Creating a one-year vision — which breaks down into weekly habits/goals.

The pandemic pause brought us to a moment of collective reckoning about what it means to live well and to work well. As a result, employees are sending employers an urgent signal that they are no longer willing to choose one — life or work — at the cost of the other. Working from home brought life literally into our work. And as the world now goes hybrid, employees are drawing firmer boundaries about how much of their work comes into their life. Where does this leave employers? And which perspectives and programs contribute most to progress? In our newest interview series, Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness, we are talking to successful executives, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and thought leaders across all industries to share ideas about how to shift company cultures in light of this new expectation. We’re discovering strategies and steps employers and employees can take together to live well and to work well.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Collette Champagne.

Collette (Coco) Champagne serves as Chief Operating Officer of Hagerty. Coco collaborates with the senior executive team to align all aspects of Hagerty’s strategy, operations and the company’s core values. She has managerial oversight for member sales and service, strategy planning, human resources function, compensation practice, employee engagement, as well as enterprise facilities and classic vehicle fleet. She is responsible Hagerty’s leading our growth culture.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you better. Tell us about a formative experience that prompted you to change your relationship with work and how work shows up in your life.

The pivotal moment for me was when I left a bank position (I was a consumer lender) in 1999 to join Hagerty, which wasn’t a big company at the time. I think we had about 80 people. My job was to manage the call center, which is really the front lines for an insurance company — it’s a critical operation with the most direct exposure to customers. As we grew, I started hiring and onboarding new incoming call center team members. It wasn’t long before I was leading the human resources team. That opened a new chapter of really understanding culture and business operations. I was lucky because from the beginning our owners wanted this to be a “culture first” organization, so my job became creating and implementing many of our philosophies around employee growth, learning and development, all of which have been crucial in attracting and retaining talent. Today, Hagerty grows about 20% a year and has more than 1,800 employees.

Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric that employers will use to analyze and to assess their employees’ mental, physical and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?

At Hagerty, we broaden the typical definition of wellness. We believe that the components of wellness are far beyond the physical. Our holistic combination of well-being efforts and resources strive to improve our team members’ quality of life, cultivate a growth mindset, impart lifelong knowledge and skills and promote a sense of belonging.

Our company grows when our team members grow, personally and professionally. Therefore, we have a wide range of resources dedicated to well-being and growth, including a dedicated team of wellness experts, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging initiatives and education, community outreach, learning and development, rich benefit offerings and clear career paths. All of these components are extremely important in our definition of our culture.

Because our definition of culture is broad, we have a variety of ways we measure the success of our efforts. However, what is paramount, is our ability to listen to our team members through surveys, engagement scores and listening sessions. These key tools let us know if we are meeting our intended outcomes and help me to drive our focus and priorities each year.

We need an engaged and enthusiastic workforce to fulfill our purpose, so we are constantly preparing our workforce for growth. We try to get team members thinking bigger. Development of our people consumes the largest amount of my time. There’s a lot of time spent on embracing a growth mindset and changing the context of how someone is thinking about a problem. We believe that with a growth mindset the opportunities to learn and grow are endless. The ability to develop your best self is incorporated into all we do at Hagerty and is also part of our broader wellness strategy. All of our executives get one-on-one coaching. For all employees, we launched a corporate development program in 2004, Hagerty University. The experiences and training offered through Hagerty U are customized to Hagerty’s culture and business strategy and empower team members to maximize their personal and professional aspirations.

There are over 50 different courses, including topics such as business and strategy, customer service, automotive knowledge and experiences, personal growth and leadership. Courses are offered in a variety of different modalities and methods that have been adapted to meet the needs and learning preferences of remote teams. Our learning management platform provides access to all our formal learning opportunities. It’s a great benefit. The curated curriculum also defines the skills and knowledge that are important for career progression and supports team members’ ability to be ready when new roles or opportunities become available. Also, many of the courses are instructed by our internal SMEs so it allows for peer-to-peer coaching and mentorship.

Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?

As I mentioned before, we truly do believe that the success of the company is dependent on the wellness of the people who work for us. We’re truly honored that people choose to spend some or all of their career with us. We don’t take that for granted. We want people to feel valued and grow here. In the end, it’s our values that define us. We took a lot of time to develop five values that define and guide us: Act as One Team Hagerty, improve every day, take care of each other, work with purpose and energy, and enjoy the ride. If people don’t enjoy what they’re doing and don’t feel part of the overall mission, it’s difficult to get the best out of them. Most importantly, building a habit of improving every day is the most important part of a growth mindset.

Even though most leaders have good intentions when it comes to employee wellness, programs that require funding are beholden to business cases like any other initiative. The World Health Organization estimates for every $1 invested into treatment for common mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. That sounds like a great ROI. And, yet many employers struggle to fund wellness programs that seem to come “at the cost of the business.” What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?

Our wellness journey is not new. We recognized early on that for our teams to perform their best, we needed to invest in them personally. So, at Hagerty’s inception, we created a culture of well-being and promised our people, through our core values, that we will take care of them and prioritize their daily wellness focus and improvement.

Since we had this culture already established, our teams were able to display incredible resilience and could count on Hagerty to care for them during the pandemic. We also believe the focus on wellness offerings for our working families make a big impact. We have innovative programs to assist new parents as they return to work after a birth or adoption of a child. Additionally, we know that many team members have responsibilities as caregivers for elder parents. The pandemic allowed us to focus on how to best support families.

My advice to other businesses weighing the intention vs. the impact of investing in your team member’s well-being is to dive in. We think there is a bottom-line benefit to helping employees grow and stay strong.

Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank well-being as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?

That’s a big part of our hiring. We educate each and every candidate about our wellness and other benefit offerings. We think about them and their family. Our unique culture, investment in people and purpose-driven organization allows us to attract and retain talent. And our history over the past several years speaks volumes. We hired 330 people in 2019; our employee retention was at 83.7%. In 2020, we hired 374 people; our employee retention rose to 89.5%. In 2021 we hired 552, and our retention rate was 83%. Halfway through 2022, we had hired 336 new team members with a retention rate of 91%.

We’ve all heard of the four-day work week, unlimited PTO, mental health days, and on demand mental health services. What innovative new programs and pilots are you launching to address employee wellness? And what are you discovering? We would benefit from an example in each of these areas.

With the continuation of coronavirus, social unrest and overall turmoil of the world, Hagerty prioritized mental health this year. Our conversations, training and expanded benefits were focused to overcome any stigma, bias or hesitance in talking about and advocating for personal and team mental health. We also recognized that working from home comes with many benefits allowing our team members to thrive, but can also create some unhealthy routines, lack of boundaries and isolation, which can lead to heightened anxiety, depression, and distress.

Hagerty implemented many initiatives and tools for employees to utilize, including:

  • Virtual Behavioral Health Visits through our medical plan where team members and their dependents can use the virtual health network of counselors to receive free, unlimited mental health sessions.
  • A new Caregiver Time off policy where team members receive an additional 40 hours of paid time off for caregiving responsibilities. Responsibilities could range from taking care of a sick child, taking a parent, grandparent, friend to a doctor’s appointment, taking a mental health day and more.
  • Increased Employee Assistance Program (EAP) opportunities to cover five free counseling sessions per issue for team members and anyone in their household. Issues can range from relationship struggles, financial advising, legal support, managing team members, parenting, grief and loss, stress and more. The EAP also includes a self-guided mental health series that facilitates behavior change, access to resources and virtual or in-person counseling.
  • A company-wide Mental Health Awareness month campaign. The campaign focused on four critical aspects of mental well-being (self-awareness, emotional intelligence, anxiety management and social connection) with articles, webinars hosted by local guests from mental health resource agencies, podcasts, habit trackers and pre-recorded videos to learn and connect.
  • A certified Health and Wellness coach who offers free coaching to team members and their families around all aspects of their well-being.
  • LinkedIn Learning resources to advertise available sessions including “Supporting your Mental Health While Working from Home” and “How to Support Your Employees’ Well-being.”
  • Mid-level manager training specifically for our call center managers, on recognizing, asking and suggesting resources around team member’s mental health.
  • Expanded diversity, inclusion and belonging efforts and support through the observation of cultural awareness months and initiation of Employee Resource Groups, which contribute to an overall sense of belonging that is a significant contributor to mental well-being.
  • Curated a series of live and recorded 15-minute lessons that leaders and managers can utilize around all aspects of well-being. Classes include “Recognizing Stress,” “Anyone can Meditate,” “Understanding Motivation,” and more.
  • A Hagerty Wellness app for various well-being resources that include access to pre-recorded meditation sessions and habit builders around stress and anxiety.
  • Wellness experts who teach 2-hour focused classes as part of our overall Hagerty University on “Stress Management” and “Creating Your Wellness Vision” where team members develop plans to focus on their personal stress and well-being.

How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?

We are reinforcing the importance of intentionally checking in on your team members. In the past, you would have the opportunity to run into someone in the office where conversations regarding health, family and overall wellness were more organic. In a remote environment these types of check-ins need to be built into our leadership practices and daily habits.

We also coach leaders to be more aware of how team members are showing up in virtual meetings and if there are changes in performance or other behaviors that seem out of character, reach out and check in. And we offer wellness benefit webinars for managers to ensure leaders understand the benefits available to team members and how to connect them to those resources. It really requires our leadership team to be present and practice empathy.

We also designed a new workshop for teams that focuses on the new capabilities and best practices needed to succeed as a remote team. The areas of focus include personal connections, accountability, communication, and well-being. Together teams discuss best practices that can be adopted to help mitigate stress, burnout, caregiver fatigue and other wellness challenges that have emerged over the last several years.

As I mentioned earlier, the emphasis has been empathy. We have incorporated new learning opportunities to help our leaders develop a more empathetic approach to their team leadership and to listen and recognize what team members need to feel fully engaged. Programs such as emotional intelligence have been helpful in increasing awareness and leader skill in these abilities.

Ideas take time to implement. What is one small step every individual, team or organization can take to get started on these ideas — to get well?

  • Check in with your team members. Send articles or podcast that promote well-being. Encourage best practices like daily breaks away from screen, time to stretch, eat or exercise.
  • Fitness challenges are a low threat way to engage team members — this engagement most times leads to further engagement into more of our wellness programming.
  • Creating a one-year vision — which breaks down into weekly habits/goals.
  • Dedicated health and wellness coaches.
  • Setting time aside for connection. As human beings, we need each other.

What are your “Top Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”

  • Connection between well-being and retention, engagement, innovation and overall company performance.
  • People are thinking about what is most important in their lives. If you are not a company that recognizes the value of employee well-being and creates programs or policies that promote, it will be difficult to attract and retain the best talent. This is validated in the research on what’s driving trends like the great resignation or most recently, quiet quitting.
  • Wellness also encompasses the feeling of connection and belonging with those you work with. Hagerty has been proactive in creating DI&B strategy that makes all people feel welcome and connected.
  • Work / life balance.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?

I am optimistic that individual well-being is top of mind across the world. It is a requirement for progressive companies that care and invest in employee well-being. Still, workplace wellness has been transforming over the years and every employee defines it differently. Consequently, understanding each employee’s individual wellness needs and providing programs and resources to support all aspects of wellness, regardless of where we live and work, is paramount in business success.

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Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.