Attracting Talent

Entering new markets is never easy, especially if your goal is to build a diverse workforce in an industry known for its monoculturalism.
Elaine Coffman
Elaine Coffman // Photograph by Austin Phillips

In April, we celebrated the six-month anniversary of launching a Michigan office for Lockton Cos., the world’s largest independent insurance brokerage. Fundamental to any new endeavor is building a strong team, although starting fresh comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities.

As I reflect on my career trajectory and think about the accomplishments and missteps that have occurred over the past 30 years, a clear trail begins to emerge in my planning and priorities.

While Lockton is the eighth-largest broker in the world for benefits, property and casualty, and retirement services, we’re brand-new to metro Detroit. In fact, when I told a friend I was joining Lockton, she thought it was a coffee company. I’m now trying to attract talent to join a relatively unknown company — an insurance company, nonetheless. Ask any millennial if a career in insurance is something they aspire to; I think you know the answer.

Years of experience have taught me one can only control so much. So while building the Lockton brand in the region may take some time, I can quickly build a team of brand ambassadors among our associates.

Since October, our team has grown from five associates to more than 30 people. This summer, we’re on-boarding two new college graduates for an intensive 24-month training program and hosting virtual internships for four college students. As we continue to grow, we’re focused on hiring individuals with diverse backgrounds who can offer unique perspectives and experiences to our team and our clients.

Our recruiting and hiring strategies are compelling when we examine the insurance sector, historically one of the least diverse of any major industry in the country. Even so, there are opportunities. Twenty-five percent of the overall insurance workforce is in the process of retiring, and another 25 percent will retire over the coming decade.

Right now, white women make up 45 percent of entry-level roles, yet only 18 percent reach the C-suite and only 3 percent of insurance professionals are African-American. It isn’t lost on me that, as a 50-year-old woman, I’m in a unique position within this industry and I have an opportunity to make a tremendous impact.

…It’s heartening to know that a 2018 Boston Consulting Group study found that diversity does, in fact, increase the bottom line for companies.

Needless to say, I’m passionate about creating a diverse team — one that celebrates the unique perspectives of women and men of all ages, races, religions, and sexual orientations; one that’s inclusive by creating competitive opportunities for all candidates, not just filling quotas; one that aggressively invests in minority business enterprise models to improve the disparities in business ownership; one that supports the organizations aiming to develop talent from all corners of our communities.

I’m passionate about this because the insurance industry must reinvent itself, and a diverse workforce will do that. It will also help us better serve and connect with our clients. Diversity sparks dialogue and debate, which sparks innovation. Diversity provides generational and cultural experiences, as well as perspective, nuances, and new business norms.

For example, we know the COVID-19 crisis has forced Gen Xers and baby boomers to adopt technology that millennials and Gen Zers have been using their entire lives. And, let’s be frank: As a business leader, I need to consider revenue outcomes. But it’s heartening to know that a 2018 Boston Consulting Group study found that diversity does, in fact, increase the bottom line for companies.

Hiring is one piece of the puzzle in building a team of brand ambassadors, but we also must retain them. This can be done by having strong managers, mentorship programs, multiple office locations, work/life balance and flexibility, and formal and informal networking. In addition, we offer diverse benefits, keeping in mind same-sex partners and a competitive parental leave program. We’re focused on generation gaps, to keep all members of our team immersed and productive.

Maintaining an engaged workforce requires an ongoing commitment from management. Our leadership team understands it’s our responsibility to manage without bias, to create a culture of belonging, and to show our team there’s a clear path for career growth and

So while we are 30 associates among a larger company made up of 7,500 people with more than 100 offices worldwide, I’m proud to lead the charge as we work toward reinventing the workplace and effecting change in an industry that’s lagging behind.

Elaine Coffman is president of the Michigan operations of Lockton Cos., an independent insurance brokerage with offices in Detroit and Birmingham.