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Name of Organization/Company: Swiss Re, Zurich, Switzerland
Category: Achievement in Performance Management

Entry Title: Adapting at Speed with Continuous Performance Management @ Swiss Re


Swiss Re was founded in Zurich, Switzerland in 1863 and has about 13,000 employees worldwide in 29 countries. Swiss Re is one of the world's leading providers of reinsurance, insurance and other forms of insurance-based risk transfer, working to make the world more resilient. Dealing direct and working through brokers, Swiss Re's global client base consists of insurance companies, mid-to-large-sized corporations and public sector clients. From standard products to tailor-made coverage across all lines of business, Swiss Re deploys their capital strength, expertise and innovation power to enable the risk-taking upon which enterprise and progress in society depend. Approximately $ 43 billion gross premium was written in 2020.

The implementation team for Continuous Performance Management consists of:

•HR Project Team, including Organisation & People Development (OPD), Reward, HR Systems, and Communications: ~11 employees (~ 5 FTE)
•Extended HR Partner & OPD Regional community to support business with change and implementation: ~150 employees
•Subject Matter Experts: ~ 15 employees from different enabling functions such as Group Legal, IT, Risk Management, Business Analytics and country-specific work councils
•Business pilot group ambassadors/leaders: ~20 employees
•A number of vendors were engaged to provide learning offerings that focused on building conversations and feedback skills

To continue thriving as a reinsurance/insurance industry leader in this dynamic environment, Swiss Re embarked upon a transformation to create a commercial, agile culture that enables everyone to lead from every seat and adapt at speed. A key priority in achieving this objective was to take a critical look at the traditional and bureaucratic performance management practices.

A multi-year program began with pilots to test and assess the impact of potential changes to the process and cultural implications. It concluded with a radical change and overhaul of performance management that included:

1) a global scale roll-out in 2020 to all employees of a rating-free, dialogue-centered approach called Continuous Performance Management that was supported by a robust change management and enablement strategy, and
2) the introduction of a modern platform/technology that further improves the employee experience and enables conversations that matter.

With Continuous Performance Management the focus shifts away from 'process', to what really makes the most impact: frequent, future-focused conversations and feedback that drive organisational performance and foster individual growth, real-time improvement and faster, smarter adaptation to business needs.

While some companies try to implement a new performance approach with only mediocre success, Swiss Re has successfully done this in a way that creates value for the business and employees. Employee surveys provide evidence of positive trends in regard to the frequency and quality of conversations, empowerment and ownership, user experience, and engagement.

Prior to 2020, Swiss Re's performance management approach focused on formal events between employees and managers that were driven centrally: goal setting, interim/mid-year review, and year-end review. There were detailed process steps, forms to complete, timelines, lengthy rating calibration sessions, and a sense this was a 'tick the box' activity. For the insurance industry, this kind of approach was/is rather typical and expected, but not innovative or advanced.

The new Continuous Performance Management approach was a major change for the majority of our workforce. The experience entails on-going alignment of priorities and goals; business-defined performance expectations; regular check-ins driven by employees (supported by managers); and an expected exchange of real-time feedback. An interactive technology with dynamic chat-like features enables employees and managers to capture their goals and outcomes of their conversations. The year-end review discussion is captured as a light recap or summary of the on-going check-ins throughout the year.

Key findings and achievements:
•An experimental approach proved to be a successful strategy to tackle a risk-averse culture by earning credibility and the trust.
•A holistic solution connected to our cultural transformation, Swiss Re's People Strategy and a 'lead from every seat' mindset was key to enable employee-led, future-focused conversations.
•A robust change management strategy is a must-do with a global scale implementation.
•The unique work environment brought on by the Covid-19 crisis accelerated the change in a positive way as adapting at speed, continuous improvement and regular check-ins were a necessity.