This article is intended for inclusion in Wells Publishing's U.S.A based magazine, Insurance Journal. The article examines the reasons behind the lack of passion and interest that affects many organisational writers in the insurance field. The article also looks at potential solutions to this problem from the perspective of someone working in the industry.
Inspiring Interest in Organisational Insurance Writers
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, particularly 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.
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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."
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 in order to 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 by insurance companies to help them take a more passionate interest in their work.
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Marked to Standard
There is a fundamental lack of useful communication in the workplace that brings down the organisational insurance writer's ability to engage 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 in the same position, 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 may be inherent in her position, but are employers perhaps 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 might be the biggest problem. The writing 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
This speech is to be delivered as the opening address for the Freeplay 2011 independent games festival in Melbourne. The speaker is a high-ranking representative of the Independent Game Developer's Association (IDGA).
The Freeplay festival has been held in 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2010 to a great degree of success. The festival revolves around the creativity and diversity of ideas found in the independent video game industry and strives to provide business opportunities for developers, industry practitioners, and educators in the field.
As in years past, the theme of Freeplay 2011 is the creative process involved in independent games development and the shared experience of producing a game from concept to release.
I chose to write this speech as I am developing my own independent game in partnership with a friend, and we are looking to open our own business and would love to be part of Freeplay 2011.
Opening Address for the Freeplay Independent Games Festival
Good morning everyone. On behalf of our wonderful organizers and the Independent Game Developers Association, I would like to welcome you to the Freeplay independent game festival of 2011. Before we start, I'd like to thank the State Library of Victoria for hosting this incredible event. I'm happy to see that so many people have managed make it here from interstate, and in some cases, from across the pond.
We're all here for one major reason - we love video games - and we love the experiences they bring into our lives. For some of us, the mere experience of playing games is not enough. Some of us need to be more involved; we need to be a part of the video game creative process, and with the rise of the independent scene that dream has become an achievable reality. A one-man production has just as much chance of success at becoming the next big thing as the latest multi-million dollar production from Electronic Arts, Activision, or Ubisoft. In 2010, lone developer Markus Persson became an overnight millionaire, selling over 500,000 copies of his game Minecraft on the strength of its simple, yet powerfully creative idea. The game itself is barely more complex than playing with Lego, but it managed to tap into people's desire for creative expression.
That's what's so fascinating about our medium. It's still fresh, young and open to new ideas. In comparison, older forms of creative expression are dried up, and very rarely does anyone cover genuinely new ground. We see something original and exciting almost every week in the independent gaming scene. There's a good chance that game you've been working on in your spare time will burst into the public eye and make a mark on the lives of gamers all over the world.
The limelight isn't reserved only for the coders, but also for the writers, the musicians, the artists, and the designers too. Creating independent games is a truly collaborative process and in many ways is a culmination of thousands of years of artistic evolution. Not only does independent game development require input from artists of almost every creative medium, it also accommodates interactivity.
As game designers, we invite players to intimately engage with our ideas and live inside the worlds we create. With the growth in popularity of independent games tied into social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, we hold the power to bring people together through play like never before.
Freeplay is about interactivity between people. The event was founded in 2004 to bring developers together and provide a forum to discuss and debate their ideas. The event is designed to take them closer to unleashing those ideas upon the world. Over the course of the next few days, an incredible line-up of guest speakers will provide a vast array of views on the independent scene, and I hope you'll join me as avid listeners and contributors.
The festival floor is packed with demonstrations of some of the best independent games available today. From more conventional point and click adventures, to experimental games the likes of which we never would have imagined a few years ago, something for all tastes is present and accounted for. Make sure to take your time out on the floor and try some of the titles on offer.
While the big-budget studios concentrate on first-person shooters and action titles with flashy graphics, the role of the independent industry is a different one. We're here to cover new ground, innovate, and find new ways to express ourselves creatively with the tools provided to us by the medium. In some ways, it's up to us as artists with freedom to express ourselves in this fresh industry to give it a sense of artistic legitimacy to gaming as a whole. We have the opportunity to develop a language for gaming that doesn't yet exist like it does for that of literature and film. The fertility of the current independent scene gives us a chance to be ourselves and create things the way we want to create them.
This creativity is what drives the independent games industry forward. While our medium is in its infancy-the equivalent of paintings on a cave wall in the grand scheme of things- the amount of innovation and steps taken forward each year is astonishing. Creativity and the creative process is what Freeplay is all about.
We're all here because we have a shared desire for the creative process. Video gaming is an inherently social medium, and fittingly, this festival is designed to bring people together. For those working in small teams, it can be difficult to make the connections needed to succeed in the industry. This year's Freeplay has brought together an enormous amount of talent under one roof, and I hope you're all able to make the most of it as a social event as much as a business one.
Thank you everyone, I hope you enjoy Freeplay 2011.