Unum adding 100 jobs in Chattanooga, 200 companywide

Staff file photo by Olivia Ross / Volunteers package 1,000 snack and hygiene kits for the homeless on March 11 at Unum's headquarters in downtown Chattanooga.

Chattanooga-based insurer Unum is adding about 100 jobs in the city, and more than 200 companywide, as the business offers new products.

"We've got growth and expansion in the operation," said Kimberly Bowen, senior vice president of global talent and inclusion for the disability and volunteer benefits insurer, in a telephone interview Friday.

She said the new jobs the company plans to fill range from entry-level posts to slots for people who've been in the workforce for a few years, as well as for seasoned professionals.

Quite a few of the positions are in the finance and information technology space, Bowen said.

Historically, the company has had challenges to woo employees in those sectors, and Unum is building out partnerships with the schools to find workers, Bowen said.

"How can we start to grow that talent here in Chattanooga so we don't go outside to get those? We're very focused on hiring locally," she said.

Bowen said the company has about 2,200 employees in Chattanooga. That's compared to a pre-pandemic number of about 2,800, according to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Unum official said the coronavirus pandemic significantly boosted competition for workers. Many people found they could work for companies anywhere while living in Chattanooga, she said.

"It made it harder to recruit locally," Bowen said. But, she said, they're seeing a shift in that trend.

"That's one reason we're focusing and doubling down to hire locally," Bowen said.

Companywide, Unum has about 10,500 employees, she said.

  photo  Staff file photo by Matt Hamilton / Kimberly Bowen, Unum's senior vice president of global talent and inclusion, is shown at the company's Chattanooga offices on April 26.

Unum's third quarter results released in late October showed a 27% gain in net income from a year ago with growth in its U.S., international and Colonial Life businesses.

The insurance giant had reiterated in the results its full-year outlook for at least a 40% gain in income this year.

Unum CEO Rick McKenney said in the earnings announcement that the insurer's business "is performing well as we look toward the last quarter of the year. Our excellent third quarter results reflect the earnings power of our business lines and our continued favorable benefits experience, positioning us well for growth heading into the next year."

Bowen said Unum supports businesses to administer benefits. Unum's most expansive new offerings are in helping companies manage leave benefits, she said.

Bowen said for its employees, the insurer nurtures a culture of career growth and advancement with a focus on internal promotions.

"Our comprehensive benefits package, career growth opportunities, culture of connection and dedication to inclusion and diversity help our employees' thrive professionally and personally," she said. "One of the things we do really well is we offer the benefits people need during specific times of their lives."

Bowen said Unum has gone to a hybrid work culture with most positions in Chattanooga in the wake of the pandemic. Employees work so many days a month in the office. They then work wherever they want for the remaining days where it makes sense, she said.

"We'll continue with that model," Bowen said.

Space at its Chattanooga offices isn't an issue, she said.

"Our space was built for a flex or hybrid model," Bowen said. "The anticipation is that not everyone is in the office every single day."

In 2019, Unum began remaking its work space inside its iconic downtown headquarters, spending upwards of $40 million. Many people didn't have their own permanent desks, but they used a variety of open work spaces within the building.

That helped permit employees to shift from Unum's former West building to the East tower, and the company began leasing space to other businesses in what's now known as 555 Walnut.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.