Many organisational writers working in the insurance industry lack passion and interest for their work. Why is this, and can anything be done to improve the situation?
Working as an organisational writer in the insurance field can be overwhelming at times, and especially when an influx of figures must be processed and catalogued into forms and spreadsheets. At other times, the writing can be monotonous and provide little incentive for workers to take an active interest in their duties.
Cindy Van Wert works as a Support Assistant for MetLife, the largest provider of life insurance in the United States of America. Her job requires her to provide written assistance for two account executives, two directors, and their teams. She estimates that around thirty percent of her day is spent by performing writing-related tasks.
Despite dedicating a respectable portion of her working day to writing, she considers herself to be a "writing worker" rather than a "working writer", due to the disconnect between her and the material she produces on a daily basis. Instead of immersing herself in material she can engage with, she is required to undertake writing tasks that leave her with a lack of fulfillment. When asked about the most interesting writing she does, Cindy replies, "I don't do any interesting writing. Why? Because my job doesn't require me to be interesting."
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This lack of fulfillment and interest in her writing is perhaps endemic of all organisational writers in the insurance field. What can be done to remedy this problem and give workers a reason to be passionate about their writing?
When Cindy is asked if she could think of ways to make her writing tasks more interesting, she laughs and responds, "not have me write about insurance related things?"
Is this fundamental lack of interest and passion directly related to the material these organisational writers must deal with? Is there a way to inspire passion in a field that requires writers to communicate as clearly and concisely as possible without any requirement for creativity or inspiration? That is not to say that there is no room for interesting writing in the insurance industry. The problem is that the more fulfilling writing is often reserved for those in the higher echelons of the employment chain.
Cindy claims that the most interesting writing within her reach would see her promoted into a position requiring her to write proposals. She explains that she would be more passionate if her job required her to write "business proposals for our products, like LTD, STD, Life, and others. Those proposals are written and given to proposed customers."
When asked what makes proposal writing more stimulating and interesting than her current duties, she replies, "it would provide an opportunity to utilize my writing skills. Proposals can be many, many pages and turn out to be lengthy."
The writers tasked with developing proposals have the extra burden of sending their work outside the company and on to prospective business clients. Cindy's position as a Support Assistant rarely requires her to communicate with anyone outside of MetLife, and as a result, she has less pressure placed upon her to take an active interest in her work and inspire passion in anyone beyond the confines of the company. Cindy explains that the employees writing proposals are considered more important because "they're the ones who use their writing skills to bring the company business."
Cindy is quick to explain that "we should always strive to write our best. I have to send emails to higher-ups all the time and wouldn't want to look like a fool."
Regardless of the pride she takes in the quality of her output, there is a lack of incentive for Cindy to work at a higher level than she already does. There is little visible result of her putting pride and effort into her writing. Those working on proposals are given extra incentive through the acquisition of extra business, and are awarded accordingly. A better system of feedback for writers at all levels of employment is needed to help them take a more passionate interest in their work.
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There is a fundamental lack of useful communication in the workplace that brings down the organisational insurance writer's ability to be engaged with the material they produce. Organisational writers must feel involved. They need to feel more important as an employee if they are to enjoy their writing. When asked what her employers could do to inspire more passion in her and others like her, she says, "involve me in more day-to-day activities so that I know more about what's going on in the unit, so that my communications are more comprehensive and educated."
After mentioning education, Cindy laughs and comments, "I feel like I'm back in school! I really don't think this in-depth about my job that often."
The lack of intellectual challenge and monotony is a main contributor to Cindy's disinterest in her work. She explains, "It's very rarely that I am challenged intellectually here, unless I'm preparing a cover letter or sending an e-mail to the Vice President."
The lack of intellectual challenge involved in her work may be inherent in her position, but perhaps employers are setting the bar too low and underestimating their employees. Providing employees with a greater sense of responsibility and assigning them more challenging work would help in making their writing more interesting.
Cindy says her job is "comfortable", but this comfort is perhaps the biggest problem. The work doesn't provide enough challenge, and leads her and many others in similar positions to yearn for an opportunity to greater utilize their writing skills. If the workplace were endowed with a better network of communication and camaraderie, and a higher focus placed on reward for professionalism, then organisational insurance writers would find their jobs far more fulfilling.
These e-mails are from the MetLife Planning Board, addressed to all employees of the company. The e-mails aim to invite employees to take part in the 2010 Associates Survey, and provide updates on the ongoing review of the results.
This e-mail aims to invite employees to participate in the 2010 Associates Survey.
This e-mail provides preliminary results of the survey, and promises further updates.
This e-mail provides further updates on the result of the survey and discusses plans for action throughout the company.
2010 Associates Survey
On behalf of the Planning Board, I would like to invite all recipients of this e-mail to participate in the 2010 Associates Survey. As with last year's survey, all results will be provided to the members of the Planning Board for review, with the assignment to look for overall trends in survey answers and suggested actions.
Following the survey and review, the Planning Board members will present their findings, and speak to the ideas and suggestions you provide. In addition to your written comments, department meetings have been scheduled for those of you who wish to provide further feedback. All collected data will be compiled and considered to define the actionable steps we can take to begin addressing concerns.
In mid-October, the Board will release plans on how to begin addressing the opportunities provided by the survey. Before then, your department leaders will fill you in on your area's specific plans.
We thank you in advance for your input and suggestions.
John E. Michaels
MetLife Planning Board
2010 Associates Survey Update
I would like to thank everyone who went out of their way to take part in this year's associate survey. The response was larger than expected, and in addition to the quantitative results, there were more than 33,000 written comments received from associates. The submissions were constructive and insightful, and highly appreciated.
Upon undertaking initial stages of review, four particular areas stood out as opportunities across U.S. Business. These areas form the focus of our business-wide plan for action and include:
Enhancing employee's understanding of the links between their individual work and our organisational objectives;
Improving our focus on making decisions quickly and defining decision-making accountabilities and processes;
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Clarifying roles and responsibilities across U.S. Business; and
Defining and understanding what innovation means for us as a business.
Once again, we appreciate all submissions made and look forward to providing further updates on the review.
John E. Michaels
MetLife Planning Board
2010 Associates Survey Plans for Action
As mentioned in the previous e-mail, U.S. Business will be focusing on several areas and opportunities that arose as key themes from the results of the survey. We will be supporting these initiatives, as well as several further focus areas.
These areas include development, authority and empowerment, and managing individual performance and recognition. The Distribution Leadership team and I are working on how to target these areas from both a short and long-term perspective, and will be communicating more about these plans in the next few weeks.
The first area on the agenda is promoting opportunities for development. A communication about open positions and career spotlights within Distribution is expected within the next several weeks, with a plan for updates on an ongoing basis.
In the interim, you will hear more from the local leadership in your department regarding their action plans in the coming weeks.
The candid, constructive feedback received during the initial survey process has proved invaluable. We have an ongoing commitment to developing and putting into action plans that address your submissions.
Thank you again.
John E. Michaels
MetLife Planning Board