Zurich leader on the key to unlocking the future of work

He reveals how other companies can get started

Zurich leader on the key to unlocking the future of work

Diversity & Inclusion

By Mia Wallace

It has been five years since Zurich Insurance became the first company in Britain to advertise all its roles on a flexible, part-time or job share basis. It’s a shift that has seen the insurance giant almost quadruple its part-time hires – increasing the number of female part-time hires almost four-fold while male part-time hires have more than doubled.

How Zurich is bucking the trend of flexible working in financial services

For Steve Collinson (pictured), chief people officer at Zurich, it’s an affirmation of a long-held belief that while everyone’s looking for the “silver bullet” to fix the gender pay gap and bridge the diversity gap in financial services, meaningful change is an iterative process. From his perspective, he said, the accumulation of cultural changes made by Zurich over the last few years – including its support of The Flexible Working Act – offers tangible proof that insurance can attract people from different backgrounds who bring different experiences, and that can only be a good thing for customers.

Highlighting some of the figures recorded by Zurich, he noted that in the last two years alone, the insurer has seen part-time internal promotions increase by a whopping 167%.

“It’s easy just to think, ‘that’s a big number and doesn’t it sound amazing?’. And it is a big number, and it does sound fantastic,” he said. “But what it actually means is that people who work differently to their traditional full-time colleagues are able to advance their careers. That’s good for so many things, including bridging the gender pay gap and filling the gender pension gap as people start to increase their earning capability.

“Another piece of really important data is that we’ve now established a pattern where part-time employees at Zurich show the same level of employee engagement as those who work full-time. Traditionally, a part-time population would often be less engaged, and sometimes significantly less engaged but, for us, those figures are almost identical.”

How flexible working policies are proving the adaptability of the insurance market

What’s promising, Collinson said, is the opportunity for insurance to outstrip its financial services peers by moving the dial quickly and effectively to embrace the future of work.

“It’s about allowing line managers to have conversations that help people understand how to blend their really busy and important work lives with their really busy and important home responsibilities,” he said. “For me, it has turned into a story of great hires and great promotions, but also a really interesting retention story. Turnover at the firm is very low, turnover amongst our highest performers is exceedingly low.”

Collinson noted that it’s worth highlighting that these low turnover rates are attributional not just to this flexible working proposition, but rather how it reflects Zurich’s broader employee proposition. This should serve as an encouragement to the wider insurance market that making updates, and even wholesale changes, to your employee proposition is not something to be frightened of, he said, but actually something that’s relatively easy to do – and which can represent a significant pay-off for your business.

How can other insurance companies get started on workplace flexibility?

Sharing his insights on how other insurance businesses can get started on the journey towards increased flexibility, and rejuvenating their broader employee proposition, Collinson offered the advice to “fully embrace the changes from the Flexible Working Act”. It’s about creating the right cultural environment to empower hiring managers and line managers not to argue with the simple request for an employee to join your firm and work more flexibly from day one.

“The reality is that if culturally you're open, people will be asking for it in the hiring process anyway,” he said. “Beyond fully embracing all aspects of the Flexible Working Act, I would encourage people to focus on winning hearts and minds internally, and find great examples of best practice.

“Also, don’t forget the really important need to work out who your stakeholders are on this and take them on the journey with you. For us, that’s been our hiring managers when it comes to part-time working. But on things like our Menopause policy, that’s been about educating every people manager to help them help their people thrive, not just survive, a really difficult stage of life. So, for me, it’s all about winning hearts and minds, working out who your stakeholders are and dispelling some myths along the way – it all comes down to encouraging people to positively embrace what you're trying to achieve.” 


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