By: Hope Murera, Managing director, Zep-Re
The COVID -19 Pandemic has made Companies’ strategic plans redundant – be it product development, M&As, expansion plans etc. Long term view of markets and consumer trends has been tested as we all scattered for survival. Keeping our people and customers safe became the overriding agenda of every CEO. Keeping them engaged and connected brought on a whole new meaning as some organizations were caught flat footed on their IT remote connectivity.
Months into COVID-19, we realize it is here for the long haul and we need to adapt, and innovate so as to thrive or risk perishing. Digital transformation has been thrust on the Insurance industry long known for its conformity to tradition of physical meetings and signing slips. No doubt the winners will be those that are able to leverage technology to enhance teamwork and collaboration, innovation and most importantly, superior customer experience. The good news is that when I talk to most of the Industry executives, remote working has so far gone far better than expected. How we move this to the next level to match the growth of online buying behaviours will define the future of our Industry.
For example, by adjusting and embracing change, the Zep-Re academy, our training facility, is able to continue to deliver on our mandate of developing the insurance industry even during this era of social distancing, by going digital. Enrolment to the market training programs has grown significantly – almost tenfold since making the change to online delivery. Over 500 practitioners have been equipped with the skills needed to augment their underwriting through this initiative since the fully online training commenced in May 2020.
The impact of COVID-19 remains a moving target, but a few lessons we have learnt so far at ZEP-Re:
- Ensure that your operations continue to run smoothly by structuring and planning team meetings and touch points. This helps to ensure that business remains focused on key issues that are critical for business performance. Be careful not to have too many meetings at the expense of delivery. Key question to remember is could that meeting be an email or a chat instead?
- Keep in touch with key stakeholders, including clients, board, and shareholders. Find convenient ways of communicating with them frequently using the remote communications tools at your disposal – e.g. Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams to maintain communication and collaboration.
- Have regular virtual management meetings to discuss all aspects of the business. Key here is for management to provide the leadership and environment that enables creativity and new ways to remain productive and agile.
- Communicate regularly, consistently and clearly through virtual townhalls, newsletters, email updates etc., and set expectations on staff working remotely while communicating the support structures in place. This will help boost staff morale and engagement.
- Encourage team engagement by providing as many ways as possible for them to provide feedback and escalate issues or concerns as well as ensure that the team participates in shaping the change. Virtual coffee chats and lunches and 1-1 have been very effective.
- Leverage on the expertise of your ICT team for connectivity for all staff and to ensure business continuity. These new ways of connecting should be easy to use by all.
- Encourage staff to continue improving themselves through online learning, and the use of coaches as these can help ground them and also give them the much-needed push to continue to be productive
- Your Business continuity plans should be sustainable for the long term, and adaptable to the evolving developments in this crisis. Equipping all employees with the right tools and infrastructure including laptops, seamless and secure cloud access, and customised remote work schedules will prove useful.
With the right tools and expertise, an engaged team and management support, you will be able to successfully transition your organisation’s operations, boost staff morale and sustain the organisation during and beyond the crisis.