24 october 2019, text: Michaela Schaub, photo: Helvetia
For Helvetia, customer focus includes solving complex matters in a short time for customers, engaging in networked communication and providing offers as quickly as possible. Self-directed teams can be the solution here – large companies have been working this way for some time. But does this approach also work in formerly hierarchically organized teams in the insurance industry? The sector under Roland Diem, Head Customer Service Onboarding, tried it out, and the three organizational units Underwriting, Customer Service and Front Office formed a new team.
The three units formed a single team to deal with the new process and which functions according to the principle of collective leadership (by Bernd Oesterreich and Claudia Schröder): working groups are formed to handle the various tasks, requirements and needs and which can tackle the issues more quickly and in shorter timeframes.
This method is similar to an agile working approach. Tools include, for instance, a daily stand-up. The group meets in the morning and discusses what is on the agenda for the day, who will be absent in the near future and which new topics the team will have to address. Each person takes it in turns to chair the session, and all input is valuable. «For me this is not a short-term experiment but a new way of working together», says Laura Maderer, Customer Service Onboarding. «It also allows everyone to gain experience of other areas. I am a new member of the recruitment team, which is very enriching and interesting.»
Hülya Ates, Customer Service Onboarding, adds: «The advantages for all concerned – the company, the customers or the interdisciplinary team –are clear: short communication channels, fast response times, broad-based, in-depth knowledge, and every team member learns as they go along. I felt the positivity in the team right from the first day as well as the general willingness to help one another with the many questions that arose in the beginning.»
Working in a non-hierarchical space calls for mutual trust, sincere communication and casting off acquired hierarchical models. Moving away from this, taking responsibility for yourself, the team and the results of the group's work is new and takes time. «In addition to the attitude, the individual's social skills and the team’s cooperative competency also play an important role», says Roland Diem. «Managers have to realize that they will no longer take all the decisions. They can point the way and create guidelines – but that's all: decisions have to be taken in the team so that they can be implemented quickly», says Roland Diem.
* With «collective leadership», management is distributed on a decentralized and dynamic basis among the colleagues instead of being concentrated in a few managers.