How Insurance Leaders Can Drive Innovation from the Inside Out

Empowering associates to learn and grow to maximize opportunity, and creating a steady path forward can help fuel organizational growth amidst a volatile macroenvironment.

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While insurers are no strangers to evaluating environments and adjusting based on risk, the events of the last few years and the maelstrom of volatility from inflation, climate change, regulatory updates, and technological innovations like ChatGPT have caused many to press “pause” to properly wrap their minds around today’s evolving definition of “risk.” Some insurers may stick to what they know and shy away from opportunities that arise in volatile environments to protect their profitability. However, if insurance leaders only rely on what’s always worked in more stable environments, they might not be best positioned against more agile competitors.

Insurance leaders wishing to adopt a new set of leadership behaviors to create a culture that is highly adaptive and stand out in a changing insurance landscape should consider these ways to get started:

Embrace windows of opportunity to engage the whole organization

As the environment shifts, so may insurance focus areas and business objectives. This is a great time to clearly articulate to the broader organization and any counterparts how their roles impact growing policy count and influence specific company goals. It can be easy for employees sitting in underwriting, actuarial, and sales functions to see how their work ties into the business. The shifts in the business landscape create an opportunity to further engage other corporate functions and help them recognize that their contributions directly drive growth and performance. Beyond pure policy count, every role in an organization has the ability to streamline processes and evolve risk tolerance as well. Across the organization, all teams can take steps to advance new ways of working, reimagine processes, how they add to the organization’s stability and performance, and elevate the customer experience.

Engage leaders at all levels

With the changes in the market also comes a shift in talent; today’s workforce is comprised of four generations—Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z. Each of these generations are in very different stages of their lives and careers, with Millennials and Gen Z bringing a different perspective on collaboration, workflow, and employee engagement. In a period of significant change, find opportunities to provide learning and create space for junior employees to exercise leadership and influence. While younger generations may be lower within the traditional hierarchy, they’re eager to contribute through greater use of technology and cross-silo collaboration. As the industry evolves outside the walls of the organization, use this natural nimbleness to fuel future leaders and identify where they are able to spark change! Technology enables leaders at all levels to have the information they need to make decisions, without “asking for permission.” Command and control management may have been necessary in the past, but with technology and compliant business processes in place, it’s possible to empower employees to respond appropriately to shifts in the environment. They will need to have this empowerment if the organization is to be agile and innovative—and serve policy holders while protecting profit.

Embrace stability—and anticipate the next change

Being flexible to strategically shift in ways that enable growth and business performance is vital. Still, it’s important to find underlying consistency—if you’ve shifted products in and out of a state following changes in regulation, merged agency or field offices, or implemented new technology in the last 2-3 years, finding the right amount of stability is key. If employees and customers find it’s become too challenging to keep track of changes, or don’t feel confident about the company’s ability to fulfill insurance guarantees, take a pause to assess communication efforts about the organization’s vision. Providing a foundational understanding of what’s driving the company forward creates greater engagement. Understanding short- and long-term business goals also helps employees identify changes in trends. Whether by leveraging data and centralizing it for greater use across the organization or spotting trends in routine analyses, keeping an eye on the horizon supports innovation in core business areas like product and customer experience.

With interest rates continuing to rise, layoffs persisting, and a new sense of urgency for business performance, it’s important to ensure a workforce feels confident to bring their organization forward. Finding these windows of opportunity, empowering them to learn and grow to maximize the opportunity, and creating a steady path forward with an eye on what’s to come can help fuel organizational growth amidst a volatile macroenvironment.

Digital Transformation Success—The Human Factor

Deb Seidman and Shaun Spearmon //

Deb Seidman is a director at Kotter. She has over 25 years’ experience working to enhance the effectiveness of leaders and their organizations, enabling them to execute their business strategy. She is based in New York City and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University and a Master of Arts degree in Politics from New York University.

Shaun Spearmon is a director at Kotter, leads strategic planning, process improvement, and transformation engagements with clients across industries, including technology, aerospace, pharmaceuticals, retail, and financial services. Shaun describes himself as a firm believer in the power of servant leadership, and its ability to both create excellence in individuals and produce extraordinary results for organizations.

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