“I joined this company a year ago, was named COO of the Americas, and worked from my bedroom in Paris. I couldn’t meet with my colleagues, I couldn’t sit down with them and build that trust with them. It was a big challenge for me. So I can understand how getting accepted and trusted as a team member can be a big challenge for younger people joining the organization. “
At the Reuters conference The Future of Insurance, Itty told his virtual audience about his company’s smart working initiative, which more than 70% of AXA employees will adopt this year with the goal of having all employees on board by 2023 .
Essentially, Smart Working is a hybrid way of working that combines remote work and an office presence. While it does not prevent eligible colleagues from working full-time in an office if that is what they want, it recognizes that many AXA employees have expressed a desire to determine their working day and find a balance, that works for you.
Itty – who oversees the implementation of AXA’s smart working strategy in the US, Canada, Bermuda and Latin America – says his organization was moving in this direction well before the pandemic, with pilots in France and Belgium showing some valuable lessons for the company worldwide to introduce its workforce of approximately 10,000 employees (of which a quarter in America, including 30 cities in the US).
And when the pandemic broke out, forcing everyone to work remotely (not just the 38% of the workforce who worked remotely before the pandemic), Itty said that it significantly accelerated the company’s transition to the more hybrid approach.
“I think we learned two important lessons from this huge remote work experience,” he said.
“One is that, from a technological point of view, we were ready…. But the second lesson is the more important one, and that is for everyone to feel trusted and empowered to fulfill their responsibilities while working from home.
“For example, in the past, when people said, ‘Oh, I’ll take Friday and work from home,’ their manager might be thinking they had a day or a half off. But in this COVID experiment, we found that everyone is empowered and trusted to perform their duties. “
While Itty talked about the successes AXA has seen so far in its work smart efforts, he was equally open about the challenges all insurance companies considering a more hybrid approach to managing their employees face in a post-COVID -The future will likely be facing.
“I see three big challenges,” he said. “On the one hand, you manage hybrid teams, ie when you work remotely and half of your team is in the office and the other half from different parts of the world work together … For example, how do you avoid bias in your performance? Reviews when it comes to bonuses or promotions? “
In a hybrid environment, figuring out the best way to welcome new employees and get them on board can also be a challenge.
“All the informal conversations about the water cooler or the coffee machine, you lose your nerve with this hybrid system” – but the biggest challenge for him is to maintain a corporate culture when teams and colleagues are not always occupying the same physical space.
“How do you create a culture, how do you create an identity, how do you get this feeling of togetherness when you work decentrally and work from the bedroom or guest room, the kitchen or the dining room?” He said. “How you cultivate and promote a corporate culture in a hybrid environment is one of the greatest challenges we face.”
Still, he is confident that these are challenges that companies can overcome and says that his employees’ reactions to smart working have been positive so far.
“I think they have felt comfortable now, having that balance and working remotely,” he said. “At the same time, they see the benefits of going to the office and meeting their colleagues and their customers. I think there is a lot of support for that too.
“They have been very supportive of us, asked a lot of questions, and we really want them to be part of the solution when we answer those questions. They asked very good questions that we (the leadership team) hadn’t thought of and we want them to be involved in finding the right solutions. ”