West Bend Mutual Insurance
is taking a more flexible approach to where its employees work as part of its post-COVID-19 plan – a benefit leaders hope will help the growing company attract dozens of new hires.
The insurance company is currently hiring for about 60 vacancies in response to the company’s steady growth in recent years.
“As an organization we’ve grown now consistently for the last 10 years at a pretty good pace as a result of market penetration, market development, and some diversification. We are in a growth mode and things have gone quite well in that aspect,” Rob Jacques, senior vice president – commercial lines at West Bend Mutual Insurance, said, adding that the firm’s cumulative annual growth rate has been around 7.5% over the past decade.
The company is hiring primarily for its core business of personal and business insurance underwriting, along with claims and IT positions.
“As we look to diversify and innovate, it takes skill sets we don’t have today,” he said.
West Bend Mutual currently has roughly 1,300 employees, most of whom are based at its headquarters campus at 1900 S. 18th Ave. It has additional offices in Pewaukee and Middleton.
West Bend Mutual has traditionally relied on in-person job fairs and campus visits to recruit employees – a hiring strategy that had to be done virtually over the past 16 months – along with referrals by existing employees. Now, with the company charting a new workplace strategy as many public health measures are lifted, Jacques said it plans to leverage hybrid work as an attraction for new talent.
Last month, the company rolled out a back-to-the-office plan that emphasizes employees being in the office as much as possible, but with more flexibility built in. That could look like employees working three or four days in the office and one or two days from home. For some employees, it could like working fully remotely, particularly for those in IT and innovation-related positions, said Jacques. In that case, the employee wouldn’t necessarily need to be within the immediate Milwaukee or Madison-area vicinity, he said.
“With our flex work schedules and potentially remote work schedules we’re trying to pinpoint and go after the Fox River Valley as well,” Jacques said.
But finding qualified workers is a challenge, particularly in the tech-oriented positions.
"We're doing OK when it comes to claims and underwriting," Jacques said. "It's those skill sets that aren't as prevalent here in southeast Wisconsin, or West Bend or Washington County, and that's the IT and up-and-coming positions. That's probably more of a struggle."
For underwriting and claims positions, he said, the company is willing to hire new employees regardless of their field of study if they are the right fit.
"We're looking for the right person, the skill set that we feel we need and we can teach them the insurance part of it," Jacques said, adding that the company has also had success with individuals pursuing jobs at West Bend Mutual as a second career.
Beyond flexibility, Jacques said, the company is promoting its other benefits in an effort to draw more existing employees back to the office and new hires to come on board, such as the nearly 160 acres of prairie and woodland surrounding its campus, its onsite fitness center and cafeteria.