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Best Places to Work in Insurance 2014: Unum Group

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Leading a large company that focuses on bringing the best in employee benefits to the table, it's no surprise to Mike Simonds, president and CEO of Unum US, Unum Group's largest business unit, that the firm was named one of Business Insurance's 2014 Best Places to Work in Insurance. It's the firm's fifth appearance on the annual list in six years.

“First and foremost, the business that we are in is employee benefits, and for us employees are a huge priority not just because they show up every day, but because that's our business and that's what we do every day,” Mr. Simonds said.

Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Unum is a leading employee benefits provider, providing injury and illness insurances for more than 25 million individuals at 170,000 companies. Its footprint represents 37% of today's Fortune 500 companies — bringing what it says are the best solutions to attract and retain employees.

Unum offers its own 9,553 employees a mixed bag of benefits, including paid time off, flexible work hours, telecommuting options, paid community volunteer opportunities, free financial education workshops and wellness programs that include on-site fitness centers, as well as extras such as fitness classes, walking paths, volleyball courts, and a rooftop track in some locations. Top service providers attend the annual Aspire Conference, an all-expenses-paid customer service recognition conference at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Unum regularly asks employees what they like and don't like, what could be better and what doesn't work, Mr. Simonds said. From there, Unum is constantly improving its work environment.

Brigitte Emmons-Touchette, director of staffing, said one of the best aspects about working at Unum is the opportunity for employees to seek out what works for them — and what they want to work on.

She should know: In her 27 years with the company, she's had several different titles, working in several different departments — everything from underwriting to human resources.

“I've had three different leadership positions,” Ms. Emmons-Touchette said. “One of the big components that we talk about is career growth... employees have really great opportunities to grow. You can basically create your own career path, and Unum is really big on supporting you in that.”

Wendy Gibson, senior vice president for Unum's service center, said that within that support is the encouragement to take risks and try new things.

“You see people taking risks and building experiences, developing themselves as leaders,” Ms. Gibson said. “The company is supportive of people moving to different functions to gain different experience.”

Among the list of perks that help with career development are tuition assistance, formal mentoring, diversity career programs, and veterans programs — an accelerated leadership program for those separated from active duty with the military.

Another big element that makes Unum a great place to work is flexibility, both women said.

“Alternative work arrangements are important,” Ms. Gibson said. “It's common for people to take off for their kids. We are very flexible and generous in time off, too.”