Deliver Your News to the World Highlights the Good, Bad & Ugly Norwich Union Press


Norwich Union’s employment policies have often been in the media - particularly when it makes large numbers of staff redundant. Yet, a glance in the local newspapers recently will show NU searching for new staff. has wondered how such a large company could lay off people one day and announce hiring plans the next? There is method in the madness, though: it’s a strategy of hiring staff in particular skill areas, letting them go in others, and outsourcing staff both abroad and at home. All of this is supplemented by very heavy investment in IT and Web–driven cost efficiency measures.

A case in point illustrates this: recently media reports illustrated how NU was simultaneously laying off people (600 last month), outsourcing functions to South Asia, upgrading its Web services and hiring staff domestically.

Since NU’s employment policy is a complex strategy of allocating human and technical assets both here and abroad, there is no reason to think that the company may be closing down all its domestic operations and moving to India. A visit to the company’s human resources centre, either on or off line, will confirm this.

Many of the jobs on offer there involve customer interaction, either in-person or by phone. The company does have a sizeable call centre workforce in South Asia. However, there have been reports of complaints about the lack of English proficiency among foreign staff. This probably means that the company will have to be more cautious in outsourcing jobs to the region and will also maintain a substantial UK – based call centre force.

Meanwhile, the company is also seeking greater cost–efficiency in its clerical and call centre workforce within the UK. It sees domestic outsourcing as a significant means of reducing actual costs without the risks of offshoring. The company’s website shows that it is actively seeking UK contract workers, and from the many postings on the site it is clear that there are plenty of staff who enjoy such positions. Many outsourced NU workers may actually continue to sit at their regular desks and service NU customers while being formally outsourced to another company. At the same time, though, in its ongoing efforts to integrate IT technologies into its services, the company is constantly looking for the best technical experts in the UK.

All these measures may represent a radical shift away from traditional British notions of employment security. This may be why NU, perhaps more than any other British insurer, has been singled out for negative media attention over its employment policies. Parent company Aviva - which recently acquired the insurer - is probably hoping to bury the bad press with Norwich’s brand name, and move on.


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