Patrick Farnan, Head of Communications at AIG Asset Management was a speaker at the 5th Annual Internal Branding & Employee Engagement Conference, which was held in Miami, FL in February 2011. This is a recap of the presentation and challenges/solutions presented within.
Prior to 2008, AIG was a stable company that consistently experienced growth. In 2007, AIG was the world’s largest insurance company made up of 130 companies and 120,000 employees. The company was entrepreneurial, innovative, and prided itself on having the best and brightest.
On the horizon loomed the housing crisis and in 2008 AIG received an $85 Billion government bailout as a result of their inability to pay debts. They took a beating in the media that very few companies could have survived. Employees heard about this fallout from the news, not their managers. Panic was everywhere within the organization. In the midst of the storm, news came out in 2009 that bonuses would be paid to the very same people who perpetrated the failure. Contracts that had been in place long before the fall were being enforced and AIG had to pay them. It became a security issue for employees as there were calls to attack the company. AIG went into hiding during this time, thinking less damage would be done if no comment was provided.
So what did AIG do? They became an open book, at least internally. Employees on the inside began to experience open and transparent communication. In an attempt to rally “the troops” and keep them focused on rebuilding the company, AIG executives turned 180 degrees.
Communicate, communicate, communicate….
Sharing became paramount during the rebuilding of AIG. Programs implemented included 11 communications from the CEO about what was happening, a newsletter titled “Moving Ahead” to keep employees informed of changes, a weekly pep talk, titled “Seize the Future” was rolled out by the CEO, to help folks cope with all the bad press and live Town Hall meetings by the CEO held across the country further communicated where they were going.
In a nutshell, the rebuilding of AIG involved:
AIG had plans in place to have the government completely repaid by 2011 and is close to accomplishing that goal. They report that employee morale and engagement are high.
Kristen Joyner is a director at i4cp and represented HRM Today as the official blogger for the 5th Annual Internal Branding & Employee Engagement Conference.