CIGNA: Reducing the Churn

Oct 1, 2002
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HR Magazine, October 2002Accounting for People

CIGNA: Reducing the Churn

At Philadelphia-based CIGNA insurance company, HR executives have focused their human capital statistical analyses on one of the company’s biggest problems: turnover at its customer call centers, which saps productivity, costs money and can affect customer satisfaction.

Clem Cheng, vice president for work climate assessment, and his team assembled data on voluntary and involuntary separations, collected exit interview results, reviewed periodic employee surveys and audits, examined lawsuits and claims, and used focus groups.

The effort gave HR “a finger on the pulse of the company,” says Donald Levinson, CIGNA’s executive vice president for HR and services, but he and Cheng wanted more: What were the causes of turnover? And what specific practices could reduce churn? “We wanted to come out with a prescription,” notes Levinson.

Among the first findings were that work schedule flexibility seemed to lengthen employee tenure and lack of flexibility was correlated with departures. HR improved training for managers so they understood workers’ desires and their own role. Officials looked for other ways to enhance the work environment. They dissected the hiring process, “making sure that we assimilate people into our organization” as quickly and thoroughly as possible, says Cheng.

“Turnover went down four to five points the first year” in targeted areas, says Levinson. In addition, some of the work/life programs that were developed as a result of the turnover-reduction effort have gained CIGNA recognition as a good place to work. “We tried them out and did more” as they were correlated with reduced turnover.

A key element of the exercise was not making assumptions about what the company would find or how better to implement changes. “We didn’t start with, ‘Hey, there’s a cool best practice; let’s try it,’” says Levinson. “We looked at the business and said: ‘What are the things that have the most impact’ ” on the bottom line?

Adds Levinson: “This stuff really works.”

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