Magazine article Talent Development

Setting the Stage for a Renaissance at Trustmark: Cultural Change and Renewal Is Never Easy, but as One Company Learned, Beginning by Developing Great Leaders Is a Step in the Right Direction

Magazine article Talent Development

Setting the Stage for a Renaissance at Trustmark: Cultural Change and Renewal Is Never Easy, but as One Company Learned, Beginning by Developing Great Leaders Is a Step in the Right Direction

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

THE COMPANY:

Trustmark Companies

MORE/ www.trustmarkins.com

THE SUPPLIER:

Pfeiffer

More/ www.pfeiffer.com; www.theleadershipchallenge.com

Headquartered just north of Chicago in Lake Forest, Illinois, Trustmark is one of those heartland organizations that exemplifies the corporate values that are often missing from today's business headlines. Founded in 1913 by four railroad workers to provide benefits for fellow employees who are injured on the job, Trustmark has grown to more than 6,200 full- and part-time employees working in 25 locations nationwide.

Through its subsidiaries and operating divisions, Trustmark provides access to a full spectrum of employee benefits, providing more than 2 million people with flexible medical, life, and disability benefits, as well as fitness and wellness-related services.

Trustmark's dedication to its customers and employees resulted in quiet and steady growth until the mid-1990s, when the company faced unprecedented business challenges. Consolidation in the health insurance industry put new constraints on growth and profitability, while other financial pressures forced the company to reassess its operations and competitive value proposition in the marketplace.

The mantra became "focus ... focus ... focus," and employees were asked to adopt an almost military mentality. Trustmark concentrated on core competencies, sold off noncore businesses, and made generating capital a top priority.

While Trustmark leadership knew that this approach was necessary in the short term, it was not the strategy that would carry the business to long-term growth and prosperity. With the company on firm footing again, it needed to create a culture that would be open to innovation and opportunity.

The Trustmark Renaissance

Throughout decades of partnership-building with clients, Trustmark was trusted by its customers for its flexibility and the caring service its people provided. When it came time to initiate the fundamental culture change the business needed, the company's senior leadership decided to build on those attributes that helped the company thrive for nearly a century. The result is what became known as "The Trustmark Renaissance"--a change initiative that, at its core, required a radical change in employee mindset.

"It was difficult at first," says Kate Martine, senior vice president of human resources and corporate communications at Trustmark. "Culture change is hard. Business transformation is hard. And the renaissance at Trustmark meant that people had to think differently about how they approached their work."

For some, the challenge was daunting. Others saw an opportunity to help shape the company's second-century legacy. As one Trustmark executive described it, the challenge was to find a way to turn a command-and-control style army into a community where everyone felt supported in challenging the status quo and seeking new opportunities.

"We knew we needed to launch out into new venues. And that meant taking risks," explains Martine. "It was only through effective leadership--trust, confidence, and credibility--that people felt that it was okay to take those risks. The leadership development that supported those tenets soon became a central component of our business and cultural revival, where innovation and open communication would thrive."

A leadership development program to support radical culture change

Trustmark knew that it must effectively build leadership capacity throughout the ranks, from seasoned senior leaders and new managers to individual contributors. Shying away from "flavor of the month" programs and generic course offerings, Martine searched for a leadership program with a proven, time-tested track record; a core model grounded in research and evidence-based results; and flexible and customizable delivery options that aligned with the renaissance strategy. …

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