Australian HR Awards winner profile: Suncorp Commercial Insurance

by Chloe Taylor08 Dec 2014
Suncorp Commercial Insurance were the winners of the Best HR Industry Innovation and Corporate Creativity award at this year's Australian HR Awards – here's how they developed the strategy that won them the accolade. 

In 2012, Suncorp CI was losing several of its most talented people, who were leaving to pursue better career paths. A lack of career development and training opportunities, as well as overall job dissatisfaction, were often cited as reasons for resignation.

Because of this, alongside the changes to workforce trends which are expected over the next decade, employers at Suncorp decided that a plan of action was needed to build and maintain a long-term workforce.

In order to meet the demands of a changing workforce, the ‘Build a Great Career’ strategy was developed, encompassing two streams of work that are both innovative and unique within the Australian insurance industry.

Suncorp CI’s vision is to be “THE place to work in Australia and New Zealand”, with the company looking to have a People Strategy in place which delivers a “workforce for the future” – but with over 15,000 employees, a new people strategy needed to be thoroughly thought out.

Before the ‘Build a Great Career’ scheme was introduced, the only perceivable form of career progression available at Suncorp was via a vertical career pathway into people leadership positions.

Suncorp’s HR team acknowledged that this was not suitable for everyone, and frustrations within the workforce were emerging because of the absence of an alternative progression path.

The Specialist Career Pathway was subsequently introduced, and is a unique concept in the Australian insurance market. It was created to provide an alternative option to people leadership, allowing people with in-depth knowledge and expertise are also able to develop and progress in their careers.

The team working on implementing the development program felt that unless the roles were clearly defined and differentiated it could not be a success. To ensure that they did this, they defined the roles’ accountabilities and focuses separately:
  1. Specialists are primarily focused on providing specialist expertise, advice and guidance to lift the specialist capabilities of the team they support. (80% specialist activities, 20% demonstrating leadership capabilities)
  2. People leaders have overall accountability for the development, performance and outcomes of team members and are responsible for driving and delivering business results. (80% leadership capabilities, 20% level of technical knowledge required to support a team)
The team also emphasised that the roles had equal responsibility in driving better business outcomes, and both would be recognised and rewarded for their achievements.

To support employee development in both pathways, a new framework – dubbed the ‘Career Compass’ – was developed, designed as a comparison tool.

The compass is an interactive medium which allows employees to explore and identify the 32 competencies that apply to Commercial Insurance and the eight to twelve allocated to each role – it was described by IBM as the ‘most sophisticated’ competency tool they have seen.

The Career Compass is highly accessible and user friendly, applying to over 700 roles across eight divisions, clarifying job information to over 2000 people.

In addition to the Build a Great Career initiative, Suncorp uses several formal career development strategies.

These include Suncorp’s Annual Specialist Conference, first held in December 2013, a Specialist Mentoring Program, and the recently developed ‘Specialist Academy’ which supports the Specialist Career Pathway.

The changes to Suncorp’s people strategy have delivered visible results. Since the new strategy’s implementation, almost 50% of employees have accessed the Build a Great Career online tool since February. The group has also seen a decrease of 2.5% in employee initiated turnover within a year, and a 2% higher retention rate amongst high performing staff. 

Eighty-eight per cent of employees have since completed a development plan – an increase of 13% since June 2013. Suncorp has also seen a 15% reduction in legal costs, and an increase of 15% in revenue and profit.

HC spoke to Alison Zada, project lead at Suncorp, about winning the award.

“Being recognised in the industry is great but being able to work on something that adds value to the workforce is even more rewarding,” she said. “The most pride for me is having built something that works.”

She also told HC that the team could see the value of what they were doing from the excitement it created.

“The excitement of the people involved told us that we were doing the right thing,” Zada told HC, adding that winning the award has “given us an indication that we’re on the right track, and that what we’ve done is credible – internally and externally.”

Since winning the award, Suncorp’s HR team have continued to pursue a “workforce for the future”.

“The award has motivated us to continue to be innovative,” Zada said.


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