Culture - An Imperative for Insurance Innovation

Jan 12, 2023

Culture - An Imperative for Insurance Innovation

“A good company culture is a set of shared values, practices, and beliefs that shape the way a company operates and treats its employees, customers, and other stakeholders. It is the ‘personality’ of a company and can have a strong influence on the behavior of its employees and the overall atmosphere within the organization. Good company culture can foster a positive work environment, increase employee satisfaction and retention, and contribute to the overall success of the company. Elements of a good company culture may include a strong sense of mission and purpose, transparent communication, inclusivity and diversity, support for professional development, and a positive work-life balance.” – ChatGPT definition 1.6.22

Like many others, I am taking the time to learn #ChatGPT and the potential value #AI can provide. I was intrigued when I asked the program to provide its definition, not just of company culture, but to define a good company culture. Naturally, I wanted to stick to something in my wheelhouse, and the first topic that came to mind was something I am passionate about, personally, and professionally; culture. As someone who has invested over two decades broadening my knowledge to better understand, delineate, and contribute to company culture, I was impressed with the program’s ability to do something that some companies still struggle to do – simply define a good culture and a few of its benefits.

The focus on culture has had more relevance recently than in the past few decades. For many of us in the #insurtech space, it has become an integral facet of strong organizations; embedded in business objectives and the very bedrock on which a strong foundation is built. It is a critical component for companies of every size, and continues to be a necessity for candidates, a differentiator for customers, a pivotal component for stakeholders, and an essential pillar for leaders. Gallup reports that a good company culture resulted in a 25% growth in workforce (over a three-year period), 50-point increase in employee satisfaction (three-year period), 85% net profit increased (over a 5-year period) and a 138% improvement over patronage. This is hard proof that good corporate culture is correlated with higher profitability/returns to shareholders, higher talent acquisition and retention, and improved performance and customer preference.

Unfortunately, there are some organizations who tout what they think will attract candidates, customers, or investors. They deliberately market shared values, diversity, growing opportunities, or even free lunches, and showcase warm and smiling co-workers, people who are there for one another or open dialogues with the executives, while underneath the jargon and inviting UI, culture is merely a buzzword, an impediment to profits, or even given as an ultimatum, as in Twitter’s revamped ‘hardcore culture,’ courtesy of Elon Musk. Yet most of us are becoming increasingly aware that companies whose values are only shared by a select few, diversity is nothing more than stock photography or a box to tick for compliance, and growth is only due to consistent attrition and talent churn, contributing only to the growing cost a toxic culture.

Sites like Glassdoor, Reddit, Layoff.com, Comparably, and beyond are also providing more insights into culture, calling out EEOC violations, revealing questionable corporate behavior, and providing candid insights into organizations. A Culture Shift survey revealed that more than 35% of those in the insurance industry have been less engaged with their job due to their company’s poor workplace culture – a number that is evidenced by some Glassdoor reviews from current and former employees. The Great Resignation provided another example of how organizations which only purported care about customers, colleagues, or communities, were and still are impacted.

The cost of turnover in the past five years exceeded $223 billion, yet these numbers do not incorporate the exorbitant toll on corporate reputation and brand impact.  In the aforementioned Culture Shift survey, almost 9 in 10 investors indicated if they had invested in a company that was then embroiled in a workplace bullying or harassment case, they would rapidly distance themselves from it. Environments rife with hostility, mistrust, and selfishness are a breeding ground for dysfunction, constant talent churn, and unethical behavior. Progressive carriers have even identified these risks and are proactively taking steps to mitigate toxic work cultures. Public companies are required to report their transgressions, and those organizations that have been charged with violations lose 25 - 44% of the value of their equity. However, while private organizations are not obligated to publish ESG reports or reveal litigious settlements, toxic culture can still be identified in their retention/attrition rates, market share, company reviews, and employee engagement.

I can’t help but think if more companies understood culture, some of the recent layoffs would have been handled with more empathy, support, and poise. Especially for those countless many who had been subjected to toxic cultures, but through their own strength and tenacity, somehow managed to still show up. And while the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) estimates that one in five employees have left a job at some point in their career because of a toxic culture, it’s likely those who remain must endure those same conditions - not because of loyalty, but their dedication or commitment to their customers and clients.

Insurance has and will continue to be a people-focused industry. No matter the business line, from health, life, or P&C, the security, assurance, and services carriers provide their customers delivers more than peace of mind, it galvanizes relationships; and for an industry that is about people — from policyholders and employees to stakeholders and shareholders — it’s understandable why insurers are now paying more and more attention not only to their own cultures, but that of those whom they partner with. This is also one of the primary reasons why I disagree with Gartner’s recent estimated trend of #QuietHiring. The very definition seems to contradict the definition of a good company culture and considering that the organizations who would need to leverage this so-called trend, are likely the ones who lost all their talent or industry experts to the Great Resignation or Quiet Quitting.

Whatever you choose to call it, the age of Connected Consumers, Digital Dimension, or the Human-Centered Future, we are entering a new era of humanity and authenticity, where corporations must evolve with progressive ideologies or succumb to their stagnancy. High-impact organizations will be those who transform with expanded views and position themselves as part of a greater web of solutions. Innovative companies across the insurance landscape will capitalize on culture and continue to recognize it as imperative. Partner with organizations committed to transforming from organizational to inspirational, and focus on people and purpose not simply profit, and be the type of business that continues to reshape business and differentiate themselves in the war for talent, market share, and customer retention.

About the author: Though new to Next Level Solutions, Nikki Dugan is no stranger to the world of insurance. She has spent the past decade honing her skills on the solution provider side, as a catalyst for culture, brand strategist and demonstrated marketing marvel. Her passion for insurtech is complimented by her insomnia-driven ability to expand her acumen on an array of topics including digital transformation, culture, and design thinking.    

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“NLS is the most flexible employer I've ever had. I never feel pressured to miss everyday activities with my family. NLS trusts in their employees to get the work done, everyone has different challenges outside of work and we are all able to fit our work life in and still have balance. Additionally, NLS continually looks at strategies to increase morale, become more attractive to recruits and give back to the employees.”