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How flexibility success prepared IAG for a COVID world
IAG believes that offering a flexible workplace is important for attracting and retaining the best talent.
IAG is the largest general insurance company in Australia and New Zealand, selling insurance under many leading brands including NRMA Insurance, CGU, WFI, SGIO and SGIC in Australia, and AMI, State, NZI, NAC, Lumley and Lantern in New Zealand. Our purpose is to ‘make your world a safer place’ and we do this for our people by recognising and encouraging diversity in all its forms, ensuring our people are equipped for the future, and creating an environment of wellbeing to support a whole-of-life approach.
Flexibility is one of three pillars we are focused on to build a diverse and inclusive workforce, including different genders, people of different cultures, across all generations and at all stages of people’s careers. By making flexible work the norm, all diverse groups benefit.
We wanted to introduce a new way of thinking about workplace flexibility, a culture shift from accommodating individual flexibility needs to becoming ‘just the way we do things’ at IAG. In 2017 we launched our flexible working program called ‘MyFlex’ centered around our people and their needs. The program looks at flexibility in terms of people’s time, annual leave, where they work and how they work.
At IAG, MyFlex includes:
- FlexiTime with adjusted start or finish times, reduced hours and compressed working weeks/fortnights.
- FlexiPlace to enable working remotely either from home or an alternative site.
- FlexiJob including job sharing and secondments.
- FlexiLeave including career breaks and recreational leave.
Flexible work options have often been easier to implement for people working in head offices, however, given that a large proportion of our people work in contact centres, we saw the need to look at options that benefit all our employees.
– Amanda Whiting, Executive General Manager, IAG
Once these foundations were complete, MyFlex was launched via an internal communications campaign, with endorsement from our CEO and senior leaders. We hosted workshops with managers across the business, encouraging them to enable MyFlex for their teams. The key directives were:
Say “yes” to flex
Managers are responsible for enabling successful flexible working within their teams and across the wider organisation, so we asked our managers to say “yes” to all requests for flexible working arrangements unless there was a significant business reason to say “no”. Even if there were some concerns around business-critical needs, we encouraged leaders to trial a flex arrangement and see how it worked.
Role model flexibility
The right behaviours start with leaders, so we encouraged them to look for opportunities to role model flexible working arrangements themselves, and to ‘leave loudly’ at the end of their MyFlex day.
We also provided guides for people and their leaders around how to have a conversation about flexibility and shared stories internally which helped build momentum and spark change.
Our focus was on enabling greater flexibility for our people and each month we released a new video showcasing a type of flexibility including testimonials from leaders and employees at all levels across our business. By profiling people across IAG, and in different roles, we ensured everyone could personally connect to the stories shared.
Investing in flex
In recent years we have invested in video conferencing and digital technology to ensure that those who work regularly from home or other locations are able to easily connect with their teams, which allows us to create a more inclusive workplace, regardless of where our employees are.
We estimate that 70% of our employees work flexibly, either formally or informally. The most significant impact of MyFlex has been on the wellbeing of our people, from parents and carers who are now able to flex their work and life more effectively and people choosing to invest more time and energy in their communities, to those choosing to live further out from the city.
Flexibility highlights and observations:
- People frequently report reduced travel times, ease of getting to work, a reduction in stress and an increase in overall wellbeing.
- Remote working has anecdotally, allowed many of our people to enjoy an improved lifestyle, for example with a lower cost of living by moving further out from main cities.
- People choose to flex their hours so they can spend more time with family or volunteer in the community.
- People report they can get more done when they work from home as they can focus on deep work without interruptions. A lot of people comment that this enables them to think and be more creative, making a huge difference to their productivity, energy levels and motivation.
- Reducing the number of people on the roads at peak times has the added benefits of reducing traffic congestion and helping to lower our carbon footprint.
IAG’s Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) has increased significantly since 2017. While the eNPS score measures a range of things, MyFlex has been one of the key organisational changes implemented during this time. It has been our most referenced benefit in verbatim comments of our internal culture surveys since the program was introduced. Survey results show the number of people who described themselves as advocates and say they are happy to recommend IAG as a place to work has more than doubled since the introduction of MyFlex.
We hear this feedback through our Talent Acquisition team who are told that people have heard about our flex program from family and friends and it is one of the key reasons they were attracted to work for IAG. The impact MyFlex has had on our contact centre teams, and the flow-on effect for our customers has been especially encouraging. Enabling contact centre employees to work from home has seen a reduction in unplanned leave and sick leave, as well as reduced call handling times in our contact centres.
COVID-19 response and beyond
In line with our purpose: we make your world a safer place, we made a decision in mid-March to ask all our people who did not have a critical need to work from an IAG worksite, to work from home. We did this to help keep our people safe and play a role in stopping the spread of coronavirus in the community.
By mid-April, 98% of our people across Australia and NZ were working from home.
One of the main reasons we were able to move quickly was because we were already well set up with technology and systems to enable remote working.
In addition, we created work-from-home tech equipment bundles and prioritised provisioning to customer-facing teams, to ensure they had the kit they needed to effectively support our customers.
In New Zealand we set up a ‘tech drive-thru’ where each employee could drive in at a scheduled time, pop the boot and have the kit they needed placed in their car. Social distancing and hygiene rules were followed at all times.
What we have found throughout this period is that the majority of our people have found they can work from any location and still feel incredibly connected to the business. We also found that during March and April, we had our lowest rates in absenteeism and turnover since reporting on these measures first began.
Build Back Better
At IAG, we are now starting to explore what the future of work will look like going forward. Conversations are now taking place to understand people’s preference to work from home on an ongoing basis. What is clear at IAG, as with many other organisations, is that many people would like to retain the ability to work from home either permanently or with a mixture of working from home and an IAG office, and where possible, we will support this.
Switch – The way forward for call centres and flex
Contact centres have historically been very structured and inflexible when it comes to people’s time. The benefit of Switch is that it gives our employees more control over their time and work-life balance, while allowing us to manage our business needs.
– Amanda Whiting, Executive General Manager, IAG
IAG created an app called ‘Switch’ that supports flexible working by enabling contact centre employees in Australia to make changes to their rosters and work hours online without seeking manager approval.
Developed by IAG as part of its ongoing focus to create a flexible workplace, the idea for Switch came in response to the flexibility challenges of the contact centre environment and a gap in the current technologies available for workforce management.
The app is unique to IAG and works by using a pricing algorithm and digital marketplace that manages supply and demand for different work shifts.
“The process of changing shifts has previously been quite manual and often involved several conversations between the employee, their manager and colleagues. Not only is this time-consuming for the individual, but labour intensive for the business,” Amanda Whiting said.
“The Switch app has automated that process and works in a way that no one needs to justify why they need to make changes and instead can change shifts on their own terms. We recognise that flexibility is different for everyone, which is how Switch really starts to add value.”
“What we’ve seen is that some people are making small changes that can make a big difference to their lives. For example, we had one person changing
their shift by just 15 minutes so they could leave a bit earlier, which allowed them to beat the traffic and make it home in time for the after-school pick-ups and dinner,” Ms Whiting said.
If you would like to discuss how FlexCareers can help you implement flexible working at your organisation, you can contact our experts here.
Read more case studies in our 2020 Flex Report: The New Normal. Download it here.
FlexCareers are leading experts in diversity, flexibility and future of work solutions across the entire employee lifecycle. Our careers platform features Australia and New Zealand's largest marketplace of flexible job opportunities, and connects talented individuals with progressive employers offering flexible work. Our employer services include strategy consulting, coaching, branding and training services as well as our proprietary Return to Work Program. Job seekers can also access career support from our expert coaches.