RiskSOURCE Clark-Theders has been a Cincinnati Business Courier Best Places to Work Finalist every year for the past 11 years since 2011, and a winner for 6 years from 2015-2020.
Newly hired Marketing Manager, Maria Sikic, sits down with veteran, and President, Amanda Shults to talk about what it means to have a winning work culture.
To prepare for my job interview, I visited the company website and came across the RiskSOURCE Cares page, complete with its own RiskSOURCE Cares logo. On the Our Story page, this line greeted me: “We go beyond insurance for our clients, coworkers, and our community and do what is right for them – because we care.” I scanned the six company values and figured, it’s just marketing. Here’s a company savvy in curating their public image. As I moved through the interview process, it was becoming apparent that the online claims were indeed who RiskSOURCE is in real life.
In the past six months working at RiskSOURCE, I have encountered numerous examples of how the culture is embedded in the work life.
My first week was filled with getting to know the team and I thought, “Wow, RiskSOURCE really does care.” When we did a quarterly initiative to support a local non-profit in the 3rd quarter, and then again in the 4th quarter (apparently, we do this every quarter), I thought, “Wow, RiskSOURCE really does care.” When I learned about all the meticulous internal processes, plans, and systems we have in place to ensure we can always deliver an excellent client experience, I thought “Wow, RiskSOURCE really does care.” And when I sat down with Amanda to hear about how she has led the leadership team in fostering a healthy workplace culture from above, I again thought, “Wow, RiskSOURCE really does care.”
How would you describe the culture here at RiskSOURCE?
“I’ll be celebrating my 20th anniversary with the agency in January and lately I’ve been reflecting through the years, all the changes, and where we are today – where we aspire to be in the future. The culture of this place is so special. I really believe that. Because we really have a commitment to live out our values, and they’re not just something in a brochure or on the website. Bringing them into the conversation when we have difficult business challenges, like COVID, helps us pull together and look at the issues as they relate to our values. For me the challenges and successes have changed over the years, but that commitment to values and caring about each other is the constant.”
How do you keep the same culture and connection with people working from home?
“Pre-COVID and post-COVID, I think the biggest part of making a healthy culture is being intentional. We meet weekly as a leadership team, we meet quarterly, and then we meet annually to make sure we’re executing on what we said we’re going to do.
There’s going to be elements of the culture that never change, and then there’s things that evolve over time. I think being intentional about it – to understand what’s happening with the team, communicate about it, ask questions, solicit feedback – all those things help us understand the top needs of our team. I think it’s the responsibility of the leadership team to be reaching out to our respected peers in business and our trusted advisors, whether our board or associations, to see what the trends are.
We also do an annual culture plan. Mental health was a big part of the last two culture plans. We saw that people are having different pressures and anxieties than they have felt before. Everybody is experiencing unique things. They might have children or grandchildren in their house, but they also have aging parents, so they’re caught between two caregiver scenarios. There’s just a whole lot that people must deal with. It’s important we’re letting people know that we are supportive.
Going into 2022, the world has changed in terms of what people expect. We’ve realized that things can be done differently than we ever thought. We can stay connected virtually. However, we do have to make sure that we’re creating opportunities for people to connect. Because I do still believe in human connection for that ultimate relationship opportunity. I think the periodic connections, I’ve heard it referred to as planned collisions, is important. That’s why we started the monthly in office days this past year.”
What was the thought process when you came up with the Thursdays +1 schedule for 2022 (everyone in the office on Thursday, then pick one other day to come in)?
“Throughout COVID, we did surveys to see what’s working for folks. And the data showed that working from home was still very effective for most. They would describe the benefits to their health, their family life, work stress was less, productivity was higher, all these wonderful things. With that, through informal conversations, we learned that some people were feeling isolated. A lot of that was due to the world, being unable to get out and about and do things, and the uncertainty of the actual COVID virus.
When we came up with Thursdays + 1, the intention was that it would be the best of both worlds. We have a day where we can all be together for important meetings. We also have the energy that you gain off each other from being in one space together. And then the flexibility to say, come in the office another day, at your choice, again to still have the collaboration and camaraderie, but then having three days that you can have the productive focus, at home, workdays. We’re also looking into other ideas, like no-meeting Fridays. We want to help keep folks engaged, but also the most productive and happy they can be.
One thing we found when we rolled out our plan, for many it was exciting, it was going to work out great in their lives. For other people, there are still some challenges. Right now, we’re still going to work with people and meet them where they are. We invite people to give the feedback. For some folks, it’s difficult when at home to turn off work. Or if you’re having some challenges at home, sitting there just reminds you of all that you’re going through, so to put yourself in another caring environment, should be a benefit, not a detractor.”
Earlier this year, it had seemed like the pandemic would soon be behind us. Now, not so much. Going into 2022, how does that uncertainty affect things?
“Safety is of the utmost importance, so Thursdays + 1, or whatever work schedule, if anybody is feeling unsafe, that trumps all of the work scheduling plans that we have. I think the one thing that we’ve learned, or maybe we just learned it at a new level, is how to adapt to situations. Even when we have our monthly in office day, if somebody says, ‘I’m not there yet,’ it’s totally fine. We don’t want to exclude people or push them toward isolation. As human beings we are meant to be in community with each other and be relational.”
How does a hybrid schedule impact our caring approach to the client experience?
“We want people to be healthy and happy and we care about them, but the flexibility that we offer cannot lower our standards. Our commitment to client experience, to each other, and to all the things that we value in this company must remain at a high level and always on the improvement spectrum.
It’s important to have visible metrics and regular communication to make sure that we’re all living up to those expectations. It’s good to have options. We must make sure that we’re coupling that with delivering an excellent experience to our clients, our carriers, and each other. We need to remain dependable. Thankfully we have a great team so that’s not really an issue.
It gives me so much confidence to know that we can pretty much tackle whatever comes our way if we stay true to our values [integrity, faith, service, excellence, authenticity, teamwork]. It’s special to be at a company for a long time and have no desire to go or do anything else because it’s that important to you. I am blessed to be part of this team.”