4 minute read 5 Aug 2020
Work from home adapting the new normal – EY

Work from home in the Insurance industry: Adapting to the new normal

By Sunmeet S Chahal

EY India People Advisory Services Partner

Sunmeet leads the Financial Services practice for People Advisory Services. He brings with him more than 19 years of rich experience of working in the Financial Services sector across HR domains.

4 minute read 5 Aug 2020
Related topics Workforce Insurance COVID-19

The insurance community has set an example during the COVID-19 pandemic by not only ensuring business continuity but quickly adapting to the volatile situation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly crippled normal life and how individuals and institutions function in the entire nation. The lockdown led to a majority of employees across sectors having to work-from-home (WFH), and the insurance industry was no exception. In these times of crisis, customers have a greater need for seamless insurance services, such as life insurance, health insurance, or continuation of risk covers for other types of insurance. While all insurance companies have business continuity plans to cater to their customers, they have never been designed or tested for a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is encouraging to see how well the insurance companies have managed to provide customer service in these challenging times and leveraged digital technologies for the smooth transitioning from office-to-home.
G Srinivasan
Director, National Insurance Academy, Pune (India)

The key challenges for insurance companies

The fact that the timing of the lockdown owing to the pandemic was during the end of the financial year, compounded the problem because insurers normally witness heightened business activities, closing of accounts, disbursement of commissions, and payment of premiums during this period. However, the regulators provided a major concession to customers for delay in payment of premiums. While the move helped insurers too, they had to carry out other regular activities such as sending renewal notices, change in nomination, and other services like change in payment mode etc. without a stop. The major challenge for insurance companies was the availability of required digital infrastructure at employees’ homes, such as internet connectivity and virtual meeting tools, to ensure business continuity. Simultaneously, they also had to ensure, absolute data security and productivity, and ensure the comfort of employees who had to work with digital tools for long hours.

Some of the other issues included fear, anxiety, and confusion amongst the employees which might have arisen due to the unprecedented situation presented by the pandemic. COVID-19 has also brought in different types of people issues while working from home. For example, some women staff are finding it difficult to balance office work and personal life at home; some men are finding WFH stressful because they are receiving work at odd hours, even on Sundays; and in some cases employees, especially sales personnel, are finding it challenging to maintain performance levels, communication, and connectivity while WFH.

EY framework on adapting to the new normal

The emerging people-priorities to increase business resilience for the long term

  • Workforce re-modeling and manpower planning

    EY recommends the following broad guidelines to re-purpose the workforce model:

    • Map changes to skill profile for critical roles
    • Realign existing workforce
    • Identify gaps and additional role requirements
    • Prepare manpower plan for the next financial year
  • Hiring right

    As the trend towards differential workforce capabilities and remote workforce models comes into play in the new-normal, we should now pre-empt the requirement to hire right. By hiring right, we mean:

    • Right workforce mix
    • Right sourcing channel
    • Fit-for-purpose hiring
    • Invest in smart recruitment solutions
  • Intelligent automation across people processes:

    Intelligent automation across HR enables reduction in cost and increase in productivity. We have seen that these two factors pivot the growth of enterprises. With this solution, HR centers can optimize resources and costs spent on transactional work and focus more on designing solutions. Some of these automation opportunities include:

    • Digital recruitment solution
    • Virtual on-boarding process
    • Learning and development
    • Employee self-management
    • Off-boarding
  • Employee wellness

    A design-thinking approach will need to be adopted for driving the wellness agenda at all the employee-experience touch points.

    • Innovative engagement opportunities will need to be created to inculcate a sense of: (i) belongingness to the organization, (ii) trust building (iii) enhanced teaming in the virtual workspace.
    • Holistic well-being (physical, mental, social ethical/moral and financial) will have to remain at the core of all communication, engagement or collaboration efforts. The communication itself will need to be: humane (honest, transparent, empathetic and direct), frequent (ensuring awareness, and alignment to the larger goal), intentional (addressing specific needs of respective audience)
  • Measuring and managing productivity

    Several organizations now think progressively about work from home policy. This is relatively easier for transactional roles – for instance, (a) productivity of the claims-servicing team may be evaluated on the basis of cases handled per week; (b) performance of the customer-service team can be assessed on the basis of the incidents successfully closed in a day, and so on. This manner of evaluation may however be more challenging for heterogeneous roles.

  • Role of the leadership team

    Leaders and managers play a crucial role in the organization in managing the change, by effectively reassuring, motivating, and steering their workforce. Empathetic team handling, clarity in direction, transparency in communication, encouraging flexibility in the way of working, and agility in decision making will be the magic key to building a high-performing and motivated virtual workforce.

Summary

As the COVID situation continues to evolve, insurance companies need to re-invent their business operating models and adapt themselves to emerging work-force models to be prepared for the next and beyond phase of the pandemic. People friendly policies and processes will be key to ensure continuous growth on a long-term basis and ensure profitability in insurance business.

About this article

By Sunmeet S Chahal

EY India People Advisory Services Partner

Sunmeet leads the Financial Services practice for People Advisory Services. He brings with him more than 19 years of rich experience of working in the Financial Services sector across HR domains.

Related topics Workforce Insurance COVID-19