Ever have that feeling when you’re applying for a job that you are just a number in the employment queue?
It’s sometimes hard to find the energy and motivation for even those jobs you would love to do, when the process of applying seems designed to wear you down or worse, to exclude you entirely.
National Interstate is seeking to flip all that on its head by putting extra effort into ensuring inclusion and diversity starts at the very beginning, with job applicants.
We spoke to three women leaders at the company to ask them why this is important, how it works and how to take advantage of National Interstate’s commitment to a smooth and equitable candidate experience.
The business case for inclusive hiring in technology and insurance
Kristen Carvaines, is the Director of the Project Management Office within the IT Group. She tells us her section is ahead of national trends on diversity hiring.
“According to the US Department of Labor, women make up 28% of the Technology workforce.
“We outpace that in both our IT department and leadership team.”
Jen Novak, who is the Vice-President of Vanliner Claims, adds that there is a strong reasoning behind this practice, arguing it sets up a self-perpetuating loop ensuring both existing and potential employees’ needs are met, starting with the application process itself.
“Inclusive hiring practices deepen the pool of applicants and result in improved employee engagement and performance.
“We have found this creates a culture where creativity and innovation are encouraged and appreciated,” she says.
Kristen picks up on Jen’s point about the value of a talent pool that is both deep and wide:
“Diversity is critical in that it provides multiple perspectives in an industry that is ever-changing. We have seen the benefits of these diverse hiring practices over the past five years.
“For instance, we’ve been able to note a maturation in how we operate as an organization within our Centers of Excellence, and most importantly, we see it reflected in our award-winning company culture.”
The benefits of diverse and inclusive hiring
Tracy Hicks, Assistant Vice President, Truck Transportation & National Accounts, says she is constantly on the lookout for specific talents when hiring and she is adamant that women bring particular depth and range to the hiring landscape, as well as to the workplace.
“When expanding our team, I look for key skill sets. It’s clear to me that some skills that help women succeed in roles at our company include persuasion and influence.
“Organizational skills and the ability to multitask are also critical.”
Kristen adds, “Our business is built on relationships and our company is people-centric. Communication skills, including the development of strategies for building and improving relationships, are critical to success regardless of whether you are in a technical role or not.”
Even given her seniority in the company, Kristen admits she is always willing to improve her own skills. Jen offers her own experience as a guide, noting that taking a compassionate, yet business-oriented, approach will serve employees in the sector well.
Such qualities, Jen says, are the kind of areas women are encouraged to develop at National Interstate.
“In this area, you are going to be dealing with people who have experienced some kind of loss, which can involve the death of a loved one. But you also have the opportunity to help people during a time of need.”
Jen says this means, “You have to be able to separate your emotions from the job but remain empathetic”. She adds that women are generally well adapted to embody this balance.
Tips for women looking to enter the insurance industry
All three women, with decades of collective corporate experience, are keen to offer the benefits of their success in their traditionally male-dominated fields within National Interstate.
The common theme all share as advice for women in the workplace, or seeking to get into it, is to establish networks and to work hard at reaching out to their peers in the industry and beyond.
Women, they all agree, often bring a general aptitude for this skill set.
Kristen, Tracy and Jen are keen to encourage women in the sector to deploy these people skills not only in the office environment and in the customer-facing roles that are part of the insurance business, but in the jobseeker phase also.
Tracy offers an honest appraisal of the realities of being a woman with career goals:
“There are some people who have a calling to insurance; I was not one of them.
“When I entered the insurance sector, I was not familiar with the industry and from the outside did not find it very exciting,” she admits.
“Insurance unfortunately can have a ‘boring’ reputation, even though many don’t want to admit it! But, once I was fully immersed my interest continued to grow and I discovered how much opportunity there is in this industry.
“My advice as a woman coming into this field is, to take a shot and build relationships, as things are not always what they seem.
“If I would have looked the other way when I thought it wasn’t exciting enough, I would not be where I am today.”
Kristen says networking has a very practical purpose:
“It’s important to find people who will advocate for you when you are not in the room.”
This can be challenging, she admits.
“To do this, you need to get out of your comfort zone and identify common interests that you may have with others and take the first step in reaching out to them.”
The rewards of working at National Interstate
For Jen, networking also has the added benefit of creating opportunities for self-improvement.
“You have to be open to feedback, ask a ton of questions and leverage those with more experience than you to provide guidance and advice. This isn’t a job where you are going to be an expert in six months or even in six years.
“I’ve been in the claims industry for 30 years and I still learn something new almost every day,” she says.
For these high-powered career professionals, National Interstate offers a rewarding and supportive environment to exercise such skills and to advance their career goals in a nurturing company culture.
Whether it’s due to the opportunity to learn about the business or to learn about themselves, all acknowledge they are fortunate to be part of such a diverse and inclusive workplace which sets a solid platform even for those seeking to join the company.
As Tracy shares, “I’m fortunate to work for a company that truly cares for their employees and supports women. We all support each other. It’s refreshing to be a part of our organization.”
With these extraordinary women showing the way, a career path for other talented and committed women is assured – or should that be insured? – at National Interstate.