How staff engagement is transforming NTI

Specialist insurer NTI is on an incredible award-winning streak, most recently picking up two titles at the Australian Insurance Industry Awards last week.

As well as being named Small/Medium Insurer of the Year and Claims Service Provider of the Year for the second year in a row, NTI has also been named Australia’s best employer in Aon Hewitt’s awards.

Prior to last week’s awards, CEO Tony Clark gave Insurance & Risk Professional an in-depth look at how NTI achieves its remarkable levels of staff engagement.

James Chalmers: NTI was recently named Best of the Best in Aon Hewitt’s annual Australian Best Employer awards. How do you achieve this level of staff engagement?

Tony Clark: We start at the top with our company mission, which is to have a culture that inspires effort, nurtures talent and rewards success. Our strategy is for the quality of our service to be our competitive differentiator and really you don’t do that without people on board.

It flows right down from the business planning, where we use Balanced Scorecards. One of the scorecard measures is to be the best employer of the best people. That forces us to make our company mission part of the business planning.

Specialist insurer NTI is on an incredible award-winning streak, most recently picking up two titles at the Australian Insurance Industry Awards last week.

As well as being named Small/Medium Insurer of the Year and Claims Service Provider of the Year for the second year in a row, NTI has also been named Australia’s best employer in Aon Hewitt’s awards.

Prior to last week’s awards, CEO Tony Clark gave Insurance & Risk Professional an in-depth look at how NTI achieves its remarkable levels of staff engagement.

JC: NTI was recently named Best of the Best in Aon Hewitt’s annual Australian Best Employer awards. How do you achieve this level of staff engagement?

TC: We start at the top with our company mission, which is to have a culture that inspires effort, nurtures talent and rewards success. Our strategy is for the quality of our service to be our competitive differentiator and really you don’t do that without people on board.

It flows right down from the business planning, where we use Balanced Scorecards. One of the scorecard measures is to be the best employer of the best people. That forces us to make our company mission part of the business planning.

Above, Tony Clark talks to NIBATV about NTI’s staff engagement practices.

It also comes down to recruitment. We psychologically profile people we recruit to test if they will fit into our business plan. That is a formal testing process and it is different for every level of job and applicant. This is to make sure they have the analytical ability, and also the psychometric profile, that fits with our organisation, which needs to match the success protocols we have for our jobs.

We also put a lot of effort into properly inducting people into their role and into the company so they understand what is expected of them. We believe this empowers and gives them ownership of the organisation and any issues that arise.

We also pay attention to guidelines and appropriate pathways for people, whether that be a technical or managerial role, so we work with them to find out where they best fit and close gaps where they need to, especially if they want to move down a particular pathway.

JC: as a medium-sized business with 200 employees, how do you keep your staff engaged?

TC: We start with loyalty. We want to keep them in the organisation. Everyone has specific development plans every year to help keep them encouraged. We also fund training from providers like NIBA College and ANZIIF, and this is one of those situations where we might lose people by providing them this training but it would be worse if we didn’t train them but kept them. We also encourage relationships with our shareholders IAG and Suncorp. We encourage our people to build strong contacts with them and they can also have secondments to those companies if they feel like it is worthwhile to their development.

JC: What kind of effect have you seen this have on staff loyalty?

TC: We have a turnover rate of two-thirds of that of the industry average. We benchmark that yearly in our KPIs so that encourages people to stay.

And of course not having to recruit and train is hugely cost-effective. One of the important pieces of work was taking the Aon Hewitt Best Employers accreditation because it goes into a lot of detail into what people think of the organisation and particularly the leaders of the organisation. For our leadership feedback, our team leaders must take responsibility and be accountable for their teams’ culture.

It is up to the leaders to do that and we coach them on how to be successful and it can be a confronting process. They will get 360-degree feedback from their staff and peers and there is also specific leadership feedback as well as the Aon Hewitt survey feedback.

We use that feedback to coach the leaders on how to best work with their teams.

JC: So this means managers are really unable to hide from these surveys?

TC: That’s right. It took a lot of coaching to get people comfortable with that. But the ultimate result is it empowers the leaders because their teams are responsible for the outcome.

So it isn’t saying to the leader ‘you have to go do X, Y and Z,’ but it is about what do we do as a team to improve. It isn’t just ‘go away and do this’; senior executives are involved in understanding what is happening in individual teams and what they are doing to improve the organisation.

JC: How do you go about rewarding success? How do you balance financial incentives with those that are less tangible?

TC: Our company benefits and values are on our website for everyone to see when they start work. People can see what the bonus schemes are, which is public information for anyone who is working for us.

We tell them the full story about business numbers so people understand where the business is and what we need to do to improve that from both a financial and customer perspective.

We also give regular recognition either at individual team meetings, or for example, as the CEO I do a regular videoconference for all of the numbers and the biggest part of that videoconference will be recognition for people who have gone above and beyond. It is about telling stories. Even in our advertising campaigns, there is a true stories campaign. So this is about true stories of what people have done.

It never ceases to amaze me the things that come up each quarter and it recognises people or teams for what they have done and I think this is incredibly important that these achievements are spoken about in the organisation.

This then sets an example of the behaviours that are expected from people and this then empowers them to go above and beyond to help a customer. That works to encourage them to do a similar thing if they ever find themselves in a similar situation.

JC: What was the catalyst for instituting this approach?

TC: We decided to make it part of our business planning process. If you have a process where you have to put something in that box, you are forced to focus on it. So the Aon Hewitt survey gave us the vehicle to give it new levels of depth.

We have been working on claims for 10 years but we only started to be recognised when we began really focusing on the people side of things.

We were able to ask our people to actually act on that and then prepare their plans. We have seen our service levels improve; 99% of people who have a claim with NTI would recommend it to a friend.

JC: As well as the Aon Hewitt award, NTI was also named Small/Medium Insurer of the Year and Claims Service Provider of the Year at the Australian Insurance Industry Awards last year. how close is the correlation between claims performance and engaged staff?

TC: It’s an absolute correlation. If you don’t have engaged staff, you won’t have a culture that inspires effort and nurtures talent and you’re not going to get those results. It does not surprise me that these things have come about because we have been working on claims for 10 years but we only started to be recognised when we began really focusing on the people side of things. We have new tools and insights into how people we have are tracking.

This is reflected in the awards, the highest service levels ever and our best financial results.

JC: What are some of the common mistakes people make with their work culture?

TC: It’s not about just running a survey every now and again; it’s what you do with it. It’s about getting down to that level of detail of individual line items and what is and isn’t working. You have to create honest conversations among your people, both positive and negative. This helps the leaders understand the people.

It comes back to leadership every time. Ineffective leaders will be clearly shown up in the surveys, while effective leaders will be prepared to have those conversations, which will gain the support of the team.

It also comes down to recruitment. We psychologically profile people we recruit to test if they will fit into our business plan. That is a formal testing process and it is different for every level of job and applicant. This is to make sure they have the analytical ability, and also the psychometric profile, that fits with our organisation, which needs to match the success protocols we have for our jobs.

We also put a lot of effort into properly inducting people into their role and into the company so they understand what is expected of them. We believe this empowers and gives them ownership of the organisation and any issues that arise.

We also pay attention to guidelines and appropriate pathways for people, whether that be a technical or managerial role, so we work with them to find out where they best fit and close gaps where they need to, especially if they want to move down a particular pathway.

JC: as a medium-sized business with 200 employees, how do you keep your staff engaged?

TC: We start with loyalty. We want to keep them in the organisation. Everyone has specific development plans every year to help keep them encouraged. We also fund training from providers like NIBA College and ANZIIF, and this is one of those situations where we might lose people by providing them this training but it would be worse if we didn’t train them but kept them. We also encourage relationships with our shareholders IAG and Suncorp. We encourage our people to build strong contacts with them and they can also have secondments to those companies if they feel like it is worthwhile to their development.

JC: What kind of effect have you seen this have on staff loyalty?

TC: We have a turnover rate of two-thirds of that of the industry average. We benchmark that yearly in our KPIs so that encourages people to stay.

And of course not having to recruit and train is hugely cost-effective. One of the important pieces of work was taking the Aon Hewitt Best Employers accreditation because it goes into a lot of detail into what people think of the organisation and particularly the leaders of the organisation. For our leadership feedback, our team leaders must take responsibility and be accountable for their teams’ culture.

It is up to the leaders to do that and we coach them on how to be successful and it can be a confronting process. They will get 360-degree feedback from their staff and peers and there is also specific leadership feedback as well as the Aon Hewitt survey feedback.

We use that feedback to coach the leaders on how to best work with their teams.

JC: So this means managers are really unable to hide from these surveys?

TC: That’s right. It took a lot of coaching to get people comfortable with that. But the ultimate result is it empowers the leaders because their teams are responsible for the outcome.

So it isn’t saying to the leader ‘you have to go do X, Y and Z,’ but it is about what do we do as a team to improve. It isn’t just ‘go away and do this’; senior executives are involved in understanding what is happening in individual teams and what they are doing to improve the organisation.

JC: How do you go about rewarding success? How do you balance financial incentives with those that are less tangible?

TC: Our company benefits and values are on our website for everyone to see when they start work. People can see what the bonus schemes are, which is public information for anyone who is working for us.

We tell them the full story about business numbers so people understand where the business is and what we need to do to improve that from both a financial and customer perspective.

We also give regular recognition either at individual team meetings, or for example, as the CEO I do a regular videoconference for all of the numbers and the biggest part of that videoconference will be recognition for people who have gone above and beyond. It is about telling stories. Even in our advertising campaigns, there is a true stories campaign. So this is about true stories of what people have done.

It never ceases to amaze me the things that come up each quarter and it recognises people or teams for what they have done and I think this is incredibly important that these achievements are spoken about in the organisation.

This then sets an example of the behaviours that are expected from people and this then empowers them to go above and beyond to help a customer. That works to encourage them to do a similar thing if they ever find themselves in a similar situation.

JC: What was the catalyst for instituting this approach?

TC: We decided to make it part of our business planning process. If you have a process where you have to put something in that box, you are forced to focus on it. So the Aon Hewitt survey gave us the vehicle to give it new levels of depth.

We have been working on claims for 10 years but we only started to be recognised when we began really focusing on the people side of things.

We were able to ask our people to actually act on that and then prepare their plans. We have seen our service levels improve; 99% of people who have a claim with NTI would recommend it to a friend.

JC: As well as the Aon Hewitt award, NTI was also named Small/Medium Insurer of the Year and Claims Service Provider of the Year at the Australian Insurance Industry Awards last year. how close is the correlation between claims performance and engaged staff?

TC: It’s an absolute correlation. If you don’t have engaged staff, you won’t have a culture that inspires effort and nurtures talent and you’re not going to get those results. It does not surprise me that these things have come about because we have been working on claims for 10 years but we only started to be recognised when we began really focusing on the people side of things. We have new tools and insights into how people we have are tracking.

This is reflected in the awards, the highest service levels ever and our best financial results.

JC: What are some of the common mistakes people make with their work culture?

TC: It’s not about just running a survey every now and again; it’s what you do with it. It’s about getting down to that level of detail of individual line items and what is and isn’t working. You have to create honest conversations among your people, both positive and negative. This helps the leaders understand the people.

It comes back to leadership every time. Ineffective leaders will be clearly shown up in the surveys, while effective leaders will be prepared to have those conversations, which will gain the support of the team.