The first half of 2020 has revolved around talk about how companies can adapt their operating models and organizational dynamics to survive the COVID-19 crisis. Analysts agree that flexibility, innovation, and technology are key elements to accelerate adaptation to new work scenarios.
While no one will be left untouched by this crisis and its impact on our health, economies, and jobs, not all companies are experiencing a break in business continuity. These companies have shown that it is possible to keep critical processes going, minimize structural challenges and enhance their culture and innovation strategies.
One example is iúnigo, a digitally native car insurer, at the forefront of crisis adaptation, with outstanding results in engagement and motivation. Why are some companies better prepared to ride out the crisis and others are not? The iúnigo case study shows us how technologies that strengthen organizational culture at a distance are essential to provide stability and continue creating value in complex situations.
Founded in 2018, iúnigo sells car insurance. Strongly positioned in the insurtech segment (insurance & technology), the company seeks to transform the insurance industry in the region leveraging technology as its main ally and generating superior experiences for its customers and employees. For example, one of the company’s core values is ‘creating incredible experiences,’ continuously seeking ways to surprise its own people and others.
From the beginning, iúnigo set out to create a culture, by creating an employee-centric experience throughout the organization. “We are very close to our employees; we know how they are feeling, what they need, what is happening to them,” says Malia Cara, People Manager at iúnigo, also the area responsible for the company’s “Wow! Moments” initiative, actions to accompany employees at specific moments in their lives: the good and the bad. Champagne to celebrate a wedding, tailored experiences for graduates, or a special something for a person going through a difficult time. “We are on the lookout for ways to let our employees know we are part of their lives and that they can count on us,” explains Cara. “That is the spirit and DNA of our culture.”
When the company was founded, the top priority was to create a people-centered cultural strategy that could accompany the ways of working and approaches of its business model: talent from e-commerce, agile methodologies, continuous improvement, and a strong commitment to the digitization of processes.”Iúnigo found it footing with a very high level of digital maturity,” explains Cara. “We quickly discarded classic performance programs used by more traditional and hierarchical companies. We had something more innovative, fresh in mind and we already knew that we wanted to work with recognition and spontaneous feedback”.
Two platforms to take cultural strategy to a new level
In June 2018, with the idea of implementing an innovative culture strategy, iúnigo first implemented StarMeUp, a platform based on daily recognition of behavior associated with the company’s core values; the company added BetterMe, a solution that empowers professional development through 360° feedback, goal tracking, and performance evaluation four months later. StarMeUp and BetterMe are part of StarMeUp OS, a social operating system that makes organizations more human, intelligent, and agile.
“There was some resistance to using the platforms at first because people mistakenly saw them as something bureaucratic,” recalls Malia Cara. We launched a few internal campaigns to drive use and people quickly incorporated recognition and feedback as part of their everyday tasks.” As StarMeUp and BetterMe gained acceptance and use increased exponentially, iúnigo’s people team found a wealth of information about how employees collaborated with one another with concrete data about team and individual performance. They set out to use the StarMeUp metrics to reinforce positive behavior throughout the company.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit forcing the company to implement remote work strategies across the organization, its employees were so well adapted to these platforms that, naturally, they continued to use the digital space to accompany and motivate their colleagues in these difficult times.
Competitive advantages to lead the new normal
“On a scale from zero to ten, we estimated the impact of the crisis on iúnigo at a ‘six’ but almost three months into the quarantine and the effect has been a ‘one,’ with almost no impact at all,” says Eugenia Castello, head of culture at iúnigo. “Our infrastructure is designed for 100% remote work, but we didn’t take anything for granted. A week before the quarantine was declared officially, we made sure that everyone had the necessary tools to continue working from home without a problem.”
All companies know that the world is changing and their ability to adapt to these changes is critical. According to Trish Martin and Marisol Fonseca, from Globant’s Business Hacking Studio, companies are experiencing the pandemic differently.
They broke down the situations facing most companies into three categories:
- A) pure survival mode.
- B) adapting and capitalizing on the crisis.
- C) growing, thriving, and leading the transformation to the new normal.
The following table illustrates the impact of the crisis on these three company models:
As the pandemic took hold, iúnigo—an example of a model-C company—found itself in a stronger position than its competitors. (See table above.) By taking the lead in terms of transformation and digital culture, the company has been able to continue innovating. Furthermore, it will be able to leverage its competitive advantages in the new scenarios that will emerge in the post-crisis scenario.
You, Me, Home!
“Even though we didn’t need to make any major changes due to quarantine, in this particularly complex period for employees, we decided to find new ways to stay as close as possible to them and are launching several initiatives,” explains Castello.
For starters, HR decided to rename iúnigo’s corporate pillar “You, Me, Go” on StarMeUp, changing it to “You, Me, Home” to reflect the new reality of remote work. With the slogan “tell us about your life in quarantine,” employees were encouraged to share recipes, health recommendations, gym classes in Workplace, and celebrate and comment on these tips through StarMeUp.“We try to understand each person’s unique situation in the crisis so we can support them according to their needs. For example, we sent people codes for PedidosYa (a delivery app) to order lunch or dinner to tell them that we are thinking of them,” says Castello. Wow! Moments are also made visible on StarMeUp, reinforcing the company’s values and culture.
Driving a stronger culture
StarMeUp’s people analytics data shows that iúnigo’s employee participation reached a record high in April 2020, not only in terms of active users (those who entered the platform at least once in the period) but also participants (those who sent stars, liked or commented on a post). “We are very proud of the level of participation in the initiatives and their impact on the people analytics in StarMeUp,” says Malia. These results demonstrate the high level of engagement with the company culture and how it spiked in the quarantine period.
During the quarantine, iúnigo’s use of BetterMe skyrocketed to an unprecedented level in response to the greater need to give and receive feedback. Ninety-eight percent of iúnigo employees agreed on the importance of receiving feedback in this period and 90% think BetterMe is the place to do it.
Ideas and lessons learned
- In a remote working scenario, ongoing continuous feedback is necessary for employees and leaders alike.
- In a company with a strong culture and the right technology, the risk of disconnection and lack of engagement is minimized, even in a remote working model.
- To be or become a disruptive, innovative, agile, flexible company, you need leadership focused on the employee experience.
- As organizations and contexts continue to transform, a strong digital culture will prepare companies to lead change.