Allstate – a beacon of common sense

A beacon of common sense amongst a sea of ego and opinion, US insurance provider Allstate have embraced the shift towards hybrid/remote working.

These are my observations from what their CEO Tom Wilson said at the Aspen Ideas Festival (summarised by Charter’s Kevin Delaney – link in comments)

It’s not what they’ve done that’s impressive but the mindset that they have because it is really an enabler for change generally. It’s will enable them to embrace new ways of working more broadly and so forge a competitive advantage.

Wilson starts by saying the remote arrangement is working well for his company. “We decided to jump into the water and see where it goes. Our employees decided they wanted that and we’re finding a way to make it work.”

This encapsulates a few key principles:

  • Have a curious and open mind
  • Take a responsive and adaptive approach
  • Ask your staff what their needs are and work to this
  • Accept what’s needed and find a way to make it work

Allstate first determined who needed to be in office and then asked the rest what they wanted. 95% went remote. “As I often say to our people, commuting is way overrated.”, says Wilson.

  • No ‘one size fits all’ solutions, it’s horses for courses

On going into the office, he says, “You’ve got to give them a reason. The tension point is making them come in to do something they don’t need to do in an office is a bad idea. If there’s something, you come in and do something in the office and it’s rewarding for you”

  • Give people a reason to do things, don’t coerce them

He goes to say that culture becomes more important without the physical cues and that they need to work harder at it.

  • Pay attention to culture and be intentional in your actions

On good management, he says it’s about caring for people and clarity about where you’re going. He admits his leaders don’t really know what they are good at here and need to work hard to improve. He’s says he’s really putting effort into this.

  • Care for your people
  • Be crystal clear in your communication, especially on direction and expectation

There’s lots of other good stuff in the interview but two other themes come through with great clarity

  • Be experimental in your approach
  • The solutions are emergent and will continue to evolve

Here’s a few quotes that highlight these:

“… we don’t know where we’re going, we’re just in motion.”
“So we’re experimenting.”
“We’re going to see if it works.”
“So you’ve just got to kind of make it up as you go.”
“We’ve allocated money to try a bunch of stuff and see if it works.”

What is really striking is the humility and willingness to learn, qualities that are completely absent in pronouncements of some leaders in financial services
(you know who!)

This mindset is full of pragmatism, realism and wisdom. It’s not just seeing Allstate through this change but making them resilient, adaptive and agile, ready to grasp the opportunities ahead.

It’s the mindset for the future.

(See transcript and watch the panel discussion here)

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