Ensuring Employee Development

 -  2/26/11

Zurich North America develops employees for a specific sector in the U.S. today, but prepares them to work anywhere in another division tomorrow.

With nearly 70,000 employees serving customers in more than 170 countries, Zurich Financial Services, headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., is concentrated in three core business segments around the world: general insurance, global life and farmers. As one of the largest writers of commercial general liability insurance in North America, 10,000 of the company’s employees serve small business, midsize markets and large corporate customers in the same market divisions. Although the company is substantial in size and thoroughly dispersed, each Zurich employees is treated as an individual with potential to develop as the company continually expands.

“It’s truly a people business,” said Brian Little, head of human resource and business partnership for Zurich North America. “Zurich in general, but specifically Zurich North America, is an environment that individuals can come into and really grow their career. Not only does our talent management strategy allow an employee to become a niche expert in a particular field; it allows them to completely change careers as well. That’s what makes this a very exciting place.”

TM: What is Zurich North America’s approach to talent management?

Little: It’s driven by a global talent management center of excellence based out of Zurich, Switzerland, that helps coordinate talent management activities across the world. Each country or business division has a talent management team that helps organize the work as well. From a structural perspective, it focuses heavily on our succession management process for key positions, either on a global or a local basis, and then looks at the talent needed to ensure succession planning works while also focusing on good, solid development over a long period of time.

TM: What processes or programs have you established to improve workforce performance?

Little: We do quite a bit of internal and external benchmarking to look at how our competency and skills align against the work that we do and against the market. We use an internally branded program called Zurich People Power, which ensures that we’re very clear about the competencies needed for each position. We then look to understand how that competency aligns from a job family perspective to ensure people get the right development. That works not only here in the United States, but across the world. We have learned that many of the competencies that are important here are also important in quite a few other countries we work in. So we develop programs that can address those needs on an enterprise basis to ensure we continually develop our best people globally.
TM: How is performance management linked to the company’s strategic objectives?

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