The insurance sector has seen enormous change over the past year, with one of the most significant being the skyrocketing popularity of flexible working - something born out of necessity is now expected both from employees coming into an organisation, and from customers who want their advisers and insurers to be easily accessible.
Gallagher Bassett’s national people and culture manager Gabrielle Cook said that flexible working had been slowly being implemented over a much longer period of time, and that it was initially geared heavily towards family responsibilities. However, she said it had now become a tool for everyone to get much more out of their lives - whether that’s spending time with family, volunteering, pursuing a hobby, or simply working in a way that best suits their productivity.
“We’ve really seen the flexible working policies come to life in our organisation within the last 7-8 years,” Cook commented.
“And it’s no longer just something to accommodate family, it’s to accommodate the different things that people want to do in their lives.”
“We sorted out a flexible working policy for someone who decided that one of their goals in the next year was to complete a marathon, and in order to be able to train, they just wanted to flex up their hours so they could fit in a long run in the middle of the week,” she said.
“We looked at the business and whether it worked for both parties, and of course it did. So, I think that just brings home the fact that we are much more flexible now within the industry in terms of how people can follow their dreams, their career paths and their family. They can really do it all.”
Cook said that flexibility is now a much more accepted part of the insurance sector, and the industry as a whole has been evolving and changing in various ways for many years. She said that although the pandemic had been difficult for everyone, insurers also learnt lots of lessons about bringing in new talent and improving their employee offering.
“I think candidates who come into the market are expecting flexibility, and you have a whole pool of people out there who will create a very high-performing culture if you can get that flexibility side right,” Cook said.
“People can balance what they find meaningful outside of work, and then they can come to work and have a meaningful experience there too.”
“My view is that the pandemic has been difficult for everyone,” she added.
“COVID has been a unique time in our sector and there have been some peaks and troughs, but we’ve learned heaps of lessons. Having that flexible working policy in the background allowed us to have all our technology ready to go, so we were able to respond really quickly to our customers.”
When it comes to change within the insurance space, ANZIIF CEO Prue Willsford said New Zealand has been quite a significant player in the Asia-Pacific space - and the changes that have happened over the last year have hugely increased the importance of being able to access good risk advice, and brokers have had the chance to ‘really step up’ and show their value.
“I think New Zealand has had an amazing run, but we’re all quite used to challenges coming and going,” Willsford said.
“I think what the pandemic has done is accelerate flexible work, and overall, everyone has coped pretty well. But snap lockdowns like the ones New Zealand experienced recently are always tough.”
“Given how much is changing in the external market, New Zealand is actually a significant player in terms of exports and international business,” she added.
“I think that’s been a real opportunity for brokers to really step up in terms of risk advice, as it’s never been more important in this changing environment.
“I think they’ve done a great job in adapting to the pandemic, and I think they’ve never been more important, so it’s been lovely to watch them do so well.”