Lincoln Financial Group’s Jen Warne on talent management strategies in insurance has been saved
Cover image by: Natalie Pfaff
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Jen Warne is the executive vice president, chief people officer for Lincoln Financial Group. Warne is responsible for setting, implementing and providing strategic oversight over all aspects of Lincoln's Human Resources programs, including Diversity and Inclusion, Employee Relations, HR Business Partnering, HR Operations and Technology, Leadership and Employee Development, Organization and Leadership Effectiveness, Talent Management, Total Rewards, and Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability efforts.
Karl Hersch: My name is Karl Hersch. I’m a principal with Deloitte consulting, and the US national leader for our Insurance practice. We recently released the 2023 insurance industry outlook, which covers a variety of big-picture trends and critical agenda centers, such as talent, technology, sustainability, finance, and M&A (mergers and acquisitions). Our goal with this year’s report is to be a resource for insurance executives conducting their annual and strategic planning and help them successfully navigate the uncertainty ahead.
Today, I’m having a conversation on talent, with an industry leader who knows more than a little bit about this issue.
Karl Hersch: So, Jen, with the goal of becoming an irresistible workplace—and I’ll let you define what that means—how do you think the culture needs to evolve in the insurance industry in general, but also for Lincoln specifically?
Jen Warne: I think culture typically tends to evolve as those environments or conditions change. What’s been so different in these last few years is the amount of change taking place all at once with the biggest shift clearly around remote working and the cultural implications to that. The control is with employees, and it’s all about the employee experience. When you think about an irresistible workforce, that depends on what the specific employee’s interests are and their needs—you really have to understand that.
We also, from a cultural perspective, really need to be looking at new ways of working. How do we make the job easier for employees with the implementation of digital investments, and so forth? How do we create moments of social connectedness? I think that is really critical these days, with the cultural shift we’re seeing taking place.
Karl Hersch: Can you comment on your view of Lincoln’s competitive differentiators when you think about transforming [in]to the insurer of the future?
Jen Warne: I would name a few things that I think have been key to our success there. One is our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our investment in career development, constantly looking at new ways of learning and how we can invest in upskilling our workforce, the people at Lincoln, [and] our leadership. We invest a lot in terms of ensuring we have skilled leaders.
And there’s just a culture of caring. In our 2020 employee engagement survey, [we got] the best results we’ve ever had, and it came down to how we cared for them during those moments that matter.
Karl Hersch: I want to pivot and talk a little bit about flexibility and what it really means in this virtual/hybrid/in-office work spectrum that we’re all living in . How would you say Lincoln’s approaching that specifically?
Jen Warne: Even [in the] prepandemic [era], we were looking at new opportunities to increase flexibility for our workforce—and then, the pandemic accelerated that whole strategy. We immediately, like other organizations, pivoted to work from home, and we also started working on our new work model: That new work model started with creating intentional moments to be together, and we called it our five-C program. It was designed to sustain Lincoln’s culture. We focus on when it’s time to be creative [and] innovate. We know that’s a valuable activity in the office, moments of connection, collaboration, and celebration.
Over the last couple of years in this competitive talent environment, we had to recruit nationally. We have a lot of employees across the country that aren’t in in a commuting distance from [one of our] locations. So, we were very intentional about being inclusive to the distributed workforce, to ensure that all employees can participate in those five-C activities, whether in an office or attending remotely.
Karl Hersch: How is Lincoln’s leadership living the example of those changes that you like to see in the culture in the organization, influencing those around you to embrace it as well?
Jen Warne: Employee-experience leaders across Lincoln are taking the time to listen and get the perspectives of our employees. We’re not applying something and going across the board without soliciting input. That’s really important as you manage change. Our leaders are setting examples. We’ve seen a definite increase of one-on-one discussions by leaders or group discussions, saying we want to hear from you, our employees, how are things working. At the enterprise level, to support those leaders, we do a lot of pulse surveys as we start to move from different phases of our flexible model, and then, they adjust accordingly.
Karl Hersch: One of the other topics we hear about is training and upskilling and that being something that’s very important to employees as they come in; they want to diversify their skills to grow and to develop. Let me get your perspective on how you, as a company, are approaching that.
Jen Warne: This isn’t just a Lincoln challenge—it’s an industry challenge. It’s a corporate America challenge. There’s this challenge when it comes to career development and upskilling around scarcity of time. Employers—and this is a focus for Lincoln—really need to be focused on ensuring not that you just have the programs to invest in your career development, but that you’re actually supporting your employees and ensuring that they have time to invest in their career development.
We were the first employer in our industry to partner with the society of actuaries to have a targeted upskilling program for actuaries. What we saw was a need for experienced actuaries to be upskilled around data analytics. Now we’re looking at other opportunities to do that. We’re about to launch a new upskilling platform to offer all of our employees additional resources, tools, career pathing, so that they can really help to manage their careers and access new learning.
We invest a lot in terms of upskilling our leadership. They have to be the advocates for our employees’ careers. We’ve focused a lot on upskilling our leaders so that they can be effective when having career development conversations with their employees. When you look at why people typically tend to leave, they want more clarity around what’s next in their career, and I think there’s always more to do in that space.
Karl Hersch: This conversation has proven that that human capital is really an area [that] insurance executives need to focus on to [not just] continue the evolution [to be] the insurer of the future, but also an employer of the future. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your time and expertise with us today.
Jen Warne: Thank you. I enjoyed it.
Karl Hersch: If you haven’t checked out this year’s 2023 insurance outlook, please do so. You’ll find a wealth of ideas and insights that help you on the path to proactive, innovative, and bolder, [over the] long-term reinvention in the industry.
Cover image by: Natalie Pfaff