How global insurer Allianz reinvented personal development opportunities for technical experts

The problem

The strength and reputation of Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS), Allianz Group’s brand for corporate and specialty insurance, rests on the knowledge of its first-class technical experts. And while it was doing all it could to develop its best talent, the employee engagement survey told AGCS that staff believed there was only one way to achieve career progression – by a vertical move to a management track, which was neither the goal of nor the right choice for many experts.

“We needed a different definition of career development for our experts,” says Angelika Inglsperger, head of global talent development, who is based at AGCS’s global HQ in Munich, Germany. “It was vital to retaining our top experts, who we rely on to insure anything from satellites to power stations and container ships, and also to equip them to develop others.” 

The solution

AGCS’s HR department first spent a year working closely with global leaders from across the business to grade and create job descriptions for every position in the organisation. “We then defined career paths for each function, with accompanying skills maps for each role, so we could say to each of our 4,500 employees: if you want to get to this particular position, this is exactly what you need to do,” Inglsperger says.

The company then turned to how it supported employees making the significant step up to first-time manager or expert. The two-year ‘Navigator’ programme, implemented by consultancy firm Cirrus, supports around 50 employees, picked from across AGCS worldwide, through this transition. “They must meet certain criteria to be nominated,” says Inglsperger. “We look at sustained performance over two to three years, as well as learning agility and the ability to work in unknown situations.” Individuals must also be part of a succession plan to move up to a manager or expert role to be eligible for selection.

The programme encompasses a workshop that helps employees understand the insurance value chain – learning alongside peers from across AGCS’s business divisions – as well as a leadership workshop that looks at ‘leading yourself’ and being recognised as a manager or expert. “These workshops give people the chance to learn from others who have made similar transitions,” says Inglsperger. “Delegates also learn tools and techniques such as reframing, building sustainable relationships and giving feedback – all essential skills that we expect our future leaders to demonstrate.”

The outcome

Around 100 individuals have been through the programme over the past two years, and Inglsperger says employee feedback has been overwhelmingly positive: “We always ask people if they would recommend the programme to a colleague, and in some regions we received a 100 per cent positive rating. They really enjoy the combination of self-awareness sessions and practical training, and working in groups with peers from across our functions and regions.

“It’s become a programme that people want to be nominated for. Best of all, it sends the message that we care about the personal development of our experts as much as that of our people managers.”