Beth Ferrin is the President and CFO at McGohan Brabender, an independent, forward-thinking leader in the health benefits arena delivering health insurance plans that maximize benefits while minimizing costs. Beth was interviewed by Matt Workman, Senior Client Partner at Persistent Systems.
Beth, what are some of the critical ways in which an insurance organization needs to support its people?
“The biggest thing that any organization can do is start listening and stop talking. The people who are doing the work have really great ideas, and if they feel like they have a forum to share those, they will. If an employee is sharing an idea and somebody starts explaining how they can't do it, that can shut down free thought. Organizations need to listen to their people and try new things. This is when you will achieve true success.”
In what ways does this require a particular mindset amongst senior leadership?
“We challenge each other to not have limiting beliefs. When we're having a conversation and somebody says, ‘we can't do that’, we question that response. What is your limiting belief around this? Let’s say one of your leaders is so busy that they don’t have time to mentor as much as they (or you) would like. They come to you to say that they know it’s needed, but they’re just too busy. Having conversations like, ‘Let’s not talk about why you can’t free up time, but instead, what would it look like if you had that time? How would the team grow? Would you feel more fulfilled? Are you limiting your beliefs based on today’s team structure or your current workload? How can we open our minds to how it would work instead of why it doesn’t?’”
Is new talent coming into the insurance industry changing employee expectations?
“We ask our employees to have a solution-oriented mindset. I don't mean to make this comparison, but I tell my kids this all the time. My oldest just came home. He lives in Indianapolis, and we're supposed to go golfing. He said, ‘Mom, I didn't bring my clubs.’ I asked what he’s going to do, what are his next steps? Then he comes up with the plan to call a buddy and borrow some clubs. That's a very simple example, but at the office, it might be, ‘I can't seem to figure this out.’ ‘What do you think your next step should be? How can you see this situation being resolved?’ If you feed people the answers all the time, they'll keep coming to you like a bird at a feeder. But, if they know that they have the tools in their toolkit to figure that out, it makes their job more fulfilling because they're fixing their own problems. They're getting to work outside of their normal day-to-day tasks. Also, they have great ideas. That solution-oriented mindset with our newest people to our most tenured people is really important.”
What prompted the push to invest in technology and innovation leadership?
“We have a person who’s very strong with a great background in technology, but it's one of 10 jobs that she has at the company. As she was working toward retirement, we thought that might give us an opportunity to think of things a little differently. Looking at how technology is changing everything we do from going to the grocery to picking up medication to anything, we thought, ‘What if we had somebody who was solely focused on our technology efforts and pushed us outside of our comfort zone a bit?’ We want somebody who's going to push us to move to that next level, so we felt like it was time to find that focused expertise.”
Can you share some of the interesting ways in which your team has used technology to support the company’s efficiency and growth?
“This year we rolled out a new communication platform with our employees. It's called Workvivo, and our Director of Innovation found it. All internal communication is supposed to run through this platform. Our old process was somebody sending out the sales report on Friday. It says we're at 83% of a goal for the year, and everybody starts replying to all “great job”. Before you know it, you've got 40 emails. You don't want to miss an important one, so you're reading through all of them.
Under Workvivo, the sales report gets posted on Friday. If somebody wants to say a great job, it's just a comment underneath it. I don't need to read the 50 comments. I know that people are just saying, great job. We also have ‘spaces’ for the teams that are in there. It can be a closed space where only that team can communicate, and you can pass documents back and forth. You can do everything you need to do, but the noise of the email has gone down. The efficiency that has been created has been tremendous.
It also increases the sense of community. We will have some spaces in Workvivo that are catered to employee interests. You can set up an ‘I love the outdoors space.’ People can post on there, and they only join if they also love the outdoors. I may have never met somebody that works in our Northern Kentucky office, but when I show up and they say, ‘Hey, my name's Carolyn.’ I can respond with something like, ‘I read about your hike that you just did because I'm in the outdoors space.’ It gives you those connections that you otherwise don't have.”