Taking stock: My first year at INSHUR

Written by Tina Phillips (she/her)

The end of last week marked one year of joining INSHUR; a young, ambitious company based in Brighton and New York that’s trying to change the way people look at, and feel about, insurance. My main drive for looking, certainly initially, had perhaps less to do with the company and the product (not a big insurance geek – not yet, anyway!), and more with the personal drive to live by the sea.

Looking at the company’s track record, funding history and prospects, and human and business potential, I liked what I saw and eventually joined as VP People, Talent & Culture in Q4 of 2019.

Here are my thoughts on what went well, not so well, and what’s still on my to-do list for 2020 and beyond.

Let’s start with the positives – here’s the five things I believe made the biggest impact over the last 12 months.

1. Clarifying INSHUR’s Values, Mission, Vision

Although somewhat anchored in founders’ minds, there was nothing codified, written down or communicated to the rest of the team.

So a couple of weeks after I joined, the whole leadership team embarked on our first offsite to work on why INSHUR exists, why it should matter, and what drives us.

We brought in Curve (John Monks and Fern Miller) without whom we wouldn’t be able to run our offsites as successfully as we did. Seriously, if you ever need facilitators, they are your people.

Out of that workshop came our codified values. While not particularly revolutionary, our values make sense for us, they ring true and represent us well as a company. They guide us in our behaviours and inform how we do things at INSHUR. And that’s very important.

  • We are brave and innovative 🤜
  • We are helpful and grounded 🙏
  • We are always learning 📚
  • We enjoy the ride 🎢
  • We deliver 🚚

You can read more about the process we went through to define our values here.

2. Creating structure with Leveling & Progression

I saw very little structure in terms of people understanding exactly what their role is, and how it sits within their teams and the wider organisation. People had no real insight of the level they’re performing at, and what they need to learn and improve upon to move either upwards, excel at the level they’re at, or, sometimes, move sideways. The People Collectivewere instrumental in helping me put everything in place.

Today, everyone in the business knows exactly:

  • which level (and sublevel) they’re performing at
  • what they need to learn or improve on to move forward
  • how their knowledge, ownership, teamwork and communication capabilities fit into the wider picture overall.

People now understand that Manager track isn’t the only way to success (and higher salary) at INSHUR and that Individual Contributor is a perfectly valid option to pursue.

We now have a better understanding around which level we need to hire for, the gaps in the business, and how to maintain and manage the reviews of the levels going forward.

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3. Monitoring Engagement, Feedback and Performance

I’ve always believed in the power of candid feedback that comes from a place of care and is ideally delivered in real time. But it wasn’t until I read Kim Scott’s Radical Candor that it was confirmed to me that my theory and approach isn’t too straight forward or too upfront, but indeed what a world of business and workplaces around the world desperately need.

Here are a few ways we’re building our feedback muscle.

Continuous feedback: We’re weaving feedback into our 1-1 sessions and make sure that any praise is always given publicly via #kudos channel on Slack.

360s: After piloting with managers earlier in the year, structured company-wide 360s are now live. This is an opportunity for everyone to not only hear from their managers, but also peers and direct reports. Our 360s are forward looking and aimed to help us work on our strengths, while minimising our weaknesses and blind spots.

Tracking eNPS monthly: Our eNPS  is currently at 53 for September and was 54 at its peak mid-lockdown, which means nearly 65% of our employees would recommend INSHUR as a great place to work. We also send out surveys to dig deeper on a number of topics, and crucially, we do our utmost to then act based on the feedback received where it makes sense. I hope our teams feel listened to, even when not all suggestions make the final cut – we try to explain why that happened, when so.

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4. Time Off, Parental leave, and Mental Health

Taking sufficient amount of time off to recharge and reboot is something I’m super passionate and vocal about. I have implemented Unlimited Time Off twice now at companies I worked at, with, admittedly, mixed success (but always glowing reviews).

We opted for a 30 day leave on top of public holidays for all locations. Going well beyond the statutory offering to support parents and carers (including adoption and surrogacy) regardless of gender or geographical location.

Mental health and wellbeing is a top priority – here are a few ways we’ve been supporting team members:

  • Offering a comprehensive medical plan that inclpsychiatriatricatric care with a generous amount of talking therapy not only for our team members, but also their families
  • Running a weekly Safe Space To Talk, meditation and chair yoga sessions
  • Training managers as MHFA Champions and the People team as Mental Health First Aiders

5. Growing the People Team

When I joined, the People Team consisted of just one other person. Keeping team to 2 people wasn’t going to set us up for success and equip us for high growth that was incoming.

Today, my team consists of 7 people, mostly IC4 generalists who work together extremely well and are a true testament to how we do things at INSHUR, supporting a company of 80+ and counting.

Growing (but not inflating) my team has been instrumental in us being able to succeed in the last 12 months and get ready for what’s to come in the future.

I couldn’t be more excited every Monday to get to work with such an amazing group of people, all pulling in the same direction and acting as one.

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Of course, this isn’t all we did in the last 12 months. Some more things I’m particularly proud of:

  • Introducing annual learning budget via Sunlight, no questions asked, plus regular Zoom’n’Learns
  • Trialing 1-1 external coaching for our managers
  • Revamping our hiring practices to ensure it’s inclusive, structured, transparent, fair and represents our culture.
  • Taking the first steps towards creating our employer branding brand (look us up hereand here)
  • Making strides in documentation, policies and guidelines
  • Bringing in some brilliant new tools including Bob for HRIS, Lattice for engagement and performance, Slab as a company wiki and Sunlight for managing learning benefits

We’ve made some decent strides in improving our diversity too. We continue to work hard ensuring we create equitable opportunities for any member of an underrepresented group. We are now able to use stats and are regularly reporting on gender, racial representation and LGBTQ+. I’m very much looking forward to submitting our first gender pay gap report in April too.

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Our representation in terms of gender has improved from 24% to 33% overall, and while only 15 % of our managers identified as female back in January, this now stands at 22%. Our LQBTQ+ representation also went up from 8% to 12% and almost 30% of our workforce self-identified as BAME (a term we’re not too comfortable with but are yet to find a suitable replacement for).

Naturally, not all was dandy. We had people leaving, and sometimes that was hard. There were performance issues we had to address and there was, and is, of course, Covid-19.

Much like everyone, we too had to dedicate time and resources that would normally go elsewhere (in our case, manager training, additional L&D initiatives, team building and, not least, hiring), to figuring out how to safely close (and now partially reopen) the office, how to equip everyone to successfully work remotely (something we’ve been doing already but not at this scale) and how to, and this turned to be the most crucial part of the task, ensure that people have the support they need. I hope we’ve done a decent enough job at looking after our people during the first bout of the pandemic, and that we will successfully continue doing so in the months and years to come.

👩🏻‍💻 And how have I grown, personally?

Well, I’d say in many different ways, actually. Technically, this is my first VP role so I’m learning a lot about operating at this level, and I’m enjoying challenges it’s bringing. I’ve learned a lot about how to be a better leader, and a better coach.

I’ve continued to learn that, while data is super useful to inform decisions, it’s only part of the story – I prefer being guided by, and not led by it. I learned that when something feels right, there’s usually a reason for it, and vice versa – I hope that I have finally learned how to stop ignoring red flags and that I’m getting better at tackling things head on. I’ve gotten better at feedback, and I’ve gotten worse at setting boundaries between work and non-work – something I’m trying hard to address daily.

In line with one of our values, I’m continuously learning. Hopefully each year I do this incredibly hard but rewarding job, I make a positive difference to at least one of our team members’ lives.

After all, in the words of my 9 year old: ‘‘mummy, apart from sometimes hiring and firing people, talks about feelings for a living’’. 🤗

So, onwards! I can’t wait to see what year 2 brings. Oh, and did I mention we’re hiring? For the list of open roles, see here. We’d ❤️ to have you!