AGCS develops pipeline of expert leaders

by | Oct 5, 2015 | Articles

Recognising that some highly skilled workers don’t want to become people managers, global insurer Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) had to find a way to give its experts alternative, but equally fulfilling career progression opportunities, to secure the company’s talent pipeline…
The challenge

AGCS employs over 4,500 people of more than 70 nationalities across 29 key countries, developing bespoke insurance products for multi-million pound corporations and specialist sectors including marine, aviation and energy.

“The products we develop and claims we manage are incredibly complex: for example, there are not many people in the world who can assess risk in space,” says Angelika Inglsperger, Head of Global Talent Development at AGCS.

“To succeed, we need to not only retain our top actuaries and underwriters, but also equip them to develop others.”

She adds, “In the past, it was felt that to advance your career here, you had to go down the classic people management route. This meant some of our experts took on people responsibilities they weren’t fully committed to, while others felt they had to leave the organisation to continue as a specialist, taking their expertise with them. Instead, we wanted to offer employees keen to stay in specialist roles the same opportunities for career progression and financial reward as those who were happy to take on more people management responsibility.”

Even so, Allianz also had to address the need for its experts to have a certain amount of leadership capability. “Even if they weren’t destined to become a people manager, there were times when our experts would still be responsible for large claims or projects, requiring them to bring people together and get the best out of them,” says Angelika.

“We needed to equip all our experts with the core skills required to share their knowledge with others and drive collective performance.”

 

The approach

In response, Allianz created a career paths for experts and managers, demonstrating that people could progress to an executive role even if they stayed on the expert career path. “We wanted to send the message that remaining an expert wasn’t a dead end, that you could still get to the top,” says Angelika. “At the same time, we set about creating a two-pronged learning journey to equip our experts with all the core skills they needed to drive collective performance, whether they decided to stay in their expert role, become a people manager or switch between the two paths.”

The solution

The learning journey takes place over the course of two years, starting with a compulsory three-day workshop, called Navigator, developed by Cirrus, the leadership and talent experts.

This was essentially a leadership workshop designed to help delegates understand their role as leaders of the business and the need to make the transition away from making an individual contribution to driving the collective performance of others, regardless of whether they choose to remain in an expert role or become a people manager.

She adds, “The workshops purposely pushed people out of their comfort-zones. As ‘experts’ they were used to being the one to come up with the solution. A key part of the course was about helping them to make the conscious shift away from providing the answers themselves to operating through others to get the answers. Many found the concept of moving away from doing the work, to leading others to do the work, quite challenging, but the pragmatic, interactive nature of the event, using role-play simulations with professional actors, and challenging yet constructive feedback, gave everyone the opportunity to start putting their new skills as an ‘expert leader’ into practice.”

As well as equipping everyone with basic leadership skills, including delegating, networking, influencing and rapport-building, psychometric assessment was also used, “Cirrus used Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to help our experts understand how their personality influenced their leadership style so they could develop a leadership style that played to their strengths as experts,” says Angelika. “For example, as quite goal driven people, they weren’t naturally inclined to divert time into networking, but once they were helped to realise the purpose of this for getting the support needed to see large projects through to completion, they became much more motivated to think about how they could strengthen their relationship with other parts of the business.”

The results

Globally, 90 individuals were nominated by their manager to attend Navigator workshops delivered by locally based Cirrus trainers in countries including France, Britain, Germany, the US, Mexico and Singapore. “We’ve had nothing but positive feedback about Navigator and the Cirrus team,” says Angelika. “We use a Net Promoter Score (NPS) to assess the workshops. One of the sessions scored 100% and all the others exceeded 90%. It’s become an established programme that people want to be nominated to attend.”

She concludes, “Best of all, it’s sent the message that we care about our experts as much as our people managers. Cirrus is a key part of enabling us to retain the technical expertise that sets us apart, helping us to create a pipeline of expert leaders and people managers capable of driving team performance. The business is going from strength to strength and we’re looking forward to entering new markets.”

“We use a Net Promoter Score (NPS) to assess the Navigator workshop delivered by Cirrus. One of the sessions scored 100% and all the others exceeded 90%.”

 

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