Diversity at Allstate NI: “By promoting an inclusive environment, you get the best out of people”

  • Martina Donaghy is the HR COE for Allstate NI. The Sync NI team caught up with Martina to talk about all things diversity and inclusion at Allstate Northern Ireland. 

    Martina started out in Allstate 7 years ago,  however her role within the company has  always included Diversity education for the entire Allstate NI organisation. In her current role, Martina oversees HR projects which includes Inclusion, Diversity & Equality. 

    Martina believes there are many different groups that are underrepresented within the tech sector and has worked across a number of initiatives within Allstate to try and encourage a more inclusive workforce.  

    Martina tells us: “At Allstate our employees have been empowered to form Employee Resource Groups, known as ERG’s. These groups bring people and groups that need more representation together, within the workplace, so that they have support and community within work. They also help to shape the company strategy and give input to policies, procedures, and day to day activities within the workplace.” 

    Among the initiatives to help encourage underrepresented groups within Allstate there is Embrace, which is the company’s LGBTQ+ ERG that provides education and support to our LGBTQ+ colleagues. 

    Martina tells us that “from speaking with this group it is obvious that there is still work to do in society in relation to LGBTQ+ and encouraging young people to study STEM subjects and work in the tech sector without the fear of prejudice or judgement.” 

    Allstate also has the group Ausome which is an EGR related to Autism, with a mission to educate and raise awareness about the autistic spectrum. The group offers support and inspiration to those affected by autism both internally and in their local communities. 

    In addition to this Martina tells us about the Mental Health First Aid group which supports colleagues with mental health issues, signposting them accordingly and offering a chat or advice whenever they need it. 

    Martina also believes that the aging workforce needs more representation in tech. She tells us: “Females going through the menopause should be supported in work. A female should never need to make the heartbreaking decision to give up work due to menopause.  Our male colleagues nearing retirement age also need to feel included. Employers should be looking at the older demographic and tracking their career progression, aspirations, and attrition.” 

    Martina explains that: “people are naturally working longer now, some due to financial constraints and other just because they want to. Business In The Community research shows that half of all adults in the UK will be over 50 by 2030.  Employers need to proactively look after their employees so that they can remain healthy, in work, after work and into retirement, whenever that may be. We spend so much of our lives in work so employers should naturally take more of an interest in not only employees general health, but their physical health, mental health, financial health & overall wellbeing to support them along this journey. Allstate is very good at this but I am unsure if that is across all parts of the tech sector.” 

    Along with these initiatives, Martina also hopes the post pandemic world of work will “give those previously out of employment due to physical disabilities a real vision of what is possible and employers come along with them, to make sure all accommodations required are in place, all barriers removed and disabled people feel they have the same opportunities as others in all workplaces, not just in tech.” 

    Allstate is always working on a culture of diversity, frequently adding to their list of initiatives to promote a more inclusive working force. 

    A recent initiative for 2020 has been that of a group of 40+ Inclusion Champions  came together to build this year's Diversity Education.  This team of employees came together from all corners of Allstate as volunteers.  They built a series of workshops called “Inclusion to Belonging”, that are now being delivered in 3 bite sized workshops to all our 2400 employees.   

    Martina explains that these workshops “step through the importance of areas such as Cognitive Diversity, Empathy, Psychological Safety, Allies and how Diversity is infinite.” She tells us “the workshops explain how Diversity is not about tick boxes or only related to gender, race or ability, diversity goes much much further than that. These workshops explore the importance of inclusion for people such as introverts, or the single team member or perhaps the male parent seeking flexible working. The workshops are designed to challenge norms and provide gentle nudges that everyone can incorporate into their day to day lives to be more inclusive.” 

    Martina also adds: “these initiatives are supported by the Leadership Team and it reminds our employees that Inclusion, Diversity & Equity is not the role of HR, or Leaders.  It is the role of every single person. With the support of our ERG’s, our Inclusion Champions and our Leaders we can ensure Inclusion Diversity & Equity is embedded in all our business decisions from the very beginning, not as an afterthought. However, everyone has a role to play in this or inclusion is not possible.” 

    Many employees at Allstate take part in these inclusion groups not as part of their role but because “it's a passion they have” Martina explains. She continues: “It really does become your passion for what you love and things that mean something to you, you can’t leave at the door when you go to work. It's part of you, so you're able to bring it with you and you're given the space to grow.” 

    Diversity and inclusion are a very high priority at Allstate. Martina believes that it is vital for any business because “if you ignore diversity & inclusion your company will not succeed in today’s competitive market.”   

    She also adds: “New hires look into a company to see if that employer reflects their values and beliefs. People want to look into an organisation and see people like them, people from all groups, all backgrounds, and all areas of society.  An employer who ignores diversity and inclusion, a company that hires teams of individuals who look the same, think the same, have the same backgrounds, education & interests will not truly reflect society. 

    Martina believes that the benefits of promoting an inclusive environment within a company like Allstate are “too many to list.” She explains that “by promoting an inclusive environment, you get the best out of people, by enabling an individual to bring their whole selves to work you get 100% input rather than them leaving 30% of themselves at the door as they try to fit into a culture where everyone is the same, and being different is frowned upon.” 

    Martina also notes that “by having an inclusive environment people will feel psychologically safe and will speak up & feel safe in challenging ideas. This is how great ideas happen, by exploring, sharing, challenging and listening. “ 

    In addition to this, by having an inclusive environment with people from diverse backgrounds employees “will form groups and teams of people with more empathy and will listen to each other and collaborate better” Martina explains. 

    Martina concludes by stating: “Diverse teams help a business grow. They in turn attract better people to the business. They make better products and services and in return make the business more successful, which means everyone succeeds.”  

    This article first appeared in the Winter 2021/22 edition of the Sync NI magazine. You can download your FREE copy and sign up to receive future digital editions here.

    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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