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Building strong teams for the new workplace

April 20, 2020

Zurich North America’s Chief Human Resources Officer, Laura Rock, on the importance of cultivating authentic collaboration in the digital era.

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Zurich Insurance’s namesake PGA TOUR event, the Zurich Classic, is about much more than a fruitful alliance with the TOUR and pro golfers. It’s ultimately about teamwork and resilience, qualities the legendary insurance provider’s Risk Engineers and other employees put into practice day in and day out with their colleagues and customers. We sat down with Zurich North America’s Chief Human Resources Officer, Laura Rock, to gain her perspective on the importance of collaboration in its many manifestations, including the benefits of team-centric volunteerism, the art of open-minded listening, and more.

Q: How would you describe your strategy for building strong teams at Zurich?

A: At Zurich, we view ourselves, in the broadest sense, as one team. That unity is built on diversity. We bring together individuals with diverse knowledge, experiences, and perspectives, much like great golfers surround themselves with caddies, coaches, and other golfers who will help them see a shot from different angles. We recognize that our differences can provide a competitive advantage—if we’re aligned on the goal.

Q: How are Zurich advisors an essential part of their customers’ teams?

A: Listening is a cornerstone of our commitment to being customer-led, allowing Zurich underwriters, Risk Engineers, and claims professionals to identify and deliver the right risk management solutions and services for each unique business we insure, whether they’re an auto dealership, a middle market manufacturing company, or a multinational energy corporation. And we help them every step of the way, from resilience planning to claims service. We monitor our Net Promoter Score for customer feedback, to ensure that we’re delivering on our promises. At one recent check, our customer advocacy scores were 40 points higher than the industry average. That means a lot to us.

Q: How do Zurich team members work together?

A: The way we work with one another parallels how we work with our customers. It starts with listening and collaborating, with respect for different perspectives. Listening with an open mind builds trust and gives everyone the confidence to air unique points of view. And that opens up a world of possibilities in problem-solving, innovation, decision-making, and service.

Q. What are some of your innovative approaches to recruiting and deploying talent?

A: Our professional Apprenticeship Program debuted in 2016, as the first insurance apprenticeship program to be certified by the Department of Labor. It provides opportunities to launch rewarding careers in insurance for high school graduates, military veterans, those wanting to ascend from a job to a career, and people looking to re-enter the workforce. Apprentices earn a salary and benefits, including tuition coverage, for working at Zurich while taking classes toward an associate degree in Business Administration. The best part? A full-time job is waiting for them here when they graduate. The program has brought so much value, which is why we’re now helping launch a coordinated national apprenticeship platform for our industry, called Insurance Apprenticeship USA. We’re sharing our experience and our model because we all benefit from a strong, vibrant workforce. Our commitment to teamwork extends beyond our company.

Q: Once you recruit the right talent, how do you leverage that talent to strengthen your teams?

A: We pride ourselves on unlocking potential over the course of a career, and we view recruiting as a continual process of reengaging our employees, whether they’ve been here nine months or 30 years. The pace of technology means that all of us need to upskill throughout our careers. We equip our people to do that with resources such formal mentoring, training to overcome unconscious biases, and our Underwriting University, which is designed to be a world-class training curriculum with digital components that our underwriters can access anytime, anywhere, to continue building their skills to meet emerging business needs.

Q: What are some other aspects of employee culture at Zurich?

A: We consistently attract big-hearted people. They tell us time and again that one of the things they value most about working at Zurich is our commitment to community impact. From local food banks to global flood resilience efforts, our people have volunteered around 200,000 hours of their time to charities and nonprofits since 2012, from building for Habitat for Humanity to virtual mentoring of high school students. Together, we’ve raised more than $8 million.

Our employee resource groups are another backbone of our connectedness. They are employee-founded and employee-led, with executive sponsorship, and they bring a robust assortment of speakers and mind-expanding programming to all of us.

Many people today spend more waking hours with teammates than with family members, so feeling connected and comfortable being our true selves is so important. When each of us feels like we belong, we can deliver on our quest to be “simply better” in all that we do for our customers.

Originally published on Fortune.com, April 2020.