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How the pandemic will change how insurers work

By Tina Gwilliam | November 1, 2021

How teams are organized, talent is nurtured, and technology enables these changes are the major challenges insurers will need to address as a result of the pandemic.
Insurance Consulting and Technology|Work Transformation
Insurer Solutions|Risque de pandémie

I think it goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many of us work, perhaps irreversibly.

The current situation and the consequences for future working arrangements have left all companies, including insurers, with a lot to think about. So, where to start?

Recently, I was fortunate to chair a session at the virtual Casualty Loss Reserve Seminar, discussing the issue with senior insurance executives. While the audience mainly consisted of actuaries, I think the key points are valid across an insurer’s wider operations.

While the impacts are broad, we agreed to focus on three aspects:

  • Organization of teams
  • Talent management
  • Use of technology

Our discussion was grounded in recent Willis Towers Watson research, and provided a forum for knowledge sharing both within the panel and with our audience. I’ll share some highlights from our discussion.

Organization of teams

Flexibility is the new watchword for how work gets done. In the recent Willis Towers Watson Flexible Work and Rewards survey, for example, we found that nearly half of those surveyed from a diverse range of industries want to be able to combine home and office working but with complete flexibility around the days they’re in the office. Our virtual audience expressed similar sentiments. As a result of the pandemic, flexibility has become an employee expectation and is impacting which companies they want to work for.

The old team structures, ways of reporting and resolving conflict, lines of communication and tools used to foster a sense of engagement among teams are unlikely to cut it in our new work environments. Nor perhaps will existing ideas about leadership, where influencing, motivating and managing change skills will almost certainly be increasingly coveted. Such needed skills will also include understanding ways of staying connected, enabling new ways of working and helping colleagues maintaining drive in different work environments. The encouraging news from the Willis Towers Watson 2021 Employee Experience Survey is that 80% of financial services/insurance companies have identified flexible working as a priority for the next three years.

What might that look like? That will depend on the company and the prevailing culture, but what it will almost certainly need to embrace is agility; and how to incorporate that as employees go through the transition of spending more time in the office in 2022 and beyond.

Talent management

A key reason for insurers embracing flexible working is employee retention and engagement. Between the final quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, our research has shown these as increasingly important factors in insurers’ thinking.

But the talent management challenge extends to hiring and onboarding, wellbeing, inclusion and diversity and career development.

Some measures that my colleagues in our Work and Rewards business have found impactful in working with clients to date include:

  • Focusing on colleague results rather than the amount of time they work to foster trust between managers and their employees
  • Shifting toward mentoring from management
  • Maintaining skills development opportunities
  • Reinforcing recognition and active appreciation of good work
  • Establishing better digital wellbeing guidelines

Use of technology

The pandemic highlighted how technology, or a lack of it, helped or hindered insurance businesses. In the process, it has accelerated certain pre-existing trends, notably in the use of automation to drive efficiency, as well as in customer experience.

Beyond the technology and associated issues such as relieving systems bottlenecks and managing security, there is also likely to be an impact on job design and on the skills that are in demand. Companies will have to rethink roles and how they fit with a more remote or hybrid working model to capitalize fully on a combination of people, processes and technology.

While companies and individuals will vary in their approaches, there is strong consensus that focusing on a return to the status quo of previous working practices will result in missed opportunities.


Senior Director, Global Proposition Leader for P&C Reserving
Insurance Consulting and Technology
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