The ability to cultivate strong cross-team relationships in an insurance organisation is the key to unlocking its true potential. With the emergence of InsurTech disruption, product/proposition innovation and digital transformation no longer being a consideration but a necessity, there is an increasing need for all departments to work collaboratively to succeed. Based on my experience of working within the industry and seeing first-hand how (and how not) to work collaboratively, here are some tips for breaking down silos in your organisation and setting up everyone for success:
1. Communicate a unified vision
An insurance organisation has many diverse departments and teams, all with their own specialisms and focus. This can create silos between actuarial, underwriting, operations IT, and all other departments – leading to teams losing sight of the overall aims and focusing on narrower department goals.
A well-communicated and unified vision, which includes a clearly articulated strategy of how teams need to come together to achieve a shared goal, is vital for any organisation to enhance collaboration and break down silos.
Helping employees see the bigger picture and how their contribution (alongside, and with others) influences the overall success of an organisation is key to achieving true collaboration and breaking down potential silos.
2. Make sure leaders set the example
“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” – Albert Schweitzer
The adage of practising what you preach could not be truer when it comes to breaking down silos in insurance organisations. Leaders need to be seen taking the initiative and demonstrating key behaviours such as cross-functional teamwork, information sharing, and decision making. It is also important that they consistently communicate shared goals, setting up cross-departmental teams to work on key projects and initiatives, and recognise individuals or teams that demonstrate excellent collaboration.
A unified leadership team will encourage trust and create empowerment. By doing this, it will lead employees away from the ‘my department’ mentality and into the ‘our organisation’ mentality, breaking down harmful silos across the business.
3. Create a collaborative environment & build inter-organisational trust
Trust between departments is key for any organisation to achieve its potential – and working more collaboratively is a big change for previously siloed departments!
For example, employees can’t be afraid of reactions they may get for suggesting new ideas, and if a deliverable is committed to by another department, there must be trust that it will be delivered on time. Achieving this level of trust takes time – requiring careful management and resilience from your organisation.
While there is no easy fix, events that communicate shared goals and enhance the structure for inter-team collaboration will help. Don’t limit this to after-work drinks though: knowledge sharing sessions, coffee catch-ups and activity days are great ways to break down barriers and encourage more natural collaboration.
4. The IT vs Business challenge
IT has become an integral part of the day to day operation of insurance organisations. This has, in many cases, created a silo between IT and other areas of the business. IT teams can be seen as being the gatekeepers for technology, restricting the business from achieving its potential as opposed to being the enablers to change and improved performance.
Any disconnect between IT and other business departments can be catastrophic for any organisation. In a time where innovation and customer experience are key, breaking down the silos between IT and the rest of the business is integral to the success of an organisation. This is especially important for achieving key priorities such as better use of their data to target customer segments, developing new products, and taking customer experience to the next level – with big gains to be made for those that can do so.
5. Provide the tools to support cross-team engagement
The structure of most insurance operations today means that departments/teams are rarely in the same location. This can be a key contributor to siloed working due to a lack of communication and collaboration.
Introducing collaboration tools that allow for easy cross-department communication/conversation, such as centralised file storage and sharing, provide an enhanced insight into progress and enable a more coordinated workflow. Such tools can help to unlock collaborative working and improve communication across the business.
However, throwing technology at the problem won’t solve everything. You need to ensure that the use of the tools is truly embedded in your organisation with departments fully bought into how it can benefit their work.
With the insurance industry on the brink of a digital transformation revolution, more and more insurance organisations are looking to embark on large scale transformation programmes to position themselves strongly in the market. Improving cross-department collaboration should be a top priority for anyone looking to succeed. Enhanced communication and trust across departments, a merging of IT and other teams, and the creation of a fully collaborative environment will all aid in breaking down destructive silos, unlocking your organisation’s maximum potential.
For more information about our work with the insurance sector, please contact Simon Adams firstname.lastname@example.org.