forward HR

Spring 2023

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8 | forwardHR • Sp r i n g 202 3 W ith only a little thought to the question, any organization would have to say that its people are its most important asset. A manufacturer could have a significant investment in equipment, but without skilled and motivated employees, the equipment would have little value. People drive the value of any organization. If people are indeed your most important asset, running an organization with a people-first mindset is a critical part of being successful. Organizational and financial objectives must be met, of course, but they can't be achieved at the cost of negatively impacting the people. Well before I joined the company, Society Insurance embraced the idea that our workplace was only one part of an employee's life. For an employee to be their best in the workplace, you must honor and accommodate the other parts of their life. At Society, we addressed work/life balance through written policies and flexible work scheduling options years ago. We gave attention to understanding and maintaining proper staffing levels because if there aren't enough people to do the job, work/life balance policies are just words on paper. Being open to flexible work schedules evolved to investigating and then fully adopting a telecommuting policy. Within a few years, one-third of employees assigned to the corporate office were working from home three or four days per week. Expectations were clearly identified for telecommuters and employees were diligent about meeting them, as the opportunity to telecommute was valued and appreciated. Beyond having even more flexibility in their work style, telecommuters were extremely gratified that the company trusted them to work in this way. Flexible scheduling and telecommuting options were a win-win. When the COVID-19 pandemic engulfed the country in March 2020, Society's experience with flexible scheduling and telecommuting allowed the company to move to an almost completely remote operation within a few days. Insurance was designated as an "essential service," so going remote was not required by government orders. We went remote because it was the right thing to do for the health and well-being of our employees and their families. In the frightening early days of the pandemic, protecting the health and welfare of our employees and their families as our unquestioned top priority was "walking the walk" of a people-first culture. As a few weeks of remote work turned into a few months and then passed a year, we gained confidence that the company could operate effectively on a largely remote basis indefinitely. Many employees who had not worked remotely or telecommuted in the past found they very much liked and valued that work style. Our leadership team concluded that we should support hybrid and remote work as our primary work style going forward, even when the pandemic was no longer a consideration. We developed action plans to support this. Society had planned a phased renovation of our corporate headquarters before the pandemic. Armed with fresh feedback on hybrid work styles, we advanced and modified our plans to position the office as more of a gathering place for employees rather than a "cube farm" where CEO ARTICLE e ultimate competitive advantage "Walking the walk" of a people-first work culture Rick Parks, Chief Executive Officer, Society Insurance

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