As the insurance industry continues its journey to create a fair, tolerant and diverse work environment – a requirement that extends to its suppliers and partners – Copart UK and Ireland Managing Director Jane Pocock takes a positive look at the role of strong leadership and setting an example in achieving true equality and diversity in the workplace.
There are so many aspects to creating an inclusive workplace for any business, it’s something that has to be embedded in an employers’ DNA – and I’ve been lucky to join a global company with a leader who has made it a fundamental priority.
Our CEO, Jay Adair, has always been fully engaged in creating a multi-cultural environment where everyone can thrive.
My own appointment is an active reflection of that, and more generally of how attitudes are changing across a previously male dominated sector, so I hope more women will be encouraged to take on new opportunities in areas that they may not have previously considered.
We put a great priority on education and training, which plays a big part in embedding equality in the culture of the business.
Take engineering inspection – that’s about having a technical mindset, not about physical strength – and as a result of getting that message across we’re now seeing more female truck drivers and engineers coming through. I don’t think there’s a job in our company that I would honestly say cannot be done equally well by anyone.
Of course there’s far more to it than gender. Everyone should be comfortable and accepted in their workplace, regardless of everything from ethnic, religious, different cultures and background, to their dietary requirements, dress code, or any other individual preferences.
This also extends to people’s widely varying ways of learning and working – so you shouldn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to training and development, for example.
I see it as a leader’s responsibility to ensure that their organisation recognises equality, diversity and inclusion, and to inspire their people to behave in the right way.
Leaders need to have empathy with their staff, and empower them by creating a ‘no limits’ culture where people are supported to fulfil their full potential.
Empathy is a crucial leadership skill and I have always championed the need for empathy in creating an inclusive environment. This kind of sensitivity in a leader has historically been seen by some as a weakness but it’s not a weakness at all – it’s a strength that is critical to the future of work.
I know I’ve been fairly lucky as a woman that’s always worked in the automotive sector that my hard work has been acknowledged and enabled me to reach my current position and that most of my experiences have been positive.
However, I know some people that have not had such a great time, and I think it’s important that they’re given the opportunity to put those experiences behind them, and see a better world arriving.
We all need to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself.
As MD of Copart, I’ve worked closely with many UK insurance companies, and I’ve seen an evolving understanding of inclusivity throughout the sector. COVID has accelerated this to some extent by increasing the demand for businesses to protect the wellbeing of their people.
Working life has transformed completely in the past 30 years, and I believe the future for people in the workplace is great. A lot of the people that managed the prejudices of the past have now retired and I think that’s a real turning point in the work environment.
Post pandemic it’s important that companies are flexible and more adaptable to new future working practices that allow people to have a better work-life balance and are also more considerate of the people around them.
Businesses that don’t embrace the need to show respect, consideration and empathy will undoubtedly be left behind.