WHY IS SWISS RE ENCOURAGING THEIR EMPLOYEES TO CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO?

At the FutureNow Conference this year, we extensively covered one of the hottest topics of today – the future of work. It is our pleasure to share the perspective of Mr. Nima Motazed, Managing Director of Swiss Re, on what the future of work and engaging ones employees in a meaningful way will look like. It is a joy to work with such forward thinking companies – enjoy the interview!

Swiss Re is a strong brand with more than a 150-year history. How do you keep up with innovation all around – and what does it mean to you personally?

N.M.: We tend to label solutions and products as innovative, but I don’t think that innovation lies in technologies or with companies. It lies with people. The more freedom we give them, the more capacity and power to innovate we develop. That’s the culture we are building in Swiss Re, but of course, it is easier said than done.

In your speech at the FutureNow Conference, you mentioned that many people often don’t live up to their potential and just „survive“ in their roles. What is the ultimate reason for that – can we blame it on company culture?

N.M.: Yes and no. First, let’s start with education – many of us criticize it for not being able to adapt to demands of employers. We complain that it does not support people in creative and critical thinking and we are disappointed when we see university graduates unable to take responsibility for their jobs, career or personal development. Young people still often expect to be told what to do. But are we – the employers – any better? Does the working environment provide the right stimuli? Are our employees really encouraged to challenge the status quo? We need to ask them to lead the change, not just to follow.

In a big and complex organization such as yours, it must be difficult to determine what kind of independence each employee needs to be productive. How are you solving the dilemmas you have mentioned?

N.M.: We started thinking of freedom and flexibility as empowerment that we sponsor in our own self-interest.

We are thinking ahead. New jobs will appear and they will require higher qualifications and skills that are more complex. A lot of the roles that we opened recently require exactly this type of people. We have managed to remove administrative barriers like fixed working hours or fixed desks, which is relatively easy. The mental barriers are much more difficult to remove, and that is our main goal.

Employers and employees alike need to realize that freedom comes at a price, and it needs to be embraced together with responsibility. Those who understand that their future is in their hands only, that they need to constantly learn and demonstrate integrity and good judgement, will be extremely precious in the market.

We discussed how tech transforms the world of work at FutureNow. Do you use technology to empower Swiss Re employees?

N.M.: We have implemented solutions based on usage of robots that enable us to automate repetitive, boring work. We are focused on applying machine learning and AI for improving our processes and developing better products. Among many other cutting edge solutions for clients like parametric flight delay insurance that can be easily bought through your mobile phone, we have also created a new ChatBot which will help internal services such as IT, HR, Legal & Compliance tremendously as a first step to learn internally before we provide our new client solutions.

To round off – diversity and inclusion have become huge topics and forward-thinking companies are trying to include under-represented groups in their workforce. Is there an initiative in Swiss Re you are particularly proud of?

N.M.: Diversity and inclusion is a big topic for us as we are a truly international company that based on the broad range of talent that we were able to bring together.  We are trying to support diversity on multiple levels from the diversity of workforce, inclusion of minorities and people with particular needs, up to the diversity of thought. We are actually pioneering a global platform to include people suffering from autism into the workplace. Many of them have exceptional skills that enable them to achieve amazing results, yet a vast majority is unemployed. The program is already running in Switzerland with some promising results and we hope to implement it in other countries as well!