S4 EP37: Using storytelling and knitting together a remote-first team – with Marjorie Hook, Vice President People & Culture, Openly

“We’re very committed to staying connected. We’re very careful about how we meet, when we meet and who is in the various meetings”, says Marjorie as she highlights the key success factors to implementing a remote-first culture at insurtech, Openly.  

On the podcast this week, Marjorie charts her career journey from consultancy to insurance people leader.

“I started my career in the lean six sigma field, mostly in technology. It gave me a fantastic appreciation for process and data and people.”

“One of the things I recognized in consulting was you can have the greatest process and amazing data, but you’ve got to have the convergence of those two things plus the right people in the right roles. And so, I made an intentional decision to pivot toward the people side of things.”

She discusses her love for growing people functions within scaling businesses and her role at Openly.  

“I absolutely love this stage of a company’s growth because it really is about how you set up to grow an amazing, strong business with a solid foundation. That’s got to be everything from technology to processes to the people and the strategy across the company. The insurance market and the insurance industry as a whole fit perfectly with that.”

“One of the great things about Openly is we are so committed to the policyholder, to the agents and to our employees. It’s a great marriage of the three.”

Marjorie highlights Openly’s growth, insurance products and distribution model.

“We sell our insurance policies through 30,000 independent agents in 21 States. We giving those agents the technology and the tools makes it possible for them to do more business, to serve their customers better.

They want an easy experience that they can rely on because that’s their reputation.”

Founded in 2017, Openly is a remote first environment. Marjorie discusses how the business keeps a team spread across 43 States, knitted together both professionally and personally.

“We’re always looking to improve opportunities for connection.

We’re actually rolling out ‘culture hubs’ in specific locations where we have concentrations of employees.

We spend a lot of time on Slack. Channels that are specifically business oriented, and channels more on the personal or fun side. People can find those levels of connection.”

Marjorie gives insight in to how the business is developing storytelling – using employee spotlights to tell the story of what operational excellence looks like at Openly.

“We’re working with our engineering team right now to find a creative way to tell a story without being overly complex on the technical side. That’s how our employees and anyone external who’s listening can appreciate how technology really drives our business.”

Discussing wellness, well-being and remote-working, Marjorie says, “We’ve started a ‘Be Well’ programme. It’s a monthly stipend that goes to employees to spend on any kind of wellness related activity. It could be a membership to a gym. It could be a ski pass or meditation sessions.

And we’ve also been doing a series of panels, largely stemming from our DEI initiatives. 

When you’re in any kind of a stressful environment and your employees are remote, there’s an added challenge there because they don’t have that in person outlet. We’re doing an event around managing holiday stress.

We also have a mental health expert coming in to talk to the entire company, looking for the signs and symptoms of any kind of mental distress.”

Marjorie shares how building a remote workforce helps build a more diverse and inclusive culture within Openly.

“We don’t have geographical limitations when hiring, so that goes a long way.

We built out our DEI programme this year.  We started with a panel for International Women’s Day. 10 female leaders across the business, came and talked about their experiences. That was so well received.

We did a similar thing for PRIDE.  It’s all part of our collective identity.”

Marjorie shares the tools they are using to make hiring unbiased and inclusive and the role technology plays in talent attraction.

“From a tech stack standpoint, it’s so important to show that to candidates from the outset. It’s their first opportunity to see the way Openly goes about working. Candidates certainly appreciate that when they’re looking to partner with a high-tech insurance business.

As for her advice for insurance professionals coming to interview, Marjorie says,

“Just be yourself. In an interview, you have a good opportunity to show up as who you are. We’ll always vet and understand the skills and experience piece, but who you are as a person matters.”

For fellow people leaders seeking to hire exceptional insurance talent, Marjorie maintains the most important part starts with a talent management plan.

“Make sure you’ve really vetted the position you’re looking for. Do you have the skills and intrinsic qualities clearly defined? Then take your time through the interview process.  A 30-minute interview doesn’t give you the ability to really understand the candidate or give the candidate enough time to really interview you and understand your business.”

Marjorie gives her thoughts on the most important factors to selecting an external recruitment partner to help with hiring.

In conclusion, Marjorie says, “We’re all going to work for a living.  Try to find the joy in everything you do. It makes your day more delightful.”

Connect with Marjorie Hook on LinkedIn or find out more about Openly

The Insurance Coffee House Podcast is hosted by Nick Hoadley, CEO of Insurance Search.

We are a global Insurance Executive Search Consultancy, supporting Insurance and Insurtech businesses to attract and retain the very best insurance talent.

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