Document Services

A special type of commitment

In 2018, Grinnell Mutual’s Document Services department made 8.1 million copies, handled 1.2 million pieces of mail, and purchased over 20.1 million sheets of paper. They also made sure agents and mutuals were kept in the know about coverage, process, and regulation updates by posting 232 Info-Grams (the company’s main communication tool for important information) on their secure sites.

The team that does all that work is the backbone of Grinnell Mutual’s communications network. Without them, much of the company’s day-to-day business would grind to a halt. Printing and mailing, relaying messages, helping with facilities, keeping records — they truly do it all.

CENTURIES OF SERVICE

The department is staffed by some of Grinnell Mutual’s most senior employees, with a total of 491 years of experience among them. They’ve seen technology change, people come and go, and watched the company grow into what it is today.

Marla Francis and Linda Tish alone have a combined 89 years of experience between them. Tish, the longest-tenured employee at Grinnell Mutual, has worked for the company for 46 years. So there is no end to their memories. (“Many of which we can’t tell you,” Francis joked.) 

Today, Francis’ and Tish’s official title is Reprographics Services Operators, but that has changed multiple times. And like their titles, their jobs have evolved over the years. 

Tish started at the company in 1973 as part of a work-study program while still at Grinnell High School. “I had my choice between printing and keypunch,” she said. And as it turned out, she made the right decision. “Printing sounded like the better option of the two, and there is no keypunch anymore!”

Francis started three years after Tish after graduating from Grinnell High School in 1976. At the time, there were two main companies in the area to work for: Grinnell Mutual and General Telephone Company, which no longer operates.

SOME WORK, SOME PLAY

For Material Distribution Assistants Phyllis Morris and Angie Gritsch, their path to Grinnell Mutual was paved through softball.

Morris, who has been here since 1981 (38 years if you’re counting), says she was hired out of high school because Grinnell Mutual’s women’s team needed a catcher. Three years later, Gritsch was hired after high school for a similar reason: This time, he team needed a pitcher.

“It was quite serious, we had real coaches and everything,” Morris said. She played for two years on the team. Gritsch played on the team until it disbanded in the early 1990s.

Not quite as serious is the team’s fun, sometimes even mischievous, spirit. “When I think of some of my favorite times here, I think of some of the jokes we’ve played on each other here,” Gritsch said. “We get our work done, but we also have fun.” She ought to know. Gritsch is considered the department’s grande dame of practical jokes.

Morris says that it’s this culture that has led her to encourage her whole family to work here. Her husband, Terry Morris, was a building and ground technician for 20 years. Her son Justin was a custodian for three years before heading to Grinnell College. And her daughter Stephanie Morris, who still works here, has been a commercial underwriter here for six years.

CHANGING TIMES, CHANGING TECHNOLOGY

In the early ’70s, the department had printing presses, a darkroom for photos, and a single copy machine for the whole company. “On that machine, we would have to keep track of every time we pushed the button and which department it was charged to,” Tish said.

And instead of mailing coming through twice a day, the department would get new letters every hour, on the hour.

Document Services Director Pam Hinshaw said that even when she started in 1984 as a compositor, nothing was computerized. “Even our own policies and forms had to be printed out individually on normal offset presses with ink and chemicals.”

Obviously, there have been lots of changes in the last 35 years, but, Hinshaw said, the last four years have seen some of the biggest. When Grinnell Mutual rebranded in 2016, Document Services suddenly had a lot more to do.

“We didn't use to do promotional pieces, because the company didn't have them,” she said. “Everything was very plain. And now, we get to print these gorgeous pieces, which just makes us so proud to be a part of.”

NEVER A DULL MOMENT

These days, Document Services employees’ tasks are many and varied.

Some, like Francis and Tish, spend their day binding, laminating, cutting, sizing, stapling, printing, copying, boxing, sorting, organizing, and mailing thousands of documents.

There are also imaging assistants, who digitalize important documents and store them in databases for easy access.

Morris and Gritsch help keep track of shipments and inventory, correspond with agents and mutuals, facilitate communication throughout the building, and help with printing and mailing the never-ending stream of documents.

Some of these documents stay in the building, circulating around campus. Others go to agents and mutuals, updating them on policy changes, new processes, and company mandates. 

But most of them go to the insureds — letters containing their billing and claims information and their Dec pages, which the department checks and verifies before sending out. In 2018, the department sent out an average of 4,832 pieces of mail every day.

Enter Jenny Ogan and her team. Ogan has 20 years at Grinnell Mutual under her belt (“Almost half my life!”) and has also worked in forms distribution and underwriting.

Ogan oversees the mail clerks — who do opening, sorting, metering, and actual mailing and internal distribution of those thousands of documents — and imaging assistants, who scan hard-copy documents (paper copies of many documents are required by law) and send them to work queues for various departments. “We pretty much touch everything at some point,” she said.

Over the years, technology has certainly changed the way she and her team work, but she says, “There’s still a lot of manual work — it’s just different.”

And Ogan can hold her own in the practical joke department since she learned from the best. “Angie (Gritsch) taught me everything I know,” she said.

Dave Wingert, executive vice president and chief operating officer, says that Document Services does a fantastic job handling the high volume of information they receive.

“The team is extremely customer-focused and always goes out of their way to deliver high quality outputs and ahead of deadlines,” he said. “They do their best to serve the information needs of our agents, mutual members, policyholders, and internal teammates."

Hinshaw said that most people aren’t aware how much the Document Services staff knows about insurance. “We have taken the classes. We have to know if each is form right. We have to understand the content of the forms to do our jobs right. There's so much knowledge of the company and our products needed to support the other departments.”

EVER ONWARD

Change is hard, but adaptability — whether it comes easily or is hard-earned — is what has helped the Document Services team thrive at Grinnell Mutual. 

But patience and enjoying your work also help, said Hinshaw. “I’ve always enjoyed my job tremendously. It's a very rewarding pursuit. Our department is lucky because we get to work closely with a lot of different people and departments. You get to feel like you’re a part of, and have an important role in, all facets of the company.”

For Francis and Tish, the variety is what makes their jobs interesting. “Every day is a different day. You never know what you’re going to do until you get to work,” Francis said.

And for Morris and Gritsch, it’s the relationships they’ve built that have made them never consider leaving for another job. "The friendships we’ve built here have been so important,” Morris said. “I doubt I could find anything like it anywhere else.”