Canadian Underwriter

How to engage your staff in a hybrid office

April 19, 2021   by Adam Malik

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Keeping staff engaged and stimulated when life returns to something resembling the old normal will be a top challenge for property and casualty insurance industry leaders, experts say.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian P&C industry is expected to implement various individual iterations of a hybrid work model. With a mix of people working from home and at the office, it’s important to make sure people are feeling connected to each other after more than a year of being apart, says Pam Ferrandino, vice president at Gallagher Bassett.

Building the best team will be the foundation for a successful hybrid workplace.

“If you’re part of a team, and you feel that you’re part of the team, and you’re engaged in the team, that’s the…core principle, I think, to anything being effective,” Ferrandino said during the panel discussion Working from Home, Forever: A View from the Top. “And I think if the person doesn’t feel they’re part of the team, you’re not going to have them functioning at that level.”

The discussion panel was part of the virtual Casualty Insights Conference hosted by Advisen.

To make people feel part of the team, leaders need to read the room, observed Chris Kopser, president of global risk management at AXA XL. That means making sure everyone is being given the opportunity to share opinions, even if they naturally keep to themselves.

“You’re always going to have teammates who are more quiet, more introverted, but they all have an opinion,” he said during the panel discussion. “It’s how you get that opinion out of them — what their thoughts are; what their recommendations are.”

Sometimes it’s the quiet people who make the most insightful comments. “Not everybody is going to be a natural speaker and feel comfortable speaking in a crowd, [but] that doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to contribute,” Kosper said.

When figuring out a hybrid work-from-home model, one important consideration is to figure out which workers are better suited to be in-office and which ones can operate more effectively at home, observed Stephen Hackenburg, chief broking officer of national casualty at Aon.

“The key will be to focus on roles and responsibilities, not lifestyles or individuals,” Hackenburg said. “Making sure that the decisions are fair and equitable across the organization is probably going to be very important as this thing rolls out and is expanded.”

Working from home has provided employees with a level of autonomy; but that’s good and bad, noted panellist David Perez, chief underwriting officer of global risk solutions North America at Liberty Mutual Insurance.

On the plus side, micromanaging is out the window in a virtual environment. Things tend to move faster and more efficiently when people feel they have the ability to make decisions. However, a less-connected manager may not have a full understanding of what supports staff need; and staff may not go to leadership when an issue arises.

“Do they need a daily briefing every day, or could they function with a weekly or monthly briefing, whatever the case may be?” Perez asked. “I think it’s about developing the proper cadence, and yet remaining open so that you can be contacted and reached consistently when needed.”


Feature image by Productions

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