Our time to shine

Our time to shine | The Grinnell Mutual Way

Jeff Menary2020: The best of times, the worst of times.

Last year will be a year we will remember forever. Grinnell Mutual faced many obstacles — some we were prepared for and some that we hadn’t even dreamed of.

The coronavirus pandemic

First, a global COVID-19 pandemic. Life as we knew it would be forever changed. Then, on Aug. 10, we and many of our mutual members faced the Midwest derecho, a catastrophic event with wind speeds and damages similar to a hurricane.

It certainly could be considered the worst of times. While we had prepared for a pandemic-driven business interruption event, we were unprepared for the magnitude of this one.

Two things became very clear. We needed to protect our employees. We needed to maintain our customer service levels.

The derecho

As summer arrived and COVID-19 cases surged, we were also moving into a modest drought in the Midwest. Then the derecho passed through central Iowa and east central Illinois like a runaway freight train. We and many of our mutual members faced a record number of claims and losses while also dealing with damages to offices and/or power and internet outages. This confluence of events, one on top of the other, created issues that no one could have anticipated or prepared for.

Woven into the fabric of 2020 was the stress that these massive disruptors caused for our employees. They had to deal with health issues, uncertainty, and, for many, the same extensive derecho property losses that our policyholders suffered. Yes, this was truly the worst of times.

The best of times

But, this was also the best of times.

When things get difficult some will give up; others will tackle the issues straight on. Your company and your company’s employees took the second option. In the four weeks leading up to March 16, our staff created and executed the process to move the most staff to working from home — a monumental task executed nearly flawlessly. This met our first goal of keeping our staff safe.

But what about our goal of maintaining our high service-level standards? Within two weeks our service levels were back to pre-pandemic status, and, as time went on, our service levels actually improved!

I will never forget visiting with one of our staff members who had come to the office to work after the derecho because she had no electrical power or internet services at home. She was working late, and then had to return to home with no power or air-conditioning and deal with her own property losses. But she thanked me for allowing her to return to the office so she could continue to serve our customers. It’s people like this that made 2020 also the best of times.

Through it all, Grinnell Mutual staff found new ways to get things done, and at the end of the year, we posted all-time high employee engagement scores and were named one of 39 Gallup Exceptional Workplaces in the world.

Many employees reported they had spent more time with their family, reconsidered what is really important in life, and focused on helping others. They demonstrated in their daily lives exactly what our mutual industry is all about — people helping people.

The next normal

Yes 2020 was also the best of times. Things will never return to what was once “normal.” Our customers have higher expectations for what our industry should provide — like improved digital access and pricing based upon personalized use and exposures. And they will expect a premium payback or dividend when their exposures decline.

We’ll need to meet these changing expectations head-on to remain relevant. The question for our future is, how will we do that?

This is a challenge we’ve faced before — that’s how the mutual industry was founded 150 years ago.

I know we can trust in tomorrow and rise to that challenge again. Just like we turned the challenge of the worst of times into the successes of the best of times in 2020.

It was truly our time to shine.

Read more about our coronavirus response Read more about the derecho More posts from Jeff