The year 2020 has proven that the culture and spirit of Oswald Cos. is not limited to what happens inside its office walls. It started well before the first governmental order or before the firm went completely remote-based.
The firm’s ability to respond and thrive amid the challenges of 2020 can be tied directly to the character of its team members and strength of its culture. It called on the longtime commitment to building a valued, diverse and empowered employee base, along with a total package that stems from an employee-owned culture, the firm’s commitment to community and purpose to see opportunity for its clients among the many risks they face.
At Oswald, employees are more than just a part of the company — they are the company.
“There is not another insurance company in Ohio, and potentially in the Midwest, that I am aware of that is structured like we are,” says David C. Jacobs, president and chief operating officer. “Because we are employee-owned, our employees are vested in our success. When they come through the doors of our company, it’s very real to them.”
Jacobs and the company’s executive team believe that the strength of being employee-owned, coupled with the firm’s extraordinary culture, gives Oswald its power to excel — even during the unprecedented and challenging year of 2020. The company president cites transparency, collaboration across the company and training investment as vital to Oswald’s success.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Jacobs has led the organization’s crisis response and business continuity task force and worked with departmental leaders to develop extensive remote work plans that kept the safety and well-being of employee-owners as a first priority, while also continuing to provide superior customer service to clients.
Meaningful Career Experiences
“We recently conducted a poll of employees asking why ‘A’ players come to our company and why they stay,” says Jacobs, who joined the firm in 2000. “Here, they can have a clear career path if they put the work in.”
Abigail Lewis, talent acquisition manager, says the company’s culture “invites individuals of all backgrounds and diversity.”
To find superior employees, Lewis says Oswald expanded its recruiting net, made sure its culture was fully explained and appreciated and ensured a quick and easy hiring process. Oswald also initiated a more formal intern program this year that helps with the employee pipeline, a special concern as more baby boomers are eyeing retirement.
Benefits include the company’s commitment to employee education, a comprehensive health and wellness package and sabbatical leave after being with Oswald for 10 years. Volunteer opportunities are available through OswaldCARES, and the firm has risen to each community challenge presented throughout this pandemic, including raising funds in all seven locations for critical food bank services and supporting fellow team members.
“There is tremendous talent out there from individuals who are about to make a move or who are out of work because of the pandemic,” Lewis says. “But, it is very competitive.”
Oswald was one of the first companies in the area to safely and systematically return employees to work on-site following government COVID-19 shutdowns, according to the company’s human resources department. In January, Oswald launched a remote work policy that was suddenly tested by spring. No employee would be in the office more than 50 percent of the time within a two-week period.
To further help employees cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, Oswald is providing tutorial financial assistance to employees, which may extend into 2021. Parents may secure in-home tutors for their children, or they may be helped with schoolwork remotely.
Continued Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Melanie Myers, ERChealth wellness consultant, has been with Oswald Cos. for two-and-a-half years. Myers says one unique feature of Oswald is that it provides wellness programming both internally to employees and externally to brokers across the state.
In addition, Myers believes Oswald’s embracing of diversity and inclusion has been both sincere and expanding and is an integral part of its culture, set against the compounding challenges of this time.
“I am a young professional, a woman and a person of color,” Myers says. “I have been able to find a place here, progress and move forward. Others can say the same. It’s a great place to find your niche.”
Initially, a small group of Oswald employees from different backgrounds met informally, getting to know each other and bonding, Myers notes. But, the company saw the value of the interaction and created a three-part series called Getting Behind My Curtain, a part of its Common Ground Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative. The interactions were scheduled for September, October and early November of this year.
“We focused on getting to know the company owners on a human level, as well as the person who sits next to you,” Myers says. “It opened up a lot more intentional conversations. Oswald has given us the opportunity to talk about issues, and, even before COVID-19, there was unconscious bias training
for employees, and that was very successful.”
Myers believes that opportunity helped individuals become self-aware of what “they thought of others and what others thought of them,” she says.
She sees the diversity and inclusion process as first, self-realization among employees, then, internal acceptance within the company, and finally, the external creation of a truly varied employee and client base.
Oswald’s partnership with Taylor Oswald, a minority-owned risk management firm, allows the firm to take this commitment one step further, working together as a team utilizing its combined depth of resources, while also providing superior service to clients with diverse business needs, including supplier diversity strategies and more.
As an employee-owned company, each employee of Oswald Cos. carries the pride and reputation of its employer. Jacobs believes the culture of the company and its commitment to its employees and community provides the foundation to support those responsibilities.