Searchlight Solutions is still a relatively young company that has seen tremendous growth in the various areas of our business activity, namely recruitment, training and consultancy. We have also recently taken over an IT company and now offer its services to the insurance market.
We face the challenge of bringing in new people and ensuring that we continue to work together as a close team. We must also continue to look after our clients during a time of business growth.
This growth has meant taking on new staff and managing business growth. It is all too easy when this happens to fail to ensure that the principles on which the business was founded continue. Looking after customers can attract a higher priority than looking after your own people.
That is why we have decided to join the programme ourselves. We are just as likely to be too busy to invest in our people as anyone else. By setting out to continually develop our own staff, we will ensure that we don't miss out on the benefits of a well trained and motivated workforce.
Later this year we will begin the process of working towards Investors In People (IIP). We feel that it is essential that our staff know what happens in their own company and IIP should help us to ensure this. Gaining the IIP accreditation will mean that we are effectively communicating our broad business plans and philosophies with the people who have to implement them, our employees.
In addition to all the other sound business reasons for investing in training and development, we also wanted to demonstrate our belief in this programme in the most obvious way – by joining it. Over this year, we will report on our achievements and also on the challenges we have faced.
As a customer service and claims management solutions provider Accidentcare Group believes it's good to talk. While building a rapport with our customers is essential, I'm a firm believer in walking the talk. That, for me, means that communication begins at home with our employees.
Regular feedback, weekly team meetings, constructive appraisals and good internal communications already help foster goodwill and harmony.
And our continued growth over the years is a testament to the strength of the team, our product, and our commitment to our members.
My objective is to transform Accidentcare from a £3m company into a £12m to £15m organisation and increase our membership base from 100,000 to 400,000 by 2003.
The secret of success is to have focused and motivated staff. The key to achieving that success is that Accidentcare employees know that the company has their best interests at heart – which is why we will be aiming for the Investors in People standard (IIP).
By formalising staff development systems and procedures, and creating a climate that promotes interaction, we will be making a commitment to our staff and their future career development, and in turn investing in our company, and, more importantly, the industry.
IIP isn't an initiative that we will undertake lightly – it's an initiative that we believe in and we know it will take some blood and sweat to get there – but it is one that will reap benefits.
After all, our people are our ambassadors, and what better way to enhance reputation than through word of mouth to counteract the negative image that continues to plague the industry. Until that is resolved, we will fail to attract the best and brightest recruits. Let's not forget that recruitment is a painful and slow process in itself, so we need to get it right. And once you have the pick of the bunch, the trick is to ensure they turn into something more than a five-minute wonder, which means paying more than just lip service to issues such as staff training and development.
You will be able to chart our progress as we prepare internally to go for IIP – hopefully this year – and judge for yourselves whether Accidentcare is taking the right approach.
I sincerely hope we are accredited with the IIP standard in time, but we won't stop there for the chrysalis will just have begun to change. The secret will be to metamorphose successfully into a company that people want to join for all the right reasons.
Over the last 12 months Zenith Insurance has achieved both major structural and cultural changes.
January 2000 saw the first of these changes with the successful completion of a management buy-out. A new management team was established and initiated a review of our business goals and corporate values. The aim was to ensure that we balanced our business needs with the needs of our staff and of our customers.
The first step was to establish a mission statement and a set of company values. From these we could clearly identify our aims and set about promoting positive and open relationships between internal departments and our customers. We recognised that our staff is our most valuable asset and that in order to compete, we needed to be proactive with staff training and development.
In order to meet our training objectives, we are introducing an ongoing development programme. As an employer, attracting and, more importantly, keeping the right staff is essential. Once on-board it is our responsibility to ensure that staff development continues and that training becomes an integral part of the Zenith culture.
Earlier this month a survey was circulated to all staff and management. This survey will act as a benchmark, a point from which to develop. The results are being analysed and findings will be announced shortly, together with a plan to address any issues highlighted.
In addition, work is well underway on a training programme that encourages staff development on a business and a personal level. A number of our staff already possess ACII qualifications and many more have started studying for professional exams. Our training partners Searchlight Solutions have also provided programmes specifically tailored to Zenith staff.
While it is still relatively early days and no doubt we still have a lot to learn, we have certainly made headway towards our goal.
We believe staff training and development are key to our future success and are committed to ongoing staff investment.
Ansvar Insurance became an independent subsidiary of the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group in December 1998. Since then, business has grown successfully via intermediary partners in our chosen markets, especially household and small commercial risks, including churches and charities.
A cornerstone of our positioning statement is our commitment to offering excellent personal service. This is because we recognise that we are a service business and, as such, we rely heavily on our people and indeed derive much of our business culture through them. Fast and efficient customer response is our constant objective, but also our attitudes and the way we communicate to our customers, be it face-to-face, by telephone, or in written form, are crucial in helping us build strong relationships, particularly with intermediaries.
While we are extremely fortunate to have a committed and loyal staff, with a placement of around 50 staff altogether, Ansvar has no human resources function. As such, training and development in the soft skills areas of customer service, communication and negotiation has tended to be on a rather limited ad hoc basis.
Technical training has also been difficult. This is particularly bad news because there is no real local insurance market and therefore many of the staff have not had previous insurance experience. Fortunately, a good number of staff have CII qualifications or are now undertaking CII studies. However, this does not obligate the company's responsibility to properly train and support its staff on an on-going basis.
To help sustain existing expansion and further growth, a relatively high number of new staff have joined in recent months and more are likely to join in the future. We therefore feel the time is right to embark on a new and innovative training and development programme. Given our own limited resources we have selected Searchlight Solutions to help us because we felt they had the right understanding of our business and are already involved in similar projects with other general insurance companies.
With a broad range of needs, we have formulated a programme that will continue throughout 2001. Because of the importance we place on this project we have decided that every member of staff will participate at least in some aspects. This is on the premise that everyone in the company, whether front-end or not, should have a customer service focus.
As far as technical training is concerned, we are planning to commence with the basic principles of insurance and, again, we plan wide participation. Regardless of experience and qualifications we believe everyone will benefit from just stepping back and refreshing themselves of the basics that will also include references to the way the market is structured and regulatory issues.
From there we will also develop tailored technical courses for our specific needs.
Working with Searchlight Solutions provides a very exciting opportunity to advance job satisfaction for our staff and work towards offering an even more professional provision to our customers.
Carmichaels Loss Adjusters
As a medium-sized loss adjuster, we have always sought to offer our clients service standards that are a step ahead of the competition. We have invested heavily in technology to keep ahead of the crowd, and ensure we keep in touch with developments while on the road, enabling us to deliver reports on, or ahead of, time. We have also just completed our ISO 9002 accreditation.
The move towards investing in staff training and development was, at the end of the day, a “no-brainer”. In actual fact, we have probably been more actively involved than many other companies in a continuing staff development programme, albeit on a more informal footing. By registering to take part in this Investors in People (IIP) initiative, our aim is to improve our service to clients. The involvement of a third party means objective identification of areas that may not already meet our stringent service standards, thereby enhancing customer confidence, as well as increasing staff motivation.
We recognise that employees are of vital importance to the success of any business, and we have never aspired to be part of the recognised dumbing down of the insurance industry. Quite the reverse – when we agreed with Searchlight Solutions to take part in this joint initiative with Insurance Times to raise standards within the industry, it seemed right to play our part in demonstrating that every company, regardless of size, should take staff training seriously.
Staff at all levels need to recognise their worth to their employer, and the right kind of training leads to a boost in staff morale. From this comes increased motivation, and there is nothing better for clients than happy and motivated employees.
We are only just beginning to work towards our IIP accreditation, but already, with the initial in-house announcement, the reaction has been positive. People can already see that they have as much chance as the next person to take a small step up the ladder of professional development and achievement.
A small step for just one employee can mean a giant leap for the company – and that can only benefit everyone, clients included.
GAB Robins UK
GAB Robins UK loss adjusters employs more than 900 staff at locations throughout the country. The operation encompasses loss adjusting services, a bespoke claims management operation, specialist insurance divisions and a building repair management service.
In order to enhance the level and scope of service provision, we have made substantial investments in operational processes, information technology, infrastructure and communications. We recognise that to sustain and optimise the organisation's future success, we must provide a robust and ongoing review of staff training and development.
Following a period of review and consultation, it has been decided that an externally accredited training programme would provide benefits to the employees and the organisation alike. In particular, the analysis identified a significant number of experienced, yet unqualified staff, within Robins Response, the personal lines division of GAB Robins.
An ambitious training and development programme for 2001 has recently been launched. The primary objective of the programme is to benchmark a minimum standard of technical competence for unqualified claims handling staff.
In an effort to build on previous training initiatives, the GAB Robins training and development programme for 2001 will focus upon both the technical and interpersonal skills, which we see as a prerequisite to the effective management of property damage claims. The programme aims to facilitate staff to achieve associate status with the Society of Claims Technicians (SCT).
The programme will utilise the technical expertise of the organisation's qualified staff and work in partnership with Searchlight Solutions to provide both a bespoke interpersonal skills course and develop the competence of GAB Robins' staff involved in the presentation of the in-house training.
The training and development programme will include the publication of technical manuals relating to building and contents. The manuals will provide an up-to-date technical reference and form the basis of in-house training presentations throughout 2001. The manuals will also encompass a significant proportion of the SCT examination syllabus.
An interpersonal skills course, focusing on the dynamics of effective communication, is to be developed and delivered in partnership with Searchlight Solutions. The course will be accredited by the SCT and represent a credit towards the associateship qualification.
The programme will include a series of fraud awareness lectures, presented by investigators from GAB Robins investigation services, to help staff identify and combat fraud.
The programme has been developed by an in-house education committee formed of operational staff. The committee was determined to ensure that the content and delivery of the various components of the programme would be in line with the needs of participating staff. The programme is ambitious, and its success will require investment on the part of the company and staff. The external accreditation of the programme will, I believe, create a committed partnership between both parties to achieve a personal and corporate benchmark for the company's experienced yet unqualified claims handling staff.