Since 2018 the MIB has been overhauling its culture change programme, but lockdown hit as it was due to release the MIB Principles and the firm was forced to take a more creative approach with its staff working remotely, Jordan Barry, chief people officer tells Insurance Times

Culture is a hot topic in the insurance industry, but a spanner was thrown in the works with the pandemic lockdown, and some firms have had to take an alternative approach to implementing good values and maintaining staff cohesion. 

The week that lockdown was imposed on the UK in March, the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) was just about to launch its new values – the MIB Principles. The firm was also in the process of overhauling its culture change programme that it began back in 2018.

With everyone working remotely from home, the firm knew it had to get creative, but for the MIB, the Covid-19 pandemic has been an accelerator.

The firm’s chief people officer Jordan Barry told Insurance Times: “We deliberately pressed pause on most of the strategic work for eight weeks while we recalibrated, focused on safety and well-being, [and] set new rhythms for managers.

MIB goody bag

MIB goody bag for staff 

“The week before lockdown we were about to launch our values – the MIB Principles, that was really the foundation of all the culture work.

”We had booked an offsite so everyone in the organisation could attend, they had all been involved the design and development of the values, so it was very much employee-led, and then Covid-19 happened.” 

So to keep morale up, the firm sent all 500 members of staff, including its board; an MIB branded tote shopper bag that included its new illustrated  hardback employee handbook in the style of a Penguin guide, the MIB Principles with a message from the its chief executive, a branded notebook, and a pen.

But the goody bag’s ”piece de resistance” as Barry refers to it, was a packet of radish or lettuce seeds that stood as a metaphor for “growing or nurturing culture”. It invited staff to plant them and gamified the activity by asking for photos to be posted, so that others could watch them grow.

“It brought some light-heartedness through some [dark] times, it gave people something to believe in and feel part of,” he said. The firm also provided staff with a monetary allowance so that they could set up and work from home comfortably.

 The note from Barry that accompanied the seeds read: “A great company culture follows a set of principles that every employee lives and breathes. It comes from the sense of belonging, of feeling valued and having the space and development to be the very best version of yourself, your whole self.

“Having a great culture is precious and needs protecting and looking after. But a great culture does not just happen, it needs to be sown and cultivated, nurtured and cared for, in order for it to grow strong and reach up and out across the whole organisation.

“In your goody bag, you will find a packet of seeds that we invite you to plant and care for and ultimately benefit from.”

Leading remotely

The MIB’s staff were already working from home a few weeks before the lockdown was announced as the MIB’s chief executive Dominic Clayden took the decision to keep his employees safe.

At the time Clayden called the pandemic “a real horror” and therefore had every member of staff working from home within a week to prioritise their safety.

But with the change of location came different challenges, such as how do you continue to lead in a virtual environment?

The MIB implemented various initiatives such as a virtual town hall – with one of them being fancy dress to keep the mood light. In addition to this it set up a ‘coffee and catchup’ channel every Friday where employees can log in and chat about anything for half an hour.

For its performance management process, it ran a pilot providing feedback to managers so that they could deliver a more human and connected experience to employees virtually.

For example, it looked at how team meetings and one-to-ones were being run. It asked managers to not just speak about performance but also ask about their staff’s well-being to provide full support and keep people connected.

“It’s these little things that have changed how people felt working for our organisation, all these incidental things add up to something much better and its really helped reset people’s emotional connection with the organisation,” Barry added.

Setting the agenda

Speaking about overhauling its culture programme, Barry said: “Culture and people are what I do for a living. One of the first things that I did when I started was to get an understanding of where diversity & inclusion (D&I) was and how people felt about the organisation. We ran our first D&I survey and there were some real horrors in terms of feedback.”

But Clayden who has a strong background for leading successful people agendas, joined forces with Barry to share the results of the diversity & inclusion (D&I) survey with the senior leadership team to tackle this which helped frame the firm’s people agenda.

The two then set out to build a diverse senior leadership team, “we now have a senior leadership team that has set an aspirational tone to the organisation, its humanised, [and] joined up,” Barry added.

Following this, the firm also removed clocking in and out, as it was very much a 9-5 culture, and since then the MIB has taken a similar approach to overhaul every level of the business.

’Culture as a differentiator’

Barry said: “We have a chief executive who expects that these values to transcend everything we do, he’s very transformational. There is a real culture of high challenge, high support.

“If you look at the millennials and the generation Z’s things are changing, the whole world of work is changing. For [future] executive committees, generation X and Y are coming through as leaders and they have different values and a different moral compass. Shareholders want value and profit, and that is delivered through creating a great workforce. Clayden will tell you that culture is the differentiator.”

The MIB partnered with Stonewall – a charity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, as well as Involve, a global network that champions diversity and inclusion in business.

It also makes sure that its shortlist is diverse. As well as working closely on its own recruiter and hiring ability for HR and line managers.

It set up a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) network on the back of the Black Lives Matter movement.

And it has started collecting employee data to ensure it is being representative, speaking about the insurance market, Barry added: “I think it’s ripe for change, we know that with the next generation coming through are going to be the most ethnically diverse, the most intellectual and they are not going to work in organisations where they cannot feel and see the value.”

Read more…Back to office transitions bring new risks and lessons to the insurance industry 

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