People development is not a cost, it is an investment

Photo: Grawe collection

Mr Czetl, you have been in Serbia for almost 11 years, as General Manager of Grawe Insurance Serbia. Could you share with our readers your impressions of Serbia when you first arrived?
I gladly remember my arrival in Serbia and I must admit that those impressions were great, both of the city of Belgrade and, above all, of its people. I was pleasantly surprised by their hospitality and warmth and the best thing is that the GRAWE Insurance staff shares the same approach.

Your company results show constant revenue growth. You believe one of the most important factors in this achievement is a unique approach to people development?
Career development occupies an extremely important place in our business plan and emphasis has been placed on the implementation of the “human resource” policy, which entails personal and professional development, as well as motivation of employees – whether it be those who have been employed in our company in Serbia for more than 20 years or the newly-employed ones, who are just acquiring knowledge in the insurance field.

By using the budget and time we have at our disposal and, what is most important, our own expert staff, we have launched a training cycle called GRAWE Academy and a regular educational flow of workshops for our personnel, which focus on people and not on products.

In GRAWE Insurance, several departments take part in employee training and development, and it is the company management and employees dedicated to education that are primarily in charge of employee training and development. GRAWE will continue that practice by promoting and investing in knowledge and the development of employee skills. We work with people in order to propose the programmes that suit the needs of our clients in the best possible manner and we advocate a very serious and professional attitude to work in accordance with the growth and development of our insurance company. That is, simply, the GRAWE culture.

What kind of mindset have you brought to Serbia from your parent company in Graz and how can you influence your parent company from Serbia?
GRAWE Insurance in Serbia stands out as a traditional company as it forms part of the GRAWE Group, the business of which has been developing and growing for almost two centuries, i.e. since 1828. At the same time, it could be pinpointed as a good example of advanced corporate management and  modern business. We initially adopted the know-how and management policy from our parent company when we began doing business in Serbia, but two decades later, we have been sharing our knowledge and experience with other markets. With some of its projects, GRAWE Serbia has already been setting standards at the international level. The latest project referred to employee development and coaching. That was the result of our employees’ expertise and precisely planned business activities in accordance with long-term business prospects.

GRAWE Academy was set up more than 4 years ago. Can you tell us a bit more about the GRAWE academy concept?
The promotion of knowledge and skill of our employees does not consist in frequent seminars with a monotonous programme and does not refer to ordinary education processes only. It is with new programmes and seminars, different to the ones that the employees are used to, that we keep refreshing development programmes in order to improve daily performance.

We have turned the sales cycle stages into modules, have broken them down into details and are learning step by step in order to provide the trainees with the best knowledge and tools for the presentation of our programmes and services.

In accordance with the structure we have created, we are building, in all the employees, a thorough and serious approach to work in the insurance field and, besides, one of our specific features is the fact that the best and the most successful employees keep transferring their knowledge and experience to their young colleagues. The concept has proved fantastic and has produced supreme results.

By training our employees, we are providing them with the knowledge and tools aimed at improving and raising the quality of their performance in the positions to which they have been assigned, but such knowledge and skills also extend throughout their further career. That also entails the question of personal achievement.

The exchange of experience among all the employees is a normal thing here and I may as well say that the principle applied here is: two people with one idea each result in two people with two ideas!

10 years ago, you recognised coaching as the next step in your sales force development. How did you implement coaching in your company and how do you use it now?
Implementation is simple as we have everyday “tête-à-tête” conversations and regard each individual, each team member, as equally important.  We provide opportunities and we point to every detail which can lead to the improvement of their skills. Through regular coaching talks, from the management, through team leaders to each team member, we work on personal development, detect personal goals, harmonize our personal and corporate values, try to trigger changes and, most importantly, follow through to our goal. We enable both our colleagues and our clients to choose the best course for themselves. Isn’t a sales conversation a type of coaching as well?

There is a lot of talk as to whether the influence of coaching can be traced through the company. What is your opinion?
Career development does not imply climbing the hierarchical ladder only – the movements can be made in all directions. The “horizontal development of career” and the spreading of knowledge in several directions is one of the prerequisites for improvement.

Besides, the important factors also include a reciprocal relation between highly-positioned employees and other employees in the company, the functioning of a small team as part of the company staff, the functions and joint action in which the tasks and responsibilities have been precisely distributed, as well as the mutual relations among team members.

We highly appreciate this concept and we are pleased to apply it as it brings excellent results. Modern organization cannot consist of “masters and subordinates” – it needs to consist of leaders and their teams.

And, to sum up, if you could describe your work with the employees in one sentence, what would that be?  
I would quote our founder, Archduke Johann, who, as early as in our foundation year, 1828, said: “The strength that brings good lies in the harmony of the community. And it is the duty of each individual to make his contribution.”

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