If you believe the advertising, insurance and partnership go together like a horse and carriage. In reality, however, this has long since ceased to be the case. As a result of the huge number of comparison websites, price is increasingly the deciding factor these days, even in the competition to sell insurance and banking products. At the same time, financial technology companies with new digital offerings and services are hunting after market share. Nobody can say for certain how the sector will develop over the next few years – not even Baloise. What the Swiss insurance company does know, however, is that it will have to be much more flexible in the future so as to respond to dynamic changes in a forward-looking way.
Since the beginning of 2016, it has therefore been pursuing a strategy of setting up a completely integrated working environment. “For us, the digital workplace is a means of boosting collaboration and customer orientation,” says Patrick Friedrich, Change and Digital Training Manager. “This can only happen if we put our staff in a position to travel this exciting but challenging road with us.”
Enabling communication and collaboration
Baloise really has set itself some ambitious goals. By the beginning of 2020 at the latest, it aims to have in place a cloud-based, single sign-on communication and collaboration platform that will enable employees at any site to easily contact each other via audio-, video- or web-conference, share content and work together on projects.
That is a huge leap forward from the current situation, where there is no standardized document storage system, and users have to log in separately to each of the seven or so applications they use on a daily basis. “The usability is no longer in keeping with the times, the data landscape is fragmented and it involves far too much administration,” Friedrich explains. More to the point, Baloise is still using Windows 7, for which Microsoft will stop providing support in the not-too-distant future.
The pull formats primarily provide self-service assistance and preparation for the courses we bring in external trainers to provide.
Training program with push and pull formats
Originally, Baloise had intended to introduce the digital workplace with a big bang. However, as Friedrich points out, there was much too big a risk that there would be a short-term drop in performance due to the enormous pressure this would put on staff. Instead, the rollout is happening in three phases, two of which are already more or less completed. For example, all employees in phase one or two have already received a new laptop with a touchscreen and stylus input, on which QuickAccess from tt performance suite is pre-installed. In addition, they are being trained in using the new software, as Baloise is switching to Windows 10 and moving from Lotus Notes to Outlook. What’s more, staff are also having to get to grips with new MS Office 365 functions such as SharePoint, Skype for Business, Yammer and OneDrive.
As part of a blended learning concept, Baloise is providing its employees with several push learning formats that build on and complement each other. These include one-to-one appointments for handing over the new laptop that cover an introduction to QuickAccess, which is initially providing performance support for Windows 10 and Office 2016. Other push formats comprise webinars, classroom training courses and consultation hours in a small showroom that employees can visit on the spur of the moment to get support from a co-worker on any technical issues they may have.
In addition to the push formats, users can access various pull formats as and when they need them, including multi-lingual step-by-step guides, trending articles about current help topics via QuickAccess and a digital workplace help center with instructions and video tutorials.
Network support from Sponsors, Champions and Ambassadors
Friedrich knows that training alone is not enough to achieve this kind of wide-reaching change. “There are still departments and units with individual processes that can’t be covered by standard training courses.” For the employees affected, Baloise has therefore created a change network that brings together people from all levels of the hierarchy and helps them learn the new digital ways of working.
To ensure the network really does help spread the change throughout the organization, the participants take on various roles with clearly defined tasks. For example, C-level Sponsors make resources available and add legitimacy to the change process. At the same time, they provide motivation by recognizing and showing appreciation to people involved in the network.
Ambassadors from the middle management level take on the role of “first users”, contribute their knowledge of business requirements, and appoint the “Champions”. These are staff from IT and specialist units who adopt the new technologies and working methods so as to pass their knowledge on to users. “The Champions have a vital role to play in the success of the project as a whole,” Friedrich says. “It’s up to them to get their co-workers excited about the change and allay any concerns by actively approaching people, sharing their knowledge and providing feedback.”
The new communication and collaboration tools pose a challenge for our corporate culture, because they don’t work on the basis of the traditional command and control model.
Cross-process performance support
Over the next few months, Friedrich and his team will concentrate on adapting organizational models and business processes while preparing for the move to the cloud. This also raises the question of how the new tools will work across all processes. “In this regard, we are following the example of business cases and then dealing with questions such as ‘how do I find information’ or ‘how do I structure an efficient meeting’. The ‘Orange’ – the user access to tt performance suite – currently has the job of helping staff in their ‘moment of need’, across any process.”
Even then, the journey toward a digital workplace is far from over, however. “The new communication and collaboration tools pose a challenge for our corporate culture, because they don’t work on the basis of the traditional command and control model. It requires a new mindset – and for many managers this involves a lot of unlearning and re-learning. Only when we have achieved that can we tick off the project as complete.”
Facts & figures
- 7,200 employees, seven sites, five corporate languages
- Pilot project successful, complete rollout by the beginning of 2020
- Constructing a cloud-based communication and collaboration platform
- Replacement of devices, operating system and business applications
- Blended learning concept and accompanying change network
- QuickAccess (“Orange”) for cross-process performance support