As we enter another year following the pandemic, more and more organizations have established a more permanent remote workforce. Like many others, the AAA insurer CSAA Insurance Group is continuing to learn how to adapt to a largely virtual workforce, mindful of maintaining an inclusive online environment and philanthropic work culture. Digital Insurance met with Melissa Jones, the executive vice president and chief human resources officer for CSAA, to discuss how the organization is evolving during this time and how it overcomes the challenges of managing a remote team.

“I think anyone in this profession who is really trying to evolve their strategy has probably been dealing with things that they haven’t before in their past,” Jones states. “And things move faster, from a flexible work standpoint, than it would’ve otherwise without the pandemic.”

CSAA is cultivating a new set of norms to adapt with its digital culture – keeping cameras on during meetings and allotting meeting-free time every week for employees to catch up on work and emails are just some of the new norms established post-pandemic.

“You definitely have to be intentional about it. We put together what we called our ‘norms for working,’ and there’s enterprise norms, team norms,” Jones explains. “We asked each manager to really think about what the norms are for their organization as well.”

The company has even introduced programs like Twine, a software that replicates a digital “water cooler” experience by creating matches and facilitating conversation, to keep employees engaged and collaborating with one another. 

Employee recruitment and training has adapted with the times at CSAA, as well. One major advantage of remote work for the company has been the ability to now hire from all but four contiguous states from a previous 30 states. 

“That’s huge from us,” Jones states. “If you want to track talent, it gives us a better, bigger pipeline to go after… that pure flexibility is a huge attraction element.”

Training for new recruits updated, as well. Classroom training for claims and service employees, which was previously held in a physical classroom, has transitioned to a digital learning experience – another advantage, according to Jones. 

“We’re very open, we’re very transparent, and we’re obviously civic-minded, both through our inclusion [and] belonging work and through our volunteerism. We focus on development. That’s a big pillar of our culture as well. I think those are really important in attracting talent, from a training perspective,” Jones adds.

Continuing to promote an inclusive and community-driven work culture in a dispersed workforce is also a challenge that CSAA continues to tackle. The Inclusion Summit, held every other year, is an educational program in which CSAA invites executives from other AAA groups, members of employee resources groups, government or nonprofit partners, and other employers and insurers. Once an in-person event, the Inclusion Summit is now a digital experience to accommodate a largely remote team. The conference is typically centered around a theme intended to educate and direct focus on specific goals. 

CSAA plans to continue holding this event digitally, as it has “been a great success,” Jones says, and allows for more attendees to join. 

Similarly, the company has had to evolve a more digital approach to encourage volunteer work to adapt with its dispersed workforce.

“Before the pandemic, we had a number of years where we could boast about a 100% volunteerism in our employee population, which is just amazing. It really is in our DNA as an organization,” Jones says. “But it’s easier to achieve when… we had most people coming into a site, so you can do site-based or in-person based volunteer events. We had to completely rethink how we do that.”

CSAA implemented a number of different ways to encourage volunteer work, including a partnership with Visit.org that allows companies to curate digital volunteer events. CSAA also introduced pro bono volunteerism, where employees can connect with nonprofit partner organizations and offer their support and expertise.

“We’re still figuring [it] out. But what I’m really proud of is that we’re evolving as we need to, we’re pivoting as necessary, and when we don’t get it exactly right, we’re very transparent to our managers and employees,” Jones adds. “It’s been a very interesting and exciting evolving focus. I think we’re really proud of the work we’ve done.”

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