Hiring client-oriented people: Anand Shankar
Being a consulting firm, our business demands us to be aligned to our clients, and therefore, the leadership model at Aon Hewitt is built around the focus on client value and impact, and every consultant strives to achieve that. When new joinees enter the organization, they spend the first day on client meetings after which, I meet them at the end of the day to explain to them that they had just met the person who cuts their pay check. And that defines the directness of our people strategy to the business strategy. Therefore, the focus is to hire people who are client oriented and train them further in client orientation. Our global CEO articulates this very powerfully when he says that everybody in Aon Corporation should either be working with a client or should be working with somebody who is working with a client, which means that the degree of separation between the client and any employee is just one person.
Our HR strategy last year was slightly different from this year, because of the merger of Aon and Hewitt. The priority then was to ensure a smooth merger and help people manage any anxieties. Therefore, the focus was on ensuring that our talented people feel secure and continue to focus on clients, and at the same time, bring in the Aon way of consulting as part of the cultural integration. This made retention and attraction of best talent critical in order to continue to aggressively build the business. So, between year before last and last year, we grew by about 20-30 percent and this year again, we want to grow very aggressively. The HR strategy constantly strives to identify talent from the outside in order to create the influx of talent to drive growth. This has led us to stay connected with our alumni to drive business, and today many of our alumni are clients, and some have even opted to come back to work with us. Exponential growth being the key focus on this year’s HR strategy, we continue to hire and invest in our people at all levels.
As CEO, my day is either spent with a customer or a consultant in the organization. When I am meeting clients, it is always with another consultant and I use that time as a development opportunity both for myself (there is a lot to learn from our experts) and to nurture others. 49 percent of my time is spent with people and this is spread across three things. Firstly, to help people identify their opportunities for improving and maximizing their potential. Secondly, to foster innovation and thirdly, to keep people engaged.
In a consulting firm, since we do not have a very large employee base, I am able to connect with every consultant and ask people how they are doing. We refer to the concept called ‘Presenteeism’, which means a person while being physically present, is actually zoned out. This is a big productivity impediment, which could be for any reason, whether it is because the spouse is not well, or one is late for the next appointment. Often, we neglect ourselves and particularly when working in a consulting firm, given the stress, long hours and hectic travel schedules, people tend to take themselves and their families for granted. So, it is essential to recalibrate my people and ensure they maintain a balance.
At AON Hewitt, there are three critical conversations that we have with our people – goal setting review, mid-year review and end-of-the-year review. Managers are required to spend at least 90 minutes during each of these conversations, where 20 minutes are spent on the formal review, while 70 minutes are spent on casual chatting. The informal chat is more critical in creating the right engagement with people and is a much more powerful performance review mechanism than what is said in the form.
On whether or not the CEO’s time invested on people-related activities has any direct impact on business bottom line, the Aon Hewitt Best Employers research shows that the more a CEO communicates through different mediums with people, the greater the business performance. Best employers in general have higher business performance. Companies in the best employer zone, which reflect above 70 percent engagement scores, have shown to have greater total stakeholder returns.