S4 EP61: Seeking industry agnostic skills and setting diverse talent up for success – Nicola Grant, Chief People Officer, Hiscox

“When you hire for specific experience, then you’re always going to have to hire for somebody within the industry”, says Nicola.

“When you break it down to what are the specific jobs to be done, what are the skills that are required to do those jobs, often those skills are industry agnostic.

There are clearly some examples where that’s not the case, but there are many examples where it is the case, and if we can start to do that, then that opens a whole world of new opportunities to new and different talent. But it takes intentional effort.”

On this episode of the Insurance Coffee House Podcast, Nicola talks about her not planning her career journey and saying ‘yes’ to exciting opportunities.

Having significant industry experience in pharmaceuticals and private banking, including 17 years at ING, Nicola joined Hiscox in September 2022.

Headquartered in Bermuda and with 3,500 employees in 14 countries, Nicola explains that she was hired to transform the HR function, to make it scalable, to elevate it, to become a more strategic partner to the business.

“We’re guardians of the employment proposition, of the culture and therefore the experience that each of those 3,500 colleagues has while working here. It’s a real privilege.

One of the first things I did when I joined was to change the title from HR to People. People are humans, they shouldn’t simply be considered as resources. Language really matters.”

Nicola describes the company’s growth ambitions in the US under the stewardship of recently appointed CEO, Mary Boyd.

She also highlights how her own career experiences have shaped her passion for people and inclusivity, as well as how leadership set the tone.   

“Ensuring we’ve got the best talent in position, means being an inclusive company. One which values diversity and ensures people feel psychologically safe to fully contribute.

We know this type of environment is when people do their best work and there’s real evidence linking it to business performance.

But my experience of living and working abroad has taught me that it’s really nice to believe these things, but it takes intentional effort to make them a reality for people.”

Nicola shares how getting diverse talent is one thing, but setting them up for success is another.

She emphasizes the key role data plays in DEI strategies and how it can help identify specific issues in delivering it, as well as why she’s a huge believer in transition planning and rapid support around diverse talent.

Nicola explains how Hiscox is investing in 6 employee network groups, why she believes they need to be inclusive and engage with allies, and how the business is building up its own diverse junior talent pipelines through apprenticeships and early careers initiatives.

Highlighting the need to build diversity into all of Hiscox’s processes and tooling, Nicola says, “We need to make it easy for people. The shortlists and the panels, our talent acquisition colleagues just need to make sure those processes are in place and hiring managers don’t even need to think about it.”

Nicola gives her advice to insurance leaders coming to interview at Hiscox and encourages her insurance industry peers to cast the net wide when looking for the best insurance talent.

“Start before you need to so that you’re not in that crisis, urgent rush situation and also be very specific about the jobs to be done in the role and matching the skills needed to those jobs.”

She concludes by sharing the importance of trust when working with an insurance executive search partner and the one lesson her career has taught her, she wants everyone to learn.

“You cannot think your way in to new behaviours. You have to take action. There’s a book called ‘Act fast and fix it’, but that is such great advice. I would take progress over perfection every day.”

Connect with Nicola Grant on LinkedIn or find out more about Hiscox

The Insurance Coffee House Podcast is hosted by Nick Hoadley, CEO of Insurance Search.

We are a global Insurance Executive Search Consultancy, supporting Insurance and Insurtech businesses to attract and retain the very best insurance talent.

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