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Culture

Insurance Insider Honours 2022 Employer of the Year: QBE

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For QBE, the ability to listen to what colleagues really want from their employer and be able to respond and adapt quickly to put initiatives in place has been key in creating a place where everyone feels valued and comfortable being themselves in the workplace.


At this year’s Insurance Insider Honours, QBE won the award for ‘Employer of the Year’ in recognition for its commitment to providing employees with a workplace environment that is inclusive, flexible and supportive.

A Flexible Approach

QBE has embedded hybrid and flexible working into its design under a model called “Flex@QBE”. Introduced during the pandemic, the employee response has been overwhelmingly positive to how hybrid working has increased their productivity, according to regular surveys. As a result, QBE has confirmed that hybrid working is here to stay and has looked to integrate hybrid working practices into their employee experience.

One employee said of the new model: “’Flex@QBE’ is the most beneficial change I have seen in my working life. It has brought many positives with little downside. It has greatly improved my mental and physical wellbeing. Most precious of all, it helps give me back priceless time to spend with my daughter. My productivity has increased without working longer hours by using my commuting time.”

“QBE EO has made great bounds in the last few years in modernizing the way we work. Relaxing of dress code, hybrid working, and increased flexibility has brought a different more modern feel to EO. Obviously, the catalyst for this was the Covid pandemic, but QBE has embraced this as an opportunity for change and run with it,” another employee commented.

But Flex@QBE goes beyond a combination of home and office working in its design. For example, QBE now offers employees the opportunity to swap UK bank holidays for a day that is more meaningful for them, and has created a short-term work from abroad policy, which enables employees to work from outside of their home country for up to 20 days per year.

Diversity and Inclusion

In October 2021 QBE launched a new initiative to encourage employees to be themselves at work, called “JustBe@QBE”. It aims to empower people to be at their best, feel supported, have the flexibility and freedom to be themselves, to have a voice, and be valued for their unique contribution.

It has implemented a wide range of initiatives that take into consideration the diversity of employee needs and aims to adapt what it offers based off employee feedback.

Emma Higgins, chief people officer for QBE International, said: “We launched JustBe@QBE in order to create a workplace culture where all our people, in all the ways we are different, feel included’.”

One employee commented: “I have a disability, I have a seizure/mental health related condition that I always hide after previous experiences but reading through this and experiencing the inclusive culture in everyday interactions genuinely means so much and gives so much more confidence that it’s ok, I can be me and do my job.”

Another colleague spoke of how the campaign really resonated with them as an ethnic Indian woman, saying: “It's a great platform for my voice to be heard and I can totally relate to it. Inclusion and diversity at QBE has so far helped me thrive in my role at work and helps to support my career path next steps.”

A particularly well received initiative within the inclusion strategy is QBE’s school partnership program, which sees employees volunteering to act as mentors to young people from ethnically and socially diverse backgrounds, who also receive four weeks’ work experience as a step towards a more diverse workforce at QBE.

Wellbeing and Resilience

A major part of QBE’s strategy has been to provide the right environment for employees and as part of that it launched a new strategy called “At Our Best”. The holistic approach is focused on creating meaningful change and combating the systemic causes of stress and burnout across the business by targeting wellbeing across work-life blend, finance, health, community, and careers and creating a safe and supportive environment where people can thrive.

In line with its flexible, hybrid approach, this has included both virtual and in-person resources.

The focus on wellbeing and resilience was particularly felt during the Covid-19 pandemic in which the company was quick to offer additional support to colleagues.

According to Higgins, when lockdowns began, every employee received a £500 budget for office equipment and a £50 monthly allowance due to increased costs associated with working from home.

Higgins continued: “In addition, we provided online wellbeing resources and webinars, including one-to-one wellbeing coaching and classes on issues like budgeting and financial wellness.

“Another move that was greatly appreciated by employees was as the third lockdown begun, all employees with children were given two weeks’ paid leave in recognition of the challenges of balancing parenting and work responsibilities.”

Listening and Adapting

QBE measures employee satisfaction and looks to what areas it can improve through regular surveys with the results reviewed quarterly by employee representatives, the inclusion and wellbeing team and CEO who chairs an inclusion forum seeking to identify trends, focus areas and actions.

“I certainly think we’ve seen increases in employee engagement since we’ve brought in these initiatives, but engagement isn’t the end goal. It is all about creating the right environment where our colleagues feel included and can be their best,” said Higgins.

“We have really valued the feedback we get from our employees. Our initiatives have been a success because we have taken the time to listen and have reacted.”

A number of QBE’s initiatives have been inspired by feedback from QBE’s dedicated networks which focus on gender, ethnic diversity, mental health, disabilities, LGBTQi and sustainability and are supported at an executive level. Examples include, the school partnership program, an increase in support for menopause and many of its mental wellbeing initiatives.

The extensive range of initiatives with executive level support, tangible outputs and testimonials have demonstrated these are much more than words and they are lived and breathed within the company. With an ability to act quickly to feedback, QBE will no doubt continue to adapt its employee initiatives to ensure people can continue to bring their best selves to work and feel valued as part of the company.

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