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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Making Groupama a great place to work
Article Type: Rewards From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 7, Issue 5
Short case studies that demonstrate best practice in rewards
Insurance is about two things: people and capital. Primarily, though, it is a people business and is heavily relationship-orientated. Insurance companies are therefore only as good as the quality and performance of their workforce, and if they fail to value and invest in this key resource they will soon hit a slippery slope.
We insurers deal in a product that is, to all intents and purposes, intangible. Our policyholders get a few bits of paper and one big promise: if something goes wrong, we will be there to help. To make our promise real we need employees who can build and sustain relationships – before, during and after any claim that propels our product into action.
Groupama has two types of customer – policyholders and independent brokers who market and sell our policies. Our policyholders are both individuals and businesses, so it is a rich mix that requires different types of relationship. This sharpens the focus on the quality of staff we employ and increases the emphasis on us being an employer of choice (or in Groupama parlance, “a preferred employer”). In simpler terms, we just want to be a great place to work.
Winning the war for talent
Our industry has been fiercely competitive in recent years (just think how many insurance advertisements you see these days compared to 15 or 20 years ago). There is nothing wrong with competition, of course, but it means more companies are battling to attract and retain the best people. Insurance is certainly experiencing one of the more intense battles in the war for talent that is being waged across the service sector.
Being a “preferred employer” is our strategic response. We operate in a sector where a legacy of low investment in people has led to a scarcity of qualified and able staff and an over reliance on high turnover/low engagement contact centers. Our values-driven culture and our emphasis on engaging our people leads us to invest in skills and capability and provide genuine, long-term career development opportunities. We aim to attract talent, retain talent and develop talent. To do this we need a clear understanding of what today’s employee requires if he or she is to identify with our aims and objectives and perform at an optimum level.
Four years ago, we started using a sophisticated online, real-time employee survey tool – called the Verax Organizational Transitions Real-Time Inventory (OTI) – to capture the views of employees on a weekly basis. This provides continuous feedback on the company’s performance against 16 factors such as leadership, organizational structure and job design and looks at the impact of these factors on areas such as quality, staff retention and customer service. It effectively takes the temperature of our business, and the initial results illustrated that we needed to enhance our employee engagement efforts.
Turning vision into reality
Information was drawn from the survey each quarter and a task-force was created with representatives from HR and across the company. The objective was to get employees more involved and, ultimately, fully engaged with our business. The impetus created by the employee survey triggered a number of initiatives to facilitate that journey. One early step was a genuine effort to demonstrate that we wanted to make Groupama “a great place to work”.
We introduced twice-yearly employee and management forums to discuss the results of the employee survey in detail. Many locations arranged local focus groups to examine the issues. Groupama employees have subsequently enjoyed the introduction of a range of benefits including:
performance-related bonuses for all;
thebuzz – a magazine written by and for staff members;
enhanced private medical cover;
enhanced holiday and family leave benefits;
on-site health assessments;
fleet risk management for company vehicle drivers; and
a cycle-to-work scheme.
Groupama’s wellbeing projects have included the delivery of fresh fruit to all centers to raise awareness of healthy eating – called Fruity Friday – and a pedometer for every employee. These programs are supported by our “Health Matters” intranet site, which provides access to a wellbeing portal hosted by our occupational health advisers.
More recently, in conjunction with our pension fund trustees, Groupama launched an exclusive web presence to help the workforce understand more about the need for retirement planning and their pension investments. This was supported by a series of “Pensions Roadshows”, which gave employees the opportunity to have a one-to-one meeting with a financial specialist.
Going beyond benefits
As well as a focus on benefits, work has been done on wider issues such as demonstrating commitment to corporate social responsibility by tracking and reducing our impact on the environment through recycling and environmentally-friendly refurbishments. A new graduate scheme encompasses a project that will sit alongside the initiatives underway through our membership of Business in the Community, a UK-based movement that brings together companies committed to improving their positive impact on society. The scheme is an extension of our local charitable activities that raised £100,000 in 2007.
We have also focused heavily on communications. We have a long tradition of “Executive Roadshows”, where senior managers travel twice yearly to each location to update on progress. Based on feedback, we have made changes to ensure the messages delivered are fully understood and more relevant to each center. Our latest events included filmed vox-pops from employees across the business giving their views on Groupama as being a great place to work.
Reaping the rewards
The success of all of these changes is constantly measured through the OTI employee survey, which has seen levels of engagement rise consistently. Groupama recently went through its IIP (Investors in People) re-accreditation against the IIP profile, which takes the original standard into a greater level of complexity and depth and examines wider people management issues including communication, involvement, development and environmental awareness. In many areas of the profile we have now exceeded our own expectations, and Groupama has been invited to work with the IIP organization as an ambassador for the standard. More practically, staff turnover over the past two years has fallen by 45 percent, which shows that we are clearly doing something right.
The external validation through IIP and the internal evidence through OTI and other HR key performance indicators show that our commitment to current and prospective employees is really paying off. To keep us on track, a quarterly “dashboard” combines hard HR-related indicators such as turnover and sickness levels with the output of the employee survey and comments from key business areas on what they have done to support our preferred employer strategy. As this develops, we will build a greater knowledge and understanding of how to support employee engagement further.
Looking to the future
However, there is still work to be done and we cannot afford to be complacent. The needs and expectations of those entering the workforce are evolving, so our graduate and talent initiatives are under constant review. In the insurance business, change is the imperative that drives us, and speed of change is the variable that presents both threats and opportunities. In such a hostile environment success is based around a highly competent and motivated team of people comfortable with constant evolution.
It might not suit everyone, but our business is based around those who are always up for the challenge.
Groupama Insurances is a leading UK insurance company, with specialist health insurance solutions available through its Groupama Healthcare brand. The business employs around 800 staff in six centers and is an accredited Investor in People. The company is part of European financial services group Groupama, an international insurance business that generates annual revenues of €14.9 billion and employs 34,000 staff worldwide.
Paul Picknett Corporate services director at Groupama Insurances. He has worked in the insurance sector since 1978 when he joined Royal Insurance Group and has since held a variety of key roles in London and overseas. In 1993, Groupama invited him to join its International operation in Paris with responsibility for providing the interface with the operations in Spain and the UK. Following this, Picknett relocated to the UK in the role of operations director with Lombard General Insurance. He was appointed corporate services director at Groupama in 2002 with responsibility for strategy, HR and marketing. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org