On Aon Podcast: Approach to DE&I in the Workplace

On Aon Podcast: Approach to DE&I in the Workplace
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February 13, 2023 19 mins

On Aon Podcast: Approach to DE&I in the Workplace

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Episode 46: Aon experts discuss Aon’s 2022 Global DE&I Survey results on how effective DE&I efforts are and where they still need to improve.

Key Takeaways
  1. Aon experts provide an overview of the findings from Aon’s 2022 Global DE&I Survey.
  2. The three key components of the survey’s structure are explained during this episode.
  3. The episode identifies the unique findings from the survey based on geography.

Voiceover:
Welcome to On Aon, a now award-winning podcast featuring conversations between colleagues on, well, Aon. This week, we hear from Dr. Avneet Kaur on DE&I in the workplace. And now, this week's host, Joey Raheb.

Joey Raheb:
Great, hello everyone. My name is Joey Raheb. I've been a colleague at Aon since 2015. In my current role, I'm Senior Vice President in our Canadian Health Solutions practice, and I lead the Chief Broking Officer function, as well as Sales and Growth for our practice in Canada.

I'm excited today, because there's a topic that we're talking about that's very near and dear to my heart: diversity, equity and inclusion. In the workplace today, it has evolved over the last few years, as many organizations have looked to embed diversity, equity and inclusion into their organization-wide policies. This includes things like benefits, compensation, manager training and talent development. As these policies mature and grow and take a life of their own in the organization, a data-driven approach has been used to help determine how effective these policies and efforts are and what we need to do to improve them.

Today, I'm very lucky to be in London, England with a colleague of mine, Avneet, who I'll pass to introduce herself. We are going to be talking about Aon's diversity, equity and inclusion survey that was recently run and the positive correlations that we found between employee engagement and a company's DE&I commitment and action. So, Dr. Avneet Kaur, please introduce yourself.

Dr. Avneet Kaur:
Thanks, Joey. We are glad you're here. You're joining us from London, in London. Hi, everybody. My name is Avneet. I head up our Advisory and Specialty Practice for India Health Solutions Business. I have been with Aon for less than three years. My time here has been pretty exciting. It seems like an interesting place to be. And yeah, we've recently done a global DE&I survey, and Joey and I, we are very excited to talk about that.

Joey Raheb:
Awesome. Like I said, I'm very happy to have you here, but before I start throwing hardball questions at you, we'll start off with something really easy. How about: What's one piece of career advice you would have given yourself if you were just entering the workplace today?

Dr. Avneet Kaur:
Interesting. That is not an easy one, though. So, reflecting back, I think when I joined the workforce, or when I took up my first job, I would say I had loads of self-doubt, as compared to "Am I good enough? Am I good enough as compared to my peers? Are people going to see through me and realize that she doesn't know anything?" But today, I think I realize that having trust in one's own self, that's the most important thing, and that's the advice I would give myself.

Joey Raheb:
That's awesome. Avneet and I have the very good luxury of sitting through a bit of a training course, and we've learned a lot about trust, so it's great to hear that that's something that you would have spoken to yourself about. So, let's just jump right in. Why don't you start off by giving us just a broad overview of the global DE&I survey, and what it is and what does it measure?

Dr. Avneet Kaur:
Thanks. So, of course, Joey, diversity, equity and inclusion is not a new theme for organizations. However, in 2020, Aon launched their new DE&I proposition, taking into the factors which were facing us at that moment. And what we realized, what we very quickly figured out, was that clients want to understand what is actually going on, what is the current practice and try and formulate a best practice around this.

Based on that feedback, based on the need of the client, we decided to run a flagship global diversity, equity and inclusion survey, focused specifically on benefits, because there is very little data around benefits and how they impact talent attraction, retention and most importantly, supporting the needs of your workforce. We ran the survey over Q2, Q3 last year. We were lucky that we got so much response from clients. We had 1,200 respondents, over 55 countries, 11 different industries responding to the survey.

And some of the key findings and most important finding that we have been able to establish on the back of the survey is that companies who follow through on their commitment, who walk the talk with regards to diversity, equity and inclusion policies, they actually see a higher level of employee engagement. These companies, they tend to do more with regards to understanding what is the diverse set of need for employees. They tend to have a very clear definition of what DE&I starts with them, as a firm. Their policies are more wide. They cover a diverse set of employee needs, like I mentioned earlier, and lastly, they do even more to measure the progress on diversity, equity and inclusion commitment.

Joey Raheb:
So, I mean, the survey's very interesting, like I said, and did it measure, specifically, anything to do with regards to anything outside of DE&I policies?

Dr. Avneet Kaur:
So, how we structured the survey: We structured the survey in three different sections. The first one was aimed at a global audience, because people who have global roles tend to have a very different need with regards to what data points they want, as compared to somebody who is sitting in a country. So, the prominent questions on policy were connected to our global survey. At the country level, we split it into two separate countries, so some sensitive countries and some overall countries, non-sensitive countries. There, we had detailed benefit-related questions.

These questions covered almost six different areas, which covered health equity. It covered aging population. It covered family-forming benefits. It looked at: What is the support for gender differences in health? We looked at transgender healthcare, as well, and we also looked at leave policies globally and how they're changing today to accommodate the needs of the different situations which employees are facing.

Joey Raheb:
Thank you, Avneet. Maybe you could hit on some very specific findings that you found from the survey.

Dr. Avneet Kaur:
Cool, for sure. So, one of the important ones, Joey, I just covered with regards to engagement and the results that we see with commitment. But I think the response very clearly indicated that this is an area of high importance for business. We are seeing 74 percent of organizations have a very clear, defined DE&I policy. I think that's really important. If you want to get the momentum behind something, you have to define it quite clearly, so that everybody can stand behind one focus.

The other important finding we got through the survey was the amount of focus there is on making sure that there is responsibility and accountability. So, 84 percent of companies have colleagues identified for leading DE&I efforts within the organization, and I was presenting the survey to Aon's Global Inclusive Leadership Council the other day, and the question they asked for was: "Is this something that companies identify one individual, or they tend to have a council responsible for driving these efforts?" And we do see a mix of that, with regards to how responsibility is shared, and one of the key parts here is to make sure that you are solving for how it would work in your business, rather than following your trends.

Last important point to say is there is huge leadership support in all businesses to drive the agenda forward. Ninety-three percent of organizations reported that they have leadership support in this area.

Joey Raheb:
That's great. In particular, the comment around support from leadership, well, and quite frankly, all levels of the organization, is important. But maybe comment a little bit about why that leadership function, it plays such a substantive role.

Dr. Avneet Kaur:
So, Joey, whenever we had brought up topics like let's say diversity, equity and inclusion, they were always shoved to being HR topics. But as now with COVID, with the environmental impact and the awareness this has brought, it has come to the forefront and has become a business focus. It is no longer just HR who is thinking about, "Hey, what do we need?" But with the results that this brings, the business impact, let's say, having a diverse and inclusive culture having a diverse workforce and inclusive culture can bring. The results are there, so businesses are really interested in doing this.

In addition to this, there is regulatory impact on how we would want to show, as a firm, ESG requirements, as well. So, all of this has made it important for the business function to really understand the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion and make it a part of their day to day. It's no longer something which just HR should know.

Joey Raheb:
Yeah, that's amazing, and as a Canadian, I'm seeing very similar trends, whether that's regulatory or otherwise, that are causing senior leaders to look up and say, "This is something more than just a policy we put on paper or a program we implement." So, it's great to see that there's more of an active role, especially in senior leadership, to make this a key function.

Let's change gears a little bit. We talked about DE&I and it forming a form of policy. Oftentimes, things like health and benefits get ignored as part of that, or it's a singular tactical solution included to address diversity, equity, inclusion, whether that's conception support or whatever the case may be. Could you maybe talk about how having a holistic strategy around health and benefits play a role in supporting DE&I?

Dr. Avneet Kaur:
Sure. So, a lot of client conversations where I've been in, where the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion has been brought up, the instinctive reaction is to look at pay equity across gender, think about social mobility. And naturally, companies or leaders don't really go into the benefit space to say, "Hey, what can I do here?" In one of these conversations, there was a client of ours who we were able to engage, and that client was losing a lot of female talent, and they were wondering, looking at the compensation pressures: How can they actually make sure that they attract and they're able to support the female workforce?

And what we were able to do, this was something that we did across 29 different markets, was a huge population size, a tech manufacturing sector client. And what we realized was we started with an audit of what benefit policies they were offering, but we started realizing that there was very little information available at the center, with regards to how these benefits are getting utilized. What is the preference? Are employees even aware of any kind of support systems available? And it was very eye-opening to the client to have a look at what set of data they have available and how they can pull certain levers to help their employees without, let's say, going into high investments or rolling out some very high-cost benefits.

And we've implemented those changes Q3 last year, so very soon, we should be able to see how that has impacted and get a review and see how that moves forward.

Joey Raheb:
I have a viewpoint around some of these things, especially programs that you implement around alignment with a broader DE&I strategy and how those play a role in your benefits plan, retirements plans, compensation programs, whatever it may be. It creates that connection and alignment with cultural values. Would you agree?

Dr. Avneet Kaur:
Absolutely, absolutely. I think that's a really good reflection. You cannot just go out and do this in one specific area. You have to think through how you're impacting this culturally. Aon, actually, we are developing the next level of our proposition, and we have included belonging as one of the important ingredients to the mix. And we think that looking at all of these different aspects, understanding how you're attracting the right set of talent, how you are retaining them, how you want to make sure that your best talent, is also attracting others, engaging your current workforce. And those on the outside, actually, they realize that this is a great place to work.

And you cannot do that by just focusing on one aspect. You have to look at this in the holistic term and of course, understand how this impacts your employees. And there is no right and wrong, with regards to whose needs we are going to address, or even "Which trend should we follow?" You look at your own workforce and figure out what makes the most sense for you.

Joey Raheb:
I think that really aligns with a recent discussion paper we released in Canada: the concept of belonging, diversity, equity and inclusion being more than just pay, being more than just compensation, being more than just a policy. It is more holistic. It has to be more organic, in relation to what the organization is trying to achieve, so the alignment feels really good. As we talk about other countries, were there any findings from the survey that were unique by geography that you'd want to comment on?

Dr. Avneet Kaur:
Yes, actually we did find quite a lot of differences across geographies. While I think the importance is quite similar, it doesn't wane too much. But there are certain topics you would see of higher importance in certain geographies than others. So, for example, we saw there was a very, very high focus on income disparity in North America and in Europe. And on the other hand, if I look at aging population, there was a big focus in Asia Pacific with regards to taking certain actions to address the challenges that they are facing right now.

Some of the other areas that we are starting to see come to the forefront is thinking around disability and how from a disability standpoint, you need to think about individual as a whole, the employee or the person outside the workforce, as well, or your workplace, as well. So, organizations globally, they are supporting individuals with regards to accessible tools or bringing some technology in, speech-to-text devices, et cetera. But the moment we move away from the workplace, we see that globally, that's an area that companies can do more in.

Joey Raheb:
That's interesting. The role of the organization and in this field is growing and evolving and being better-defined every day. We hit on a question earlier, with regards to senior leadership involvement and commitment, with regards to DE&I. A bit of a combo question for you. So, we've discussed HR's role, and they've played a prominent role till now. Who else in the organization should be paying attention, and what are maybe two or three takeaways that they should be thinking about as they're listening to this?

Dr. Avneet Kaur:
I would reflect back to your comments earlier, Joey. So, you said that it's everybody's business, so we need everybody involved, at all levels. It is critically important that our people, our leaders, our managers, even the board, all teams, they realize that this is not just being done because somebody thinks it's a good idea. Of course, it is a good idea, but the results and the impact we have seen businesses have, that is very significant, be it accessing new markets, thinking across supply chains, bringing new products in the market to address the need of the underserved.
I think there's enough evidence to make sure that we are really not excluding anybody, and we are thinking from the principles of universal design. And just to bring it back to our benefits conversation, I think it starts at understanding that the needs of your workforce are very different today than they were, I don't know, 20 years back. Even let's pick up the composition of family. How you define a family has changed so much that you need to really have a look through and understand that any line, anything you are doing, is it inclusive? Or is it not without unknowingly being an environment where it's excluding people?

Joey Raheb:
Yeah, I think it's one area where we are looking to question clients, to question the status quo. Average doesn't exist in the same fashion it did before, so how do you respond to the broader needs, make your programs inclusive and remove bias as much as possible from your programs?

This has been a great conversation. We could go on and on and on, but we do have to wrap at some point. So, why don't I end it on a lighthearted note? Avneet, why don't you tell us about a book you are reading or maybe the last one you finished and maybe what you liked about it?

Dr. Avneet Kaur:
It's interesting you asked that, because I've been telling everybody about that book, because I've found a book. I'm a fiction reader. I typically tend to read fiction, like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and stuff or murder mysteries. But I've found a very interesting book, which is a comedy book. It's called Three Men in a Boat, and it's written by Jerome K. Jerome, and it's about three men going up the River Thames and their dog.

And it's just interesting, the way the whole interaction or human interaction is described there, and how they depict your inner thoughts when you're waking up in the morning. You're just getting off bed, and you're just thinking, "What's happening?" So, I would recommend everybody to read it. It's fantastic. You would be laughing in each page, and it's really good.

Joey Raheb:
Well, I wonder what the Aon equivalent would be of Three Men in a Boat. Anyway, that's for another day.

Voiceover:
This has been a conversation on Aon and DE&I in the workplace. Thank you for listening. If you enjoyed this latest episode, tune in soon for our next edition. You can also check out past episodes on Simplecast. To learn more about Aon, its colleagues, solutions, and news, check out our show notes and visit our website at aon.com.

 

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