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TMK’s culture journey

The results of a group-wide employee survey in 2019 along with a whistleblowing event in that same year highlighted the need to directly address cultural issues identified both in the survey and in the investigation of the whistleblowing allegations.

Importantly, the executive team recognized these issues as a threat to the performance goals TMK had established.  That is, it was a business imperative to improve the culture beyond being just the “right thing to do”.  Accordingly, TMK announced ‘improving our culture’ as its leading priority in September 2019, and immediately kicked off a programme of work.

The focus of the programme was to unlock the strong positive feelings that many staff had about the company and tackle historical problem areas that many had previously felt the management was unwilling to challenge.  TMK found that their people, while still fearful in some areas, embraced the change and were hopeful about what was possible.  That early acceptance of what TMK wanted to accomplish was key to some early successes. The board and the executive were also extremely supportive.

The first step was to better understand and validate the root causes of these issues.   For this initial work, the company undertook an in-depth cultural review with the assistance of organisational psychologists, Blacklight Advisory.  The review found existing positives to build on, including a supportive environment and strong bonds within teams.  Further, it was clear that staff truly cared about the company and were proud to be a part of TMK.  Conversely it revealed a fear of failure among employees and tensions between teams, which made staff afraid to try new things, work effectively across different teams and/or do things differently.  There was also perceived to be an avoidance of ‘difficult’ conversations or situations and “speaking up” when concerning behaviour or actions were experienced.  

With these in-depth findings to work with, the company established a Culture Working Group, including the Chair and the CEO, which worked to redefine the company values and put action plans in place for the short, medium and long term. A culture dashboard and a leadership development programme were built too.

Once the programme was ready to launch, a senior management forum was held to review the culture project and plans and explain the rationale behind the work that was being undertaken. An all-staff town hall followed, led by executive sponsors for each value.

Communications from the executive team were strengthened and increased to set the tone from the top, and executive-led ‘sounding board’ and “Food For Thought” discussion sessions were established to ensure two-way feedback in an open environment. Employee networks were also established to represent different strands of inclusion.

The LOVE Awards (Living Our Values Every day) recognition programme was launched in January 2020 and that was followed by a new leadership development programme. A new approach to performance management, launching in September 2021, was reviewed by staff members in a ‘Hackathon’, and the annual incentive plan is under review for launch September 2021. Feedback training is currently being rolled out to all employees to enable the safe, open, inclusive and empowering ‘speak up’ culture TMK are building too.

The programme is discussed and results updated monthly at the Executive Committee and quarterly to the Board.

As a result of the programme, TMK had the ‘most improved’ scores out of all Tokio Marine Group companies in a global people survey in November 2020, with very positive scores for a range of key areas.

"It has taken about two years, but culture remains at the heart of our strategy and we have no plans to change that in the near future. We will continue reinforcing the values through communications and via the launch of our new performance management plan. Our aim is always to challenge non-aligned behaviours and to celebrate success."