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Best Places to Work in Insurance 2014: Assurance Agency Ltd.

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Employees at Assurance Agency Ltd. have learned to expect the unexpected at work — like when they were treated to a free lunch from a food truck specializing in grilled cheese sandwiches.

The treat was part of a week-long recognition event tied to a system conversion the brokerage went through in 2013, said Lisa Pinion, senior vice president of human resources. She said Schaumburg, Illinois-based Assurance set up an employee committee who came up with ideas to make sure “people didn't lose their minds,” she said. An employee suggested the grilled cheese truck, and all of Assurance's 332 employees got a voucher for a free lunch.

“From the beginning, Assurance's culture has been employee-centric,” she said. “If you hire great people and allow them to be great, you will have great results.”

“We're good about thinking about the fun little things to keep things fresh,” Assurance CEO Tony Chimino said.

The type of work environment Assurance provides helped it win first place in the medium-sized employer category of Business Insurance's 2014 Best Places to Work in Insurance program.

Mr. Chimino said that promoting wellness is at the company's core, which is hardly surprising given that its business is risk management for both property/casualty and employee benefits.

Assurance has an employee committee that is responsible for organizing wellness and fitness oriented events that encourage employee participation, Ms. Pinion said. The company's two biggest events are Assurance Olympics, where employees compete in teams representing different countries, and the Assurance 5K run, which is usually in held in September.

Recognizing employee achievement is key as well, Mr. Chimino said. For example, the company holds its Assurance Casino four times a year to recognize employees who have taken courses or other steps to improve themselves in each quarter.

Volunteerism is also a core Assurance value, he said. About 90% of Assurance's employees take a day off per year to serve the community through the Assurance Caring Together program. This employee-driven effort chooses the charity partners with which Assurance works.

“It's our way that we give back to the community,” he said. “People want to be part of it. It's at our core.”

Ms. Pinion said that the charity program has led people to seek employment at the brokerage. “It has allowed us to attract and retain talent,” she said.

“We want to find ways for people to start and keep moving up through the organization,” Mr. Chimino said.

Doing so helps “create an atmosphere where people want to come to work every day,” Ms. Pinion said.