In this Opinion piece, Mark Townsend, Managing Director of Motor & Home, BGL Insurance looks at training and career progression within the insurance industry.
The saying “a business is only as good as the people within it” captures a crucial element in the success of any organisation – and it’s possibly most important when it comes to those who look after our customers.
The time when customer service was seen as a stop gap career move is a thing of the past, with our industry now offering far more opportunity and development than most.
Businesses that once only paid lip service to customer-centricity have, over the past decade, recognised that it’s the skills within teams that often provide the all-important competitive and commercial edge. As a result, there’s huge competition to recruit ambitious people with the skills and passion to deliver exceptional customer experience.
We face a talent squeeze driven by the “great resignation”, and the impact of Brexit on the UK workforce is still biting. So how can businesses who want to be at the forefront of customer service excellence, with market leading talent, ensure they remain attractive to the very best candidates?
Development to drive loyalty…
Workforce culture and the skills needed to deliver constantly evolving services across the insurance sector have changed significantly over the past three decades. The softer skills of empathy, communication and resilience are now just as important as technical capabilities and market knowledge.
Our approach at BGL Insurance (BGLi) has been to cultivate, grow and develop our talent, with the goal of not only exceeding customer expectations but also providing real career opportunities. We’re proud of the fact that, as a result, many of our leaders of today started out on various customer service routes that clearly provided a great foundation on which to develop their careers.
Initially we used external training resources, before setting up our in-house Academy, offering comprehensive development across all levels. We now have a programme that supports colleagues’ career aspirations, while equipping them with knowledge and skills for future success.
There’s a wide and growing recognition of the crucial role of apprenticeships, and this has been particularly successful for us. Our apprenticeship programme now offers Level Two school leaver opportunities, right through to degree-level qualifications. Since the launch of the Academy in 2017, more than 350 apprentices and 50 graduates have taken up new roles and earned qualifications across BGLi.
We’ve all seen the evolution of roles and the skills now needed to build a successful customer service operation, led by changing customer behaviours and tech innovation. It’s no longer simply about answering the phone – customers often require rapid responses and want to communicate via a channel of their choice. The tech we’ve developed, and the skills and knowledge required to deliver these services, have created an exciting web of customer experience career opportunities.
The importance of choice
According to a 2019 LinkedIn study, 94 per cent of workers would stay with employers who invest in their development, so the commercial benefits are clear. But businesses need to understand that colleagues have different career and development requirements at various points in their lives, so offering choice and flexibility is key. We’ve approached this by building our self-learning platform, which allows colleagues to dip in and out of resources according to interests, time and business need.
This concept of choice also needs to filter through to other areas of a company’s overall employee offering via a truly flexible benefits package. Historically, benefits packages simply focused on pensions and life insurance. Today, in what has been a significant shift towards increased empathy with colleagues, a reward and benefits package now includes a vast array of health, wellbeing and financial elements that colleagues can flex to meet their own changing needs.
Again, this flexible and empathetic approach to another area of the overall employee offering could have a tangible and positive impact on the customer service colleagues deliver. There are very real and recognised correlations between a supported, engaged workforce and high customer satisfaction levels.
Finally, while corporate ‘purpose’ might sound like a buzz word, ultimately people want to work for a business where they have a connection to what it is trying to achieve. Potential candidates and existing colleagues both demand clarity on not only the commercial goals of the business and what it means to be an employee, but also on how that business is contributing to the greater good.
Businesses across all sectors have learned more over the past three years about looking after their colleagues and nurturing talent than they did during the previous three decades. This has created renewed focus and an important foundation for ongoing change, ensuring that we continue to meet the needs of future talent for generations to come.
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