COVID-19 has enabled the multiple uses of technology and people managers are trying every way out to handle the current situation with tech. Some of the organizations are finding it easy to navigate their path using tech while some traditional companies are still taking the baby steps. Santanu Banerjee, who had joined the company in the middle of pandemic ( May 2020) is trying everything to manage the people. In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, he shares his key focus areas, the impact of COVID, and what keeps him going. Read the edited excerpt here-
You have recently joined Bajaj Allianz Life. What will be your three key focus areas for the company especially with the current crisis?
The three key focus areas for my team and I in these times of crisis are:
Keeping the employee morally high during these critical times is important & here at Bajaj Allianz Life, we follow a simple philosophy to build employee trust, communicate, communicate & communicate. During this time of crisis we have engaged with our employees to build awareness on several aspects of health & wellbeing, not only of our employees but their families as well.
The next important focus area is to build a strong internal career mobility framework thereby creating numerous opportunities for our employees to learn & grow within the Bajaj Allianz Life eco system.
In these times, employees often look up to their Managers to provide clarity, direction, and support, which more often than not makes all the difference. Hence, we took this time to further engage with this group to reinforce key leadership behaviors that revolve around ownership, team management, and being conscious of every requirement of our customers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the way we do business and the way we work. How has it impacted the business and talent priorities for Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance?
The impact of COVID is really deep & long term, both for us and the life insurance sector. The very nature of our product and the way it’s been sold traditionally, through a face to face intensive sales process was undergoing a measured transformation due to the looming impact of the pandemic – it’s made it tough for people to connect in person. A lot of myths on traditional sales process beliefs got broken & the digital push got a great philip. The 3 Rs, as I call it, became supremely important: Reimagine, Recast & Retrain.
- Reimagine new process to reach employees & consumers with equal often more efficacy & depth
- Recast a few Business Models to suit new realities of Work from Home and encash on them in an agile manner
- Retraining and reskilling a large workforce on the new ways of business. Training modules were designed to enable employees to manage their work and personal life during these critical times. As a part of the new initiatives the company re-trained its 80,000+ insurance consultants to use virtual tools to connect with customers & service them digitally
Where do you think the future of work is going? What do you think will be the actual impact of tech disruption on the workforce?
- A lot of new challenges & opportunities have emerged and will continue to do so, from this crisis. Customer behaviors are changing rapidly and our focus has been to prepare our people & process at cater to that. Some of them, especially for our area, will be :
- Work from Home Business Models emerging in Retail Finance/Insurance space with a fresh approach to customer connections & engagement.
- Hiring from a different pond - A differential target group to attract differential skill sets. The absence of face to face sales process means heightened relationship management skills, superior digital orientation, simpler products & redefined customer journey. Newer target groups like women willing for second innings, short service commission retirees & even part-time associations will open up to fill in the talent void.
- The ability to re-imagine & innovate is making re-emergence as critical competencies that will be at a premium in the future workforce.
The insurance industry has witnessed a significant shift in employee engagement/employee experience space. What should organizations do to create equilibrium between technology and human touch?
Technology and its role in building employee experience in a distributed setup have been given a great push by this crisis….to the extent that now we can safely say that it has broken myths and redefined some engagement fundamentals.
While organizations were till now largely using tech in areas like Onboarding or Life cycle processes; for the first time, a lot of HR managers started using Technology for classical face to face interventions like Stay/Skip level Interviews & driving behavioral and mindset related interventions. The results were amazing….. often equally or more effective than a normal face to face process. In addition, the work from home ecosystem opened up newer dimensions & aspects of employee behavior that were previously not seen, giving deeper insights into their behaviors and work methods.
So rather than looking at equilibrium, we should look at newer ways of leveraging technology to make employees connect more frequently and in more depth.
There will be large portions of the workforce that will not return to a traditional office post-pandemic. How are you preparing for that?
Now here was another myth buster. The productivity of a lot of teams went up during the lockdown period. We have a robust Business Continuity Plan in place and are bringing back our employees in a phased manner. This is to ensure are continue to manage our productivity with the least challenges. We will continue to reimagine our working model and at the same time equip our employees with resources, processes & training to continue to deliver and be comfortable while they work from home.
What are some of the leadership lessons that have guided you in the current times of crisis?
This pandemic reinforced my belief in the following leadership concepts:
- It’s always better to approach situations through the lens of abundance versus constraints. Helps you maintain your nerves while facing such a crisis.
- New threats always open newer opportunities… you need to grab them with both hands
- There is no alternative to communication…. It’s never too much communication…., especially in such emotionally volatile times.