Diversity & inclusion3 min read

New York Life, Black Lives Matter & Lasting Change

This interview took place as part of our Inclusion Works pulse report series, looking at how organizations can harness the momentum created by the Black Lives Matter movement to create lasting change at work. As part of the series, we interviewed leading lights in DEI to understand their approaches and key learnings that anyone can apply in their organization. Because after all, we’re stronger together.

Check out the full pulse report Harnessing the power of the BLM movement to create a lasting culture of inclusion at work.

30 minutes with Kathleen Navarro

Insurance company, 11,000 employees

Prompting vulnerability and introspection at all levels of their workforce, New York Life is prioritising sincere and authentic connection.

After creating their Coming Together series in 2016, New York Life’s Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Kathleen Navarro, realised something. The Coming Together series encourages respectful dialogue and promotes a safe workplace forum where employees can share their perspectives and feelings on challenging issues.

But while employees have good intentions in conversations about race, most worry about saying the wrong thing. 2020’s renewed focus on BLM compelled Navarro to continue to do more to help employees cross this bridge with courage and vulnerability.

When the 2020 George Floyd protests began, New York Life revisited one of the most pervasive and underserved pain points in DI&B — dealing with the discomfort of vulnerable conversations. The company was able to leverage their strong platform which allowed them to be responsive and expand their conversation series.

They identified the need to refresh their unconscious bias training and accelerate learning. The objective was for employees to move past simple awareness and continue to engage in meaningful conversations that stoke empathy and initiate change.

Still, New York Life isn’t satisfied.

They’re committing to listening more deeply to Black leaders internally and externally.

They’re eager to practically create time and space for deep dives with employees.

One such plan is to create anonymous feedback sessions to maximise the sense of safety when employees make their voices heard.

This will be followed by deeper dive focus groups, and middle managers will be trained in their role in shaping racial equity within the organisation.

One ongoing challenge which New York Life refuses to shy away from is drawing out vulnerability from their leadership team. Navarro is passionate about coaxing introspection and openness about personal stories so leadership can reach out with sincerity and authenticity.

Create a safe space for employees to speak up about their experiences
Equip your people with small tips and takeaway resources that relate to their everyday practices
Lobby for D&I to be a standing agenda at your exec meeting

Hive Learning Pulse Reports are a series of bite-sized action-oriented pulse checks reporting on the most pressing challenges inclusion leaders face.

Our goal is to uncover the root cause and playback powerful tactics the world’s most innovative leaders use to put inclusion into action on the ground, every day. Because when we learn together and from each other, we can all make progress faster.

If you have a particular challenge that you’d like to see addressed in our next round of reporting, or you’d like to participate in our latest report, get in touch here.

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