Leading with empathy

July 21, 2022

Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook Share on X

By Marwan Shiblaq, president, workforce absence

The midst of a pandemic is an interesting and exciting time to assume responsibility for a team of more than 8,000 people.

Had I been appointed president of workforce absence pre-COVID, I would have embarked on a coast-to-coast tour of our offices to meet in-person with colleagues and share my vision for and personal investment in our future. Today, the landscape of our business unit looks dramatically different, as many of our teams continue to work productively from home.

The physical location where colleagues perform their vital work each day does not change the fact that we must ensure they know they are cared for and valued at Sedgwick. We continue to explore creative ways to do that at a distance and to thoughtfully consider current and future approaches to collaboration and flexible work. At the center of these important discussions is Sedgwick’s core philosophy that taking care of people is at the heart of everything we do. We’ve long believed that if we take care of our colleagues, they will, in turn, take good care of our clients and their employees.

Caring counts

The work we do at Sedgwick is deeply personal. People reach out to us for help on what is likely one of their worst days of their lives. They’ve experienced an injury on the job, gotten into a motor vehicle accident, suffered property damage, discovered a product has been recalled, or had some other unexpected and complicated circumstance arise.

My team handles various types of absence management, including disability and leave; we advocate for those who’ve learned they or a loved one have a serious illness and want to ensure they have job protection (and, in certain cases, salary continuity) while taking the necessary time away from work. They are worried about their health, their livelihood, their belongings and their families. It doesn’t get much more personal than that.

In the process of helping with claims and restoring a sense of normalcy and certainty, our colleagues naturally absorb some of the anxiety and uncertainty. It can be a heavy burden to bear, but clients entrust these services to Sedgwick because they know we’ll do the job right — not only with accuracy, but also with sensitivity, compassion and empathy.

At Sedgwick, “caring counts” is our value proposition. We don’t merely check boxes in our system; we strive to execute fairness and make things right again, knowing there’s a fellow human being on the other end of every claim. If our colleagues become desensitized and view their work as “just another claim,” we’re not delivering our promise that caring counts.

This is why it’s so important that we, as an organization, show our colleagues how much we care about them. We expect our colleagues to demonstrate empathy to those whose care is entrusted to us, so it’s incumbent that we provide a caring environment and the support they need in both their jobs and their personal lives. To paraphrase a testimonial from one of our colleagues: “As our team grows closer, my passion for the job continues to grow. Being at Sedgwick makes me feel like I belong and am part of something bigger.”

Values in action

In an earlier blog post, my colleagues referenced two ways to support and engage the workforce that I want to briefly expand upon here. The first is providing an effective onboarding experience. The prime time to educate newcomers about the organizational mission, values and practices is during the first year of employment; it’s also when colleagues form a sense of belonging to something meaningful and larger than themselves. To ensure that our new workforce absence teammates make a seamless transition to Sedgwick, we have an onboarding specialist dedicated solely to our business unit. Their outreach to every new colleague not only demonstrates how caring counts, but also helps our people get acclimated to the organization and ready to provide empathy and understanding to others.

The second is through diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). These initiatives are an important way Sedgwick shows colleagues they’re welcomed, valued, respected and heard, and they mean a lot to me personally. Having grown up in the Middle East in an extended family that includes members from a range of religious traditions, my background is quite unique. I was pleased to bring that varied perspective to Sedgwick’s inaugural diversity and inclusion council. When I was recently asked to serve as executive sponsor of Sedgwick’s LGBTQ+ colleague resource group (CRG), my answer was an emphatic yes. I am proud to provide leadership and allyship to this colleague-led group that aims to build a diverse, equitable and inclusive community of caring, where people can thrive as their most authentic selves.

Sedgwick aims to lead our industry in delivering empathy and taking care of people. How are you and your organization working to lead with empathy?

Tags: benefits, caring, Caring counts, caring culture, colleagues, CRG, culture, DEI, Disability, Disability and leave, Empathy, LGBTQ+, People, People first, Productivity, View on people, Workforce