Leading through Insurance Transformation: Communication is Key

Leadership during business as usual is a driving force; leadership during times of great change can be the difference between gaining competitive advantage and becoming obsolete.

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The insurance industry is experiencing significant change: core transformation efforts are on the rise, the demographics of the US workforce and customer base are shifting, and InsurTechs and new technologies are changing the way people engage with insurance. Having skilled and committed leaders pushing a carrier forward is always important, but it is especially critical in times of transformation and organizational change.

Communication and Alignment: Articulating IT’s Role

One key skill that great leaders share is transparent communication. Demand is increasing, in particular among younger employees, for frequent updates, interactions with leadership, and opportunities to get involved in a company’s broader mission. Employees also seek bi-directional communication, where their feedback and ideas have value. When associates feel that there are informed, respected, and part of an important endeavor that supports the goals of the organization, they are more willing and inspired to go above and beyond to affect change.

The need for alignment extends past IT to the business as a whole. CIOs should consider how to articulate the importance of IT’s role and how it directly supports the company mission overall. If IT and business leaders can develop a true partnership, others in the organization can follow their example. Novarica continually sees successful IT initiatives characterized by this sense of collaboration and openness, a clear articulation of target value and benefits, consistent executive support, and effective multi-stakeholder communications.

Career Development: Creating Paths with Room for Growth

Management and technical skills are equally important, and carriers need people with both skillsets to succeed. Recognizing the individual skills and assets of each team member and placing them accordingly is critical to building an effective team. Highly technical people are not always interested in a management role, nor do they always have the skills to lead people or large programs.

Career paths in insurance companies often have a ceiling for individual contributors that limits upward mobility. This can lead to highly capable technical associates moving to a management track that does not suit their skills, setting them and the organization up for failure. Creating a career path with room for growth in responsibility, education, title, and salary specific to every skillset can allow employees to flourish and contribute to their fullest.

Organizational Culture: Encouraging the Embrace of Change

Fostering true innovation requires sponsorship from senior leadership and separation from “business as usual” activities. Strong commitment to innovation from leadership can mitigate the opposition that disruptive change can introduce, particularly since it can be difficult to innovate in ways that do not contradict corporate norms and frameworks. It can also help to build a comfortable working environment where employees are willing to share ideas. The most successful teams are comfortable taking risks with the support of their teammates and managers.

As an organization prioritizes innovation and undergoes significant change, it is critical to remain aware of employee wellbeing and satisfaction. Transformations can strain employees’ bandwidth; great leaders will anticipate this and encourage a healthy balance between work and life by building capacity changes into long-term planning.

Transformational change depends on commitment and collaboration across a company. Leadership that fosters innovative ideas and supports employees throughout that change is a critical element of success. Communication, empathy, and the ability to relate to all employees on a human level requires an authentic approach from leaders with keen emotional intelligence coupled with business acumen. Leadership during business as usual is a driving force; leadership during times of great change can be the difference between gaining competitive advantage and becoming obsolete. To learn more about the leadership tactics necessary to realize transformational change, see Novarica’s recent brief, IT Leadership and Transformational Change: Key Elements.

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Nancy Casbarro //

Nancy Casbarro is a Vice President of Research and Consulting at Novarica. She has over 30 years of insurance technology experience. Most recently, Nancy served as the IT Solutions Delivery Vice President for the Group Benefits business at MetLife supporting products, claims, underwriting, distribution development, and national accounts. Nancy also has extensive experience in property/casualty, supporting data warehousing, business intelligence, financial reporting, agent commissions, document management, policy administration, claims processing, and image and workflow applications at the MetLife Auto & Home company. Nancy holds a BS in Management Information Systems from the University of Rhode Island. She can be reached directly at ncasbarro@novarica.com.

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