Six ways to build employee engagement

About seven years ago, Amica Mutual Insurance was undergoing a major technology upgrade to connect legacy systems to web and mobile products.

A programmer who had been with the company more than 30 years volunteered for the project – an act that demonstrated an important principle of talent development.

Amica CEO Robert DiMuccio, CPA, served as a panelist during a recent EY Strategic Growth Forum presentation and webcast on recruiting, developing, motivating and retaining talent. His tips include:

1. Present new challenges. The veteran programmer who took on the tech upgrade project was re-energised by his new responsibilities. He figured out how to get the legacy system to interface with the web and began mentoring a younger employee to be his replacement after he retires. “We consider that a success story in an area where there isn’t a lot of talent availability,” DiMuccio said.

2. Create connections early. Although young workers often want to work five to seven years at a company and then move, DiMuccio said Amica is looking for employees who want to spend their entire career with the company. This requires an intense effort in recruiting among university students, getting to know job candidates well. “We don’t think you can build relationships in that one recruiting night you have in the fall,” DiMuccio said. Job candidates who are invited for interviews typically meet lots of Amica employees over a two-day period as the relationship-building continues.

3. Early training. Amica, which has 41 branches throughout the United States, brings new employees to its home site in Rhode Island for seven weeks of training. They receive technical training and are immersed in the company culture. “We want to brand ourselves with our employees as well as with our customers,” DiMuccio said. “We put a lot of money into them and a lot of time because we think it’s important.”

4. Build pride in the company. Sponsoring charitable activities and allowing time off for volunteering in the community can pay dividends. “If they have pride in the company and they’re out in the community projecting that pride, I think they really engage in the company, and that can be a very effective retention tool,” DiMuccio said.

5. Be flexible. Amica’s employees often change locations and jobs six or seven times during their careers, DiMuccio said. He said it’s sometimes necessary to be flexible with reassignments. For example, the company may agree to wait two years for an employee’s child to finish high school before asking the employee to transfer. Other times, there may be a need for a frank explanation that an opportunity may be gone in two years when the employee is ready to move. “There is no easy or set answer to this problem, because most families have two professional careers going on, and they are both valuable to the long-term wellbeing of the family,” DiMuccio said. “We try to be as flexible as possible [and] balance the realities of the business and the needs of our talented people.”

6. Reward good work and milestones. When DiMuccio meets customers, they often tell him how long they have been with Amica and praise the company rep they have been working with for years. DiMuccio relays that praise back to employees, and the company celebrates employees’ career-longevity milestones. “I don’t think employees have a shelf life,” DiMuccio said. “I think if you engage them, they will engage with the company.”

Ken Tysiac ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.