Managing Blended Teams for a Seamless CAT Season

By Karen Lopez | July 6, 2020

With CAT season well underway, claims departments have ramped up and positioned themselves to be prepared for the unknown. With predictions of an active hurricane season, the continuation of a global pandemic and a tumultuous economic climate, it is imperative insurance organizations employ flexible teams that have the capacity to tackle unforeseen challenges and needs. By leveraging blended workforces, which include a variety of employment types, insurance companies are best equipped to accommodate shifting priorities and workloads while providing seamless service to their customers.

Claims leaders must be able to effectively manage hybrid workforces composed of full-time and part-time employees, as well as interim resources, such as subject matter experts and project teams. These individuals may also be based across geographic locations with some employees working remotely and others beginning to come back onsite. It’s critical that all employees — no matter their location or employment type — are able to work together in a way that is cohesive, well-organized and productive. By planning ahead, tailoring management styles, and committing to communication and transparency, claims managers can ensure their teams are operating effectively.

Be Strategic

First off, it’s important to recognize the potential value of a blended team and maximize its impact. While hybrid workforces enable you to quickly expand or contract your team based on business needs, there are other less apparent ways they can add value. In addition to increased agility, teams can benefit from outside perspectives and insight. Interim employees provide a learning opportunity, offering diversity of thought and fresh perspectives to your current team members. If you’re undergoing modernization initiatives, bringing in individuals who are familiar with new technology or products can help maintain service levels while your full-time team ramps up. Have a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve and then strategically build the right team to get you there.

Gain Buy-In from Full-Time Staff

One of the keys to successfully managing blended teams is proactively seeking buy-in from your full-time employees. Inquire about their pain points and where they could benefit most from additional support. Including employees in the process early on not only increases their engagement but also helps mitigate potential tension once interim staff comes on board. Additionally, this enables your current staff to understand the value of their roles and how new team members fit in with their day-to-day jobs and overall success.

Set Clear Expectations

Along with involving your team in the decision to bring on interim employees, it’s vital that all parties are clear on their specific roles and responsibilities, as well as those of their teammates. No matter the composition of your team, make sure everyone is working toward the same end result: successfully servicing your customers. Ensure each individual understands the part they play in achieving this goal and who to come to in the case of any roadblocks. By clearly defining roles within the team, you can avoid ambiguity and future misunderstandings.

Focus on Onboarding

When onboarding interim staff members, the first few days are incredibly important for setting the tone. Welcome individuals to the organization and introduce them to their teammates. Identify one or two people they can rely on to help them settle in and to answer any questions they may have as they familiarize themselves with your systems and processes. Make sure interim individuals are set up from a technology standpoint to minimize hiccups and avoid lost productivity. Provide a training schedule and be upfront with expectations around work product and communication methods.

Communicate

As a leader, ensure you’re creating a communication flow that is inclusive of all employment types. Even if individuals are not long-term members of your team, they should feel included, supported, and involved in the success of their projects and the overall department. It’s likely much of your team is still working remotely, so consider how your previous communication channels may need to evolve to accommodate multiple locations and work sites. Make it easy for everyone to come together to discuss project objectives, share information and get answers to questions, whether they’re remote or onsite, contract or full-time. Offer a variety of communication mechanisms including frequent team meetings, Skype chats, video conferences and phone calls.

Instill a Sense of Ownership

All employees should feel like they are a part of your team. Include freelance and contract employees in all-team meetings and immerse them in your company culture. Proactively introduce them to team members and others they will be interacting with on a regular basis. Even if a project is short-term, it’s possible to cultivate a sense of connection to your organization and help employees understand the impact and meaning of their work, no matter their tenure.

A comprehensive talent plan that accounts for various circumstances and workloads is crucial to stay competitive and productive in uncertain times. However, to maximize the potential of a blended workforce, leaders must be intentional and strategic in their management styles. By focusing on transparency, shared goals and all-inclusive communication, your team will be prepared for most anything CAT season brings.

About Karen Lopez

Lopez is a client advisor at The Jacobson Group, a provider of talent to the insurance industry. Phone: 800-466-1578.

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Insurance Journal West July 6, 2020
July 6, 2020
Insurance Journal West Magazine

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