Tag Archives: pandemic

Designing a New Employee Experience

As the pandemic has accelerated the digitization of interactions with customers, the insurance industry has begun to rethink the customer experience. But companies now need to start to redesign another experience, too: the employee’s.

We know that two highly effective vaccines should be available in quantity in April or so, which means that they could become a reliable line of defense against COVID by next winter or perhaps even next fall. That gives us roughly a year to design and implement a new work environment, a new experience for employees that incorporates the best of the old, in-person model and the best of the new, digital/Zoom experience.

What should that new environment look like?

A smart recent piece in Strategy & Business provides a systematic way to start adapting now to the new world of work, by taking the same sort of approach to the employee experience that companies routinely take to understand the customer journey. The piece promises that companies have a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to increase engagement and productivity.”

For me, the smartest suggestion in the piece is a variant of the test-and-learn approach that many companies have begun to implement in their formal innovation programs:

“Many companies conduct annual employee engagement or satisfaction surveys. Our advice: Throw them out, at least for now. What you need now is a steady series of short pulse surveys and conversations that ask employees to name their three biggest time wasters or other headaches. Focus on tools (‘Do you have what you need?’), authority (‘Are you empowered to make decisions?’ or ‘Is it easy to get approvals?’), and distractions (‘What pulls you away from the task at hand?’). Turn those answers into a Pareto chart, start working the list, and come back the following month to get new insights.”

The authors note that, while we focus on the change in our customers’ behavior and demands, we should also realize that internal customers have changed, too, because of work-from-home and increased digitization. So, we should use process maps and customer journey tools to understand the flow of work and make sure we’re serving internal customers as effectively and efficiently as possible.

The piece argues for starting now (if we haven’t already) to rethink the mix of talent we’ll need and suggests a key adjustment in management. Because the timing of work has to be less predictable, as people juggle kids at home, management needs to be more flexible. The focus needs to be on objectives, not schedule, the authors argue.

The authors say staff development poses a particular problem. So much depends on mentorship, which is far harder in a world of remote work; they recommend continual focus on finding other ways to build relationships that nurture talent.

Finally, they underscore the need for even more communication than normal. With so many working remotely, people can lose the thread. So, employees need to continually hear what the big picture is and understand how they fit.

The piece I’d add is that special attention needs to be paid to innovation, because it depends so heavily on the sorts of interactions that just aren’t possible in a Zoom world. When I worked on an innovation-related project at the Department of Energy a decade ago, I was struck that Secretary Steven Chu’s redesign of the national research labs spent a lot of time on schedules and the design of the cafeterias, because he wanted to encourage as much informal interaction as he could among his scientists. When my younger daughter somehow secured us a viewing of “Up” at Pixar headquarters a month before it debuted in theaters in 2009, people talked about how carefully Steve Jobs had designed the building, down to placement of bathrooms, to encourage informal interaction among all those creative folks. Kevin Kelly, the co-founder of Wired, says the new world of work should see people doing all their work at home and just coming to the office from time to time so serendipity can work its magic through chance meetings in the hallways.

Those chance meetings will become possible again, both in hallways and at in-person industry events, but not until the virus is well and truly contained. So, we need an interim strategy for innovation and all the other issues raised in the Strategy & Business article that will last us at least a year and perhaps longer, given how slowly the world will probably return to normal even once a high percentage of us are vaccinated. We should also take the time to pull out a clean sheet of paper and design the world of work that we want to inhabit once offices and travel become widely available to us again.

People have never been more open to change than they are now. Let’s seize the opportunity.

Stay safe.


P.S. Here are the six articles I’d like to highlight from the past week:

How to Outperform on Innovation

It is up to all of us leaders to advance diversity and inclusion. It’s the morally right thing to do, and it’s the only commercially smart answer.

Technology and the Agent of the Future

Technology promises to free agents to spend more time with clients and prospects, broadening and deepening relationships.

4 Initiatives That Unlock IoT’s Value

IoT has largely been used in tactical ways to solve specific problems, but there is great strategic value if it is tied to certain types of initiatives.

How COVID Alters Consumer Demands

Digital transformations that would have taken three to five years are now happening in under six months.

Opportunity Among Latinos in U.S.

It’s crucial to understand the distinctions in purchasing behavior when comparing the Hispanic market with the broader insurance market.

P&C Distribution: What’s Old Is New

There are eight different models or options for insurers to consider — but it’s fair to ask if these distribution models are really new.

Accelerating Industry’s Digital Scenarios

With social distancing measures allowing fewer and fewer in-person interactions, all types of businesses are evaluating which of their typical activities can be shifted to digital platforms effectively. The drive to get more customers on digital is so powerful that many insurers are left playing catch-up; the pandemic caught many out as they were still working on modernizing their IT systems, so they transferred some customer-facing activities to websites and apps and pushed the customer-expectation bar that little bit higher.

Even insurers that had been preparing for the digital shift and had invested in integration and modernization of their infrastructure are struggling to keep up with volumes and new demands. Although they were aware of the importance of digital transformation, the urgency of virtualizing meetings with advisers, of providing self-service client onboarding for a complete range of products or of virtualizing damage assessments, had not been top priority. 

In fact, scenarios that previously seemed like nice-to-haves have suddenly escalated to urgent, while more futuristic alternatives, such as screen-sharing and CRM-integrated video-conferencing, are now commonly seen as critical enhancements to enable competitive advantage. CIOs and their teams are urgently assessing which new business scenarios need to be enabled and how.

These scenarios include new features that respond to customer pressure for more self-service, improved user experience and 24/7 access to information. At the same time, however, the scenarios also enable greater security, antifraud measures and stronger compliance. Some key examples that insurers should be harnessing now are:

1. Self-service channels

As more and more users turn to digital to carry out self-service operations such as checking the status of their claim 24/7 over a wide range of devices, the need to develop engaging and intuitive front-ends becomes more pressing.

These need to be easily integrated with back-end systems without requiring complex and lengthy projects. They also need to provide 24-hour availability of information and peak volume handling without affecting back-end system performance.

2. Increased sales team efficiency 

It is not just customers that demand access to information wherever they are and at any time of the day; brokers and sales teams also now need to access customer information remotely using a range of different devices (smartphones, tablet computers, etc.). This information enables them to be more effective in promoting, up-selling and cross-selling as well as developing personalized insurance plans.

3. 360° picture of the client and profiled cockpits

A 360-degree view of the client’s situation requires access to a lot of information, often archived in various back-end systems in different formats. Profiled cockpits and dashboards can gather all this information in a single location as well as including deadlines, notifications and suggestions on actions.

See also: Digital Future of Insurance Emerges

4. Antifraud

The availability of integrated information deriving from all back-end systems that is updated 24/7 could be a game-changer in fighting fraud. Not only should the business be able to access and integrate all its own information on the customer in a single view (such as previous claims or credit score for example), but it should be possible to integrate information from satellites or third parties such as IoT, big data or open data sources, for example.

5. Simpler, faster onboarding 

Onboarding is often a source of irritation for customers who would like to be able to get it done as rapidly and smoothly as possible. Digitalizing this process is critical to ensure the longevity of insurance companies in this period of social distancing, and customers have long been demanding it. By carrying out the process from their own home, where they have access to any required documents, customers save time and are less inconvenienced, and advisers are able to focus on more complex and valuable tasks.

6. Virtual video collaboration 

This scenario enables a series of activities that are highly valuable to insurance businesses, starting from video recognition of the customer in the onboarding stage, right through to enabling insurers to carry out video appraisals of accident damage, for example.

Video damage appraisals can, in fact, be carried out over video by the client, without the insurance assessor visiting the customer home or the mechanic, but simply via a video call recording short video snippets and taking screenshots. It is crucial to be able to easily store these video-snippets and screenshots directly into the claims application on one side, and into the corporate client app, on the other.

Another typical use case is the capability to run video meetings with clients and other experts and then seamlessly integrate them into the CRM system. These meetings range from video support and desktop sharing while quoting a policy, to actual video consultancy sessions. Video that is shared between agents or advisers and the customer over a screen may be browsed and commented on together and forms a key part of the customer experience, so it needs to be part of the customer view. Integrating this video with digital channels such as apps as well as the CRM system helps provide a more complete customer view and better decision making, including by providing more tailored products.

7. Improved, modern UX

All these business scenarios simplify processes both for the customer and for internal teams, but they depend on having a modern, multichannel interactive user experience. New platforms for digital touchpoints must be designed to maximize ease of use and user experience quality, while integrating legacy back ends in real time.

See also: New Digital Communications

It’s clear that each business needs to evaluate where its processes are obsolete and inhibit achieving these new scenarios. There is some low-hanging fruit just waiting to be integrated with the support of industry specialist partners, and some more complex but incredibly rewarding processes that can also be embarked on. Whichever route insurers decide to take to reach digital transformation of business scenarios, it is clear that the global pandemic has accelerated the pace.

Election’s Impact on Liability Insurance

It now seems clear that practically no issue will be left unaffected by the impending presidential election, including matters pertaining to insurance. And while health insurance has been the most dominant political talking point, the November election may also have consequences for certain aspects of liability insurance. To be sure, neither President Trump nor former Vice President Biden has made liability insurance part of their explicit campaign platforms, but some analysts believe the liability landscape may be altered by the winner in myriad implicit ways.

There is a big question about whether a new stimulus bill will include substantial liability protections for businesses that were harmed during the COVID pandemic, that have concerns about employees returning to work or that want to guard against lawsuits from customers and workers exposed to the virus. Dozens of state and federal officials have proposed reforms that would give employers additional protections from liability related to COVID, but it’s all still up in the air both locally and nationally.

Washington, D.C. Republicans—including President Trump—have been steadfast in their effort to include liability protections in the next stimulus bill, although the details are vague. As recently as Oct. 6, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin proposed a $1.6 trillion stimulus package that would include $250 billion in state and local government relief as well as liability protections for businesses and workers, but a deal has not yet been struck with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as Democrats continue to push back on several components, including those related to liability protection.

At the core of this issue is whether businesses, and even schools, will be given additional legal and financial protections against liability lawsuits resulting from COVID. By and large, Republicans evidently want to restrict a potential flood of COVID lawsuits against businesses. Otherwise, they believe that entities like businesses and schools and hospitals will see a wave of frivolous litigation that could further damage their ability to operate and that could harm the economy writ large.

Recognizing that liability protections may end up on the cutting room floor in stimulus negotiations, Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Safeguarding America’s Frontline Employees to Offer Work Opportunities Required to Kickstart the Economy Act, also known as the SAFE TO WORK Act, in late September. The bill includes a host of provisions that would make it much more difficult for plaintiffs to sue for injuries related to COVID infection.

In other words, a second term for President Trump will likely result in a more restrictive liability landscape, while a Biden presidency could find entities such as businesses, schools and healthcare facilities more vulnerable to liability suits.

See also: 5 Liability Loss Mega Trends

The problem, especially for small businesses right now, is this state of limbo, where they don’t know how this is all going to pan out. If liability protections aren’t pushed forward, either in the next stimulus or through SAFE TO WORK, businesses will most likely have to increase their liability insurance limits. But, according to analysts, they’re not going to spend that money until it becomes clear it’s absolutely necessary.

How to Pursue Innovation in a Crisis

No business has escaped the impacts of COVID-19. Whether a company is managing demand that is skyrocketing or plummeting, finding workarounds for a fractured supply chain or enabling employees to work safely or from remote locations, leaders have been forced to take on priorities that few could have imagined. They are reshaping priorities, reassigning resources, reducing and eliminating expenses and making dramatic organizational changes. They are making split-second decisions with incomplete information, uncertainty about the future and no experience managing through a pandemic.

It’s common in crises to pause or cut investments, and innovation may be among the first areas seen as expendable when belt-tightening. Yet, this is an incredible time to innovate. Important, unsolved problems with potential to scale are everywhere. The situation is manageable with the right mindset, by taking actions that are within a leader’s control.

Here are five recommendations to advance innovation at a time when resources are tight:

Start by revalidating your innovation priorities

That list of priorities that you entered 2020 with, which seemed baked into the annual plan? You may need to scrap or temporarily shelve pet initiatives that no longer make sense, however frustrating and disappointing that feels. Take stock of what matters the most right now. Look at the innovation plan and align with the overall strategy of the business. Priorities will continue to shift, so continue to listen carefully and be educated about the business’ overall performance.

What external signals are you looking at to be able to detect where the innovation spaces have shifted?

What customer insights—qualitative and quantitative—are you accessing to understand how market needs have changed, and what this means to the innovation road map?

Make sure that the greatest sources of customer value make it to the top of the priority list. Stop things that do not make sense.

Challenge the orthodoxies of what is required to innovate

Think like a startup founder and take budget off the critical path to making progress on new concepts with evidence of potential. Startups don’t have big budgets to hire market research firms, buy syndicated studies or build production-ready systems. They are scrappy. The few people involved roll up their sleeves and figure out how to drive progress to generate enough evidence that, even in a scarce resource environment, seed capital can be justified.

I have shared the story of a particularly resourceful founder who built his first product prototype from parts he and his son scrounged one Saturday morning in an auto parts junkyard. Where’s your junkyard? How can you get to the next milestone on “good enough” terms to expand your base of support?

See also: COVID-19: Technology, Investment, Innovation

Overhaul execution processes that no longer make sense

Great innovators are skilled at asking the right questions, the right way. In any established organization, execution and decision-making processes that may work well for running a mature business are in all likelihood inappropriate for creating what’s next.

Ask, “Why do we do it this way?” and you may be surprised at the answers; it could well be that nobody knows—it’s just always been that way. Asking this simple question could open the opportunity to set aside outmoded practices, replacing them with agile techniques that improve the clock speed and quality of your work.

Rethink the hows of delivery to do more with less

Startup team members often “multi-hat.” They take an all-hands-on-deck approach to closing resource gaps. To do this successfully, though, requires team members who are capable of stretching beyond the boundaries of specialist roles. Effective multi-hatters:

  • Are curious and continuous learners, pursuing opportunities to expand their skills.
  • Collaborate, reaching out to colleagues and members of their networks for help and advice.
  • Contribute to a culture where diverse perspectives are welcome and people feel included.

Borrow from the field of improvisation

Trained improvisation artists are models of resourcefulness. Improvisation is all about learning and doing on the fly—having a second or two to react to what just happened, and not really knowing what is coming beyond your contribution.

Anyone can learn the basic skills of improvisation. The core principle is captured in just two words: “Yes, and…” Make sure you are a “yes, and” person, not a “no, but” type, and you will invite creativity and constructive problem-solving that will move concepts forward far more efficiently.

“Yes, and” is a simple tool that can make any innovator more effective.

See also: 3 Silver Linings From COVID-19

As companies across the world tighten expenses and investment budgets while striving for resilience and sustainability in a suddenly changed world, the need to advance innovation in all of its many forms is an imperative. Finding ways to advance the organization’s innovation priorities takes extreme focus, new ways of working and alignment with the business’ strategy. Leaders who can enable innovation under today’s resource constraints will unlock the many opportunities being created by the pandemic and its effects and will thrive in this environment and whatever comes next.

You can find this article originally published here.

Impact of Change Fatigue on Selling

How many of you have ever put together a proposal for a prospect, and the more you worked on it, the more excited you got? By the time you have it finalized, it’s all you can do to not run over to their office right away. After all, it is SO OBVIOUS that you have the right solution for them. There is NO WAY they could say “No.” This one is in the bag!

But the unexpected “No” happens all the time, doesn’t it?!

Change has always been hard

Over the past several years, there has been a renewed interest in the unbundling of medical plans and the assembly of more creatively designed self-funded plans. It has become apparent how broken the system is and how much wasted money it sucks out of consumers’ wallets.

Benefits advisers have been educating themselves on where to look for the waste and restructure plans by implementing value-based insurance design (VBID) principles into self-funded plans. Quite often, these plans allow employers to improve the benefits they provide to employees while significantly reducing the costs.

We have regularly discussed, online, and in previous blogs, the frustration advisers have had with employers’ hesitation to make the changes necessary to put a new plan in place. “Thanks, but we’re going to stay where we are,” is a common, if seemingly irrational, response. Even when it comes with increased benefits and may offer cost savings as much as seven-figures.

Many factors contribute to the reluctance, but it just goes to prove something we all know. Change is hard; it always has been and always will be.

As the saying goes . . .

We don’t embrace the pain of change until the pain of not changing becomes greater.

Our ability to ignore the current pain is truly perplexing.

Until change is forced on us

The reality is, in a typical business environment, our circumstances evolve so gradually that we have the luxury of managing change on our terms. Oftentimes, the process includes making a conscious decision not to change at all.

And then came the pandemic.

The pandemic has FORCED unprecedented change on everyone. Not only have we all had to face change, but we have also had to face it at an unprecedented pace, level and frequency in EVERY aspect of our lives.

It’s safe to say we’re all exhausted.

Business owners are no different and may be the most tired of all. They have change fatigue and are saying unapologetically, “I’m not forcing ANY additional change on my employees.”

This is adding a hurdle to your challenge of bringing creative solutions to employers. When they arguably need these ideas more than ever, their aversion to additional change is at an all-time high. Not only are employers less inclined to move to self-funding right now, but they are also less willing to move from one fully insured carrier to another.

“NO MORE CHANGE” is a literal demand.

Change the change you ask them to make

This really sucks for those of you whose client acquisition strategy depends on prospects making plan changes in order for you to write a new client.

We recently asked on LinkedIn, “How are prospects responding (compared with pre-COVID) to recommendations to change their medical plan in exchange for significant savings?” 68% said they are finding prospects “less likely to change.”

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t be acquiring new clients right now. It merely means that, more than ever, you have to separate the business owner’s decision to work with you from the decision the owner makes about which plan to offer employees.

See also: An Inconvenient Sales Truth

Employers are faced with two primary decisions regarding their benefits program:

  1. the decision of which plan to offer and
  2. the decision of the adviser with whom they will work.

SOMETHING has to change

You can argue all day about what a bad decision it is for employers not to make plan changes, but that is the reality of where they are today. If you insist on showing up at renewal with a spreadsheet, you will quickly become a victim of their organizational change fatigue.

So, change when you are showing up and the decision you are ask them to make.

We write all the time about how critical it is for you to bring a broader, more consultative approach to the sales process. We preach all the time that there are countless opportunities (communication, technology, compliance, HR resources, etc.) for you to bring improved results to your clients that don’t necessitate any modifications to their benefits program.

Use this to your advantage. Yes, businesses have change fatigue. As much as they may ultimately benefit from a change, the last thing they want is the thought of anything else being disrupted.

They want and need relief. Lead them there, my friend.

The off-renewal, consultative sales process we have always promoted as a competitive advantage has quickly become a non-optional approach. Clients may fight irrationally against anything that brings additional change to their team. Still, they will embrace in a heartbeat a partner capable of delivering a respite from the challenges they find themselves dealing with every. single. day.

You can find this article originally published here.