potential changes to support an inclusive workplace. Finally, the Forum’s conclusions are taken to Brit’s Inclusion & Diversity Committee for action.

Because this process of listening, ideating, and acting is employee led, it yields actions which come from the heart of the organisation. Such inclusivity drives cultural change from the bottom up, ultimately to make a zero-tolerance regime redundant within an organisation which has become by its nature inclusive. We have held four Brit People Forums so far, on the topics of Identity & Belonging, Visible & Non-visible Disabilities, LGBTQ, and Mental Health & Wellbeing, but we have a distance yet to travel.

Another successful step towards infused cultural change at Brit is the creation of internal Employee Resource Groups. They cover personal characteristics from gender to neurodiversity, with more to be added as need is highlighted. Once created, these groups hold sessions and build ideas, doing as they wish and need. Each allows employees to step up and become champions of inclusion, and to join the team that delivers Brit’s ongoing, sustained effort to build an inclusive culture at Brit.

Like any cultural change, our effort is driven not by a complex formula or a magic API, but by hard work. Work of any type is performed by individuals. We will not overcome the challenges of inclusion by waiting for a saviour. We must make it part of our conversation. To make change where you work, you must add yourself to your firm’s initiatives, or launch them where they are absent. Join the conversation, as I did, to make D&I part of your firm’s DNA. That is the essence of cultural change, and the fuel that will keep us driving towards greater inclusive workplace culture.

By Dauda Jammeh, Group Finance Operations Manager, Brit