TalentLeadership DevelopmentCreating effective leaders at Zurich Insurance Group

Creating effective leaders at Zurich Insurance Group

Can developing effective leaders improve workplace culture? HRD Connect looks at the leadership development journey that Zurich Insurance Group has ventured on.

Many organisations strive to go through a transformational journey and guarantee global success. To overcome these challenges, businesses must undertake numerous changes over many years. This can heavily impact culture, talent, and strategic focus.

Through these monumental changes, HR plays a key role in maintaining and aligning a consistent experience for their workforce in times of uncertainty. This week, we look at how Zurich Insurance Company newly developed its leadership strategy.


Recently, the insurance industry has faced uncertainty and disruption. To adjust to the rapid shifts in change, Zurich set out to ensure that it can thrive in this new landscape. Mario Greco, CEO, Zurich Insurance Group led a strategic transformation programme that focused on customer-centricity, simplicity, and innovation.

The business objective of the ‘Complete Leadership’ programme was to improve workplace culture needed to support business strategy. The talent team identified new leadership behaviours derived from newly developed purposes and values to deliver with the high aspiration of creating effective leaders.

The programme was designed to deliver on four objectives:

  • Act as a catalyst for the cultural change to a customer-centric organisation.
  • Give Zurich’s leaders and future leaders the skills to put this new strategy into action.
  • Encourage the use of all four leadership styles that every leader should use (consultative, challenging, supportive, and authoritative.)
  • Provide leaders with techniques to better manage their energy, wellbeing, and become great storytellers.

Zurich’s view was that if its leaders demonstrated the business’ revitalised strategy, it would inspire a cultural change throughout the organisation. Therefore, the talent team developed a three-day leadership behaviour summit, that articulated the three pillars of their strategy: customer focus, simplicity, and innovation.

The team also wanted to create an engaging experience through technology, designing a mobile application to help participants navigate through the contents during the three days of the summit, and to easily connect with each other before, during, and after the event.

The summit rolled out internationally with three cohorts, consisting of 80 senior leaders. The most significant outcome of the event was putting what the attendees had learnt into practice.

“The design of the whole summit maximised long-term impact: including supporting attendees with pre and post-work summit learnings, using accountability trios and extensive post-work tasks that started in the room to guarantee participation,” said Adrian Staeubli, Global Head of Talent Development, Zurich Insurance Company Ltd.

To remind participants of Zurich’s key leadership behaviours, videos of Zurich employees explaining how they are already living the new behaviours in the business were shown to attendees.

Zurich successfully identified the networking and peer learning potential of bringing leaders together across the organisation, and designed sessions to take advantage of learning by giving participants time to learn.

To engage attendees ahead of the summit, Zurich’s talent team spent time consuming case studies and reflecting individually on leadership practices. They explored professional profiles and leadership capabilities using some personal and professional audit tools. This enabled them to reflect on how they were currently performing and gave them areas of focus for the summit. Starting the leaders’ journey ahead of the event itself meant they were eager to learn more.

Following on from the summit, attendees have regularly met to share their experiences and challenges, and to further discuss the best way to impart learning to their direct reports.

The Complete Leadership programme set out to give leaders the skills needed to spark a cultural shift at Zurich. Overall, the programme received an overwhelming response. 96% of the attendees agreed with the statement that ‘The knowledge and skills I gained from the programme will help me in my role as a leader’. Additional comments included ‘Best training I have experienced at Zurich in the last 7 years’, and, ‘It has given me the confidence to deliver what’s right for the company’.

“As the rollout continues, Zurich is continuing to develop supporting content to reinforce the lessons from the summit and keep participants connected,” continued Mario.

“By setting the cultural agenda in Zurich, the Complete Leadership programme has empowered leaders to focus on the consumer.”

As huge changes based on technological innovation and customer expectation transform the insurance industry, a new approach to leadership is needed to be the leading company in the challenging and exciting world of insurance. Zurich Insurance Company Ltd succeeded in managing this shift and are now reaping the benefits of having engaged and highly skilled leaders at the forefront of the business.

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