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Economical Insurance

How do you consistently grow a culture of recognition across multiple locations?

In February 2013, Economical Insurance was honoured once again by Training magazine for global excellence in workforce learning and development, a designation that highlights the organisation’s continued commitment to investing in its people. Economical clearly sees success, now and in the future, through its ability to attract and retain top talent—in which recognition plays a key role.

Founded in 1871, Economical has always been a leader in the property and casualty insurance industry. Its decision in 2010 to demutualise coincided with organisation-wide rebranding efforts. Wanting to positively address the changes, the company’s new leadership looked to leverage recognition as a key driver of engagement.

The challenge: recognition existed, but varied by department and location. Economical needed a consistent solution to make the practice of recognising employees easier for leaders, while providing tracking and reporting capabilities and insights into how to implement it from coast to coast.


Several years ago, survey results from an Aon Hewitt Best Employers Engagement Survey revealed recognition was indeed an area where the organisation could make improvements. Tools and processes were in place across all office locations—but not in a systematic way or aligned to an overall vision. The introduction of ‘Employee Appreciation Week’ and other initiatives showed slight improvements, yet employee appreciation, especially around every day and peer-to-peer recognition, was missing. Leaders needed to truly understand why making time for recognition was important and how to do it effectively. Metrics were needed to better comprehend how the budgets were being spent and if the programmes had the intended impact.

11,000 eThanks have been sent and more than 400 awards given since December 2011.


In the exploration for a robust appreciation tool, Economical reached out to several providers. Not wanting to deploy an off-the-shelf programme but rather build a customised solution specific to Economical, O.C. Tanner was selected for its technology and consultative expertise and approach. Together, teams on both sides designed, implemented and launched Economical’s new recognition platform. This launch was supported by extensive leadership training and internal communication.


  • Since the programme’s inception at the end of 2011, there have been more than 11,000 eThanks and more than 400 awards given. People are talking about recognition, using the tools and are engaged in the process.


  • The latest engagement survey indicates the recognition driver improved by seven percentage points and engagement overall increased by three percentage points. Both scores are significant as the company has embarked on one of the most important initiatives in its history to streamline, simplify and automate operations to increase productivity, reduce costs and improve service to brokers and customers. Economical is also improving its public company readiness while it waits for the federal Department of Finance to deliver the demutualisation regulations.



  • Leveraging eLearning training expertise helped educate 400 leaders at launch and is now providing ongoing updates and training for new employees.
  • Quarterly metrics help keep recognition top-of-mind for leaders.
  • Publishing utilisation statistics by business units encouraged further sustainment by extending the reach of the new recognition programme. Using the metrics to identify peaks and valleys, who’s delivering and who’s not, is also deepening the understanding of trends in behaviour.
  • From a talent management perspective, the tool provides insight into correlations between individuals who exceed expectations and those identified as top performers.

“We’re in the midst of our journey. But we now know when and where recognition is occurring and how that investment is contributing to our employees’ feelings of success.” —Lianne Buchanan, Manager, Employee Rewards

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