PURE Group: Seeing the Whole Person
By Susanne Sclafane
If someone from PURE Group decides to leave the high-net-worth insurer to pursue a career as a race car driver or an avalanche rescuer, the carrier’s leaders wouldn’t be devastated.
“We might have a moment of sadness when people leave, but if they’re going off to pursue their passions, then that’s a win,” said Katherine Richardson, chief human resources officer of the White Plains, N.Y.-based insurance group. “That would make us happy, honestly,” she said, when asked about the prospect of employees exiting after using a tuition reimbursement benefit for “passion courses”—courses unrelated to their careers at PURE but instead helping them pursue personal passions.
The benefit, which has allowed employees to become yacht captains, poets, comedians and certified yoga instructors, doesn’t typically prompt them to leave the company. “The only requirement from us is that it leads to some sort of designation,” said Richardson, noting that one woman who used the funds to become a certified self-defense instructor now teaches fellow employees.
Pursuing their passions brings “them a new confidence that has been very beneficial at work,” she said.
In fact, passion is one of four traits that PURE looks for when it evaluates candidates seeking to join the company. “When we say passion, we mean that feeling of what it means when you have a talent that you share and that you work intensely for something you believe in,” Richardson said, listing intellectual curiosity, empathy and the ability to be a team player as the other traits. (See related sidebar: PURE Principles and Employee Traits)
What PURE employees intensely believe in is “membercentricity”—a phrase the carrier used throughout its 14-year history to describe meaningful engagement with policyholder members of the Professional Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange. And in what Richardson refers to as a “purpose-driven, principles-led” culture, the purpose is to make “members smarter, safer and more resilient so they can pursue their passions with greater confidence.”
Michael O’Malley and William Baker, authors of the recently published book “Organizations for People: Caring Cultures, Basic Needs, and Better Lives,” describe the interconnection between PURE’s emphasis on employing people with passion, curiosity and EQ and the ultimate purpose of the carrier, explaining how they need to be creative problem-solvers when they respond in unscripted, authentic ways to unique loss situations involving devastating circumstances or damaged personal property to which insureds have become emotionally attached. PURE is the only insurer among the 21 companies included in the book that the researchers view as humane companies. (See also, “What the ‘Best Companies to Work For’ Do Differently,” written by O’Malley for Harvard Business Review, Dec. 12, 2019.)
While the book also describes health and wellness benefits, articles in employee benefits and talent publications highlight a student loan repayment assistance program (paying $100 per month in addition to an employee’s minimum payment) and unlimited PTOs among the ones that helped PURE garner a 4.1 star rating (out of five) on Glassdoor and 24th place spot on Fortune’s 2019 Great Places to Work ranking for small and medium-sized financial companies.
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