Here are a few tips for Property and Casualty insurance carriers who want to improve their virtual teams right now and be well-positioned for the future.
Current events have magnified the importance of effectively working on a team that consists of individuals spread out across multiple locations. Whether you call it distributed or remote work, insurance carriers who embrace work outside of traditional office models have a continuous advantage.
As company restrictions lift, the world will gravitate toward a different standard of normalcy, but it will never be like it was before the pandemic. If you are like most insurance carriers, you’re likely to come out of this with stronger and more useful remote and collaborative capabilities to help you grow into this new virtual era.
With an increasing number of natural disasters and catastrophes, insurance companies need to continue to use the remote collaboration skills and virtual claims handling processes adopted over the past year. The biggest advantage that insurers have post-pandemic is the ability to leverage distributed teams to manage a catastrophe.
Regardless of the distance between employees, you will likely face collaboration challenges when learning how to adjust to this new way of work. Your employees will build the capability and improve it by adapting to their situation.
The Three Key Components to Building a Long-Term Distributed Team
Whether you are building a team to manage a hurricane or other CAT claims, getting ahead of your exposure during an impending disaster or tracking losses for reporting purposes, it has always been a challenge to bring together a catastrophe response team at a command center – but now you can do it virtually.
Let’s consider the scenario of building a virtual command center for a catastrophe like a wildfire, hurricane or freak ice storm in Texas. You will need to remotely pull together various people from your organization to help you deal with the influx of claims, collect the data needed for regulatory catastrophe reporting, monitor exposure and manage your underwriting risks.
On top of that, you have leadership involvement and risk control. You may even include other people or organizations in evaluating risk and appetite or even fraud.
Luckily, numerous benefits and advantages come along with a virtual command center. Some of these include:
- Avoiding the effects and risks of the catastrophe
- Utilizing experts from various locations
- Fluidity within your command center – not limited to a physical location
- Implementing workflows into commands and automating tasks.
Here are a few tips to consider as you build a distributed catastrophe team and virtual command center.
1. Build a Virtual Rallying Point
One of the biggest challenges uncovered when a command center moves from a central location to remote is the lack of a tangible focal point. When we are all together, we can imply the focal point, and we have the ability to fill in inevitable communication gaps face to face.
Similarly, many systems leveraged during a catastrophe only go so far when driving a process. If you’re like most organizations, you have a bunch of emails, one-off conversations, phone calls, or even texts that all help to advance a submission. You have implied priorities.
One way to organize your catastrophe command center is by creating a virtual rallying point – a tangible, remotely accessible location team members can gather around, like a virtual water cooler. It provides team members the ability to have a place to (virtually) interact with each other on a particular topic.
Collaboration software such as Microsoft Teams serves this purpose as it provides many ways to achieve a virtual focal point. The creation of Teams and chat groups allows your team to concentrate on a specific quote or their collective work. Best of all, it’s fluid.
In the scenario of handling incoming claims, you want to supplement or manage them outside the claim system.
For example, in a traditional command center, you may have a person or board running point for all the claims related to the catastrophe. With a virtual huddle, you have an online hub for the claims coming in. Anyone involved can assemble around it, and even individual conversations can spin off and return with ease. Documents and artifacts become temporarily centralized, and it’s a simple matter to package everything up after completion and move it to a system or folder.
There are many ways to achieve a virtual focal point. The more you can gravitate toward moving the focus of the task on the work item itself instead of the person doing some part of the work, the easier it is to distribute the team that will execute on it.
2. Multiple Communication Mediums
As you know, one of the biggest challenges of a physical command center is gathering everyone into the same place at the same time. Most likely, there is not room for everyone needed in the command center and lack of focus plagues large meetings. When virtual, choosing the right medium for your interactions is even more vital for your team’s success.
Consider this dynamic – you can take advantage of things like chat and collaboration documents to easily include everyone you need in a semi-real-time conversation.
If you fear a lack of participation from everyone or distractions, avoid situations where everyone sits on a large call to get tidbits of information related to their job. Take advantage of the fluid and bite-size nature of distributed working. I think you’ll find many of us operate this way already, and it feels a little more natural when you embrace it.
It can be incredibly empowering when your team realizes they can drive several quotes to completion, working with several different teammates simultaneously. But, if you do need to have a live voice conversation, go for it.
3. Become More Outcome-Focused
One common concern you may have with a remote and distributed team during a catastrophe is the possibility productivity will suffer, and you will lose the ability to direct.
We believe the logical response to that concern is to focus less on logistics and more on outcomes. It is more important to focus on how many claims and big exposures you are getting through. But, that is easier said than done in any scenario, let alone a virtual one.
While we would all like to be fully outcome-focused already, some obstacles prevent us from doing it. Not every quote requires the same amount of work, and you can’t resolve every agent query or request in the same way.
One of the advantages of a virtual work environment is needing to be pragmatic about outcomes. Yet, outcomes are all we have available to measure performance. The measures you need are a little more evident when you can’t rely on your team’s immersion and proximity. Managing a catastrophe lends itself to this approach as objectives and measurements are often clear.
Assuming you created a virtual focal point, why not use this as an opportunity to measure the progress leveraging techniques like a virtual backlog to manage workloads fluidly.
You can even measure throughput in the backlog. Get everyone dedicated to it. Similarly, incidents and workflows are now virtual, making them easier to measure. Gravitating toward these best practices will set you up for continued success.
You will likely expose many bottlenecks. The objective is to use the metrics to drive the conversations that will lead to improvement, not to have an unbending set of metrics that stress out the underwriters. Use this time as an opportunity to push the envelope and become more aware of issues. It will lead to improved outcomes and take the focus away from controlling the team at a detailed task level.
Being forced into a situation prematurely is never ideal. The degree to which most teams need to work in a remote and distributed fashion for catastrophes is far beyond regular preparation for most of us.
With that said, most teams will surpass expectations with their ability to adapt during a crisis. If you harness that ability deliberately, your team can position itself to excel.
By building a virtual rallying point, taking advantage of multiple communication mediums and becoming more outcome-focused, you will find your team embraces innovation and change and is well-positioned for the future.
Be sure to check out this blog and learn how to maintain a productive, connected culture when transitioning to remote work.