Supporting our staff

How SSP is supporting its staff during COVID‑19

Business as usual… they said. That’s what we all want of course, for some it’s taken us a few days to get our head around the whole COVID-19 situation, especially with some staff getting used to working from home for the first time.

 The personal needs and wellbeing of our employees is our top priority as we deal with the rapidly evolving situation.

Peter Gregory, Director of Broking and Marketing

We wanted to share just some of the ways that SSP has helped make the transition of office working to home working, run a little smoother.

So, since the first outbreak was announced in China, SSP has been monitoring the situation. Our Crisis Management Team (CMT) was invoked straight away, with a daily call in place that has been running daily ever since. Initially, the CMT took steps to test the adequacy of our business continuity plans and IT systems for mass remote working. However one week before the UK and Indian governments’ decisions to enforce a lockdown situation, we commenced steps to move the whole organisation globally to remote working and to close our offices. We were able to achieve this fully in 72 hours across our 800 employees and six operating countries, mainly due to already having many of our IT systems on the cloud and extensive remote connectivity equipment and tools provisioned. We took this step early to safeguard our employees and ensure we were well prepared to support our clients at whatever point they made similar arrangements.

More recently the calls have discussed how we deal with major events being cancelled, such as the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA), 2020 Conference & Exhibition, and ways in which we can still engage and support our customers remotely.

To maintain our SSP values and ensure collaboration is key, an internal Yammer Page called ‘COVID-19 Working from Home Globally’ was created. As you can see with the photos that follow, the SSP staff have been engaging in conversations remotely with photos of their new home work set up, sharing their favourite music soundtracks, the views from their offices and tips/links for coping with the new work-life balance.

Peter Gregory, SSP’s Director of Broking and Marketing said: “I speak to my direct reports regularly and we discuss how we can ensure their daily routine can be as flexible as possible. Some having to work around partners meetings/calls and having small children at home, can be a juggling act. So here at SSP, I and other managers are supporting employees impacted by the school and nursery closures. The personal needs and wellbeing of our employees is our top priority as we deal with the rapidly evolving situation.”

To create a bit of fun and ensure we continue to bring teams together to celebrate diversity, Saturday 21 March was the perfect opportunity being ‘World Down Syndrome Day’. An SSP father, Craig Taylor shared a blog about the incredible journey he and his family have been on with his son Alex. Staff got involved in the competition for the opportunity to win one of 3 x £20 gift cards for their best sock combination. The internal staff Yammer page was flooded with the hashtag #lotsofsocks and here are some of the best photos selected of our staff (pets and children).

So, what have we found essential to keep us all sane and connected with colleagues?

Well each week our CEO, Stephen Lathrope and other members of the management team, provide an update to all staff, globally, about how SSP is dealing with the Covid-19 situation. The most recent call talked about how we have seen an uplift in the number of staff accessing our remote collaboration platforms, such as Yammer and Microsoft Teams, where we have seen a doubling in the amount of daily activity since we invoked home working. Remarkably, email traffic has actually stayed static during the same period.

We were already a very well-prepared business and we regularly rehearsed our business continuity plans and simulated major events

Jim Sadler, Chief Operating Officer

Having established full homeworking and a regime that is capable of enduring indefinitely, our CMT has now turned their attention to a number of business improvement initiatives where we can see opportunities to optimise the way we perform certain tasks that would previously have involved handling paper or infrequent site attendance, things like processing expenses, creating invoices or maintaining IT equipment. Most of these we are well on the way to virtualising. We are confident that we will come out of this experience a better and fitter business. The CMT has now moved to calls every other day and in a week’s time we expect the CMT’s objective of “fully and sustainably establishing the day-to-day operations of SSP in a homeworking mode on an indefinite basis and at a BAU level of performance” to be achieved and at that point the CMT will step down.

Jim Sadler, SSP’s Chief Operating Officer summed this up perfectly when saying: “We were already a very well-prepared business and we regularly rehearsed our business continuity plans and simulated major events with our CMT. We had also invested heavily over the last two years in moving substantial amounts of our IT systems to the cloud, accessible through any device with a simple internet connection. However, even with that, over the last two weeks we’ve seen some amazing feats and achievements from our workforce who have really excelled in the way they have embraced, individually and in teams, such a major change to working arrangements. Not satisfied with merely coping with remote working, many teams have already modernised and improved the way they do things. We’ve also significantly expanded internet and VPN bandwidth, moved more services to the cloud, consolidated our financial systems and development environments and shipped around 170 high-quality USB headsets to staff in four countries to improve the effectiveness of joining remote meetings. A number of employees from the managed services team in India even took it upon themselves to camp out at the office over seven days, to provide 24/7 service to our customers – how impressive is that! That goes beyond the normal call of duty. All of these extraordinary feats have been achieved by people taking the initiative and with the best of spirit. I am truly proud and humbled at how the people of SSP have come together as one.”   

Our internal comms team has also added a daily workout into everyone’s diaries. With exercise stretches to help keep us all active and mobile! We have lots more ideas on how we can keep our staff supported, including meditation webinars, call conference bingo and happy hour.

Jemma McKenzie, SSP’s HR Director said: “Day three of my first full week of working from home. I thought I would struggle, as I get my energy from people, but my virtual office has allowed me to be with people all day every day. I also have the pleasure of seeing these faces first thing every morning to discuss how SSP is managing with COVID-19 and hearing about the great work our teams are doing. It gives me great pleasure to see the SSP values in action. Collaboration, ownership, innovation and oh wow tons of energy! What can I see we really have come together as one SSP!”