Emphasizing Empathy During Technological Transformations

By | May 20, 2019

The insurance industry is undergoing a technological transformation. Insurers are moving data to the cloud, using artificial intelligence and beginning to prepare for a potential blockchain economy. Products and services are requiring increased technology integration to remain relevant. User experience is becoming central to business strategies as the industry works to keep up with customer demands and expectations. To stay competitive, organizations must lean in to new opportunities and engage and develop the talent necessary to make modernization successful.

According to Accenture, committing to artificial intelligence and collaboration between humans and machines could mean a 38% revenue increase for companies in just a few years. Additionally, the World Economic Forum estimates 58 million net new jobs will be created by 2022 as a result of technological advancements. Modernization initiatives are inevitable and beneficial for the growth of the industry. However, whether organizations are implementing automation within existing processes or overhauling the way entire departments operate, employee retention is often a challenge. Insurance organizations are tasked with keeping employees engaged, productive and appropriately skilled during transition.

Modernization enables departments to optimize the capabilities of both humans and machines, yet many workers are anxious about what it means for their jobs and their professional futures. These feelings of uncertainty can lead to lack of motivation and a lower quality of work. In pursuing innovation and technological transformation, leaders must exercise empathy to improve organizational strength and win employee loyalty.

Empathy has become an important leadership trait that is vital when employees are experiencing change and uncertainty. Businessolver’s 2019 State of Workplace Empathy study found 93% of individuals are likely to stay with an empathetic employer and 91% of CEOs believe empathy affects an organization’s financial performance. Leadership must be empathetic toward employee concerns and try to understand how new technology may be interpreted. By stepping into employees’ shoes, companies are able to develop communications plans that consider a variety of perspectives, concerns and potential assumptions.

There are a number of ways leaders can exercise empathy to clearly communicate changes and successfully pursue new technology and automation initiatives:

Be open and transparent. Open and transparent communication is key in easing employees’ fears and creating a universal understanding throughout departments. Share as much information as you can about what modernization initiatives will look like, what parts of employees’ jobs will be augmented by new technology and which areas will remain unaffected. Employees are often comfortable with their roles and may be hesitant to embrace change, especially if they are unclear on how their positions will be affected.

Focus on the benefits. Highlight the expected business outcomes and benefits of new technology rather than focus on the specific implementation processes. If mundane and laborious procedures are being automated, let employees know the more exciting and challenging areas they will have time to focus on, such as client interactions and strategies. If employees’ day-to-day work will change, share what they can expect, as well as how the organization will help them be successful.

Encourage dialogue. Let employees know you value their opinions and feedback. Ask how they feel about the changes and listen with an empathetic ear. Proactively uncover their fears and hesitations while granting permission to vent their concerns and share their suggestions.

Involve employees in the process. Consider involving employees in the implementation and training processes. By creating task groups and appointing project ambassadors within departments, employees are empowered and can become advocates for new technology. It’s likely the rest of the department will feel more comfortable knowing their peers are embracing transformation. These ambassadors can also help address and alleviate their colleagues’ concerns.

Train for future roles. Ensure employees are prepared and trained to work alongside new technology and successfully perform in redefined roles. Drastic changes to positions may mean offering internal mobility and providing assistance transitioning into new work realities.

As employees and technology work closely together, human skills are important. Individuals may require coaching on critical thinking, decision-making and soft skills. This can be integrated into career development programs.

Expect turnover. Some turnover may be inevitable when going through times of transformation. Individuals might understand new technology and how their roles will be affected, yet still decide to move on. This may be best for both employee and employer. It provides an opportunity to bring in fresh talent with new skill sets and perspectives to augment staff.

Modernization requires participation from all levels of the organization. Insurers must clearly communicate changes to ensure employee buy-in and effectively use the capabilities of automation and other new technologies. By taking an empathetic approach, leaders can best understand, motivate and retain their workforces to come out ahead in the evolving technology landscape.

About David Coons

Coons is senior vice president of The Jacobson Group, a provider of talent to the insurance industry. Phone: 800-466-1578. Email: dcoons@jacobsononline.com. More from David Coons

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Insurance Journal West May 20, 2019
May 20, 2019
Insurance Journal West Magazine

Agency Technology; Markets: Cyber & Security