S4 EP43: Intentional over-communication and knowing your team demographic – with Blair Kamrass, Vice President People Operations, Coterie Insurance

“Anyone stepping into a predominantly 100% remote opportunity, assuming it’s not their first time, they know what they’re getting into and what to expect from the day-to-day.”, says Blair.

“In terms of building a culture, the onus is really on the company, but also us as individuals to engage with co-workers. You have to be intentional about over-communicating.”

On the Insurance Coffee House Podcast this week, Blair Kamrass shares her journey from studying political science to an HR and people leadership function at a growing Insurtech, Coterie Insurance.  

“I’ve been in a leadership position now for about 7.5 years, overseeing the whole HR department, all of the functions. People are so complex that it keeps things interesting. A lot of what we do isn’t ‘set it and forget it’, we have to constantly be evaluating policies, programs that we’ve put in place to make sure that it’s staying up to date with the modern-day workforce.”

Blair highlights the role HR plays in internal communications.

“It’s partnering with people leaders, our ‘S-team’ is what we call our executive team, to make sure everyone is as updated as they can possibly be about upcoming changes. We know change management in any organization is huge and trying to stay ahead of that the best you can. It’s helping leaders develop their own unique, authentic selves and making sure that all of the communication channels are firing on all cylinders at any given point.”

Blair discusses attracting insurance talent to the business and the impact of its 100% remote nature.

“We’ve set up an organization that truly supports the employee’s whole self because we know there is life outside of work and life gets very complicated. Having those structures, helps attract the insurance talent we’re looking for.”

She discusses the tools Coterie uses to keep people in engaged and communicating. Including Slack channels and bi-annual engagement surveys.

“One thing we do really well is communication. Every month we have a company ‘All hands’ with more formal reports from our ‘S-team and every week we have a meeting called ‘Friday Wins’.  This is a more casual gathering, but the intention is to come together, express gratitude and shout out your coworkers, discuss your wins for the week.

It’s a combination of making sure you’re creating the opportunities to come together in a formal way to hear business updates, but also to have fun because we need to always make sure that we’re building fun into our work.”

Blair advises senior leaders coming for interview at Coterie, saying, “I would say over-communicate. I can’t express that enough with a 100% remote company. Be intentional about thinking, ‘OK, who do I need to follow up with? Who needs to be in the know about this? We want to make sure everyone feels they’re in the know.”

To hire the best insurance talent, Blair counsels fellow insurance people leaders to have a good grasp on the demographics of their workforce.

“Have in the back of your mind that people are complex. They’re not robots. Everyone is in a different season of life. Do your research. Know what’s going on in the world socially, economically, politically because it will filter into the organization and it will impact our teams.”

In terms of attracting a diversity of insurance talent, Blair highlights, “We make sure all of our hiring managers receive on average at least three pre-qualified diverse candidates to progress through the interview process.

Our goal is always to build out a diverse workforce whenever we can. We use a people dashboard, so we can at any point in time, we can see the makeup of our organization. By gender, by age, by race, by location, our turnover rate at the executive level and so on. That way we always have a pulse on how our organization is looking.”

Blair highlights how Coterie is using experiential exercises as part of the hiring process and what she looks for when partnering with an external search partner – a familiarity with insurance and technology.   

As closing advice, Blair emphasizes the need for grace in the workplace.

“Life is complicated outside of work and that will trickle into our professional lives whether we like it or not.  Giving everyone a little bit of grace, showing some patience, will take you far in fostering and developing your relationships.”

Connect with Blair Kamrass on LinkedIn or find out more about Coterie Insurance

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