Quesnay had the chance to speak with Suzie Elliott, Chief Human Resources Officer at Farmers Insurance®, regarding the company’s sponsorship of the 2018 Female Founders in InsurTech competition, how the competition aligns with their initiatives, and what they are doing to help attract the next generation of talent.
As a native of Australia with over 15 years of international human resources experience in a variety of disciplines, including Talent Acquisition, Strategic HR Partnership and Diversity & Inclusion, Suzie joined Farmers Insurance in 2013 and leads the organization’s human resources department.
At Farmers®, Suzie serves as a member of the Senior Leadership Team, the Enterprise Inclusion Council and is also an Executive Sponsor to the Women’s Inclusion Network.
Suzie holds a Bachelor of Economics (Social Sciences) from the University of Sydney, Australia and professional accreditation in Change Management, Coaching, Project Management and Human Resources Consulting. She most recently completed the UCLA Farmers Advanced Leadership Program.
Q&A With Suzie Elliott
Farmers is this year's Female Founders in InsurTech presenting sponsor, what was your biggest draw to the program?
Four words: Female, Technology, Next Generation
When I mentioned this opportunity to our CEO, Jeff Dailey, he was instantly on board, as it checks many boxes for what we feel is important, not only for Farmers, but also the future of the insurance industry as a whole.
Over the past few years, Farmers has been going through a technology transformation and the continuous sourcing of ideas from both internal and external parties has been part of our success. The rise of insurtech is something that is critical to our industry and we couldn’t miss an opportunity to be a leader in sourcing and supporting the next generation of solutions. Also, our organization’s inclusion commitment is geared toward enabling everyone to be at their best so we want to open the stage for bright minds and ideas to flourish.
WHEN IT COMES TO DIVERSITY & INCLUSION, WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO FARMERS?
At Farmers, we are focused on inclusion. We know from experience that by creating a culture of inclusion we can help best attract, engage and retain diversity of talent. It’s not enough to just recruit diversity, you have to create the space for everyone to be at their best and that’s what hits the bottom line. And when we talk about diversity at Farmers we push beyond just the visible to value the invisible diversity that folks bring to the table.
To create this environment we are heavily invested in our culture. Our culture is created every day by every one of our more than 20,000 employees, not by HR policies although they obviously need to support. So I am really proud that the numerous Employee Resource Groups at Farmers came about because of our employees at the grass roots making it happen. Today we have 9 ERGs including the women’s inclusion network (WIN), Farmers Future that focuses on gens Y and Z, the LGBT & Allies and the Farmers Asian Alliance (FAA). The fact that so many employees felt safe and empowered to come together, find an Executive Sponsor, build their own strategies, and get the groups off the ground, shows that we are making progress in creating the inclusive culture that we want.
FROM AN INSURANCE INNOVATION LENSE, WHAT IS FARMERS DOING TO ATTRACT NEW TALENT?
Insurance isn’t always top of mind for individuals breaking into the careers market. So we know that new talent strategies are needed within the organization, and the insurance industry.
At Farmers, we have kick-started a fresh approach to engaging prospective talent using social and digital recruiting and improving the candidate journey through technology that goes beyond our traditional recruitment platform. Modernizing our value proposition is top of mind so we are investing in the strength of collaboration with dynamic office space design and new technologies like Workplace by Facebook that gives all our employees a voice to share, engage, debate, celebrate, question, innovate and collaborate. Likewise we are doubling-down on the quality of our people managers who are key to attracting and retaining talent. One example is the Farmers Inclusive Leadership Experience which tackles a variety of elements including unconscious bias, change management and translating strategy to action for their teams.
ARE THERE INITIATIVES TO SUPPORT WOMEN AND PARTICULARLY WOMEN IN TECHNOLOGY EXTERNALLY THAT YOU ARE EXCITED ABOUT?
I get most excited about opportunities that bring different groups together. An example of this is Catalyst’s MARC (Men Advocating for Real Change). It is focused on engaging men as change-agents who lead efforts to bring greater opportunity in the workplace for women. We have a growing number of MARCs at Farmers and I think it is a terrific way to keep things moving forward together.
Also, mainstream media is giving female entrepreneurs shelf-space like never before. I find myself exposed to more and more of their engaging stories that I would have previously had to search the dark web to find. I love that the women speak openly about failure and promote failure for what it brings you, rather than treat it as a dirty word.
AS A WOMAN LEADER, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE FOR OUR WOMEN-LED INSURTECH APPLICANTS?
Be brave. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. Make us get uncomfortable. No matter the current format, no matter how things have always been done, ignore it all and break through what might be holding everyone else back. I would love to see people coming up with solutions that most would not perceive as relevant to the traditional insurance industry.