Ensuring Employee Development

TM: How does Zurich North America develop organizational culture and employee attitudes to optimize workforce performance?

Little: We have a global engagement survey for employee engagement. This survey helps us understand where our culture is in terms of our aspirations, and it helps us have a really good dialogue with people on an enterprise and team level about what’s going on in a group, how things could improve and how we can continue to live the internal brand that we have here at Zurich. [We want to] help employees pinpoint the cultural aspects that have the most meaning for us and do things in a way that will help them enjoy working here and make us the employer of choice.

TM: How does the company use learning and development to manage talent?

Little: Learning and development is critical in a business like ours because we don’t have built-in, artificial systems that a competitor could easily mimic, change or use to quickly catch up with us. Learning and development helps us continually stay ahead of the game. Our learning and development group focuses on both soft and technical skills. We want our employees to learn quickly and be sought after in the marketplace. For example, we have an underwriting training program; an individual could come right out of college not knowing anything about the insurance business or underwriting, and within a year be performing very well as an underwriter in the market. We also have what’s called a Global Associate Program, and one of the things I really like about this is that it’s intended to give people a very broad view of Zurich. Where the underwriting program is much more specific and you quickly get to your core job, the Global Associate Program takes almost a year to go through, and individuals rotate through different types of positions and departments in Zurich so they can see the entire business. They also do assignments outside of the country, and that helps them get a broad view of how large Zurich is and how we work together across different continents and countries. We also have career connection programs; those are mentoring programs to help individuals really find folks who are either inside or outside of their teams who can help grow in their career. They have really good discussions about their current job, their dreams and how they can reach them. Younger employees are typically paired with fairly senior people, and it works well to build strong internal relationships.

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