To boost competitiveness, the Arkansas division of Southern Farm Bureau wanted to employ talented millennials—but some of its siloed, paper-based ways of working were a turn-off for younger employees.
Southern Farm Bureau is creating a truly digital workplace, enabling employees at locations across the state to meet, share and discuss information on a secure portal tailored to their unique role.
Boostsefficiency by reducing the need for employees to search for information
Fostersa digital working environment that helps recruit and retain millennial talent
Buildsthe foundation for new mobile, data-driven services for end customers
Business challenge story
Preparing for change
Consumer expectations in the insurance space are evolving rapidly. Increasingly, customers are demanding a more responsive, personalized experience that matches the speed and convenience of services like digital banking.
And it’s not just customer expectations that are changing: employees are becoming more demanding too. Millennials are seeking out employers who can provide flexible, engaging, social, digital working environments—and to hire and retain top talent, meeting these expectations is a must.
Bobby Wood, Senior Network Administrator at Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company, takes up the story: “In the coming years, we aim to develop and deliver innovative, data-driven services that enable customers to compare, renew and manage their products seamlessly online.
“To shape these services, it’s vital to keep bringing talent into the business. Millennials are becoming a larger proportion of the global workforce every year, and to meet our talent goals, we knew we needed to become an employer of choice for the new generation.”
In the past, Southern Farm Bureau relied heavily on a static intranet for knowledge management, and paper-based processes to drive its day-to-day operations. This made it difficult for teams to work together or share knowledge and ideas, particularly if they were not working at the same location.
“In addition to our state office, we have 112 county locations across the state,” Wood continues. “Our people worked in silos, and there was limited interaction between different offices and departments.
“This way of working presented a number of challenges. Our intranet was around a decade old, and any changes had to be submitted to the IT team, who would update the content manually in HTML. Because the process could take as long as three weeks, people were reluctant to request changes, and it was practically impossible to ensure that all of the information was accurate and up to date.
“Finding information on the intranet was a time-consuming process too, both for experienced employees and new joiners. For example, the procedures manual that our underwriters frequently refer to was buried 14 clicks deep in the page hierarchy. There were around 15 legacy copies of the manual across the network—increasing the risk of employees retrieving an outdated version.
“Crucially, this static approach to knowledge sharing made it difficult to attract top talent from the millennial generation, which was a key requirement to realize our transformation vision. To solve the challenge, we looked for a fresh approach to support our workforce.”
Attracting new talent
Today, Southern Farm Bureau has replaced its static intranet with a dynamic digital workplace. Combined with enterprise collaboration tools such as digital communities, wikis, instant messaging and more, the new employee portal is helping all parts of the business work together much more effectively.
“One of our key goals was to reduce the amount of time our people had to spend searching for information,” Wood recalls. “By adopting dynamic, role-based presentation of information in the portal, we can deliver tailored content that is relevant for each user’s job. For example, when a member of the underwriting team signs in, they get a link to the latest procedures manual right there on their homepage—saving time and minimizing the risk of accidently working with outdated information.”
Making changes to the content on the portal is now a straightforward process that employees can complete themselves, without assistance from IT. Self-service capabilities have cut the time it takes to publish new content from over a week to a few hours, which helps ensure that the information on the digital workplace is relevant and up to date. Fresh content also ensures that employees come back often to get the information they need, when they need it.
Wood adds: “Making an edit to information on the portal doesn’t require any technical knowledge, which means the business can take ownership of their data and be accountable for keeping information up to date. As well as helping us democratize knowledge-sharing, this capability frees the IT team to spend less time managing the intranet and more time on higher-value development tasks.”
By embracing its digital transformation, Southern Farm Bureau is bringing employees together more closely than ever.
“The difference between our old intranet and new portal is night and day from an employee experience perspective,” Wood comments. “Each employee now sees a social feed that surfaces relevant information. Updates on the feed can range from alerts that a procedural manual has changed, to messages congratulating colleagues on signing a valuable new contract.”
Transforming the business
By re-imagining its business processes with collaboration at the center, Southern Farm Bureau is building an engaging digital workplace that will encourage top talent—especially from the millennial generation—to see the company as an employer of choice.
“When new people join the business, we put all the information they need to excel in their role right at their fingertips,” says Wood. “For example, our IT team sees real-time status updates on the health of our network and storage systems directly in the portal, which means we can respond faster to remediate potential issues and maximize availability for our business systems.
“Similarly, our claims department gets live weather updates direct to their desktop, which helps them plan for an influx of claims when severe storms are forecast. Because everyone in the business gets single-sign-on access to practically every service they need, there is no longer any need to log into multiple systems or dig through layers and layers of subpages for information. We have certainly improved operational efficiency across the business.”
Thanks to the company’s centralized approach to information management, employees can also disseminate knowledge faster.
“In the past, it could take as long as three weeks from submitting a request for a change on the intranet to seeing it go live,” Wood continues. “Today, all our employees can make edits at the touch of a button, and see their updates published within ten minutes—99 percent faster than before. People across the business are delighted with the new capabilities, and are actively taking on the responsibility for updating the portal with the latest information.”
He adds: “Previously, employees would often share documents via email—for example, when the time came to send out various forms at the end of the year. When 1,000 people in the business are all emailing the same 1MB file, the pressure on storage starts to pile up quickly, and our portal has been a major factor in reducing that burden.
“Today, our departments can share links to single copies of files that reside in their own digital communities, which helps us shrink our storage needs and avoid the capital cost of procuring new disk systems.”
With digital communities at the heart of day-to-day work at Southern Farm Bureau, employees can share updates more quickly and effectively. Using communities reduces the amount of time people need to spend in face-to-face meetings, and helps employees to keep projects on track.
“We are now well established on our digital transformation, and already planning for the future,” says Wood. “In the medium term, our goal is to migrate all documents to the portal, which will eliminate the need for employees to swivel between network drives and the portal to get the files they need.
“Looking further ahead, we see great potential in using the cloud to enable mobile working. If someone loses their home in a natural disaster, all they care about is getting help immediately. By enabling our adjusters to access the portal when they’re out in the field, we can make it easier for them to respond quickly to our clients when they need it most.”
Wood concludes: “Today’s consumers expect new and better insurance services—and by creating a digital workplace, we’re in the perfect position to deliver.”
Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company
Located in Little Rock, Arkansas and employing/contracting more than 1,000 people, the Arkansas division of Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company provides competitive policies and services to meet the needs of its members and policyholders across the state.