There’s no shortage when it comes to the challenges of being a leader. Focus, inspiration, and motivation can all be a struggle during normal times. When dealing with crises on top of your day-to-day responsibilities, leading your team can feel overwhelming. Further complicating matters is how the coronavirus pandemic is causing so many changes in the insurance industry.
Carriers, for example, are working to not only differentiate their products from competitors but also to move their selling practices into the digital realm. Agents, on the other hand, are dealing with remote working situations, maintaining customer relationships, and trying to be the calm voice in a chaotic storm for their clients.
This changing marketplace has also left consumers questioning what to do. They need someone to advise them and provide clarity on coverage as they struggle to find access to cash to maintain their policies. Everything seems to be up in the air.
Solutions to Leadership Challenges Start With Strategy
As you can probably attest, the solutions to leadership challenges are rarely universally applicable. However, reflecting on your business strategy to help face the challenges of being a leader during times of uncertainty is always beneficial.
A good strategy can help you:
- Establish a plan for growth.
- Secure the necessary tools to enhance employee skills.
- Identify the resources to support your goals.
- Nurture a growth mindset around what’s possible.
To arrive at the right strategy and best respond to changes in the insurance industry, reassess customer needs and marketplace dynamics to get a clearer picture of the present situation. Only then can you find the answer.
Change is inevitable in all industries. The insurance and financial services sector is no exception. The problem is, change today is far different than it was even a year ago. It’s almost never-ending, so the ability to adapt and respond is exceedingly important.
Simply put, this is a time for organizations to embrace agile business practices.
HOW TO BE AGILE IN THE FACE OF CHANGE
Learning how to be agile amid uncertainty is really no different than in any other environment. It still requires a combination of reflection and quick action to react, learn, and adjust strategies to become a more resilient company.
This situation leaves one question: Where do you begin?
Building an agile business environment often starts with the areas that need the most attention. In the insurance and financial services sector, that often means customer-facing teams. At the June 2020 PIMA conference, Simon-Kucher & Partners took that into account when presenting on how to be agile in the modern climate. Here are some of those insights:
- Support sales.
Work-from-home requirements have tied the hands of many sales teams — it’s not possible to sit down across the table from customers in the current environment. As such, provide employees with the resources they need to engage with customers virtually. Work up product presentations to aid in discussions, and make sure someone is on hand to deal with technical issues should they arise.
- Adjust your marketing mix.
The pandemic has changed consumer needs, and your marketing materials should reflect as much. Adjust messaging as necessary, moving a larger portion of ad spend to digital channels. Otherwise, you may not reach your target audience members where they are.
- Monitor churn.
Money might be tight for your customer base, which can contribute to an increase in churn. Keep an eye out for indicators within the customer lifecycle that may signal impending cancellations, and then focus your customer retention efforts on those individuals.
- Provide a sense of security.
Sometimes, consumer perceptions are just as important to establishing an agile business environment as the agile processes themselves. Within your customer communications, weave in language that shows your empathy and reliability during this time. That sense of security can do wonders for quelling customer concerns.
Benefits of Agile Organizations
The benefits of agile organizations go well beyond your responsiveness to change. Agility can also lead to:
- Greater adaptability.
- Greater quality.
- Greater customer satisfaction.
- Greater team alignment.
- Greater visibility.
- Greater business value.
In addition, agility can go a long way toward lowering risk should circumstances similar to the pandemic ever develop again.
REASSESSING THE COMPANY POLICY HANDBOOK
Any gray areas in policies or procedures can make it more difficult to be agile — and open a business up to risk. During times of crisis, however, this grayness just adds to the uncertainty and can leave employees questioning what to do next.
If someone in your business hasn’t been revisiting and reviewing the company policy handbook regularly, now is a great time to start. It’s a critical tool for both leadership and employees, and a number of its procedures and expectations may need an update due to the current business environment.
Here are the areas to focus on:
Improving Employee Benefits
A number of your employment policies and benefits offered to employees likely need to be further defined during times of uncertainty and change. Don’t get caught up in the minutiae of it all — you likely can’t address everything that might come up — but you should revisit the legal essentials and best practices associated with your business.
A recent study from PIMA member The Hartford compared the benefits offered to employees before the pandemic versus during the pandemic. That study found that employer interest had grown in a number of areas:
- Employee assistance programs (38% to 56%).
• Hospital indemnity insurance (34% to 48%).
• Behavioral and mental health services (42% to 51%).
- Wellness benefits (42% to 51%).
This is not to say that you must offer every single one of these benefits to employees, but it’s worth exploring an expansion of benefits. Paid sick leave, for example, is one of many benefits offered to employees that may be outdated due to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. As it stands, employees may be eligible for two weeks of paid sick leave — either at their full salary or two-thirds of their pay — as a result of circumstances related to COVID-19.
Another benefit offered to employees that might need an adjustment is your telecommuting policy. Many companies stipulate that anyone who must come in direct contact with customers is not eligible to telecommute under a flexible remote work policy. That’s obviously not the case these days. Update the company policy handbook to broaden the definition of eligibility at this time and be sure to provide employees with the technologies they need to support this change.
Even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, you may still need to expand your flexible remote work policy to cover more employees. The business environment has been moving further toward digitization, and you may find this option actually benefits your organization. Hiring practices would no longer be restricted to certain geographic areas, for example, allowing you to hire top talent from just about anywhere.
Improving Business Continuity Plans
Most businesses account for interruptions at a single location, as might be the case with a fire, a tornado, a hurricane, etc. Few organizations had a business continuity plan for a pandemic, which can easily force entire operations to shut down for extended periods of time.
But what should a business continuity plan include? First and foremost, it needs an outline of the processes and procedures your organization should follow to keep things running should disaster strike. Beyond that, it may also include:
- Communication plans.
- Evacuation plans.
- Employee contact information.
- Vendor contact information.
- Client contact information.
- Key asset inventories.
- Disaster recovery systems.
- Backup facilities.
Needless to say, now is the time to develop a business continuity plan for pandemics. It may not differ greatly from what is already in your company policy handbook, but revisiting the plan in light of the current situation could help identify any gaps and ensure critical processes are in place should something of this magnitude happen again.
Improving Company Culture
The importance of creating a company culture that unites an entire organization — especially during challenging times — cannot be overstated. A strong company culture contributes to the values, priorities, and identity of an organization; it also buttresses employee retention and recruitment efforts.
Changing company culture to fit with the current environment is a difficult, often large-scale undertaking. For starters, it requires a clear vision of a company’s future, buy-in from stakeholders, and new processes to support such a transition.
If you’re working toward creating a good company culture that unites employees during times of change, there are a few necessities to keep in mind:
- More flexible work environment.
- Intentional focus on the person rather than just the employee.
- Collective experiences (e.g., virtual meetings with all team members).
- Greater transparency.
- Stronger co-worker relationships.
- Employee recognition.
- Employee autonomy.
- Communication of organizational purpose.
- Employee feedback.
Changing company culture won’t happen overnight. It’ll take time and a concerted effort on your part to improve what might be lacking. The endeavor won’t be lost on your employees, though; it will help bolster their productivity, satisfaction, and morale.
DEVELOPING RELEVANT MARKETING CAMPAIGNS
Insurance is a relationship business, and few things are more relational than marketing. As mentioned, your company’s messaging during times of change should be altered to reflect the current environment. A commercial without people wearing masks, for example, just isn’t relevant marketing.
Creating relevant marketing campaigns is always about meeting consumers’ needs for information at a certain moment in time. To do this, think about the customer journey, consider every possible touchpoint with your business, and look for ways to personalize messaging to the recipient. Apart from that, you’ll also want to:
- Leverage your community.
- Show consumers how you can help.
- Lean on partnerships.
- Prioritize any area with a strategic impact on business.
- Tailor your messaging to each platform.
- Repurpose successful campaigns.
- Think outside the box.
- Turn to brand advocates to promote your business.
There’s no simple solution to creating a relevant marketing campaign. Content that’s speaking to and meeting consumers’ needs from one business won’t necessarily work for another. It’s all about testing, learning, and adapting your messaging based on consumer response.
THE ADVANTAGES OF FORMING PARTNERSHIPS DURING TIMES OF CHANGE
Whether it’s to learn relevant marketing practices, adjust business plans and policies, or collaborate with other industry leaders, the advantages of forming partnerships amid uncertainty are clear. PIMA members are uniquely positioned to form partnerships with their peers. Here are two PIMA partnerships that have come together during the pandemic:
- AGIA Affinity and ArmadaHealth
In July, ArmadaHealth announced its partnership with AGIA Affinity. The partnership means QualityCare Connect, ArmadaHealth’s AI-enabled patient-physician matching technology, will be made available to those with AGIA Affinity’s supplemental insurance. This enables people to find specialists more easily based on their medical needs and personal preferences. So far, the response to this new feature has been overwhelmingly positive.
- Bindable and HSB
Bindable partnered with HSB to bring its Home Systems Protection Plan by TrustedPlace™ to consumers. It only seemed logical to cross-sell home insurance with a home warranty, which is what the Home Systems Protection Plan offers. It fills any gaps homeowners might have in their insurance policies, such as issues with a broken furnace; the warranty would help cover a significant portion of those costs. This PIMA partnership has been a win-win situation for both parties.
It can be hard to establish trust between businesses. But with a PIMA membership, you become part of a professional community where shared connections provide implicit trust. This can become the basis for stronger relationships and highlight the importance of partnerships in business during times of great change.
Published on November 13, 2020.
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of a PIMA membership — or if you have questions about the programs and opportunities offered — contact us today. PIMA® (Professional Insurance Marketing Association®) is a member-driven trade association focused exclusively on the group-sponsored benefits market.