Partnering with a national franchise network to support the launch of a company-wide HR service

Coversure is a 30 year old independent insurance brokers delivering high quality insurance services through a network of over 90 independently-franchised offices across the UK. Further to the office network, the Coversure group of companies includes; insurance wholesalers Policyfast Ltd, software house Datamatters Ltd and leading underwriters City Underwriters, collectively known as Coversure Insurance Services Group. The Group has 170 employees across five UK sites with a combined turnover of £170m.

About Coversure Insurance Services

  • 170 office staff
  • 93 franchise offices
  • HR Mentor launched March 2017

The Challenge

As the growth of the business accelerated, there was a growing need for the existing HR team of three to receive operational HR and employment law support to cope with the increasing needs of their stakeholders – franchisees and the management team.

When Ben Dalgliesh joined the operations team, he identified that there was an opportunity to deliver better best practice document precedents, HR advice and processes to the franchisees, and support them as part of the general HR function of the group.

At the time, the team brought in an HR expert to update documentation and handbooks on an ad-hoc basis. They also had a traditional law firm in place, although the heavy cost and transactional service model prevented them from using the firm for everyday operational HR and employment law queries.

In addition to this, the company was preparing to scale up with a three-year plan to bring on more franchisees and grow the business significantly. A key part of this plan was the promise of HR and operational support to attract new franchisees as part of an important ‘added value’ membership service within the corporate support strategy.

The very first idea was for ESP to support the HR team only, but the scope of the project was expanded by Bob Darling, CEO, pushing the service offering to have a far wider reach. The new plan was to launch an internal HR service for franchisees and stakeholders that would deliver up-to-date, readily available employment law support with an online employment law and HR resources portal. This in turn would provide key processes and best practice documentation, tailored to the needs of the individual franchisees.

One of the challenges the team faced was finding a suitable HR and employment law support partner who was capable of delivering Coversure’s detailed specification. While traditional non-legally regulated HR helpline services were considered, it was felt these services wouldn’t provide the same level of commercial support available from qualified and significantly experienced senior employment lawyers. However, the options offered by the traditional law firms (where such experience usually resides) did not easily fit into the vision Coversure had for its HR solution either.

Ben Dalgliesh, Resource and Estate Manager, said: "We wanted to build a trusting relationship between our HR team and the franchise businesses. We have bigger plans for the HR service and felt a much stronger, personal relationship would grow with the unique service provided by ESP. This was not a simple ask of any provider having to adapt advice to the needs of nearly 100 different business, albeit trading under the same brand. We needed an unlimited, specialist advisory service with commercially practical advice, backed up by access to a wide-ranging set of online resources – a tough ask."

The Solution

After meeting with Coversure, ESP tailored a package of legal advisory support from our team of experienced practising employment lawyers, based upon the needs of the Coversure HR team and their franchisees. This meant providing an unlimited, day-to-day advisory and online operational support service to its head office and franchise base. With a small window between January and March 2017, they built their in-house document portal which was to be filled with ESP’s documentation and in March 2017, the Coversure HR team launched the HR Mentor service at the company’s annual conference. The launch has pushed the work of the HR team to the fore.

“To highlight one area of the ESP advisory service…it has to be specialist TUPE advice. Being able to put our franchisees on a conference call with their legal advisor has sped up acquisition negotiations. Giving them instantaneous access to legal advice without having to sign a cheque is a huge benefit. The service has been exemplary. Our HR service can now reach out to the franchise businesses supporting their growth and adding value to their businesses, this is a massive step for us as a department.”

The HR department have also seen:

  • A noticeable improvement in the daily contact rate from the offices and the breadth of different HR enquiries. Engagement in the importance of good HR practice and housekeeping is a huge cultural shift for these businesses.
  • In terms of documentation updates, these have extended beyond the legal need but to also incorporate operations best practice, learning and development, appraisals and policy guidelines that were well beyond the original specification.
  • Great use of the online portal and web chat facility.
  • Acknowledgement from the wider organisation about the contribution HR plays towards Coversure’s growth plans.

The efforts have been acknowledged at board level and it has had a positive impact on the HR team. Following their last staff annual satisfaction survey, they saw a huge improvement across the business in overall satisfaction rising from 64% to 77%.

“Initially, I was concerned about usage levels affecting our commercial framework, but this proved unfounded.” said Dalgliesh. “The ESP team has always got back to me as quickly as possible. When you have an urgent situation and can’t take too long, they have not let us down. Even documentation, they have done instantly. Knowing they have gone through and double-checked everything means there’s comfort and confidence it has come through a qualified and regulated lawyer, not from a non-regulated source.”

As a result of the work so far, the team is planning to re-launch the service to promote its benefits and has been freed up to work on being more proactive in tackling issues before they become problems. They will be offering health check visits to the franchised businesses to check over documentation and ensure compliance and general day-to-day best practice.

It is working brilliantly for us. What I really like is how ESP have taken the time to build the relationship and really understand our business.

The great thing about ESP is that they are a “family” business, not just because it’s family-owned or run but because they want to become part of your team.

They have embraced our values and understood our need for commercial, practical advice. They will give you exactly what you need. On high level calls with our CEO and MDs, the ESP lawyers are on the same wavelength. In the past when I’ve brought in HR advisors, I’ve found we have had to make the final decision. When the lawyers are there with me on the call, the understanding of our need to make a commercial decision is fully understood and made.

Ben Dalgliesh
Resource and Estate Manager, Coversure Insurance Services Ltd

The ESP Difference

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Instant online access to a wealth of legally compliant, up to date HR and employment law documentation.

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