At Unum, we help people gain affordable access to benefits through the workplace. Organizations of all sizes and their employees depend on us throughout life’s pivotal moments—from the birth of a child, to unexpected illness or loss of abilities.
We understand the economically fragile situation of many families and the critical role that financial protection plays when a loved one is injured or ill. Unum is an integral part of the financial safety net for millions of people, which means it’s critical that we continue to earn and maintain the trust of those who count on us.
In fact, our ability to be successful as a company depends on that trust.
Rick McKenney, CEO, Unum
This is why we’ve taken steps to increase our accountability to our customers, employees, and the communities in which we live and work. It is an essential journey and—like all change—some parts are not easy. But we’ve found that it helps us to create better products and services, attract and retain top talent, and make meaningful contributions to address local, national, and global challenges.
Our employee engagement is paramount
Everything starts with people, and one of our top priorities is creating a dynamic and welcoming workplace. We need to encourage our employees to bring their best ideas to work every day. One of the pillars of our “We Are Unum” values is “an appreciation for differences.” We strive to celebrate the contributions of every member of our team, and we value the diversity of perspectives and experiences that make us a stronger company.
We also strive to instill a sense of inclusion and belonging at the center of our culture. By doing so, we want all employees to know they matter. Their background, experiences, ideas, and perspective all matter and are valued. We also work to integrate inclusion and diversity into our business operations and decision making.
This is why we recently enhanced our Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) structure to help accelerate and expand these efforts. We introduced integrated and robust Employee Networks and Business Networks, all unified under an I&D Council. In addition to promoting belonging, this will also drive our collective responsibility for I&D across the company.
Whether about I&D, the pandemic response, or emerging customer needs, we also continue to identify new ways to communicate and engage with employees. From regular employee-engagement surveys to weekly virtual broadcasts with our executive team, we’re listening intently to what employees have to say and provide a host of channels to create two-way dialogue, including anonymous input.
A focus on belonging helps our customers
Focusing on building an inclusive and welcoming culture is also good for our customers and their families. Our business decisions must incorporate and reflect diverse thinking and experiences to better serve the dynamic needs of today’s workforce. It’s no longer a competitive advantage—it’s a business imperative.
Feedback from our customers is also critical as the pandemic shined a light on the importance of understanding and accessing employee benefits. I personally heard from our customers about how the pandemic exacerbated the long-standing mental health gaps for many workers.
There are certainly support services available, but most are hard to understand or access. This led to Unum Behavioral Health, a comprehensive behavioral health solution that uses a web portal and smartphone app to make it easier for employees to identify the right solutions tailored to them to continuously improve their mental health.
Medical, caregiver, parental, and other kinds of leave have been a longstanding challenge for employers and employees.
There was an added level of complexity for companies to manage the quickly shifting regulatory landscapes as cities, states, and the federal government enacted new laws to address work needs during the pandemic.
So, we utilized our longstanding presence in this business and created Unum Total Leave™, a one-stop shop for all leave. To help companies manage the changing environment, and simplify planning, requesting, and taking any type of leave. This technology uses artificial intelligence to streamline crucial HR processes, including filing a claim, answering eligibility questions, making payments and direct deposits, as well as claims and return-to-work coordination.
Our purpose extends to our communities
Living our purpose and providing for our customers also means showing up for our communities where and when they need us. In an unprecedented year of challenges and tragedy, we understand that our support must go far beyond replacing a paycheck.
- We donated to our community partners in response to COVID-19 with a focus on three strategic areas: health and access to critical services, equitable access to learning, and combatting food insecurity.
- We launched our Social Justice Fund to support organizations working to end racism, discrimination and bias, and to create stronger, more equitable communities.
- Our rehabilitation and support services helped 435,000 people return to work with dignity and compassion.
- Our employees volunteered nearly 25,000 hours of their time to qualified organizations.
In total, Unum donated $13 million in 2020 across our geographic footprint to enhancing educational opportunities, promote wellbeing, and help our communities grow stronger.
Continuing the journey
This past year demonstrated the importance of having a focused business strategy that aligns with our purpose and allows us to proactively respond to the evolving expectations of our stakeholders. We’re proud of the important work we have done with employees, customers, and communities to help them thrive.
At the same time, we know that we must always be accountable to our multiple stakeholders. As we look to the future, we know that as a leading benefits provider, Unum is uniquely positioned to make meaningful differences for the working world as it emerges from the pandemic. Much has changed, but the need for our products and services has only increased. We take that responsibility seriously and will continue to hold ourselves accountable as we help the working world thrive throughout life’s moments.
About the Expert:
Rick McKenney is president and chief executive officer for Unum Group, one of the world’s leading providers of workplace financial protection benefits. He became CEO in 2015. He also served as executive vice president, chief financial officer for Unum from 2009 to 2015, where he was responsible for overall financial management of the company. McKenney is on the Board of Directors of U.S. Bancorp, the parent company of U.S. Bank National Association, the fifth largest commercial bank in the United States. He also serves on the board of the American Council of Life Insurers and the Siskin Hospital for Rehabilitation.