Canadian Underwriter

How this brokerage is keeping its socially-distanced culture strong

May 21, 2020   by Adam Malik

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Zoom meetings can help keep people in touch and see colleagues’ faces, but it doesn’t replace the atmosphere of being in the office. That’s why one brokerage is trying to find new ways to keep employees engaged and help keep its workplace culture healthy when everyone is working from home.

AA Munroe, a brokerage with offices in 20 communities across Nova Scotia, emphasized the importance of culture before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Having such a level of engagement pre-COVID made it easier to get buy-in for new ideas to keep its team engaged — like creating a ‘Hump Day’ newsletter.

“One of our coworkers … sent a little newsletter [with] funny pictures of me in a dress shirt, tie and with my shorts on working at home,” said Wayne Ezekiel, past president of AA Munro, who is currently serving as the company’s culture champion. “Ideas of things you can cook at home from your pantry when you’re stuck at home — things like that keep it light, in focus.”

Working from home brought new challenges for brokers and staff who are used to working in an office environment. They started sharing ideas via email on how to make things better from home and work easier to do. “I’ve noticed more sharing of ideas in our emails recently,” said Ezekiel, who is based in Antigonish, N.S. “Somebody comes up with a way of dealing with something and they share it with their co-workers.”

Keeping in touch helps everyone still feel connected even though they’re apart.

“We’re also looking for emails to send out to encourage more reaching out to your co-workers when they need help,” said Ekekiel. “Don’t sit at home. You’re not alone. We’re a team, and the idea of a team is to share things with each other. I’m seeing some of that already, but certainly we’ll be sending messages out in that regard as well to keep reminding people.”

But forcing a culture where one may not have existed may lead to unintended results. It was easier to encourage such behaviour at AA Munroe because they were already a tight-knit group. A disconnected brokerage may not get the same results, Ezekiel warned.

“I think we’re unique. I think there are real possibilities for anyone that wanted [a culture champion],” he said. But “I’m not sure if the culture is right in every brokerage. There’s still that strong, top-down culture.”

A traditional top-down leadership approach may get in the way of staff at other brokerages who want to develop better camaraderie. There’s a lot of “I’m the owner, and you better listen to me” type of attitudes still around, Ezekiel observed. “I think that’s prevalent in our industry.”

Those attitudes may be shifting, however, thanks to the younger generation who will push out those old school ways of management. “I think over the next five to 10 years, with Millennials taking over, you’ll probably see more of that happening as the traditional owners move away,” Ezekiel said. “So I think we have a unique situation in our organization. I think It would be a benefit to everybody to pay attention to their culture.”


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