12 Jul 2023

On Monday 3 July 2023 we welcomed members, sponsors, and partners to the ALARM National Conference on Sustainability: The Human Element.

Dr Fran Longstaff’s keynote framed day one, providing enlightening, if at times concerning, observations on mental fitness and wellbeing at work. Of the ALARM members who answered Fran’s pre-conference mini survey, one fifth felt they had reached burnout in their lives. No surprise to Fran, the large percentage struggling with burnout stunned the Manchester audience. Professional efficacy and confidence, tiredness, and cynicism – all factors defining burn out.

Improving mental fitness involves changes to working practices and culture. Fran asked us for ‘one working practice your team would benefit in changing’. A range of responses included: ask ‘are you alright with this?’ increase collaboration, stop back to back Teams’ meetings, and stop sending unnecessary meeting requests!

Fran focused on the impact of managers, with evidence that the impact of a manager in someone’s life is as important as a partner’s. Managers need training and tools to manage effectively and positively.

Fran asked us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves: “what could be annoying about the way I work?” and to engage with organisational change, ask “what is annoying about the way we all work, and how could we collectively change it?”

Next on the agenda was the sponsor panel session on a range of claims, insurance and risk management topics. ‘Top tips for keeping premiums down’ was the first, which resonated audibly with the audience.

Tips included Richard Wood from Zurich Municipal’s “engage early with your insurer” and Alison Goodwin from Aon’s “data is really important. Engage early with new data.” Phil Farrar from RMP followed up with “get on the front foot with brokers if you have any red flag areas” and John Shaftoe’s tip was “be flexible; what you had before may no longer apply.” Tim Devine from Gallagher contributed “make sure your award criteria reflects what you actually need," and Julia Reffell from Marsh’s advice was “focus on what the market wants to know and not necessarily what you want to tell them.”

According to Charlie Bolton from Lincolnshire County Council, his session, along with colleague Kevin Lane focused on communicating what good risk controls look like and how to achieve them. Their workshop got delegates working out some of those answers for themselves, as well as discussing the definition of ‘assurance’.

Kella Bowers from Forbes Solicitors and Rebecca Maby from Kennedys joined forces to answer questions and present an update on social care, in particular children’s services. A comprehensive breakdown of the possible implications of two law changing cases was followed by answers to some member questions, including an update on unregulated placements, and the risks associated with the transition to Integrated Care Boards. Look out for more on these issues in future ALARM outputs.

Today’s crisis tomorrow’s hope, the title of Alix Bedford and Jen Czapla from Zurich Municipal’s workshop put a more positive spin on the title of the Global Risks Report, which originally focused on future catastrophes. Alix commented that the role of risk managers is to create a more positive future, and it’s the future that this session examined.

Alix is used to hearing there is no time and few resources to look beyond two years, and she understands that many organisations are still fire fighting. But Alix observed you can solve short-term issues by looking longer-term. She gave the example of solar panels on social housing: they create carbon savings in the long-term and reduce energy costs in the short-term.

Beverley Nichol was looking to the future as well as embedding risk structures into blue light organisations to tackle the issues they face now. Presenting a session alongside Sue Nugent from Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service, she remembered an occasion some years ago when she took ‘flu pandemic’ and ‘infectious diseases’ to the leadership team as highly probable and urgent risks. Beverley had some odd looks. If she hadn’t built professional knowledge and personal credibility within West Yorkshire Police, she would have been laughed out of the room. “Communicating risk starts off with understanding your audience,” said Beverley.

Wrapping up today’s report, we come full circle, and back to assurance, with Sue, a former auditor, extolling the virtues of preparing effectively for an audit.

Check out the ALARM Conference day two round-up tomorrow.