Judith Bufton explains the steps in training managers to realise their full potential

There has been a great deal of focus recently on the need to attract new employees into the insurance industry, especially those at the start of their careers.

However, investment in current employees is equally important to ensure that we continue to develop the talent pool within insurance and retain valued employees.

The insurance industry is a technical business, so developing underwriting and claims handling skills, as well as other relevant professional expertise, has a high priority. In Allianz Cornhill we also see the development of leadership skills as critical for managers.

All managers participate in the leadership programme which offers insights into individuals' own leadership style and guidance on the leadership skills required to meet the business challenges of the future. Managers complete a 360 degree feedback questionnaire to identify their strengths and areas for development, and then complete a personal development action plan.

This could include attending a range of workshops to address specific skills, for example, influencing, coaching skills, change management, or a variety of other activities such as distance learning, team building, mentoring or project work.

New responsibilities
When individuals first step into a full management role, specific support is required to ensure that they understand their new responsibilities. This role may be the first time the new manager gets involved in areas such as managing supervisors or team leaders, influencing other parts of the business and being involved in decisions about change and its implementation.

In insurance companies, where technical skills and knowledge continue to be essential at management level, new managers typically need to be encouraged to operate more effectively through others, rather than trying to take everything on themselves. In Allianz Cornhill all new managers are invited to attend a new leaders development programme.

The workshop helps them to identify their leadership strengths and development needs, using feedback and psychometric questionnaires. Participants are encouraged to recognise the impact of their leadership style on others, manage the performance of team members, develop teams more effectively and lead others in implementing change.

The programme is in two parts, allowing participants to try out new skills in the workplace before meeting up again as a group to build their skills and experience through further learning.

Other key career steps such as a move into a team leader role – the level below full management – or a step up into senior management also require development support.

Team leaders are often promoted from within a team of people into a supervisory role for that same team. Managing workflow is a key requirement of the team leader's role, but other skills need to be developed such as coaching and motivating the team, as well as challenging and managing performance.

For individuals moving into new senior management roles, the challenge is often about adopting a more strategic view of the business, driving change forward, influencing key stakeholders effectively and managing complex issues and leading large business units.

Sometimes individuals are identified as having potential to progress rapidly into senior leadership roles. In addition to developing the management and leadership skills described above, high potential managers often require additional support to help them acquire a broader range of business management and leadership skills.

At Allianz Cornhill, programmes are provided at key career stages to develop and retain fast track employees. The Pathway Programme is an 18-month modular programme targeted at high potential managers and combines business school thinking around key topics such as strategy, business acumen, the customer, change and leadership.

It also provides the opportunity for participants to enhance their personal and leadership skills through individual development support and participation in challenging business projects.

Measuring the impact of management and leadership development initiatives is not easy. Building technical and commercial skills can translate noticeably into improvements in business performance. Developing leadership skills is a longer term investment, but the impact can also be noticeable.

Developing managers who can set a clear direction, inspire and motivate the people around them, make good quality decisions and drive through business change also leads to business success. IT

Judith Bufton is head of learning and development at Allianz Cornhill