We recognized that our Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) efforts were seen by employees as an HR program. There was also much skepticism from CNA staff that such efforts would produce meaningful outcomes. This skepticism was rooted in history. CNA has a significant number of long-term employees, many who remember D&I initiatives from the past which lacked concrete results and weren’t sustained over time.
CNA made a deliberate decision to involve all levels of leadership to determine D&I focus areas. Volunteers from the staff would be solicited to create action plans. To begin, CNA Sr. Leadership developed a list of D&I initiatives that they believed would advance D&I at CNA. They presented to CNA managers who narrowed the list of initiatives to three that were achievable and would help address some near-term issues facing CNA. Volunteers were solicited from the staff to form three working groups that would address each of the three initiatives that had been selected. The groups were representative of all functions, levels, genders and ethnicities. In some cases, leadership reached out to specific individuals to either lead the group or join the group if we felt a group needed more staff members to ensure inclusivity.
The employee working groups met on several occasions over a six to eight month period to develop recommendations for action. Each of the groups briefed senior management for (1) buy-in; and (2) to ensure resources were available to act on the recommendations. The three working groups are in the process of acting on the recommendations. Because of these actions, the D&I initiatives are better known throughout CNA and viewed less skeptically because of the involvement of staff members from across the organization. This approach is helping to create a sense of ownership and institutionalize D&I at CNA.
My goal with this the Diversity and Inclusion Framework initiative, is to create a dynamic work environment with an atmosphere where every employee feels respected, empowered and motivated to be at their very best.