Accenture research on how the insurance industry is coping with the remote work required by COVID-19 social-distancing measures found opinions differed across the C-suite. Less than two-thirds (64 percent) of chief human resources officers (CHROs) considered their organizations prepared for remote work. And only 33 percent stated that their organizations had implemented remote work for the long term.

While less than 13 percent of chief information officers (CIOs) reported seeing negative effects on productivity and efficiency resulting from work-from-home initiatives, more than half of CHROs (55 percent) said that employees were reporting an increase in anxiety and depression.

What are the top three reasons productivity and efficiency has decreased in organizations, according to CHROs?

  • Stress and uncertainty regarding the pandemic (43 percent)
  • Distractions from family and other people at the same location (43 percent)
  • Challenges with managing physical documents such as invoices and requests (42 percent)

It seems more and more likely that remote work will need to continue into 2021, especially considering the current ambiguity around whether schools will be open for in-classroom learning in September. Even if schools do revert to in-class instruction, parents will need to decide if that’s the best course of action for their family. Those who choose not to send their children to school, will need to find childcare or some other way to support homeschooling, whether that’s a shifted work schedule or trading off with a spouse or partner.

We don’t see this level of uncertainty and disruption getting better any time soon. That means insurers need to address these issues—building a resilient workforce that has the technology and tools to move beyond the near term, toward the next and the never normal.

A resilient workforce

While insurers have been quick to adopt remote work, many have not recognized the importance of a resilient workforce that can maintain productivity in the face of uncertainty. As Luis Díaz Gutiérrez said in his recent blog post about human resilience during COVID-19, insurers need to address workers’ physical needs (security and safety), mental needs (psychological resilience) and relational needs (connection and belonging).

Gutiérrez suggests 10 actions leaders can take now, to lay the groundwork for the future:

  1. Develop a multidisciplinary C-suite “plan-and-act” center. Set and communicate key policies and invest in programs designed to mitigate the physical and mental effects on workers.
  2. Relieve people of unnecessary work and activities. Be clear that the purpose is to remove friction, and build teams based on skill rather than function.
  3. Use responsible leadership. Coach leaders to include stakeholders, use emotion and intuition, focus on the mission and purpose, take advantage of technology, encourage innovation and develop intellect and insight.
  4. Form cross-functional, agile teams. Avoid working within functional silos.
  5. Elevate your most visible leaders based on compassion and caring. Change the daily tone of communication so that workers feel supported and heard.
  6. Integrate your company’s purpose and values into every communication and initiative. Give employees a sense of belonging and connection to one another and their work.
  7. Use data and insights to tell a story that will help workers make meaningful connections.
  8. Rally leaders around consistent communication. Establish strong communication governance, guiding principles and tone.
  9. Speed up human + machine collaboration and support people as they transition to digital ways of working.
  10. Don’t allow the crisis of the Now to stop you from moving toward the Next. Set aside time each day to focus on preparing your organization and workforce for the future.

People analytics

Leading insurers use the power of data and insights that are descriptive (what happened), predictive (what will happen) and prescriptive (what organizations should do next). However, many insurers are still not taking advantage of analytics to make decisions that support their workers now when they need it the most.

According to Nicole Knott, while 86 percent of companies said analytics for talent management are a strategic priority, only 6 percent of companies were satisfied with their current analytics capabilities. Without these insights, insurers are missing out on the potential to transform their workforce in a way that is truly human.

If you’re an insurance CHRO and you haven’t yet implemented organization analytics, now is the time. We believe it’s a key component of a successful and productive remote workforce. Watch this space for a future post when we’ll elaborate on how you can use cloud-based analytics to answer key workforce questions.

Scalability, agility and culture

Our experience working with North American insurers also suggests that many organizations don’t have the technology tools and infrastructure they need to sustain an agile remote workforce in the long term—or to scale it as required. In our next post, we’ll look at how cloud capabilities can help in this regard.

Insurers also need to address workforce culture to support workers during this time of great uncertainty. Even after just a few months of working from home, many workers report feeling disconnected from their colleagues and workplaces. Companies that pay attention to these mental health aspects are more likely to retain key talent. As Andy Young said in his recent post, “teams that already had a culture of clear communication, trust and psychological safety have made the pivot to remote work more easily than teams that didn’t. In other words, if culture wasn’t a priority for leaders, it should be now.”

To answer the question, are CHROs right to be skeptical? Yes and no. Insurers that maintain the status quo—in terms of workforce culture, technology and infrastructure—could struggle to expand on their current success. However, those willing to take bold action have an opportunity to build a resilient, diverse, productive and efficient remote team as well as a competitive advantage for the business.

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