How to Market Your EX to Top Talent

with Francesca Luthi, EVP and Chief Administrative Officer at Assurant

Listen now on

Francesca Luthi

Episode 31

”I think about our employees as our single most important customer. I apply the same basic marketing principles around attracting a customer and sharing that value proposition. And really explaining what does the company do, what does it stand for?”

Francesca Luthi is Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at Assurant, a global business services company that supports, protects, and connects major consumer purchases. It’s a Fortune 500 company that spans 21 countries, and partners with leading brands to create an enhanced customer experience. At Assurant, Francesca oversees business functions to help execute the company’s overall strategy. This includes global human resources, brand and marketing, communications, corporate social responsibility, and more. She focuses on building up the company’s global brand and reputation among customers, employees and shareholders. And in this episode, she’ll share how to effectively manage employee feedback, deliver a consumer-grade digital employee experience, and market your EX to top talent.

”Very similar to the principles that apply to customer experience, you want human-centered design. And in this case, it’s employee-centered. It starts with the employee and what do they need to achieve? And really thinking about that journey. How can we eliminate friction and continue to make it a generally positive, ideally delightful experience along the way?”

Listen in to hear

  • How to apply marketing principles to your hiring strategy
  • Advice on enabling the business through HR processes
  • Tips on offering a consumer-grade digital experience

”Our employees make a decision to come to work at Assurant. It’s a lot about what they do and the role that they’re in, but also the connection to the company and vision, mission and values. So it requires us to not just assume a cookie cutter approach. But to be willing to change and adapt to our growing and diverse workforce.”


Francesca Luthi

Francesca Luthi

EVP & Chief Administrative Officer | Assurant

Francesca Luthi is Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer of Assurant and a member of the company’s Management Committee. In this role, she oversees several critical business functions that enable the execution of the company’s overall strategy, including global human resources, real estate, brand and marketing, communications, corporate social responsibility, investor relations and global sourcing. Since assuming this expanded role in July 2020, she has focused on enhancing the company’s global brand and reputation among customers, employees and shareholders by building strategic capabilities to attract and engage the best talent, foster a more diverse and inclusive culture and drive long‐term profitable growth.

Episode Transcript

Narrator: Everyone wants to know that their company cares about them. It’s up to leadership to give employees the support they need to be happy, healthy, and to do great work. But not every employee needs or wants the same things. You can’t just adopt a cookie cutter approach. That’s what we’re talking about today with Francesca Luthi. She works to make sure that employees have the chance to share their feedback, so Assurant can provide the best employee experience possible.

Francesca Luthi: Our employees make a decision to come to work at Assurant. It’s a lot about what they do and the role that they’re in, but also the connection to the company and where we’re going in terms of the vision. But also the mission and our values. So it also requires us not to assume not just a cookie cutter approach, but also, you know, things will need to change and adapt to that, um, to that growing and, and diverse workforce.

Narrator: Francesca is the Executive VP and Chief Administrative Officer of Assurant, a global business services company that supports, protects, and connects major consumer purchases. It’s a Fortune 500 company that spans 21 countries, and partners with leading brands to create an enhanced customer experience. At Assurant, Francesca oversees business functions to help execute the company’s overall strategy. This includes global human resources, brand and marketing, communications, corporate social responsibility, and more. She focuses on building up the company’s global brand and reputation among customers, employees and shareholders. And today, she’ll share how to make company values known to attract employees, and how to help employees be their best by collecting their feedback and listening to their needs with humility. On Cruising Altitude, we talk about employee experience lessons from leaders at companies with over 30k employees. A lot like reaching Cruising Altitude at 30k feet, things look a little different when you’re managing 30,000 people. On this podcast, we bring you insights from the leaders who inhabit that rarefied air. Today’s episode features an interview with Francesca Luthi. But first, let’s hear a word from our sponsor.

Francesca Luthi: So I have oversight for a number of our support functions, including communications and marketing, human resources, sourcing, and facilities as well as investor relations, sustainability, and DEI. So it’s a pretty broad mandate. But the role was specifically created in 2020 really to think about how we best support our most important stakeholders. And as you can appreciate, we were in the midst of COVID, and really the importance around supporting, protecting our employees so that they can in turn deliver for our clients and customers. And over time, obviously drive value for our shareholders as we are a publicly traded company.

Narrator: Assurant operates in a broad financial services space. They also work specifically in insurance and business services. And their goal is to serve clients and their customers. 

Francesca Luthi: And the way to think about it is we provide, again, a series of services really that look to protect, connect, and support many of the consumer purchases, whether it’s protecting your phone, and everything obviously that helps, uh, run your day-to-day life, to your cars, through extended service contracts as well as your, your home, uh, whether it’s through renter’s insurance or also just insurance on, uh, on the actual property. And in terms of just the personas, because of just the breadth of the businesses that we operate in, we, we have a really diverse employee base.

Narrator: Assurant operates across 21 countries. As the employee and company base grows, Francesca works to scale the employee experience. To do that, her team listens to and works to take care of all of those employees.

Francesca Luthi: And as our strategy has evolved over the last, uh, 10 or so years, we’ve also expanded pretty significantly, just the number of frontline employees that we have, with almost 10,000 of our employees being in a frontline role. And we define that as anyone who’s in customer care, claims support, even repair and logistics, again, on those phones, as well as other, uh, individual contributors. And the balance are, more kind of managerial positions, people that work in our functional areas, like finance, risk, or even on the business side in terms of business development or sales. So again, pretty broad. And that obviously has a direct implication on the work that I and my team do in terms of looking to best address their needs and expectations.

Narrator: Let’s take a minute to zoom out and look at how Francesca works with so many people to create a positive employee experience in The Flight Plan.

Francesca Luthi: I think it really does start with recognizing that employee needs are not all the same. And certainly we need to be very attuned to those needs, but also how expectations have evolved. And I think about that in the context of the last several years, expectations of an employer have radically evolved, uh, in terms of, really feeling, wanting to feel more of a connection. And I think about this, you know, every day, in the sense that I think our employees make a decision to come to work at Assurant. It’s a lot about what they do and the role that they’re in, but also the connection to the company and where we’re going in terms of the vision. But also the mission and our values. And so with that, alright, we have to think about it clearly, right? How do we make sure that we do enable ’em to be effective in their roles? For sure, in terms of training, but also just, as an employer, um, really focused on health and wellbeing. Also, what are the benefits that we offer? Is it attuned to our very diverse workforce? And make changes along the way. So it also requires us not to assume not just a cookie cutter approach, but also, you know, things will need to change and adapt to that growing and diverse workforce. So I’d say those are probably, you know, some of the challenges inevitably, um, is to be really attuned, continue to stay attuned to evolving trends and what matters.But at the end of the day, right, it’s, it’s a good challenge, I guess, to have.

Narrator: Assurant is a brand that stands behind other brands. But they also need to spread brand awareness to appeal to prospective clients. Here’s how Assurant does that to create a First Class experience.

Francesca Luthi: We are a B2, B2C company. So we are the brand behind, um, many of the world’s most valuable global brands. Um, many of them are household names, as I said before in terms of think about, you know, mobile carrier, cable operators, car manufacturers, but also distributors in those channels as well as some of the leading banks in the world. In fact, we talk about the fact that, um, we support 15 of the top 50 most valuable global brands. We track insurance for more than 50% of all US mortgages. And it really goes back to, you know, we make obviously a promise on their behalf to support their customers at a level, at or above what they’ve promised. And so it certainly puts us on the forefront, in terms of delivery. It’s very core to who we are. We talk a lot about our uh, service ethos and, and the fact that, the experience is so important. Making sure that we deliver on behalf of them. And really, when I think about ‘how does that play into our recruitment strategies?’ I mean we do speak about our business model, but you know, we are the brand behind the brand. And I think that goes back to also our humility, our dedication around service. You know, we recruit both on referrals, but also in terms of just, getting our message out and really showing, again, those examples of how we’ve driven value for them. And of course, increasingly more so as our workforce has become more distributed and also diverse, you know, we do also rely on employee feedback through, you know, many of the, you know, different channels and employer rating boards. And it does become, again, a broader referral network for all of us.

Narrator: A big goal for Francesca is helping Assurant become a leader in business services. To do that, she’s acting as a strategic partner to the business. 

Francesca Luthi: We are a partner, but in some ways I think we are the business and I, and we often talk about that. As a leadership team, how essential it is to really have that kind of wiring and that alignment, uh, to, to the business. We really do think about, how do we best support the business to grow and enable success every day? And it’s everything from, you know, sharing those compelling stories. You know, helping obviously with those sales pitches, but also execution of those programs once we engage with a new partner. And making sure that the business has the right talent to execute.So we play an integral part along the way, right, from prospecting to the broader sales process, through execution. And ultimately, our business is to provide those services, those experiences. So our talent is really critical to the enablement of it. And that’s important to me. That’s certainly my wiring, my background, I don’t think about, you know, our team managing processes or HR processes. I think about us inherently here to help support the business grow and obviously as we do that, provide also opportunities for our people.

Narrator: Francesca certainly uses her marketing expertise to attract potential customers. But she also believes that satisfied employees are a key component to better business outcomes.

Francesca Luthi: It’s so critically important now more than ever, but for sure, it does play a lot into our broader philosophy, but maybe to start in terms of just marketing and I, I really do approach it, thinking about our employees as our single most important customer. Because there are the key to delivering, right? For our clients, for our customers each and every day regardless of role. I think about again, those basic marketing principles around, well, you’ve got to attract a customer and how do you think about, you know, sharing that value proposition. And really explaining what does the company do, what does it stand for? Because again, that’s become increasingly more important and appropriately so, more important. Then I think about, how are we attuned to their needs? Like our customers, we need to design products that kind of fit the bill. So through listening programs that we have internally, we’re constantly getting feedback around, you know, the programs and offerings that we support. Continuing to fine tune those really to meet those needs. And ideally, we build lifetime value. And I know that it’s a very hot and competitive market, but at the end of the day, my job and my team’s job is really to think about how do we grow, nurture, engage our people and help them ultimately evolve, grow their careers here at Assurant. over time, because of course that’s a winning proposition for us. To, and again, continue to retain our talent and, and mobilize that talent in different ways. So lots of basic principles that I would say are very, very similar to that customer journey, um, that you see on the marketing side that we try to apply and think about, even within HR, because it is our single biggest asset. And as I said before, really the linchpin too and the key to delivering for our customers.

Narrator: Younger candidates often want to align their values with those of their prospective employer. Francesca says that it’s crucial to pinpoint what’s important to employees of all ages. And when it comes to representing values, she relies on authenticity.

Francesca Luthi: Back to the point around authenticity. It is critical. It was true before, but I do think that COVID in the last few years, really put that at the forefront for companies, uh, and they’re really spotlighting their reputations in the eyes of employees.There’s a desire to know, uh, and understand, what does the company do. The values they represent. The culture they’re looking to champion. And if there’s an alignment, and I do believe, again, authenticity is critical because at the end of the day, it really ensures that employees and employers are making the best hiring decision. And so we spend a lot of time talking about what it means to work at Assurant and to be part of Assurant. Either through direct, you know, testimonials, case studies, examples. because again, you get a flavor and a direct feel for what is it like to, you know, work again in our environment. And also we tend to be pretty candid around, you know, where we are in our journey on multiple fronts. Certainly, we’ve talked a lot about our ambitions relevant to diversity, equity, inclusion, uh, where we wanna be relevant to representation, what we’re doing to strengthen that and create even a stronger and more inclusive environment. And it’s important obviously to have that balance. You know, sometimes again, I’ll see companies where they focus on everything that, you know, may be positive and not always acknowledge that there’s always room for improvement. And I think again, that’s important because it really does speak to how authentic you are, the recognition that, you know, everybody’s on a journey here and, again, making sure that it’s a good fit across the board.

Narrator: Francesca says that authenticity and transparency attracts people to a company. And today, it’s easier than ever for prospective employees to get a sense of those values.

Francesca Luthi: There have been more and more channels available too, right? For the same reason that back to my, you know, marketing and customer analogy. You know, If you want to go see a restaurant, you’ll check on Yelp and you’ll see other reviews. I mean, for the same reason today, right? You can go on Glassdoor. Indeed. Word of mouth. I mean, look at social and look at the footprint. You have other data sets, and perspectives that can, you know, ultimately really shed the light on, is a company being transparent? Are they being authentic in how they position themselves? So it’s been a great opener right, of, of that dialogue and, and also creates a much more level playing field because, you know, there’s a lot of information there you can find out about a prospective employer that, again, may help you make a better decision for yourself too.

Narrator: There’s plenty of information about Assurant on the internet. But how does Francesca make sure the company lives up to the hype?

Francesca Luthi: As people go through the interview process or, you know, we do solicit feedback and also encourage them right to post or share what their experience was like, because again, it, it provides another data point in terms of what can you expect when engaging with us. Similarly, um, in terms of just the content that we provide across, you know, multiple social channels,  on things that matter to us as a company. I’ll give you an example. I mean, we do a lot of, uh, we have a foundation. Um, Community engagement, um, has been, um, a big, big core of what we do and support multiple different causes. But also really get very involved in the local community. So quite a few stories as well as testimonials from families we’ve impacted again, because it is so Core to what we do and even our expectation of employees, that they will spend their time and contribute back to their communities. So you’ll see that featured pretty actively on all of our, you know, respective channels because again, it is an expectation and something that matters to us. We have various different, employees also who are thought partners and thought leaders in their respective areas. Again, this really speaks to the core of innovation and, and growth and where we’re trying to continue to focus. So just their perspectives and, and getting those voices out because again, that’s something that’s important to us is naturally inquisitive employees and people that want to be an environment that fosters new ideas and generation of those ideas. Using, again, those voices, perspective, employees can really, uh, have a point of view as to what it means and what it’s like to to work here.

Narrator: Francesca has a set of principles she follows when fostering the very best employee experience at Assurant.  

Francesca Luthi: Very similar to the, the principles I would say that apply to customer experience, in the sense that, you know, you want human-centered design, and here, in this case, it’s employee centered. It starts with the employee and what do they need to achieve? Really thinking about that journey. Uh, where is there friction? How can we eliminate that friction and continue to make it a generally positive, ideally delightful experience along the way? Looking at EX very similar to CX. We service more than 300 million customers every day, right. We obsess about how can we make that experience better. We’ve invested a lot in digital first experiences. In AI, machine learning and other technologies to continue again to improve that experience. Continue to think about, you know, meeting customers and employees where they’re at. Um, you know, more often than not, right, if I can transact quickly on my phone, it is faster for me, more efficient, uh,generally better than having to wait on queue or, um, you know, or dial in. So I think we’re, we’re applying again, those, those same principles.

Narrator: Creating a great employee experience means Francesca’s team is always gathering data and feedback, so they can provide the best service possible.

Francesca Luthi: I think also we leverage a lot of data and, um, I didn’t touch on this earlier, but just the importance around um, getting those continuous feedback loops and really embracing a mindset of continuous improvement. Sometimes you can come across an experience that’s, you know, quite broken or not as seamless as you would like. Where does it, you know, what’s the root cause? how can we, you know, How can we prioritize um, you know, some of the enhancements or steps we’re gonna take. Uh, you know, sometimes it’s small you know, small, um, corrections, I’ll say along the way, that can ultimately help you pinpoint. And also just making sure that you’re on the right track. So really, again, pulling a lot of data. , to inform where we, you know, what we do, and also create a baseline and hopefully over time, right, you’re able to see these improvements factor in. So I, I’d really touch on those three. The employee centered, really aligning with CX principles more broadly, and then looking and leveraging data.

Narrator: For inspiration to improve the digital experience, Francesca looks at what employees are experiencing outside of work, as consumers. 

Francesca Luthi: A big, um, I’ll say undertaking that we’ve initiated because it was clear for me, you know, as I stepped into this role and as a people organization and really embracing, this notion that we have to deliver consumer great experiences for our people. We embarked on a journey in our HR operations to evolve it to be a people experience center. And that’s what we call it. And, um, it really does start from the fact that, again, we wanna deliver consumer great experiences. Um, we were receiving, you know, 7,000 monthly queries, from across our employee base. Which is very distributed, increasingly more distributed. And we saw that it took a lot of time to deliver responses. Sometimes the feedback wasn’t as positive, so we really stepped back and said, we can actually tackle this and look at, not just people, but processes and technology, to evolve. We undertook a review, um, you know, in partnering. and, and looked for third party to help us really bring a platform that would enable us to deliver, again, better experiences. And everything from omnichannel functionality because traditionally, could send an email. Pick up the phone, but really did not have an opportunity for people to transact digitally. And that was critically important because At the end of the day, like our customers, um,we want our employees to be able to get answers to their HR questions 24 7, through different channels. And sure, it may be phone or email, but also, um, web, chatbot, SMS, uh, WhatsApp. I mean, really threading out multiple of different channels and be empowered and ultimately have a seamless experience in that regard.

Narrator: Now that Assurant has these channels in place, they can figure out what needs to change.

Francesca Luthi: We also recognize continuous improvement. We wanted to have, an ongoing flow of data and insights. You know, what are we seeing, what’s coming up? Um, is there an issue with a recently rolled out benefits plan where we’re getting a lot of questions on this one topic and wow, maybe we have to go back and make sure that, you know, the brochure is clear on this point. Or maybe our service partner isn’t um, really delivering on that promise and we have to go back and potentially renegotiate. So again, just having that platform and having the ability, obviously to put the power back in our employees in terms of how they wanna interact. And then conversely, having the data and insights to really understand what are some of the pain points, what are some of the things that are coming up continuously. And, and really hold our teams accountable to improve. So we’re on a journey certainly here, but I’m very excited about the fact that we are moving in this direction. Um, we finally landed on a provider. We’re rolling it out. We’re seeing definite improvements across all the metrics that we track and great insights to continuously improve, um, how we deliver,, not just in terms of as an HR organization, but also the, the programs and offerings that we have.

Narrator: Assurant makes it easier for employees to shape their own experience by providing self-service technology. 

Francesca Luthi: Technology can be a great enabler, obviously, of a much more positive experience because access to more real-time data is critically important, but also the platform does, uh, leverage AI machine learning to get smarter with every query. So over time, right, it will be hopefully faster. More on point. And although right, we’ve been really pleased with um, the, the resolution rate, I think it can only get better and also enable our people to really spend the time where they are best suited really on those complex cases. Um, and, And that’s important too, right? Because I always think about technology’s fantastic, but what does it enable right? For our teams. And how do they continue to build on their what, the work that they do, the satisfaction, the work they do, and also, right, provide opportunities to continue to uh, move and, and, and grow and develop as well. So those are some of the obvious other parts that I, I go, I’d be remiss if I didn’t raise, because I mean, technology’s great on one end, but also I always go back to what does it enable, you know, for our people.

Narrator: Francesca’s team is building in elements of surprise and delight into the user experience too. She especially wants it to be surprisingly easy and intuitive.

Francesca Luthi: It’s been an interesting journey, especially, I mean, having come from, uh, the marketing side of the house. And even I, I was responsible at one point at Assurant for customer experience, center of excellence. How much organizations tend to invest in their customer facing platforms.And so to be able to bring that same degree of expertise, and offerings right to our employees, was great and rewarding and for sure, right. The one thing I heard consistently, both in terms of the pilot and obviously now as we’re three weeks into uh, this deployment, is just the ease. And I have to say right in terms of sometimes HR processes maybe a little dense or complicated. Some of the legacy systems as you can appreciate, are not always as easy to navigate, or the policies may not be, they’re hr speak, not common speak. So it’s sometimes you feel like you’re, you know, going through a legal brief. And so we intentionally, through this process, wanted to bring again, you know, employee speak into this platform. So again, just, ease, understanding, speed. Uh, and we’ve gotten certainly feedback and comments to that in that regard. That it’s been refreshing. And, uh, And much more intuitive and ultimately things that you’d wanna hear. Now, we have also identified other areas where we’re continuing to think about how can we improve it. Um, But that’s the bar that we’re setting. 

Narrator: Assurant sets high bars for itself. Another one is providing a seamless digital-first experience.

Francesca Luthi: We’ve obviously been on this journey for a long time. Goes back again to that customer ethos and how can we meet customers where they’re at. We’ve had a digital first approach in the sense, you know, we’re possible. So the, the speed, um, and the ability obviously to efficiently support a customer at their time of need, but we also recognize that it’s not digital only. We really do acknowledge the fact that, uh, it is important right, to have a pretty robust omnichannel strategy because at the end of the day, um, we should not apply a cookie cutter approach to all our customers. Um, And also back to the point there may be um, escalations required that human intervention becomes all the more critical. And we’ve obviously been supporting our people in that regard, right? As, as certainly cases have become more challenging, what does that mean and how can you best support a customer through that journey? And again, Applying the same principles to what we’ve done within our people organization. Again, with Aaron being an example, of that as well, right? It is a digital first approach. But the reality is there’s always um, human intervention available and even in some cases, it’s appropriate.

Narrator: Francesca mentioned “high fives for ERIN.” ERIN is short for Employee Resource & Information Network, a new AI-powered virtual HR assistant designed to help employees get many of their HR questions answered in 10 seconds. How else does she know that she’s doing things right when it comes to employee experience and satisfaction?

Francesca Luthi: We do actually have a number of ways, a number of different ways to gather feedback, both on the transaction. So thumbs up, thumbs down. Uh, we do track resolution rates, you know, were things, did the, did ultimately an employee, did they, uh, have their question answered within the platform? Was there an escalation? Again, at times it may be appropriate. But we’ve seen overall a reduction in call volume, which was our initial hypothesis going into this. It’s actually been pretty substantial, which is great. Frees up time for our employees then to dedicate their time elsewhere. So there’s a basket of different metrics that we track clearly, just to make sure that you know, we are delivering again, those exceptional, delightful experiences. But also making sure again, that anything that falls out of the system, uh, we’re tracking it is resolved. And we’re also looking at how that was handled as well.

Narrator:As an employee herself, Francesca can speak firsthand about how great Assurant is as an employer and supporting her as one of its own.  

Francesca Luthi: I’ve always been open in terms of sharing, you know, about my son and, and his challenges. So a few years back, he had a pretty extensive surgery. And, as, as a parent, I did a lot of diligence around where he could get the best care. and, um, and it was, you know, very challenging, time consuming. Um, but required just given the risk and also post-op care. My manager at various points intervened. We had members of our, uh, total, uh, rewards and and wellbeing team reach out. Help put me in contact with our providers. And this isn’t just about me. I’ve heard many, many stories, but they’re not mine to share, of other employees who also have been in a moment of need, gotten the right support and the connections. And it really goes back to the service ethos that we have applies to obviously supporting our employees regardless of the challenge that they face. And ultimately, um, you know, I, I, I also, you know, took a leave of absence and again, my manager being able to work with me, through that and a team to be able to support that. And I share that often because it’s always one of those really challenging situations where, You feel a lot is on you and um, are you gonna get the support? And I think it’s really a testament of who Assurant is. Um, And so I talk about this quite a bit also, to give people, again, you know, you should raise, you know, concerns, you should raise what’s happening, which is even more important I think in this distributed world because that’s ultimately also where, I love the ability, obviously, of flexibility and we’ve embraced that fullon, but it does require us to make sure that we do reach out and not assume, um, that everybody’s doing all right. And, and again, we have just, that’s pretty much ingrained in our DNA, uh, as a company, so very proud of that.

Narrator: Francesca felt really supported by Assurant when she needed it. She also recognizes that everyone needs support in different ways–which can be complicated in a virtual workplace.

Francesca Luthi: I mean, I remember the first days when we were all Zoom enabled, all distributed and things. It was just awkward. And now here we go. And this is just the way we operate. So, and there are lots of advantages, certainly around flexibility and staying connected, but also just that balance. But keep going back to, you know, early on amongst, not just my peers at Assurant, but just more broadly around the HR community, all this discussion around, well, there’s Zoom fatigue, and, and I’m like, well, we should actually find out what’s really causing the fatigue and feel like, well being on video and on camera, like, is that it. Or is it a question of just workload, workload management or potentially other things. And I think, again, back to my point earlier, just can’t assume, you know, that it’s just one thing for everybody, right? I mean, we may be all experiencing this a little differently. And so really the need to reach out and engage, even in this environment, I mean, it becomes even more important, because we have a tendency then to, group things, in, in the, in a similar bucket. And that may not be the right answer.

Narrator: Serving employees comes back to benefit the company in a cycle. But sometimes things can still get a little bumpy. Francesca shares some wisdom she’s gained from when things get rough, in Turbulence.

Francesca Luthi: We cannot underestimate, right, the impact of a great manager and a really poor one. I think that probably for me has been the make it or break it at various points in time. And there’s, you know, the old saying, you know, people don’t leave companies, they leave managers, but it’s true. And I think probably, you know, on a personal front where I’ve seen, you know, things go off the rails where just managers who weren’t good listeners, didn’t solicit feedback, or change averse or, you know, again, that tends to stifle creativity, even ambition, I’m gonna use that word. Uh, And you know, at various points in time in my career, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve experienced that and I recognize this probably wasn’t gonna be the right environment because I didn’t feel I could contribute. And probably as an employee, that’s, that’s the worst possible feeling. Um, Not feeling connected and an ability to contribute. And, and it’s not just within a team, but I also go back to that connection, back to where the company’s going in that direction. So, um, you know, One of the things I know we’ve, we’ve doubled down on, uh, this, not just this year, but in general is really manager capability and also recognizing that um, you know, the expectations of all of us, you know, have changed. Again, distributed workforce, which has been I think, a source of strength for our company. But it does require, right, a different muscle. To continue to be, to, to be, continue to be successful and to support teams. So that’s really one of the areas where I would expect to see a lot more discussion across broader circles around that importance of the manager. How do we best support them? Be effective? Because I do think when all said and done on, you know, return to office, not return to office, you know, what’s happening in culture, what’s happening in engagement, I, I think it’s gonna come down to, have we really enabled our managers effectively. Less about in person versus not. I think it’s really comes down to that. At least that’s my personal view.

Narrator: Francesca’s found a lot of tools that work for her. But it hasn’t always been that way. Sometimes you have to experiment a bit before finding the right approach.

Francesca Luthi: I think in most cases, and I’m, I’m trying to find an example that would be relevant here, but I, I think what doesn’t work is, again, cookie cutter approaches. and I, and I see that especially true in, in our environment. As I said before, workforce is really diverse. Everything from, you know, hourly employees that sit in a repair and logistics center to customer care to actuaries, to salespeople that travel all the time. So again, what they’re, how they’re perceiving Assurant and their environment is very different. So when, you know, when trying to go the route of, well, let’s just do it all the same, it, typically fails miserably. And maybe an example I would bring is, I’m going back to Covid, but it’s most recent when we were thinking about, just how we were gonna approach certain policies or protocols in the midst of this, we had to recognize obviously that, uh, some of our workers, and employees were deemed kind of essential. And so work, just thinking about everything that they were dealing with at that point in time. Uh, we didn’t know. Um, truly right the extent of the illness and what that would bring. And we had pretty extensive, you know, hygiene and safety requirements. And so what they were experienced every day, you know, wearing a mask all the time and all the discomfort that went around it. We had to flex and think about, you know, what worked in that setting and how we could provide, you know, some relief. And I’m not saying it’s any easier, um, some of our employees, obviously, that were parents homeschooling their kids and the interruptions that would happen and just being able to navigate that. So we had to recognize that those were very different. Equally challenging, but required a, definitely a customized approach to the protocols and things that we, that, that we ultimately enacted. And that’s really, you know, back the point around, you know, really understanding who your employees are, like your customers, and what are their unique needs. Sometimes acknowledging that maybe you can’t, solve it all, but at least the acknowledgement that you are aware, uh, you’re trying to best address or remediate, I think goes a long way. As opposed to, well, this is the way it’s been done and it’s one size fits all. 

Narrator: Another challenge for Francesca was finding the right leadership style during COVID. She had a lot of people to support during a difficult time. 

Francesca Luthi: I do think it’s important to have empathy and the importance of empathy. Because of how, you know, frankly, the world, let alone, um, our communities, uh, our families, all experience this. So again, I, I keep going back to how is someone else experiencing this, and how can I best support them? So I do think empathetic leadership is critical and important. Transparency and, and humility, in terms of, what we’re all feeling, what we know, what we don’t know. I, I think that’s one of those golden rules, in terms of leadership, because the reality is for as much as we may be in leadership positions, it doesn’t mean that we are somehow all knowing or know how to adjust, right? We are taking feedback and input and trying to make the best decisions. And sometimes, as I said earlier, you’re making trade offs and they can be really hard decisions, so, being really transparent around what you know, what we’re trying to solve for, where we’re trying to go, I think inevitably helps people, um, helps us all, right. Align and better appreciate. May not agree, but at least you can somewhat unders appreciate what went into that thought process. I, I, I don’t know if it’s lead from the front, lead from behind, but ultimately you’re almost like an, I hate to say this, like an invisible hand, right? I mean, you’re trying to help support your people in the best way possible. You know, make the best informed decisions and bring them along. Um, so I, I think it’s probably a combination of the two things.

Narrator: When all is said and done, at the core of her role, Francesca believes in servant leadership. 

Francesca Luthi: I have a very distributed and, and, and diverse team there too. And my job is, you know, I almost have to put myself out of a job in the sense that I wanna empower them and, and develop, uh, our team, be the best. Right. And ultimately surpass, you any accomplishments that, I or others would have. Cuz that’s really the goal of what we’re here to do, is, is to support again, the development and growth. So otherwise, um, I think this, this whole, you know, focus on employee experience, I don’t wanna say the early innings because I think the principles are very applicable, tried and true, been at the core of customer experience, you know, for a long time. But it’s, it’s great to see how, you know, companies are embracing that same wiring. Committed right to supporting their employees. Be their best, be more effective, have frictionless experiences, and again, embrace really that mindset around continuous improvement. So I’m pretty excited about what that means, for my team, for our organization, but also just again, it’s well overdue. So, I’m keen to also learn from, from others in terms of what they’re doing and, and share some stories and examples, right? Because we’re all learning.

Narrator: If you’re committed to serving your employees, you’re also serving your company and your customers. Francesca has made it clear that some of the best ways to provide for your employees is to listen to them, collect their feedback, and market your company values. Then you’ll set your company on the path to success. 

Thanks for listening to this episode of Cruising Altitude. This episode is brought to you by Firstup, the company that is redefining the digital employee experience to put people first and lift companies up by connecting every worker, everywhere with the information that helps them do their best work. Firstup has helped over 40% of the Fortune 100 companies like Amazon, AB InBev, Ford and Pfizer stay agile and keep transforming. Learn more at

Read more

Cruising Altitude

Lessons from companies over 30,000 employees

Conversations with leaders who are designing the best digital employee experiences in the world – from the front lines to the back office. Life is different over 30,000. Welcome to Cruising Altitude.

Hosted by Firstup Founder and CEO, Nicole Alvino.

Listen now on

CruisingAltitude Icon nobg

Sign up for our newsletter

Marketing by