How do we create top-tier experience that will encourage employees to stay with an organisation and perform their best? In an exclusive interview, Shishir Agarwal, Chief Human Resources Officer of PNB MetLife, discusses the best ways to build a world-class employee experience: from ensuring effective communication, to creating a compelling vision, to leveraging technology on workforce engagement, getting the involvement of leadership, implementing consistent and meaningful employee recognition, and more.
What are the critical components of building a world-class employee experience?
To be a world-class employer attracting talent in a highly competitive market, a company must have a clear purpose and strategy, a defined approach to hiring, and a culture that enables a consistent, best-in-class experience for employees throughout their careers.
The most important component that impacts employee experience is communication and the ability of the organisation to listen and act on what employees need. In a hybrid working ecosystem with a mix of employees from various generations and backgrounds, expectations are very different, and experiences often need to be customised at the individual level. Having an open, transparent, inclusive, and caring culture is absolutely important.
For a candidate, the employee experience journey begins from the pre-onboarding and then joining stages, and once they join the organisation it involves various components such as goal setting and linkage to the purpose of the company, transparency across decisions taken, rewards and recognition, ongoing engagement, two-way communication, leadership, and supervisor behavior, the support provided during the time of need (e.g. medical need/ flexibility of working arrangement / any other urgency or life-stage requirement etc.) and finally experience during separation. Company policies and processes address some part of these experiences, but given the size and scale of an organisation, only a strong organisational culture focused on employee care can provide assurance that employees across the board get consistent and a world-class experience.
What role does effective communication play in enhancing employee experience and engagement? How does the company facilitate transparent communication across all levels?
At PNB MetLife, we are advancing from employee experience to employee care by cultivating an environment that drives professional growth, purposeful work, and a supportive culture. Effective communication plays a pivotal role in enhancing employee experience and engagement. It enables clarity in direction, open feedback, transparency, connection, trust, and alignment of values.
Delivering employee care starts with understanding each of our employee’s motivations, challenges, and ambitions. As leaders, we want to remove roadblocks or “pebbles” that prevent our teams from doing their best work. We also want to support their development and personal growth.
So that they find their work purposeful, we help employees understand and experience how their work connects to MetLife’s purpose.
Thanks to these efforts, our internal annual survey, MyVoice, shows that our teams have greater joy and pride in their work and feel a stronger connection to each other and to the company.
Professional growth is another key piece - we encourage associates to drive their careers forward. Their leaders are in a unique position to support them, and so they identify ways in which employees can develop their skills and grow and encourage participation in training, on the job development, and stretch experiences.
What strategies have you found effective in creating a better employee engagement experience?
In my experience, there are a few strategies that have worked well. These are indicative and not comprehensive – these work based on individual organisation’s ways of working and culture.
Clear and Inspiring Vision: Communicate a clear and compelling company vision and mission. When employees understand the purpose and goals of the organisation, they are more likely to feel connected to their work. Additionally, having a work culture that promotes inclusion principles, and equal and respectable treatment of employees, will go a long way in improving employee engagement experience.
Effective Leadership: Develop strong, supportive, and empathetic leaders who lead by example and act as role models. Leaders should be accessible, provide regular feedback, and actively engage with their teams.
Recognition and Rewards: Implement recognition programs that acknowledge and reward employee contributions and right behaviours. Recognition can take various forms, including verbal praise, bonuses, promotions, or non-monetary incentives.
Opportunities for Growth: Provide opportunities for skill development and career advancement with embedded transparency principles. Encourage employees to set goals, seek training, and benefit from mentorship programs.
Work-Life Balance: Promote work-life balance (customised to individual requirements) by offering flexible work arrangements including formal hybrid working, paid time off, and initiatives that support well-being.
Employee Involvement: Involve employees in decision-making processes and encourage them to contribute ideas and suggestions. This fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment.
Regular Feedback: Implement regular performance feedback and appraisal processes. Constructive feedback helps employees understand their strengths and areas for improvement.
Social Connections: Encourage social interactions among employees through team-building activities, social events, and collaboration tools. Strong workplace relationships boost engagement.
How is technology helping you to boost higher employee engagement, a crucial factor to organisation's success?
Technology has become an all-encompassing and critical enabler for any activity and employee engagement is no exception. Organisations need to create processes that leverage the full capacity that technology offers to boost employee engagement and morale. Here are some ways in which technology can enhance employee engagement:
Communication and Collaboration Tools: Technology gives us tools such as emails, chat apps, video calls, and collaboration tools to seamlessly work together on shared projects and initiatives. These tools help employees seamlessly connect with each other, share ideas, and work together, even if they're not in the same place. These tools have supported and embedded remote and hybrid working arrangements.
Learning and Development Platforms: I take immense pride in sharing two of our Learning platforms: ePathshaala and Pathways, which have democratised access to quality learning to not only our 22000+ employees but also our partner employees and agents. With the help of technology, we have been successful in providing learning solutions through customised journeys based on performance levels, category of employees, and depth of engagement and need. These have worked very well in supplementing the physical efforts on learning. Some important data points – ePathshaala has over 200+ proprietary eLearning modules, 32K+ learners on platform and over 93K+ activities completed in a month. Similar statistics exist for Pathways – which is used for corporate learning. These learning initiatives through technology have helped us build a learning culture and significantly boosted employee morale and engagement.
We also employ functional HR tools to help employees at key moments such as hiring, recognition, career moves, and even raising concerns or grievances.
Business oriented tools such as eBranchnxt, the KhuShi customer servicing app, WhatsApp enabled servicing are some technology-enabled business tools that support ease of doing business for front-line employees which in turn helps them be positively engaged with the organisation.
Social media plays an important role in enhancing the image of organisation, especially in current mobile hyperactive employees. Using social media platforms effectively additionally supports in further building employee engagement.
Recognition is one of the most important aspects of employee engagement and experience. How do you ensure that employee recognition is consistent and meaningful?
Rewards and recognition are indeed an extremely important aspect and lever to enhance employee engagement and experience. Human beings, by nature, get motivated when they are appreciated, recognised and this sets into motion positivity cycle in the organisation, which at a cumulative level, can become a momentum.
However, in a large and geographically widespread organisation it is not easy to implement consistent practices. The way to do this is to create time-bound / event-based interventions, which all employees can relate to and aspire for. Additionally, you make it inclusive and easy for everyone to participate.
At PNB MetLife, we believe we have made great progress around these over last few years. We have broadly four levels of recognition:
Peer to peer recognition on an online platform: Any employee can appreciate or give an award to another employee/colleague or a team for an extraordinary job. This is not a moderated activity, and hence the recognition is published for the whole organisation to witness and comment on.
Making a difference award / MD’s Purpose award: These awards are given out by the organisation leadership to individuals/teams for doing an exemplary job or performing extraordinarily well at a task. This involves cross functional projects/issues being resolved that are of great significance and importance to the organisation. In FY 2023, we had 31 nominations for the MDs Purpose Award, of which 6 teams with 46 unique employees received this reward and were recognised on a national platform during our annual anniversary celebrations.
Functional recognition: These are felicitated by individual functions/departments to recognise team members for demonstrating success principles or achieving challenging tasks or delivering on important business objectives. These recognitions are strategic and opportunistic in nature and conferred by individual functions/businesses on need basis.
Long service awards: Recognising loyalty and long service in the organisation is another way in which you motivate employees to continue in the organisation for a longer time. This also instils a sense of pride and engaging family members and thanking them for the employee’s contribution to the organisation over a period of time helps enhance the experience further.
How does your company measure employee engagement and experience? What key metrics do you track?
PNB MetLife participates in an annual employee engagement survey conducted by an independent agency called Glint, alongside all employees in MetLife. This annual MyVoice survey is in October. Additionally, there is a shorter pulse survey every June.
The survey tracks cumulative scores across multiple parameters including employee engagement and DEI. It also captures qualitative feedback and comments – which provides useful insights for action items.
In addition to the above, we conduct a feedback survey after onboarding or learning interventions.