Article: Apollo Munich's HR leader on creating a happy place to work

Employee Engagement

Apollo Munich's HR leader on creating a happy place to work

Apollo Munich Health Insurance has maintained its place as Great Place to Work for the last seven years. In an interview with People Matters, Dr. Sriharsha Achar, Chief People Officer, Apollo Munich Health Insurance talks about the importance of employee engagement and shares his philosophy to create a healthy and happy place to work
Apollo Munich's HR leader on creating a happy place to work

Dr. Sriharsha Achar, Chief People Officer, Apollo Munich Health Insurance believes in simplicity and the impact of personal touch to ensure a healthy and happy workplace. In an interview with People Matters, he talked about the challenges faced by Insurance sector and shared Apollo Munich's strategy to overcome these challenges. He also highlighted the many new trends impacting the role of HR and said, "Acquiring new skills is the new norm, and HR needs to go beyond the traditional functions." 

Here are a few excerpts from the interview: 

Apollo Munich has maintained its place as ‘Great Place to Work’ for the last seven years, and last year it was ranked as ‘India’s Best Insurance Company to Work For’ as well. What is the philosophy or strategy behind this? What is your secret sauce?  

Apollo Munich Health Insurance is an employee-centric company. One principle that HR, as well as the whole organization, follows is simplicity. Our HR policies are flexible and easy to understand and practice.  Based on the feedback from the employees we constantly evaluate our policies and reshape it with time.  As a result, we have been able to maintain our position as a “Great Place to Work" regularly. Over the years we may have varied in our ranking, but are featured in the top 100.  If you look at the scores, they have been quite consistent. This year was our 10th year, and special engagement initiatives have again resulted in good scores across all parameters.

Ultimately, it’s about how you manage the employee engagement. We carry out simple activities across the organization, from spelling bee championship to dance and music competitions, to keep our employees involved and engaged. Besides this, I also value the significance of personal touch. Every morning I share an email addressing all the employees, and the topic could be as simple as an experience I had, to as complex as writing a living will. April is going to focus on stress awareness, and we will be sharing one stress management tip every day. Last month on Women's Day, I wished and shook hands with almost 250 ladies in the office and all our senior leaders wrote messages to women in the company on various facets. Surprisingly, none of the quotes were repeated. Personal greetings, messages and direct involvement with your employees, never fail.

Can you share some of your best practices that have enabled Apollo Munich to create a healthy and happy place to work?

Plenty!  Every year we introduce several novel initiatives. However, one thing that has been welcomed is what we call 'Leave Donation Program'. In this policy, any employee in the organization can donate two days of his/her leave into a bank, called leave bank. If an employee has exhausted all his leaves and requires to take two days leave due to some medical emergency, he/she can ask his/her colleagues to donate their leaves. Someone gains days, someone loses, but no one loses their salary. This is something people have appreciated very much. If you ask me to pick one initiative that stands out, then I will probably pick this one because it touches the lives of people. It’s not only significant for the employee, but it also affects the employee's family.

Another initiative which is appreciated here is the 'Group Health Cover'. As an insurance company, we believe in covering all our employees under a Group Health Insurance cover. We charge a nominal amount as the premium payment.  We also buy a "corporate buffer" which allows us to extend additional cover in cases where the hospitalization bills go beyond the basic sum insured. Suppose if you have a 5 lakh cover and for some reason, your year's expense on surgery has gone beyond 5 lakh and touched let's say seven lakh, then we will give you two lakhs to make it seven. And the employee wouldn't have to pay anything. Forget about movie or IPL tickets or gift vouchers, this is about touching lives of your employee and making them feel that we are with you.

Touching lives is the philosophy of Apollo Hospitals, our parent company. And we have blended it into our philosophy too.

What are some of the key talent challenges that Insurance sector is facing currently? What has been Apollo Munich’s strategy in overcoming these challenges?

Like any other sector, Attraction and Retention are the two big challenges in insurance. Sales domain is considered a tough job to do, and hence it suffers from issues like high attrition and gender gaps.  From a recruitment perspective, we have tied up with Manipal Global Academy in Bangalore, where we are currently training two batches of people. The first batch is already on the field and the second batch is undergoing the course. Under another banner, we have selected about 300 fresh MBAs from Tier 2 and Tier 3 Business schools and will train them over the next three months and get them into the workforce. Besides attraction, retention is also crucial, and to that effect, we have endeavored to focus on constant engagement, career growth, incentivization, development opportunities and friendly policies.

What trends do you think will be impacting HR in 2018?

In HR many new trends are redefining the way employees are recruited, rewarded, and retained.  One is HR is taking a seat on the board to help companies move to a more human and holistic HR – I say this because you have to influence people's decisions in the boardroom.

HR’s role would be to influence, focus on productivity and make organizations more agile.

In today's context employees are showing a new kind of aspiration. They are willing to work more, provided you give them the right tools. People need flexibility, they don't want to be policed. The concept of moonlighting is catching up, and recently the government announced that it is going to extend short-term working to all industries. The next trend is “Micro Learning”- Learning at your place and at your pace. HR teams will shrink as everything will become self-help. Everything will be analytics-driven. And the latest is of course - generation Z. Post-millennials will start joining the workforce. Are we ready to manage them? As millennials become the key demographic in the workforce, the business can no longer rely on "one size fits all" approach to talent management. So, if they want to attract and retain the top talent, organizations need to adopt a more flexible approach keeping in mind the present-day realities.  All the traditional methods will take a back seat, and to cope-up with the new environment, some new things have to be brought to practice, including AI.

Acquiring new skills is the new norm, and HR needs to go beyond the traditional functions. HR needs to have proximity to the grass-roots of the organization.  They should be the silk thread that binds all the pearls. HR needs to take on the mantle of preparing the managers of today to manage the generations of tomorrow. 

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, Culture

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