In Their Own Words,
A conversation with EM’s leaders

Shavonne Gammage is Engle Martin’s Divisional, Chief People Officer. As a pivotal member of the executive leadership team, Shavonne oversees the development of human capital strategies, including talent acquisition, succession planning, performance management, training and development, talent planning, health and safety, diversity and inclusion, and the overall team member experience. Shavonne graduated with an MBA from Kennesaw State University and holds a Professional HR (PHR) Certification and a Diversity and Inclusion certification from Cornell University.

Q: What’s it like trying to recruit new talent in the current environment to a growth-oriented company like Engle Martin?

A – Shavonne Gammage:  There is a war on talent, and the insurance industry is not exempt from this. However, I want to stress that it’s not that we can’t find qualified candidates. They exist, they have just removed themselves from consideration. This has resulted in so many job openings that many insurance companies have right now and there’s not enough people to fill them. Everyone is competing for the same talent, and the talent pool has decreased significantly due to the “great resignation.”

Once we get talent in the pipeline and they are working their way through the process, you find yourself in a bidding war. We’ve made a very conscious decision that we’re not going to compete on price alone. It goes back to that old sales mindset: If you close a deal based on price, you’ll lose it to somebody else based on price. The same holds true for talent. We have to leverage what makes EM different to attract and retain the right talent for us.

Another challenge we’re seeing is this tug of war between the candidate wanting to work 100% remote versus organization’s wanting them to come into the office. We are in the middle, where we’re going to have some type of a hybrid approach. But we’re seeing more and more talent saying, “You know what, I really just want to work remotely.”

Lastly, a challenge for organizations, especially in the insurance industry, is diversity equity and inclusion (DEI). Candidates want to see what the organization has done to show that they’re making progress in this space. Having a statement on your social media site or on your website is not enough anymore. What we are finding is that we must be able to explain to candidates “this is where we are at in our DEI journey.” This is our vision as to where we’re heading and point them to social media so they can see a proof point.

Q: How do you get young talent, fresh out of a college program, interested in a career in claims? And on the other end of the scale, how do you appeal to older talent?

A – Shavonne Gammage: The younger talent is looking for an employer who’s going to show them that they have some flexibility to meet their needs. The younger talent wants to see and be a part of an organization that is truly committed to corporate social responsibility – that’s important to them. Building a career and contributing in the workplace is also important. But so are their friends and their family and they want to have a life outside of the office.

They want a voice at the table and they want to know that if they are giving feedback that organizations are doing something with that feedback. And – this is the big one – they want to have the autonomy to define and perform their roles. This generation will do things differently and they need space to define how this will look for them.

When selling EM as an employer of choice, to recently college graduates, we focus on how they can make an impact in whatever role we are recruiting for. We tie their roles and responsibilities back to EM’s mission. We discuss the challenging and rewarding opportunities they will have and focus on how these experiences will assist with the career goals and aspirations.

It’s the same philosophy for other talent, too, right? You must really dig into what’s going to motivate them. What we’re finding is that the pandemic has completely changed the landscape of what people are looking for and what they want. Work life balance is a big one. They want flexibility and the ability to prioritize what is important to them. A lot of the feedback we receive is how do they continue to move up in their careers. They don’t want to just be stagnant anymore. They still have a desire to be stretched and challenged, so clearly outlining a career path and identifying what type of resources the company will provide to them allows them to move up in that career path which is essential.

Q: Talk more about diversity and inclusion and what that means at Engle Martin.

A – Shavonne Gammage:

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is extremely important to EM. It is more than just a mission statement or some casual initiatives to check the box. It is baked into Our Foundation under multiple tenants which includes:

  • A culture of care, compassion and respect
  • Connecting everyone through open and meaningful communication
  • Always working as a team
  • Recognizing and celebrating the value of everyone’s contribution

For EM, we are focusing on three pillars which includes: Driving Awareness, Talent Acquisition Efforts and Team Member Resource Groups with a heavy focus on our people leaders. The vision and the framework of DEI comes from the top, but it’s the frontline leaders where it’s going to take root. Because of this, we’ve been training our leaders on: How do you lean into some of the more challenging conversations with your team and walk away with a key learning? How do you establish psychological safety within your teams so that your teams feel, “Hey, we can make a mistake and it’s going to be OK” or “I can say something that may be a little different from the norm and I’m not going to be ostracized for it?” How can they recognize the different types of biases that can creep in and identify ways to interrupt these biases as they’re working through the day and modeling what this should look like? From a senior leader perspective, how do we model that behavior as well?

And then we have Team Member Resource Groups. This, to me is probably the more critical component of DEI. When you construct these groups correctly, they really provide individuals who are a part of that marginalized group with the ability to have a safe environment to share some of their experiences. Mentoring and sponsorships are customized to meet the needs of those who are underrepresented within the organization. That’s where we can tap into the value of having diverse groups of thought at the table.

The role of the corporate sponsor is also important because they serve as a guide to these groups. They also have the responsibilities to then bring that collective voice back to the table so that it can help influence EM’s decision making at the C-suite level and, and ultimately, the direction of the culture.

It takes a village to ensure DEI is a true part of an organization’s DNA.  We utilize team member resource groups, frontline leaders, and the senior leadership team. But we all have a very distinct role in the process for making sure everyone’s voices are heard.